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Two for the Road
Think of the Internet as one big hard drive

Susan Ives, a past president of Alamo PC, stores her files all over the world.


Hardly anyone uses just one computer any more. There's your desktop computer. Maybe a laptop. The one at work. Your spouse's computer, the kid's computer, the library computer, school computer . . . if you're anything like me, there are probably about four or five systems that you use in a typical week. 

And of course, the stuff I want is always on the other computer. What was the address of that web site I visited last month? I know I bookmarked it . . . oh yeah, that was on my desktop computer and Iím on the laptop.  I wish I had a copy of that report Ö but the file was too big to fit on a floppy and this system doesnít have a zip disk and I would have forgotten to bring a disk any way and the systems administrator wonít let me insert disks because sheís afraid theyíll have virusesÖ.  Iím out of town and the client asked for a copy of the logo and I didnít think to bring it with me . . . I didnít even bring my laptop with me this trip . . . and why oh why didnít I burn it onto a CD? I need to send a draft of this letter to Rosalyn but she uses free Juno for her e-mail and canít accept attachments so I guess Iíll just have to wait until I see her next week when we can work on it together. . .

That was a rare peek into Susanís brain on a bad day. Maybe yours, too. There is hope.

We tend to thing of the Internet as a place where we go to get information, but it can also be a place where we put information. I tell my Internet classes that the Internet is the worldís largest network of networks. This means that you have access to millions of hard drives. Some will let you store stuff on them and they donít even charge you.

Why do they do this? The web-based interfaces that you use to store your files contain advertising. Every time you look at a page you see an ad. Some people find this obnoxious, but itís no worse than commercial TV. Why do they let you watch the Super Bowl for free? Because they have a captive audience for the ads. Same principle. Also, when you register, the sites give you an opportunity to sign up for periodic e-mail newsletters, or to share your e-mail address with other advertisers (I usually say no.) 

Here are two ways you can use the Internet as an extension of your own desktop PC.

Blink
My computer has a lot of bookmarks. At last count, 540 of them. I operate under the ďbetter safe than sorryĒ rule. I might need to find that site again and Iíll never remember the URL.

My obsessive-compulsive bookmarking doesnít always save me, though. What if Iím using my laptop, or Johnís computer? The bookmarks, all ten zillion of them, are somewhere else: on the hard drive of my desktop computer.

Blink solves that problem. Blink reads the bookmark file from your hard drive and copies it onto free web space on the Blink server. Your bookmarks are accessible, whatever computer you are using. And Blink isnít just for computers. You can access your Blink bookmarks using WAP enabled phones or browser-based wireless devices, such as PDAs. 

This is also a good way of saving all of your bookmarks in a safe place in case you have a hard drive failure. One Alamo PC member told me that he lost all of his bookmarks when he upgraded to a newer version of Netscape. The service also facilitates sharing bookmarks from Netscape and favorite places from Internet Explorer if, like me, you use both programs.

Check out all of the Blink features.

Driveway
I have a lot of ways of storing files too big to fit on a 1.4 MB floppy. My desktop has an external, portable CD burner, a zip drive and a high density (120MB) floppy disk drive. My laptop has a high-density floppy drive. Johnís computer has a zip drive. I have an external, portable zip drive that I keep at the peaceCENTER to use on the computers there. So why oh why do I never have the files I want when I want them in a medium that will work on the computer Iím using at this moment? One of the worldís great mysteries.

I also have trouble sharing files. Not many people can use the high-density floppies and theyíre too expensive to hand out anyway. Same with zip disks Ė at $10 apiece I get stingy with them. CDs are cheaper but they still have to be handed over in person. Even the people who can accept e-mail attachments may not be excited to get a 10MB graphics file from me. 

Driveway lets you park your files on a remote server, for free. When you initially sign up you get 25MB of space, which is pretty darn big. You can increase your storage space by up to 30 MB by taking several online surveys and get up to 40 additional MB of space by recommending Driveway to friends. If 95 MB isnít enough, you can purchase more storage space.

Driveway has several potential uses:

  • It is remote storage for your files; extra protection in case your hard drives crashes. Although the site is secure, I would hesitate to store sensitive files such as financial records or client lists here. You never know.
  • Your Driveway files are available for you to view or download wherever you can get an Internet connection, no matter what computer you are using.
  • You can share Driveway files with friends and associates. Each folder can have its own accessibility criteria. However, you must list, by e-mail address, the people you wish to have access for each folder.
You can reach Driveway at <www.driveway.com>.

There are other sites that offer the same free services as Blink and Driveway. For free file storage, look at a big list of sites at <http://www.netlockers.com/>. For bookmark storage, also look at

I would be careful about where I park my files. Both of these sites use a Java applet to read information directly from your hard drive. These two sites are reputable, but be wary about giving ďJoeís Basement Data StorageĒ even temporary access to your disk.  

Your bookmarks reveal a lot of personal information about you. If you can read the fuzzy print on my Blink screen capture, you will see that Iíve bookmarked the Activistís Handbook, an article about Archbishop Romero and Amazon.Com Ė and thatís just filed under ďA.Ē If you could see the whole list you would know a lot more about me that I might be willing to reveal. I feel confident that Blink will not pass them onto anyone else but other sites might not be as discreet. And Iíve already warned you about storing sensitive files remotely. Be careful.

If youíre only taking information from the Internet youíre missing out on half itís capabilities. Itís one big hard drive Ė use it!


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