Free online storage — what I’m doing now

Back in 2012 I wrote about a few cloud stor­age options I was explor­ing. Well a few years have passed so I thought I’d update / annot­ate the old one. So here goes. New com­ments will be col­oured red.


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. Meh. Cubby’s noth­ing to write home about. Log­MeIn has been a bit of a dis­ap­point­ment since they sig­ni­fic­antly changed their remote desktop applic­a­tion and left iOS users in the dust.

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!).

Drop­box is still cool and still used by me on mul­tiple com­puters and mobile devices. Well worth it if you’re look­ing great stor­age and 3rd party app sup­port through ser­vices like IFTTT and many mobile apps.

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

GDrive is clunky — not as eleg­ant as Drop­box or Copy.com (more on that later).

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.

Drop­Box is still best-of-class. If you’re not using it yet and want to explore, please feel free to click my affil­i­ate link (we’ll both get small bonuses 🙂

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

Stopped using it recently. Not so much of an improve­ment over any oth­er and the cli­ent wasn’t work­ing well on one of my desktops.

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.

I’m still using Box. More of a slow online backup of some doc­u­ments and stuff. It works well, has a very robust busi­ness mod­el and sup­port.

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.

Now called OneDrive, you get 15GB free cloud stor­age, and MS Office online too. Not a bad setup if you use the Office suite of apps.

New Entries

Copy.com
Starts with 15GB free stor­age, and you can gain an extra 5GB per new user you invite using your unique invite code. Feel free to try Copy.com out by using my Invite Code 😀

iCloud.com
Apple’s cloud stor­age entry is inter­est­ing. You can store doc­u­ments in iCloud, then access them from any oth­er iCloud-con­nec­ted device. One thing, you only get 5GB free, and that iCloud stor­age space is also used for your iOS device backups, if you have iCloud backup enabled. Still, a cool option from folks at the fruit stand.

Mega.co.nz
Kim dot com’s file shar­ing and stor­age site. Free accounts start at 50GB, but you have lim­ited file sizes and trans­fer band­width. I use it lightly.

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?

How your mobile phone or tablet could save your life

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Believe it or not, there are many ways your mobile smart phone could be used when you find your­self in the middle of an emer­gency situ­ation,  aside from the obvi­ous — mak­ing a phone call for emer­gency assist­ance, I mean.

The recent events in Japan and New Zea­l­and have shown that when dis­aster strikes, get­ting the most accur­ate inform­a­tion is likely the best way to make choices that could save your life.

Browser
Provided the event hasn’t taken out the loc­al mobile net­work, your mobile phone’s browser will help, link­ing you with many loc­al, nation­al, and inter­na­tion­al news ser­vices, as well as many dif­fer­ent chan­nels of com­mu­nic­a­tion (email, voice chat, twit­ter, etc).

Hard­ware
f1.jpgBut there are oth­er ways your smart phone can help. For example, many smart phone’s dis­play screens are bright enough to be used as a make­shift flash­light when the power goes out. Col­or Flash­light is a lead­ing Android app and Flash­light 4 is one of the most pop­u­lar ones in Japan right now.

As well, most phones these days know where they are in the world, either by tri­an­gu­lat­ing between com­mu­nic­a­tions towers, wifi sources, or built-in GPS sys­tems. Tie this in with any of the pop­u­lar map­ping applic­a­tions and you have a good visu­al under­stand­ing of where you are. Help­ful when you have to find an altern­ate route or trans­port­a­tion sys­tem in an unfa­mil­i­ar city.

An app for that? You bet!
As you can ima­gine, there are many things that you could need in an emer­gency. And, of course, there are some apps that can help.

Dur­ing the Tsunami warn­ings fol­low­ing the Japan earth­quake, inform­a­tion like that provided by this Hawaii­an-developed Dis­aster Alert app helped keep islanders informed about the impend­ing waves.

And after an event, find­ing people and shel­ter is a pri­or­ity.

Google launched their Google Per­son Find­er dur­ing the Christ­ch­urch earth­quake, and updated it for the Japan event.

And the Amer­ic­an Red Cross has released their free Shel­ter View app.

So as you can see, with just a few book­marks, per­haps an hour of app-store brows­ing, and a few dol­lars invest­ment, you can have a pretty good emer­gency pre­pared­ness kit all tucked neatly into your mobile data phone.

I think it’s time I star­ted on mine, what have I missed that I should add?
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Emerging Tech: This magazine app knows what you like

screner

You’ve got an iPad and all the pop­u­lar magazine, con­tent, read­ing apps like Reed­er, Flip­board, Pulse, and FLUD. Well now there’s a new one using tech­no­logy from the Uni­ver­sity of Brit­ish Columbia’s Labor­at­ory for Com­pu­ta­tion­al Intel­li­gence.

It’s called Zite, and is it ever cool. But first, the video.

Why I like it
It’s a learn­ing app. Log in to your Google Read­er and Twit­ter account, let Zite per­form a bit of ana­lys­is, and you’ve got con­tent that Zite thinks you’re inter­ested in. And it’s free 🙂

Speed up your Internet experience by using the right DNS server

Last week I saw this Life­Hack­er art­icle (via AppleIn­sider) about NameBench, a win­dow util­ity that tests the speed of your system’s DNS serv­ers.

And I was won­der­ing if my DNS was as fast as it could be…

Pre­vi­ously, I’d switched my DNS ser­vices over to OpenDNS, a free altern­ate DNS Pro­vider that adds value as:

  • Ultra-reli­able, glob­ally-dis­trib­uted net­work
  • Industry-lead­ing Web con­tent fil­ter­ing
  • Easy to use for fam­il­ies, schools, and busi­nesses of all sizes

Google also has free pub­lic DNS ser­vices avail­able, which NameBench scans and includes in the res­ults.

But recently I’d noticed that often videos and oth­er stream­ing media just wouldn’t play back smoothly, so after read­ing this bit in the life hack­er art­icle I thought I’d give NameBench a try.

When mil­lions of users all tap into the same DNS serv­er addresses to resolve domain names, as Google DNS does by design, Akamai and oth­er CDNs route con­tent to those users along the same path, pre­vent­ing the net­work from work­ing optim­ally. This causes prob­lems not only for Apple’s iTunes, but also any oth­er media stream­ing or down­load ser­vice that uses a sim­il­ar CDN strategy to dis­trib­ute down­loads.”

As an added bene­fit, NameBench checks to see if your DNS serv­ers are vul­nur­able up to secur­ity stand­ards, and if your DNS requests are being cen­sored or redir­ec­ted (WikiLeaks, for example).

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WOW.
Accord­ing to NameBench, By switch­ing back to my ISP, I’d get an amaz­ing DNS speed improve­ment of over 100%!! Remem­ber, this doesn’t speed up my inter­net con­nec­tion, just the speed that the Inter­net trans­lates domain names into those cryptic Inter­net IP addresses.

So, by mak­ing the recom­men­ded changes to my sys­tems DNS set­tings, NameBench was happy with my set­tings. Now to see if I actu­ally notice any improve­ment…

nb3.jpg

nb4.jpg

In Real Life.
Well, I’m not too sure if I am noti­cing any dif­fer­ence yet or not. There’s so many dif­fer­ent factors that can con­trib­ute to net­work speed that one change rarely makes a huge dif­fer­ence.

But still, every small improve­ment you make adds up, and con­trib­utes to a more effi­cient online exper­i­ence.
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Keeping your holiday photos safe

fz50.jpgThe hol­i­day sea­son is upon us, which means that we’ll be enjoy­ing time spent with fam­ily and friends. Many of us will grab our handy cam­era-enabled data phones and snap price­less shots that we’ll want to share, and keep for pos­ter­ity.

But that’s where the tech can get a bit tricky. Sure, we’ve tried shar­ing to our vari­ous Face­book, Flickr and Picasa accounts, but what about the ‘sav­ing for pos­ter­ity’ part.

Pho­tos in the Cloud
Well, two of those three ser­vices men­tioned above are a great start. Here’s the four that I’ve seen and used that will offer sol­id photo ser­vice over the hol­i­days and into the future:

  • Flickr offers a Pro level account (about $25 per year for unlim­ited photo and video stor­age) that will keep all your pho­tos online and avail­able. Free gives you unlim­ited stor­age, but only your most recent 200 pho­tos are view­able. Online image edit­ing provided by Pic­nik.
  • Picasa has a free account that offers 1GB of free photo stor­age and basic image edit­ing tools.
  • Smug­Mug is pri­ci­er, offers three levels of ser­vice, and is geared toward the more ser­i­ous pho­to­graph­er.
  • Adobe Pho­toshop Express gives you access to basic online photo edit­ing and organ­iz­a­tion tools, and 2GB of free photo stor­age. Addi­tion­al stor­age space can be pur­chased annu­ally.

flickr.jpg

So, what’s so great about stor­ing your pho­tos online any­way?

  1. Backup — you don’t have to worry about keep­ing your images safe; the ser­vice you’re using does that.
  2. Shar­ing — easy to embed the images into blogs, email and twit­ter mes­sages. Each photo usu­ally has a pub­lic URL that’s shar­able (or private, if that’s your thing).
  3. Print­ing — a few of the ser­vices are offer­ing part­ner­ships with pro­fes­sion­al print­ing labs which lets you pro­duce pho­to­books, cus­tom prints etc.
  4. Integ­ra­tion — some of the more pop­u­lar ser­vices are already integ­rated into your iPhone cam­era applic­a­tions (such as Instra­gram). Push a but­ton and your latest shot is uploaded to the ser­vice, ready for you to edit and share.

Loc­al stor­age?
Yep, you can keep your pho­tos on your own com­puter, but you do run risks should your com­puter crash or worse. I do keep the major­ity of my images at home, stored on a net­work attached stor­age device that’s got two drives, one a mir­ror of the oth­er. So if one should die, I’ve got a copy of my data on the oth­er.

Also, I backup my pho­tos weekly, and move the backup drive to an off­s­ite loc­a­tion for even great­er safety. Yeah, a house­fire would ruin a lot of things, but I know my pho­tos and oth­er import­ant data would be safe.

Your needs?
It depends. Take a sol­id think about what you plan to do with your pho­tos, how you want to share them, and how import­ant they are to you (can you afford to lose them?). I’ve likely giv­en you some ideas to try and exper­i­ment with as we head into the hol­i­days. I’d love to hear what you’ve tried and how it worked (or didn’t).

Reinventing the Walkie Talkie

walkie.jpgBack in the day, this kind of thing was what people used to talk to each oth­er over dis­tances, using radio waves. You were lim­ited by the power of the unit and the type and num­ber of obstacles between you and the per­son you were talk­ing with.

And gen­er­ally, your con­ver­sa­tion could be over­heard by any­one else using a sim­il­ar device.

Fast for­ward to this cen­tury and the digit­al data­phone. And this nifty Android & iPhone/iPod Touch/iPad app called Hey­Tell, brings the Walk­ie Talk­ie concept up to date.

Simple, but it works
Hey­Tell is a simple app. On an iOS device (I assume it’s sim­il­ar for Android), Hey­Tell uses your con­tact list to man­age con­tacts and invite oth­ers to the app.

Using Hey­Tell is drop-dead simple:

1) Select the con­tact to speak with

2) Push the ‘Hold and Speak’ but­ton
That’s it. The voice mes­sage is beamed to their device. They can talk back to you imme­di­ately.
And that’s the way it works. It’s not real-time two-way com­mu­nic­a­tion, rather staged deliv­ery of voice mes­sages… a great way to check in, update someone, when it’s not con­veni­ent or prac­tic­al to send out an email.

And it’s free (exclud­ing Inter­net charges).



This post of is one of many I pub­lish weekly at the Future Shop Techb­log. Read more of my stuff here.