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Archives for : October2010

Firefox to Chrome

It has been over 2 years since the first development build of Google Chrome was released to developers. Nerds flocked by the masses, but I resisted, kept using trusty old Firefox. First, it was the lack of Linux support. Second, it was the lack of extensions. Time passed, and these excuses faded away. After finding the official Firefox release too slow, and the beta too… buggy (not saying it isn’t expected, but I don’t want to use the official release,) I finally gave in and installed Chrome.

You know that feeling when you have been holding onto something for so long, you want to let go, but at the same time you don’t want to? It was like that. Firefox was great whilst it lasted, but it was getting to be too slow, the beta builds were too buggy to fix the slowness, and Chrome is fast. As in, I haven’t had any problems with Chrome since I moved over to it, and overall I’m glad I did. I do miss that little Firefox icon in my task bar, but that will go eventually.

Has anyone else moved from one browser to another and had a really good experience? Or maybe you had a really bad one and reverted straight away? Post your comments!

DropChat 1.1: DropBox Collaboration Tool

DropChat is a shout box style chat program designed to be used with group DropBox’s. You place this small executable in a group DropBox with at least 2 people, make a file for each person in the chat folder, and launch the program to leave a message. The program will update your chat file, sync with the DropBox, and then appear next time other collaborators open the program. Simple, but very useful!

Quick Tutorial
When you extract the archive, you will have two items. DropboxChat.exe (this will be renamed in the next release) and a “chats” folder. If you look in the “chats” folder, you will see a Template.xml file. Copy this file (do not edit it or delete it) and rename it to your name. For example, I would have “Josh.xml” in that folder. Also add anyone else who is likely to use the chat. So, I may add “Ben.xml” and “Matt.xml”.

When you launch DropboxChat.exe, you will be presented with a chat area (probably blank at the moment) and an area at the bottom where you can select your name, type a message and then send it. Every .xml file that appears (except Template.xml) will be included in the name’s list.

Each time you leave a message, DropBox will update your .xml file and sync it with everyone else.

This isn’t designed to be real time, more or less like a way where you can leave messages for other people, to assist with collaboration. I can assert that it is really helpful for group Uni assignments.

Known Limitations
I designed this for myself and some Uni friends, and didn’t plan to release it at first, but decided that I would.

  • As we are all in a similar geographical location, we are all in the same time-zone, meaning I haven’t yet implemented the ability to handle computers in different time zones.
  • Since it uses the time on the computer it is typed on, if people are trying to have a real time chat and one computer is out by a significant amount, messages may not appear in order.
  • There are a few small bugs, for example, when you press Enter to post a message, it will post it, but then will put the cursor on the second line. It doesn’t interfere with messaging, it just annoys me a little bit because it looks ugly.
  • Another small bug is the tab index, I promise I will fix that.
  • I haven’t yet done threaded updating, but do plan to add that in the next release. That means if DropBox notifies you that the file of someone else’s name has been updated, then you need to manually press an update button. If you don’t have DropBox file update notifications on, then this program won’t be as useful.
  • If you intentionally put the wrong style XML file in the chats folder, then it probably won’t work. This is only really a limitation if you go out of your way to do this, as I have been using this program for around half a year and haven’t had a problem with that. If someone else in your group folder plays a prank on everyone and does that, maybe you should think twice about giving them access to the folder.
  • I am sure there are others, but remember, I originally only made it for personal use, and it works well for what I use it for, though I figured it’d be nice to release it to everyone.
What’s Dropbox?
Only the best sync, backup and collaboration tool on the planet! If you want to sign up, use my referal link and we both get an extra 250MB free (meaning you will get a free 2.25GB). I am getting close to my free limit, and without a job right now, I can’t afford to pay for an upgrade.

Download
http://dl.dropbox.com/u/456202/DropChat1.1.7z

You will need 7-zip to unzip the program. I have every intention of making this open source in the near future, but I need to clean up some code and some other things before I do that, so until then, enjoy the binary file.

Too much cloud

In the past 5 years or so, cloud computing has really started to take off. I never thought I’d be storing my files on a web server, partly because I thought my Internet would be too slow, I thought that I’d have to always be connected to access my files and I was always worried about syncing issues. That was until I found Dropbox, and I haven’t looked back. I don’t have to worry about uploading and downloading my files, that happens all automatically (another thing I envisioned was storing files off-site with an FTP server where I’d have to backup everything manually and it would do it all at once or not at all.) My emails also went mega cloud in 2004 with Gmail, and since then I have found myself using more and more cloud services, including my fitness monitor program RunKeeper, my Bible software Logos, and I have all my games on Steam.

I have got to thinking: what if I start to have too many cloud services? What if I loose my password for one of them, what if I forget about one of them completely? Yes, in theory they are all linked with my email address, but it is nice to have the password the same for all my trusted services (I have a tiered password system… I only ever use the same email password for trusted sites, and use unique passwords for financial sites.) It would be nice if I was able to use the same password for all my services, but my password to not be comprimised, and for all the services to share resources. Let me give you a run down.

My main cloud storage service has to be Gmail, for the sole reason that every cloud service is linked through my email account. The second one I use is Dropbox, as I use it everyday as well for both syncing files between my desktop and laptop (it’s awesome,) and for backups (I have never had a “computer problem” such as deleted files thanks to Dropbox.) I am looking at upgrading Dropbox soon to provide me with more storage, as I’m quickly reaching my limit (3GB at the moment, and if I can’t reefer more people soon, I will need to buy a subscription.) But at the same time I think, wouldn’t it be handy if that upgrade was shared with ALL my cloud services, such as Gmail, and maybe Picasa Web Albums (I don’t really use Picasa, but say I did.) Google also offer storage upgrades for Picasa if I reached Picasa’s limit, but what if I have 30GB spare in my Dropbox account? Wouldn’t it be handy if you could just buy X amount of space, and then each cloud service could just take what it needs (and each cloud provider getting an appropriate proportion of the funds?) Or, what if I was able to put files in a particular folder in my Dropbox that Picasa was monitoring, and when I uploaded something there it would automatically go to Picasa.

I can see people now asking why I don’t just store my photos in Dropbox? Well, to be honest, I would, but that was just a sample scenario. There are many scenario’s when someone may have a very good reason to want to use separate cloud services.

Another thing where it would come in handy would be for consistency and management. Say I purchased music online (I buy CD’s, as I prefer having hard copies of my music,) wouldn’t it be really handy if, instead of downloading it through my web-browser, it was automatically put in my Music folder in my Dropbox or emailed to me as an attachment, all using the same storage space?

It’s also nice if I buy software and it is all linked to one single account. These days I buy more of my games on Steam (it’s great providing you don’t lose access to your account, but I will only buy on Steam if it’s cheaper than retail or the game is only on Steam,) but as I mentioned above my Bible Software is also cloud based. Wouldn’t it be great if there was a single account which, when I re-installed, it would just download and install all my programs from one single location?

Now, many of the things I have mentioned are already partically implemented in some scenarios, but the fragmentation is just too much, a lot of the time it isn’t supported by every provider or I would need to sign up for yet another cloud account.

For example, some partial implementations of the idea’s I have put forward are:

  • OpenID, which allows a single username and password for many online services without actually telling the service your password (therefore meaning your password can’t be compromised.) Unfortunately, this isn’t supposed by that many services, and for it to work properly (for me) would need to be supported by all the services that I use.
  • DropBox scripts and programs, it is possible to run programs on your computer that will monitor Dropbox, but these aren’t official and require your computer to be turned on. You could write a program to monitor a pictures folder on your Dropbox and upload to Picasa Web, but that isn’t really that integrated.
  • Ubuntu One implements that Music idea I put forward, but that is Ubuntu only (I’m back to Windows now) and is yet again another service.
  • Shared storage isn’t possible yet, but that would be awesome. I would definitely buy some cloud storage if I could share it between my Dropbox and Google Accounts.

 As a side note, I sort of want Google to acquire Dropbox, as they make up 100% of my cloud file storage usage (I’m not counting Steam as storing files, as I can’t store anything I want there,) and if they did I’m sure the shared storage option would work, and I could use my Google Account to log in to Dropbox.

So, fragmentation is where it is at. I’m not going to propose a way this could be done, because there are many, many issues that need to be sorted (for example, if shared storage was available, places wouldn’t make as much money, and then there is the major issue of security. I’m not pretending these don’t exist,) but it would be awesome if, in the future, it was a single log in for everything.