Why I Love DropBox.com for File Syncing, File Sharing and Backup

By Dave Peiser

A couple months ago I signed up for a service recommended by my Canadian cousin Evan calledDropbox_logo_home   DropBox. All I knew from the initial hype was that I would be getting 2 gigabytes of free online space to store some of my stuff, and that it had a syncing capability between my PC and their online storage. Since then, I've been using it all the time and I love it, and here's why:

1. I can sync files on multiple computers

I have three PCs I work on: My desktop in my home office, a laptop I take along when I have serious work to do while out and about, and a small netbook for long trips and for onsite visits with my IT consulting customers. There are certain files I like to have with me no matter where I go. One is my password list that's in an excel spreadsheet, and there are plenty of others. Because I have Dropbox installed on all three computers, these files are now exactly the same, no matter which computer I am working on.

There's no more wondering about which version I edited most recently. If I start working on a proposal on one computer, I can continue working on it on a different computer. If I decide to delete a file, it's deleted on all three. Everything is synced automatically. Or automagically, whichever term seems most appropriate. And I don't have to remember to bring my thumb drive with me, which is typically out-of-date anyway.

2. I can share folders with mutiple work partners and with multiple projects

I currently have two businesses I'm involved with as well as a non-profit. Plus I have an on-going business planning conversation going with my brother-in-law, Franck.

I have set up a separate folder in Dropbox for each of these projects, and have shared the folders via Dropbox with only the people who I want to have access to the files in the folder. So with Peiser Solutions, my IT business, my assistant has access to the Peiser folder. With Greenliness.com, my Green eCommerce business, there are two people doing data entry and research for me who have access to that folder. And then there is a separate folder that I share with my brother-in-law. I can see and edit any of the items in my folders, but only the people I have shared specific folders with can see them. The other person's view, for example my assistant's, has a Peiser folder plus whatever folders she has created. She doesn't see any of my other folders.

3. It's fast and easy to use

The files you work with are on the PC you are working on. So, this is not like a VPN connection, where you are copying files across the internet every time you use them, and it's not like a strictly cloud-based storage system where you have to find files online and wait for them to open. It's all on the PC you are working on, and whenever you close a file it is synced with the online site.

4. It's automatically backed up, and deleted files are recoverable, so I feel safe sharing important files with contractors.

One of my fears when considering whether to share file folders was a concern that someone might delete an important file. This fear went away though, when I learned about how Dropbox saves files. They actually save a copy of every version of every file you have stored for 30 days (or you can have longer storage for a fee). So, not only can you recover deleted files, but if a file is edited and you want to go back to a previous version, it's as simple as right-clicking on the file.

5. You get a decent amount of space for free

Free accounts from Dropbox include 2 gigabytes (GB) of space. You can also earn additional free space, by referring the service to new customers (like I’m doing now 🙂 ) or by sharing folders with new users. Or, if you know you will be needing more space, yoiu can simply sign up for one of their paid plans. You can get 50GB of space for $9.99/month or $99.00/year, or 100GB for $19.99/month or $199.00/year. 

6. I can look at all my Dropfox files on my phone!

I just downloaded the Dropbox Android App to my phone, so I now have access to all my Dropbox files. Awesome!!

7. You can use DropBox as your offsite backup solution

If you want some quick peace-of-mind regarding offsite backup, you can simply sign up with Dropbox, put the files you need to back up into the Dropbox folder on your computer, and they will be automatically copied to the online site. And you get 30 days of revision storage and deleted file recovery.

8. There's an easy-to-use photo viewer

I put this last because it's not a big deal for me, but if you plan to store or back up photos in Dropbox, when you put them in the "Photos" folder they automatically open in a nice Photo Viewer. This is a great way to share folders with friends and family across the country.


Have fun!


Convert PowerPoint to Video for Free

By Dave Peiser

I've been searching for an easy, good quality, inexpensive way to convert PowerPoint presentations to video, and I finally found one at AuthorStream.com.

Like many "to-do's", until something becomes urgent,they don't get done, and that was the case with a PowerPoint presentation we had been using for several months with a non-profit I serve on the board for called Class-ACT. We needed to more easlily distribute the presentation, and we really needed it to be posted on our website. So I did a new search and found Authorstream!

The service is totally free if you just want to upload to the the web, and you don't mind leaving it on their website. They will give you a link to the video that you can use in emails, on blogs, etc. Or you can embed it as I have below. If you want to download the video, you pay just $2; or, you can sign up for a subscription if you'll be doing this a lot.

My only complications had to do with an audio track that is part of the presentation. There might be a better way to do this, but I found that I had to convert the audio from mp3 to a wav file, and then as the last thing before saving, embed it in the presentation. Also, I had to save it as a .ppt because the .pptx format deals with audio differently. I don't do this stuff very often, and this worked. Also, the timing of the audio with the slides changed a bit when the final video file was created.

The embedded video is below, or you can see it on the About Class-ACT page.

Serene Computer Haiku

by Dave Peiser

Just when you thought you were going to throw your computer out the window, along come these calming words, that allow you to take several deep breaths, relax, release the stress, and move on to a better place.

"The Web site you seek cannot be located, but countless more exist."


"Chaos reigns within. Reflect, repent, and reboot. Order shall return."


 "Program aborting: Close all that you have worked on. You ask far too much."


 "Windows NT crashed. I am the Blue Screen of Death. No one hears your screams."


 "Yesterday it worked. Today it is not working. Windows is like that."


"Your file was so big. It might be very useful. But now it is gone."


"Stay the patient course. Of little worth is your ire. The network is down."


"A crash reduces your expensive computer to a simple stone."


"Three things are certain: death, taxes, and lost data. Guess which has occurred."


"You step in the stream, but the water has moved on. This page is not here."


"Out of memory. We wish to hold the whole sky, but we never will."


"Having been erased, the document you’re seeking must now be retyped."


"Serious error. All shortcuts have disappeared. Screen. Mind. Both are blank."


I am not sure of the source of these, but I hope they have improved your day. 🙂

Some Tips for Improving the Speed of Internet Explorer and Eliminating Error Messages

By Dave Peiser

Lately I’ve run into a number of situations where Internet Explorer is very slow or error messages are displayed every time the user exits. Some IT consultants might tell you to use Mozilla Firefox and stop messing around with Microsoft’s browser, but I see that as a last resort. There are a few things worth trying to improve the situation. Here is a list of things I do when troubleshooting slowness and errors:

  1. Run a spyware scan – If you haven’t scanned for spyware lately, it is quite possible that a deviant program has made its way onto your system and is slowing things down. The best program I recommend is Spyware Doctor. Great free programs are available at www.download.com. Search for Lavasoft Ad Aware or Spybot Search + Destroy. One thing to note: there are a lot of programs that claim to clean up spyware but actually are spyware themselves, so don’t automatically trust any vendor pushing anti-spyware software.
  2. If you’ve scanned for Spyware and things are still slow, disable all the Internet Explorer “Add-Ons” and see if this makes a difference. “Add-Ons” are small programs that run every time you use Internet Explorer, and they typically have something to do with bigger programs you’ve loaded on your system like Adobe Acrobat, a search program or antivirus program. You disable them by opening Internet Explorer and clicking on “Tools”. Then select “Manage Add-Ons”. Then “Enable or Disable Add-ons”. One by one, select an Add-On by clicking on it, and then click on Disable. Do this for all the add-ons and click OK. Close Internet Explorer and re-open it and see if this made a difference. If it did, then one-by-one, enable the add-ins until you figure out which one is causing problems. Or, just leave them all disabled, if nothing is missing that you care about.
  3. One culprit of late with Internet Explorer issues has been Adobe Acrobat. I’ve worked on several situations (including my own computer) where Acrobat caused error messages to occur when using Internet Explorer. This especially seemed to be caused when two versions of Acrobat were installed – both the free Acrobat Reader and a version that allows you to create PDFs (Standard or Pro). The solution is to uninstall all versions of Adobe Acrobat, confirm no Acrobat Add-ons are still in Internet Explorer, and then reinstall just one version of Acrobat.
  4. Another culprit is the Google Toolbar. I now have worked on two systems that had significant increases in speed with Internet Explorer after uninstalling the Google Toolbar. One system that was taking 30 seconds to load Internet Explorer was improved to a 1-2 second load. Amazing! Now, I don’t necessarily want to pick on Google. Other toolbars might do the same thing. I just haven’t had the chance to test this with other toolbars.

That’s my list. Please let me know if you have any suggestions to add to the list. (Click “comments” below this posting to make suggestions).