With Dropbox, no need to dress for success


POSTED: Sunday, June 21, 2009

Have you ever needed to be in two places at once? Me neither.

Typically, we Digital Slobs plot out our lazy lives with such precise, judo-like avoidance skills, we're barely tolerated in one place, let alone “;needed”; in two.

Two simultaneous business meetings? Nope. (Side note: What are business meetings?)

Two dates for Friday night? That only happens on Hannah Montana DVDs.

Oscar party the same night as a “;Predator”; marathon on TNT? You've heard of TiVo, right?

The closest I got to being pulled in opposite directions was a couple of years back. My office had a pizza party the same day my 2-for-1 Burger King Whopper coupon was expiring. But that wasn't really a choice between two absolutes—rather, a special circumstance that I would later term Gastronomical Red Alert Wednesday.

A close call, but I soldiered through it.

Yet, while it's incredibly rare to see a Slob forced to serve two masters, it's not uncommon to spot us slaving away on our own behalf—commuting back to the office at 2 a.m. to retrieve a file off our computers because we forgot to either e-mail it to ourselves or stick it onto a USB thumb drive, cursing the heavens the entire commute for not providing us with a better solution.

Oh, we'll pretend to be part of the uber-connected “;it”; crowd inside the alleged cure-all of cloud computing. We've got our iPhone apps, our Web conferencing software, our VNCs (Virtual Network Computing), etc.

But mostly, we just like to show them off to prove to everyone that when the future really does arrive—any minute now, we promise—it'll want to hang out with us exclusively.

The truth is, it's all too complicated, and still too dependent on flaky wireless networks, to use regularly.

Just last week, after remembering to carefully set up my preferences on my home computer before going to work, I tried to use my iPhone's VNC app to remotely open a text file while heading home on the bus.

To say there was lag is an understatement (unless you pour about 30 more A's into the word “;lag”;). NASA could get the Mars rover to remotely mix a Choco Sumunip Chocolate Martini before I could get Microsoft Word to open.

Fortunately, Dropbox (getdropbox.com) offers to finally pull all of us out of this stuttering purgatory. Simply download the software on any and all computers in your life (Mac, Windows, Linux), follow the registration steps and suddenly you've got a box where you can put any and all files you might possibly need following you around no matter where you are.

Free accounts offer 2 GB of storage, while paid accounts offer up to 100 GB.

“;Yeah,”; you're no doubt thinking, “;but what if I forget to put a file in the Dropbox? Then it's yet another predawn trip to the office in my tattered bathrobe, right?”;

First answer: Eeew, put on some pants. Second answer: No. Simply keep all those will-travel files in the Dropbox all the time, working on them and updating them all the live-long day, and the latest-saved copy will be waiting for you, synched within seconds (large audio and video files take longer), on all the computers you might traipse across on a daily basis.

Once a file is housed in this Dropbox world, it can also be retrieved if you delete it accidentally.

Also, any file you put in the “;public”; folder comes with its own distinct URL that you can then e-mail to share data with others.

Of course, you can get way more advanced with sharing folders, pictures and utilizing Dropbox for collaboration.

I'm just glad there's an application out there doing its part for society, working to keep the wee hours free of tattered bathrobes cruising down the freeway.


Follow columnist Curt Brandao's Twitter feed at www.twitter.com/digitalslob.