Tag Archives: dropbox

Print From iOS To Any Printer or PDF For Free

While Apple has technically enabled the printer function on iPhones, iPads, and iPod Touches, printing only works currently on 18 specific models of HP printers.

AirPrint Activator

To enable printing to any printer attached to your Mac, use the free AirPrint Activator (formerly AirPrint Hactivator).

It’s a simple program. I’ve been using a beta of version 2 without problems.

PDF Printing

You can print to a PDF by downloading and installing the CUPS-PDF Installer. Share that printer for it to show up on your AirPrint Activator list.

Automator to Move the PDF / Dropbox

The CUPS-PDF Installer prints to your folder:
/Users/Shared/CUPS-PDF/[your account]
or, for iOS devices, to:

Those aren’t easy places to find your PDF, so we’ll automatically move those files when they arrive.

Open Automator (Applications – Automator), then select the “Folder Action” template. This will allow you to choose the CUPS-PDF folder where your printed files go by default. Then drag over the library action “Move Finder Items” and choose where you want the file moved to. You might want to move the file to your desktop. I chose to move the files to a Dropbox sub-folder called CUPS Print Jobs, automatically backing them up and making them accessible to me through the Dropbox app or GoodReader app on my iPhone and iPad.

I set up this Automator action for both my CUPS folders that are printed to, the folder from my user account (used when printing to CUPS-PDF from my Mac) and the ANONYMOUS folder (used when printing to CUPS-PDF from iOS devices).

In order to allow Automator to move files from the ANONYMOUS folder, you need to go to it in the finder (/Users/Shared/CUPS-PDF/ANONYMOUS), CTRL-click on it, select Get Info and add yourself to the permissions for that folder.

Other Options

If these instructions are too much for you and you have $19.95 burning a hole in your pocket, you can do the same thing with Printopia 2.

These features also should be appearing in updates from Apple at some point in the future.

Dropbox Automator Service for Saving Selected Text

Always looking for new uses for Dropbox, I came across a couple of sites showing the same tip: 1) It’s All Tech’s How to automatically copy your Mac OS X clipboard to Dropbox and 2) Tip #1 in this MacOSXTutorials12 video.

What it Does

Essentially this is a way for Max OS X users to select text somewhere and then quickly append it to a text file in Dropbox. That might be a faster way, for example, to make note of things you find while web browsing. Or you might use it to add part of a PDF file to Dropbox without the extra clicks needed to create a new text document.

My Additions

I liked the tip but wanted to make a few improvements. I wanted to:

  1. Make the script work. The cat command needs two “>” in order to append instead of overwrite a file.
  2. Add date and time information to the text selection that I was appending.
  3. List the text selections in reverse chronological order, meaning that the most recent is at the top.

How to Make It

This is the Automator Service script that I used:

echo —“$(date)”— > ~/Text-Clips-temp.txt
cat >> ~/Text-Clips-temp.txt
cat ~/Dropbox/Text-Clips.txt >> ~/Text-Clips-temp.txt
mv ~/Text-Clips-temp.txt ~/Dropbox/Text-Clips.txt

Only Works in Some Applications

Unfortunately not all apps can use Automator Services. Only apps written in Cocoa, as Apple does with most of its apps, will work. This means that Safari, Mail, Preview, Calendar, and Address Book will work. Most other apps including Chrome and Firefox will not.

Side Notes

That this isn’t using the Mac OS X clipboard, as the tips I found stated. We’re selecting text and then using a service on it. The text is never copied or cut so it’s not in the clipboard.

Even though this tip is described as for Dropbox, there is nothing Dropbox specific except that the location of the text file happens to be in the Dropbox folder. Dropbox makes the service useful since you can have access to the text file from other locations. But this tip will work on any text file.

If you’re new to Dropbox, please use our Dropbox referral to set it up. It will give you an additional 250MB and give the same to us. Now Dropbox referrals will allow you to get up to 10GB for free, a great deal for your backup and sharing files needs.

What do you think?

If you have any suggestions to improve this Automator Service or to better use Dropbox, let me know.

MS Word editing on iPad

I recently needed to do some basic editing of Word documents from the iPad. Looking at the app store, I found Pages ($9.99) by Apple, Documents To Go Premium – Office Suite ($14.99), and QuickOffice Connect Mobile Suite for iPad ($14.99) to be the most popular applications for this. I’ll refer to thees as just Pages, Documents To Go, and QuickOffice.

After using these apps, I found file transfers and Word compatibility to be the two major issues.

1) How to Move Files

The Apple iPad is not a traditional computer. It does not have a file system that is designed to be universally accessed. Therefore applications need to be creative.

I wanted to be able to edit and save documents kept on Dropbox, the popular cloud file storage service. This factor ruled out Pages. When used in conjunction with an application like GoodReader or Air Sharing, Pages can import files from Dropbox. The problem comes when you want to save those files you edited in Pages back to Dropbox. It’s a mess. Sure, you can save the Pages file locally as a Word file, sync with iTunes, bring the file to your desktop, then load it into Dropbox. But what kind of workflow is that?

Both Documents To Go and QuickOffice will import and save directly to Dropbox and other services.

There are other ways to move documents to and from your computer. Documents To Go has a program that you can install on Windows or Mac. I prefer Quickoffice‘s solution though. Quickoffice lists an IP address, e.g., which you can type into the web browser of any computer on your local network. From there, you can download and upload files. It’s slick.

2) Compatibility with Word

In general, I found Pages to be the strongest stand alone word processor, both in terms of editing and Word compatibility. Unfortunately, the lack of a good file transfer workflow disqualified it for me.

Both Quickoffice and Documents To Go handled most documents well enough to be useful. Neither did well with multiple columns. Quickoffice appeared to more consistently show page breaks. Documents To Go was slightly better at drawing tables on the examples we gave it.

There were a lot of quirks but both apps worked. And if you made some changes to the document, it wouldn’t screw up the existing formatting. So even if not everything looked right on the iPad, it looked correct when loaded back into Word.

Other Considerations

In favor of Documents To Go:

  • Documents To Go is a universal app, meaning that it will work on iPhone and iPad so you don’t have to buy separate apps.
  • Only Documents To Go can edit PowerPoint files. The editing mode is unusual in that it only occurs in what looks like an outline view. Still, that’s better than QuickOffice which can only view PowerPoint files. Also, only Documents To Go will show you notes saved in PowerPoint.
  • Documents To Go launches with the last document open that you were using. This can be a timesaver.

In favor of Quickoffice:

  • Quickoffice has a more intuitive user interface. For example, in Documents To Go you tap a file in Dropbox once to download it. You tap it again to open it. In Quickoffice, that’s just one tap. Another oddity in Documents To Go is that it creates a “Documents To Go” folder in Dropbox, even though it can use any folders. You can delete the folder but Documents To Go will add it back.
  • The Quickoffice has a simpler layout and prettier icons.
  • Quickoffice autosaves documents.

Both apps can edit Excel files. They are also compatible with a bluetooth wireless keyboard.


The saying goes that the iPad is a great media consumption device, but not the ideal media creation tool. I agree, at least for now. If you need to do serious word processing, photo manipulation, etc, you’re better off with a traditional computer due to it’s full fledged operating system (with printing and file management) and more capable applications. I suspect that in a year we’ll have vastly more capable iOS for iPad. Perhaps there will even be Office apps from Microsoft.

I can’t proclaim a winner between Documents To Go and Quickoffice. They are both regularly updated with new features. If you plan on editing MS Office files a lot, you might want both. I’m going to continue switching between the two since I can’t decide which is better.  If you have any opinions on these apps or others to write documents on the iPad, let me know.

12 Tips for Protecting Your Computer from Snoopers

In the DC area especially, there are people who have reason to be concerned about computer espionage, either for work (national or corporate secrets) or personal reasons (divorce or blackmail). Here are 12 tips to guard against intruders snooping on your activities:

  1. Use decent passwords. The easiest way for someone to access your email and other information is if they know or can easily guess your passwords. It is estimated that 1 out of every 9 people use a password on the top 500 worst password list. Most passwords are “cracked” not through problems with the encryption itself, but with the password being poor. Don’t use dictionary words, the names of loved ones, the names of your pets, your birthday, etc.  Longer passwords are better so government institutions often require at least 10-14 characters. Passwords should be random and use letters, numbers, and special characters.
  2. Use different passwords for different things. If someone sees your computer login password over your shoulder, you don’t want them to then have access to your bank account because it has the same password.
  3. Change passwords regularly. Government and corporate security protocols typically require that passwords be changed at least every 3 months.
  4. KeePassUse a password manager. Seeing a theme here about the importance of passwords? If you have different random passwords and change them regularly, then you either have a memory like Rain Man or you keep track of the passwords somewhere. The most popular software tools to manage passwords are LastPass (Free or Premium for PC, Mac, and others), KeePass (Free for PC, Mac, and others) and 1Password ($39.95 for Mac). Password software allows you to keep all your passwords encrypted with one master password. It can autofill site information so that you only have to remember that one master password. It also has a Password Generator to create random strong passwords, a great idea. Without this, most people use passwords that are similar. To the extent that your passwords are similar, an investigator can more easily guess your other passwords. (Tip: use Dropbox to backup/sync KeePass or 1Password encrypted files. LastPass syncs automatically between computers).
  5. Do not use personal information that can be guessed as the answers to your online secret questions. This is how Sarah Palin’s Yahoo email was “hacked” in September 2008 simply by someone guessing the answers to her challenge questions such as where she went to high school.
  6. Tie your Yahoo or other login site to another email account or cell phone number. This will let you know of any attempted password resets and help if tip 5 doesn’t work.
  7. Encrypt files. As we explained in our post Encryption on USB Flash Drive, TrueCrypt can be used to encrypt your important data. Remember that although TrueCrypt can not be cracked, someone could guess your password if you chose it poorly.
  8. Remember that your router is a computer too. Your router manages all the data between your computer and the Internet. If your router software is compromised, you could be sent to a site claiming to be your bank but really being a completely different site due to website misdirection from a bogus DNS system used by your router. The router software should be checked, firmware reloaded, and the password on the router should be changed. Most people unknowingly leave the router login defaults. That is safe enough if your local network is not breached, your WiFi isn’t hacked, and your router is not remotely accessible.
  9. Use strong WPA2 WiFi encryption. WPA2 is not easily cracked like WEP. Tools such as BackTrack and KisMAC can crack WEP in minutes. (See photo of “war driver” below hacking into a WiFi network.)War Driver Hacking into WiFi
  10. Turn down your WiFi antenna strength. Hackers can crack into a WiFi access from over a block away with directional antennas and a good line-of-site to their target. If you don’t need the extra signal strength, turn it down since a weak signal is harder to crack. This isn’t an option on all routers. If you want to take extra control of your router for this and other options, see if you can load the alternative DD-WRT firmware.
  11. Check for keyloggers. Keyloggers will log everything you type. They can be in the form of software or physical devices that are attached to a USB port or between the keyboard and computer.Keylogger
  12. Wipe computer and start fresh. If someone has had physical access to your computer or if the computer is already compromised, all bets are off. Some experts and government institutions will simply decommission a compromised computer and trash it. But most people should be satisfied with wiping everything. The hard drive can be wiped and the operating system reinstalled. The BIOS (seen from the very initial startup) can be reflashed and checked. The computer can be opened and physically checked for modifications.

Let me know if you have other suggestions for keeping your computer information safe from surveillance.

Dropbox Tips and Tricks

Dropbox is one of my favorite tools to help small businesses in the D.C. area share files on the cheap.

Dropbox Wiki Info

Besides simply sharing files with your friends, office co-workers, or just your other computers, there are lots of other uses.

See the Tips and Tricks page and Dropbox Add-on page on the Dropbox Wiki explaining things such as:

Other Dropbox Tips and Tricks

  • See any updates that occur to your Dropbox files with the free Growl (Mac) program. Dropbox for Windows does this through the Dropbox System Tray Icon. This is especially useful if you are sharing folders and need to be notified when there are new files.Dropbox Growl Notification
  • Automatically make web photo galleries by moving pictures to the Dropbox Photos directory either from a computer or using the free iPhone Dropbox App.

iPhone Dropbox

  • Use a Dropbox Add-on that allows you to quickly move a file to a public folder and place the URL the clipboard. This makes sending people a file super easy.
  • Change shared folder names. For example, I share a folder with Joe that I name “Joe”. Joe can accept to join that folder and then rename the folder “Rick” so that it makes more sense for him. The great thing here is that the folder is still named “Joe” for me. Alternatively, I can share a folder with Joe that I have named “Rick” and then rename it to “Joe” once he has joined that folder. On Windows machines, renaming a shared folder has sometimes caused me to leave a shared folder. To get around that quirk, rename a shared folder from the Dropbox website.
  • Move shared folders. You can move shared folders, for example, to a directory named “Shared” or “Work”. This does not affect any of the shared users.

Sign Up Referrals

Dropbox ReferralDropbox is free for 2GB of space. See their pricing for more space. One of the reasons that Dropbox has quickly grown in popularity is their referral program. Once you sign up, you can invite others and get 250MB of extra space for everyone you sign up. On that note, please use my Dropbox referral when signing up for Dropbox to give both of us an extra 250MB of space.