Posts Tagged ‘Windows’

Get Dropbox!

Friday, October 17th, 2008

It’s unsolicited1 advertisement time her at Striderweb. First up: an amazing free program called Dropbox.

I downloaded Dropbox a few weeks ago, and I absolutely love it. What it does is creates a single folder on multiple computers that is kept synchronized. Working on your laptop? Put a document in the Dropbox folder and when you’re back at your desktop computer, that file will be in the desktop’s Dropbox folder. Update it there, and later when you’re back on the laptop you’ll have the updated file.

You can also share folders between accounts. I set up an account for my Dad, and now any time I want to give him a file, I just drop it into the folder I’ve shared with him, and it shows up in his folder on his computer. Email ain’t that hard, true, but emailing large files can be problematic, and Zip files get him every time. Beyond the syncing, the Dropbox folder is just like any other folder on his (and my) computer — there is nothing at all different about how you work with files.

I’ve also taken to depositing preference files for certain programs in my Dropbox. I use the excellent outstanding 1Password program to track my passwords and online accounts, and I keep the preference file in my Dropbox. Any time I open the program on any of my computers I have the same data. Cool!

Note that this trick doesn’t work for all cases. I tried putting my Firefox (web browser) profile in my Dropbox, and quickly discovered that when I was actually on the web, my computer’s processor and bandwidth were churning like crazy! Turns out Firefox is pretty constantly making changes when you browse — which makes sense, considering it’s writing cache files and such every time you pull up a page. So for every page I viewed, I was uploading that same page (in cache form) at the same time! I changed that back pretty quickly.

Another nice thing is the “Public” folder inside your Dropbox. Put something in there, and you can then get a public URL that will allow anyone to download that file. (Though I am curious how Dropbox will respond if someone put up something hugely popular — the bandwidth does cost them money somewhere along the line.)

The program is available for Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux, and works across platforms. That is, you can sync a Windows Dropbox with a Mac Dropbox. I personally use it between two Macs, with a shared folder to a separate account on my Windows machine at work.

Best part? Dropbox is free, up to 2GB1. You can also pay for a Dropbox that will sync up to 50GB if you find you’re a heavy user. Personally, I’ve made pretty good use of it so far, and have only used up about 15% of my 2GB limit.

I’ve been using it for a few weeks now, as I said, and there are only a couple things I would like to see added. First off, I think they would be wise to offer a smaller account somewhere between the free 2GB and the 50GB options. The 50GB account is $10 a month — but how about a 10GB version for, say, $2.50 or $3? I think they would get a lot of paying customers in that range.

Secondly, they should strongly consider some sort of self-hosted variation of this. It would be great in a corporate environment, but I bet a lot of companies would not be comfortable storing sensitive files on a shared semi-public server. License the program to companies so they can run their own private systems on company servers.

Thirdly, the program could stand to allow a bit more control over certain things. The problem I had with Firefox could be handled if I could tell Dropbox “don’t sync this one folder”, for example. Turning off syncing my cache files, but syncing the rest of the profile folder, would be very cool. As an alternate, they could allow you to set certain folders so they sync, say, every ten minutes, instead of continuously.

These are just quibbles though. This is a great program, and I hope they’re successful with it. I look forward to whatever improvements they come up with down the road. Check it out. Here’s that link again. ๐Ÿ™‚

[Update: I’ve noticed something in the program that could stand improvement. I had a large folder in my Dropbox that I moved into another folder, also in the Dropbox. Rather than figuring out that it was all the same files, it re-uploaded the entire folder — hundreds of megabytes; which means that a sync that should have taken seconds took over an hour. I would guess that a fix for this is in the works, as again, bandwidth costs them money, and fixing this would thus directly affect their profits.] It was a bug, and is fixed.

[Update: Found the following “complaint” in the Dropbox forums:

I’m sorry to have to say this, but considering Dropbox’s current feature set, I don’t think it can really be considered a real product until there’s a way to give it a hug. I mean… all this fancy stuff you’ve made so far is great ‘n all, but I feel this overwhelming urge to hug Dropbox for being so awesome.

Heh. If they figure out that feature, they should sell it.]

1: Though this article was originally written without them, the links to Dropbox in this article are now “affiliate” links. I receive no money, but if you start an account though this link, both you and I get a bit of extra space for free. Win/Win! ๐Ÿ™‚