Store, access and share your files on the cloud for free with Google Drive

Being in the computer repair business, I find myself going between my workstation, netbook and smartphone quite often. I need to be able to view / edit files on all of my devices and have the changes synchronize back. I'm talking any type of file, not just MP3's and JPG's. I can do just that and more for free with Google Drive.

View of Google Drive from inside of Windows Explorer
View of Google Drive from inside of Windows Explorer

Google Drive, a cloud based storage solution, is the latest addition to Google's catalog of products. With the Google Drive application installed on your computer, smartphone or tablet, you can view / edit files on that device using the programs installed on it. The files then sync back to the Google Drive servers when they are closed. I found it to work great at synchronizing files / folders between my workstation, netbook and smartphone.

View of Google Drive inside of a web browser
View of Google Drive inside of a web browser

Or you can use a web browser to view / edit files directly on the cloud with the web based Google Docs (you get instant access when you sign up for Google Drive). Google Drive also integrates into Gmail and Google+, so you can e-mail and share files with one click. You get 5 GB's of space for free, with larger plans (up to 16 TB) available. There are also business plans too. Here's a quote from the Google Drive website:

Google Drive. Keep everything. Share anything.

Access everywhere.
Google Drive is everywhere you are-on the web, in your home, at the office and on the go. So wherever you are, your stuff is just...there. Ready to go, ready to share. Get started with 5 GB free.

    Google Drive is available for:
  • PC and Mac
  • iPhone and iPad (coming soon)
  • Android devices

Store your files in a safe place.
Things happen. Your phone goes for a swim. Your laptop takes an infinite snooze. No matter what happens to your devices, your files are safely stored in Google Drive.

Go beyond storage. Collaborate.
Google Drive lets you do more than just store your files. Share files with exactly who you want and edit them together, from any device. Google Drive gives you instant access to Google Docs, a suite of editing tools that makes working together better, even when your teammates are miles away.

Work better with the products you use everyday.

Gmail
Say goodbye to bulky email attachments. Send a link from Google Drive in Gmail and everyone has the same file, same version—automatically.

Google+
Your videos and pictures in Google Drive are instantly available in Google+, so you’re never more than one click away from sharing with your circles.

For more information about Google Drive, just follow the links below:

Google Drive
Google Drive Features
Google Drive for Business

Create stunning graphics and edit images for free with GIMP

Do you need to touch up some photos? Maybe create some cool looking graphics? Or convert some images to different formats? You can do all of this and more for free with GIMP.

The GIMP 2.6.11 user interface
The GIMP 2.6.11 user interface

GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program) is a free open source image manipulation program. You can do simple tasks like rotating and cropping photos to creating graphics from scratch. You can even convert the format of files and save compressed versions with ZIP or GZ extensions.

A logo created with the one of the built-in scripts in GIMP
A logo created with the one of the built-in scripts in GIMP

Some of the features I like are the effect filters and layers / channels. And the predefined scripts for buttons, logos, patters and web page themes are pretty cool too. Also, GIMP runs on Windows, Mac and Linux operating systems. Here's a quote from the GIMP site:

GIMP is an acronym for GNU Image Manipulation Program. It is a freely distributed program for such tasks as photo retouching, image composition and image authoring.

It has many capabilities. It can be used as a simple paint program, an expert quality photo retouching program, an online batch processing system, a mass production image renderer, an image format converter, etc.

GIMP is expandable and extensible. It is designed to be augmented with plug-ins and extensions to do just about anything. The advanced scripting interface allows everything from the simplest task to the most complex image manipulation procedures to be easily scripted.

Customizable Interface
Each task requires a different environment and GIMP allows you to customize the view and behavior the way you like it. Starting from the widget theme, allowing you to change colors, widget spacings and icon sizes to custom tool sets in the toolbox. The interface is modulized into so called docks, allowing you to stack them into tabs or keep them open in their own window. Pressing the tab key will toggle them hidden.

GIMP features a great fullscreen mode allowing you to not only preview your artwork but also do editing work while using the most of your screen estate.

Photo Enhancement
Numerous digital photo imperfections can be easily compensated for using GIMP. Fix perspective distortion caused by lens tilt simply choosing the corrective mode in the transform tools. Eliminate lens' barrel distortion and vignetting with a powerful filter but a simple interface. The included channel mixer gives you the flexibility and power to get your B/W photography stand out the way you need.

Digital Retouching
GIMP is ideal for advanced photo retouching techniques. Get rid of unneeded details using the clone tool, or touch up minor details easily with the new healing tool. With the perspective clone tool, it's not difficult to clone objects with perspective in mind just as easily as with the orthogonal clone.

Hardware Support
GIMP includes a very unique support for various input devices out of the box. Pressure and tilt sensitive tablets, but also a wide range of USB or MIDI controllers. You can bind often-used actions to device events such as rotating a USB wheel or moving a MIDI controller's slider. Change the size, angle or opacity of a brush while you paint, bind your favorite scripts to buttons. Speed up your workflow!

File Formats
The file format support ranges from the common likes of JPEG (JFIF), GIF, PNG, TIFF to special use formats such as the multi-resolution and multi-color-depth Windows icon files. The architecture allows to extend GIMP's format capabilities with a plug-in. You can find some rare format support in the GIMP plugin registry.

Thanks to the transparent virtual file system, it is possible to load and save files to from remote locations using protocols such as FTP, HTTP or even SMB (MS Windows shares) and SFTP/SSH.

To save disk space, any format can be saved with an archive extension such as ZIP, GZ or BZ2 and GIMP will transparently compress the file without you needing to do any extra steps.

For more information on GIMP, just follow the links below:

GIMP - The GNU Image Manipulation Program
GIMP - Introduction

Streaming music from the cloud for free with Google Music

Google recently introduced a new music service into their catalog of products called Google Music. With Google Music you can store all of your music to your account on Google's servers and stream it back to your favorite device. Google Music gives you space for 20,000 songs, which roughly comes out to around 100 gigabytes of storage for free!

My library on the Google Music website
My library on the Google Music website

You can access your music from any browser with an internet connection or you can use the Google Music android app. There are two ways of getting songs into Google Music. You can download free music or purchase music from the Android Market. Or you can use the Music Manager program from Google to download / upload music to / from your computer. A few of the cool features are Auto Playlists (any song you have Thumbs up'd), Instant Mixes (a quick mix of 25 songs) and Playlists. And with free / purchased music, you can share a listen with your circles on Google+.

The Google Music Manager interface
The Google Music Manager interface

Music Manager is available for Windows, Mac and Linux platforms. There is one restriction on types of music files, only MP3 format is allowed to be uploaded. And you will need to have the latest version of Flash for the Google Music website. Here's a quote from the website:

Google Music stores all of your music online so that you can save space on your computers and mobile devices and easily access your collection from anywhere you want to listen.

Use Google Music to browse and search your library, easily create playlists, rate your favorite songs, edit song information, and more. Since your music collection is online, you don’t need to worry about syncing these changes across your devices.

Storage

  • Android Market purchases - Free and purchased music is automatically saved to your Google Music library, and does not count towards your storage limit.
  • Your personal collection - You can add up to 20,000 songs to Google Music from your PC, Mac, or Linux computer, free of charge. All you need to do is download a simple desktop application called Music Manager to the computer where you keep your music. Music Manager can upload your iTunes and Windows Media Player library, playlists, playcounts, ratings, and more.

For more information on Google Music, just follow the links below:

Google Music
Google Music - Tips + Tricks

Learn to build and deploy Android apps with the Google App Inventor book

Do you want to build an Android app and don't know where to start? Overwhelmed by all of the information on Google App Inventor? Then look no further than the Google App Inventor book by Ralph Roberts and Packt Publishing Ltd..

Cover page for the Google App Inventor book
Cover page for the Google App Inventor book

From installing Google App Inventor on Mac, GNU/Linux and Windows to packaging apps for the Android Marketplace, this book makes it so easy. Ralph's step-by-step, hands-on approach to teaching is both entertaining and informative.

An excerpt from the Google App Inventor book
An excerpt from the Google App Inventor book

The Google App Inventor book covers in-depth blocks, components and the concepts behind them. The writing is simple and concise with learning aids like 'What just happened' and 'Pop quiz'. I found the 'Have a go here' sample projects outlined in the book to very educational and fun. Ralph also includes a free six-button template as a bonus. Here is a excerpt from the book itself:

As to prior knowledge and programming experience needed in creating apps and publishing them to places such as the Android market, you need practically none! This is the truly beautiful part of AI: its visual interface allows anyone from elementary school kids to us older people to make apps from the beginning without special knowledge.

Google App Inventor by Ralph Roberts is available in both print and e-book format from Packt Publishing Ltd.. For more information, just follow the links below:

Google App Inventor Book
Packt Publishing Technical & IT Book and eBook Store

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