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panta rei dans lullaby

Video - Panta Rei Danseteater 'Lullaby'

Norwegian dance company Panta Rei Danseteater, late last year, conducted a little experiment whereby three dance makers created two pieces with the same name based on the same idea, featuring three male dancers and two musicians, to see what the outcome was.

June 2nd, 2016

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by Martin French

Let's be clear from the very start. File storage is not something that most people spend their day thinking about and with good reason. The subject is dry, dry as a desert on sunny day in the middle of a 20 year drought.

But one day your personal computer's hard drive, or your company's network, is going to crash and burn and then storage, hard drives, head crashes, redundancy, backups, firmware, ethernet and a whole slew of crazy terminology are going to become, almost instantly, part of your regular vocabulary.

Computers, even the one in your home, store a massive amount of data. From mundane business type files - such as word documents or spreadsheets - to music and video files either bought legitimately from Amazon or iTunes or downloaded from file sharing websites and, in the process, giving aid an comfort to terrorists and master criminals.

There's a a lot of data on there and if your storage devices get corrupted then it's going to be a slow, expensive process to get that data back again.

Storing documents online - using the ridiculously monikered "cloud" - is becoming increasingly popular with those in the know. New web based start-ups are making it very easy indeed to store and retrieve documents online, almost like they're right there on your hard disk. In the process some of these sites make it very easy to share a large number of documents between multiple computers located anywhere in the world.

Dropbox

Dropbox is one of many services that offer a simple and very effective way to store files online for backup and sharing purposes.

Getting it up and running is a simple, two stage process. First of all you have to sign up for an account - it's free - and then download the "client" software for your particular operating system. Dropbox is available for Windows, OSX and Linux.

Installing the software is a snap and involves nothing more than entering your account details and selecting where you want your "Dropbox" to be located on your systems hard disk. When setup is complete you will have - what appears to be - a regular folder on your computer but this folder has special magical abilities (oh really?! Ed!)

Local Cloud

When you move a file - or save a new file - into the special Dropbox folder a regular copy is kept on your own system just like any other file. But, using the Mac version as an example, when a new file is put into the Dropbox a little spinning "synch" icon starts moving on the programs toolbar icon (illustrated below).

Dropbox immediately begins to copy the contents of the local folder to its online counterpart for safe keeping. If you make changes to the document inside the Dropbox folder it will automatically copy the new version over the old one keeping everything perfectly in sync for you.

How fast the files transfer depends on your internet connection but most regular documents will move almost instantly - because they are very small in size - but photos and video files especially will take quite a bit longer. Dropbox has a handy real-time counter so you know what's going on. Should you lose power or your internet connection Dropbox will simply resume syncing the files when you reconnect.

When you drop files into the special folder they will have either a big green tick applied to them (meaning they have synchronized successfully) or a blue sync icon meaning the files are waiting to be transferred.

Gaining Access

When you want to gain access to your Dropbox files then you simply open them up from the local folder - meaning the folder on your computer - and work as normal. Because the files are stored online and locally you don't need an internet connection to use your stuff. Any files that you change will be synchronized again when you connect to the internet.

Getting at your files when you're not using you're own machine is easy. Just visit the Dropbox website, log into your account and your files are there ready and waiting to be accessed using your web browser.

You can't edit files in the browser using Dropbox you can only download them, edit them and the re-upload them if you're not using your own computer. It's a mildly frustrating limitation but in order for that to work they would need to build an online application framework for editing documents, photos, etc. This would almost certainly get in the way of the services ease of use.

Being A Share Bear

Now we get to the really clever part of Dropbox. Your files are linked to one account and because of this when you install the application onto any computer and log in the files stored in your account will automatically be synchronized to that computer.

If you have several computers, and some people do, then it's an incredibly simple way to keep all of your files up to date across all of your machines with little or no intervention from you, the user.

Small companies can also use one account to enable sharing of files across multiple users and computers without the need for a complex internal computer network. All you have to do is install the Dropbox application on each machine, use the same login details and you're off to the races.

Using this method you have, unintentionally, created an online backup grid with your important files stored online and on multiple local machines. If one of them falls over, you always have somewhere to turn for a backup. How cool is that? (it's way cool and you need to get out more! Ed!)

You can also share individual folders with people outside of your company or with your friends. Using the online interface you simply choose the folder you want to share, enter the email addresses of the folks you want to come and play and that's it.

The people you want to share with will receive an email with a link directing them to the shared folder. They do have to either have an account with Dropbox or sign up for one before they can gain access but it's necessary for security reasons, to keep your files safe and sound.

How Much For How Much

It should come as no surprise to learn that a basic account, offering 2 Gigabytes (Gb) of storage, is completely free. That much space should give a regular person more than enough free space to keep backups and share files.

If you're a small company then a paid for version gives you 50 Gb to play with and that should be more than enough for several people to use effectively. That storage will cost you just $99 (US) per year. Compared to the cost of a hardware based internal network it's peanuts.

Limitations

There are no restrictions on how large a file can be before it is sent to a Dropbox but obviously, large video files will take a long time to transfer (or sync) with the online service and then subsequently download to other computers using the account. Online services are not an ideal place to store and share uncompressed video files or even large compressed video files.

At the moment user access cannot be controlled on a granular level. Meaning, everybody who has access has full and complete access to the files and can delete them, alter them and generally wreak havoc if they chose to do so. Individual files can be password protected by their application, in some cases, and this password protection will remain intact even on Dropbox. The rule of thumb should be, if it's not meant to be shared, then don't share it.

Dropbox is aimed at regular folk, not the CIA.

Security Zealots

Some basic security procedures should keep your files nice and safe. If you're using Dropbox collaboratively then rotate passwords on a regular basis and devise a method for letting people know what those passwords are.

If somebody leaves your company then change the password, don't leave passwords written on Post It notes attached to monitors and don't make your passwords something blindingly obvious, like "no1dancer"!

Make sure you comply with your countries laws on the storage of sensitive data, especially when that data is about other people. If it's not supposed to be online then don't put it online.

Dropbox uses encryption to send and retrieve documents but that encryption is no good if your passwords aren't strong and you don't change them on a regular basis.

Conclusion

If you're an individual then the free to use Dropbox account could prove to be an invaluable backup for important information, like contacts, CV's, applications or just your personal bits and pieces like photos and other detritus littering your computer.

Small companies, that often have fairly limited hardware based networks controlled by beige people with way to much time on their hands, could prevent a lot of headaches and save a lot of money by using a paid for Dropbox account to share files and keep secure backups.

Every organisation or individual can find a use for a service like Dropbox or one of the many others out there on the inter-tubes. If you can't think of a reason to use it, then think harder!

[ Dropbox Website ]

  • Martin

    Good article on dropbox. Been waiting for something like this for ages....if only I hadn't ordered that internal server due to arrive very shortly......hhhmmm

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