Category Archives: Zonder categorie

Dropbox in the Age of Smartphones

In June 2010 Steve Jobs was interviewed by Walt Mossberg and Kara Swisher (see this article by Ina Fried on CNET). Jobs said the day would come when only one out of every few people would need a traditional computer.

Seemed a little far-fetched, but this was a man who not only predicted but created the future. As usual, he was right. Seven years later, more and more people are relying on their tablets and phones for all their computing needs.

A friend of mine saw the writing on the wall – or rather, the error messages on her Windows PC – and took a bold step. She decided not to replace her PC and rely on her phone instead. With all of her files and photos in the cloud, she’d have access to them everywhere, and if she ever needed to input a large amount of text, a small bluetooth keyboard would serve her just fine.

She upgraded her Dropbox account to the full 1TB and asked me to upload all her files from an external hard drive.

Piece of cake, I thought.

Turns out, Dropbox hasn’t really woken up to the Post-PC era yet. You can upload files through their web interface but not folders.

A quick search revealed plenty of people with the same problem but no one with any kind of workable solution.

So we wrote Dropbox and explained that syncing from a local Dropbox folder was not an option.

Here’s their reply:

Thanks for contacting Dropbox Support, my name is Xxxx and I’m here to help you with your issue today. So let’s get started!
You can upload folders through the web interface if you use Chrome or Firefox browsers: https://www.dropboxforum.com/t5/Syncing-and-uploads/How-do-I-upload-folders-to-my-dropbox/td-p/21758
But the upload files button is for files only, and dragging a folder onto the web interface results in error messages. The link they sent us didn’t answer our question either. Instead, it was full of comments from disgruntled users who failed to accomplish the very same thing I’ve been trying:

Matter of fact, just checked out Google Drive, and you just go to New, Upload Folder, and it’s DONE. Inexcusable to make it so byzantine. Get a clue, Dropbox… bye for now.
This is [censored] stupid… Unimaginable that you can drag-n-drop a “folder” into the Dropbox arena. Here is a “free” idea:
1. Create a “Right-Click” option that allows you to select “Dropbox” for an auto sync from a folder on your computer.
[censored] guys. How hard can it be for the millions of users you have enable a Folder upload!!
Come on guys – does anyone that works at “Dropbox” use their service?
prehistoric service…thinking of leaving too…
Hi Dropbox – I just wanted to let you know that as a result of this issue I am migrating my entire account to Onedrive and cancelling my sub.
And so on.

I’ve used Dropbox for years and have always been very happy with them. Syncing my files between two Macs and an iPhone has always worked flawlessly. But I’m beginning to have my doubts.

To be continued.

So now it’s five days later and Dropbox responded. As it turns out, their web application cannot upload folders. It can only upload files, up to 3000 at one time. For folders we were advised to use the Dropbox desktop application, even though we already explained that this was not an option because my friend doesn’t have a working computer anymore.

In the meantime, my friend found a workaround: she shared one of her Dropbox folders with another friend who had a 1TB account but only used a small portion of it. That friend was kind enough to copy 500GB of folders and files into the share, so they could be uploaded.

In my opinion, Dropbox is way behind the times with this. Laptops with 128GB SSDs are very common, now, and those people may want the bulk of their files in the cloud. The same goes for people who opt to do all their computing on a tablet. It seems to me that companies like Dropbox should make this very easy instead of making you jump through all kinds of hoops.

Postscript: Four days later – a last reply from Dropbox, saying they will relay the issue to their development team.

While we were waiting for Dropbox to follow up on our query, I was inspired to write a vaguely related short story. Click here if you’d like to read it.

Stairway to Heaven

How come nobody knows firsthand what happens when you die while at the same time there are so many stories and images floating around? The answer to the first question is of course that no one has ever come back to tell the tale. Probably couldn’t be bothered once they got to the other side. And the answer to the second question … I’ll get to that. Let’s go with those that went before us, first.

I can’t say I blame them. I always thought that, when I finally kicked the bucket, I wouldn’t turn back, not even for a last glance. What would be the point? When your train leaves the station (or in the case of Elvis, you leave the building), you don’t go back for your keys or a clean hanky. What’s done is done.

When you die young, you have every right to be pissed off and ask for a second chance. I suppose that may have happened in a few cases. They were given a few more days, weeks or months (probably not months) to bring their affairs in order and to show what good people they were. Some of them may be responsible for those soppy movies about second chancers falling in love on their second time round, only to find some smartass angel blocking the way to everlasting happiness with a one-way ticket to heaven. Not my favorite movies, I confess.

Heaven is of course what we all hope for, even if we know the chances of us getting in are slim with all the shit we pulled during our lifetime. It’s strange. So many people are curious as to what heaven will be like, even if they know damn well they themselves are headed in the other direction. Well, hope springs eternal, as they say.

Me, I never harbored any illusions. Barring a clerical mistake of epic proportions, I knew very well where I’d end up. ‘Never be afraid to face the music,’ my grandmother used to say. This was way before New Age tropes like, ‘Feel the fear and do it anyway,’ but it boils down to the same thing: You do something bad, you come clean and accept your punishment. It’s not hard to see who the beneficiaries of such a strategy are. Not the kids, that’s for damn sure.

Still, lessons learned in childhood are not easily erased from the blackboard of our earliest classes, and are more like the hundred eleven indelible commandments on stone tablets you get to lug around for the rest of your life. Free choice is highly overrated.

None of this matters when your time has come. Coming clean and fessing up is what you’ll do, whether you like it or not. Supposedly, it’s not even necessary. They already know, and when the scales tip even one gram in the wrong direction, your goose (and you) is cooked. Literally.

I don’t know what I was expecting. One moment I was in hospital, looking at nurse Harriet’s shapely backside (one of my few remaining pleasures), and the next I’m standing at the bottom of this giant staircase. It didn’t take a genius to put two and two together. This was the big moment, and the coolness of the air around me was at least an indication that barbecue was not on the menu. Not yet, at least.

Also, as any optimist will tell you, there was no way to go but up. Moreover, there was nothing else to do. That staircase was all there was. There were no fluffy clouds, no heavenly stars, not a single angel telling me what was next. When there’s only one thing to do, that’s what you do. So, up I went.

One thing that bothered me as I took the first steps: Why was I the only one there? I mean, every day, 150,000 people die. That staircase should have been crawling with people pushing ahead, unless jumping the queue was a mortal sin and no one wanted to be the one to arrive first.

But it was just me. Me and a staircase that reached up as far as the eye could see. As staircases go, I’d seen better ones. A bit of marble wouldn’t have gone amiss, but those wooden steps under my bare feet weren’t even painted. And let’s be honest, I wasn’t dressed for the occasion, either. Bare feet, a hospital gown, open at the back, must be the most unflattering of outfits imaginable. The least they could have done was put a decent change of clothes on the first step.

Silly thoughts, maybe, but when you’re climbing a seemingly endless set of stairs, you’ve got plenty of time to think. They say that when you die, your whole life flashes before your eyes. They don’t tell you that this flash lasts a lifetime. That’s a movie I really didn’t need to see again. But it wasn’t as if I had a choice. It just happened, and it took a long time. How long, I don’t know. I suppose we don’t need clocks in the afterlife, what with time being an illusion, anyway, but once my life flash ended, I did begin to wonder if I would ever get to the top.

I also wondered what would happen once I got there. Would there be gates made of pearls? Would there be a bearded geezer in a smock with a big book, or maybe an iPad? Or maybe St. Pete would look like Charlton Heston in The Ten Commandments? For all I knew, Heston himself could meet me there. I could tell him I’d always been a fan. A little kissing ass never hurt anybody, and I had nothing to lose.

Or maybe Christianity was a hoax. I wouldn’t be surprised. It is, after all, a pretty unbelievable story. And that brings me to the second question. Some people will believe anything. Santa Claus married the Easter Bunny and they lived happily ever after on Venus. I’m sure I could get someone to go along with it.

The more I thought about it, and that interminable climb gave me plenty of time to think, the more I came to the conclusion that whatever I was going to find up there would be a total surprise. Maybe I’d meet the archetypal Death (I suppose a capital D is in order), complete with a black robe and a scythe to cut your last lifeline, which in my case would be the drip that still seemed attached to my arm.

I imagined him (or her; this wasn’t the time for sexism) to be a bit impersonal. Surely, a mythical skeleton wouldn’t wot of human trials and tribulations. He (or her, or it) would have never had to worry about bringing home the bacon, would never have considered going on a diet or contemplated another hairstyle. Reasoning with such a being would be futile.

It was with some trepidation that I finished the last steps.

All I saw, was a door. A sliding door. No pearls in sight. And no St. Pete or Death either. After such a long climb, I felt entitled to a little more than a door. Given the life I led, I didn’t exactly expect a choir of cheering angels, but come on, surely some form of welcome was not too much to ask for.

Next to the door was a single button. An elevator, I thought. Seriously? After all that climbing? Couldn’t they have put an elevator at the bottom? I pressed the button, the door opened and I stepped inside. No buttons there. Of course. Nowhere to go but up, as the optimist said. But up was not where we went. We went down. Down, down and further down still.

This was beginning to feel like those substitute birth dreams I used to have, flying down a chute that got ever narrower. All I knew, I was heading somewhere. The temperature was rising, but that could mean anything. Soon, I would know.


Copyright © 27-02-2021 Theo van der Ster

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Magical Balloons

I created this photorealistic montage in April 2016 and I honestly don’t remember how the idea originated. I had an idea of how I wanted the end result to look and started searching for pictures of a wall I could use.

I found this photo of a graveyard wall in Dunmore, County Galway, Ireland on Wikimedia (link).

The image as downloaded from Wikimedia.

I removed the trees and the grey sky and pasted in a blue sky with fluffy clouds. I then created the balloon girl drawing in Clip Studio (aka Manga Studio).

I used Affinity Photo to blend the various elements together. The font for THE WALL OF DREAMS is Chalkduster, and I used a displacement filter to make it look as if the letters and the girl were actually painted on the wall. I also painted some half transparent and blurred structure on top of it to make it look more grungy and realistic.

The real balloons aren’t actually real. I downloaded a fairly large png of a blue balloon and changed the color on a few duplicates. I also painted a shadow on the wall for the first balloon.

The placard was created in Affinity Designer. Looking back, the text is a little corny but I can’t really think of anything better and the thing needs to be there to balance the composition.

And here is the end result. The idea is that dreams become reality, in this case in the form of balloons.

The finished photo montage.

Copyright © 1-11-2017 Theo van der Ster

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Stranger in a Strange Land

Something is wrong here. Something is definitely not right. It isn’t just that everybody is carrying a musical instrument like it’s part of their anatomy, it isn’t that all the houses have round windows and domed roofs. It’s that every face looks decidedly foreign and that all the street signs are unreadable.

The air is unquestionably warmer than ten minutes ago. It even smells different, and that vague outline of mountains on the horizon has undoubtedly not been there before.

This isn’t Kansas. Or even Costa Rica. It certainly isn’t home.

Imagine walking down a familiar street, not noticing much, lost in thought. Then the sudden urge to pee and the welcome sight of an Asian looking fast food joint. You duck inside, and for a few brief seconds you’re really in the moment as you close your eyes and let go, feeling the pressures of the day drain away.

The quickest way out is through another door, and once out of the alley behind the restaurant you’re soon lost in thought again, trusting your feet to find their way.

It takes a while for it to register. First there is that balmy breeze, carrying the scent of unfamiliar spices and fleeting melodies. Then the growing suspicion that things aren’t what they should be. Did you take a wrong turn and ended up in a parallel universe or is this the hookie cookie district?

Your brain struggles as it’s confronted with the inevitable choice. Has the rest of the world gone mad or have you? There must have been a mistake somewhere, and you retrace your steps.

Soon, you’re lost between the domed buildings. You could ask for directions but whereto? Back to normal? Those strange faces couldn’t tell you anything. You wouldn’t understand the language, and also, you can’t shake the feeling that talking will somehow finalize your predicament.

You start to run and then stop yourself. Best not to attract too much attention. You walk a few blocks, fearing that every step is taking you even further in the wrong direction.

This isn’t going to end well. People are starting to look at you. Soon, they will close in and you’ll be trampled or pushed into an abyss.

Maybe that’s a good thing. Maybe then you’ll wake up. But this doesn’t feel like a dream. More likely, your whole life up till now has been a dream and this is reality.

That pee you took was you wetting the metaphorical bed, and now you’re very much awake. Every fiber of your being is alive and pushing you forward.

You enter a store that looks like a pawn shop, filled with trinkets and all kinds of junk piled into every nook and cranny. It’s dark in there, and blindly you find your way to the back, down a long corridor and then through a door you hope will lead to another street, away from the mob.

The cold air hits you in the face as you leave the building. Not looking up, you make your way out of another alley, only to be stopped in your tracks by a honking car.

There weren’t any cars before, were there? The music is gone, and everything around you looks familiar again. No more domes, the street signs are in English and the faces around you are the usual familiar looking strangers.

Did this really happen? It already feels like a dream, fast fading from memory.


Copyright © 25-10-2017 Theo van der Ster

The comments on this blog are closed, but feel free to interact with me through email.