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I am trying to sync from my (Mac) desktop to an iPad and an iPhone. MacOS X mounts WebDAV as a native file system, but syncing results in all files in my directory structure being copied again.

This occurs when I use rsync -a or even a simple rsync -r. Various iPhone apps use the WebDAV server in iOS to transfer files. This occurs on several iPhone apps I use, including GoodReader.

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Use --itemize-changes to find out why the file/directory has been synchronised. If the second character is a t, it was a different time, etc. See man rsync. – janmoesen May 5 '10 at 7:19
is there a WebDav server in iPhone OS???? – robob Oct 11 '11 at 15:39

-ru options work for me.

This is an excerpt of explanation for -u, --update option from man rsync:

This forces rsync to skip any files which exist on the destination and have a modified time that is newer than the source file. (If an existing destination file has a modification time equal to the source file's, it will be updated if the sizes are different.)

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