Taking a look at free online storage options

UPDATES Wow, anoth­er one today (Thursday, April 12, 2012). Log­MeIn has entered the ‘cloud stor­age space’ space by announ­cing the invite-only beta of Cubby — which gives you Drop­Box-like access to 5GB. I’ve reques­ted an invite and will post about it when I have some hands-on time.
Drop­Box has doubled the amount of free space they’re giv­ing out through refer­rals and Spider Oak is also in my test­ing suite. It starts out with 2GB free, and I’ve just opened my account so I’ve just star­ted test­ing, but you can expect I’ll write about it in a week or two. If you want to check it out, here’s an affil­i­ate link (which will get you one extra GB of stor­age!).

Cur­rently, the latest buzz is all about a pos­sible April launch of Google’s much-anti­cip­ated free cloud stor­age app called dubbed GDrive.

Reports say it’ll come with a loc­al, desktop cli­ent for most oper­at­ing sys­tems that will enable you to store and access about 1GB of files in the Cloud. Nice.

But it’s not here yet, and there are already oth­er excel­lent cloud / drive solu­tions that offer the same or bet­ter. While it’s hard to com­pare apples to apple (dif­fer­ent pro­viders offer dif­fer­ent stor­age and util­ity pack­ages) here’s my thoughts on the cur­rent lead­ers:

Drop­box
The cur­rent mar­ket lead­er, offers 2GB free, desktop and mobile cli­ents for all lead­ing hard­ware. Recently, Drop­Box has become more act­ive in the enter­prise space offer­ing solu­tions for groups and teams.
Affil­i­ate pro­gram allows you to expand your stor­age space by sign­ing up friends etc. Nice that it’s pretty seam­less. Install the app on your device, log in, and your files are instantly access­ible. I’ve writ­ten before about Drop­box here and here.

My affil­i­ate link is here, if you want to check out Drop­box.

Sug­ar­Sync
Sug­ar­Sync ups the ante a bit by offer­ing a free 5GB account. They also have a nifty desktop cli­ent, great web inter­face, and the abil­ity to extend your stor­age capa­city through an affil­i­ate pro­gram (sign­ing up your friends, blog­ging about it, etc). Here’s my affil­i­ate link if you feel so inclined to check it out:

Box
Recently made the news by announ­cing Box OneCloud — a col­lec­tion of mobile apps designed to work with Box’s cloud stor­age sys­tems:

Sign­ing up to Box gets you an ini­tial 5GB of stor­age, but they often run pro­mo­tions with prizes up to 50GB.

While Box does offer free cli­ents for mobile devices, if you want to have the seam­less integ­ra­tion of Drop­box or Sug­ar­Sync, you’ll have to upgrade to the $15/month Box busi­ness plan.

Microsoft Live Sky­Drive
This is the big sur­prise — Microsoft is offer­ing 25GB of stor­age, Mobile apps, online MS Office integ­ra­tion (and you don’t need to have Office installed loc­ally), group col­lab­or­a­tion, and pub­lic file shar­ing.

For example, here’s a pub­lic link to an Empire Aven­ue pro­mo­tion­al video, stored in my pub­lic Sky­Drive space.

Cur­rently there isn’t a desktop cli­ent avail­able, so you will need to use the web inter­face (which is quite slick, even in Chrome and Fire­fox) to man­age your files. But a Win­dows and OSX desktop cli­ent is rumored to be avail­able shortly.

One or many?
Well, for me, I’m actu­ally using a mix­ture of these. Drop­box is my daily go-to stor­age solu­tion, simply because I’ve been using it for so long.

Sug­ar­Sync I’m using to keep some backup files stored safely. Box, well, I’m not con­sist­ent in my use of it, and Sky­Drive, well that’s my new darling. I’ve neg­lected it for a while but now will be try­ing to integ­rate it into my work­flow wherever I can. And yeah, you’ll here from me if there’s prob­lems.

So, did I miss any­thing? What’s your online stor­age solu­tion look like?

Review: Drobo FS Network Storage Array

Drobo1.jpg

Wow, that title’s a mouth­ful — Net­work Stor­age Array — but don’t let that tech­nic­al-jar­gony sound­ing term scare you, this Drobo FS device is really as easy to use as your Fridge. And for me, that’s a Holy Grail — some­thing that you use and basic­ally for­get the com­plex­ity.

Whut?
But let me back up a moment and describe what a Net­work Stor­age Array (or NAS — Net­work Attached Stor­age) device is.

Basic­ally, it’s a box with a bunch of hard drives in it, and some net­work intel­li­gence. You con­nect your NAS to your home or office net­work, and it appears to your com­puters as if it’s anoth­er com­puter on your net­work that’s shar­ing some drives.

You copy stuff to your NAS and share files with any oth­er com­puter on your net­work.

Pretty simple, yet dif­fi­cult to do well

And this is where things get a little squir­rely. Some people have a house­hold with mixed com­puters shar­ing the same net­work. In my case, I’ve got Win­dows (2 vari­et­ies), OSX and Linux machines. And some net­work stor­age devices don’t play well with dif­fer­ent machines on the same net­work. Sure, the box may say Win/Mac, but invari­ably issues arise. Not so with the Drobo FS. Con­tin­ue read­ing “Review: Drobo FS Net­work Stor­age Array”

I think I’ve bought my last desktop computer

A couple of years ago, I was all into and enjoyed build­ing desktop com­puters, pick­ing out the right video card, select­ing the best mother­board and gen­er­ally dig­ging deep into the innards of my future com­put­ing plat­form. And design­ing the per­fect ‘office’ com­put­ing envir­on­ment with short cable runs, ample power for my accessor­ies and lots of desktop space. Yes it was com­plex and involved and detailed, but it was a hobby — build­ing com­puters.

These days, I’m not so con­cerned about it. What I need to do on a com­puter hasn’t changed, but the com­put­ing industry has matured, my needs are now becom­ing much more main­stream, and the sig­ni­fic­ant dif­fer­ences between one com­pon­ent and anoth­er aren’t quite so sig­ni­fic­ant any more.

Put anoth­er way, what I have been doing and want to do on a com­puter, is now much more in demand by every­day con­sumers. And the hard­ware, is becom­ing much more homo­gen­eous. They’ve caught up. Wel­come to the future.

Honey, I shrunk the CPU
Moore’s Law has also caught up, to the point where the hard­ware is smal­ler, light­er, faster, and cheap­er to make. On today’s hard­ware you can have full audio and video edit­ing stu­di­os in the soft­ware that runs your phone. You can remotely pilot vehicles with your phone or mobile com­put­ing device, and you can eas­ily com­mu­nic­ate with any­one on the plan­et using any num­ber of mobile tech­no­lo­gies.

Any of the mod­ern note­book com­puters have all that stuff in a very tiny pack­age.

Home file shar­ing
It used to be that you had files on one com­puter, and you shared them with the oth­er. Both com­puters had to be on to share the files. Now, with ubi­quit­ous WiFi and home net­work stor­age appli­ances (basic­ally net­work-aware hard drives) in your house­hold, any com­puter or com­pat­ible device can access any doc­u­ment, video, mp3, at any time. No need to have a big Mas­ter Serv­er.

Print­ing
The same goes for net­work-aware print­ers. Most man­u­fac­tur­ers have WiFi mod­els avail­able that know how to play nice with your home net­work envir­on­ment. Again, no need for a com­puter dir­ectly con­nec­ted to a print­er.

Stor­age
I men­tioned home net­work stor­age above, but these days stor­age devices are dirt cheap. So much so that it’s become pos­sible for com­mer­cial busi­ness to be built up around the concept of offer­ing you free online stor­age of your doc­u­ments, pho­tos, music, whatever…for free.

And they won’t only store your files, they’ll give you free access to applic­a­tions and tools to cre­ate and edit your stuff. Again, I no longer have a need for a huge drive attached to a big desktop box — all this stuff is in the cloud.

One caveat
There’s only two real reas­on that I can think of for need­ing a ded­ic­ated desktop com­puter these days; high-qual­ity media cre­ation, and gam­ing.

If you’re into music mak­ing, video edit­ing, pho­to­graphy, art, design, any­thing that needs you to move masses of pixels or gigs of data around, the archi­tec­ture of a desktop com­puter box is more suited to that than many of the note­book com­puters on the mar­ket. And you’re likely using the com­puter in a pro­fes­sion­al set­ting as a pho­to­graph­er, com­poser and the like.

Gam­ing also is a hard­ware resource hog, and falls into that cat­egory as many of the same com­put­ing tasks in media cre­ation are also neces­sary in game cre­ation and play­ing. Of course, there are excep­tions — I’ve seen some very power­ful (and pretty) gam­ing laptops.

Inter­est­ing, but not enough
But gam­ing isn’t enough for me to build my desktop around it, any more. Con­sole gam­ing sys­tems have edged in with com­par­able graph­ics and game­play, on much big­ger screens than could fit on my desktop.

So it looks like my next new sys­tem, likely in a year or two, won’t be a power-suck­ing behemoth that sits under my desk. Rather, it’ll be some­thing small, light, can con­nect to desktop mon­it­ors, mice & key­boards, and the home net, yet is still port­able. And I think the same holds true for most of you too. Yes, wel­come to the future 🙂
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Apple vs the App Developers

boot.jpgPre­vi­ously I’d writ­ten about the impend­ing launch of Gar­age Band for iPad, and men­tioned how Apple’s release of this app will chal­lenge smal­ler inde­pend­ent app developers in the music cre­ation space.

Today’ I’m at it again. With yesterday’s release of iOS 4.3, it seems that Apple has again taken a bite out of a developer’s rev­en­ue stream.

I’m talk­ing spe­cific­ally about enhance­ments to iTunes Home Shar­ing that enable video and audio stream­ing from any prop­erly con­figured iTunes-run­ning com­puter on your net­work.

Yep, this is a good thing, and it’s very cool tech. It’s great that Apple is mak­ing it avail­able for free. And it’s unfor­tu­nate that it’s also put­ting pres­sure on the developers of the Air Video and StreamToMe apps, both very good stream­ing applic­a­tions.

Innov­ate or else. This is com­pet­i­tion?
So now the ball is back in the developers court. They have to prove that their apps worth real money, and are bet­ter or dif­fer­ent than iTunes Home Shar­ing, which is free and just an update away.

And the developers aren’t work­ing from a pos­i­tion of strength that Apple is with all the resources at it’s dis­pos­al.

stream.jpg

Air Video and StreamToMe and oth­ers offer sig­ni­fic­ant dif­fer­en­ti­at­ors from Apple’s Home Shar­ing, in that they can be set up to stream video from your home serv­er to your loc­a­tion any­where on the Inter­net, provided you’ve prop­erly con­figured your net­work and the apps. I’ve not seen an easy way to set iTunes up to extend Home Shar­ing to an Inter­net con­nec­ted device. It may exist, but I’ve not seen it yet.

But wait, there’s more!
Home media stream­ing isn’t the only area Apple’s jumped into recently. As men­tioned at the start of this post, Gar­age Band for iPad launched today. And it looks like an awe­some app!

korg.jpgWhich has some music app makers re-eval­u­at­ing their product and pri­cing struc­tures when com­pared against Gar­age Band iPad.

For example, today KORG dropped the price of its hugely awe-inspir­ingly-com­plex synth, the iMS-20. Giv­en the com­plex­ity and power of the app, KORG had it ini­tially pegged at $32.99. Today the price dropped to half at $15.99.

No update. No improve­ments. Just a change in the land­scape tomor­row and an app is worth $15.00 less.

Sure, com­par­ing a $4.99 iPad Gar­age Band against a full fea­tured $32.99 $15.99 synth is Apples to Oranges. But is it? Many buy­ers of iPad Gar­age Band have Macs, which already have the full com­puter ver­sion of Gar­age Band installed as part of the stand­ard Mac bundle. A built-in audi­ence and income stream for the iPad app.

Win­ning!
In the end, the con­sumer is win­ning, it seems. With Gar­age Band, they get a new, reas­on­ably priced and power­ful app for their iPads. And they’ll also bene­fit by some price cuts on oth­er apps whose developers will feel the need to com­pete with Gar­age Band’s price, bring­ing them into line with con­sumer new expect­a­tions. Win­ning — for the con­sumer.

For the app developers? That remains to be seen.

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Did Apple just kill a small part of the music industry?

Garage.jpg

 

Ever since the iPhone and iPod Touch caught the atten­tion of developers of developers with an interest in music, there have been music apps in the iTunes App store.

With yesterday’s announce­ment of Gar­age Band for iPad these smal­ler niche developers could be chal­lenged by the vast devel­op­ment resources Apple can bring to bear.

Gar­age Band iPad
Dig­ging into the details, iPad Gar­age Band really looks like a great all-in-one pack­age with a good selec­tion of instru­ments, instru­ment enhance­ments (Smart Instru­ments), Plug-ins, Syn­this­izers, and Digit­al Audio Work­sta­tion com­pon­ents (Amps & Effects), as well as multi-track edit­ing and record­ing.

Wow, there’s a lot there for $4.99. Ser­i­ously. I’ll be get­ting it.

What’s out there now
Tak­ing a quick look at some of the lead­ing music cre­ation and instru­ment­a­tion apps in the store, you’d exceed that level by just buy­ing one app, in many cases.

Record­ing

Sequen­cers

Instru­ments / Synths

 

You see the chal­lenge?
For con­sumers and soft­ware developers, once again, Apple has redefined an industry, but per­haps not in a good way. Or did they just make a state­ment that the exist­ing apps are way too over­priced? Time will tell.

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