Okay – by now I think you’ve all heard me rave about Dropbox enough.. but one of the things that is really making Dropbox super useful for me is the number of third party applications that are starting to use Dropbox for fast & easy cloud storage.
I often find myself sharing screenshots with colleagues and friends. There are a ton of applications out there that will help you do this, but most of them rely on you taking a screenshot and dragging it to another application.
GrabBox is a free app that lets you share a screenshot whilst skipping that second step: just take a screenshot and it will automatically add it to your public Dropbox folder and creates a short url for you to share with friends. It puts that url on your clipboard so you can paste it right away.
Here’s a clip of GrabBox in action:movies/GrabBox.mov
What I love most is that I don’t need to change my workflow: I just hit the regular OS X keyboard shortcut to take a screenshot and GrabBox does the rest: snap, paste, done.
The ugly icon, and the fact that it runs in your Dock instead of your menubar are two minor gripes, but overall it’s highly recommended!Read More
We’ve talked about Dropbox here before on the site, but did you know that you can use Dropbox for more than just storing files? If you use multiple Macs, you may also want to store some of your application data on Dropbox, allowing you to keep your todo lists, passwords, clippings and other data in sync across all your machines. Of course you could also do the same with a USB drive or MobileMe iDisk, but the instantaneous syncing Dropbox does makes this very practical for users who use multiple Macs a lot.
So far I’ve tested Dropbox syncing with the following apps:
Most other applications can probably also be synced using one of the methods above, provided they support a custom library location or use documents to store your data. I have yet to run into any issues, however there are a few things you’ll want to look out for, to preserve your data integrity:
Tip: if you sign up for free using this referral link, you’ll get an extra 250MB storage.Read More
I’ve been participating in the DropBox beta now for a few days and whilst there any many similar competing services out there, the DropBox guys have really been able to distinguish themselves through their seamless OS integration.
Competing services such as Omnibox, Moxy etc. offer similar OS clients, but DropBox is the first that seems to match Apple’s own .Mac iDisk in terms of seamlessness: Your DropBox appears in the Finder and adding a file is as simple as drag and drop. A utility that runs in the background then uploads that to your DropBox account.
I’d even go a step further and say that it actually seems to work better than the iDisk. Adding files to your iDisk is a sluggish process that usually ends in a two second progress bar claiming your 200MB file has been uploaded in record speed, followed by 2 hours waiting for .Mac to “finish” the file.
The DropBox folder looks and feels like a regular local folder. The default behaviour is even “move” rather than “copy” when you drag items into it, which is a bit disconcerting at first. (Tip: Use option drag!)
I’ll have a some more impressions later this week, but initially it does beg the question:
Why on earth doesn’t .Mac work this well? Apple already has OS integration baked in, so there’s almost no excuse for the current state of the .mac iDisk. For me at least, snappy, pretty DropBox – even in its current beta state – beats the pants off the iDisk in every respect.
Let’s hope the “.mac overhaul” the rumor-mill has promised for WWDC pans out.
Let’s be honest: most of you reading this have wondered how to improve your Mac’s performance at some point or another, whether it was while waiting for an application to load, or just the last time you saw the spinning beachball of death. For years conventional wisdom has been that adding RAM to your Mac would give you the most noticeable performance improvement.
But nowadays, RAM is no longer the primary bottleneck on your Mac – it’s the aging, mechanical technology that powers your harddrive. But conventional mechanical harddrives are slowly but surely being replaced by solid state drives (abbreviated “SSD”). Whilst early SSD drives offered limited storage capacity and had a finite number of read /write cycles, The current generation of Intel X25 SSD drives are very compelling alternatives indeed…
Although still pricy when compared against conventional harddrives with similar capacities, SSDs have steadily been dropping in price and now only cost about 100-200 dollars more than a conventional drive. So what are the benefits? Well, speed primarily: SSDs offer blazingly fast read and write speeds. And unlike conventional drives, that can be damaged if jostled or dropped whilst in use, SSDs are extremely sturdy, making them ideal for notebook computers.
It took me about 10 minutes to swap the stock Fujitsu harddrive in my 13″ MacBook for the X25-M. You basically pop the battery lid, unscrew one screw and pull your old drive. Slot the X25 into its place, close everything back up again and you’re done!
As my previous harddrive was larger than the 80GB review unit I received, I opted for a clean Snow Leopard install, instead of trying to partially migrate my data and settings from my Time Machine backup. The entire OS X installation was very fast (~10 minutes) and after a quick Dropbox sync, I was up and running with my most important apps and documents.
Intel’s X25-M is currently considered to be one of the best SSD drives on the market and the raw numbers tend to agree:
So how do the numbers translate to your everyday, real-world experience? I mean, are you really going to notice if Safari loads 0.4 seconds faster? Probably not.
But in my experience, the big difference wasn’t that any single task felt much faster, it was the fact that everything felt faster. Whether copying a file, opening a DMG or launching an application – everything feels very responsive and snappy.
Here are two videos to give you an idea of what to expect:
All this performance doesn’t come cheap though: the 80GB review unit I tested currently retails for about €200 / $250. The larger capacity models can be several times as expensive. But if you use your Mac professionally, installing an SSD is an easy way to give your Mac a speed boost. The Intel X25 is ideal for professionals and performance junkies who need the highest possible performance. Enthusiasts and casual users might want to look at some of the cheaper alternatives on the market instead. They still trounce the performance of a traditional harddrive, without making too large of a dent in your wallet.
The Intel X25 is a fantastic upgrade for your MacBook and will boost the speed of even mundane things like opening an application. It’s ideal for performance fanatics and professionals, casual users may want to wait a while longer until the price / capacity ratio improves.
Most people would agree that the iPad is a fantastic 1.0 device. This is of course partly due to the shared iPhone OS heritage, but the overall experience is nonetheless is extremely well-rounded and polished.
But there are a few areas that feel a bit crummy, when compared with the rest of the experience. Considering how many apps Apple had to completely overhaul for the iPad’s presentation in January, it’s no surprise to find a few rough edges, on the otherwise fantastic device.
I understand why Apple is hesitant to add any kind of file system to the iPhone OS, but considering how much emphasis was placed on the iPad apps at launch, you would think that they would have come up with an elegant way to get documents on and off your iPad.
Unfortunately, in reality it’s a huge pain. Ted Landau took the time to document all the steps it takes to actually get a document into iWork on your iPad, none of which are particularly intuitive. Plus you then have the hassle of managing revisions and tracking multiple copies of the same file.
The iPhone app SimpleNote and Notational Velocity on the mac show how document sync can be done right. Some apps are also adding Dropbox support, which gives you an idea how file sync in general could be improved. Given the fact that Apple has already done a lot of the hard work by creating the MobileMe and iWork online services, one can only hope that we’ll see seamless, cloud-based file syncing added sooner rather than later.
If you open multiple tabs in safari on your Mac, switching between them is instantaneous. In mobile safari, you can never be sure whether the tab will open immediately, or whether it will need to be reloaded over your wifi or 3G connection. On the wifi-only iPad, where users can’t be sure they’ll always have access to an internet connection, webpage persistance is particularly an issue. The fact that Offline Pages (iTunes link) is currently one of the top free iPad apps in the App Store would seem to underline this point.
Mobile Safari’s limiting caching abilities are most likely due to the limited amount of RAM in the iPad, which has just 256MB, however as Rentzsch has pointed out, it should be possible to offload pages to the solid state drive as a workaround, although it’s not a trivial problem.
Making event creation in calendars difficult seems to be one of Apple’s favorite UI slip-ups. The calendar app on the iPad is gorgeously designed and it makes browsing through calendar entries a visual pleasure.
But the interface for adding entries seems to have been cut & paste directly from the iPhone version and doesn’t make any use of the additional screen real estate the iPad offers. You get the impression the designers spent all their time working on the rest of the UI and simply stuck the editing controls in there at the last minute.
Consistency between the two platforms is of course a good thing, provided it doesn’t slow the user down unnecessarily. I would argue that you could better use the iPad’s screen real estate to make a much more efficient and intuitive event creation UI.Read More