SkyPi: My personal dropbox under my desk

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For a few years now, I've been an avid user of Dropbox. It's incredibly handy that your files are automagically backed up without even thinking about it, en that they're accessible from everywhere. Still, I can easily pull up some reasons why I'd want to leave Dropbox:

  • Price/Storage space: You'll get a free account to Dropbox for 2 GB. You could stretch this a bit by using a referral code and inviting friends in, and end up with an extra 2 or even 4 Gigs of space. Once you start storing digital photographs though, even this kind of storage is filled in no time. A paid subscribtion costs you $99 per year for 100 GB... for 1 single user.
  • Users: ... and this brings to my second issue: $99 per year might be affordable if it really helps you out. But all of the sudden your family consists of you, your spouse and possibly a few children... The total price will be rising.
  • Black Box Software: Je don't know what the software does with your data. How reliable is their service? After the whole Snowden-affair, it appears that Dropbox got a friendly visit from the NSA and was friendly (or maybe not so friendly) asked to give access to their (and consequently your) data. Owncloud - the software used to build your own cloud server - is completely open source. This means you can check the code for malicious code if you would want to. Security services normally won't have access to the tiny server peacefully sitting under your desk.
  • Safety: Any company can go bancrupt. Even though it doesn't look like Dropbox will put down the books pretty soon, smaller competitors will fail every now and then... and with them disappearing, you're backup is gone all of the sudden too. And then it's up to you...
  • Internet traffic: in our current generation with broadband internet, this might not be the biggest argument, but possibly it's key where the internet connection is slow, unreliable or really expensive: sending a huge blob of files to some cloud service, will push a bunch of gigabytes over your intertubes. The traffic will add up to your possible limits (and could in principle also get monitored by all the safety agencies of countries your traffic passes trough).

Using a SkyPi, you'll be deciding how big your cloud will be - you're the one buying a USB-(hard)drive. Connect it to your Pi, and all of the sudden, you've got 2 terabytes of backup space for a one time fee. The data gets backed up inside your LAN, so your data is at no time exposed to the internet (unless you decide otherwise, for example by sharing them with others). Since the Raspberry Pi is really economical, your tiny server will have a very small footprint.

For the sake of honesty, there are a few caveats:

  • Your backup is nog inside your house. Critical backups are best (also) stored off-site!
  • The system isn't very powerful. If multiple users use it at the same time, it gets really slow.
  • Didn't check if the system would be powerful enough to allow strreaming video...
  • If your drive crashes, you loose your backup. Don't forget to regularly check your backup. You could figure out a system to write all data twice (to 2 seperate drives) - ideally it would be a RAID 0 setup. But this is outside the scope of this article.
  • You're responsible for the maintenance of your hardware and software. Do your updates!

If you don't like these caveats, you can always buy a NAS out there (you have have a pretty decent solution for around $500) and combine these with the standard backup software on your system...

Off course you'll then miss out on the satistying experience of figuring stuff out yourself, and getting hands on!

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Killing an application with a mouse click in Linux

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Just a few minutes ago, I tried opening Squeak - had it installed on my computer and didn't remember what it was. So a dialog box popped up asking me what squeak image I wanted to choose - but then I had zero choices... Luckily there was a "cancel" button. So I clicked it... but it didn't respond.

Aaaaah... but that's no problem! I'll just flip out a terminal window, and use top and kill to figure out the process number and kill it. Mmm... didn't really know what I had to kill, that was a long list...

Ah, but I know it! Let's use the killall command! Just a great linux command line tool to kill all instances of a process. So here it goes:

killall squeak

... didn't do a thing :(

That pesky little popup window was still on my display, and I had no idea under what name it was living there.

So finally I bumped into this nifty tool - you launch it from the command line in a terminal window. You do need to make sure the annoying popup window is visible (at least partially) when you launch the command:

xkill

Now your cursor changes in a tiny little cross... the next window you click on, will get killed! Now, isn't that handy? I love it!!

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Free Excel password remover

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Recently, I bumped into a file a former colleague of mine made. When he left the school, he abandoned the Excel file. It was a great tool, but legislation changed and I had to adapt some text in a worksheet. Unfortunately, the sheets and the workbook were password protected. With some online help from a free tool, I managed to remove the password and update the file...

 

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200 great tools for webdesigners

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The great Dutch magazine Webdesigner Magazine issued a list of 200 great tools in their 200th edition of their magazine. You can finds links to all 200 of them on this page...

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