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Local File Transfer on the Easy

Volume Number: 23 (2007)
Issue Number: 03
Column Tag: Network Administration

Local File Transfer on the Easy

Your clients, and their mail server, will love it

By Allen Hancock, ACTC

Introduction

Hello again, and welcome to another article about my favorite software. This month: DropCopy.

DropCopy by the fine folks at 10base-t.com is a quick and simple application that will allow a user to easily transfer a file or files to another user in their workgroup. It is free for groups of three or less computers, and $25 gets you a license good for larger networks.

Users look for the easiest way to get a job done, we know this. When one user needs to send a file to a colleague, the tool they tend to migrate to is e-mail. This is not a huge problem, but if you are anal like me you know that now they have a copy stored in their home directory, a copy in their outbox, a copy in their colleagues inbox, and one more wherever the document is supposed to end up. Multiply this by lots of files, and that one megabyte .pdf is just wasting too much space. Then, if their email server is hosted elsewhere, that is a lot of time wasted uploading and downloading files. The best is when that file is a 15 MB PowerPoint document they are sending back and forth... five times in a day... you get the idea.

Alternatively, they will put a file on the file server telling their colleague "its there". At this point, the colleague needs to stop what they are doing, go find that file, and are they going to remove it from the server? Not usually. Now we have extra files strewn about the server in various stages of completion, and no one person who really knows when it is OK to clean up all the detritus.

Enter DropCopy , saving the day with its little circle:


DropCopy's Drop Zone.

Drag a file there, look for your destination's name in the drop zone, and watch the file move. The file is sent from one computer directly to the other (over port 5052 for anyone running a firewall). The transfer is point to point, sparing both the mail and file server the wasted bandwidth and storage, and delivering the file to the proper colleague in an instant.

But how best to implement DropCopy? Let me begin from the beginning. As with so many applications, if we were to simply install DropCopy and let it go, it would work, but with a little extra setup and tweaking, DropCopy's true strengths shine.

Let's take a trip to www.growl.info. Using Growl will make help our users send files with the knowledge that their files made it safe in a graceful, unobtrusive fashion. Growl is a notification framework, for those of you unfamiliar, and all the cool applications are taking advantage of these good-looking notifications.


A basic growl notification
patiently waiting for me to acknowledge the file.

When I get a file, DropCopy has been instructed to let me know who it is from, and the name of the file. Oh, and did I mention there is no real limit to the size of a single file sent via DropCopy? Very cool. Once I receive a file, I will know just where to find it because of my preferences setup. We will get to those details soon.

Once you have Growl installed, DropCopy's next launch will notify you that it has registered itself with Growl. Take a quick trip to your system preferences, find the Growl Preference Pane, and let's configure the notifications as such:



My preferred growl settings to get the most of DropCopy

The reasoning behind my oh-so-picky setup? I like a good Speed Racer analogy as much as anyone, but once I know DropCopy is running, I don't want to see its ad every time I restart my computer, so let's turn "go" off. The "incoming" notification, on the other hand, is vitally important. This is the way we are going to know we have received a goody. Let's check the Sticky box here, so that if we are too busy to go look at the file, we can leave the incoming notification on the screen as a reminder we have more work to do. As far as "sent" goes, it is nice to know that we have sent a file, but there is no reason to have to click the notification away, so we are going to leave that notification at the default "only when idle" setting.

This brings us to DropCopy itself, and its plethora of choices..


General Prefs, bring 'm on!

The first page is all good. Let's turn all of these on. Launching at login is always good for handy tools. We never need to actually switch to DropCopy, so lets' get it out of our dock and Application Switcher. If we are away from the office or burning the midnight oil with no one around to send files to, there will be no reason to see the dropzone, and my favorite preference in DropCopy: "dropzone always on top."

Why is this my favorite? Because if I can see the dropzone at all time, I can use my all time favorite tip: ProxyIcon support.


With the dropzone always visible, just grab your current file's icon and Drop Away!

Once I hit save on my masterpiece, and need to transfer it to someone else, I no longer have to switch to the finder to send a file. Save, then grab that little icon from it the document's Title Bar (the "ProxyIcon"), and drag it over to the dropzone. DropCopy will show you all your available destinations, and away you go. I love this tip: ProxyIcon's rock. Thanks OS X!

There are three more prefs on that first page. The next two, location of the destinations and progress window color, really are just personal prefs. That last one though, can make or break a user's enjoyment of DropCopy.

I have made it a habit to help users gain control over their desktops by creating a " Downloads" folder. Did you see the leading space there? Now when they are looking at their Desktop in a window, this folder is waiting at the top, ready to go. By creating a specific folder for users to refer to for DropCopy'd files, they don't have to go searching for which file on their desktop was just sent over. This can go one further though, I then offer to update Safari, Firefox, etc to put their downloads in there as well. Chicks dig it. For extra brownie points, set the " Downloads" folder to sort by date modified, and add it to their sidebar. No wonder I like the Mac so much.

Ok, onto prefs page 2


Prefs page 2, as I declare they should be!

When I got started with DropCopy, there was only one noise available. To this day, I like "whistler" best. Showing feedback is always nice, Growl support is a must, as I have mentioned. Coreimage? Take it or leave it, personally I think they are cool. As far as confirmations, I will always want to be asked if someone can have my clipboard, but the rest of the notifications are best handled by Growl, so turn those off lest you be bothered by modal dialogs (a la 1989).

Now page three's prefs are very interesting indeed. Normal users will never have to venture into here, but I have really enjoyed some of these options. Have two computers on your network with your name on the current user? Rename one! You can see in earlier screenshots I have one called "Accounting". How about calling that MacMini of yours "Media Center" and you can send your encoded, home made, movies to without ever having to mess with file sharing. There are a number of cool things you can do with these preferences, especially in concert with the DropCopy menu.

Text messaging? Clipboard sharing? Look in DropCopy's Tools menu for SFTP locations too. How cool!

I could go on, but this is enough to get the point across about what a great tool DropCopy is. The only thing that could make this better would be cross-platform support. There is hope though, the developers have documented the protocol and have given it others. So if you like this, and have the wherewithal to code a nice windows or linux application, drop them a line and let's see if we can get broader platform support to this wonderful, simple to use application.

I always believed that it is the little things that make all the difference, and time after time my clients have told me that this little gem is that difference.

Happy DropCopying!


Allen Hancock has been providing on-site and remote based support based in Baton Rouge, Louisiana since 1997. When not being persnickety over details, he spends time with his wife and son. Of course, they might want to know just when that is ;-) He can be reached through his website www.hancockconsulting.net.

 
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