Thoughts on last night's Dropbox outage and hacking hoax

Last night there were some issues with Dropbox.

  • The service went down.
  • Two major hacking groups took credit for it.
  • Dropbox said the service was down because of maintenance issues and that they were not hacked.
  • The hacking groups basically said "LOL we're kidding we didn't hack Dropbox."
  • Dropbox said their service was back up and running. No data was lost.

So it was a hoax. That's good news for everyone.

Here's my biggest issue with what happened: Dropbox didn't have a note on it's webpage that something went down. If you saw a news report and went to Dropbox's to see what was going on with your account, there would be no statement about the outage and claims of hacking. There should have been something immediately to let people know what was going on.

Maybe I am overreacting a bit, but this incident rekindled all the fears I have about large cloud services like this. Ben Brooks has a really good post about this.

For a good hour or two last night I was worried about my data on Dropbox. If it was lost, it would suck but I have backups. I was more worried what would happen if my data was compromised or made public in a mass dump. I think I will be looking into other services for slightly sensitive data.

There are a few things I will still use Dropbox for. It's a fantastic service. It has been one of the few services that has fundamentally changed the way I've used computers and the internet. But I realize now it's not really for me.

Overall: I'd rather have an hour of panic over something I can control than have the fear I did last night that there was nothing I could do to protect my data from being exploited.

Getting around Apple's 100 VIP limit

Apple's VIP list has changed how I use e-mail. Introduced in iOS 6 and Mountain Lion, the feature allows users
to create a priority inbox of certain people you label as “important.”

It really allowed me to get control of my e-mail and be notified of messages only from people I want to hear from immediately. (Also, it's fun to tell people that you've added them as VIPs).

On my iOS devices, I've turned off all sound and vibrations notifications for incoming mail. Then in notification preferences, I turned them on just for VIPs. Not only that, I configured it so notifications appear on the lock screen and as drop-down notifications when I'm doing other things on my phone. It's allows me to spend nights and weekends without constantly checking my inbox. As a journalist, it's important to be notified when news breaks and e-mail is often the way its delivered. It's also nice to know when friends and family send me something.

But once I started using the VIPs, however, I was stunned to see this prompt on OSX:

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No, it's not OK and I don't want to take people off the list. What to do? I found a pretty cool, and easy workaround to this: just add people as VIPs via iOS.

So in an e-mail on my phone or iPad, I click on a contact. Up comes the contact page and at the bottom there is a prompt that says “Add to VIP.” And it works. Somehow, iOS knows nothing of the 100-VIP limit and the service has not broken.

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It's like breaking an imaginary fire capacity at my digital inbox club.

Why we need more apps like Clear

It's simple: the user interface.

The great thing about this new app is that there are no buttons, menu bars or other navigation tools that are common on iPhone and Mac apps. Everything in clear is controlled through gestures. I've been using it for the past couple days and love the simplicity of the app. It allows for an experience not often found on iOS software: one that feels like it is meant for an iOS. There are no legacy controls on this app, which is a refreshing experience.

And everything you do takes up the whole screen. The sounds and vibrations are rewarding, as well are the colors.

I would love to have an RSS feed reader like this, and someday mail and calculator. Hopefully iOS 7 under Jony Ive will look much like this, as seen in this fan mockup.

While I use OmniFocus for most of my task management, I'll take a note from the Brooks Review and use it as a shopping list and other lists that are not time sensitive.

Give it a try: for iOS and OSX.