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Monday, September 17, 2012

Software Review: Dropbox

 I recently reviewed Ubuntu One, Canonical's foray into the cloud syncing game, but today I'm reviewing the application that really started the cloud synchronization revolution: Dropbox.

  Dropbox is quite possibly one of the most useful, if not most used, applications to me outside of a web browser.  I use it to sync between my Windows OS, my Kubuntu Desktop, my Ubuntu OS, and I can share and sync files with friends, and family.  I can drop a recipe in the share folder I have set up with my wife, and in the blink of an eye it's downloaded to her Mac.  If she makes a change to it, *zap* it's updated on my machines.

  I use Dropbox as a form of off-site backup, too.  It saves all of your files to their servers, and in my case with so many other computers, it creates a great redundancy.  Better yet, if you delete a file, or if your computer crashes, you can just re-install Dropbox, and all your files will download to the Dropbox folder just as they had been. 
  The catch, of course, is that Dropbox only gives out 2GB of storage for Free, so no backing up your music collection.  You can theoretically get up to 16GB with friend referrals, the "getting started" bonuses, and the direct upload from cameras to dropbox.  Each of these gets you a few hundred Megabytes of storage.  Or you can chose to pay a monthly premium to get even more space.  100GB will run you $9.99 a month or $99.00 a year.  That's not terrible, considering how useful Dropbox can be.

  Unlike Ubuntu One, Dropbox doesn't use a separate application for file management.  It integrates with your file manager, like Explorer in Windows or Nautilus in Ubuntu, and you simply drag the files you want synced into the "Dropbox" folder.  Most of the management for dropbox is done either by a small applet found in your Operating System's Notification area.  Anything more advanced is done through Dropbox's website.

  The beauty of Dropbox is that not only is it out of sight and out of mind, but since it integrates with your file manager, many OS's can be fooled into thinking that Dropbox is just like any normal folder.  I have my Documents folder on Ubuntu set up as a shortcut to "Documents" in my Dropbox folder.  I also have my Minecraft saves synced into a save folder on Dropbox using links.  My wife uses Scrivener, and by saving all of her projects in Dropbox, she can switch from her Mac, to Windows, or to Linux (running Wine) and pick up where she left off at.  No thumb drives, no External HDD's, and no CD's.

  Other's have figured out how to automate there computer tasks using Dropbox.  You can setup a home computer to have a folder called "Torrents" in Dropbox, and then have your torrent client watch that folder for torrents to automatically start downloading.  Then, lets say you're at work and the Latest Humble Indie Bundle comes out.  You Purchase it, but you can't torrent at work or you can't download to your work PC.  You can still download the torrents for the games and either drop them into the "Torrents" folder in dropbox, or go to their website and upload them to "Torrents" from there.  Your torrent client on your home PC will see the new torrents, start downloading the games, and by the time you get home you'll have new games already downloaded and ready to play.  That's just one scenario, and if you do a quick google search, you'll find many more.

  So, if you haven't given Dropbox a try, do me a favor and click here to give me some referrals (MOAR FREE SPACE!) and see what you've been missing.

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