Sunday, August 30, 2009

Drop Box

I really have to admit, every week it seems there is some new application that is made, mainly for the Mac or iPhone that just amazes me. DropBox is one of them.

There has been a lot of talk about cloud computing lately. What is it? How good is it? And why do I need it? Well, once you've used DropBox you'll wonder why and how you ever lived without it.

First off, I receive no monetary, advertising or any advice from the company. Infact, they have no clue who I am. I have never written to them, never told them of this review or posting.

With the disclaimer done, let me talk a little bit about why I like this program. There is a special download from . Once installed, the program will automatically, if you choose, link with the Dropbox server when you turn your computer on. It will automatically update any changes made to the Dropbox folder on your computer with those of the server (in the ether, at Dropbox). This back and forth reconciliation goes on without you ever having to bother with it. Of course, since security is an issue, you can create the directory that will do this service. I chose a folder, not in my Admin Account. Dropbox reads and writes only to that folder. The program does ask for permission to bind to the OS, but I refuse this. That's just me!

You can have the Dropbox program start on Start up of the computer or whenever you please.

So why is this program so brilliant? Well, forget the whole set up thing on the computer for a moment. Although it is great, it may not be for you? Especially if you're very security conscious. There is a web enabled version of this program which does basically the same thing. That leads us to the special case -- the iPhone. The App for DropBox is a WebApp. Just type in the url and it will automatically load the iphone version of the web page. You cannot upload anything from the iPhone, but you can download documents of almost any type (something that beats the Google Office Suite).

More fascinating though is the way that this program handles videos. I will on another day, talk about a program called AirShare, which is a must have for anyone owning an iPhone. This program allows you to download files of almost any type and store it on your iphone and play most of them back. But the playback of video must correspond to Quicktime playability. The only downside to this is the sheer size of the videos, averaging 300-500k on a 16 or 8 gig iPhone/iPod Touch this can become daunting. Enter the DropBox solution: STREAMING.

Dropbox doesn't actually load your movies onto your phone, it streams them. The downside is that a 300 k quick time video or 300 k gp (phone quality video) takes about 2 minutes to start before playing on the 3G network. But once it starts playing (I presume some of the delay is buffering), it is quite good. Pausing has been an issue sometimes, but for the most part, the program streams very well. It has thwarted my need to get a SlingBox, although it does not stream live broadcasts, it is still quite nice.

The nice thing about DropBox is that you can view your files anywhere, enclosed in an AES-256 bit encrypted browsing solution. That is very secure. As long as you have a connection of some type, the program works well.

Lower bandwidths, including some 3G areas should probably not use DropBox for video since the streaming issue can be really quite horrible for video. To be honest, Yahoo's briefcase - which I understand is not available anymore and Google's Office are quite good and good enough for non-video items.

Additionally, DropBox has a recover feature that works similar to Time Machine. If you lose your document, it will refer you back to a version of the document that you made and deleted previously. Of course that brings into account how long does DropBox keep your information/files on its servers. But if you're not too paranoid, DropBox is a must have, especially if you have an iPhone.

For a more "on my machine only" solution I would recommend Airshare.


Upgrading to Snow Leopard

I have learned from the exploits of Windows and Palm that jumping on board with an update is paramount to pure folly. No, I will not jump to Snow Leopard just yet. There are a few issues that are still being worked out, ie 1Password not being fully compatible with the 64-bit portion of the system.

After listening to The MacGeek Podcast a few days ago, which was broadcast before Snowleopard was released, I can see a few issues coming forward. For one, the podcast points to the whole 64 bit controversy. It seems that Snow Leopard is actually booting into 32 bit mode with a 64 bit layer, namely certain programs (core programs) running on top. This, probably to protect the kernel, which is undoubtedly still 32 bit.

Sounds confusing? You bet! It it's not a simple solution then a lot of software is bound to be butchered. Therefore, I'm holding out for now. I'll see what happens in a few weeks when all of the dust settles.