Dropbox: Going Beyond Storage

Dropbox

Do you use Dropbox? If you don’t, you really should give it a look. If you do, chances are you aren’t using it to its full potential.

What is that supposed to mean? Well, Dropbox is for more than just storing and synchronizing files across your various computers and devices. You can use it to do a whole lot more.

Curious? Then read on.

DropTunes

A few months ago, Amazon came out with Cloud Drive and Cloud Player. They’re an interesting duo. Cloud Drive lets you store files online, and you can store any MP3s that you buy from Amazon in Cloud Drive. With Cloud Player, you can listen to those files anywhere.

But who needs them when you have Dropbox? By combining Dropbox with a free service called DropTunes, you get just about everything that Cloud Player offers.

DropTunes is an online media player that connects to your Dropbox account. All you need to do is upload some music files to Dropbox, log into DropTunes, navigate to the Dropbox folder that holds your music, and click Play.

DropTunes in action

DropTunes has two interfaces: Flash and HTML5. Using the Flash interface (which is the default), you can only play MP3s. Using the HTML5 interface, you can music in the following formats: MP3, Ogg, Wav, and m4a.

TextDrop

Everyone takes notes. We all jot down ideas, quotes, snippets of information, URLs, to do lists, all of that sort of thing. But the way in which we do it is kind of inefficient — everything is scattered across devices or in paper notebooks or on scraps of paper. TextDrop eliminates all of that, and makes what you’re jotting down available to all of your computers and devices.

TextDrop is simply a Web-based text editor that works with Dropbox. You just connect the two, and start typing. When you’re done, you can save what you’ve written in any folder in Dropbox. It’s that simple.

Writing with TextDrop

But TextDrop isn’t just for notes. You can use it for just about anything you write. I haven’t run into a size limit for notes, or anything else. In fact, the skeleton of this post was written using TextDrop.

DropPages

Ever wanted to create your own Web page, but didn’t want the hassles of learning HTML (the language Web pages are written in), buying a domain, and paying for hosting? DropPages helps get rid of those headaches.

Setting up Dropbox and DropPages to play together takes a bit of work. First, you need to create a folder in Dropbox that will act as your domain — for example, scottnesbitt.droppages.com. Then, go to the DropPages site and download a theme. The themes are the basic designs for your Web site, which come in a zip file. Extract that zip file into the Dropbox folder that you created.

From there, share the folder with this email address: server1.droppages.com. You can learn more about the whole process here.

It takes a while before your Web site becomes active, but eventually you’ll get something like this:

A site made with DropPages

The only drawbacks to DropPages are that 1) there aren’t that many themes available, and 2) to modify the pages in a theme you need to learn Markdown, a simple way of adding formatting to content for the Web. Luckily, Markdown is fairly easy to learn.

Final thoughts

Dropbox is for a lot more than just storing files. And the apps that you just read about are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to extending the power of Dropbox. You can find a list of more here.

Do you use Dropbox? What services and utilities, if any, do you use with it? Share your favorites by leaving a comment.

Share files the easy way with Ge.tt

Remember the old days of sharing or transferring files when you had to put them on a floppy disk or a USB flash drive to move them between computers, or to pass those files to a friend or colleague?  The method worked, but only if you were moving files a few feet away. Even so, doing it got really old really quickly.

Email has made sharing and moving files a bit easier. Slightly. Some people block messages with attachments, others use email systems that limit the size of attachments. Those attachments get stripped from a message or the message gets bounced, something you don’t want to happen.  That’s where web-based file sharing apps are a boon. Ones like Dropbox and Box.net are great, but they can be a bit more cumbersome.

Enter Ge.tt.

Ge.tt bills itself as an instant, real-time file publishing and sharing service. If you need to share one file or a bunch of them, Ge.tt makes doing the sharing files simple and easy.

Getting going

Head on over to the Ge.tt website and start uploading. While you can upload files right from Ge.tt’s main page, it might be worthwhile signing up for an account. The account is free, and lets you remove files at will. On top of that, with an account you can track who has accessed your files. In case you’re wondering, the service automatically deletes files that haven’t been touched for three months.

Regardless of what route you take, get started by clicking the Create share button. From there, search your hard drive for the file that you want to upload. That can be any kind of file — a document, a video, or a photo.

Sharing by email

A couple of things happen. Ge.tt uploads your file (and uploads it pretty quickly, too) and creates a shortened URL for it. That comes in handy with the next step of the process.

Ready to share

Sharing your files

Your file is on Ge.tt’s server. Now what? Time to spread the word. Remember that shortened URL? You can post it to Facebook, Twitter, or send it by email. All you have to do is click an icon on the page that lists your shared files.

With Facebook and Twitter, clicking the icon takes you to the login page for whichever service you choose. After you login, you can post the URL to your friends and followers.

Click the email icon to open an email form. From there, type the recipient’s email address, enter an optional message, and click Send. Unfortunately, you can only share your files with one person at a time. If you want to share the file by email with more than one person, just copy the URL and paste it into a message in your favorite email program or service.

Uploading your file

 

Yea or nay?

If you’re looking for long-term storage for your files, or to synchronize them between your computers and devices, Ge.tt probably isn’t what you’re looking for. But if you need a quick and easy way to share, say, a video that you took with your Flip cam, then Ge.tt is definitely worth a closer look.

How to discover what public information is available on your Facebook Profile

Facebook has made headlines recently with the company’s questionable approach to user privacy.  Many of the new changes to Facebook allow more of your information to be shared without your knowledge.

Unknown to most people, some of your Facebook information is available to anyone on the internet through the Facebook API.  You can use a special website to browse the Facebook API and see what information from your profile is available to anyone on the internet, which is a great way to help you remove sensitive information from your profile.

To see what information from your Facebook is publicly available, start by visiting http://zesty.ca/facebook.

If you know your Facebook ID or alias, enter it in the left box.  If you do not know this, visit your profile page and copy everything after “http://www.facebook.com/”.  You can also search names in the right box.

You can also search Facebook Pages, Events, and Groups.

When you find the profile you wish to view, you may be surprised about what is available.  Clicking each of the categories shows whatever information may be contained in it.

If the Facebook profile you are browsing has their privacy settings restricted, it is possible you will receive data (empty) or You do not have permission when browsing the profile.

If you see something that you don’t want to be publicly available, make the necessary changes to your Facebook Privacy Settings.

Find anything surprising when you viewed the information from your Facebook profile?  Have the recent Facebook privacy problems made you consider deleting your profile?  Share it with us in the comments.

How to Create Custom RSS Feeds for Specific Subjects or Authors with Yahoo Pipes

Now that I’m writing for both Techerator and MakeUseOf, I wanted an easy way to publish links to articles I’ve written on my personal website.  In the past, I’ve also wanted to create custom RSS feeds for specific topics or authors I enjoy reading, instead of subscribing to the full “firehose” of a popular site’s RSS feed.

Yahoo Pipes is an incredibly powerful online service that allows you to do just that – and provides tools to perform advanced manipulation of content from around the web.

When I say Yahoo Pipes is powerful, I’m not kidding – you can combine many feeds into one, sort, filter, and even translate them.  After you’ve built your custom pipe, you can subscribe to the pipe’s RSS feed instead of the original so you’ll only have the content you really want to see.

How to Filter Feeds using Yahoo Pipes

In my case, I wanted to make an RSS feed that only displayed posts written by me.  Click the Create a pipe button on Yahoo Pipes to get started.

You’ll start off with a blank slate where you can drag items from the left onto the palette.  Think of this system as tinker toys; you can connect different pieces together to form a more complex system.

The first step to building a custom feed is to add a source (or sources).  This is where the data you want to manipulate originates.  Since I’m working with RSS feeds, I added a Fetch Feed block.  I wanted to work with articles from both Techerator and MakeUseOf, so I clicked the + icon to add a second feed.

The next step is to manipulate the feed.  Open the Operators tab on the side and drag a Filter block to the workspace.  This powerful block allows you to specify what is allowed (or not allowed) to show up in your new feed.

I wanted to filter by author, so I set the filter to Permit and entered item.dc:creator (this specifies the post author) in the first blank, chose Contains, then specified Evan Wondrasek in the last blank.

The last step is to connect the blocks together by clicking and dragging between the bottom of a block and the top of the next block.  The feed will follow these connections in order, so make sure to connect them from Source -> Filter -> Pipe Output.

A handy debug menu at the bottom of the workspace will show you what your new feed looks like so you can tweak settings as you go along.

That’s it!  Now just click the Save button and click the Run Pipe link at the top to see your custom pipe’s page.  From this page you can subscribe to the new feed via RSS and many other methods.

Filtering by Subject (or anything else you feel like)

Instead of filtering by author, you can filter by pretty much anything you can imagine.  For example, you can make a filter that looks for Android-only posts by adding RSS feeds and setting a filter to look for subjects containing “Android”.

You can also create a custom feed for multiple subjects, like if you wanted to display posts about Windows 7 and Windows XP only.  It is important to set the filter to any in this case (using all requires both subjects in the title).

When dealing with a popular RSS feed, you can use the Truncate block to limit the number of posts that appear.  This is a great way to make RSS feeds from publish-crazy blogs more managable, and you could also add in a Filter block to restrict unwanted subjects from appearing.

So Much More…

Yahoo Pipes gives you a crazy amount of control over data on the internet, so take some time to play around with it and see how creative you can be.  For more examples, check out Yahoo’s Pipes directory to see how pipes can be used to manipulate your favorite sites.

Make sure to check out the getting started video below.

Photo credit: Danndalf

Turn Your Digital Media into Web Video with Stupeflix Studio

French startup Stupeflix has just launched Stupeflix Studio which aims to turn your digital media into something more meaningful.  Stupeflix Studio lets you easily create web videos from your own pictures and videos to showcase your digital artwork, create scrapbooks, or send personal video greetings.

To get started, create a free account and you’ll be taken to the video creation page.  You’ll choose from one of three themes: Classic, Scrapbook, and Holidays.

Once you’ve chosen a theme, you can get started right away by uploading images and videos from your hard drive, Flickr, Picasa, or any web URL.

Stupeflix has a really useful web editor that allows you to customize your video and add a soundtrack using MP3s from your computer.

Once you’re finished customizing your video, you can preview your work or click the Export button to finish.

Unfortunately, the free version only lets you produce 1 minute of standard definition video, but you can purchase the full length high quality version (640×360) for $3 and the high definition version (1280×720) for $5.

You can check out my mindblowing holiday video, as well as some slightly better produced videos for the Classic, Scrapbook, and Holiday themes.

I’ve had a lot of fun with Stupeflix Studio so far and I think it has a great potential for people who want to share digital scrapbooks and photo albums but don’t want to buy professional software.