Useful Stuff: Plug-In USB Charging Port, Extra Dropbox Storage

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A free account from beloved file-sharing and -storage service Dropbox nets you 2GB of space. Want to boost that to 7GB? You can, and it won't cost you a dime extra.

See, Dropbox is beta-testing a new desktop client that can automatically upload photos and videos to your account. If you're willing to take part in the test, you can get as much as 5GB of extra storage--in 500MB increments.

To get started, just download and install the latest version of the Dropbox beta (currently 1.3.12). (If you're already running the software, it might be a good idea to back up everything in your Dropbox folder first.)

Next, plug in your camera, smartphone, or memory card--anything containing photos or videos. Dropbox should automatically import them into a new Camera Uploads folder and sync them with your account.

Bam! You immediately get an extra 500MB of storage.

From then on, for every 500MB of photos and videos that Dropbox automatically uploads, you get an additional 500MB of permanent space in your account--up to 5GB, maximum.

Wait, what good is that if the extra space is already filled (with the photos and videos)? Well, part of the good is that you have an automated and easy backup of your important media.

However, you can also delete everything if you decide you're not interested in that feature--but the added extra space will remain. In other words, by investing a little time as a beta tester, you get the reward of more Dropbox storage. Sounds like a good trade to me!

Add USB Charging Ports to Any AC Outlet

Most modern smartphones, tablets, MP3 players, and other gadgets rely on USB-based chargers. Some of these come with their own AC wall adapters, while others include nothing more than a USB cable--meaning you have to plug them into your PC to get them charged. (I'm thinking in particular of Amazon's entry-level Kindle.)

In both cases, charging gets to be a hassle. You've either got bulky, unattractive AC adapters cluttering up your outlets, or you're leaving your PC running 24/7 just to pull charger duty.

That's why my new favorite item is the RCA USB Wall Plate Charger. A "Best of Innovations" award winner at this year's Consumer Electronics Show, the Wall Plate Charger is definitely an idea whose time has come.

Unlike some similar USB outlets I've seen, this one requires no wiring. That's because it doesn't take the place of an existing AC outlet, but rather plugs into one. (It's literally a plug-and-play solution.)

The Wall Plate Charger gives you one AC socket and two USB ports--the latter able to charge two smartphone-size devices simultaneously. You can also plug a tablet into the 2.1-amp lower port, which supplies enough juice to charge those larger batteries.

I just picked up one of these, and it's terrific. I've used it to charge an iPad and iPod Touch at the same time, and it worked like a charm. And although you still have wires wending from your wall, at least you're rid of those unsightly wall-wart adapters.

The RCA USB Wall Plate Charger has a list price of $19.99, but Lowe's currently sells them for $15 (plus sales tax, natch). Definitely a worthwhile buy, in my humble opinion.

If you've got a hassle that needs solving, send it my way. I can't promise a response, but I'll definitely read every e-mail I get--and do my best to address at least some of them in the PCWorld Hassle-Free PC blog. My 411: You can also sign up to have the Hassle-Free PC newsletter e-mailed to you each week.

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