Get cloud storage deals on World Backup Day, March 31st

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World Backup Day will be here soon. The World Backup Day website publishes guides to backing up your data and promotes deals from cloud storage providers. It looks like the website is a bit bare-bones at the moment, but presumably, they’ll have a lot more going on on the 31st!

Cloud storage provider SpiderOak has already launched a deal announced in their blog. It’s a coupon code, “WorldBackupDay”, good for 5 GB of free lifetime storage. In addition, SpiderOak has very cheap educational pricing. I’m now a 100 GB Google Drive customer thanks to having a Chromebook, but I used to pay for 200 GB of SpiderOak storage due to the favorable educational rates.

SpiderOak is different from most cloud storage providers because of its “zero-knowledge” approach to backing up your data. Basically, before your data even leaves your computer, it gets encrypted. The people at SpiderOak  do not have the ability to decrypt your files on their end.

Theoretically, this has one big advantage and one big disadvantage.

The advantage is that your data is absolutely secure. Even if someone put a gun to the head of the system administrator over at SpiderOak (to use the commonly-employed but admittedly crude trope), he or she would literally not have the ability to decrypt your files. This also means that even if the hard drive storing your data is stolen from SpiderOak, it would be worthless to intruders because there’s no way to break the encryption except with your decryption passcode.

And that brings us to the disadvantage: when you make your SpiderOak account and set your password, it acts as your decryption passcode, and if you ever forget that password, your data is effectively gone. SpiderOak cannot help you. Your password is literally the only key to unlock your files, so without it, your files are permanently inaccessible.

In practice, there’s another disadvantage: SpiderOak is slow compared to services like Dropbox and Google Drive. Both the uploading and the syncing take a considerable amount of time. In addition, SpiderOak is a huge resource hog in terms of CPU cycles because all of the encryption and decryption happens on your computer, not on some powerful server somewhere else, and that’s very computationally intensive.

I’ll probably make a more methodical post about this in the future, but here’s my current personal breakdown of cloud storage providers, sorted in order of how much I use them day to day:

  • Dropbox: 19.9 GB (free account with many upgrade promotions)
  • Box: 50 GB (free account opened under a promotion; I can invite you to Box with 50 GB lifetime storage if you drop me a comment requesting it)
  • Google Drive: 111 GB (paid account, but paid up for two years thanks to my Chromebook purchase)
  • SpiderOak: 22 GB (free account with many upgrade promotions)

You’ll notice SpiderOak is at the bottom of the list. SpiderOak is wonderful for the long-term archival of large numbers of files you won’t be modifying day to day because that maximizes the benefit of data security while minimizing the disadvantage of SpiderOak’s slow speed. Dropbox, Box, and Google Drive, by comparison, are great for your more “active” files which you’ll be updating day to day (or second to second!), but are inherently less secure than SpiderOak is.

Anyway, be sure to check out World Backup Day on March 31st to see what deals are on offer!

Mind Mapping Tools for Teachers and Students

This guest post by Michael Zimmer was previously published in his blog, The Pursuit of Technology Integration Happiness.

I was contemplating this post and then across Twitter came 4 Ways to Enhance Your Teaching With Mind Mapping and figured that it was a sign to share several of the different Mind Mapping tools that are available for free on the web.  As teachers and all that we have to keep up with on a daily basis, mind mapping is a great way to stay organized.  For our students mind mapping provides students a way to show how aspects of content are connected.  Below are several options for mind mapping tools.

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Bubbl.us is a simple option for creating mind maps that doesn’t require any sign up to immediately be able to use.  Creating an account does allow you to save the mind maps that you create.  You can change colors, sizes, fonts and other features of your mind maps.  Worth checking out for a quick creation of things you are wanting to organize that are on your mind.

Exobrain

Exobrain a free mind mapping tool that assists users in visualizing thoughts and find connections.  Editing and changing the mind map is very simple and allows for easy organization.  You do have to create an account to use the service and all you need is a name, email, and password.  Your mind map is in the cloud and therefore always accessible.

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My Simple Surface provides users the ability to zoom in and out on your mind map or list.  The services allows users not only mind mapping ability but also the ability to create outline formats.  NO sign up is needed to use the service, but an account does allow the saving of work.

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MindMeister is a simple mind mapping tool that allows users to try in a demo and create a free account to save and store mind maps.  MindMeister is also available as an app on Apple and Android devices.  Users can upload images and icons with multiple colors to help organize different categories.

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LucidChart is another option in providing diagramming and organization options for educators.  This is a pay service, but by using an education based email, teachers can get free accounts through the 2013-2014 school year.   LucidChart integrates instantly with Google Drive and with Google Apps.  There is nothing to install and work is stored in the cloud.  Any browser is compatible with LucidChart and there are also collaboration features as well.

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SpiderScribe is another option, although limited with a free account.  Users get unlimited public maps, but are limited to the amount of files and image space for those maps.  Users can upload images and other files to the mind map as well as share and collaborate.  Users can also embed them into a website or blog and an auto-align feature is nice for those of us that prefer neatly placed parts of a mind map.

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Mind42 provides user a free, fast, and simple alternative for creating mind maps on the web and in the cloud.  Username, Email, and Password is all a user needs to access this service.  There are several options for users in creating their mind maps and many are universal to other apps.  Hyperlinks, images, icons, colors, etc are all available to use.

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Gliffy is an option as well that is available for Google Apps, in the cloud online for free (5 diagrams) and available as an add on for Microsoft Word.  No sign up is required to utilize the service, but an account is required to save.  Users can choose from various templates as starting points for creating a mind map.  There are several aspects to Gliffy for creating professional looking mind maps.  Definitely an app for an advanced user and someone who is willing to spend more time working on their diagram.

Glinkr

Glinkr allows users to try it out in a “sandbox” mode prior to registering to user the product completely.  There is also a browse option for finding mind maps create for public examination.  Tags for each mind map can also be done, making organization of a users mind maps more beneficial.  What makes Glinkr different is for each part of a mind map, users can have a pop-up text box that provides more information.

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Text 2 Mind Map has no sign up required and a simple indented formula tool makes this the easiest mind mapping tool to use.  You type in the information, choose the color scheme and then it will draw your map which you can organize and share in a format that meets the needs of the viewer.  Locking allows users to easily keep parts organized as well.  If looking for a fast and simple mind map, this is your tool.  Easily share or download the mind map upon completion as well.

If looking to browse for some mind maps, then the Mappio; The Mind Map Library allows users to find previously created maps that might meet your needs.  If looking for paper version of mind maps, then Exploratree is a valuable option as well for mind maps, graphic organizers, and other diagrams.  By creating an account users can customize and edit templates already created to meet the needs of the content being covered.

Creative Commons License
Mind Mapping Tools for Teachers and Students by Michael Zimmer is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.


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Organize your course materials in the cloud with Jolidrive

Screenshot 2013-03-18 at 4.01.39 PMJolidrive (https://drive.jolicloud.com/) is a newly-launched service which gives you one centralized interface to access your materials on the following websites:

…And presumably more to come as the service continues to develop.

See their launch video here:

For cloud storage services, Jolidrive does not copy or store your files; it just lists them and links to them. The interface is very slick and practical.

Jolidrive's interface

Your services appear in a list on the left side of the screen. Once you select one of your services, its contents appear in the middle frame, which looks like a typical file manager window. Clicking on a folder navigates to it in Jolidrive’s interface, while clicking on a file brings you to that file on the service’s own website. For example, if I click on a file stored in Dropbox, I’m directed to the file on the Dropbox website itself. On the right hand of the screen is a space meter showing you how much of your space you’ve used on that service, if applicable.

The interface changes for other kinds of sources. For example, image websites like Flickr show image thumbnails, and Soundcloud shows an album-art preview screen:

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Depending on how much you make use of cloud storage and media websites in your classes, Jolidrive might help you to pull together your files from different sources and streamline the process of finding what you need!


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