Posts Tagged ‘DropBox’

I’ve become a content consumer, not a creator.  But I’m okay with that.

eat contentI’ve been blogging for a long time, but of late the need or urge to blog has waned, and I find myself reading more than I’m writing.  In fact I missed posting anything the entire month of August this year.  Maybe it’s because I am creating or at least designing all day long for a living that the pastime of writing a blog has begun to feel a little too much like work. When you write reports and emails all day the last thing you want to see on your off-time is a blank page staring back at you.

So the creative side of me has been on sabbatical, unless you count Instagram, but that is not creating so much as it is capturing. Sure it takes some creativity, but it is really just find beauty or interest in your surroundings.  At least for most people like me, it serves as a creative outlet or a way to chronicle your adventures in photos, but as usual, i digress.  My mom always said it was the Welsh in me, eventually i get back to the topic in hand, but it takes a while, days even. As a matter of fact, when I was young…. sorry, case in point there.  Anyway…

Thankfully I have met many people who can create enough for me to consume.  And I’m not talking about cat videos here, I mean real content.  interesting, informative, well written content. WordPress blogs alone account for over 1.2 million posts a day.  Sure, some of them may be just a retelling of their lunch order, but still, you have to figure a good portion of them are actually worth reading.  And that is just WordPress, not to mention all the other blogging platforms and self hosted blogs… the numbers are staggering really, we create so much content constantly you have to wonder if there is anything you can contribute to it that is worthwhile, or hasn’t been said before.  Thankfully, the answer to that question is yes there is, and a good chunk of that is created right here in little old London.  Check out my twitter feed if you don’t believe me and see the people I follow.  Many of them are home-grown bloggers and writers that keep me up to my ears in info and entertainment.

Also, thankfully, it is readily accessible, and getting easier to keep track of and save for later, or just clearer to read.  Sites with all the ads and moving videos and whatnot really distract me from what I am reading, which is why I was so happy to the see Evernote’s “Clearly” extension for Chrome.  The ability to take a visually busy site and hone in on the pertinent info is a godsend.  At least to me.  Whether you use Evernote, Circus Ponies Notebook, bookmarking, or adding to your reading list, even Dropbox and Box make it easy to hang into the important stuff, or just read them later at your leisure.

The world needs consumers. Much of our economy is based on that fact.  So take solace in the fact that you and I are doing our part, even when not actively creating.

Speaking of cat videos, if i ever post one, please take the great big book on engineering that sits beside my desk and beat me senseless with it.

write on,

barkerp

travel-2Anyone who follows my Twitter feed, or on Facebook or Instagram, knows I travel a fair bit.  Well, if flying from work-site and back in the same day usually really only seeing the city from a taxi or rented car on the way can be called traveling that is.  Seems like I’ve seen all the big airports but rarely any of the sights while there.  Sigh.

listIt used to be you went thru your written list (even those checklists are electronic now) of stuff to bring with you traveling and packed it all, now I find I go thru making sure everything being brought is updated and backed up so I have access to everything should something happen and I lose a device (it gives me the willies thinking about losing my beloved iPhone or iPad but it does happen).  And of course, chargers and cables to make sure all my electronics can be used (having forgotten a charging cable once when on a long trip was enough thanks) and have cloud access to the important stuff I may need while away.  Thankfully there are apps for just about everything now and it’s almost possible to bring it all along digitally instead of having to lug along a ton of paper with notes & info about the project in question.  Personal faves are AutoCAD WS for drawings, and Quickoffice Pro as well as Pages for all the documents I may need to view or create.  Dropbox is a great place to store the important stuff too, as is Evernote, because no matter how prepared you may think you are, there is always a missing file or document in your local copy you brought with you.  The trick is to remember to make them accessible prior to leaving the office.  Thankfully in our always connected society, even if you do forget something it is usually only an email away if you have willing cohorts in the office, or if not, remote access capability into your office server or workstation.

Even the very act of booking, checking in and boarding the plane has become very digital in nature.  With the Air Canada app for instance, I can check on flights, book them, do my check-in, and get/save my electronic boarding pass.  I add my flights into the app and get updated info on delays/cancellations and gate changes too, making the entire traveling process a tad easier as well as no more wasted paper.  Gotta like that, being green, and I don’t mean the kind from too much turbulence while in flight.

i feel this way many many times...

I feel this way many many times… sans the briefcase

There is no toothbrush app tho, and I do still need to pack a change of clothes, but with my WeatherNetwork app, at least I will know what to expect when I get there and can pack accordingly.

To anyone wondering, yes those are the mountains in BC visible from YVR – Vancouver international airport, and yes, that is my nose print on the glass as I look longingly at them while awaiting my plane.

Yep, it is the life of Riley at times, but thankfully with the help of a few electronic travel companions, the time flies as I do.  Or more accurately of late, helps to pass the time while waiting to fly.

barkerp

With the latest news about the not-so-secure or private status of your Dropbox information, I decided to check around for alternates that offered similar functionality without the gaping security hole.  One that comes to mind and is getting a bit of notice is SpiderOak.

At first I wasn’t sure about the name, but it made sense after a little thought.  It may not be as obvious as Dropbox, but when you think of the web and strength, spider and oak create a good image.  I quickly perused the site and set up an account. (Minimum 4 character limitations for account names really annoy me, since I prefer to just use “tcg” wherever possible but it wouldn’t let me)  Free accounts get 2GB of storage to start.  I say to start because that can change easily, but more on that later.

First impressions:  It’s a painfully slow download, but that may be in part due to server strain since I’m sure many people besides me are exploring replacements for Dropbox right now.
If you haven’t already heard about the big issue with DropBox, in a nutshell, the info they said was private and encrypted is not much of either.  Employees do have access to your info and can and will turn over your info if required to by law, or to anyone that Dropbox feels it needs to in order to protect its property rights as per its latest Terms of Service Agreement.  Gee thanks Dropbox.

Often throughout this post I will be referring to and comparing features of Dropbox, since it had become a widely known way to store, access and sync info in “the cloud”.
Getting back to SpiderOak, the EULA mentions “SpiderOak cannot guarantee uninterrupted service” in various forms a couple of times which sends up a bit of a red-flag to me.  I’m sure its just a cover-your-ass statement, but still, sounds to me like they are expecting problems with their service.  Lets hope not too often.

the brief overview of features

a short wait while it makes your info secure

As per most installs, on a Mac at least, its a simple drag and drop into your applications folder to get you started on you way to safe and secure offsite storage.  The windows version is pretty much the same as far as the install goes as well as the GUI once installed.

One of the first things I noticed was that it does not create a folder to copy or move your info into unlike Dropbox.  It just shares the info from where it already is on your computer to the SpiderOak server.  I’m of two minds regarding this.  First, it seems like a good way to ensure you are not duplicating files on your computers unlike the way Dropbox does it, but on the other hand, it is easy to see what is shared when using Dropbox since it all ends up in the same folder.  Syncing or uploading the data to the SpideOak servers was also brutally slow.  I decided to just upload approx. 400 meg of info at first to see how it works.  That process took a lot longer than using Dropbox to upload the same info – approximately twice as long to be more precise.  Thankfully none of it is confidential info so I wasn’t worried about the Dropbox security thing. My assumption is that the encryption process that SpiderOak uses slows down the transfer, which is why Dropbox is able to transfer the files that much quicker.

While I waited for the backing up, it seemed like a good time to read thru some of the Preferences options.  In there I noticed the option for saving a copy of your info, much the way Dropbox does it, but with Dropbox it is not an option.  Score one for SpiderOak there. Another thing I noticed from the website was SpiderOak’s claim about privacy (see screenshot below)…

Score another one for SpiderOak there.  I have to wonder if they updated that recently after all the hullabaloo about Dropbox and its lack of exactly those two items.

Another similarity is the way you store and access your info.  You can add devices to your account and give them each names to make it easy to see what info is shared from what device.  You can also create additional accounts and get referrals to increase your storage space much the same way as with Dropbox.

GUI on a Mac

The refer-a-friend option on the website allows you to post on Facebook, email a link, or post on Twitter.  I’m thinking the posting on FB and Twitter option seems a bit too desperate since its just an open tweet or wall post to anyone.  Almost like a “please be my friend and share stuff with me” plead.  Instead I sent a link to myself via email and created an account, and without installing the program since I already had installed it on that windows PC using the first account I set up was given the extra 1 gb for referring a friend.  Strange but i’m not complaining.  Selecting what you want to share is basically as easy (click the preset Categories) or precise as you want.  You can use the simple method or click advanced to get a file browser which you can drill down through and select the files you want.  You can see at the bottom your total available space and the amount used.

and just like that i’ve got 3GB available

I couldn’t find a way to logout of the service and change to a different account though.  It seems once you connect a device it remembers it is associated with that account.  No problem, a simple uninstall and reinstall took care of that.  I was then able to setup a different account on that PC.  There is a difference between how you access your info.  With Dropbox you could share files a little easier and sync folders on different machines, which is why I had a different account on each device, but with SpiderOak you may want to just add the devices to your account.  Again, the program is very similar to Dropbox in most aspects.  There is a bit of a learning curve, since the interface is a bit different and at first glance seems a bit confusing, but i’m getting the hang of it.  Read the readme files – don’t just jump in and expect to know how it works.

One thing that will need to change is SpiderOak’s integration with other apps.  This is where Dropbox currently has them beat, but not by much.  QuickOffice for instance has Dropbox integration, as does the PlainText app.  Both of these will allow you to access your stored files from within the app giving you even better access and editing powers of those files. Another program with built-in integration with Dropbox is AutoCadWS, which as you may know is one of the Apps I see a huge future for when it comes to making your AutoCad files easily accessible on mobile devices.  The nice thing is that when trying to view a document that isn’t natively supported in the SpiderOak App (which is also free and works on iPods, iPhones & iPads) you can click the little blue arrow next to the file name and be presented with other options to open the file in, such as AutoCadWS, or open a word doc in QuickOffice.  Sweet.

a listing of your registered devices

opening a non-supported file downloads the file

opening options by clicking the blue arrow

IMO SpiderOak offers a secure alternative to storing files on Dropbox and once they become more well known, hopefully the much needed native integration into other apps will arrive for them too and allow me to add SpiderOak as a service into QuickOffice for instance, so instead of opening the file by browsing to it in SpiderOak and then opening QuickOffice from within it.  I know its only one extra step to do it the SpiderOak way, but hey I have to find something to complain about, and time is money.

I’m not one that likes being misled or lied to by my software and Dropbox has left a bad taste in my mouth as well as many others it seems if the blogs and news stories are any indication.  Who knows, maybe Dropbox will fix their problems, but I for one am happy to move my files to a service that is actually secure and won’t be sending my files to anyone who in their opinion makes a legal request.  Its not that I am storing anything illegal but some info could be sensitive or confidential and the thought of some Dropbox employee being able to view that info if they deem it necessary is not right.  Bu-bye Dropbox.  Hello SpiderOak.

tcg

My kids and I went camping along with my niece’s husband and his two kids. As much as I had thought it was to be an escape from the hustle & bustle and be roughing-it, it was the first time we took iPods & my iPhone, and a little friend we call Justin Case. Turns out Justin Case was a very popular guy this time around.

Justin Case we needed to recharge any of the “i” devices we took along a power inverter for the car that gives us a regular outlet in the car where the 12V dc car outlet is. As it turned out I was charging ipods and my iPhone very often. An old friend was also staying at the same campground and we were using email to keep in touch when the cellphone towers were cooperating that is. (There are strange pockets within the campground were cellular service cuts outs due to terrain). Not to mention keeping in touch with my wife via txt message since she had no interest in going with us and camping in a tent.

Justin Case was also around as far as food went, as you never know what you are going to feel like eating, but mostly Justin Case brought along much needed power adapters, cables, extensions, etc. Thankfully he also brought along jumper cables, and first aid supplies, but i’m jumping ahead. Because as much as I thought we would be busy all the time, it turned out it was just the adults busy all the time, while the kids seemed to have plenty of time to question “what’s for dinner?”, “when are we eating?”, ” can I have a snack while we wait?”, “when can we go to the beach again?” etc., etc., etc..

During this preteen down time, there seemed to be a fair bit of time for the chillens to play with their iPods both together and separately. Apparently the Ghost Radar ghost hunting app was a real hit with a couple of the braver ones as the campground seemed to be riddled with the unseen apparitions. Well unseen by me, but maybe I just didn’t believe enough.

The weather was pretty good but it was nice to know when it was going to change and also have a heads up as too how much rain we were going to get. For that I can’t thank the app WeatherEye enough. Knowing we were about to get 10 to 15 mm of rain and there was a thunderstorm warning in effect for the campground gave us enough time to batten down the hatches and prepare ourselves. Preparing ourselves entailed getting everything we could need for a potential night in the car. iPods in hand, food & drinks in the back, and pillows nearby, we settled into our cars for a potentially scary evening never really knowing how bad it was gonna get.

The kids watched movies, played games and listened to music while nature threw some pretty nasty weather at us. I kept starting up the car and letting it run for a bit to ensure I wasn’t draining down the battery completely as I charged my iPhone and powered the power outlet feeding the MobiCool refrigerated cooler we had just bought.  We needed to defrost the windows anyway, since us sitting in the car doing that breathing-thing was fogging them up and it was also a good way to keep the contents of the cooler cold. Anyone who likes to have their milk and dairy icy cold and not worry about them going off should definitely consider an electric cooler.

We watched the nasty weather come and go, sneaking out between cloudbursts to check on the fire and the half cooked potatoes. I even took a video of the kids saying goodnight which I emailed to my wife while we were in the car, posted a couple of photos to FaceBook, and caught up on my emails. Eventually the rain stopped enough we could get out and eat our much anticipated dinner.  Keeping an eye on the weather we were able to consume a decent, albeit late, dinner.  Justin Case we had brought some simple meals to prepare.  Baked beans and camping in a tent.  An excellent combination with lots of fuel for jokes & noises followed by little snickers as we drifted off.
All in all, the iPods and other tech we took along seemed to help the experience. It’s a different world these days from when I was a kid. Back then being disconnected meant no TV and being phoneless which really wasn’t a big deal since every time you left the house you were phoneless.  Remember the time before cellphones?  Nowadays the kids are so used to being connected all the time, that there were a few comments about the lack of internet and how they wish they had iPhones or some other smartphone so they could still check FaceBook and MSN, but the fact they could amuse themselves while they waited to go to the beach or while we were cooking/cleaning/hunting/gathering was a blessing.

At the end of it all, after the trip home and the unpacking is done, a great way to share all those photos is to use Dropbox. That way there is no need to hop back in the car to deliver a copy of them on disc or a thumbdrive or even more antiquated actual photographs printed on paper.  I also got a great video from that old friend of mine via Filemail.com.  Cameras are so commonplace when it comes to vacationing that we don’t really give it a second glance and I think that iPods and portable gaming systems are heading the same way.

Tech is so ingrained in our lives. Embrace it. It’s going to be around a long long time.  And when it comes to camping, you can’t pack too much stuff.  (for my grand-niece – “That’s what she said“)

One final note.  It may be low tech but I am thankful for indoor plumbing. As much as I appreciate roughing it, having a toilet that flushes instead of a hole in the ground in a bug infested smelly little outhouse is a big plus. Thank you Sir John Harrington and Thomas Crapper, I tip my hat to you both.

tcg

I have been using and abusing Dropbox for a while now (i’ll expand on the abusing later) and for the most part its been a handy way to transfer smaller files to buddies and a place to keep files that i may need later or even backups of files i would be lost without should anything happen to the original – my PasswordMaster backup for instance.

One of the things that i find it really handy for is transferring files, photos for instance, rather than emailing them or burning to disk, etc. throw them into your Dropbox and share them with those you choose.  The annoying thing i found out is that the shared folder, whether yours or your buddies, counts towards your total allowed space.  i know! i said “huh?” too when i found that out.

dropbox-full

This seems a little troubling because you don’t necessarily have control over what someone puts in their dropbox that they have shared with you.  So i guess you have to be careful what you share and also take time to review what is being shared with you by others.  If their files get too big, you may no longer have room for your own.

One little trick you can use to get you more space is to invite others to join.  Make sure you are actually sending an invite though and not merely sharing a folder with someone who does not yet have a Dropbox account.  You may wonder “what’s the difference?”  Well, actually, there is a big one, and one you will want to take advantage of.  If you share a folder with someone, they will get an email inviting them to see your files you shared, and also tell them a bit about Dropbox and what it is and encourage them to get an account.  Whereas if you send them an invite, once they accept you will both get .25 gig more room in your dropbox.

dropbox-bigger

The really sweet part about this is that you can do this a few times and get the 250 meg additional free space from each new person you invite that accepts your invite and installs Dropbox.  As for the abusing part, i sent an invite to myself (and accepted of course) under a different email address simply because i wanted to be able to share files easily between my Mac and my Windows PC without having to worry about copying to thumbdrive or emailing them.  And because it was from an invite, i got the additional space added at each end.  Sweet!

Now, don’t go sending invites to yourself just because you have a couple dozen email addys and think you are gonna max out the system.  You have to install the Dropbox app on a computer to get the extra space, so unless you have a computer to go with each email address its not gonna work.

Once you have installed the app you will have an icon in your menubar (or your system tray if using windows) that gives you quick access to your files and settings.  The syncing of the files is very fast and i’ve never had an issue with any of the files i am sharing slowing me down, although a buddy of mine did but that was to do with the syncing rate being set very low to not use a lot of resources.  Do remember though that when you drag a file from your pc to your dropbox, it actually moves the file, since the Dropbox is actually on your pc as well as being in the clouds.  So you may want to copy the file into the Dropbox instead, unless you like storing your original files in your Dropbox.

All in all, this is a great little app and its free which is wonderful for those of us who hate to spend money just to try something out.  If you decide you need more space and inviting people is not gonna get you the room you need, then there is a paid upgrade option to buy more space.  For me, 2.5 gig is doing fine – it should have been more mind you, but i shared folders via email instead of inviting like i should have done.  live and learn they say.  learning from other’s mistakes:  even better.

tcg