The best kind of advertising is this: a happy user telling people about your product unsolicited. This is why Dropbox will catch on. Because this post is written to celebrate something that has made life easier: Dropbox. Dropbox has satiated an enormous file organization O.C.D. and eliminated a time consuming backup process that together have eaten at my time for years. Organizing and backing up stuff is not something anyone really wants to do, they just want it done. This is very much like having a clean kitchen: you don’t want to wash dishes and wipe counters, you just want clean dishes and clean counters.
Let’s back up a bit and talk about life before Dropbox… In order to keep things straight before Dropbox, I created a folder and subfolder structure on each of four computers I use regularly; this one folder structure houses everything I care about. The same folder and subfolder structure was put onto a 16gb memory stick and a backup hard drive as well. There was a color-coded spreadsheet that got printed and a process of moving files from each computer to the memory stick, then to the main computer and eventually to the backup harddrive. The process had slowly evolved over a couple of years, and was working, but where things turned painful, however, was the dread of actually having to jump through all the hoops to keep multiple machines synced up (i.e. kitchen analogy).
Enter Dropbox: basically what Dropbox does is provide a central repository for your files that you can access from anywhere. In this regard, it’s very much like an old VAX system from when you were in college (if you’re old like me). The Dropbox folder, if used properly, can relegate your PC to a work-mule and keep your data centrally located. This is awesome if you’re always switching PC’s because of work, kids, travel, or whatever. I save a file in the kitchen because the kids are too loud, and go upstairs to a different computer to finish up and it’s like I didn’t miss a beat. I jump in the car to go to work and say “oh shit, I forgot my memory stick”? Nope, because my file is there. I pull out my laptop and say “oh shit, I forgot to save that to my memory stick”? Nope, because my file is there. I’m reiterating for emphasis because if this happens to you all the time too, you will love Dropbox and you see the point.
By converging my backup system with Dropbox, I can now find other uses for my memory stick, like picking my teeth or stirring my coffee or scratching that hard to reach spot on my back that I could get to if I just had a little bit longer fingers. Once again, you get the point: memory sticks are going the way of the dinosaur.
Dropbox and XAMPP:
Now let me now tell you about the number one use of Dropbox for me and what truly takes it to the next level for an aspiring web developer. As I endeavor to learn to program in HTML, CSS, PHP, and jQuery, I use my computer as a localserver. XAMPP is what I use to serve up my webpages locally because it’s free and awesome. The issue is that within XAMPP, the files served must be located in the ‘htdocs’ folder and not my Dropbox folder. But these are the files I’m using most and my Dropbox folder isn’t helping me. So you might be wondering “How to use dropbox with XAMMP?” or “How to serve your htdocs folder from Dropbox?” or “How can I join my htdocs in XAMMP with my Dropbox folder?” ( I completely apologize for those last three meta sentences. But, if you’ve read this far, you probably understand servitude to the google bot for the shameless want of clicks).
So for real, how do you handle this? How do you serve your XAMMP pages in your htdocs folder using Dropbox? (sorry again). It’s pretty easy. This is all you do:
Step #1: Copy your entire ‘htdocs’ folder to your Dropbox folder. Make sure you verify you have a good copy of your ‘htdocs’ folder because I don’t want to be the reason you lose hours of work.
Step #2: Delete your ‘htdocs’ folder from your XAMPP directory. BE CAREFUL! Verify that you have it backed up first.
Step #3: Join your ‘htdocs’ folder in your Dropbox with the location you just deleted it from. This is standard windows stuff whereby the “real” folder is in your Dropbox, but an alias of it is in the XAMPP directory where it can be served locally by XAMPP.
I will do a future post with more detail on how to join folders in Windows to lay it out more simply for those that don’t know how. For now, you can review Dropbox’s tutorial here. I should mention, since this is the first post ever on this site, that once this site gets cooking, you will find a wealth of video tutorials here. And, I will do a video tutorial on this process as well.
Boom, that’s it. When I joined my XAMPP htdocs folder with my Dropbox folder is about the same time I became a huge Dropbox fan. Because until I could make use of folders outside my Dropbox folder I was ho hum about it. It was cool, but it wasn’t end all because I needed these files more than any others and they had to be in a special spot. Once this was figured out, Dropbox became truly awesome.
In conclusion, Dropbox gives you 2 gb free and is well worth your while. You should check it out. I’m managing to only use my free 2gb and I’m super happy. I have a feeling that I will eventually write Dropbox a check to up my giga-bytage which is a huge tip of the hat to them. Because if they can get my cheap-ass to write them a check, they’re going to do fine in this prodigal America and the prodigal world for that matter. They were smart to give me 2gb free because they really got the hook in my cheek. Reeling in my checkbook is like reeling in a reef shark and will take some time, but I have a feeling they’ll eventually get this fish in the boat. This really bodes will for Dropbox because if they can reel in the parsimonius, they should have no problem with the prodigals.