Category Archives: Nerd Stuff

Dropbox: Mini-Review and Invitations (Online Storage Series)

Dropbox logo

At long last, I have found the online storage solution of my dreams. Dropbox is a service (currently in public beta) that not only seamlessly backs up your data, but can also sync it across multiple computers. Best of all, it all happens without you having to lift a finger.

Why am I so excited about Dropbox? First of all, I classify online storage into a few different categories:

All three types of services have their uses, and Dropbox tickles my fancy (am I allowed to say that?) because it handles all three types with aplomb. To make it even better, Dropbox works on both Windows and Mac systems, and a Linux client is currently in alpha.

Usage

Get this – actually using Dropbox takes almost no effort on your part. Once you install the Dropbox client, it creates a My Dropbox folder inside your Documents. Any files or folders that you put inside the My Dropbox folder will first upload to the Dropbox service and then sync across to any other computers that you have linked. The green check mark next to a folder or file means that it has been successfully uploaded and synced.

Delete a file on one computer, and it will be deleted first on Dropbox and then on the other linked computers. This is an incredible way to not only make sure your files are continuously backed up, but to also make sure you always have the latest version of your files across multiple computers. Imagine taking your laptop to a coffee shop to get some work done, and when you return home, ALL the data you modified is available on your desktop computer. Nice! No more e-mailing files or dumping everything onto a flash drive.

Even if you only have a single-computer setup, Dropbox is still an effortless way to keep your data backed up.

For those worried about security, Dropbox currently uses the Amazon S3 service to store files. All files are encrypted with AES-256 and all communication occurs over SSL.

Other Features

In addition to being an all-encompassing storage and sync solution, Dropbox has other tricks up its sleeve. For starters, there’s a versioning system for keeping track of changes to a file (or grabbing an earlier version in case of an emergency). There’s also a nifty web interface, a photo gallery, file sharing capabilities, and more! Don’t just take my word for it – check out the screen cast below.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OcS9w9dpKNQ

If you can’t tell, Dropbox is undoubtedly my favorite online storage service, not only for its features, but for its sheer simplicity. It’s a service that I have no trouble recommending to others.

Dropbox Invitations!

As I mentioned, Dropbox is currently in beta and requires an invitation. Their beta service provides 2 GB of free storage, and beta users will have slightly more storage capacity than the regular free amount once they drop beta status. So, act now!

TipsFor.us currently has 0 invitations available. Simply post a comment below and we will e-mail you an invitation. First come, first serve! All invitations are gone, folks. Sorry. You can always join the waiting list for the beta. If we receive more invitations, this post will be updated.

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Free 100 MB Remote Drive – Who.hasfiles (Online Storage Series)

who.hasfiles logoI recently started using who.hasfiles.com – a free, 100 MB remote file storage service. Before you start scoffing and lambasting me with insults for what seems like a pitiful amount of space, allow me to explain why I think who.hasfiles is worthwhile. While it is true that 100 MB does not go very far these days, especially when compared to some other free online storage services (such as Box.net, XDrive, and DropBoks), it is the manner in which you access files on who.hasfiles that sets it apart from the rest.

Remote Drive Mapping

Most online storage services are web based, meaning that you must access them through a browser. By contrast, who.hasfiles allows you to map your storage space as a remote drive from within your operating system. You don’t have to install anything. Windows, Linux, and Mac OS X are all supported.

who.hasfiles instant mapperThere are specific instructions for each operating system on the who.hasfiles website. Since I run all three major operating systems in my household, I’ve been able to test accessing my storage space from all three platforms. It works.

Windows users can use a nifty instant mapper application to quickly set up access to your 100 MB. The application requires no install and can be deleted afterward.

Usage

Because who.hasfiles integrates directly into your desktop, it also offers the ability to edit and save files directly on the remote server. Need to do some quick editing to an OpenOffice document or spreadsheet? Open the file directly from your mapped storage space! There’s no need to copy the file(s) directly to your hard drive, edit, and then re-upload them. Nice!

Because only 100 MB is available for free, don’t expect to upload much of your MP3 and movie collection, though there are paid upgrades available ($1 per gigabyte per month)*. Here are a few uses that I’ve found for who.hasfiles:

  • keep an updated copy of your bookmarks handy
  • store a KeePass database that you can easily access from any computer
  • backing up important documents
  • quick-and-dirty file sharing between computers

While who.hasfiles focuses on simply storing files, not embedding them into blogs and sharing them with the world, they DO offer a basic sharing service between members.

who.hasfiles sharing

Of course, I’d love to see who.hasfiles offer more than 100 MB for free, but considering the easy integration into the desktop from any major operating system, I can’t complain about the stingy amount of space. For now, I just treat it like a glorified floppy drive (remember those?), or maybe like a networked USB flash drive from 2001.

*Note: in addition to increased space, encrypted access to the storage space is part of the paid plan.

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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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3 Little Perl Debugging Tips

I’ll do a little walk-through of the Perl debugger in a separate post, but here are a couple hard-earned morsels of knowledge that I thought I could share:

If your code is NOT compiling, the most common hard-to-find error is forgetting a semi-colon or a paren or brace in the lines above. The error message usually clocks in on the line AFTER the goof. Look above the line listed in the error message and see if you didn’t forget a semi-colon somewhere.

If your code IS compiling, but you’re still getting weird results, here are a couple tips to help you along:

1. Make sure your code is written in coherent, bite-sized chunks. If you can’t see an entire function/action on the screen, then your building blocks are too big. Writing code in smaller chunks lets you test each chunk individually. Alas, this doesn’t always happen, so…

2. If you are using a lot of hash references ( stuff like $my_hash_ref->{$some_id}->{'some_value'} ), then you are bound to run into the pitfalls of using hashes: namely mispellings. Oops. Misspellings. (Did you catch that?) TRIPLE CHECK YOUR SPELLINGS. Highlight your variable name/hash-key do a search for it — if it doesn’t show up somewhere else, then you know you have a problem. Perl happily will do this:
$my_hash_ref->{$some_id}->{'some_valeu'} = 1;

Note the mispelling — you just stashed a value in the wrong place in the hash. Perl auto-vivified without any warnings because that’s what it’s supposed to do.

3. Make sure you haven’t botched your reference arrows. E.g.
$my_hash_ref->{$some_id}-{'some_value'}

Oops. Notice I forgot a ‘>’ there between the id and value. This actually compiles! But it’s not what you want! Do yourself a favor and search your code for any instances of ‘-{‘ — you may be surprised by the horrors you find.

Open Source TV Show/Legal Torrents

This will be a quick post. I just wanted to spread the word about a new website that is now up and hopefully will be growing:

http://beta.legaltorrents.com/

In their own words:

LegalTorrentsâ„¢ is an online community created to discover and distribute Creative Commons licensed digital media. We distribute high quality digital media of all types and provide support to content creators, including hosting a guaranteed high-speed seed for the content. We distribute content with the full permission of the rights holders. We use the peer-2-peer file-sharing technology called Bittorrent.

They are dedicated to hosting only completely legal torrents. So have no fear and download away. Of course you won’t find all that sweet illegal content that some providers have, but that is not the point of this site. Fellow Linux users should be able to see how useful this site will be for centrally locating distro cds.

I also wanted to draw everyone’s attention to a specific torrent on their site:

Go Open Ep. 1-6

This is the first 6 episodes of a television show from South Africa that is information about Open Source software, and the alternatives to closed source software. It’s free, and pretty informative, especially if you are new to the Open Source scene.

Oh, and if you liked the first 6 episodes, don’t forget: Go Open Ep. 7-13

All files are in .MP4 format. If you have a hard time opening these files [and use windows], I recommend the Combined Community Codec Pack. It is the most complete codec pack I have found yet (originally compiled to play many differant formats of anime encoded by fans with subtitles.)

In the near future I will expound about the process, software, safeguards, etc. of the torrent community.

Phinally: Photoshop Express Online

Adobe did some things good with the release of Photoshop Express. It’s a free web-based editor that offers tools for one-click cropping, color adjusting, and sharing. Pretty much, that’s all you need most of the time, and I hate to think how many pirated copies of Photoshop are out there causing the Adobe execs to lose sleep at night.

All that’s required is a login to the site. Adobe hopes to tap the shutterbug crowd posting images to Flickr and Facebook and lure them to their site as a way to share their photos. We’ll see how it goes, but it looks promising. I can’t tell how many times I’ve needed to do some basic photo editing while on the road, and it just can be painful to try and find some cheap tools to do basic editing.

What Adobe did WRONG was to put in some fine print that said that Adobe basically would get to do whatever they want with the users’ photos. Watch out! Read the article on CNET:
Complaints trigger rewrite of Photoshop Express terms. Well… I’m gonna wait for the legal @!^%-storm to pass before trying this out.

UPDATE: Adobe dropped those nasty legal terms. “If you decide to terminate your Photoshop Express account, Adobe’s rights also will be terminated.” See CNET.