Thursday, March 21, 2013

BaseCamp and Dropbox

Disclaimer: The information in this post can potentially cause loss of data. Please be sure to back up your data and fully read the post BEFORE attempting this. I make no guarantees and am not responsible if you lose your BaseCamp data while trying what is listed. This is however, how I’ve been using BaseCamp for almost a year.

When I first started using BaseCamp last year I realized the developers had adopted a completely different way of storing the data of my adventures, challenges and dreams. No longer were the trips stored in separate files which I could manage in folders on my computer. Instead “they” decided I should keep everything in one file on the computer and “they” would allow me to create their version of folders and lists inside the application. This fundamental shift in data management is probably one of the greatest reasons for the wailing and gnashing of teeth from the community in my opinion.

Prior to my introduction to BaseCamp, I had come up with my own way of managing my Mapsource files (.gdb files) so they were available both on my desktop with it’s many monitors and my laptop which travelled with me on the road. The solution was simple, I used DropBox to keep my files in the cloud. With DropBox I have a folder on each computer where the data is mirrored to the cloud. If I add something to that folder on my Desktop then the next time I open my laptop and connect to the Internet the file shows up on my laptop as well. If I make changes to files in the DropBox folder on my Laptop, then when I get home those changes are also on my desktop. I think you get the picture.

So it should be simple to do the same thing with BaseCamp right, just store it’s single data file in my DropBox folder and presto! Well not quite. “They” didn’t deem us mere users as capable of selecting the location to store our data file. Instead they hard coded the file to our Application Data folder or %APPDATA%.

Eeeek!!!! What is <%APPDATA%>????
For Windows 7 and Windows 8 users this new place to store data is something to confuse users of older Windows operating systems and for those who just never cared I believe it is a way to hide the actual data from us while still letting programs access it. Great! Computer developers protecting us from ourselves. That’ll work. But I digress.

Windows XP users…. It’s been too long, I’m sorry but the AppData location does not apply, you will need to find the correct path yourself, but otherwise this should work with XP as well.

Before you start, make sure you’ve closed BaseCamp. Let me repeat that. CLOSE BASECAMP NOW!!!!!!

Here’s how to get to your BaseCamp folder in Windows 7 & 8

- Double click on the Computer icon or press Windows-E key combination
- Double click on your C: drive
- Double click on the Users folder
- Double click on your username, in my case it’s Brian
- AppData
- Double click on Roaming
- Double click on Garmin

You’ve done it. You’ve found the BaseCamp folder where your data is stored. Now we need to get that data into a DropBox folder so it can be synchronized with the cloud. At this point I have to assume you already have DropBox set up. If not, click on any mention of DropBox in this post to get a DropBox account for free. I will confess, every link for DropBox in this post has my referral URL in it. That gives me some extra space for referring you the reader, plus it gives you extra space for being referred. It’s a win win.

So now that we all have a DropBox account I can continue. Normally a Favorite is created for your DropBox folder to make it easier to get to your data, but we need to know the path to our data so we’ll do the same thing we did to get to the BaseCamp folder only we’ll do it in another window. So slide your Garmin folder window to the side, if the window is maximized (full screen) then un-maximize it so you can see your desktop.

- Double click on the Computer icon or press Windows-E key combination
- Double click on your C: drive
- Double click on the Users folder
- Double click on your username, in my case it’s Brian
- Double click on DropBox

Now just drag your BaseCamp folder from the Garmin folder window to the DropBox folder window. Depending on the size of your current data and the speed of your computer it may take a little time. Be patient and let the computer move the folder to it’s new location. When the copy has finished then we’ve moved our BaseCamp data into the cloud.

We are almost done but not quite. Please don’t open BaseCamp yet. Let me repeat that, DON’T OPEN BASECAMP AT THIS TIME!!!!

Now we need to trick the developers into believing our data file is still where “they” wanted it to be. To do that we are going to use the command line and a program called mklink to create a symbolic link on the hard drive. Let’s do it.

- In  the Garmin folder window, hold down the shift key and right click in the white space of the window.
- Choose Open Command window here

You should see a DOS window with the path in it, on my computer it showed C:\Users\Brian\AppData\Roaming\Garmin

Repeat those 2 steps with your DropBox folder window, to get it’s path, mine is C:\Users\Brian\Dropbox

Go back to the Garmin DOS window so we can enter the mklink command. The syntax of the command is to list the symbolic link first followed by the real location or target. So here’s what it looked like for my computer.

mklink /D “C:\Users\Brian\AppData\Roaming\Garmin\BaseCamp” “C:\Users\Brian\DropBox\BaseCamp”

In your case, your username probably won’t be brian but the rest of the syntax should be about the same. In your Garmin folder window you should see a BaseCamp folder with a blue arrow to indicate that it’s a link and not a real folder.

Note: I’ve had reports from some readers who said they received a message telling them they didn’t have the necessary permissions. If this happens to you, execute cmd.exe with “Run as Administrator” and you should be fine.

Now if you’ve followed these instructions and if I haven’t missed a step, you should be able to open BaseCamp and see all of your data. What you now have is a copy of BaseCamp running with your data being backed up automatically in the cloud. BaseCamp itself is still installed on the computer but the data is stored in the cloud.

But wait, the whole reason I started doing this was to share my data between my desktop and laptop computers. So I have to do much of the same to my laptop. Let’s get started….

We’ll repeat the steps above, only this time we won’t be dragging the BaseCamp folder to the DropBox folder, instead just rename the BaseCamp folder or delete it if you are feeling brave.

Getting to the BaseCamp folder

- Double click on the Computer icon or press Windows-E key combination
- Double click on your C: drive
- Double click on the Users folder
- Double click on your username, in my case it’s Brian
- AppData
- Double click on Roaming
- Double click on Garmin

At this point, click on the BaseCamp folder and press F2, then rename the folder to BaseCamp-old

Make sure you have your DropBox account setup on this computer already….

Now open up your DropBox folder

- Double click on the Computer icon or press Windows-E key combination
- Double click on your C: drive
- Double click on the Users folder
- Double click on your username, in my case it’s Brian
- Double click on DropBox

Open DOS windows in each of the folder windows by holding down the SHIFT key and Right clicking, then choose Open command window here.

Be sure to note the path of your DropBox folder, it’s probably the same as on your desktop.

Go back to the Garmin DOS window so we can enter the mklink command. The syntax of the command is to list the symbolic link first followed by the real location or target. So here’s what it looked like for my computer.

mklink /d “C:\Users\Brian\AppData\Roaming\Garmin\BaseCamp” “C:\Users\Brian\DropBox\BaseCamp”

In your case, your username probably won’t be brian but the rest of the syntax should be about the same. In your Garmin folder window you should see a BaseCamp folder with a blue arrow to indicate that it’s a link and not a real folder.

Windows 8 users: The same thing applies as before about administrator privileges.

You’ve done it!

At this point, make sure BaseCamp is not running on your desktop. Let me repeat that, CLOSE BASECAMP ON ANY OTHER COMPUTER!!!

You can now open BaseCamp on either computer, make changes and close BaseCamp and your data will be synced with the cloud. However, you should never open BaseCamp on multiple computers connected to the same DropBox account or data corruption will occur and you will likely lose everything. Just remember one BaseCamp at a time.

These steps or something very similar could be used for the other cloud based drive systems out there like Google Drive and Microsoft’s SkyDrive but I don’t use either of them so I’ll leave the reader to their on devices to figure out the slight changes necessary for those services.

This technique could also be used to keep a copy of the BaseCamp maps in the cloud if you wanted. Although I haven’t tried it and there may be some issues with unlocking maps, I’m not sure where that data is stored.

For me personally I like the fact that if something were to happen to my laptop while out on a trip, I could walk into any store selling computers and buy another laptop. Then stop at a hotel or other source of internet connectivity and within a short time I could have BaseCamp loaded and all of the data for my trip available to me again.

2 comments:

Michael Samsen said...

Brian, the current version of Basecamp has a native Cloud feature. You enable the function with your Garmin account, copy (or move) whatever data (lists) you like into the Garmin cloud, and then it's available to any device with Basecamp that is logged into your Garmin account. No muss, no fuss.

Brian said...

Thanks for the update Michael. As with any cloud type service. You want to make sure your laptop or other mobile device is sync'd to the cloud before taking off.

Their cloud service wasn't available when I wrote the post. Technology is constantly changing. Use what works best for you.