This makes so much sense, I can’t believe nobody thought of it sooner:
Project Infinite will enable users to seamlessly and securely access all their Dropbox files from the desktop, regardless of how much space they have available on their hard drives. Everything in the company’s Dropbox that you’re given access to, whether it’s stored locally or in the cloud, will show up in Dropbox on your desktop. If it’s synced locally, you’ll see the familiar green checkmark, while everything else will have a new cloud icon.
In hindsight, it is inconvenient to have to hop over to the web interface to get the full power of Dropbox. This is a step in fixing that. All your Dropbox files show up in Finder or Windows Explorer, even if they’re not really on your device. When you want a file, you just double click on it, and it will download and open.
This showed up on the Dropbox Business Bog, and the discussion focused on company usage, so I’m guess it will roll out business plans first. I’m good with that, as I have a business plan, but I’d love it if it made its way to personal accounts as well.
So let’s talk. There’s been a lot of conversation around the web — and on this site — about possible alternatives for Evernote. Springpad was the goto app for many, though the most recent update has pulled them further away from that comparison, and drawn the ire of many users in the process. If you look at Springpad, though, as well as several other apps that offer services that are considered comparable to Evernote (Shelfster, Thinkery, OneNote and Catch, for example), you can define a general criteria for a note taking application that I think — no matter how odd it may sound — could also be met by Google’s latest cloud offering and the new face of Google Docs: Google Drive.
Stick with me. I’d love to have a conversation with you all about this.
First: What is Google Drive?
Google Drive is the latest cloud drive offering to hit the web jungle. It came out just this past week and has already been cited as a direct threat to Dropbox, Skydrive, Box, and all the rest. On the flip-side, it’s also received the standard Ahhhhh, Their Stealing My Private Information!!!!! treatment by the web media, as well — in this case, somewhat unfairly (more below).
Google Drive Features
Once you start using drive, you can say goodbye to the docs.google.com url. Your docs shall forever become a part of Google Drive. You’ll still be able to revert to the old Google Docs interface, for a limited time, but the default new dashboard is where you will start, and eventually end up.
Here’s the feature-set, in a nutshell:
Storage is low cost and in abundance. And it can take crazy large files, and allows you to view files most other services don’t. Sync with your computers and mobile devices (iOS coming soon) in the same manner as Dropbox.
5GB of free storage space — and Gmail goes up to 10GB
Additional space starting at $2.49/month for 25GB, $4.99 for 100GB — all the way up to 16TB (these also up your Gmail to 25GB)
Google Docs don’t count against your storage
10GB filesize limit per file
Upload up to 30 types of files –this includes Photoshop, Illustrator, movies, photos and more, as well as viewing of those files (graphic designers, rejoice! — and yes, this means movie and music playback, too)
Add and manage files from your desktop environment
Google Docs files (.gdoc, .gsheet, etc.) are actually shortcuts to their respective web editors, so don’t take up additional hard drive space on your PC
Offline viewing (offline editing is in the works, too)
Sharing, sharing, sharing! Collaborate! Individual files, folders, or your entire Drive…
Add a person, go public, or share a link — you can even give people without Google accounts editing capability
Send Drive links in Gmail to make sure everyone always has the updated version — no attachment worries
Or send Drive files as attachments, or even in the body of the email (classic Google Docs features)
Share photos and videos right from Google+
Easily view and manage files and folder shared with you
Collaborate on any type of file — comment and chat on any of your files, in real time
30 days of revision history
Search — including including OCR and Google Goggles
Filter by keyword, file type, file owner, and more
Search text in scanned documents
Find a photo using the search bar — Goggles can recognise objects in your images
Third-party apps. There are already several available on the Chrome Web Store, many of them free or freemium services. These apps will plug right in to your Google Drive allowing you to do all kinds of fun things. Some examples:
HelloFax lets you send free faxes right from Google Drive — it also has signature signing capability, as do a couple of other Google Drive apps like DocuSign
Pixlr and Aviary for Google Drive let you edit uploaded photos
SlideRocket can be set up to be your default presentation app
Revisu lets you share designs for feedback and track version history
Lots more available and lots more coming via Google Drive > Settings > Manage apps > Get more apps
Any of you starting to see why I couldn’t help but compare it to Evernote? More on that, below.
What About My Privacy?
Google’s Terms of Service states:
“You retain ownership of any intellectual property rights that you hold in that content. In short, what belongs to you stays yours.”
This is a good thing. But here’s where the confusion comes in:
“…you give Google (and those we work with) a worldwide license to use, host, store, reproduce, modify, create derivative works (such as those resulting from translations, adaptations or other changes we make so that your content works better with our Services), communicate, publish, publicly perform, publicly display and distribute such content. The rights you grant in this license are for the limited purpose of operating, promoting, and improving our Services, and to develop new ones.”
At first glance, this is freaky — but the reality is that this is used so that Google can integrate Drive with its other services — for you, of course — and to provide the other functions of the service, such as OCR and image recognition. Of course, this also means they can use the content to better provide you with more accurate advertising, but this is something they do with their services already.
Bear in mind that they can also be compelled to give up your information to government bodies or law enforcement agencies if required to by law. This is a standard thing that applies to every online service that houses its servers in the United States.
What does this all mean? Only this: Google’s scary privacy points are, in this instance, not so different than any other online drive’s terms of service. Does this mean there aren’t potentially frightening possibilities; that it’s all really candy and roses? No. Not unless you consider that the candy and roses could be laced with Rohypnol, that is. But these privacy issues are simply the risk you take when you put your files and personal information online. That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be concerned, just that you need to make the same decision, no matter what cloud service you use.
Next: Google Docs vs Evernote
Sync between devices (including mobile)
Keyboard shortcuts for quick launch
With tweaks (custom shortcuts)
Rich text editing
Easy organization by notebooks and tags
Yes, but with folders (no more tags)
Search within attachments
Third party integrations
Yes, with more on the way
Add content by email
Not at the moment
Only manual copy and paste works at the moment
NOTE:You can create desktop shortcuts to open new Google Docs files, and then add custom hotkeys to those shortcuts to easily open new “notes”. The same urls used for the shortcuts can be used to create a dropdown in your browser’s bookmarks bar, although one bookmark, loaded in the browser sidebar is a great option for Firefox. The URLs you need are in this Google Document:http://bit.ly/IIiHAo. I’ve also added the shortcuts I decided to use, while testing. If there’s interest, I’ll do a full how-to on this.
NOTE:You can also add Google Drive to the Windows Send To context menu by typing%APPDATA%/Microsoft/Windows/SendTo to a Windows Explorer window – press enter. Then open another Explorer window, create a shortcut of your Google Drive, then drag it to the Send To folder you just opened. Now, when you right click on a file, you will be able to send it right to your Google Drive (this is based on the Windows 7 OS and also works for Skydrive and Dropbox).
Where Google Drive Wins
Google Drive allows you access to a full office suite, from full document and spreadsheet creation to presentations. It will also allow you to handle files more easily, as well as have real-time, collaborative conversations within the files/notes themselves. For people who want to have a powerful suite that they can leverage in nearly the same way as Evernote, then Google Drive could be a very good option. The same goes for people who don’t like the new Springpad, but find that Evernote just isn’t enough for them.
Where Google Drive Lacks
The lack of speedy clipping is an issue for me. This can be overcome with some simple copy and paste, or with extensions like Send to Google Docs (turns a whole web page into a PDF and sends it to Google Docs), and will likely no longer be an issue once some enterprising person or business creates an app for just that, but for the moment it is a bit of an annoyance. Not a deal breaker, though.
The other thing is that it is just not as straightforward as Evernote. The workarounds I put together make it easier to get going, but I find that the keyboard shortcuts I created sometimes fail until I remake them in the shortcut’s properties. And as I’ve mentioned in posts before, Evernote is really good at the simple things it does: taking and organizing notes. Once you add all the extra power and options of Google Drive, then you run into the potential of it becoming unwieldy, unless you manage it really well.
So there it is, my curiosity and thought process laid out before you. Your turn now! I want to know what you think — feasibility, practicality of application, pure ridiculousness, et al. Let’s chat about it and see what we can come up with as a group!
We give cloud storage a lot of love here. And why not? Having access to, and the ability to share, your files wherever you are is peachy keen — and convenient too. It’s a competitive world, though, and the main contenders — Dropbox, Box.net, and SugarSync — have been battling it out via pricing, free storage offerings, and promotions to ensure they get a solid chunk of the target market that is you. The latest play has come from Box.net — and it’s a doozie: 50GB of free storage just for logging in to their iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch app.
Before you ask, there’s no catch. You don’t have to sell the idea to your friends, you don’t have to buy anything after so many days of use, and you don’t have to give them your first-born child. All you have to do is log in and the 50GB is yours! The promotion started October 12th, 2011 and runs until December 2nd, 2011 (50 days). Just make sure you have the most recent version of the iOS app, and away you go.
For those who take advantage of the promotion, Box.net has also increased the maximum file-size upload to 100MB — it’s usually 25MB for free accounts. That doesn’t beat out Dropbox, for me, but there’s a lot you can do with 50GB of 100MB files, and Box has cool collaboration features that most of the competitor services don’t match. The only other thing to watch for is the 10GB bandwidth limit.
If you’re already paying for an account with Box.net, don’t fret. You can get the 50GB, too, if you downgrade to a free account. You lose out on the more advanced security and collaboration features and the like, as well as your 1GB+ upload limit, but you will still be able to share your files quickly and easily.
If you’re on Android, you might be feeling a bit of “What the hell! Can I haz…???” For Android users in general, at the moment it appears you’re out of luck. However, if you have a Sony Tablet S — which uses Android — there’s a similar promotion running. BlackBerry Playbook and HP TouchPad users are on as well. But don’t get too upset, Android Army (or those with other devices), according to the Box.net blog, they have some more promotions up their sleeves just for you guys.
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).
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.
Now might not be the time to tout the benefits of Amazon S3, given the recent Amazon cloud storage outage. Still, it is hard to beat Amazon S3 prices. Amazon offers storage at 14 cents per gigabyte for the first terrabyte of storage, and additional charges for transfer in and out. You can get easy access to that storage using a modern FTP client, such as Transmit on the Mac, and even make your S3 storage space show up as a drive on your computer. Here’s how.
Amazon recently launched its Cloud Drive service offering users 5 GB of free online storage, with very competitive plans that essentially amount to yearly subscriptions of $1/GB, going up as high as 1000 GB. When combined with the Amazon Cloud Player (US-only), which allows you stream your music files from any computer or Android device, and doesn’t count Amazon MP3 purchases against your subscription limit, the Amazon Cloud Drive seems like one hell of a deal! The Amazon servers are some of the best out there, and unlike services like Microsoft’s SkyDrive, there are no limitations as to what can be uploaded as long as you own the files and their contents, don’t violate any laws by storing them, and agree not to upload anything that could be potentially dangerous.
All very reasonable and expected, no? Be a law-abiding and conscientious citizen, use the service responsibly, and you’re golden, right? Right — unless you enjoy the possibility of your privacy being infringed upon at the whim of a large corporation.
5.2.Our Right to Access Your Files. You give us the right to access, retain, use and disclose your account information and Your Files: to provide you with technical support and address technical issues; to investigate compliance with the terms of this Agreement, enforce the terms of this Agreement and protect the Service and its users from fraud or security threats; or as we determine is necessary to provide the Service or comply with applicable law.
Giving a corporation and its designated appointees the right to access, keep, use, and share both my account information and my personal and business files is something that I’m simply not comfortable with. I understand the concept of limited access to files for the purposes of technical support, and I even get holding them on the order of a court of law or government body, but the use of the phrase “as we determine is necessary to provide the Service” is playing a bit too fast and loose for me. I have no idea what they might determine is necessary — it’s completely arbitrary. I am reasonably certain that, if there were victims of some sort of foul play resulting from that phrase, a court of law would be able to find in favour of those victims, but who wants to be a victim, even potentially? Don’t we have enough problems with digital privacy already?
The Amazon Cloud Drive is promising, but for a service that is fending off criticisms from the music industry by touting itself as a personal hard drive, they certainly don’t provide the end-user with anything even close to resembling the right to privacy that is inherent in a true personal hard drive. I hope that users read and thoroughly understand the fine print before they decide to upload their lives to this service!
Microsoft’s Windows Live SkyDrive may come with caveats relating to filesize and the like — it’s certainly no Dropbox — but any way you slice it, it is still hard to argue with 25 GB of free cloud storage. Now all of that space is accessible on your Android device with a simple app called Sorami.
Sorami allows you to use your Android device to dip into your SkyDrive and view, download, or share files, and even whole folders. You can also send files to SkyDrive from your phone’s SD card. The interface is pretty straightforward, even a bit Spartan, but it does the trick — but it should be mentioned and remembered that the app is still in beta. There are a few things to watch out for:
Authorization may fail with your current Windows Live account. The developer advises that you should create a new account to connect to Sorami if that happens.
SkyDrive’s [Photos] and [Favorites] folders cannot be accessed. Put the files you wish to access in the [My Documents] folder.
Apparently, putting your file in the root directory of SkyDrive is bad — don’t do it.
If you have an Android device and need 25 GB of storage space for files that are no larger than 50 MB, give Sorami a try. Let us know in the comments how it works out for you.
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.
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.
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.
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!
It was my birthday the other day. I turned 35. Yep, 35, and I write for a blog called 40Tech. I’m mature for my age, ok? Either way, I was feeling pretty good about myself that day. 35 years old is young, right? Well, that’s what I thought until I saw this video by Accenture that has little kids explaining cloud computing.
I now feel positively ancient.
The video, called “Cloud Computing Here and Now — Our Youngest Experts Explain the Cloud,” features a whole bunch of cute, smarty-pants little rug rats that make websites and are working on video games that feature super-spies with heads made out of cheese puffs. They were born with the internet — broadband, even — and it’s as second nature to them as hair bands are to the rest of us. I mean the music variety, by the way, not the hold up your hair type — but I digress.
Watch this video. It may make you feel like somebody’s grandparent, or even great grandparent — but it is a very clear look into the future of tech. Well, the future from the point of view of a high-end consulting company that is obviously convinced of the impending takeover of cloud computing — and trying to sell people on it — but that’s not saying they’re wrong.