Can Dropbox Get Any Cooler? YES – Printing!

Ever need to print from your mobile phone? I know I have and the workarounds aren’t always so pretty. Air Print is coming in iOS 4.2, but you need special hardware for that. Print apps are available, but they can be buggy and they definitely cost.

There is a free solution that is as simple and as elegant as it gets. Use Dropbox. I love this tip so much that I shared the original post in Google Reader and I have to write about it here too.

If you aren’t already using Dropbox, stop right now and head over here and sign up for the FREE cloud storage service. You can find out more about why Dropbox is so awesome in my post about it here.

This printing solution will work with any mobile phone, not just my iPhone. Simply install Dropbox and download a utility onto the computer that is connected to your printer. This utility monitors your Dropbox folder for any new print jobs. Get the utility here. Once you unzip the file and open eprint.vbs, the utility creates a sub-folder inside your main Dropbox folder called PrintQueue where mobile print jobs queue up and a second sub-folder called logs where completed jobs are archived. Send the print jobs from your mobile phone, either through the dedicated Dropbox application for your device, or use Habilis (link here) which works with Dropbox via email. Once your file hits Dropbox, it gets slotted into the proper folder and the desktop utility takes over and prints your file.

You can turn off the utility by searching wscript.exe on your computer or pulling it up in Windows Task Manager. As long as you have a program associated with a particular file format loaded on the main computer, you can print associated files via this system.

I can’t wait to get home and check this out.

Hat tip to Amit at Digital Inspiration blog.

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Fried Battery. New iPhone

Sorry, Sanitation People
Image by Aoife city womanchile via Flickr

As you may or may not know, my 32 GB iPhone 3GS fried out on Saturday morning in a blaze of glory. An overworked battery was the cause. I was off-line, in the mobile sense, for approximately 48 hours. While retro-computing had its benefits, I now know just how much I really depend upon the mobile web. Try it some time, you might amaze yourself.

While I am saving my serious soapbox rant against Apple and its customer service until I can do it proper justice, I wanted to at least post my new iPhone main screen. Now that I have been forced to upgrade to the latest OS (and lose my tethering ūüė¶ ) I can get a hold of some applications that previously were unavailable to me. So, without further ado, here is the current iteration of my home screen (subject to change at a moment’s notice, of course):

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My Mobile Web Wish List

One of the predictions I shared with the fine folks at JD Supra and their readers is my belief that we are moving more towards a mobile web experience with our computing lives. I am no Nostradamus – I picked this vibe up from the heavy tech reading that I do and I also know my own personal computing habits and how they have changed over the past few years. Whether your “poison” is an iPhone, Android-based unit, Blackberry, Windows Mobile-enabled device, e-reader or one of those fabled tablet computers, we are pushing the little boxes to their limits and are looking for more.

So I thought I would put together my own mobile wish list for 2010. Things I would like to see happen with my own, personal experience and generally for all mobile computing whizzes out there.

First, and foremost, more voice-activated control over my device. Mobile means, well, mobile. Texting while driving is very very bad, we can all agree. So make the interface better – make it so we can easily, with the touch of a single button, start directing the phone with respect to search (already there), mapping, text messaging and emailing. And none of this half-assed voice control where you can get part of the task done but then have to hunt and peck, copy and paste. All this hullaballoo about a physical versus touch screen keyboard would all go away if we could get a better voice-based interface. Thanks, Dragon, for giving us iPhone users a gentle nudge in the right direction.

Next, location-based awareness. After a heavy-duty case of suspicious paranoia, I am growing to like the location-based applications. Obviously, common sense in using such applications goes a long way here. I would like to see more interactivity with these services. Granted there are lots of iPhone and a growing number of Android applications that employ them. But better integration and more features would be nice. I also see a great outlet for local business with these tools and hope to see more businesses employing the location services to encourage customers and clients. Integrating location awareness with your own Contacts list will push mobile communication further into the future – “gee, where is my client or brother-in-law right now? He should be here at our face to face.”

Mobile shopping – hooking up your payment information with your mobile phone so that you can use it to pay for goods and services. Its coming. We already have built-in bar code reader apps¬† that allow us to pull product and price information. There are a few companies working on mobile payment systems, most recently and notably, Square backed by Twitter founder Jack Dorsey. This service will allow anyone to accept a card payment without pricey credit card arrangements with the swipe of a card through a dongle attached to a computer’s or phone’s audio jack. Pretty cool. Let’s see where it goes in 2010.

Let’s speed up the Web! While we already have 802.11 n out there, the iPhone is still using b / g. Why? Mobile means moving, which should mean fast. So let’s beef up the Wi/Fi and Bluetooth (3.0) in these little guys, so they can move with the best of ’em. And while “they” are at it, please, please, please, help those poor Blackberry users to get a better Web-browsing experience! I never use my Curve’s browser because it hurts far too much.

As more and more of the computing experience moves skyward, we will need the best access possible to the cloud through these mobile devices. Google, a heavy hitter in cloud-based tech, needs to do a better job making access to the cloud easier on platforms other than Android. Little, portable phones and tablets should be gateways to the cloud, offering free and easy ingress and egress.  Yet I still struggle with accessing Gmail, my reader subscriptions and cloud-based information on the iPhone. It needs to get better if cloud champions want to win the hearts and minds of the computing public.

The imminent Tablet explosion, heralded by the promised introduction of the highly-rumored Apple tablet, will certainly push the mobile computing envelope. It will be interesting to see what tricks hardware and software developers have up their sleeves to win the wallets and devotion of the tech masses. In short, I hope Apple makes its tablet affordable.

And, at least with respect to the iPhone, there must be a means for multi-tasking. The modern computing generation is not content with performing a single task at a time in a linear fashion. We need to have several jobs running, several irons getting hot in the fire, at any given moment. Why is it that the iPhone can’t or doesn’t provide the ability to do two or more things at once? I don’t buy the battery argument, as there are devices out there that can do it. Perhaps Apple is worried that multi-tasking would open the flood gates on the data-hoggish device and overwhelm poor, little ATT. But that still doesn’t explain why I can’t leave an app open and running while I compose an email. And, while I am at the rant, where the heck is my tethering, ATT??????

Maybe this last one is an impossible dream, but I am sick and tired of getting tied to multi-year contracts when I agree to buy a phone and use a service. Maybe 2010 will see some inroads in this regard. Maybe Google will shake things up a bit with its imminent Nexus One phone. Unlocked cell phones may become the new black of the tech world.

One can dream, can’t one?

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The Long Arm Of The Law – Anti-Texting Edition

LONDON - FEBRUARY 27:  A sign on the M25 orbit...
Image by Getty Images via Daylife

Makes perfect sense when you are behind the wheel Рmake sure that your fingers are not doing the talking. Not everyone shares this sentiment, however. It behooves lawyers to have the lowdown on the laws regarding driving while texting Рto protect themselves when they are tempted and to be prepared for those clients who may have gotten their fingers burnt, so to speak.

Jalopnik offers quick and easy visual maps for determining how states are handling legislation regarding texting, which may not expressly or explicitly fall under cell phone driving laws or driver distraction laws. This is a barebones color-coded series of maps, which does not give offer links to relevant legislation. Furthermore, these maps are going to change radically as time (and laws) pass. But I was able to determine quickly from the maps that, while there is nothing yet on the books in Massachusetts, there is legislation pending. Enough to set me on the path to legislative research on the question.

The bigger point to be made here is that even though technology affords us the ability to singletask or multitask in new and exciting ways it does not grant us the license to do so at all times. We, the “drivers” of technology, need to engage it responsibly at all times. Sometimes, that means we need to “drop out of the fast lane” and,¬†if necessary, hold off until tomorrow what should not be done today while driving on a car trip. That includes shaving, putting on makeup, and reading the paper too.¬†Sheesh!

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