Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Figuring Out Dropbox

Lately I’ve been experimenting with Drobox. I’ve used this Internet-based tool before, but sparingly. The graphics designer who did the covers for Doctor Luke’s Assistant and the print cover for Documenting America saved them to Dropbox, because of their size. I recovered them from there, did whatever I had to do with them, but didn’t explore Dropbox much. When I needed those covers either completed or tweaked, the next designers I gave them to got the files via Dropbox.

So as I understand it, Dropbox is a service wherein you can store files on someone’s server, somewhere in the world, and access the files at any time from any computer. It also becomes a place to store files you want backed up. A poor man’s backup, if you will. The service is free, up to some number of mb or gb. For a fee I’m sure you can get a whole lot more storage space.

I’m concerned about this thing, this cloud thing, if that’s the right word for it. If I store my files at Dropbox, where are they? They are on a hard drive, only God knows where, with my name on a small piece of it. So long at the Internet is available, I can access them. If the Internet is not available, they are as good as lost, whereas if they are on a hard drive at your location, you can access them so long as you have electricity and a working computer. But, lack of Internet is temporary. They say that in the future the Internet will be so much more ubiquitous than it is even now that lack of Internet will be almost unheard of. Maybe 10 to 15 years down the road.

But I like things to be where I’m at. Paper books and files are nice. A hand-held e-reader is nice. I’m concerned when things are out of my sight. However, I have a current need regarding my writing, and decided to see how Dropbox might help me.

My current work-in-progress is a non-fiction, public domain book titled Thomas Carlyle’s Edinburgh Encyclopedia Articles. For the first time all twenty-one articles will be gathered into one volume. Plus I have a short introduction and some footnotes added. I’m at the point where I’m doing some incredibly picky stuff to the text, to get it closer to perfect, and will soon shift to formatting for print book and e-book. I’m working on it at the office and at home. My normal procedure is to save it to whatever computer I’m working at, with the day’s date attached to the file name, and e-mail it to myself. Then I can access it via e-mail at the other computer. Except sometimes I forget to do the e-mail. I get to the other computer and realize I don’t have the latest tweaks to build on, and I lose whatever time I was going to spend on it.

That would be eliminated if I would just save it to Dropbox, in addition to the computer I’m working on. Then, so long as I have the Internet, I should be able to access it from anywhere. Right? That’s the theory. And so far it worked. Yesterday I worked on it a little at work, saved it to my office computer, saved it to Dropbox (for the first time), and then worked on it at home in the evening. I repeated the saving process. Today I did some additions to the Introduction and proofreading that resulted in a few changes. I saved it to my computer here, changing yesterday’s date to today’s, then saved it to Dropbox with that new file name. I don’t know if circumstances will allow me to work on it at home tonight. But if they do, I will have the latest file there to pull-up and work on. If I remember to save it to Dropbox, tomorrow I’ll have the latest file here at work.

I don’t know. Maybe I’ll come to like this. It should maximize my writing time, but most importantly eliminate downtime. And that’s a good thing. And it will assure that the most recent copy is always backed-up to the Internet. And that’s another good thing. I’ll keep using it for a while, see how I like it. So far, so good.

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