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NedWolf’s Dog-Simple Guide to Cloud Storage - Part 1: The 800 Pound Gorillas
Cloud Storage. What is it?
Cloud storage is nothing more than storing files on the internet.
Why do I need it?
- File Sharing
- Access from anywhere
Is it free / How much does it cost?
Almost all services start out free, with options of paying for more storage.
But what about the children! Won't somebody think of the children?
I'm being silly, but the sad truth is that the 'net can be a pretty slimy place. The best way to watch out for your kids is to monitor and filter their surfing activities. OpenDNS is a simple, effective method of filtering and monitoring the network activity on your home network. Various categories such as games, sports and adult can be easily allowed or disallowed. You can set up a white-list for approved sites, or a black-list for the no-no's.
For those that don't know, bookmark managers allow you to save, manage and share your bookmarks from computer to computer.
There are quite a few online bookmark services out there. Some are browser-specific. Some are social-centric. The best all-around bookmark manager / bookmark synchronizer is Xmarks. It integrates with all major browsers and operation systems and works flawlessly.
You're on the road and need to have a quick chat with your family. You can't install software on the machine you're working on. What do you do?
Chat on all the networks (AIM, ICQ, MSN, Jabber, and Yahoo! Messenger) with one client that you carry in your pocket. Pidgin has a plugin architecture that extends to every new chat server or protocol that comes up including Skype.
A very nice, stand-alone RSS reader. If you prefer, you can use an online service like Plucker, Yahoo, or Google, but GreatNews has more customizable features such as the ability to categorize and label your feeds. You can also modify the appearance to your liking.
It's essential to get email on the road. Both Mobility Email and Portable Thunderbird allow you to do this safely and securely. Again, without leaving traces on the host computer. Both programs are based on Thunderbird, and both are excellent.
Oh, you actually like spam? It makes you feel less lonely? Get away from me, you pathetic fool!
SpamBayes uses a Bayesian filter (don't they all?) to get rid of spam. That means that it learns, according to your habits and preferences, what is and what is not spam. As those nasty spammers get more clever to get past your filter, SpamBayes adjusts and responds.
It comes in a couple different flavors, according to your needs. There's an Outlook plugin and both a Pop3 and IMAP proxy.
Available for both Internet Explorer (yuk) and Firefox (yay!). The Google toolbar isn't particularly whiz-bang or feature-rich, but it's the best because it searches... Google.
I've reviewed all of the major free VOIP (Voice Over IP) packages, and in this case, the best is also the biggest: Skype . As they put it, "Talk to anyone free. Forever." Well, almost. "Anyone" has to have a Skype account as well. That said, the software is simple to set up, easy to use, and provides excellent audio quality.
Free Download Manager
So what does a download accelerator / manager do? It lets you schedule, prioritize and generally control your http and ftp downloads.
For downloading entire websites to view offline, HTTrack is the easiest solution. You can specify advanced filters, how deep in structure you wish to go, what directories to stay on, etc.
Controls a computer over a local network or the internet. There are quite a few free applications that do this, and I've tried most of them. Ultr@VNC is currently the best of the lot. It supports session encryption via a plugin (some do not), so you won't get any eavesdroppers. It's also fast. If there's a faster remote access application, I've yet to find it.
Pidgin allows you chat on all major networks using any protocol without advertisements. AIM, ICQ, MSN Messenger, Yahoo!, IRC, Jabber, Gadu-Gadu, Zephyr and now Google Talk.
If you chat, use Pidgin.
Does everything you would want a BitTorrent client to do. You can pause downloads, prioritize them, and throttle upload speeds. It supports DHT (Distributed Hash Table), which means, basically, there's less chance of the tracker being down.
FTP clients should be simple. There are really only a few things than 99% of users need to do. You upload files, you download files. You save ftp site settings. Maybe you rename them on the server sometimes. Maaaaaybe you change file permissions. Filezilla does these things simply and perfectly. Easy to use, quick to start. It supports all the normal encryption methods as well.
If you use Outlook Express or Windows Live Mail, stop. Now. I mean it. Thunderbird is better in practically every way.
Google is the king of webmail. When Gmail was invititaion-only, people were literally buying and trading invitiations for as much as $100.
In addition to the over 2.5GB of storage currently available (which keeps going up), the interface has revolutionized what we now expect from a web application. It is the single biggest precipitator of the flood of AJAX applications that are coming out. Many, many people prefer its web interface to their desktop email client.
Stand-alone BitTorrent client. It's not quite as powerful as Azureus, but it uses much fewer system resources. It supports all the goodies: simultaneous downloads, rate-limiting, prioritization, etc.
Surf the web without leaving any clues on the host computer. Oh, and use a superior browser while you're at it.
I also recommend Filezilla in my standard desktop software category. Simple and clean, it runs perfectly off a USB drive.
Mail2web supports any POP3 or IMAP mail server and has optional SSL encryption to protect your privacy on the road. It requires no registration and is very fast.
Chat on any of the major networks: AIM, ICQ, Yahoo! Messenger, Jabber, GTalk, or MSN. Nice, clean interface and very responsive.
The Phone Company (TPC)
Send a text-based fax many places in the world via email or the browser interface.
The most complete collection of web-based network information tools.
FTP to any server through this web interface. Supports SSL and has a built-in editor for text, HTML, or PHP files.
There are a lot of options and ways to get RSS feeds. You can use on online service like Plucker . If you have a Yahoo or Google account, you can subscribe to feeds through your home page. Thunderbird has a built-in (albeit simple) reader. However, if you would like something a little more powerful and dedicated, I recommend AmphetaDesk .
If you use still use Internet Explorer, stop. Now. I mean it. Firefox or Opera are better in practically every way.
They are more secure (no more spyware from just browsing to a site). They block pop-up advertisements. They have "tabbed browsing", which means you can have more than one page open at a time.
You have to fill out a form, but you're worried that your email will harvested for spam. Enter "Disposable Email".
Mailinator is the easiest to use. Whenever you need a disposable email address, just make up any word, then follow it with "@mailinator.com". You don't need to register in advance. Go to mailinator.com and enter that word. You can then retrieve any email that has been sent to that address. It will expire automatically sometime in the future.
HTTrack is the easiest way to download a site for offline viewing (or to put on your thumb drive). Watch out, though. If you want complete privacy - no traces left on the host computer, this might not be the way to go. It saves a recent file list in Windows registry.