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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 13, 2019

    How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

    How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

    Have you gotten into a rut before? Or are you in a rut right now?

    You know you’re in a rut when you run out of ideas and inspiration. I personally see a rut as a productivity vacuum. It might very well be a reason why you aren’t getting results. Even as you spend more time on your work, you can’t seem to get anything constructive done. While I’m normally productive, I get into occasional ruts (especially when I’ve been working back-to-back without rest). During those times, I can spend an entire day in front of the computer and get nothing done. It can be quite frustrating.

    Over time, I have tried and found several methods that are helpful to pull me out of a rut. If you experience ruts too, whether as a working professional, a writer, a blogger, a student or other work, you will find these useful. Here are 12 of my personal tips to get out of ruts:

    1. Work on the small tasks.

    When you are in a rut, tackle it by starting small. Clear away your smaller tasks which have been piling up. Reply to your emails, organize your documents, declutter your work space, and reply to private messages.

    Whenever I finish doing that, I generate a positive momentum which I bring forward to my work.

    2. Take a break from your work desk.

    Get yourself away from your desk and go take a walk. Go to the washroom, walk around the office, go out and get a snack.

    Your mind is too bogged down and needs some airing. Sometimes I get new ideas right after I walk away from my computer.

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    3. Upgrade yourself

    Take the down time to upgrade yourself. Go to a seminar. Read up on new materials (#7). Pick up a new language. Or any of the 42 ways here to improve yourself.

    The modern computer uses different typefaces because Steve Jobs dropped in on a calligraphy class back in college. How’s that for inspiration?

    4. Talk to a friend.

    Talk to someone and get your mind off work for a while.

    Talk about anything, from casual chatting to a deep conversation about something you really care about. You will be surprised at how the short encounter can be rejuvenating in its own way.

    5. Forget about trying to be perfect.

    If you are in a rut, the last thing you want to do is step on your own toes with perfectionist tendencies.

    Just start small. Do what you can, at your own pace. Let yourself make mistakes.

    Soon, a little trickle of inspiration will come. And then it’ll build up with more trickles. Before you know it, you have a whole stream of ideas.

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    6. Paint a vision to work towards.

    If you are continuously getting in a rut with your work, maybe there’s no vision inspiring you to move forward.

    Think about why you are doing this, and what you are doing it for. What is the end vision in mind?

    Make it as vivid as possible. Make sure it’s a vision that inspires you and use that to trigger you to action.

    7. Read a book (or blog).

    The things we read are like food to our brain. If you are out of ideas, it’s time to feed your brain with great materials.

    Here’s a list of 40 books you can start off with. Stock your browser with only the feeds of high quality blogs, such as Lifehack.org, DumbLittleMan, Seth Godin’s Blog, Tim Ferris’ Blog, Zen Habits or The Personal Excellence Blog.

    Check out the best selling books; those are generally packed with great wisdom.

    8. Have a quick nap.

    If you are at home, take a quick nap for about 20-30 minutes. This clears up your mind and gives you a quick boost. Nothing quite like starting off on a fresh start after catching up on sleep.

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    9. Remember why you are doing this.

    Sometimes we lose sight of why we do what we do, and after a while we become jaded. A quick refresher on why you even started on this project will help.

    What were you thinking when you thought of doing this? Retrace your thoughts back to that moment. Recall why you are doing this. Then reconnect with your muse.

    10. Find some competition.

    Nothing quite like healthy competition to spur us forward. If you are out of ideas, then check up on what people are doing in your space.

    Colleagues at work, competitors in the industry, competitors’ products and websites, networking conventions.. you get the drill.

    11. Go exercise.

    Since you are not making headway at work, might as well spend the time shaping yourself up.

    Sometimes we work so much that we neglect our health and fitness. Go jog, swim, cycle, whichever exercise you prefer.

    As you improve your physical health, your mental health will improve, too. The different facets of ourselves are all interlinked.

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    Here’re 15 Tips to Restart the Exercise Habit (and How to Keep It).

    12. Take a good break.

    Ruts are usually signs that you have been working too long and too hard. It’s time to get a break.

    Beyond the quick tips above, arrange for a 1-day or 2-days of break from your work. Don’t check your (work) emails or do anything work-related. Relax and do your favorite activities. You will return to your work recharged and ready to start.

    Contrary to popular belief, the world will not end from taking a break from your work. In fact, you will be much more ready to make an impact after proper rest. My best ideas and inspiration always hit me whenever I’m away from my work.

    Take a look at this to learn the importance of rest: The Importance of Scheduling Downtime

    More Resources About Getting out of a Rut

    Featured photo credit: Joshua Earle via unsplash.com

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