All posts by Brian

File Dropper – 250 Gigabytes of Free Online Storage? (Online Storage Series)

File Dropper logoNeed tons of space to store files online? How about 250 GB, all for free? Is it too good to be true?

Maybe.

A new startup called File Dropper claims to offer their “Gold” plan – a whopping 250 GB of storage space – for free, provided that you register before May 15, 2008. Otherwise, their regular plans start at $0.99 a month for 5 GB of storage. Users who register before May 15 will receive a lifetime account for free, not just a trial account.

Signup

Many of these services disappear as rapidly as they appear, but if you want to register, please use their special link. They claim that this special offer is for members of social bookmarking services such as Digg, StumbleUpon, Mixx, etc, but anyone can register.

As a thank you to the community we are offering free accounts on filedropper.com to bloggers as well as members of Digg, Stumble, Reddit, Mixx, Del.icio.us. To get your free account fill out the form below to receive to get $10 monthly account (250 GB) absolutely free. Accounts created before May 15th will have lifetime membership for free.

Registration is quick and painless, requiring only username, password, and e-mail address. I used a randomly-generated password (thanks KeePass), and my dedicated “spam” e-mail address, but I have not received any e-mails from them yet. So far so good.

Usage

The main interface of File Dropper is startlingly simple, which is not surprising given their claim of simplest file hosting website ever.

Once you choose to upload a file, you are presented with an interface that allows you to upload one file at at time. The maximum upload size is a staggering 5 GB! Here I am, uploading a test file:

File Dropper Main

There is even a progress bar to show you how much data is remaining. Once the upload is complete, File Dropper displays a download link that you can use to share with others.

Warnings and Caveats

I want to like File Dropper. I really do. However, I am suspicious. I’ve seen far too many similar services offer outlandish claims and then disappear into the night. I genuinely hope that File Dropper sticks around for the long haul, but pardon me for doubting.

Therefore, I would not trust sensitive information with them. Their TOS is quite sparse, and even mentions the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. So don’t think that you can store your collection of “ripped” movies on their servers and get away with it forever.

By contrast, a service such as DropBoks has a very strict Privacy Policy, which is currently lacking on File Dropper. Dropboks states:

All files that are uploaded to the DropBoks system are never viewed by any member of the DropBoks team, ever. Neither are they provided to any other party at any time.

On the other hand, my beloved DropBoks only offers ONE gigabyte of free storage in comparison to 250!

File Dropper 2038Of course, there is always the possibility that File Dropper will not withstand the test of time, and will disappear in a few short weeks or months, taking all your precious files with them.

I’m supposedly a paid member until January 18, 2038. So, lifetime to File Dropper apparently means 30 years. I don’t know about you, but I certainly hope to still be alive in 2038. Maybe they are anticipating the Year 2038 problem.

The only other problem I see is that in 30 years, I probably won’t care much about the files I’m currently uploading!

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Sync Your Windows Mobile Contacts and Calendar with Plaxo, Thunderbird, and Google for FREE

A few days ago I wrote about syncing your Windows Mobile contacts and calendar over the Internet for free using Funambol. Today I’m going to show you how to accomplish the same task, plus the ability to synchronize your contacts and calendar with Plaxo, Mozilla Thunderbird, and Google Calendar.

Excited yet? Let me show you how neat this truly is – how would you like the ability to add an event to Google Calendar and have it automatically update on Thunderbird AND your Windows Mobile device (Smartphone or PocketPC)? Sound good? How about adding a new Contact on your phone and having it show up in Thunderbird (or vice versa)? What if I tell you that you don’t even need to install anything on your phone? Oh, and here’s the best part – the entire process is FREE.

Required Tools

Several pieces of software work in conjunction to keep everything in sync. Here’s what you will need:

On the Internet:

  • a Google Calendar account (if you’re reading this, you probably have one already)
  • a Plaxo account

For Your Windows Mobile Device:

For Your Computer (Windows, Mac OS X, Linux/BSD):

Sound complicated? It really is not. Here’s a visual guide that I threw together to illustrate the data directions.

total-sync-graph.png

Before we begin, let me state that all of these products are currently free. While I hope they all stay that way, I have not yet discovered whether or not NuevaSync will begin charging for their service once they come out of Beta. If anyone associated with NuevaSync reads this, we would appreciate a comment. Also, Plaxo has a free and a Premium service. For the purposes of this guide, the free service is all you need.

Also, please note that some of these services are in Beta, meaning that there may be bugs and/or outages. PLEASE BACK UP YOUR MOBILE DATA BEFORE YOU PROCEED! This guide may work flawlessly for you, or it may eat all the noodles in your pantry. Proceed with caution. I am not responsible for any lost data.

Step One – Web Services

1. First things first, if you want to sync with Google Calendar, you must HAVE a Google Calendar. If you have a Gmail account, you already have one.

plaxo-logo.gif2. Next, create an account with Plaxo. Yes, Plaxo is yet another social network, though without the I’m an attention whore kind of mentality most social networks have. Instead, Plaxo focuses on keeping information about you and your contacts up-to-date. Here’s the last few lines from their About Page:

We are dedicated to the notion that your address book, your friends list, and your content belong to you, not to us. We make it easy for you to take them with you wherever you go and to use them with an ever-expanding array of sites, applications, and devices.

I can’t stand most social networks, but I can handle Plaxo simply because they are an integral tool in keeping my sync setup working.

3. Add a Google sync point to Plaxo.

Before you sign out of Plaxo, we need to add a sync point for Google. Essentially, you are going to give Plaxo your Google Account information and have Plaxo log in and perform a Calendar sync every 15 minutes.

Click the Calendar tab at the top of Plaxo.

plaxo-cal.png

At the bottom of the page, look for the Add sync points link.

add-sync-points.png

Choose the Google option, enter your account information, and follow the prompts. Plaxo can currently only sync your Google Contacts in one direction (from Google to Plaxo), but syncing with Google Calendar is bi-directional.

plaxo-gcal-sync.png

Once this step is complete, your Google and Plaxo calendars should be synchronized. Now you can move on to the Windows Mobile device setup.

Step Two – Windows Mobile Device

We’re going to use NuevaSync to connect your Smartphone/PocketPC to both Google Calendar and Plaxo. There are two main steps to this process.

1. First, create an account with NuevaSync, a service that provides over-the-air synchronization of Smartphones and PocketPCs. Their website is pretty sparse, but essentially NuevaSync acts like an Exchange Server, using the built-in ActiveSync (OTA) protocol on your Windows Mobile device. Think of it as a proxy to Google Calendar and Plaxo.

nuevasync-status.pngOnce you’ve created your account, all you need to do is tell it sync your Calendar and Contacts with the appropriate services. You will see a status and setup screen like the one shown here. Use the change button to choose the Google and Plaxo services, and use the setup button for each to provide the appropriate login information for each service. (Note: if you are uncomfortable providing your Google and Plaxo login information to NuevaSync, you will be unable to proceed any further. I admit that it was a little disconcerting, but I have seen no consequences to date. If either account is ever hijacked, I will post back here.)

2. Configure your Windows Mobile device to connect to NuevaSync.

Guess what? You don’t have to install anything on your Windows Mobile device from NuevaSync. All you need is ActiveSync, which is already built-in. Here’s the process:

  1. Launch ActiveSync (Programs → ActiveSync).
  2. If you have an existing server setup, delete it (Menu → Options → select Microsoft Exchange → Delete).
  3. Add a server source (Menu → Add Server Source).
  4. Enter www.nuevasync.com under Server Address.
  5. Make sure that the encrypted (SSL) connection box is checked and select Next.
  6. Enter your NuevaSync username (your_name@mail.com) and password.
  7. Under Domain, enter anything you want. The field is required to continue, but NuevaSync supposedly doesn’t use it (If this area is grey, this just means that you’re lucky enough to own a newer device and can proceed without entering anything). I entered “crap” for my domain.
  8. Press Next.
  9. The last screen shows the data available to sync (Contacts, Calendar, E-mail, Tasks). At the time of this writing, NuevaSync only supports syncing Contacts and Calendar. Leave the others unchecked.
  10. Press Finish. Your device should now attempt an initial sync. If it does not connect, check your login information again. If it syncs, you’re in business.

Here are three slides that show the process on my smartphone:

At this point, your Contacts should have been sent to and synced with Plaxo. Let’s verify this: Manually log in to your Plaxo account, click People → Address Book. See your contacts? If so, try adding a contact on your mobile device. It should soon show up in Plaxo. Try deleting that same contact in Plaxo. At the next sync, did it also disappear from your phone?

Go on to the next page (below).

Sync Your Windows Mobile Contacts and Calendar using Funambol for FREE

moto-q.pngI have a love/hate relationship with my MOTO Q smartphone. I love it because it helps me stay connected on-the-run, because it has a big keyboard, and because I got a great deal on it.

I hate it because it runs Windows Mobile 5, which has crashed a few times so badly that I’ve had to reset my phone, wiping out all my information.

There’s a big problem with Windows Mobile – Microsoft wants you to use their Activesync software to backup your contacts, calendar, and other files. That’s all fine and dandy, but surprise, surprise! Activesync only interfaces nicely with Outlook. Linux/Mac users, and Windows users who dislike (or can’t afford) Outlook are locked out in the cold. Sorry.

This is a HUGE problem, especially for potential GNU/Linux adopters. Here’s a typical scenario: Joe User hears about this “Linux” thing and decides to give it a shot. He tries it, likes what he sees, and is considering switching full-time, but then Joe decides to plug in his Windows Mobile-based smartphone or PocketPC. Uh oh. Nothing happens. Joe User is savvy enough to do a little searching, but quickly realizes that syncing his Windows Mobile device to Linux is going to be about as easy as convincing Microsoft to switch to a UNIX-based kernel!

Ever since I bought my phone, I’ve been looking for an easy, free way to sync my contacts and calendar without using Activesync and Outlook. I’ve spent many hours researching and testing a handful of methods, with varying amounts of success. Over the next few weeks, I’m going to post tutorials on a few of my findings.

I only have two requirements:

  1. The method must not require Outlook or Activesync (or Windows Mobile Device Center, or whatever Vista calls it).
  2. As the self-proclaimed ruler of the free world, I require that the entire process be FREE. No subscription services, one-time fees, or anything like that.

Let’s get started!

Method One – Funambol

funambol-logo.pngOne possible solution that I’ve found is by using Funambol (http://www.funambol.com). According to their site, they are the world’s leading mobile open-source project. I can’t verify if they’re truly the world’s leading project, but I DO know that they offer the easiest syncing solution that I’ve tried so far.

Step One – myFUNAMBOL Portal

If you are so inclined, you may download their server software (for Windows or Linux) and run your own sync server. For the rest of us, they offer the free myFUNAMBOL Portal. The portal is currently in beta, and they claim that sign-up is by invitation only. However, I had no problem registering directly for an account.

Create and activate your myFUNAMBOL account. Once activated, you should receive a message like this:

funambol-success.png

You may also choose to synchronize e-mail with Funambol by giving it your e-mail address and e-mail password. Be sure to register your correct phone number with Funambol, since this is how you are going to receive the phone plug-in.

Your new myFUNAMBOL portal should look something like this (click for larger view):

funambol-portal-default.png

Step Two – Install the Phone Software

Now that the portal is working, it’s time to install the Funambol client onto your phone. From inside the myFUNAMBOL portal, choose Profile, and then drill down to the Phone option. Verify that the information is correct, and then from the drop-down list at the bottom, select Download Funambol Windows Mobile Plug-in to my phone. See screenshot below.

funambol-dl-wm-plugin.png

You should receive a text message with a link to the plug-in, or you can choose to download the CAB file directly by browsing to this link on your phone – http://my.funambol.com/me/funambol-sm-plugin.cab.

funambol-wm-plugin.png

Once the plug-in is successfully installed, you just have to configure it.

Step Three – Configuration and Initial Sync

wm-funambol-login.pngYou’re almost done. The final step is to tell the Funambol client on your phone how to connect to the myFUNAMBOL portal. Enter the credentials for the account you created. The server location should be filled in for you automatically.

Once the Windows Mobile plug-in is connected to the web portal, all that’s left to do is start syncing.

Chances are high that you can just press the Sync All button to have your information sent to the portal. If you want to specify which elements to sync, choose Menu → Settings.

See the slideshow below for a visual overview of the Funambol plug-in on my MOTO Q.

There you have it. Once the initial sync is finished, log back in to your myFUNAMBOL portal and verify that your Contacts and Calendar settings have been updated.

Try it out. Add or delete a contact via the web portal and press Sync All again from the Funambol phone plug-in. The changes should update on your phone. Also, any contacts or calendar information that you add on your phone should update in the web portal. Nice.

Other Thoughts

Naturally, to make your phone sync with Funambol, you need Internet access on your smartphone or PocketPC. My mobile plan has unlimited data access, so this works well for me. If you pay for all data access, consider setting the Sync Method to Manual so as to not incur costly data charges.

For me, the main purpose of Funambol is to backup my Contacts and Calendar without Activesync or Outlook, and it does the job with aplomb. If Windows Mobile crashes and forces me to do (another) hard reset, within minutes I can reinstall the Funambol plug-in and reload my critical information. It gives me peace of mind. The best part is that it doesn’t matter what operating system your computer is running. You can still keep your information in sync.

For you Windows/Outlook users out there, you’ll be pleased to know that Funambol also offers an Outlook plug-in to synchronize your Contacts and Calendar. If you throw Google Calendar Sync (for Outlook) into the equation, you can create one lean, mean, syncing machine!

As I mentioned, I’ve spent a lot of time researching this lately, and in the coming weeks I plan to post a few more tutorials on syncing Windows Mobile information without Activesync or Outlook, including information on making it work with Thunderbird and Google Calendar. Stay tuned for my findings.

In the meantime, if all you need is a simple, elegant, and FREE method to backup your Windows Mobile Contacts and Calendar over the Internet, Funambol has you covered.

– Brian Bondari

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Unlock and Delete Stuck Files with Unlocker

There’s not much more aggravating than attempting to simply delete a file, only to have Windows spit an error message back in your face.

filezilla-delete.png

When this happens, it’s usually because some program or process in memory still has an invisible tentacle wrapped around that file or folder.

Often, rebooting and trying again will solve the problem (or booting into Safe Mode), but if you don’t want to reboot, you can use Unlocker.

right-click-unlocker.png
Unlocker is a free application designed to quickly and easily remove the annoyance of stuck files from your Windows system.

Usage

Using Unlocker is easy – just right click on the stuck file or folder and choose Unlocker.

If the file is stuck, it will spawn the Unlocker Assistant and show you the process gripping your stuck file/folder.

unlocker-assistant.png

All you have to do is click Unlock All, and then try to delete the file again. Voila! The stuck file should be banished from your computer, and from your life.

Unlocker is one of those applications that should not be necessary. After all, files should just disappear when you try to delete them, right? Still, I’m glad it’s available. Version tested – 1.8.6.

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21 Awesome (But Lesser-Known) Open-Source Applications for Windows

Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock in Madagascar for the last few years, you undoubtedly already know about the All-Star open-source applications for Windows. I’m talking about applications such as Firefox, Thunderbird, GIMP, OpenOffice, and VLC.

However, there are hundreds of lesser-known but highly-useful open-source applications available for Windows. A few of my favorites are below.

These applications range from moderately popular to downright obscure, but all of them are open-source and FREE. All of them are worth the install time if you have never tried them. As a side bonus, many of them are cross-platform as well.

Here they are, in random order:

zscreen.jpg1. ZScreen

ZScreen is an open-source screen capture program that quietly resides in your system tray until needed. It can take screenshots of a selected region, the active window, or the entire screen. It can even send screen captures via FTP and copy the URL to your clipboard, all with just a single keystroke. Oh yeah, it can also interface with image editing software, such as Photoshop or Paint.net.

If you frequently take screenshots, ZScreen is light years faster than pressing Print Scrn and pasting into MS Paint.

pdfcreator-logo.png2. PDFCreator

PDFCreator allows you to create PDFs from any program that can print. Once it’s installed, simply “print” to the virtual printer that it creates, and the resulting document can be read on any computer with Adobe Reader (or comparable software).

There are several similar programs, but if you dig open-source software, PDFCreator trumps many of the others.

keepass-logo.gif3. KeePass

KeePass is one of those applications that you don’t realize how badly you need until you start using it. It securely stores and manages the login information that you use for e-mail, websites, banks, etc. Unless you always use the exact same login information (a terrible idea!), you need KeePass. It’s even available in a portable version.

I use KeePass to manage hundreds of usernames and passwords. I’d go crazy without it.

handbrake_logo.jpg4. HandBrake

HandBrake is a DVD to MPEG-4 converter that allows you to stick a DVD in your drive and have the video converted to a digital file for convenient viewing. It’s great for minimizing wear-and-tear on DVDs, plus it’s handy if you travel a lot and want to watch movies on your laptop.

For best results, use it in conjunction with DVD43. Continue reading 21 Awesome (But Lesser-Known) Open-Source Applications for Windows

Foxmarks – Synchronize Bookmarks Across Multiple Computers

foxmarks_logo.pngA couple years ago I wrote about Google Browser Sync, a slick extension for Firefox that allows you to synchronize bookmarks, cookies, history, and even tabs across multiple computers.

A similiar FREE tool is Foxmarks Bookmark Syncronizer, though Foxmarks focuses exclusively on… well, synchronizing bookmarks.

I’ve been using Foxmarks for several weeks now, and it has become one of my favorite extensions for Firefox. Review version: 2.0.45

Installation and Initial Sync

Once you install Foxmarks, you will be greeted with a setup wizard.

foxmarks_setup.png

Once you create (or log into) your account, you must then make a choice. Foxmarks needs to know how you wish to handle any differences between the bookmarks already existing on your computer and those on their sever (if any).

foxmarks_initial_sync.png

Be sure to read the choices carefully! For my initial setup, the first and third options are best. For adding additional computers, I tend to use the option to keep bookmarks on the server.

After the initial sync is finished, Foxmarks will run silently in the background, keeping your bookmarks updated.

General Usage

foxmarks_icon.pngUsing Foxmarks is so easy, a drunken cockroach could do it. Quite frankly, there is very little to do. While it’s running, you will see its icon in the bottom right corner of your browser.

By clicking the icon, you can bring up the Foxmarks settings, including the advanced option to force an overwrite of bookmarks either on the server or the local computer. There’s not much else to do. If you need help, find a drunken cockroach.

Online Accessibility

This is one of my favorite aspects of Foxmarks, one that made me convert to it from Google Browser Sync. At any point, you may log into my.foxmarks.com and manage your bookmarks.

If you add, edit, or delete a bookmark on the server, Foxmarks will push it out to all of your computers the next them they sync. The control freak in me loves this ability.

my_foxmarks.png

Did you see the sharing button in the screenshot above? That’s right, you can also share specific folders of bookmarks with other people. You can share as many folders as you want in various formats, including as a web page, RSS feed, or even as a widget for your own web site or blog. Nice!

foxmarks_sharing.png

If you find yourself using multiple computers frequently (at work, at home, on the road, etc), you owe it to yourself to try Foxmarks. It’s one of my essential Firefox extensions now.

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Domain Switch Complete – from habibbijan.com to TipsFor.us

As you may have noticed, I recently changed the domain name from habibbijan.com to TipsFor.us.

Why?

The old domain (habibbijan.com) was difficult for the average person to remember and pronounce. I liked the old name, which is a combination of an old nickname plus my middle name, but alas, it was time to make the domain name more relevant to the content of the site.

Since the bulk of the content is comprised of tips and tutorials relating to computer technology, the new domain (TipsFor.us) is much more relevant.

Are you keeping the old domain name?

Yes. Also, all links to the old site *should* automatically redirect to the appropriate page. I hope.

Will all the old content remain?

Yes.

Anything else new?

Um… yes and no. The site will still focus on computers and software, but you may see more variety in the topics covered. Two good friends will be joining me in creating content, and the articles they produce will be tailored toward their areas of expertise. Stay tuned.

Will you write a tutorial on how you switched domains with WordPress?

Say, that’s a pretty good idea. I should do that sometime soon. 🙂

Are you still “not a terrorist… seriously”?

Um, yeah. Of course. Seriously.

* for those unfamiliar, my old tagline was “not a terrorist… seriously.” Before you freak out, it was meant as a joke. Hmm, I wonder how many government watch lists I’m on now….