Bitcasa? – Not yet!

bitcasa-logoCrashPlan Bitcasa is definitely a game changer. It offers infinite (!) cloud storage mapped as a drive on your computer (just like SugarSync are now doing with Sugarsynch Drive) for 99 US$ per year. Accessible from anywhere with internet access. I mean: what more do I need to say…

The reason for this quick blog post is that Bitcasa currently have an opening special offer where you can get the whole thing for 69 US$. Apparently until the end of February. However: having tested Bitcasa for a couple of weeks now (when it was still free for beta testers), I have to say: nope. I’m not paying for this service just yet. There are too many problems. Little bugs, glitches and inconveniences that just don’t make it feel right yet. Don’t get me wrong: the support is fast and doing a good job, but I’ve spent too much time with this already and if I pay, I want it to save time for me.

I was thinking: okay, if this offer is about 69 US$ yearly subscription fee for ever, then I would actually consider signing up. But unfortunately, Bitcasa told me that the 69$ is only for the first year.

The thing is that Bitcasa is simply not out of beta stage. They seem to sense that themselves, as their blogpost announcing the end of the beta phase is entitled “The End of Beta as You Know It”. Haha. So now we’re in beta-v2, or what? A few weeks ago, I told Bitcasa support that I think they should be honest revert to alpha. But I guess investors are standing in the door, tapping their fingers. I hope they won’t ruin it.

Anyway, I will wait another year or so, until my harddrive is overflowing or so, and reconsider a paid account. For now, I signed up for a four year Crashplan+ Family Unlimited account. It’s not the same thing, but it also offers infinite storage and since I was mainly looking for online and automatic backup, it’s clearly the best option for me at the moment. The good thing is their risk-free cancellation policy, which means you can cancel anytime and get the money for the remaining months back. So unless you’re short of cash, there is no reason to sign up for any subscription shorter than 4 years, as that is the best value for money (around 9 US$) per month.

It’s the most expensive web-service that I have so far subscribed to, but when I almost lost years of work a couple of weeks ago, I decided: I need to start backing up properly and I want it to be easy and convenient, so I guess I will pay for it.

Just two three more things about why I currently prefer CrashPlan to Bitcasa:

  1. Crashplan is not just for backing up and restoring to the same computer but you can selectively restore to any computer. So you can access all your files from anywhere too, just not as comfortably as in Bitcasa. In the longrun, this will be Bitcasa’s advantage, but for now I’m fine with Crashplan.
  2. Finding older versions of a particular file is not well solved in Bitcasa (check out their forum, where many people are suggesting to change the system, which currently requires you to know the day when that file was last changed.) In Crashplan, you can just select the file and see the different versions that have been backed up in a list and select the one you want.
  3. I managed to install Crashplan on on my ReadyNAS Ultra at home, which means that those 2 TB will also be backed up. Plus: I can also use my NAS as a secondary backup, in addition to CrashplanCentral. Since the idea of Bitcasa is not to backup the harddrive on my computer or my server, but to replace it, this feature is, and probably will not be available from them.

And what are your experiences with Bitcasa and/ or Crashplan?

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How to add a folder to the open or save dialogue (customize places bar)

 
Are you also annoyed that it is quite cumbersome to access your dropbox folder when opening or saving files in Windows? – Well I’ve been for a while now and I finally took the time to solve this problem. Here’s how (there are other ways, like editing the registry directly, but this is how I did it):

  1. Download PlacesBar Editor from http://melloware.com/placesbar/
    Unfortunately, PlaceBar Editor was originally written for an older Windows version so that it doesn’t directly support the Windows 7 Libraries but I’ll show you how to had Libraries to the Places Bar anyway below.
  2. Install PlacesBar Editor (Duh!)
  3. Run PlacesBar Editor (Don’t wanna miss that one!)
  4. Well, and the rest is pretty self-explanatory. Except that you need to know that (i) you need to “save” before you can “test”, (ii) you cannot just add a folder to the default folders. Once you start changing the places bar, you got to tell Windows every single folder you want displayed as it will forget about the defaults immediately.
  5. And that is where you might start wondering: but how can I add “Libraries” to the places bar (as that was the item that you perhaps liked best of all the default items)? The answer is: Libraries don’t have a regular path but they are accessed through shell commands like these:
    – shell:documentsLibrary
    – shell:MusicLibrary
    – shell:PicturesLibrary
    – shell:VideosLibrary
    or indeed (if you don’t want any specific library):
    – shell:Libraries

I used the latter, shell:Libraries, like this:

How to add Dropbox and Libraries to the Places Bar in Windows 7

And it gives you this:

Places Bar with Dropbox and Libraries

 

There you go!

 

I would like to mention that if you have Windows 7 Professional, Ultimate, or Enterprise, you don’t even need to download the Places Bar Editor from Melloware. You can just use the Group Policy Editor that is included in these versions of Windows. Just type gpedit.msc in the Search line of the Start Menu and press Enter. Then go to User Configuration -> Administrative Templates -> Windows Components -> Windows Explorer -> Common Open File Dialog. Then Right click on “Items displayed in Places Bar” and take it from there, similarly to the Places Bar Editor.

 

 

SugarSync has serious crashing problems

It looks like the competition between dropbox and SugarSync is pretty much decided. At least from my perspective. As I have commented elsewhere, there are serious problems with synching in sugarsync. I was hoping that this would be resolved soon, but it looks like SugarSync does not even intend to solve the problem (at least not generally), as these instructions from the sugarsync FAQ indicate:

Files can get stuck in the upload or download queue if there is any sort of confusion between data in your account and data on the SugarSync servers.

The easiest possible solution is to exit from SugarSync Manager (choose File > Exit) and then restart it.

Hello? That might be a pragmatic thing to do, but why does it happen in the first place?

If that doesn’t work, open a “stuck” file, make a trivial edit, and then save it to trigger a new upload.

Oh, so what kind of “trivial edit” would you suggest I make to my favourite mp3 song or journal-article in pdf format??

If that doesn’t work, you can reset the local database:

  1. Open SugarSync Manager.
  2. For Windows computers, press and hold Ctrl + Shift + R. For Mac computers, press and hold Cmd + Shift + R.
  3. Select Yes when asked “You are about to reset SugarSync Manager on this computer. Your local configuration information will be erased and the client will restart as a fresh install. Your files will not be affected. Are you sure you want to continue?”
  4. Launch SugarSync Manager.
  5. Enter your SugarSync email and password when prompted to login. Important: When asked if you want to restore your sync folders that were selected in the previous installation, select Yes. (This option is checked by default.)

So, in a nutshell: we have no clue what is causing this serious failure of the central function of our service, so we recommend you just spend some of your time fiddling around a bit, maybe you can get it to work on your computer, but we can’t fix it for everyone. Oh, and of course we can assist you if you send us your logfiles which conatains the file names of all the files you are trying to sync:

If none of these steps resolved the problem, please send us log files from the affected computers(s).

Yes, thank you. I did that and I am very curious about what kind of resply I will be getting…

To conclude: I am starting to understand why people are willing to pay so much more for a dropbox account. It’s because it works…
Edit: To be fair, I should mention that dropbox has a serious security issue: although your files are encrypted, dropbox employees have – in principle – access to them, even without your password (and contrary to what dropbox stated on their website until 13 April 2011). In brief: dropbox was lying to its customers. – Well, so where do we go now? Maybe Spideroak?

Which cloud? Dropbox vs. SugarSync

I think I should add dropbox to my list of good applications. Obviously, the qualities of dropbox are not a secret, but I have been using it now for a couple of months and I have no reason to complain about it (and I like to complain!). If you’d like to try dropbox for free and get an extra 250 MB on top of the 2GB free storage space, use this link (it will also give me 250 MB extra).

But now to the main point of this post: I just spent some time reading about other cloud storage services, and found that SugarSync is actually a serious alternative to dropbox. Check out this really excellent review by Jack Busch (see also the recent comparison by Matt Smollinger)! And note that the SugarSync bonus program has been extended until the end of March 2011 31 May 2011, so if you use this link to try it out, we’ll both get 500 MB extra free.

Personally, I have yet to try out SugarSync in practice, but it looks like I will be using both: Dropbox to sync my daily work and frequently used files (because of dropbox’s speed and 30 days undo history) and SugarSync for my large pdf library (because of the larger free space and cheaper upgrade option) and other files that are rarely changed but that I still want to be accessible anywhere (Sugarsync’s fee plan only gives you access to the last two versions of a file).

P.S. If you are  also annoyed by dropbox only syncing what’s in the dropbox folder, check out the option to sync any folder – as it were – by using symlinks. One big advantage of Sugarsync is that you can choose any folder to be synced (no need to put them into the dropbox folder).