Dropbox – An Easy Way to Sync Files Across Devices

What is Dropbox?

Dropbox is an application that allows you to share files seamlessly across multiple computing devices.  Notice how I used the term “computing device”, rather than computer.  In addition to supporting all of the major operating systems, Windows, Mac and Linux,  Dropbox also supports iPhone and iPod users.  As for Android users, don’t fret!  Dropbox is working on an version for Android, too.  As of late February, no ETA has been provided for an official Android version.

How do I use Dropbox?

I use Dropbox as a way to sync files across too many devices.  For instance, I have a Dell laptop that I use as my primary work computer.  I have two additional laptops that clients have provided me for use on their projects.  Instead of carrying around a USB memory stick or copying files from one computer to another, I’ve installed Dropbox on each of the three work computers and linked each to a single Dropbox account.  If I need to transfer files from one computer to another, I simply copy/move the file to My Dropbox folder — by default, it’s located under the My Documents folder in Windows XP — and voila!  I can access that file from any of my two other laptops easily and quickly.

In addition to storing private files, I use Dropbox as a crude way to share files with other people.  One of my current projects is developing a Flash game.  I’m collaborating with an artist who lives in Puerto Rico.  I’ve setup a shared Dropbox folder and shared it with the artist.  As soon as he adds or updates a file in our shared directory, the Dropbox icon in my Windows System Tray notifies me that he’s done so.  It’s great.  He doesn’t need to IM or e-mail me that the file is there.  Dropbox does all the work.  In addition to sharing files, we use a text file in the shared directory to pass along short notes.  I’ll admit it’s crude, but it works.

You’re not limited to accessing your Dropbox files with a computer that has the application installed on it.  You can use the web version of Dropbox to manage your files.  In fact, the web version has a terrific with a lot of very helpful features, including searching your files and a timeline of recent events (e.g. creating a new folder or uploading a file to  your Dropbox)

Recently, Dropbox released an iPhone version of the application.  I downloaded the application (which is free) from the App Store, installed it on my iPod Touch, linked Dropbox to my account and now I can sync files back and forth between the web, my three laptops and my iPod Touch.  If I find something interesting to read on the web, I print a copy to PDF (or download the PDF if it’s available) and add it to my Dropbox folder.  That file is automatically synced to my iPod, and in the case of a PDF, I can view it immediately on my iPod.  If you mark it as a favorite, you can even save your file on your iPod for offline viewing.  It’s so much easier than having to deal with iTunes, connecting my iPod to a computer or e-mailing files to myself.

How do you install Dropbox?

Here are the steps for installing and using Dropbox on Windows.  My understanding is that the process is similar for Mac and Linux users.

  1. Save the Dropbox application
  2. Run the Dropbox installer
  3. Start using Dropbox!

How much does Dropbox cost?

Dropbox offers a free version that provides 2GB worth of storage.  In addition to the free version, Dropbox offers two paid subscription plans.  Dropbox offers a 50GB plan ($9.99 /month) and a 100GB plan ($19.99/month).  For more information, check out the pricing section of the Dropbox web site.

At the time this blog post was written, Dropbox offered free users an additional 250MB of storage if you completed a set of tasks that introduced you to Dropbox.  The tasks were very simple, such as taking the Dropbox tour, installing Dropbox on your computer and sharing a folder with a friend.

How do I sign up from Dropbox?

Signing up for Dropbox is easy.  You can get up to 3GB of additional storage space by referring your friends to Dropbox.  Please use this link if you’re interested in trying out Dropbox.  We’ll both get an extra 250MB of bonus space!

Once you start using Dropbox, you’ll like it so much that I’m sure you’ll refer all of your friends to the service.

Help! Firefox Crashes During Startup

I’m a big fan of open source software, especially Mozilla Firefox. If you’re still using Internet Explorer, especially IE 6, it’s time you switched for Firefox (or Chrome). Firefox has been rock solid for me, until this morning — hence the title of this post :-). Firefox has been so good that I don’t think twice at updating to the latest version of either the browser itself or various Firefox Add-ons. This morning, when I first started Firefox, it informed me that there was a newer version of the Yslow add-on for Firefox. I decided to install the latest version and waited for Firefox to restart itself. Well, it crashed upon startup. Here’s what the screen looked like:

Firefox crash reporter on startup

I panicked for just a minute and remembered that I had asked Firefox to update the Yslow add-on.  OK, now what do I do?  After a quick search on Google, I discovered that Firefox has a Safe Mode that you can use to recover from these types of issues.  While I understand why the Firefox team named it safe mode, please don’t confuse Firefox’s Safe Mode with Window’s Safe Mode (if you’re running Microsoft Windows, that is).  To run Firefox in Safe Mode (on Windows), go to Start -> Run and enter the following:

Start Firefox in Safe Mode

Once Firefox restarts, it will present the following screen:

Firefox starts in Safe Mode

In this Safe Mode window, I checked the Disable all add-ons checkbox and then pressed the Make Changes and Restart button to restart Firefox with all my add-ons disabled, and voila!  It worked.  Now, I’m able to go in and enable my add-ons one at a time to see what combination of add-ons caused my install of Firefox to crash.

I hope this brief tutorial helps.  If you currently use Internet Explorer, you should definitely switch to Firefox.  What are you waiting for?

Five Lessons I Learned From Watching Shark Tank (Part 1 of 5)

As a followup to my previous post, here is the first of five posts about lessons that I’ve learned from watching the ABC reality television show, Shark Tank.  Please join the conversation — it’s not really a conversation if I’m the only one writing/blogging :-) — and add what you’ve learned in the comments below.

Lesson 5 – The More, The Merrier

The more successful companies on Shark Tank — my definition of a “successful” company on Shark Tank is one that receives funding from one (or more) of the sharks — seem to be those that have more than one entrepreneur involved.  In last week’s episode of Shark Tank, the only company to receive any funding from the sharks was a pair of friends that shared a common interest of biking.  Grease Monkey Wipes sells a heavy-duty, all-natural, individually packaged wipe that works on tough stains like grease, crayon and paint.  The dynamic duo of Grease Monkey Wipes, Tim Stansbury and Erin Whalen, were one of the strongest twosomes that I’ve seen on the show.  Tim is the former product manager and MBA who presented the objective, analytical information in a calm, cool demeanor.  Erin is the passionate spokesperson who exuded a  combination of likeability and confidence that tugged on the heart (and purse) strings of the sharks.  In addition to being bright and having very impressive interpersonal skills, the two entrepreneurs were able to feed satisfy both the objective and subjective needs of the sharks.  At the end of the segment about Grease Monkey Wipes, Daymond seemed really disappointed not to have been a part of the deal along with Barbara and Robert.

Check out this clip from Shark Tank (thanks ABC and Hulu!) with the co-owners of Grease Monkey Wipes.

All five lessons that I learned from watching Shark Tank: