Kevin: October 16th, 2009. Pownce rises from the ashes as TypePad Motion, Microsoft endangers cloud-hosted data, and WebKit takes over the mobile browser market. This is the SitePoint Podcast #32: Everything in the Cloud.
And hello, hello. Welcome to another SitePoint podcast. I’ve been away for a couple of episodes, but I have to say, guys, you did a great job in my absence. I might just sit back and listen again this time. It was fun to actually listen to an episode and I didn’t know what was going to happen next.
Brad: It was all Patrick.
Patrick: Well thank you. It was a team effort.
Kevin: We’ve got Brad Williams from WebDevStudios here today and Patrick O’Keefe from the iFroggy Network. Stephan is off today. He’s suffering the effects of some flight delays, so blame the airlines I say, but we’ll try and make do without him.
Our first story today is to do with Pownce and this is revisiting a story that we talked about really early in the life of this podcast. Pownce closed its doors a while ago when they were acquired by Six Apart.
Am I remembering that right, Brad?
Brad: Yes. Six Apart essentially bought Pownce not to keep it going, but as it was reported, to kind of gain their talent that was working behind the scenes on Pownce and now we know exactly what they planned to do with it. They actually released what they have titled TypePad Motion, which is essentially Pownce open sourced, so you can literally download the open source application and set up your own microblogging platform anywhere that you’d like.
Kevin: Now I was just looking at TypePad Motion and on my homepage is a giant WordPress logo posted by someone named Brad.
Is that you, Brad?
Brad: Ahh … maybe.
Patrick: As your counsel, I advise you not to answer any questions from this man.
Brad: It may or may not have been testing the new service.
Kevin: That’s bordering on sabotage, I have to say.
Brad: It’s just that it’s the first picture I found on my computer.
Patrick: What do you got on there, a bunch of WordPress logos?
Brad: Yeah, pretty much.
Patrick: It’s a sad life, isn’t it? Gosh.
Kevin: When this acquisition first happened, they kind of hinted that there would be something like this – that Pownce would be returning, that they were shutting down now, but they had big plans to use the technology of Pownce in a new way and you’re right, I guess this is the outcome of that. It has been several months, at least.
But this TypePad Mobile (sic) is kind of showcasing a new platform that Six Apart is launching as well ? the Typekit (sic.) platform, which as far as I can figure is an API for people to build their own blogging platforms out of.
So rather than getting something like WordPress that has a fully integrated solution, Typekit (sic.) platform gives you bits and pieces like posts and comments and user accounts and you can plug them together like LEGO bricks however you want and build your own blogging platform out of the pieces that you want.
I’m not really convinced that this is solving a real problem; it’s kind of a solution to a non-problem in my view at this point.
Brad, do you have any sense for what this would be good for?
Brad: I mean, I guess launching your own microblogging site, that’s kind of what they’re pushing the features for using it, kind of having your own brand and maintaining your own brand rather than promoting another social network’s brand, you can kind of launch your own.
Kevin: Right, because the world doesn’t have enough social networking sites.
Brad: That seemed to be kind of their big push behind it.
The thing, like you mentioned, this is part of TypePad platform and part of that means your data is actually stored on TypePad servers, even on the open source side. So if you download the actual application and set it up on your own server, your data is not going to save locally in your own database; it’s still going to save in TypePad’s database in their infrastructure. It’s definitely something you want to think about whether you still want to kind of hand over your content and data to TypePad.
Patrick: That’s an interesting point. That’s kind of a moment for pause for me, but from looking at the TypePad Motion site, it’s somewhat clear that they’re branding it as like a community platform. I don’t see why they couldn’t make some headway in there similar to Ning. I mean, you can look at Ning and obviously no one hosts Ning data but Ning, so you have a lot of celebrities who are using Ning for sites from 50 Cent, Fabulous, various celebrities are using Ning sites because they’re easy to set up, there’s really not a whole lot of mess or cost or effort that has to go into it because you’re not hosting it.
I think the same thing could apply to TypePad Motion. It’s sort of maybe somewhere between Ning and Twitter, and that will appeal to certain celebrities or music artists and they’ll prefer it and they’ll give it a shot. That’s how I kind of view it as sort of a Ning-like platform, but obviously close to the Twitter.
Kevin: That really is a… yeah, it’s a strange one because WordPress gives you the option of hosting your blog at WordPress.com and everything’s done on their end, or you can download the WordPress software and run it entirely on your servers. I wonder if WordPress would be as popular as it is today if that download still stored your data on their servers in the cloud.
That brings us to our next story, which is this huge failure of the cloud in the past week for Sidekick users. Sidekick handheld Windows mobile phone – but much more than a phone, it’s one of these smartphones with a slide out keyboard, really a pocket computer for those people who use it ? and in the past week, the servers that sit behind this device and store all the user data when that device is switched off have failed.
It looks like the rumors are swirling and so no one’s really quite sure what happened except that the data services associated with this device went down and Microsoft – or rather Danger, which is a subsidiary of Microsoft that hosts all of this data – was saying, “Do not turn off your phone, do not take the battery out or your data is going to go away.” A lot of users, when their phone stopped working that was the first thing they tried ? they turned it off and on again. We’re in the computer age – that’s what we do and just like that – their calendar, their contacts, even their photos in some cases disappeared because apparently there was no backup for this cloud-hosted data.
Guys, what would you do if this happened?
Brad: When I first read the story, what kind of struck me as interesting is that I had no idea there were any cell phones out there that actually stored your personal data like contacts in the cloud. I just assumed they’re all locally stored on your phone.
Kevin: Yeah, we’re talking about it giving us pause that a blogging platform stores stuff in the cloud. Imagine something as personal as your mobile phone.
Brad: Yeah, that’s the first thing that caught my attention and you’ve got to wonder, how many Sidekick owners actually knew that? Is that something they tell you right up front, “Hey, your data is actually stored on a server off your phone and if our servers are affected so will your personal data.” I mean, that’s something that I would want to know about my phone.
Patrick: I’m sure it’s in the agreement you sign before they give it to you. [laughter]
Brad: I’m sure it’s in the fine print.
Patrick: I’m sure it’s there.
Kevin: They save money building memory into the phone by just transferring everything over to the cloud.
Brad: Yeah, it just blows my mind, especially something like the Sidekick, which is a smartphone essentially. So it’s not like just some cheap little free phone they give you, it’s a smartphone, it does a lot of smartphone functionality and for it not to be stored locally is wild, I have no idea.
Kevin: I mentioned there were a lot of rumors swirling and I want to stress that this story that I’m about to relate is pure rumor at this point, but the best information we can get about exactly what happened here is that Danger, the company that hosts these servers, wanted to do an upgrade of their Storage Area Network (which is SAN), and they brought in some contractors to do that work. Normally, when you would get that kind of work done, you would make sure that there was a backup in place of this data in case anything went wrong, but for one reason or another, there was no working backup. When the contractor flicked the wrong switch or typed the wrong command, this Storage Area Network was destroyed and there was no backup in place.
They’re exploring all their data recovery options as the story goes, but they’re not that hopeful. Microsoft continues to post occasional updates saying, “there’s a bit more hope… we’re not really sure,” but they immediately started advising their customers not to turn off their phones because what they’re going to try and do is bring these services back up and then ask the phones to sink back to the now empty servers and recover all of the data that way.
But for customers who have lost their data, they’re promising— T?Mobile, which is the mobile phone carrier which carriers this device, is promising customers who have experienced data loss a $100 “customer appreciation card” in addition to the free month of data service that is already being handed out to all Sidekick data customers.
So there you go guys, that’s the price on your irreplaceable data ? $100.
That sounds like they’re getting off cheap.
Patrick: Well, it’s clear there was a server outage from the reports, I mean that’s a fact. I guess the speculation is why there was an outage and what happened with the backup system because there are reports, and everyone came up and said “there was a server outage, we lost the data, please don’t turn off your phone.”
They released a statement – T-Mobile released a statement saying that “recent efforts indicate that the process of recovering some lost content may now be possible.”
They’re still developing, they’re still working on it. I think that $100 – it’s better than nothing. I mean, at this point, what are we going to do, right? Let’s say the data is lost, so what are we going to do? Obviously we can’t bring it back if it’s gone so obviously, you can offer a freebie, you can offer a credit. I mean I understand some people may take offense to that – “It’s a $100, that’s what my life is worth to you? My life is my phone.”
Brad: You should give everybody a free out from the contract.
Patrick: But you can leave the service, and that may be something that’s going to happen.
Kevin: I think of $100 in terms of how long on the plan that’s worth. A heavy data user like that is going to be getting through $100 a month. That’s almost saying to me like, “Okay, we screwed up this month, so you get this month for free. We’ll try and do better next month.”
Is one failure like this a month really the best that they’re hoping for and otherwise they refund you for that month.
Yeah, I’m with Brad; the right thing to do is to give them an out from their contract, but failing that, obviously, they’re going to be holding onto their customers for dear life. They need to at least be really open about how they communicate and I would offer a year refund if you want to stay in your contract.
Patrick: You need to give away money that’s not yours. [laughter]
Brad: I think really Microsoft needs to step up and say something. Microsoft really hasn’t said anything about this, so of course, there’s all these different rumors going around and nobody really knows what happened, except for Microsoft. They need to come out and at least make some type of official statement.
Patrick: It’s Danger. It’s a subsidiary of Microsoft and Danger has been releasing statements, T-Mobile has been releasing statements. There is statements coming out. It’s a trifecta of three companies that are essentially involved in this, whether or not they like, Danger, Microsoft, and Mobile. Danger and Microsoft, obviously the same company but, you know, I think the reason we bring this discussion up – obviously, we’re not a cell phone podcast, it’s more to do with the reliability of the cloud because there’s more chatter around this story than just the story, basically calling into question the reliability of cloud-based services offered by different companies, not just Microsoft but Google, Amazon and so on. There have been blips with the cloud-hosted services and very visible occurrences of these problems cause people – and business customers are what people are concerned about – to question the viability of these cloud-based services.
Kevin: Yeah, absolutely. I suppose it’s in the name though, you know. I would think twice about trusting my data to a company named Danger.
Patrick: Call it Smoke hosting … Wispy Smoke hosting. I mean, I think people need to be educated about what this stuff is and the cloud hosting. I mean, we all have to have to do our due diligence about just what checks are in place and I think that’s going to come with education over time and maybe some people are going to have to lose some data the same way we learned to back up our computers, a lot of us. You know that first time our hard drive crashed; obviously it was a bad feeling but then we figured out okay, well we need to back up this stuff ourself. And I think you can’t trust a cloud-hosted service, just like you can’t trust any hosted service. I mean there’s always got to be a data backup that’s separate, so I think people are going to have to come to that realization with cloud hosting and then everyone will better off; that clouding hosting isn’t the holy grail, so to speak.
Kevin: Yeah, that is an interesting point though that users need to be aware of the choices they’re making. It’s almost like a food additive, you know. If your phone hosts its data in the cloud, maybe there’s a regulation that should exist that says that needs to be on a label on the phone, just like food has to have ‘contains aspartame,’ so you can make an informed decision about your sweetener choices; the phone needs to have a ‘contains cloud hosting’ sticker on it.
Patrick: I don’t know if you’ve seen the commercials from IBM that explain cloud hosting; I know they’re running over here in the US, I don’t know if they’re running internationally or not but…
Patrick: So they have this IBM’ers or whatever, they’re talking about cloud hosing and first, they start with a technical description like “It’s an integrated network of systems…” blah blah blah blah blah, you know… whatever. And it’s for the effect of saying it’s technical. And then they get all these people, they’re saying like, I don’t know, fluffy words is what I would say but you know – basically saying “my data is in the cloud and I can get it wherever I am” and so on and so forth. But it doesn’t really speak to what it actually is and obviously, it’s marketing.
But it’s tough. I don’t know if it’s on the services to inform or on the customers to do their own due diligence; I think we as people have to be responsible for ourselves.
Kevin: Well from one mobile phone story to another, Peter Paul Koch who’s widely known as PPK has been doing some really intensive testing of the mobile phone browsers out there that are based on the WebKit platform. WebKit, of course, is the rendering engine at the heart of the Safari browser as well as several others, Google Chrome among others, but it’s also catching on in a big way on mobile devices. Mobile Safari on the iPhone, of course, is powered by WebKit but a lot of other phones from the major manufacturers are now adopting WebKit as their rendering engine.
The problem is, according to Peter Paul Koch, that these implementations vary widely in their support, especially of newer standards. His testing, which among other things tests the scores of these different phones on the Acid 3 test, has revealed that on these phones, all of which are WebKit-based, they achieve scores everywhere from 0 to near 100% and it varies all the way along the spectrum.
And so he’s saying on the surface it may look like we’re achieving greater consistency but in fact, WebKit is not WebKit and you can’t say I’m going to write a site that works in WebKit mobile because WebKit mobile is not a single browser; it’s a whole spectrum, a whole world of browsers, and that this is just going to cost a lot of headaches for designers.
Guys, what phones do you have? How do you browse the Web on the go?
Brad: I’m on an iPhone.
Patrick: [laughter] I’m on a prepaid pay-as-you-go phone. If you ever go to a conference with me then you’ll see, I’ll whip it out. I don’t browse the Web on it.
Kevin: Oh right, okay. So you’re on an iPhone, Brad, I’m on an iPhone as well. So we’re pretty much consistent but have you seen some of these other phones that are using WebKit?
Brad: I haven’t exactly used them personally but I’ve seen based on these charts and how well they perform, it’s almost overwhelming looking at this from a developer’s standpoint and how we’re supposed to actually program something to standards or something of how we know it will function. How are we supposed to actually trust our code, that’s it’s going to look right when there’s so many different… like you said, so many different WebKits that we have to program for and think about.
Kevin: Yeah. The situation isn’t entirely different on the desktop. We’ve got Safari, we’ve got Chrome, we’ve got Konqueror; those are the three major browsers on the desktop that rely on the WebKit platform and they all achieve pretty different results as well. Safari 4 is 204 out of 216, Chrome 3 is 192 out of 216, and Konqueror 357 is the latest one I can see a score for, only achieves 103 out of 216 but I think there are newer releases of that.
So WebKit isn’t WebKit on the desktop as well but we’re not used to thinking of it that way. We think of it as Safari, Chrome, Konqueror. We test those things separately. On the mobile, of course, there’s the iPhone but there’s browsers called Ozone, Iris, Bolt, the Android G2 browser, the Palm Pre browser, and the Series 60 over several versions. There’s Version 3 and Version 5 at least that are tested in PPK’s grid here. And so, like, Series 60 Version 3 scores 45, whereas the Ozone browser scores 185.
Alex Russell, who is best known for his work on the Dojo Toolkit, has broken down these results in a different order. He’s saying that what PPK misses here is that the mobile marketplace turns over so much more quickly than the desktop browser marketplace. On the mobile side, you can almost assume that a user is going to be getting a new phone every two years unless maybe you’re Patrick O’Keefe.
Patrick, how old is your phone?
Patrick: My phone’s actually about probably a year or so old. It’s not that old, but it is cheap.
Kevin: Okay. So it’s not fancy but it’s not old.
Patrick: But it is cheap.
Kevin: So you follow that pattern too though that pretty much everyone replaces their phone every couple of years and as a result, if you look at this grid of results and sort them by what’s released most recently, the results don’t actually look that bad. The only two browsers in his list that are clearly released in 2009 are Ozone and iPhone 3.1, and they’re both over 172 out of 216 which is right up there with the best that we have on the desktop. Safari 4 and Chrome 3 and Chrome 2 are the only browsers on the desktop that do better than that.
Alex Russell’s point here is that what we’ve got, although we do have this range of many different browser platforms, that’s a symptom of the rapid progress that’s being made on the mobile phone browser. And that if we hang on tight, you know, there are a lot of things to test against but the baseline is moving a lot more quickly than we have seen in the past on the desktop.
Do you guys agree with that assessment?
Brad: Yeah. I think Alex’s point is spot on; most people are going to get a new phone every two years and these are normal users, not necessarily developers or designers but these are just your normal cell phone users, internet users. They’re going to get a new phone when they get a new plan most likely. And you’re right, when they do, it will have the most recent browser, whatever that may be. So they’re more likely to do than they are probably to upgrade from IE 6 or IE 7.
Kevin: Well, yeah. And that’s a great reminder, IE 6. When it took such dominance in the marketplace on the desktop, what we had not as we’re seeing on the mobile, a great period of innovation and advancement, we had stagnation on the desktop. It’s really interesting how that one factor that people are nearly forced to upgrade their phone every two years is preserving that advancement, that continual improvement in the browser platform even though we’re seeing a single player, WebKit, really taking hold as a monopoly position in the browser rendering space.
Brad: Now if we can just force users to upgrade their desktops every two years, then we’ll be great.
?Kevin: There you go. Well, that’s not a terrible idea, especially as these cloud services become more and more popular, I would not be surprised.
You know the Google Chrome OS that has been promised sometime in the next year, I wouldn’t be surprised if the computers running Chrome OS were sold on a contract, on a two year contract. Wouldn’t that be interesting?
Brad: It would be.
Patrick: And we just finished talking about how great the cloud computing was, just a minute ago.
Brad: And now we’ve sold everybody on it again.
Patrick: Let’s segue. We want everything to be in the cloud, our operating system, our documents, our email, everything should be in the cloud and nothing should be …
Kevin: Everything in the cloud. Well we definitely found the theme for our episode.
And continuing on that, this Google Chrome cloudy atmosphere we’ve got going here, we return to something that you guys talked about in our last episode, the Chrome Frame Plug-in for earlier versions of Internet Explorer, and I think you guys all pretty much agreed that it was – with some reservations, a good thing, last episode. But there’s been some debate since then. Microsoft predictably came out and said that “This isn’t something we wouldn’t recommend because” – and I’m paraphrasing here – but they said “it doubled the space for security attacks on the browser because it basically created a browser within the browser and so it was twice as potentially vulnerable as a browser by itself.” But in the past week, the big surprise is that Mozilla is coming on the same side as Microsoft here. Mozilla is saying that Chrome Frame is a bad idea.
Patrick: Mozilla would rather everybody just switch off Internet Explorer.
Brad: Yeah, this was kind of surprising when I first read about it. I mean, I definitely didn’t think Mozilla would be taking IE’s side but apparently they are. I don’t really know if there’s some kind of meaning behind it. If maybe they’re hoping people rather than install Chrome Frame would actually upgrade to something like FireFox or if they’re just generally against it. I just have a hard time understanding that argument.
Patrick: Well I think that it may not be them going on IE’s side as much as it’s them saying, “You know what, we don’t want people using IE, we want their market share to drop,” because if you read this quote, basically they want people to move away from IE, not stay in IE and use Chrome. So they’d rather have people move to Chrome than stay in IE. And you know, I guess, they talk about the reasons here but, you know, I don’t know if I put them as saying the same thing as IE exactly; I think and every one has their perspective and what will be beneficial to them.
Kevin: Yeah, I agree, they definitely seem to have their own reasons for condemning Chrome Frame but it’s difficult to read through the PR speak here and figure what their real reason is. They’ve got two quotes – one from Mitchell Baker, chairman of Mozilla Foundation, and former Mozilla CEO, and the other for Mike Shaver, Mozilla’s vice president of engineering, and they seem to be giving a bunch of reasons and some of them seem to be a bit FUD (fear, uncertainty, doubt). They seem to be saying that if we embrace Chrome Frame we are taking the first step down a slippery slope which would see different sites creating their own site-specific plug ins and running their sites entirely within those plug-ins. So they’re talking about sites like Facebook or sites based on the Facebook Connect platform running within a Facebook browser plug-in inside every browser and saying that yeah, if we embrace this sort of thing, pretty soon there is going to be no web platform. Everyone is just going to build their own browser plug in to run their sites.
I’m not sure I buy that. It’s much easier to develop a site than it is to develop a browser plug-in, let alone when it will work across al browsers and subvert the browser marketplace. I really don’t buy that one at all. It’s clear that Chrome Frame is an answer to a very specific problem which is legacy versions of Internet Explorer. I doubt even Google would suggest running Chrome Frame in the latest version of Internet Explorer.
Patrick: Though they offer it.
Kevin: They do offer it. Yeah, absolutely. But Microsoft sure seemed to be doing a lot better with their browser development these days. I would be very surprised if they cannot keep up with the requirements of Google’s HTML5 applications within Internet Explorer.
And the Mozilla spokespeople go on to compare Chrome Frame to things like Silverlight, Flash and Java. It’s clear they’re making their pitch for their open web platform. You don’t need plug-ins, yadda, yadda, yadda. So this is where their stories definitely diverge from Microsoft because, you’re not going to hear Microsoft telling you not to install Silverlight, which is what I found most funny about Microsoft’s point saying that it increased your security risk by installing it. Well so does installing Silverlight.
Silverlight is just as much as browser within a browser as Google Chrome is. It renders HTML, it’s got it’s whole own set of rendering technologies with their own risks associated with them. So, I’m not sure I buy anyone’s story are here. I still think Chrome Frame is a good idea.
What do you guys think?
Brad: I love it. I think I said that five times on the last podcast. I think it’s awesome.
Patrick: You’re a developer, of course you would. (No, just kidding.) I think it’s a fine thing. I mean it makes sense, I think. If people want to install it, if it enhances IE 6, then I think it’s an interesting – it creates a new layer of responsibility for Google, though, because if some thing should go wrong with Chrome Frame, then everyone’s comments will be justified and they’ll be catching flack for it.
Obviously with any browser, if you look at it like a browser inside a browser, it’s another layer of responsibility for them. So I think if they take that seriously, then it will work out well.
Kevin: Yeah. One of the points that the Mozilla people make is that the Chrome Frame plug-in takes away some of the control from the user. It becomes the developer’s choice which browser engine is used to display a page, not the users’ choice although it’s still the user’s choice to install the plug-in to give that control to the developer. It then becomes the developer’s choice what pages render in IE and what pages render in Chrome Frame.
And they’re saying that really is a step backwards. We really need to preserve that user choice and that maybe even if you use something like Chrome Frame, it should be behind a button that says this page will render a lot better in Google Chrome, either download Google Chrome or click here to install Chrome Frame if you can’t download another browser.
Do you think that’s right? Do you think that we should still give users the choice of running in the old IE 6 engine if that’s what they want to do?
Brad: I think if you’re still running IE 6 that you forfeited your choice at this point.
Brad: If nothing else, for functionality because there’s a lot of stuff that’s coming out, especially in HTML5 that is never going to work in IE 6. So they’re going to start losing a good, sizable chunk of the internet as HTML5 becomes more popular over the coming years.
Patrick: Who knows how fast that will be, but I think that, it’s easy to set. It’s an easy setting in the Google Chrome Frame. You have the little thing that pops up, do you want to apply for this site? Apply for all sites? Check here. Boom. You know, it’s done. I’m sure they can build that in without much hassle.
Kevin: So that probably is the right thing to do. I’ll make than one concession to Mozilla’s PR people. But yeah, I think what they’d really like you to do is upgrade to Firefox.
So that’s our new stories for this week, guys. Let’s take a look at some of our host spotlights.
Brad, what’s your spotlight for this week?
Brad: My spotlight this week is Woopra, the beta analytics package, live tracking analytics has removed their beta tag and they are now open to the public. Essentially Woopra is like I said, live tracking and analytics service and they’re big push is you can literally people as they are kind of traveling through your site. You can watch it in real time. There is no delay. They’ve been in beta for, I believe, over a year. And they finally removed the tag which means, if you create a paid account today, you can join right away. If you want to use a free account, which they do allow, unfortunately, you still have to have an invite but if you are going for a paid account, it’s available today. That’s woopra.com.
Kevin: Do you sacrifice any… Their focus on the real-time viewing of users: does that mean that you sacrifice any of the tools for viewing the accumulated statistics over time or would you say it’s just as good as something like Google Analytics?
Brad: Well, it doesn’t go as far back as analytics. And I’m trying to remember exactly how far back it goes. I want to say it’s either two months or six months. So, no, it’s definitely not something that would replace like your long term analytics, Google Analytics, or whatever it may be but it’s something you kind of lay on top of it and you kind of see real-time stats of exactly what’s going on through your sites. So maybe you launch a new feature, a new section, you want to see exactly how popular it is at the moment, you can fire up Woopra and watch it. But, yeah, over time it’s not something that you would want to actually replace with your normal analytics package.
Kevin: All right. I dig that. It’s a complimentary service.
Patrick: Right. Kind of like crazy egg.
Kevin: Crazy egg.
Patrick: Not the same but complimentary. Anyway, my host spotlight is a video blog by Jason Keath (jasonkeath.com) and it’s Social Media, the Bad and the Ugly. It’s actually responding to the panel that I’ll be doing at Blog World Expo, the day after… actually the day this podcast comes out.
He talks about the knee-jerk responses within social media, knee-jerk attack responses to people that are new to the space and how it’s damaging to the space as a whole, and I thought it was a really good piece and a really good video. So I would say to check it out if you’re interested in social media at all and we’ll have a link in the show notes, of course.
Kevin: My spotlight is actually revisiting Brad’s spotlight from last episode. Brad talked about the iPhone client for Dropbox and recommended that.
I’ve actually been a long time Dropbox user and one of the things that I’ve really been looking forward to is the new version of their desktop client that would sync over the LAN. We used Dropbox a lot for sharing files between the SitePoint online publishing team. The problem we find is that whenever someone within the team drops a sizable file into the shared folder, everyone’s computers in the office immediately start working on downloading that file from the Dropbox servers.
Not only does it drain our bandwidth but it’s actually a pretty significant load on the office network when you’ve got, you know, a dozen people sharing the same large file on Dropbox.
Dropbox have long promised a new version that would intelligently detect when people sharing a file were on the same network and transfer that data locally. And although the latest released version of Dropbox still doesn’t do that yet, if you go to the Dropbox forums at forums.getdropbox.com, right there at the top of the latest discussions, you’ll see a thread called Latest Forum Build, and it’s version 0.7.32 as we record this, and that’s the version with the LAN syncing in it.
In the past week, I finally got up the courage to install it. Dropbox is a pretty vital piece of our workflow at SitePoint and using a beta version was a little scary so I made sure I had a proper backup strategy in place for those folders before I did this. But having tested it, it works great. Once a new file goes into Dropbox, just as before, the source computer where that file was created still uploads it to the Dropbox servers before the other computers see it but as soon as it’s uploaded to the Dropbox service, the other computers get notified of that new file and then immediately start transferring it over the LAN, over the local network. It’s much faster and much easier on our bandwidth bill.
So if you’re a new Dropbox user, an old Dropbox user, and especially if you’re sharing files between multiple computers on the same network, I recommend the latest beta version, it’s working great for me.
And that brings us to the end of our show. Let’s go around the table, guys.
Visit us at sitepoint.com/podcast to leave comments on the show and to subscribe to receive every show automatically. You can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org with your questions and comments; we’d love to read them out on the show and give you our advice.
This episode of the SitePoint Podcast was produced by Karn Broad and I’m Kevin Yank. Bye for now!
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