dropboxI signed up for Dropbox over the weekend. Here are some first impressions, fresh off the install/uploads:

  • I bought the Pro plan (100G; $99/year [prepaid]), so if you’re using a different plan, your mileage may vary, but I doubt it.
  • Install a breeze (Windoze 7).
  • I have good backups at home, but I wanted an off-site backup for my digital pics. Dropbox seemed to be the best solution for me.
  • It took over 30 hours for the initial upload (~65G of images), but the process was smooth, indicators on the local box and web site kept me informed of what was going on.
  • Very, very seamless. It’s like having a folder called “dropbox” on your machine (actually, that’s exactly how it appears on your PC) – except it goes to the cloud, so copy work there. (I haven’t had to pull anything out of history yet; that’ll be another story.)
  • Dislike No. 1: I uploaded two folders; one with just loose pics, the other with multiple directories. I expected – at both high level and in drill down – a way on the Dropbox.com site to see the number of files in given directory, perhaps the size total etc. (like a PC). Nope. Kinda disappointing.
  • Dislike No. 2: I kind of expected the local Dropbox folder to act like rsynch (which, behind the scenes, it probably uses), where you put 10 files in the folder – nine old and one new – and it would examine all 10, and just upload the new one (or another file if it had been modified). But it acts like a PC file system, saying this file already exists etc. Probably good for most users, but not what I was expecting.
  • The slideshow feature (on the web) is remarkable. I think I like Flickr’s better (link is Cornell’s Birdshare Flickr account), but this does a tremendous job. As mentioned above, I just uploaded pictures, and … nicely done, Dropbox!

That’s all I have right now – overall, a very positive experience (and if I was doing the free service, it would be really awesome!).

Update 11/28/2013 – After I put my photos in the cloud, I decided to move my iTunes there, as well. Another 17G+. I upped my account to 200 Gigs; worth it? For peace of mind, yeah. Cheapest offering? Nah, but I’m looking for hit-by-a-bus backup. I like Dropbox – and for those of you out there who need just 5G or less, by all means use their free offering. Slick.

The web becomes the norm, Obamacare is proving

Lost in all the Sturm und Drang about the new healthcare law – AKA Obamacare (Affordable Care Act, ACA) – is an interesting dynamic that I’ve not seen commented on: The stated equivalence of the heathcare.gov website (portal for ACA sign-ups and information) and the law itself by both opponents and proponents of the new healthcare law.

Failure to get healthcare.gov up and running well is the same as saying the new healthcare law is a failure.

Which is like saying that if Amazon.com suddenly experienced months of outages, no one would be able to buy a book or stream a movie.

In both cases, poppycock!

I get that from a political point of view, hammering the failure of healthcare.gov to deliver as promised is a handy cudgel against the law. It’s symbolic, easy to grasp, a very good sound bite. Even proponents of the law are buying into this ridiculous equivalence – that the law could be doomed if they can’t fix this web site.

Why is this equivalence ridiculous? Because of the following:

  • The federal exchange – healthcare.gov – was set up as an ACA information and an exchange to purchase insurance for those in states that didn’t create their own (over half of the states). That’s a lot of data to compile, present to user, and pass to insurers in any given state. A lot could go wrong, and – by many estimates – almost everything has.
  • Many states did elect to set up their own online exchanges, and this is a much simpler than a multi-state exchange (like healthcare.gov). States have their own regulations/rates and so on, so the exact same plan from Blue Cross Blue Shield may cost $x in Virginia, and $y in Maryland. If you only have to worry about one set of regulations/group of insurers etc., it makes your life much easier. Many states are doing very well with these exchanges, states such as California, Vermont and Kentucky (led by a Republican governor State congress/Democrat govenor).
  • Other states have set up their own exchanges, and – like the federal exchange – are struggling. Most notably, Oregon – a heavily blue state that has embraced the ACA – is having such problems that it has yet to sign up a single user. Yet you don’t hear much about this (maybe in Oregon?); for ACA opponents, the federal exchange is the more appealing pinata. And that’s understandable. More buck for your bang.
  • In most states, insurance companies have web sites that are working well – but we don’t hear anything about that, do we? Agreed, you can’t do comparisons (to other insurers) on these sites, but if you liked your old BCBS plan in the past and now need a new ACA-compliant plan, maybe hit the site and see what’s offered.
  • The other pre-web methods of signing up for ACA insurance are all there: toll-free numbers; federally mandated workers (navigators) to help you on a walk-in basis in local areas; your local insurance agent; filing by snail mail.

Bottom line: Agree/disagree with the ACA, the abysmal launch of the healthcare.gov site is inexcusable. As a programmer, I’m not at all surprised, but this puts a black eye on what has become the public face of the ACA.

But I still think it’s amusing to equate the failure of a single instance of many web sites (state, insurance companies) with the demise of a sweeping law, but that’s what it’s come to.

And it’s fun to see these old white dudes on the news – the ones that can barely use Twitter – explain how to fix this web site (to salvage the law they have voted to repeal about four dozen times).

Just a thought.