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

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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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