Take Your Digital Filing System With You, and Keep it Secure, With SecretSync

SecretSync encrypted Dropbox sync

Last year I wrote about SecretSync, an app that lets you securely sync files via Dropbox. SecretSync encrypts any file that you drop into your SecretSync folder, and then sends it on to your other computers via Dropbox. If those computers are running SecretSync (and you’ve set up the proper security key), the file will then be decrypted on those machines as well. I covered all that in my previous article, though, so why mention it again? After taking SecretSync for a spin last year, I stopped using it. I’ve just found a great new use, though, that makes SecretSync an integral part of my paperless document management system.

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How to Download Full-Res Images From Dropbox to Your iPad

Dropbox to goodreader

Dropbox is a great tool for moving files between different operating systems, but it isn’t perfect. If you use the Dropbox iPad app, then you may have noticed one glaring weakness: if you download images to your iPad’s Camera Roll via the app, you’ll find that the image quality is horrible. Yes, the Dropbox iPad app downconverts your images, leaving you with, in technical terms, crappy photos. There are at least a couple of workarounds, though.

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Dropbox Updates Terms (again) to Calm Intellectual Property Fears

Dropbox Updates Terms (again) to Calm Intellectual Property Fears | 40Tech

Dropbox has been upsetting some of its users, recently, with changes to its terms of service that caused concern and outrage regarding privacy of files uploaded to the service. Sure, outrage is easy to come by on the internet, especially with changes to heavily used cloud services, but there were some valid arguments to be made — and people didn’t hesitate to make them. First, there was that whole thing about decrytpting users’ encrypted files and handing them over to authorities when asked. Questions of users’ legal and moral behaviours notwithstanding, the simple fact that Dropbox claimed the right to decrypt what was encrypted was enough to shake up many people.

Most recently, however, Dropbox did something that should have been considered a good thing: they updated their terms to plain language that made them easier to understand. Unfortunately that blew up in their face, as some of the wording gave Dropbox the right to use your files pretty much however they want, intellectual property notwithstanding. The latest update to the Dropbox terms of service is aimed at quelling those fears.

Last week’s Dropbox update in terms stated the following:

you grant us (and those we work with to provide the Services) worldwide, non-exclusive, royalty-free, sublicenseable rights to use, copy, distribute, prepare derivative works (such as translations or format conversions) of, perform, or publicly display that stuff to the extent reasonably necessary for the Service.

This was followed by:

This license is solely to enable us to technically administer, display, and operate the Services.

That last sentence was meant to apply the new Dropbox usage rights to your files to the smooth running of the service, but the phrasing was too vague to make users feel secure that Dropbox wouldn’t and couldn’t abuse their intellectual property rights. For those that think it should be obvious, bear in mind that loopholes have a tendency to turn the legal system on its ear, and that there have been other services — mostly for photos — making news recently because they were specifically saying that they did own your content if you used their service.

In any case, in yesterday’s update, Dropbox has posted a revision to that contested clause that was accompanied by a blog post stating that they have “always believed your stuff is yours and yours alone,” and that they intend to quell users’ fears that Dropbox will own rights to their content. Here’s the new phrasing:

…By using our Services you provide us with information, files, and folders that you submit to Dropbox (together, “your stuff”). You retain full ownership to your stuff. We don’t claim any ownership to any of it. These Terms do not grant us any rights to your stuff or intellectual property except for the limited rights that are needed to run the Services, as explained below.

We may need your permission to do things you ask us to do with your stuff, for example, hosting your files, or sharing them at your direction. This includes product features visible to you, for example, image thumbnails or document previews. It also includes design choices we make to technically administer our Services, for example, how we redundantly backup data to keep it safe. You give us the permissions we need to do those things solely to provide the Services. This permission also extends to trusted third parties we work with to provide the Services, for example Amazon, which provides our storage space (again, only to provide the Services).

To be clear, aside from the rare exceptions we identify in our Privacy Policy, no matter how the Services change, we won’t share your content with others, including law enforcement, for any purpose unless you direct us to. How we collect and use your information generally is also explained in our Privacy Policy

This is definitely an improvement, as it clears up the intellectual property concerns. Of course, the original outrage over how Dropbox can monitor, decrypt, and share your files is still out there, but judging by the terms of service of Amazon’s Cloud Drive and others, including Facebook, Google, Apple, Skype, and Twitter, this sort of thing is fast becoming the norm for cloud services, especially those that offer storage – in the end, we users may have no choice but to assume the position, take it, and like it if we want to use these types of services.

What do you think?

The Top Five Web Apps I Use the Most — What Are Yours?

The Top Five Web Apps I Use the Most -- What Are Yours? | 40Tech

The more I work on the computer, the more I realize that Google is probably right about the Cloud being our future. In fact, other than Photoshop and friends, the occasional game, and the desktop version of Evernote, I pretty much live in Web App Land. Outside of the obvious like Facebook, Twitter (plus related apps), and Gmail, there are approximately 30 web apps that I use or visit on a semi-regular basis — and that’s not including the Chrome extensions that are direct links to yet other web apps.

Here are the five that I use the most:

 

Producteev, Springpad, and Evernote

Okay, so I’m actually cheating a little bit and making my first web app a combination of three. If you’ve read 40Tech before, and especially if you’ve read me, you already know that these three apps are a huge part of my personal productivity system. I had to include them in my list, but I didn’t want them to take up more than half of it! Besides, all three are practically indispensable to me: Evernote for writing and quick ideas, Springpad for bookmarking and research, and Producteev for GTD task management and overall organization. I could do (and have done) all of those things with each one of those apps, but decided to play to their strengths and combine them for the best results.

Feedly

This is another app I’ve covered before. Feedly is probably the best RSS/Google Reader client that I have ever used. The visual presentation of all of my feeds in a magazine format that learns what I like is utterly fantastic. I love it!

Netflix

I don’t get a lot of time to watch TV or movies, but when I do sneak some in, I usually wind up on Netflix. The streaming movie and TV show catalogue is not nearly as well-stocked up here in Canada, but there is still a lot of great content, especially for $8/month.

Mint

Since Mint.com merged with Intuit and finally started offering its finance management awesome in Canada, it has lived in my browser. There’s still a lot of work I need to do with it to get the most out of the array of tools and resources it offers, but Mint is definitely a web app that is here to stay for me.

Dropbox

Dropbox is my main cloud storage service. I also use SugarSync, Box.net, iDrive Backup, MiMedia, and a few others, but Dropbox is the most developed — or at least the most supported by other services. I use it to backup files, to get them on to my iPhone and iPad easily, and to share files with friends, family, and business colleagues. That’s hard to beat.

 

There are, as I mentioned, a multitude of other apps that I use, and there are even a few that are threatening the hold of some of my current list. I’ll be reviewing those few soon, so stay tuned!

Now it’s your turn: what are your top five web apps?

App of the Week: SecretSync – Turn Dropbox Into an Encrypted Pipe For Your Files [Windows]

SecretSync encrypted Dropbox sync.jpeg

Dropbox has gotten some heat lately for allegedly lying to its users about the privacy of user data. The gist of the gripes is that Dropbox has made clear that it would turn over your data – in unencrypted form – to authorities if required to do so. That came as a shock to many people, who assumed that even the Dropbox folks didn’t have access to the encrypted data in their Dropbox folders. The lesson – if you want to keep your private data private, then you need to encrypt it before you put it into Dropbox and sync it to the cloud. One way to do that is through SecretSync, a beta app currently available for Windows only.

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Use DropBox and Hazel to Bust the Scumbag Who Steals Your MacBook

hazel and dropbox to secure your mac

If someone stole your Mac, that would stink, to put it mildly. Not only would you be out an expensive piece of equipment, but your sensitive data might be accessible to the criminal who stole your gear. Using two free programs, you can not only remotely secure your Mac if it is stolen, but you can bust the loser who pilfered it. A combination of Hazel, Dropbox, and a bit of geek kung fu allows you to record the crook’s IP address, snap a screenshot of him, record his browsing history, disable automatic login, and lock the stolen machine.

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Access Your eBook Library On Multiple Computers with Calibre and Dropbox

Access Your eBook Library On Multiple Computers with Calibre and Dropbox | 40Tech

Calibre is, hands down, the best eBook manager out there. It can help you organize your entire library across devices, convert books from one format to another as needed or desired, and even use the built in server for over-the-air access to your books, from anywhere. In theory, anyway. In practise, there are many things that will get in the way of the “anywhere” part. Software and router firewalls, for example, may prove too complicated to overcome easily, leaving over-the-air book transfer dreams confined within the walls of home networks.

An easy way to mitigate these problems is to set up your Calibre library to be accessible from multiple computers — and the best way to do that is with Dropbox.

You will need:

  • At least two separate installations of Calibre eBook Manager
  • At least one Dropbox Account (free should be fine, but you can upgrade to a paid plan if you need more space)

Setting Up Your Library in Dropbox

In order to use Calibre with Dropbox, you first need to either start or move the library folder into your computer’s Dropbox folder. This can be accomplished by clicking on the Library button (it looks like a small shelf of five books) and selecting the new location. If you are starting anew library, select “Create an empty library at the new location.” If you are moving your current library, select “Move current library to new location.” Continue forward and wait for the library to be created/books transferred.

Connecting Your Library to Another Computer

Once your library is set up in Dropbox, install Calibre and Dropbox on a second computer. When Dropbox is installed, login and wait for the library folder you installed to sync fully over to the new computer. Soon there should be green checkmark icons all ’round and indicating readiness. Uthe Library button on this computer’s Calibre installation to once again set the location of your Calibre library in your Dropbox folder. This is the same as before, but this time you will need to select “Use existing library at the new location.” Again, wait until the folder is completely synced, otherwise you may get an error.

That’s it. You’re done! You should now have full access to your eBook library on two computers — more, if you were so inclined as to repeat the last steps a few times. Any changes you make in any of your Calibre installations (or in Dropbox itself) should be reflected in all, and you will be able to use the server for local WiFi transfers to your devices (if supported), without having to worry about complications that may cause you to pull your hair out.

If you happen to have been wondering, the answer is yes: you can also use this method across multiple Dropbox accounts using shared folders. This can be handy when you are using separate accounts among family computers or for work. I’m sure it could be used for other things as well, but we obviously don’t condone that at 40Tech.

Things to Remember

As you are working with the same library across multiple installations, it is a good idea to only work in Calibre on one computer at a time as doing otherwise may cause problems with the database.

It is possible that using this method across different operating systems (Windows, Mac, Linux) will cause issues with case-sensitivity in filenames and metadata. As I understand it, this is due to more to how Dropbox must interact with the host OS’s file system. Recent versions of Calibre attempt to mitigate this problem, but according to the creator of the software, it does not solve it. In a thread about this on the mobilereads forum he says: “If you have multiple books by the same author and you change the case of the author name for one of the books on a case insensitive filesystem, then on a case sensitive filesystem, calibre will lose track of the other books.” Bottom line? Be careful changing information when working across OS’s.

 

So far, this method has proven to be a very effective way to manage and access an eBook library from multiple computers and locations. As an added bonus, you will have access to your eBooks from any computer or device capable of accessing Dropbox, even when Calibre is not present. On the Dropbox iPhone app, for example, you can find the book file you want and open it directly in an eReader application, including iBooks and Stanza, allowing you to bypass Calibre transfers altogether. As long as you have an internet connection, your library is with you — even when space on your device is at a premium.

How do you manage your eBooks?

AirDropper: An Easy Way to Request Files — and Have Them Sent Straight to Your Dropbox

AirDropper: An Easy Way to Request Files -- and Have Them Sent Straight to Your Dropbox | 40Tech

Recently, we talked a bit about Ge.tt, an extraordinarily easy way to send files to people without having to talk them through how to receive them. But what if you are the one who needs a file sent to you, and you want to make it as easy as possible to get that request taken care of? You could explain Ge.tt to people (it really is easy), or you could be a bit more direct and use the tool that one of our readers brought to our attention: AirDropper. After all, when you need something from someone, the best way to get it is to require the fewest steps possible — and to sweeten the deal, AirDropper uses your Dropbox folder, so you will be able to access the file(s) from anywhere.

Getting set up with AirDropper is pretty straightforward. You head to www.airdropper.com and click START. You will then be redirected to Dropbox to authenticate the AirDropper service, which will add an AirDropper folder in your Dropbox folder. Once that’s done, you will head back to AirDropper, and will be presented with a form that allows you to send an email (from your email address of choice) to multiple recipients to request files. The email contains your message, and a large, friendly button that says Upload and brings the user to an even friendlier ADD FILES interface. The file or files — AirDropper has supported multiple file sends since about September of 2010 — will then be sent directly to your Dropbox with no fuss, no muss, and not a worry except for your storage limit.

Note: If you are sending sensitive files, be sure to have a look over the AirDropper terms of service first.

AirDropper is free while in beta, but will likely charge for some of their service in the future, which will likely include tiered pricing for things like the size of the transfer(s), etc. Either way, it is definitely a useful tool!

Thanks to Martin for bringing it to our attention!

3 Creative Uses of Dropbox

Creative Uses of DropboxDropbox is one of our favorite apps here at 40Tech.  The traditional use of Dropbox is to make files, such as photos and documents, available on any computer you use, or even on your mobile phone.  But if you think outside the box (bad pun intended), Dropbox can be used in other ways to make you more productive when away from your main computer.  Read on for a few suggestions.

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