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Dropbox: A Simple Syncing Solution

Dropbox: A Simple Syncing Solution
dropbox

    Over the years, I’ve tried syncing my computers any number of ways, from trusting my entire life to a flash drive to uploading everything to Google Docs. Very few options have been idiot-proof enough to make up for my abilities to misplace things, forget to update file versions and generally fail to double check that my computers are all in sync.

    I need a forgiving synchronization method — something that doesn’t require me to initiate back ups or juggle versions. Dropbox seems to be that method. I’ve actually been using it for over a month now and have encountered an impressive lack of problems.

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    Wikis and Security

    I use a wiki (TiddlyWiki, to be precise) to handle a lot of my projects in progress. No matter what system I use to keep files in sync across computers, I have to have reliable access to my wiki. I’ve considered using one of the many sites willing to host a wiki for me, but I’ve had some questions about the security of such sites that have yet to be answered.

    Dropbox has handled my wiki with no problems. Considering that TiddlyWiki creates a new file every time you save your changes, that can be impressive. Checking up on the file on the Dropbox website in preparation for this post, I discovered that my wiki was not only up to date — about 100 other files were also up to date if I wanted to double check old saved versions. Dropbox simply saved each one of them, without my having to click boxes or mess with the file.

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    Because of my security concerns, I also took a good look at Dropbox’s privacy policy and security measures. The team behind Dropbox seems to share my paranoia: all file transport occurs over SSL and files are encrypted with AES-256 before they’re stored on the site’s backend. So far, users can’t specify their own private key, but I’m content with the measures that Dropbox has taken so far.

    I had to hunt around the site a bit to find Dropbox’s privacy policy. It’s mostly on par with privacy policies for similar services, though it is directly focused on the personal information that a user might supply for their profile — information associated with public files, forum posts and the like. Users’ files are not a matter for the privacy policy because Dropbox doesn’t mess with them. My files are encrypted before even someone at Dropbox could mess with them. I’m more than willing to trust Dropbox on both security and privacy.

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    Sharing Photos With My Mom

    We all have those friends and relatives whose approaches to the internet require absolute simplicity. Anything much beyond ‘click this link’ just doesn’t fly. It can make sharing files, from photos to documents, interesting at best. But Dropbox also allows users to establish a shared folder. Within that shared folder, you can put any kind of file, and get a link that you can provide dear old Mom directly to that file.

    Admittedly, there are plenty of other sites for sharing photos. But I’ve had to get everything form Powerpoint presentations to PDFs to my mom and I’d rather not explain a new site every time, or have to fuss with something different each time either.

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    Dropbox has also worked quite well for projects where I’ve needed to share files with group members. A few services have more bells and whistles, but for files other than the standard .doc, Dropbox has been ideal. It’s also much easier to stop sharing a file with Dropbox than with other services — I just drag it out of my public folder.

    Drag and Drop Paradise

    Dropbox has a great web interface. But the real use lies in the Dropbox application. You install it just like any other piece of software and it launches a Finder window or an Explorer window — there isn’t an Linux version yet, but Dropbox is working on an alpha version. Dropbox works just like any other folder: you can drag and drop files, which are then automatically synced across any computers you’ve activated and installed the software on, as well as the web interface. There are no problems sharing files between Macs and PCs, either — as long as you’ve got the appropriate software to open a file already installed.

    I’ve had no problem working on files while offline, either. Dropbox just updates my files whenever I have internet access. This actually came in handy over the weekend when Amazon’s S3 service went down. Dropbox relies on S3, so there was no synchronization during the outage. But I was still able to edit my files in the meanwhile and, as soon as S3 was back up, Dropbox matched up all my files. According to forum members on the Dropbox site, the application was even able to pick up right where it had left off in the middle of partially uploaded files. Having that sort of outage is a heck of a test for a web application, but Dropbox seems to have managed quite well.

    A Few Invites

    Dropbox is still in private beta, although they seem to be fairly nice about handing out invites to those that request them. I’ve got five invites, according to my account, though, and I’m more than happy to send them off to LifeHack readers. I’ll email the invites to the first five commenters on this post.

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    Last Updated on March 24, 2021

    8 Smart Home Gadgets You Need in Your House

    8 Smart Home Gadgets You Need in Your House

    We’ve all done it. We’ve gone out and bought useless gadgets that we don’t really need, just because they seemed really cool at the time. Then, we are stuck with a bunch of junk, and end up tossing it or trying to sell it on Ebay.

    On the other hand, there are some pretty awesome tech inventions that are actually useful. For instance, many of the latest home gadgets do some of your work for you, from adjusting the home thermostat to locking your front door. And, if used as designed, these tools should really help to make your life a lot easier—and that’s not just a claim from some infomercial trying to sell you yet another useless gadget.

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    Take a look at some of the most popular “smart gadgets” on the market:

    1. Smart Door Locks

    A smart lock lets you lock and unlock your doors by using your smartphone, a special key fob, or biometrics. These locks are keyless, and much more difficult for intruders to break into, making your home a lot safer. You can even use a special app to let people into your home if you are not there to greet them.

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    2. Smart Kitchen Tools

    Wouldn’t you just love to have a pot of coffee waiting for you when you get home from work? What about a “smart pan” that tells you exactly when you need to flip that omelet? From meat thermometers to kitchen scales, you’ll find a variety of “smart” gadgets designed to make culinary geeks salivate.

    3. Mini Home Speaker Play:1

    If you love big sound, but hate how much space big speakers take up, and if you want a stereo system that is no bigger than your fist, check out the Play:1 mini speaker. All you have to do is plug it in, connect, and then you can stream without worrying about any interruptions or interface. You can even add onto it, and have different music playing in different rooms.

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    4. Wi-Fi Security Cameras

    These are the latest in home security, and they connect to the Wi-Fi in your home. You can use your mobile devices to monitor what is going on in your home at all times, no matter where you are. Options include motion sensors, two-way audio, and different recording options.

    5. Nest Thermostat

    This is a thermostat that lives with you. It can sense seasonal changes, temperature changes, etc., and it will adjust itself automatically. You will never have to fiddle with a thermostat dial or keypad again, because this one basically does all of the work for you. It can also help you to save as much as 12% on heating bills, and 15% on cooling bills.

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    6. Smart Lighting

    Control your home lighting from your remote device. This is great if you are out and want to make sure that there are some lights on. It is designed to be energy efficient, so it will pay for itself over time because you won’t have to spend so much on your monthly energy bills.

    7. Google Chromecast Ultra

    Whether you love movies, television shows, music, etc., you can stream it all using Google Chromecast Ultra. Stream all of the entertainment you love in up to 4K UHD and HDR, for just $69 monthly.

    8. Canary

    This home security system will automatically contact emergency services when they are needed. This system offers both video and audio surveillance, so there will be evidence if there are any break-ins on your property. You can also use it to check up on what’s happening at home when you are not there, including to make sure the kids are doing their homework.

    Featured photo credit: Karolina via kaboompics.com

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