BitTorrent Sync

If you’re looking to sync files between computers, BitTorrent Sync is a great free solution. Previously, I always recommended Dropbox, which is still a great service, especially because it is simple and it keeps a copy on the Dropbox servers, providing extra redundancy. But if you just want computer-to-computer sharing for a couple or many computers, BitTorrent Sync takes out the middleman. It’s fast, encrypted, private, and secure. It’s a great way to move very large files or to create a backup of your files on another computer. Dropbox is sometimes slow and has had security breaches.

BitTorrent Sync is still listed as experimental, but already is quite usable.

LastPass Acquires Xmarks

My favorite cross-platform password manager, LastPass, just acquired my favorite cross-platform bookmark sync tool, Xmarks, thereby saving Xmarks from death. Back in September, Xmarks had announced that it would cease operations because it could not find a way to pay for the services it provided. With LastPass now taking over, they are moving to a “freemium” model, still offering Xmarks for free but having paid options as well. It’s great to see that Xmarks will stay around and to have two products that I trust and rely upon working together.

See the press release from Xmarks:

Today we’re excited to announce that Xmarks has been acquired by LastPass, makers of a leading cross-platform password manager. It’s a great opportunity that ensures the survival of Xmarks as the same service that you know and love.

In the last few years, we’ve attracted over 4.5 million users syncing more than 1 billion bookmarks across 5 million computers. Most importantly, we’ve provided a simple solution to help people easily access their bookmarks, wherever and whenever they needed to. We’ve had thousands of users tell us that Xmarks has become an integral part of their browsing experience. You can rest assured that LastPass will continue to build upon the service in the coming months.

We’re also committed to keeping Xmarks free while implementing a viable long-term plan. Xmarks is transitioning to a “freemium” business model, the same model that allowed LastPass to grow into a thriving, profitable business. The browser add-on and the vast majority of what users have enjoyed remains free. Users can then opt to purchase Xmarks Premium for $12 per year, which includes new enhanced features like Android and iPhone mobile phone apps, priority support, and more. The Xmarks and LastPass Premium offerings are also available bundled together at a reduced subscription rate of $20 per year. For those of you who pledged your financial support, you can make good on your pledge today and upgrade.

The restructuring of the Xmarks offerings will accelerate the introduction of new features and service improvements. The two services will continue to require separate downloads and will be administered through two distinct extensions and websites, although there are plans to integrate them in the future.

We believe the acquisition will prove to be a success because of the common mission shared by LastPass and Xmarks. Xmarks complements LastPass’ vision of secure, universal access to the information that gives you entry to your digital life. By joining LastPass, Xmarks will also be able to accelerate the introduction of new features and developments. As the ultimate cross-browser, cross-platform team, Xmarks and LastPass will work together to help more people simplify their digital lives and access their data from anywhere, at any time.

We’re excited to join forces with LastPass and be a part of a team that will continue to provide the best data-syncing tools out there! We hope you will support both of these great services through your business and your Premium subscription. For more information, please see the FAQs.

The Xmarks & LastPass Teams

Dropbox to Sync, Share, and Save Your Data

What is Dropbox?

Dropbox is a service that runs from Windows, Mac, and Linux computers that gives you a virtual drive which stores files on the Dropbox servers. This drive can be synced automatically with all your computers. You can share the files, folders, or photo galleries with anyone, even people who don’t use Dropbox.

Think of it as a magic folder. It is a great service for people who want to:

  • share data across multiple computers
  • share data with friends and coworkers
  • have a backup of important files stored off-site in case of theft or fire

Video Tour from Dropbox


Dropbox is free for 2GB of space, $10/month for 50GB, or $20/month for 100GB.

Sign Up

Sign up for Dropbox by clicking on this Dropbox Referral Link in order to give both of us an extra 250MB for free.

New Developments

Dropbox popularity has grown dramatically over the past year and its capabilities are growing regularly. New versions will have direct peer-to-peer syncing making it faster for computers on the same network.

Users can reach Dropbox files through the iPhone formatted website:

iPhone Dropbox AppUPDATE: An official iPhone app for Dropbox was released today. The iPhone Dropbox app allows you to not only access dropbox as you could through the website, but also to:

  • download files for offline viewing
  • take and sync photos and videos with Dropbox
  • set up a photo gallery with your iPhone photos
  • share links to Dropbox with your iPhone contacts

Network Attached Storage for Automated Backups

Prevent Lost Data

Many DC area residents have been contacting me lately with hard drive failures and lost data. Data can sometimes be recovered using software such as SpinRite. But it’s easy and relatively inexpensive to be proactive and backup your data. The best backups are automated, using free software such as SyncBack for Windows or the built-in Time Machine for Macs.

Backup Locally

Backups can be sent to a local USB flash drive or local USB hard drive. The Western Digital My Passport Essential 500 GB costs about $107. These use laptop hard drives which have the advantage of being able to run only on USB power. Larger 3.5 inch external drives can hold more data but require an additional power supply.

Network Backups

If you have more than one computer, a better solution can be to backup to a network attached storage (NAS) drive. This connects by ethernet to your router allowing you to connect to it through your home network.

Here are a few solutions:

Apple Time Capsule

If you are a Mac user and you want the simplest solution, you’ll have to pay a lot more for the Apple Time Capsule. Apple just upgraded their large capacity Time Capsule to 2GB for $499. The Time Capsule is both a NAS and a wireless router, so it simplifies your setup. However it is only a solution for automated Mac backups that use Apple’s included Time Machine software.

Apple Time Capsule

Buffalo Linkstation

Buffalo Technology Linkstation Pro LS-XH1.0TL 1 TB is a great NAS that costs about $215 currently. It is fast and works as a Time Machine drive for Macs just like Apple’s Time Capsule above, though you’ll have to login to the Buffalo to set up that capability. You pay a bit more for the Buffalo’s speed than the below Iomega. If you are only using the NAS for automated backups, speed is not particularly important. Speed is helpful if you are also using the NAS as a network shared drive. The other advantage of the Buffalo and the Apple Time Capsule is that they are near silent. You have to put your ear right up to them to hear the small fan.
Buffalo Linkstation

Iomega Home Media Server

Iomega Home Media Server 34337 1TB is a good media server, which is cheaper ($148) but a bit slower than the Buffalo. It is not loud at all, but the fan is noticeable. It includes software for automatically backing up 5 PCs. You can also backup to it with a Mac by using free software such as SuperDuper.

Iomega Home Media Server

NAS Reviews is a great site for NAS reviews. They also have charts such as this one which show you the speed versus price. I circled the Buffalo and Iomaga drives mentioned above illustrating the Buffalo’s excellent performance.

SmallNetBuilder Single Drive NAS Chart

Multi-drive NAS

For larger businesses or those who want an extra backup of their backup drive, consider a NAS that consists of multiple drives. This could be a RAID (Redundant Array of Independent Disks) box such as a Netgear ReadyNAS. Or it could be a Drobo and Droboshare. These solutions are more expensive and often slower than single drive solutions. But they ensure that your data will safe if one of their hard drives crashes.

Backup Your Data

In the world of computer support, nothing is worse than seeing someone lose family pictures or days of important accounting data. Given the low cost of storage, there is no excuse for avoiding backups. Automated solutions are a simple way to keep your digital data safe.

Get a Battery Boost with APC Mobile Power Pack

The APC UPB10 (about $60) is a handy little battery that is charged from and charges over USB. It is the size of a deck of cards and is very useful if you need to finish that game, movie, or phone call when you are away from a power outlet.

The APC UPB10 more than doubles the power to an iPhone, Blackberry, or Sony PSP. It charges any USB device, which also includes some GPS devices and cameras.

It does require you to push a button to activate the power. If the device you are charging is nearly out of power, the APC will continue to charge it. If the device is nearly full, the APC will only charge it for about 20 minutes before you need to press the button again. It does this to save the battery.

If you are like me and sometimes find yourself on the other side of D.C. without any cell phone power left, the APC UPB10 can help.