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Spideroak after Sugarsync… is disappointing

October 12, 2015 1 comment

Around four months ago, I moved from Sugarsync to Spideroak. I’d been using Sugarsync for over a year, and had been a keen advocate for the platform – indeed, I’d referred about 30 people to the service, and it had been my go-to cloud storage as that sector emerged, a few years ago.

However, although I loved the service and the app, one thing that concerned me was the security wasn’t up to my requirements – the fact that data might be encrypted using AWS standard techniques, but would still be accessible to any staff, any US federal agency that served a warrant (or didn’t) to the company, anyone who hacked my password (no 2FA), and anyone who found a vulnerability.

I wanted to store client data in the cloud, and feel some level of confidence that no-one else would be able to read or hack it, and if they did, then I had done everything I could have possibly done to protect it

So – I moved to Spideroak. Spideroak offer a similar service, but only you hold the keys to your data; no-one else can decrypt it. They also offered some convenient secure-sharing options that Sugarsync don’t, like password-protected ‘sharerooms’ where you can share a folder with a third party, and temporary download links you can send to share a file, but which expire after a few days. As a bonus, they offered massively more storage than Sugarsync, competing with Dropbox at the new standard of 1TB for $10/month.

The trouble with Spideroak is… everything else. The service is way clunkier for a number of reasons:

  • No mobile upload. With sugarsync, when reading documents or attachments in my email, I could file them away on my disk, there and then, by sending them to sugarsync and choosing the folder. Done! Finished! With Spideroak, the mobile client has no ability to upload! I’m back to flagging and emailing files to myself, to store away later when I’m back at my PC
  • Lack of mobile search. You can’t search for a file in the mobile client, unlike Sugarsync filename search, or full google-style search in Dropbox. While this is to be expected – you can’t index server-side when data is encrypted – there are acceptable partial solutions; such as storing a filename index on the mobile device, just to quickly jump to a file by typing its name.
  • Lack of mobile caching. If you access a file from your mobile device – and it is quite slow at doing this, sometimes unusably so – you’d expect it to cache recent files so that if you open then a second time, they’re just there, right?  Well – no. You have to download the file all over again, each time. The workaround is to ‘favourite’ the file first, so it’s downloaded and cached locally.
  • No collaboration. You can’t sync a folder with a colleague/friend. This is a fundamental capability of Dropbox, Sugarsync, Box, and almost every other service, but Spideroak’s security model seems to prevent this. I have a folder of all household documents shared with my wife’s laptop, and in the end, I simply logged her desktop sync client into my account.
    Yes, there are sharerooms, but they work with you as the master folder owner and others signing in on the web client; there’s no desktop sync
  • Slow, unpredictable sync. Spideroak uploads in groups of files that total a certain chunk size, which is interesting; they do explain this on their blog. What is more interesting, are the long periods where I see zero upload bandwidth on my bandwidth monitor, while the Spideroak client seems stuck at nn% of the upload. Why? Why isn’t it uploading?
  • Inability to prioritise/cancel uploads. Sit and wait is your only option
  • Unable to handle PST files. Outlook PST files are a pain, since they appear to break the Windows Volume Shadow Copy Service model that most backup/cloud storage apps use. Even Crashplan has issues with this. They all backup the whole file each time, even though not a single email has been added to the PST.
    With Spideroak, it means every time it checks for new files, it queues my five PST files totalling 10GB, and starts to upload them all over again from scratch! I get the impression other services do manage to do a diff and upload only the changed blocks – Crashplan ‘uploads’ (or block diff/syncs) in a few minutes, and Sugarsync never complained – but Spideroak tries to upload the entire 10GB each time. I have to remove those from the backup list
  • Slow to generate sharing links, unusable for new files. Spideroak has plenty of options to right-click a file and generate a 72-hour unique link to a file. But it’ll take 30-60 seconds to do it… you wait patiently for 20 seconds while the client struggles open (I have a mobile i7 laptop with 16GB RAM), then it tries to create the link, and then…. usually, nothing. Nothing, because for all the reasons above, I have a 30GB upload backlog, and the file I want to share probably isn’t synced. Particularly for new files you’ve just created, they’re added to the upload queue with no prioritisation possible (and will be grouped with other files and slowly uploaded in a batch), so it’s entirely useless for quickly uploading new files. I always end up using Dropbox.
  • Mystery downloads. I use Spideroak to sync my main content-creation laptop to a rarely-used convertible laptop and occasional access from my iPad. Nothing is created on these. So why do I see my bandwidth monitoring showing a download at 15Mbps, which TCPView identifies as going to the Spideroak service. What is it downloading? I guess it could be a program update, but I’ve not noticed any updates in the app, and it happens too often for my liking.

In comparison to Sugarsync, Spideroak feels generally more clunky all over – the app, the desktop client, the web service. You can expect much of this given the additional effort of encryption and key management across all this, but there are also many unexpected/uncontrollable behaviours that cause concern.

Sugarsync recently submitted a poll for new features, and client encryption was one of them. I suspect that it won’t make it – although privacy is gaining pace worldwide – and they will be faced with many of the performance/accessibility trade-offs that client encryption present. But if they do implement this, and get it right, I would happily jump back to their service, even for the much smaller storage allowances.

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More HTC Touch Pro Review

October 16, 2008 Leave a comment

So, continuing on my Touch Pro exploration:

In case I didn’t mention it before, you should note that the Touch interface *mostly* works. That means that using the on-screen keyboard or keypad for dialling or typing, is responsive enough that you can use it without thinking – unlike the Kaiser, where you had to allow both for inaccurate tapping, and lag. Here, typing a number in on the screen is a pleasure, and works fine.


Where it doesn’t always work is in swiping – it’s tricky to get it to interpret the movement correctly – such as scrolling down an inbox, and ending up opening an email instead. It can make navigating a pain, when compared to my much-missed jogwheel. Trying to get to a specific point in a document or web page is also a question of endless flicking the screen, or digging the stylus out for the scroll bars. However, it is still slightly better than the Kaiser at this.


Nice Little Feature

If you plug in something to the mini-USB connector, you get this helpful little pane pop up.

Which one shall I use today?

Which one shall I use today?

It’s genuinely useful -touch Internet Sharing, and that’s all you need to do – it effectively runs a macro that opens the usual Internet Sharing app, and selects Connect for you – and hey presto, your laptop is connected!

Keyboard

I’m just about used to the keyboard after a couple of days. The one major remaining annoyance is the SMS button – accidentally press it while typing, and your email will be saved to drafts, and you’ll be flicked back to the SMS screen. Getting back to your email is a long journey…

There’s also a bug: if you choose to use T9 mode when using the touchscreen (which is actually very usable!), then it’ll also be enabled for the keyboard (which is not at all usable). Want to have the best of both worlds? Tough! You’ll have to manually change the input settings each time you switch from one to the other.
(This bug’s reminscent of the Hermes, where using the keyboard while in a call was impossible because it was locked in DTMF-only mode. It seems HTC just didn’t get to these finishing touches…)

Ergonomics
– The stylus makes a return to the right side of the keyboard and phone body – good news for all those righties who had

to reach across for the Kaiser. The magnetic action is also quite nice, but again, the slightly insensitive touchscreen means you have to put a bit of effort behind your prodding
– Speaking of prodding, the slightly insensitive touchscreen (am I too used to the iPod Touch?) makes clicking links in Opera a pain. Stab, stab, and stab again, until you manage to get on the link, and the page opens.

– The Touch Pro defaults to a ‘large font’ for all menus – I assume on the assumption that they expect you to use your finger rather than a stylus. For the most part, it is a good choice – unless the menu is larger than the screen height. In that case, I found that some apps strangely automatically scroll the menu downwards, and you have to grab it and wrestle it back up to the option you wanted (using too-small up and down arrows). Your instinct is to scroll through it by flicking your finger – again, like an iPhone would allow – but it won’t work.

Touch-Wheel

Now, this is the worst one… I learnt the other day that the Touch Pro actually has an Apple-style rotary touch sensor around the D-Pad.  Yep – you heard right – you can actually spin your finger around the rim of the button, and it’ll sense that and act accordingly.

Wow! An alternative to the jog dial!! Excellent! So – you can scroll up and down lists, web pages, contact databases, at lightning speed, right?

No.

What you can do… is Zoom In, and Zoom Out.

Zoom In…… and Zoom Out.

On a couple of applications.

Now – if I had to zoom in and out more frequently that I had to scroll – which is every email, web page, screen that I look at – then this would be great. But I don’t. I need to scroll, and HTC seem to have completely wasted this (probably quite expensive) little add-on.

Zoom In....

Zoom In....

...and Zoom Out...

...and Zoom Out...

So – I guess that’ll be fixed on the next model…

However – overall, I’ve already grown quite used to having the Raphael around. The responsiveness when typing on the screen or switching Portrait-Landscape is pleasant. The looks and solid feel ARE nice… I’m already wondering if I’ll dislike having a Hermes as my backup phone….

Revo Blik Radiostation Review continued…

July 12, 2008 Leave a comment

Well, I’m still playing around with the Radiostation, and have a few more comments to add…

Has it revolutionised my life yet? Well – I do have it on most of the time; it’s nice to have sound on, and I’ve been trying various stations on and off over the last few days. A friend who speaks Italian came round yesterday, so I put on a few Italian stations, which reminded us both of the times when we were over there – which was not quite revolutionary, but still very nice.

On the downside, I’ve still not tuned in to a station on any medium (DAB, FM, WiFi) that impresses with sound quality. I think that could be the stations in the case of WiFi, and I know DAB is much lamented, but I would have thought FM would be better. However, playing some MP3s from my PC, with the Radiostation plugged into my surround system, isn’t bad.

The buttons still annoy – a design where they could be laid out more intuitively, rather than all being identical, would have been preferable.

Also – I’ve been playing BBC Podcasts this morning, but found that after a while (15-45 minutes), one will pause, disconnect, and then restart… from the beginning. I’m hoping there’s a fast forward, or a config to store the last position (nope, I’ve still not read the manual), because otherwise, this is an absolute pain for anyone who regularly listens to podcasts.

Actually, they could have a fast forward/rewind – operated by jogdial, a’ la iPod. They could tune using a Jogdial.. select using a jogdial… Do away with every identical button on the damn thing and replace them with just a jogdial!

And.. that’s my thoughts on jogdials.

So – good. But not great.

Aliph Jawbone 2 (New) 30 second review

July 10, 2008 Leave a comment

Only had it 12 hours so far, and my thoughts (using it with an HTC TYTN II):

  • Beautifully small and light
  • Fits very comfortably on my ear – slides on easily, and I really can wear it all day. It’s lighter than my previous favourite, the HBH-610 fitted with an HBH-65 ear loop.
  • Mike noise reduction seems at least as good – made a phone call from the train, and the called party had no complaints
  • Cool looking, not overstated, very cool LED
  • Received sound / speaker sound is at least as bad as the old one – quiet and scratchy, but not as tinny. Apparently this varies by device, so might be better with a Blackberry, etc.
  • Charger is very similar to the first Jawbone’s but the magnetic attacher is much easier to use; no more headset-wrestling as you’re trying to detach it.

Also – I remember some complaints on other reviews about having to push the rear (NoiseAssasin) button so hard you have to surgically remove the headset from the ear canal. Top Tip to avoid this: the documentation is misleading – it seems you have to push against the side fascia of the headset, at the rear, but that’s just because all their diagrams are ‘side-on’ views. The button’s actually on the end of the headset – so you should press on the end, not on the side, for this button. 🙂

It’s a very nice, practical, wearable headset – so far. My two big gripes are:

  • Speaker sound still isn’t great
  • Only practically usable with one device; you have to repair to use another.