iPod frustration and Dropbox ecstasy

I complained a few weeks ago about Apple driving me into the arms of Windows by not providing backwards compatibility for iTunes 10.1 (which I needed to set up a brand-new new iPod Touch). I was using OS X 10.4 and iTunes 10.1 requires 10.5 or higher while, at the same time, it supports Windows right back to XP. Crazy. 

Since then things iPodish have gone thoroughly wretched here in the Gearhead Secret Orbiting Laboratories: On Windows, iTunes got trashed and, after reinstalling, the new instance reported it didn't know my iPod. Knowing that I could reload everything on the iPod I said OK, restore the entire device. ITunes went through its hoopla and the progress display on both the PC and the iPod reached something around 95% and then just sat there, never completing. 

I've tried restarting the iPod, soft resets, hard resets, the double hard reset, but nothing works. I did upgrade my PPC-based Mac to OS X 10.5 and was thus able to run iTunes 10.1 but the iPod won't complete the restore process on this system either. In fact, this whole foolishness has reached the point where the temptation to reprogram the iPod with an axe is profound. 

Could the iPod be broken somehow? More when I find out something … in the meantime, if you have a suggestion that doesn't involve hitting the iPod with a heavy object, I'd love to hear it. 

So, beyond that, what's on my mind this week is Dropbox, a mechanism for sharing files and folders between multiple machines running any mix of operating systems. Dropbox currently supports Windows 2003, XP, Vista, W7 (32 and 64-bit), OS X 10.4 or later, Ubuntu 7.10+, and Fedora Core 9+. Source code for the Nautilus installer is available with users "reporting success compiling Dropbox on Debian, OpenSUSE, Arch Linux, Gentoo as well as several other distributions of Linux." 

There are also apps for iOS v3.1+, Android OS 1.5, and Blackberry OS 4.5+ and you can also access your Dropbox account online using any desktop or mobile browser. When you install the client software you get a special folder in your system that can be treated like any other folder. You can put files and folders in it as well as delete and modify them. Dropbox copies and syncs this folder online. You get 2GB of online storage for free or you can upgrade to 50G for $$9.99 per month or 100GB for $19.99 per month. There's no limit to file size other than the size of your online storage and the sync process is automatic when new files are either added or changed. 

A great feature is that, if you're offline and you modify content in the Dropbox folder, as soon as you go back online, the changed files or folders are automatically synchronized to all the machines you've configured to share the service. The Dropbox delivery system runs over SSL and content is stored using AES-256 encryption. You can also set limits on transfer rates to ensure that the perceived performance of your connection is acceptable. Dropbox transfers are "smart" and intelligently handle interrupted transfers and perform block-level sync for changed files to minimize bandwidth use. 

Dropbox also provides 30 days of versioning or unlimited versioning for paid subscriptions. You can share Dropbox folders with other people but they have to register to get access then they can either use the Web interface or install the client-side software. I love Dropbox. It works painlessly, efficiently, and pricing for the expanded storage is reasonable. 

Dropbox gets a rating of 5 out of 5! Outstanding! 

Gibbs in Ventura, Calif. to gearhead@gibbs.com.

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This story, "iPod frustration and Dropbox ecstasy" was originally published by Network World.

Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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