Create a WiFi signal strength map with NetSpot for Mac

NetSport Wireless Survey App

Finding the best spot for wifi access in your home or in a public place is pretty much trial and error. Turn on your laptop, and see what happens. NetSpot is a free wireless survey tool that makes it more of a treasure hunt. Once you install it on your Mac (OSX only), your laptop becomes a wifi sniffer.

Before you start up the app, you’re going to need a floor plan with measurements. NetSpot includes some decent drawing tools so you can map out your area in a way that won’t gain you admittance to architecture schools. But you’re going to need to draw the floor plan to scale, which means taking measurements (or making the best educated guesses of your life).

I’m lucky; my stepson is a CAD enthusiast who already created a map of the first floor of our house which I loaded into NetSpot. I then walked around the house with my laptop – stopping at strategic locations on the floor plan and clicking on them. Then waited a few seconds while the app scanned my wifi networks. In my mind, a strategic location was at a corner or doorway (which was detailed precisely on my floor plan). It required no guesswork or estimation on my part.

Each click colored the area on the floor plan green. When I covered the entire floor, I stopped the scan to see what I got.

NetSport Wireless Survey App
The NetSpot app creates a heat map showing the signal strength of my wireless network at home.

The dim yellow shading in the “Second Living Room” shows the strongest signal on the first floor, which is right below the wireless router upstairs. The worst spots are on the kitchen counter and in the bathroom (although these are still decent strength levels).

The app also will create heat maps showing interference and signal noise.

It’s a fun app that can be useful if you’re trying to figure out where to place your routers and work stations, but if I didn’t have a floor plan already, I would haven’t even tried the app. The work involved wouldn’t have been worth it. Your mileage may vary.

One last note: I wish this was a mobile app. Sure, creating a floor plan could be ugly on a small screen. But walking around the house holding a laptop still is not easy on the arms.

BrandMyMail mashes your email and social networks together

There are two types of email you can send: Text or HTML. Text is just the words. No colors. No photos. No layouts. HTML is basically a web page sent through email servers.

For most of us, it really doesn’t matter when we send email. We just type, and the resulting HTML-formatted email is a mash-up of our words and whatever template comes with the email client.

Now BrandMyMail will mash-up your Gmail account with your social media accounts. It also lets you create a nice template using drag-and-drop elements. The available design elements are basic, but the trade-off is ease of use. The selection of social networks you can inject into your emails is impressive – Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Picasa, Flickr, YouTube, Quora, Blogger, WordPress, RSS, etc.

Every email you send can have a banner, stylish signature with social media links and the latest tweets you sent. It can also include Facebook updates, photos or anything you shared on your favorite social networks.

It is important to evaluate the content you’re including in your emails though, because you want to make sure your social network activity is appropriate for anyone who receives your email. This can be a valuable tool for anyone who is disciplined in maintaining a professional, online reputation, especially if you curate a lot of content.

I also think the design makes for a great email newsletter – especially if you link brand accounts to the email. The samples look better than what I could design in MailChimp. I would love to run my BrandMyMail-designed email through MailChimp or Constant Contact.

The implementation is a little more complicated than the design, but most of us can make it happen without an IT consultant. It also works from iOS devices and Android phones.

If you’re a solopreneur who wants professional looking emails that expose people to your carefully curated social media feeds, try BrandMyMail.

Make your apartment search easier with Padmapper

Finding an apartment on the internet is equivalent to hopping into a tractor tire and being rolled down a hill. You start at the top with high hopes: using the power of the internet for finding desirable rental properties and listings. From there, though, the process spirals downward. Apartment searching sites are hard to navigate, the contact information for the apartments isn’t always up to date, and worst of all: the places you like don’t have a single opening in the price range or size you are looking for. In the end you are left dizzy, confused, and wondering how you are going to pick up that tire and carry it all the way back to the top of the hill.

We here at Techerator are aware of these apartment searching woes, and have been looking into it with mild intensity. Although we may not have a sure-fire solution to fixing every single issue in the search process, we do know of a site that is a pretty good place to start. May we present: Padmapper.

This is Padmapper

This is the map for the main page of Padmapper

Padmapper is an aggregate site that not only compiles readily available apartments from sites like Rent.com and Craiglsist, but then turns the intensity up to 11 by throwing them into Google Maps based on their location. So basically, it’s a map filled with available pads. The name truly says it all.

This little box in the bottom left corner is where the pad searching begins. You select a U.S. city, choose your rent pricing scheme as well as number of bedrooms and bathrooms, and then hit “Go” to see apartment complexes have available in the area. Other options like pets, lease options, and keywords can also be used to filter down the apartment results on the map.

Zero bedrooms?
Shown left to right: Details, Streetview, and Walkscore

Once the filters have been engaged, one can then click on the filtered available apartments on the map (the little red flags) and see who is offering the open apartment, how much it is compared to the average price of rent in the area, and contact information. The apartment listing also shows you the Google Streetview of the area (if available), as well as the area’s Walk Score, or rather its walk-ability based on amenities like restaurants, schools, shopping, and metro transit stations in the vicinity based on community input and a fancy algorithm. Furthermore, if you create an account with Padmapper you can also save pads to your favorites for evaluation later.

Besides supplying open apartments in a topographical setting, Padmapper also has some not so “Super Secret Advanced Features” in the bottom left search panel that can assist one in their apartment reconnoitering.

Super Secret Advanced Features

The first is the commute time overlay. By entering your work address, Padmapper will provide a nice green blob that shows the region in which apartments are within the area of the commute time specified. For example, the picture above shows a 20 minute commute region and the major freeways one would use to travel from a future apartment to work. Of course, this does not include traffic times in the calculation.

For those of us who have forgone the modern combustible engine vehicle and opted for the beautiful sights and loving community of the public transit system for our commute, Padmapper has an overlay just for that as well (although the city you’re looking at must have a metro transit system before this will work, mind you). That way all available apartments can be referenced to a transit stop or subway line.

Finally, the last overlay that is helpful is a graphical diagram of the city’s Walk Score, based on the items mentioned earlier. If one is confused with the color coding, green means that the area is filled with good vibes like short walk times to transit locations, parks, and amenities, and red means…well the opposite of easy access via walking. The whole methodology on Walk Score can be seen here.

The other two overlays (The Spot Crime and Neighborhood ones) are for crime reports and ratings and for quick information on the city region from Wikipedia, respectively. The SpotCrime overlay is not featured for all cities just yet, but rest assured it will be sooner or later.

In Closing

Padmapper definitely has the potential to be highly beneficial to the burdens of apartment searching (hence why we are reporting on it). The rentals shown are readily available, precisely located, and filtered to please any need. Unfortunately, there aren’t really any individual apartment reviews on Padmapper just yet, so you might have to check out the rental properties on a site like Apartment Ratings to see if the management is kind as a rabbit or as lethargic as a hippopotamus. But besides an apartment review feature, Padmapper pretty much encompasses everything else one would consider when looking for that next place. And that is aces in our book.

At the bottom of the website, Padmapper states its motto: “Making Apartment Hunting Suck Less.” And truthfully, we could not have said it better.

New Features Added to Google Presentations — Can I Finally Ditch PowerPoint?

Google recently announced some improvements to their Docs platform, particularly to the Presentation app, a free alternative to Microsoft PowerPoint. New drawing tools, slide transitions, collaboration features… and suddenly I’m left wondering “Can I finally ditch Office for good?”

Google Docs has been making steady gains over the years and I’ve finally gotten to the point where I use Documents and Spreadsheets instead of Microsoft Word and Excel, but the major hangup in my quest to abandon the Office suite has been Google Presentation. Oversimplified, slow, lacking features… it just hasn’t been a good replacement. But with these new improvements, maybe that has changed.

Perhaps the best addition to Presentation is the new set of drawing tools that allow you to sketch anywhere on your slide while giving tight vector control of shapes, line thickness, color, and size. This is a very nice feature that is missing from PowerPoint and makes it easy to highlight content on your Presentation slide. While PowerPoint has an advantage with SmartArt, these drawing tools (which I would use often) help to even the scales.

Scribbles, curve, and polygon tools are convenient additions

A sorely missing feature from Presentation was slide transitions. Thankfully, Google has added a few simple and attractive slide transitions from which you can choose. Are transitions absolutely necessary to a presentation? Of course not — but sometimes transitions add a bit of polish, and it’s nice to have the option. Good work, Google, especially on the rotating ‘Cube’ effect.

Google has finally brought collaborative tools to Presentation so that multiple users can alter a slide simultaneously and communicate in a conveniently integrated chat pane. Does Microsoft Office have something like this? I’ve looked and looked and found nothing. At any rate, it’s certainly not a feature available to the average user. These collaborative features are hugely useful for team presentations…and now that I’ve had a taste, I don’t know if I can go back!

Collaborative chat

But here’s the real test, prefaced by a story. I’ve only given a single presentation using Google Presentation in my life. In most ways it was unremarkable, except that I had to deliver it from a computer that wasn’t my own. I started flipping through my slides and I was impressed…but about halfway through my talk I was interrupted by a distressing error: “Network connection lost.” OH CRAP. I was unable to re-connect and was forced to reschedule my presentation. Needless to say, I haven’t used Presentation when it has mattered since then. So, what happens when I start a presentation and then flip off my wi-fi?

Error! Error!

Drat! Google, come on!! Fix this!!! You have no idea how scarred I was when this happened in a room of 40 people.

So, what’s the verdict? Obviously Google Presentation is not ready for the big show, but I think it’s tantalizingly close.  The tool set has developed to the point where I don’t miss PowerPoint at all, and in fact, it is very easy to pick up and use without any training. It’s a simple tool that I plan to use a lot in the future… but I won’t trust it in front of a crowd quite yet. Don’t keep me waiting, Google!

Creating a Bootable Linux USB Drive with UNetbootin

Flash drive

Flash driveTest driving and installing a Linux distribution has become a lot easier over the years. In the early days, you needed to install Linux on a dedicated computer. Or, you could set your computer up to dual boot. Of course that meant navigating the potential perils of partitioning your hard drive.

Later, a Live CD (which lets you run the distribution right from a CD) was the way to do it. The problem with a Live CD, though, is that running anything from a CD is slow. And having to burn a CD for each distribution that you want to try is wasteful.

A better option is a bootable USB flash drive. You can reuse it and any distribution you install on it has the potential to run very quickly.

Whether you’re using Linux, Windows, or Mac OS you can easily create a bootable USB drive using UNetbootin. Let’s take a look at how to do that on the Linux desktop.

Note: Some of the options covered in this post aren’t available in the Windows and Mac OS versions of UNetbootin.

Installing UNetbootin

Just go to the UNetbootin site and download the installer for your operating system. There are buttons at the top of the page.

Buttons for downloading UNetbootin

You can also get packages for the following Linux distributions: Ubuntu, Debian, Fedora, SuSE, Arch, and Gentoo.

Once it’s installed, you can start UNetbootin from your applications menu. In Ubuntu, for example, select Applications > System Tools > UNetbootin.

Creating the Bootable Drive

First off, you’ll need a USB flash drive. At the very least, it should have a capacity of 1 GB. Just to be safe, use either a 2 GB or 4 GB drive.

UNetbootin has an interesting feature: it can automatically download and create a bootable flash drive for over 20 popular Linux distributions. That saves a lot of time and trouble!

The distribution that you want may also need an ISO image. An ISO image, which has the extension .iso, is a compressed version of an operating system. That includes everything — installer, file system, and all the collateral.

From there, fire up UNetbootin.

Main window

If you’re going to create a bootable drive from one of the supported distros, select it from the Select Distribution list. Then, choose the version that you want to use from the Select Version list.

If, on the other hand, you’re going to create a bootable drive from an ISO image, click the Diskimage option. Then, click the “…” button to find the ISO image that you downloaded.

From there, make sure that the Type list is set to USB Drive and the Drive option is set to /dev/sdb1. In Linux, /dev/sdb1 is the default mount point) for removable storage devices.

Note: In Windows, the option will be a drive letter like F:**. In Mac OS, it will be something like /Volumes/USBDRIVE/**.

Ready to create a bootable image

When you’re ready to go, click the OK button. It can take several minutes for the UNetbootin to write the files to the flash drive. When the process is finished, a message appears asking if you want to restart your computer. You can safely ignore the message.

Using the Bootable Flash Drive

Restart your computer with the flash drive plugged into a USB port. Chances are your computer’s boot sequence — which tells your computer which drive (hard drive, CD-ROM drive, or removable drive) to start from — will skip the flash drive the first time you try this. When your computer starts, you need to go into the BIOS to change the boot settings. Depending on your computer, this could mean pressing the F2 key or F10 key on your keyboard. You’ll have to do this quickly.

Once you’re in the BIOS, find the boot settings and make the removable drive (your flash drive) the one from which your computer boots first. You can find detailed instructions on how to do that here. Then, exit the BIOS. Your computer will restart and boot from the flash drive.

From there, a menu will appear. Just choose the option to run in live mode and then take the Linux distribution for a spin.

Photo credit: gytha_ogg

Converting Graphics on the Linux Desktop with Converseen

Convert it!If you’re a Linux user, then you probably know how spoiled you are when it comes to applications for working with graphics. Whatever you need to do — editing, resizing, viewing, converting — there’s an application for that.

One of the most powerful Linux tools for manipulating graphics is ImageMagick. As powerful as it is, ImageMagick can be a challenge to use. It’s a command line tool, which means quite a few options. That’s not a bad thing, but if you use it infrequently it can be tough to remember those options.

Enter Converseen. It is a graphical version of ImageMagick that focuses on converting and resizing images on the Linux desktop. Not only that, you can do that with more than one image at the same time.

Let’s take a look at how to use Converseen.

Getting Up and Running

The first thing you need to do is download and install Converseen. You can either download and compile the source code, or get packages for Fedora, Ubuntu, and openSUSE.

Once you’ve installed Converseen, launch it. In Ubuntu, for example, select Applications > Graphics > Converseen.

Main Converseen window

Let’s Start Converting!

Click the Add images button. In the dialog box that opens, navigate to the directory containing the images that you want to convert. You can select individual images or you can CTRL+click and select multiple images. If the images that you want to convert span multiple directories, repeat the process.

Then select Edit > Check All Items. This selects all of the images you loaded and tells Converseen that you want to convert them. If you don’t want to convert all of the images at once, click the To convert checkbox beside each image to select or deselect it.

Ready to convert

If you are converting the images to another format and not resizing them, click the Convert to list. Select a format from the list. You’ll notice that Converseen supports dozens of bitmap formats. Converseen can’t work with vector graphics, such as the popular SVG.

For those of you converting your images to JPEG or PNG, you can optionally click the Image settings button to change the amount by which Converseen compresses the resulting image. The more you compress an image, the smaller it is, but you also lose detail the more you compress it.

Changing settings

If you want to resize your images, click the Dimensions checkbox on the left side of the Converseen window. You can shrink or expand your images based on a percentage or on the number of pixels. Click the Maintain aspect ratio checkbox to keep the images in proportion.

Converting ...

When you’re ready to go, click the Convert button. Depending on the number and size of the images that you selected, this could take anywhere upward of a few seconds. Converseen dumps the converted images in your home directory — for example, /home/scott. You can change that in Output options section on the left side of the Converseen window.

Converseen is a fast, simple, and efficient way to convert and resize multiple files. It does the job very well and doesn’t require you to remember long strings of commands. It works as advertised, which is the hallmark of a good utility.

Photo credit: gimSM

Taking Screen Captures on the Linux Desktop with Shutter

I am a camera

I am a cameraOnce upon a time, just about the only people who took screen captures were technical communicators and technology writers. Nowadays, it seems that everyone needs to grab a window or screen on their desktop. Which is why, I guess, the number of screen capture tools available for various operating systems has blossomed over the years.

If you use Linux, then you suffer an embarrassment of riches when it comes to screen capture software. One of the most useful and flexible screen capture applications for the Linux desktop is Shutter.

Let’s take a closer look at how to use Shutter.

Installing Shutter

Chances are you don’t have Shutter installed on your computer. You can download source code and packages for various distributions.

If you use Ubuntu, then you can install Shutter from a Personal Package Archive. To do that, open a terminal window and run the following commands:

 sudo add-apt-repository ppa:shutter/ppa sudo apt-get update sudo apt-get install shutter 

Once Shutter is installed, you can launch it from a menu. For example, in Ubuntu select Applications > Accessories > Shutter.

Shutter main window

Getting Going

Using Shutter, you can grab the following:

  • Your entire desktop
  • A single window
  • An area that you select
  • A menu
  • A tool tip
  • A web page

Buttons for each of these options are on the application’s toolbar. When you minimize Shutter, its icon sits on a panel. You can choose an option by right clicking the Shutter icon.

Shutter right-click menu

The first two screen capture options — entire desktop and single window — pretty much explain themselves.

A captured window

To grab a portion of the screen, click the Selection button on the toolbar. Then, click and drag your mouse to select what you want to capture. When you’re done, press Enter on your keyboard.

Capturing a tooltip (the text that often appears when you hold your mouse over a button in an application) or a menu is probably only useful if you’re preparing documentation. You just have to remember to keep displaying the tooltip or menu for a few seconds before it’s captured.

Taking a screen capture of a web page works a little differently. When you click the Web button on the toolbar, a dialog box pops up. If you have a URL on your clipboard, Shutter assumes that’s the web page that you want to capture. You can also type a URL in the dialog box. Then, click the Capture button.

Capturing a website

This option doesn’t work with some websites. The capture process will sometimes time out, often without any rhyme or reason.

Editing Your Screen Captures

I usually like my screen capture software to do one thing and one thing only: take screen captures (obviously). If I want to manipulate screen captures, I can do that in an actual graphics program like The GIMP. But I make an exception for Shutter. Why? Its image editing tools, while limited, can be useful.

When you need to edit a screen capture, click the Edit button on the toolbar. You don’t get tools to resize, crop, rotate, or otherwise manipulate an image. You can add text, lines, callouts, and shapes to a screen capture. You can also highlight portions of a capture, or censor portions of an image to hide personal information.

Censoring private information

Final Thoughts

Shutter is a very flexible screen capture tool. I find it to be almost indispensable in my day-to-day work. It’s easy to use and has the features that I need (and a few that I find myself needing occasionally).

If you find yourself taking a large number of screen captures on the Linux desktop, then you should definitely give Shutter a look. It’s a worthy addition to your stable of applications.

Photo credit: Adorama

Optimize Your MySQL Server With the MySQL Tuner Script

MySQL is powerful, open-source database software. When joined with PHP or another programming language, the uses of MySQL are almost endless.

The ability to use MySQL in an unlimited number of ways is both a blessing and a curse. While MySQL can be used for just about anything, there is no single proper way to configure a MySQL server. The amount of system resources such as memory and processor to allow the server to use depend on the application. For example, the settings that you would use for a small web server running a single WordPress site would be significantly different from if you were using MySQL with a whole network of WordPress sites.

MySQL Tuner Script

The MySQL Tuner Script is a Perl script that analyses your running MySQL server and makes configuration recommendations based on past performance of the server.  Making the changes suggested by the MySQL Tuner Script can help improve the performance and stability of your MySQL server along with any applications that are using it.

Step 1: Start by downloading the Perl script from http://mysqltuner.com/mysqltuner.pl.

wget http://mysqltuner.com/mysqltuner.pl

Step 2: Make the script executable.

chmod +x mysqltuner.pl

Step 3: Run the script as any user.

./mysqltuner.pl

Step 4: Enter your MySQL username and password when prompted.

Step 5: The script shows the values of current global MySQL variables.Any good values are shown as [OK] and bad values are shown with [!!].  Example output is shown below.

[user@mysql-server Desktop]$ ./mysqltuner.pl

 >>  MySQLTuner 1.2.0 - Major Hayden
 >>  Bug reports, feature requests, and downloads at http://mysqltuner.com/
 >>  Run with '--help' for additional options and output filtering
Please enter your MySQL administrative login: root
Please enter your MySQL administrative password:

-------- General Statistics --------------------------------------------------
[--] Skipped version check for MySQLTuner script
[OK] Currently running supported MySQL version 5.5.13
[!!] Switch to 64-bit OS - MySQL cannot currently use all of your RAM

-------- Storage Engine Statistics -------------------------------------------
[--] Status: +Archive -BDB -Federated +InnoDB -ISAM -NDBCluster
[--] Data in MyISAM tables: 43M (Tables: 103)
[--] Data in InnoDB tables: 48K (Tables: 3)
[!!] Total fragmented tables: 16

-------- Security Recommendations  -------------------------------------------
[OK] All database users have passwords assigned

-------- Performance Metrics -------------------------------------------------
[--] Up for: 2d 19h 17m 51s (769K q [3.176 qps], 102 conn, TX: 301M, RX: 238M)
[--] Reads / Writes: 2% / 98%
[--] Total buffers: 288.0M global + 9.9M per thread (50 max threads)
[OK] Maximum possible memory usage: 784.9M (9% of installed RAM)
[OK] Slow queries: 0% (0/769K)
[OK] Highest usage of available connections: 24% (12/50)
[OK] Key buffer size / total MyISAM indexes: 64.0M/46.2M
[OK] Key buffer hit rate: 99.8% (8M cached / 19K reads)
[OK] Query cache efficiency: 62.1% (34K cached / 56K selects)
[OK] Query cache prunes per day: 0
[OK] Sorts requiring temporary tables: 0% (0 temp sorts / 2K sorts)
[OK] Temporary tables created on disk: 6% (33 on disk / 517 total)
[OK] Thread cache hit rate: 82% (18 created / 102 connections)
[!!] Table cache hit rate: 15% (163 open / 1K opened)
[OK] Open file limit used: 6% (285/4K)
[OK] Table locks acquired immediately: 100% (727K immediate / 727K locks)
[OK] InnoDB data size / buffer pool: 48.0K/128.0M

-------- Recommendations -----------------------------------------------------
General recommendations:
 Run OPTIMIZE TABLE to defragment tables for better performance
 Enable the slow query log to troubleshoot bad queries
 Increase table_cache gradually to avoid file descriptor limits
Variables to adjust:
 table_cache (> 2048)

[user@mysql-server Desktop]$

Step 6: To change the values of the variables you will need to edit the [mysqld] section of your my.cnf file, usually located in /etc/my.cnf, but this may vary for you.

Step 7: Make the changes to the global variables suggested by the script and restart your MySQL server.

/etc/init.d/service mysql restart

You can run the script again, but it is suggested that you wait 24 hours to see how the my.cnf changes affect the performance.

Have any tips for optimizing the performance of your MySQL server?  Share them with us in the comments below!

Converting Files Online, Quickly and Easily

Converter

ConverterEver come across a file that you can’t open? You know what I mean — an archive with the extension .rar or an Apple Numbers spreadsheet. We’ve all run into that situation before. And still do. Some of us more regularly than others, and yes, it can be frustrating.

Instead of running around trying to find desktop software, why not turn to the Web?

There are some very strong file conversion services available. Most of them are free, and they handle a number of file formats.  Unless you’re working with an ancient or obscure format, chances are these services will get the job done.

Zamzar

Zamzar converts it all — documents, images, videos, ebooks, archives, and even computer-aided design files. You can find a full list of the formats that Zamzar handles here.

It’s a powerful service, but also easy to use. How easy? Just go to the Zamzar site. Once there, you follow four steps.

First, click the Choose File button and in the window that opens, and find the file on your computer that you want to convert. That file can be a maximum of 100 MB.

Next, select the format that you want to convert the file to. The list of formats changes depending on the type of file that you’re converting. So, if you’ve uploaded a PowerPoint file, you won’t find an option to convert it to an OpenOffice.org Calc spreadsheet.

After that, enter your email address in the field on the page. You’ll be sent a link to the converted file.

Starting a conversion with Zamzar

 

Finally, click the Convert button. Depending on how large your file is, the conversion can take a few minutes or up to an hour. When it’s done, click the link in the notification email that Zamzar sends.

Zamzar email notification
Zamzar email notification

You have one day to download it before the files are deleted off the Zamzar server. If you want to keep the files available for longer, or want more features, you can sign up for a paid account.

Media Converter

Media Converter focuses on multimedia content — Web video, audio, and desktop video. You can point Media Converter to a URL or upload a file from your computer.

Like Zamzar, it’s easy to use. Media Converter uses a wizard which walks you through the conversion. Just go to the site and click either enter a link, upload a file, or browse Youtube. Depending on what you click, you’ll be asked for one of the following:

  • A URL
  • The file to upload from your computer
  • A word or phrase to search for on YouTube

After Media Converter finds what you want to convert, you can choose the kind of file that you want to output. You can also tell Media Converter that you want to set advanced options. The advanced options let you specify things like an audio or video codec, a bit rate, and the like.

Media Converter wizard
Media Converter wizard

When you’re ready to do the deed, click Start.

Ready to convert!
Ready to convert!

The conversion takes anywhere from a minute and up. Once the conversion is done, just click the link on the Media Converter page to download the file.

You’re allowed five conversions a day. If you want more, and  have access to more features, Media Converter also has paid plans. On top of that, there’s a Firefox extension available.

Final Thoughts

If you need to quickly and easily convert files, then Zamzar and Media Converter are great options. They’re fast and easy to use. And they’re convenient.

Photo credit: stocker

Let Anyone Send Files to Your Dropbox with JotForm

Let’s say a family member or close friend wants to show you vacation pictures, but 1) There are too many files and 2) Even when zipped, the file size is too large to attach in an email. You suggest they sign up with Dropbox, a free way to sync and share files across any computer. The trouble is, your friend or family member is too stubborn to sign up for a free account (who doesn’t love free?!).

There just so happens to be a web service that gives anyone the ability to send a file directly to your Dropbox. It’s called Dropbox Forms, made by Jotform who provides a wide variety of web form creation tools.

It’s a completely free service with the option to upgrade to premium plans with more available space. However, the free version only allows a max of 100 MB, which was a problem for me right off the bat since I needed to request a 125 MB audio file from a fellow group member in one of my college courses. If you plan on working with files less than 100 MB, you should have no problem.

When you arrive to the Dropbox Forms homepage, simply click “Create a Dropbox Form” to get started. You’ll then need to allow the service to access your Dropbox account. Once that’s finished, you can start creating your form. You have two options for this: Either a direct link to a form hosted on JotForm’s website or embed the form on your own site.

Whenever someones uses the form to send a file your way, it will automatically sync to your Dropbox where you can easily access it!

Another similar service is AirDropper. I found this to be a little more feasible since there isn’t a cap on file sizes. You also have two choice for forms, but it’s a little different from how JotForm does it. You can either create a one-time, one-use form or create a reusable form with a password required. However, AirDropper isn’t a free service. It’ll cost you $12 a month after the 7-day free trial, which is a little more than the $10/month JotForm charges for a premium plan.