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.

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.

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.

Talk about an interview red flag

So, I just read this article from Venturocket (what a stupid ass name), titled “The one job interview question you need to ask to find your A players

The the “A player” question they came up with?

Are you willing to work nights and weekends to get an assignment done on time?

What the actual fuck?

That’s not a “A player” question. Obviously nobody looking for a job is going to say “no” to that, duh.  Before you, theoretical hiring manager, ask that question, think more about what it says about your own culture.

It says to me, potential hire-ee, “Expect a lot of hours as a normal thing, with little to no appreciation, because we think ‘A player’ means ‘has a shitty work/life balance'”.

A real, actual, honestly good place to work that gets tech workers would ask something more like

Do you have a hard time just stopping when something’s half done?

Or

Does the code keep you up at night, sometimes? And not because it’s shitty.

I’d never work for a place that would ask me a question phrased like that.

Back on the Android bandwagon

Of course. I seem to go back and forth pretty quickly.  I’ve been using the Nexus 4 for a month or so now, and it’s awesome.

If you’re in the market for a new phone, check it out.  The hardware is great, and Android has come a long ways since ICS and GB.