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:

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 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:

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?

4 Reasons I’m looking forward to Halo Reach

Yep, it’s out today (at 00:00 hrs technically), and no, I don’t have a copy, yet.

My wife and I have been big fans of the Halo franchise since we started playing it co-op on the original Xbox years ago when it came out. Multi-player was never our thing, but co-op, now there’s fun.

So yes, I’ll be picking it up soon, and yes, there will be many evenings when we’re ensconced in our basement, a nice romantic fire, and the gentle sound of gunfire and grenades — good times.

And here’s four reasons why:

1. Huge storyline and story
Though this is the last Halo game that Bungie (the game’s developers) will be producing, Halo Reach actually takes place earlier in the series story arc — weeks before the events portrayed in Halo: Combat evolvled, the first Halo game.

By being a sort-of prequel, I’m expecting to understand more of the game universe — and will also cause me to dust off my Halo, Halo2 and Halo 3 discs to play through those games again. I don’t have ODST, but am tempted to pick it up to be a completionist :smileyhappy:

2. Familiar universe and gameplay
As I mentioned above, I’m familiar with the Halo experience. This means I don’t really have to learn a new control system, learn how to navigate the world, and how enemies react. I’m guessing that’s 30% of the learning curve, and I’ve already got it down. Bring it on!

3. Co-op
The BEST part of the Halo series so far. Co-op gameplay lets you and friends help each other through the challenges of the game. Halo was really the first FPS my wife and I could enjoy together. Gears of War also does this well, but Halo has a special place in my heart as a thing we can do ‘together’.

4. Quality
Game after game, Bungie has won awards for each version of Halo, all of them point to a quality title that doesn’t disappoint. No matter what my level of FPS skill was, the Halo series always managed to challenge and keep me entertained.

Well, I’m sure there are more good reasons for checking it out, but for me those are the big ones. How ‘bout you? Why will you be picking up Halo Reach?

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

“I’m an iPad. And I’m a Courier.”

Ah yes, the Apple vs Microsoft rivalry is heating up again after this weekend’s ‘leak’ (strategic release?) to Engadget of all sorts of interesting Courier tidbits. But what wasn’t said? Are they really aiming at the same audience? Why did Microsoft name it after a font? …more

This post is an excerpt from one of my weekly posts on the Future Shop Techblog. Check out the full post here.

Aftermath of a Windows 7 install

Well I’ve done it again. My desktop was running Windows 7 Release Candidate (7100) and on March 1st, was set to turn into an uber-annoyance machine unless I installed a full retail version of Win7. So I took the plunge… …more

This post is an excerpt from one of my weekly posts on the Future Shop Techblog. Check out the full post here.

Upgrading from Windows 7 RC to Retail – easily!

Well, being the cutting edge kinda guy that I am, I had the Windows 7 release candidate (RC) on my system from the first day it was released. Of course, that means that I was enjoying all the Windows 7 goodness on my system, with the knowledge that I’d eventually have to upgrade to the full retail version some time in the future.

That day hath cometh!

Like many of you, I’m sure, I’d put off installing the retail version until the last possible moment. And Microsoft forced my hand. As of tomorrow, March 1st, the RC of Windows 7 will start shutting down every two hours. Damn inconvenient, but hey, we’ve had the RC to play with for the last 4 months or so, we can’t really complain.

So tonight I’ve taken the plunge and installed the full retail version on my system. Not without minor challenges, but it’s done. I’m writing this on a full retail Win 7 install.

Which means that, yes, I will be documenting my upgrade process in the very near future! From WinXP to Win7 RC to Win7 Retail, the whole enchilada.  But not tonight.

Tonight I relish the last 2 weeks of Olympics, of Canadian Pride (what a weird concept) and of Pilsner, ‘eh!

How to easily edit home video with free software from Microsoft

Back in the day I used to be a news videotape editor. This was before cameras were digital — think back to the days of VCRs, Beta and VHS. Yep, that was the media of the day to record music and video. That was called Analog.

The reason I bring that up is because editing on tape, is significantly different than digital editing. The whole workflow for Analog editing is, well, analog. You start at the beginning and work to the end. If you need to change something you’ve already completed, on tape you have to redo everything from the change point forward, so things tended to get planned out very very carefully. And mistakes tend to take a long time to fix.

Today, the workflow is different. I’ve never professionally edited digitally, so the workflow I use is likely not a best practice, but it gets the job done for me.

And one of the tools I’m starting to use is Microsoft’s Windows Live Movie Maker. You’ve likely seen the I’m a PC commercials with the kids making videos — well I’m about the same speed as those kids, so yeah, the tool is easy to use 😉

Editing is pretty intuitive. Drag clips into a pallet. Trim them to include only the bits you want. Place them in the proper order. Insert some transitions, maybe some titles off the top and credits at the end, and you’re done.

It took me maybe 2 hours to load, edit and publish my video to YouTube. The second one, below, took maybe 30 minutes — the hardest part was selecting the edit points and transitions.

Cue the cute puppy video.

Of course, what took the most time was transcoding and publishing the video to YouTube. Then the version processing on YouTube takes time too, but it’s automated so you’re doing something else while your movie is getting polished 🙂 But back to the software.

Microsoft Live Movie Maker comes full of all sorts of bells and whistles, some are pretty advanced too.

I’ve just started down this road of video production (as you can tell by the home movie quality of that video), so yes, I’ll be trying other video editing software in the coming months.

But for now, for me on my simple home PC, Live Movie Maker is what gets the job done.

And here’s the bonus, it’s free from Mcrosoft.