January 2010

Tools of the trade: Dropbox

Dropbox logo Over the course of talking to computer users each day I'm consistently amazed at the varied ways we use the same tools. More often than not an exchange ensues where we share our favorite tools and tricks. Here I'll start an occasional series of posts on the tools I use that make the dozen hours a day I'm in front of a screen pass quicker. First up on that list is Dropbox.


At first glance Dropbox is an application that provides a network-syncronized file directory. The rich feature set doesn't disappoint. With everything from a solid web interface to an iPhone app the methods of accessing your directory. It's also possible to upload photos and videos from the iPhone as well as all kinds of files from the web interface.

While there are network file systems that are shared file systems Dropbox is a little different. It runs a small application that watches your local directory and synchronizes any changes to the network. All of this leads to several handy ways of using Dropbox.

Apple won't return stolen iPhone hoopla

Late last week Consumerist ran a report about a stolen iPhone that was being sent back to Apple for repair. The report comes from the owner of the phone who laments the lack of assistance from Apple.

In running the story the Consumerist writer opines:

Also, if there's anything to learn from this it might be that you should follow through with filing a police report if you're ever robbed, as that might give you the leverage you need to get a company to help you. Possibly not with Apple, though.

However this is quite a stretch. The whole problem here stems from the original author's failure to file a police report. This is explained in the original letter:

DirecTV, HD and the rest of the story

TV Antenna to get HD signals The Cotton Bowl, the New York Philharmonic's New Year's eve concert and the NFL's Giants playing the Vikings may not seem to be related. However in the strange world of DirecTV they share a common element. Now what could these events possibly have in common? Well if you want to see them in high definition (HD) and you're a DirecTV subscriber in Boise you'll need to shell out for another television antenna. In fact if you want any of the many HD offerings from PBS, NBC, ABC or FOX you'll need another antenna.

The DirecTV numbers game

DirecTV likes to advertise that they have more channels in HD than other providers. However this falls far short of telling the whole story. For example it neglects to mention that many of those channels are are only available with expensive packages. Even then what the numbers advertised gloss over is that they include several of the regional sports channels. Once you subscribe to several of these channels you rapidly realize that although there are more than a dozen of them the majority of their programming is shared. So you might have 16-channels of college football on a Saturday afternoon. It just happens that the 16-channels are showing 2-3 games.

Real estate sales for 2010 instead of 1980

Two years ago I started a post about the need for better ways of selling real estate. We were fresh off the real estate search. Having had several bad experiences trying to talk us into sub-prime mortgages and houses we couldn't afford I thought it was time for a change. Now two years later everything has changed and yet nothing has changed. Here's what I wrote at that time:

We've recently been on the real estate roller-coaster. Having had a "prime" loan and house for several years through the growth of the market we're cashing out at a decent time. The challenges of buying, however, are making me think a lot about the need for real reform in the way we buy and sell real estate. It isn't even so much the buying and selling exactly, though that needs help too, but it is the process of finding a place that really stinks.