Living the in Cloud: Dropbox and Evernote

If you access the internet from only one device this article won’t mean much to you, so I won’t mind if you go read something more interesting.

However, if you own a computer and a tablet, or a computer, smartphone and tablet, then reading about Evernote and Dropbox might be worth a few minutes of your time.  If you’re like me and juggle a lot of devices then learning to squirrel your digital crap all over the cloud becomes more vital.  At home I have both a Windows and Linux desktop, at work I have Windows, Linux and Mac desktops, and between the two locations I have an iPod touch and iPad 2.

What a pain it is to think of something you want and realize you left it in your other computer.  Moving to the cloud is in its early stages, so 100% tried and true solutions are in the future.  As society evolves towards the day when internet access has five nines of uptime, 99.999%, then we can develop a new paradigm of trusting our files to the cloud, and that will be the difference between life before personal computers and life after them.

dropboxevernote

Although I’d like to be a cyborg and meld my brain with silicon I’m not quite there yet, but I do think of the Internet as my auxiliary brain and that presents some problems.  Before the Internet going to work meant leaving my main auxiliary brain at home – how inconvenient.   Sure, someone invented the laptop and it was a good idea at the time, but it was only a stopgap solution.  After we got smartphones and tablets it became pretty obvious trying to sync all our crap between every device we owned was a losing battle.  The solution was to put all digital kipple in one location and then let all the machines, big and small, fetch what we needed from that primary storage.

What this means is the cloud is our new auxiliary memory and the machine we use is less important.  The old fanboy battle between PC versus Mac becomes silly.  If I can read my docs, listen to my music and look at my photos from any device, does it matter how big or small it is, or who made it, or even who owns it?  Instant access is what counts.  Memories are best served fast.

When the cloud becomes our digital memory deciding how to organize memories becomes significant.  I’m playing with two tools, Dropbox and Evernote.  Both are free to use with an introductory amount of cloud space, but fill up your cloud attic, and you’ll have to pay for more space for your white elephants.  That’s cool, but I haven’t committed to either one yet because I’m still evaluating how they store my memories.  I’ll probably buy into both, but I haven’t decided.

Dropbox is like having a hard drive in the cloud.  You create folders and store whatever kind of files you want.  It’s very computer centric.   When you join you get 2gb of free space.  If you convince a friend to join they give you another 250mb of space.  If you get enough friends to join you can get up to 8gb of free space, but after that you rent larger blocks of space.  By the way, if you join from this link I’ll earn some extra space.

Evernote is different, it’s database centric.  Evernote is a free-form database where you leave notes, either ones you type, or ones you email via a smartphone, or clip from the web, or cut and paste from your own computer documents.  You can even embed PDF files.  If you spend $45 a year, upgrading to the Premium version, gets you more memory processing features and more storage space.

The neat thing about Evernote is being able to search your collection of notes.  Since I’m getting old and the access speed on my biological memory has become erratic, untrustworthy and slow, having cloud base memory with search is nifty indeed.  Because Evernote is a free-form database, throw your data in any old way, it doesn’t matter, and let search find it for you.  You can be as sloppy or neat as your personality.

Both programs install as programs on your computers, work from web apps, or install as apps on iOS and Android smartphones and tablets.

I can access Evernote and Dropbox from my PC, Mac, Linux, iPad, and iPod touch.  If I think of something I want to remember, or read something I want to remember, I can choose to remember it the old way, or I can memorize it in my auxiliary memory.

JWH – 1/24/12

6 Responses

  1. Thanks for articles about “the cloud”.
    You finally convinced me to give it a try.
    Till now I was little bit sceptic about it, I find it extremely hard for me to trust “them”. And sorry form my english, i’m learning it…

    • Oh, I don’t trust anyone yet. I’m just testing the waters. I’m still trying to remember to always keep copies of important files in 2 or more places. Well, that’s not exactly true. I just realized a new habit I have doesn’t have backups. Whenever friends of family send me a photo in email or on Facebook and I thought they were memorable, I’ve been saving them to Dropbox. I’ll need to set up some kind of replication. I use a program called Second Copy, that runs in the background that copies files from My Documents to my external hard drive. I might need to set up routine that copies from Dropbox to My Pictures or my external drive. What I’d really like is a way to replicate to another cloud storage site automatically, so if Dropbox was down I could just go somewhere else from any of my devices, and quit worrying about keeping stuff on local hard drives and external hard drives. See, all of this is experimental.

      What we need is an online service that backs up our cloud data from various sources.

  2. Well, Jim – you did it again!

    I’ve had Dropbox for awhile (sorry I can’t give you a bit more space there) but couldn’t figure out what to do with it because my original idea wasn’t going to work – (a little web-site annex).

    Shoot – I didn’t even have DropBox on my iPad!

    Anyway – I got it on the ‘Pad because your post gave me another idea! I collect recipes on my computer and print them out. I get new ones every couple days. I have to make little notes to myself about ingredients to shop for.

    But I frequently take my iPad to the store anyway because I’m usually out and about doing other errands and I get groceries the last thing.

    So – voila! I now put the web recipes (cut and pasted into a Pages doc) themselves into DropBox and when I’m at the store it’s easy and accurate reference! What kind of salsa did I mean when I wrote that? Why – tomatillo salsa verde of course – it’s right there on the recipe!

    Oh thank you again. :-)

    • It’s funny you mention recipes because last night I made a folder for recipes on Dropbox too. I’m going on a diet and a friend sent me some of her favorite quick and healthy meals. I saved them right to Dropbox. Now I’ll have them on my iPod touch and iPad.

      Dropbox is great for recipes. But so would Evernote. You create notebooks in Evernote for different topics.

  3. I’ve been using Evernote for quite a while. We’re undergoing a major renovation and the notes, ideas & products are flying in from everywhere. Evernote keeps them organized and able to be recalled when we’re out & about. Like you, we each have multiple devices and sharing had become impossible. I use Evernote for my web recipes too.
    You’ve convinced me to give dropbox a try. My son uses it to move large files to/from school. As a matter of fact, schools, have been using this method for years. I think they call it the blackboard.

    • Well, schools have a commercial system called Blackboard that is a complete intranet for students and teachers.

      Dropbox is very handy, but if it’s something that’s ultra-secret I might not trust them.

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