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Who Needs iDisk?

November 29th, 2005

Gdiskicon2If you sign up for Apple’s dot-Mac account, you get a variety of services, like an email account and 1 GB of disk space. They give you lots of bells and whistles, too, but in my trial for the service I found I never used them–and since I can use FTP and my domain’s disk space on my web hosting account, I never really needed it. Certainly not enough to pay $99 a year.

But there is now a Mac application that allows you to use a function just like iDisk, except it uses a GMail account and it’s completely free. The app is called gDisk (donationware). It’s a very simple app on SourceForge, no documentation, but it’s so easy you don’t need any. Just download and open, and you see this:

Gdisk1

Under “Username,” just type your GMail address without the “@gmail.com.” For example, if your GMail address is “john.smith@gmail.com,” then just type “john.smith”. If you don’t have a GMail address, get one from a friend. It’s still on an invitation-only basis, but it’s so widespread that surely someone you know has an account and so can get you one. I have 100 invitations available at any given time, so I assume all others with accounts have so too. Gone are the days when this was a special thing and people actually auctioned off invitations on eBay.

Once you’ve logged in, you should see a blank window with some button at the top. Just click on the “New Label” button to add a folder. As you can see, I added several folders / labels, and some even come with custom icons if you give them the right name:

Gdisk2-1

After that, it’s as easy as drag & drop. Just select a folder, drag icons into the window and drop them there as if it were a folder on your Desktop. An “transfer queue” dialog will appear, showing you the status of the upload. When it’s finished uploading, it may take a minute for the item to appear (switching to another folder and back again might speed that up). Now the item is in your 2.7 GB (and growing!) GMail account, and can be downloaded from any Internet connection in the world. Just open gDisk again, and drag & drop the item back onto your Desktop. Done and done.

The main drawback is that such network disks take time to upload and download the files, making it seem sluggish. But then, that’s true of any app like this, including iDisk. Also, in this early version of the program, you can’t save account settings and select them from a menu; you have to type your GMail user name each time, though the password will pop into place once you’ve done so. I would expect this to be remedied in a future version.

gDisk with a GMail account accomplishes the same thing as iDisk, providing you with the equivalent of dot-Mac’s core services, except it’s free and you get more than double the disk space. Hard to argue with that.

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