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dropbox

Install a cloud driver server of your very own

For many years, Peter and I have managed our shared Many Tricks files via Dropbox. To support Dropbox, we purchased an upgraded plan for $99 a year, which came with 1TB of space. We then used the same login to share the Dropbox folder. We didn’t need anywhere near 1TB (we have about 4GB of shared files), but felt it was right to support Dropbox.

While this worked well, and we had no issue paying for it, we had a few concerns—about space, third-party involvement, and something possibly unique to my usage scenario. You can read the details in the remainder of this post, but to make a long story short, I went looking for a replacement. And I found one in Nextcloud. Nextcloud has a commercial product, but it’s open source, so you can also install it on your own server, and via many hosting companies that have it preinstalled.

I was able to install it easily with our hosting provider; I had the basic install up and running in under 30 minutes. There are also native clients for Mac, as well as Windows, iOS, and Android. The Finder view with the Mac ap installed (it’s an official Finder extension) is very similar to Dropbox or OneDrive or any other cloud client with a Mac app:

For us, Nextcloud has every feature we need for sharing our Many Tricks’ files; read on for more detail on why we moved, install and admin, the Mac client, and some closing comments.

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Encrypt files then backup to a cloud service via script

Most cloud services tell you that their data stores are safe, that your data is encrypted in transit and on their drives, that employees don’t have access, etc. For the vast majority of the stuff I store in the cloud, this is more than good enough for me—the data isn’t overly sensitive, and if someone were to hack their way in, all they’d get are a bunch of work and personal writing files and some family photos.

For other files—primarily financial and family related—those assurances just aren’t enough for me. But I still want the flexibility and security that comes from having a copy of these files in the cloud. So what’s a paranoid user to do to take advantage of the cloud, with added security, but with a minimum of hassle?

The solution I came up with involves using local encrypted disk images and a shell script. Using this script (and some means of scheduling it), you can automatically encrypt and back up whatever files you like to a cloud service.

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Dropbox shows iPhoto what simple really means

Did you know that Dropbox lets you create photo albums? No? Me neither, until this morning, that is. And it turns out, it’s incredibly easy to do:

  1. Copy or move a folder of images into your Dropbox folder. Choose any location within the Dropbox folder that you wish; I set up a Photos folder to hold slideshows.
  2. Open the Dropbox web site, and sign in to your account.
  3. Navigate to the folder you just uploaded, right click, and choose Create album.
  4. Click Share album, then copy the link or directly invite those you’d like to see the album.

That’s it, your’e done. The only time-consuming portion of the process is uploading the images; creating and sharing the album takes almost no time at all. That’s about as simple as it gets.

Now assume you want to do the same thing using iPhoto: create a web-based slideshow of images for anyone to see via a shared URL. Sure, you could use iCloud’s Photo Stream, but that’s not a web-based solution. Instead, you’ll need to use File > Export in iPhoto, and either create a Web Page or a Slideshow. Slideshow is really misnamed, though, as what it really creates is a movie of your images. So Web Page it is.

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Do Dropbox droppers do due diligence?

Apparently Dropping Drobpox is a thing now, because Condoleeza Rice has been named to the board of directors. I’m aware of at least two prominent people (Chris Breen and Mark Frauenfelder) who have publicly discussed their Dropbox departures, and I assume there are many more.

First, I admire these folks’ convictions and follow-through on those convictions. For me, Dropbox is too ingrained in what I do to make such a switch. Additionally, I don’t believe someone sitting on the Board of Directors of a company is reason enough to change my practices relative to that company’s products.

However, for those who feel strongly about Ms. Rice, I assume they’d want to avoid any companies that have directors with similar backgrounds, right? In order to make such decisions, they need to do due diligence on any company whose products they might like to use.

To ease that task, I put together a brief list, based strictly on companies having board members involved in the military-industrial complex, and who may have been active in the same timeframe as Condoleeza Rice.

The first entry in the list may be somewhat surprising…

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iCloudy with a 100% chance of stupidity

I use a lot of cloud services for file storage, primarily Dropbox, but also Box and (begrudgingly, for certain shared projects) Google Drive.

I also use iCloud, but not in any way that would be considered a true cloud file storage service. I use it strictly as a sync service for contacts, calendars, reminders, notes, Safari; I also use Back to My Mac.

But that’s it; I don’t use iCloud for cloud-based file management at all. Why not? Because iCloud in its current implementation is chock full of the stupid, at least for those of us who still use and rely on OS X.

Stupid #1: Not enough free space, and too costly for more

A quick comparison chart shows just how far out of line iCloud is with other cloud-based services:

Provider Free Tier 1 Tier 2 Tier 3
GB GB $/Yr $/GB/yr GB $/Yr $/GB/yr GB $/Yr $/GB/yr
Box 10 100 $60 $0.600 1000 $180 $0.180
Dropbox 2 100 $100 $1.000 200 $199 $0.995 500 $499 $0.998
Google Drive 15 100 $24 $0.240 1,000 $120 $0.120 10,000 $1,200 $0.120
iCloud 5 15 $20 $1.333 25 $40 $1.600 55 $100 $1.818
Pricing sources: Box • Dropbox • Google DriveiCloud
Note that you can get additional free space on Dropbox through referrals and uploading images; Box occasionally offers a promo with 50GB of free space.

Kirk McElhearn covers this price and space issue in more detail in his blog post, Why Does Apple Only Offer 5 GB Storage with iCloud?.

I agree with him; if iCloud wants to attract more users, it needs more free space, and more competitively priced upgrade plans.

Read on for more of the stupid…

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