Sometimes I make games. Sometimes I make websites. This is my blog.
Reliable access to information is important. Like electricity, we don’t think about it much until it’s gone.
Just imagine how much harder your daily life would be if you weren’t able to access a given piece of information. Whether it’s because the server is down, workplace firewall rules, or some sort of government censorship, how would you get what you need in order to do your work? Is it even possible?
If you’re a student looking for data for your research paper, or you’re a automotive dashboard designer trying to reduce driver distraction, or you’re a marketer looking for data to analyze customer habits, you need access to quality information that will help you make decisions based on data.
It’s no secret that most academic and non-profit organizations are constantly strapped for cash, often requiring donations or tax breaks just to keep the lights on. While it’s always welcome to donate money, there are other ways you can help out.
Have you ever considered donating a bit of hard drive space to help host academic files for universities? Many of us (myself included) have a home theater computer connected to our living room TV. Whether it’s an old laptop with a broken screen, a Raspberry Pi, or an Intel NUC, we’ve got something that’s available for most of the hours of any given day and has a hard drive that is almost never used.
Why not donate 10 to 15 GB of space to host important and much needed legal torrents?
This is what I’ve started doing. Using Transmission, which is available for free on Linux, Windows, and Mac, you can easily set up a folder to host legal academic torrents.
Worried about it killing your Internet speed or receiving hefty bandwidth bills? You don’t need to be. If you click the little turtle in the status bar, you can set sane speed limits. To not interfere with my Netflix streaming and gaming, I’ve got mine set to low speeds. It won’t be a deluge of data being sent, but just imagine if 50 of us all had these settings, the speed for the files will be fast, because that’s how Torrents work: splitting the file across multiple people to increase speed and reduce the chance of one down server stopping everyone.
Take a look at Academic Torrents to learn more about how you can help out.
Being a web developer, I usually use several different computers on different operating systems across the lifetime of any project. Personally, I have 5 computers plus one server: Access to a Vista PC, a Windows 7 virtualized installation, my main Mandriva Linux desktop, a Eee 701 PC with Eeebuntu, a Mandriva Linux laptop, and a FreeBSD development server.
Moving files from one computer to the next used to be a time-consuming and ultimately prohibitive process. If I wanted to, say, take a break from working on my PC and work at the Red Brick Cafe for a few hours, I’d have to download my work files to a USB memory card then export the MySQL database and do the same transfer again to the USB memory card.
Or, I could burn a CD. Of course, how does one get the updated files back off the laptop and onto the PC when arriving back at home? This arduous process basically meant that freedom of choice in the work environment was severely hampered and was often more trouble than it was worth. But not any more.
Enter Dropbox (note: referral URL!).
Dropbox is a free service that is basically a shared folder in the cloud. It makes sharing files amongst any computer, whether it be Mac, Linux, or Windows, easy as drag and drop. And I really mean that. I love things that speed up my work processes because the less time I spend in administration mode the more time I can accomplish tasks in programming mode. Dropbox exemplifies this manifesto.
Any file you put in the Dropbox folder on a computer will instantly be available on any computer that install Dropbox on. Even better, revisions are kept so if you make a mistake with a file and don’t have backups, you can pull the file in question from the archives to restore it. What makes Dropbox different from any other revision or archiving setup is that this is all done without any administration by the user. Literally if you drag a file into the folder, all this stuff is done for you. No committing changes, no crazy hoops to jump through.
Oh, and the 2GB storage starter account is completely free. It’s the one I use daily. I don’t even think I’ve hit 25% capacity yet.
Take a look at Dropbox at http://www.dropbox.com/
Similar to how we frequently display the front-page headlines of past newspapers during historical events, I submit this 2.0 version for our children and our children’s children: