All these “dropbox replacements” are missing the point

So, I’ve been seeing in the tech news about a recent multitude of self-styled “Dropbox replacements”.

And that’s silly.  What nobody seems to understand (or they willing ignore) is the fact that Dropbox isn’t some standalone remote storage thing. It’s not just a place to store files and have them sync across your computers.  They are, to overuse a word, an entire ecosystem, and they’re only expanding their reach.

What do I mean, you ask?

Simple.  Sure, I can store files in Dropbox, and I can store files in the replacements, but it’s accessing those files that’s important, and here Dropbox has everybody beat.

All my favorite cross platform (and that includes desktop/mobile crossplatform) app have Dropbox support built in to them.  That’s not so critical in a desktop app, but it is for mobile.  I can’t just change where a mobile app pulls it’s data from, and this is where Dropbox wins, hands down.  They’ve been around long enough, and are easy enough to work with (for developers) that they’ve achieved some amazing market penetration, and they’re only making their product more attractive for developers and users alike.

That’s what all these “next Dropbox”, “Dropbox done right”, “Dropbox replacement” press releases miss.  They don’t just have to store things better than Dropbox, they have to be so much better that Dropbox that they easily overcome their inertia.

I don’t see that happening soon.

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TIL: Time Machine + iMac + USB + “encrypting drive” = hate

So, after Christmas, I bought an external USB HDD dock, and the HDD to go in it.  The purpose was to setup Time Machine on my iMac.  Since it has a ginormous amount of storage, nothing I had would actually back it all up.

I got it, hooked it up, and it worked.  Then I realized I didn’t format the disk as “secure”. Which isn’t awful, but I’d like my data encrypted.  OSX Disk Util has this thing where it will encrypt the disk in the background, so I did that.

Large mistake.

After that, every time I plugged the disk in, it would continue background encrypting. Then, after some period of time, it would eject itself, and turn off my bluetooth controller. Which would have been fine, except my keyboard and mouse are connected via bluetooth.

Eventually (months of not backing up later), I just re-formatted the HDD encrypted, instead of doing it in the background.

It’s all rock-solid now. Weird.

Wait…what? (or: I don’t even…)

So now we have Saint John Paul II. Because of the *miracles* you see.

He’s got to have _two_ of them to be a saint. Since one could be a fluke, or something, but two just, seals the fucking deal. Whatever.

The fantastic part? The 2nd miracle was a woman who had some sort of brain swelling, but the Pope spoke to her through a *picture* and cured her.

That’s right. Traumatic (fatal) brain swelling/bleeding + imaginary hallucination of pope voice == miracle.

Well, spank my ass and call my Thomas, if I had deadly brain swelling, I might fucking hallucinate that the Pope was speaking to me too.

I *also* might hallucinate that I was Superman, the Earth was my testicle, and the Moon was our darling love child.

When you are the product

With the recent spate of Google killing off it’s free services and/or removing open standards integration, I’ve been wholesale reducing my use of their services.  As fast as I can find a reliable replacement.

I know, and everybody should already know, that if you’re not paying a price for a product, the real product is you. I had made peace with that years ago. Years. And I was fine with that.

My Google service use started, as with many, with GMail, because it was hands down the best free mail service ever. Then I started using Calendar, then Contacts, then Reader.  All free, all good, all capable of talking to all my devices (smart phones, laptops, etc).

They they decided to discard the fantastic Reader service. Oh, and by the way, were not going to be supported CalDAV (an open standard for calendar sharing) but only their own proprietary service.

And I went, woah now, what?

These are services I count on, every day, to organize a huge part of my digital and physical life.  And they’re now just…going away?? I don’t think so.

Then I realized, I don’t really have a leg to stand on, rage-wise. I mean, I don’t pay for these services, there’s no SLA Google can be held to. I have no recourse.

Well, shame on me then.

So I went looking for alternatives, and there are a ton, and of course they all cost money.  But they don’t cost ruinous amounts of money, and the money I spend, it gives the service provider an incentive to do things that I like, rather than just capriciously doing whatever they want.  I can vote on that now, with my money.  Paying for something gives me a say. Wild.

Anyways, not a big deal, but for simple services that run a large part of my life, I probably should be willing to pay for that.

Here’s how I’ve switched:

From GMail to Fastmail.fm

From Reader to newsblur

From Calendar to (sigh) iCloud.

From Contacts to (sigh) iCloud.

Yeah, iCloud. I *know*. At least they’re not rumbling about stopping supporting it, or not making it available via some open standards.  There’s a real hole in the market for calendar/contacts “services”.  I think it’s mostly because people use what’s installed by default, and don’t care about syncing, and those that do care, have an enterprise solution that’s all-in-one. If I had some working capital, I’d fix that.  I don’t.

Anyways, the takeaway is don’t hesitate to pay for services that are critical to you. Just because something is free and good doesn’t make it the right choice.

Drinking and alcohol

Recently, I came to an awareness that my drinking habits were, how do you say, a tad excessive.

I’d been slowly coming to that realization for, oh, probably months now. It all came to a head for me while at the doctor’s office.  They have you fill out one of those “health update” forms or whatever, and one of the questions is about your drinking/drug habits.

I put down what I always do, which is “yes” to the drinking and “2/3 daily” for the quantity. This is, as all of you who know me already guessed, a lie. It should have been more like 6/8 daily. Like I said, a tax excessive.

Having armed myself against censure with that lie, I went into my appointment.  And would you believe, the doctor was even concerned at that “normal” amount drinking. She asked me if I had a job, and if I could function, and if I though that was maybe “a lot”.

How dare she. How dare she ask me if my 2/3 drinks a day was excessive? How dare she imply that I was an alcoholic, or couldn’t function normally? HOW DARE SHE?

Then, having gotten off my mental soap box, I reconsidered.  If she was that concerned about a lie, how concerned would she be about the truth?  Not that I particular care what my doctor thinks, or anybody else, but it made me step back and really look at how much I was drinking.  Yes, I began to think, maybe it is a little bit more that is healthy.

Then, to cap it off, my wife and I are in the process of sorting out life insurance.  Which is a giant pain, but involves a blood test.  We got the results of that a bit after (or before? one those) my appointment, and wouldn’t you know it, my liver enzymes are high.  Not critically high, but edging ever so slightly over the top of the normal range.  (I also have fat blood, but that’s not related to anything.  It’s just fun to say. Fat blood, fat blood, la lala lala laaaaaa).

Those two things coming so close together really made me step back and think.

Now, for those of you that don’t me, I’m not an alcoholic.  I don’t have hallucinations when I don’t drink, I don’t get the shakes, I don’t spend all day in an alcoholic haze.  I like beer.  It tastes better than water, and it’s delicious.  That’s it.  Well, I mean some days I have a couple extra drinks because I had a rough day, but I’m not an alcoholic.

But I think I’m not horribly far from it.  That’s an unpleasant realization to come to, about yourself. It really is.  There’s nothing redeeming about being an alcoholic. Nothing. There’s no “upside” except “drinking”. And when you’re life is in the gutter (mine’s not even close), the drinking isn’t an upside, it’s a (flawed) coping mechanism.

After that little bit of brief introspection (it’s all I can handle nowadays, post-internet and cat pictures), I made a decision.  Oh, it wasn’t a hard one, or a big one, but I made one.

My self-imposed daily drink limit is now 2. An actual, honest 2. Not “just one more there’s only a little left” 2, but a real 2.  Well, a mostly real 2. I count “one” as “fits in the glass, and is mixed in normal proportions.”  REGARDLESS.  It’s a limit other than “we’re out of beer”.

I’m two weeks into my two drink limit, and you know what? I don’t feel any different. I’m not extra angry, I’m not having trouble coping with my life, nothing. Nothing’s any different.  And that’s great. It’s what I expected, and hoped, and I’m glad that’s really the way it is.

Well, I say nothing’s different, that’s not quite true. I’m not running to the store for beer every other day, and I have a bit more money in my pocket. So that’s nice.

The key for me, I think, is to keep the physical habit of drinking something, and just not having it be a actual drink. I’m going through lots of seltzer. And a fair bit of Coke. And a ton of ice.  Which has all helped.

I’ll admit, already there’s been a few days where I’ve finished my second drink, and stared at it forlornly, wishing it was either not empty, or not number two.  But so far so good.  We’ll see how it goes.

–update–

Since I drafted this, we’ve went on vacation.  While on vacation, I had a few days where I had more than the 2 drinks I’d been drinking.  I didn’t get drunk, mind you, or even really buzzed, but I had a handful of drinks, then went to bed.

Man, the difference in the quality of sleep I get is highly noticeable.  I woke up slow, achy, in a fog and with a headache.  Apparently when I cut back on drinking, I stopped doing that and didn’t notice.  I sure noticed that I started doing it again though, wow.  I felt like miserable shit.  It was an eye opener.

Since vacation I’ve had a few days where I drink more than 2 drinks.  Usually it’ll be like, a mimosa (or 2) between 9 and noon (I drink them slothily, yes), then my normal “2 drinks” in the evening.  This doesn’t affect my sleep at least, but I’m still trying to not make it a habit.

The short of it is I feel better drinking less, so I’m going to keep doing it, but not slavishly adhere to it. If I did that, I feel, I’d resent my (self imposed) limit, and just eventually start to ignore it.  I guess it’s more of an awareness of how much I’m drinking, and a conscious choice to limit it most of the time.

I dunno. It’s working out for me.