How-To Geek

From The Tips Box: Easy Access to iPad Brightness, 4.5GB of Free Dropbox Storage, Banishing Charging Cable Clutter

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Tips-How-To-Geek-TemplateOnce a week we dump out the Tips box and share some great reader tips with you. This week we’re looking at an easy way to change the screen brightness on the iPad, how to score extra Dropbox space by syncing your photos, and how to cut down on your cable clutter.

Quick Access to Screen Brightness Via the iPad Multitray

2012-02-02_140541Nick writes in with the following tip:

So there I was telling my buddy about how I like my jailbroken iPad because I can install extra tools to do the things the iPad doesn’t do very well on its own. I gave the example of installing SBSettings so that I could quickly access the screen brightness slider without having to go into the settings menu. At that point my buddy pointed out that you can do that with a stock iPad by simply double clicking the home button (which pulls up the Multitray) and then swiping to the right. I’ve been jailbreaking since before they introduced the Multitray so that’s clearly a feature I overlooked. I figured I’d write in about it, given the chance that many other HTG readers probably don’t know about it either!

Well Nick, we’re not going to lie. We’ve been using SBSettings for so long we, like you apparently, never even looked for this new feature since we had everything we needed in SBSettings. Thanks for sharing!

Score 4.5 GB of Free Dropbox Storage


Kelly writes in with the following Dropbox tip:

Dropbox is rolling out a new Photo Sync feature. If you get in on the beta test (which you can do by simply downloading the beta release of the new Windows Dropbox client), they’ll reward you with up to 4.5GB of extra storage space. It’s pretty simple. The beta isn’t on the front page (you’ve got to visit this forum post) but once you’ve found and installed it, you just start syncing photos and video from your mobile devices/cameras. For every 500MB you upload they’ll give you 500MB of storage (up to 4.5GB). It only took two syncs with my 4GB camera SD card to max out the free storage. Totally painless. Definitely the easiest way I’ve ever gotten extra Dropbox space.

As far as scoring free storage goes, that is pretty darn painless. Nice tip!

Banishing Charging Cable Clutter by Packing Multi-Use Cables


Courtney writes in with the following cable decluttering tip:

I was recently on a business trip with a colleague. When we were unpacking our stuff, she practically dumped out a file cabinet’s worth of cables. She had a cable and wall charger for every device she’d brought with her. The thing is, most of the cables and chargers were essentially interchangeable. Aside from the charger for her laptop, everything else could have effectively been mixed and mingled. Her kindle and her Bluetooth headset both used micro USB. Her iPhone uses the propriety Apple connector but the cable for the Kindle and Bluetooth headset could have been plugged into the iPhone wall wart. There were additional gadgets that all shared various connectors and charging schemes.

My point, if I’m getting a little long winded, is that she had gotten so used to everything needing a cable and a charger that she hadn’t stopped to look and see that they were all virtually interchangeable. After helping her par down the pile, all she really needed was her laptop charger, a USB wall wart (from the iPhone), one micro USB cable and one Apple sync cable. In reality very few of her devices needed to be charged constantly (like the Kindle and her Bluetooth headset), so it wasn’t necessary to bring a powerstrip’s worth of cords.

It seems elementary, but you’re right Courtney: it’s easy to forget to check your cables and just get in the habit of hauling along the cables that came with the devices. If you’re trying to pack light it pays to take a moment and do an inventory of your charging and cabling needs before leaving the house.

Have a clever tip or trick to share? Shoot us an email at and look for your tip on the front page.

Jason Fitzpatrick is a warranty-voiding DIYer who spends his days cracking opening cases and wrestling with code so you don't have to. If it can be modded, optimized, repurposed, or torn apart for fun he's interested (and probably already at the workbench taking it apart). You can follow him on if you'd like.

  • Published 02/2/12

Comments (7)

  1. Grant

    My phone and tablet use the same plug, but the tablet requires a higher current rating to charge. I recently went on a trip, and brought only the tablet charger. It would work for both, and they could just take turns. Generally, the tablet charged while we were out and about for the day so I could use it in the evening for media consumption, and the phone charged while I slept. My headset also takes the same cable, but only needs to be charged occasionally.

    The point is that just because they take the same plug, they may not be fully interchangeable. While my phone charger won’t charge the table, the tablet charger will work on at least 3 devices.

  2. MammaG

    When I find that I have interchangeable cables, I leave one at the office and keep one at home. That way I don’t have to carry a charger back and forth.

  3. Jeff Jones

    Thanks for the extra Dropbox storage space tip. As usual, you guys are on top of everything. When, um, do you sleep?

  4. Forensic Penguin2

    You might want to check this article out about having your Photo folder accessed.

  5. Frank Kaplan

    I bought a few 110vac charger with USB outlets at Five Below (everything under $5). They’re good enough for most cell phones, headsets and the kindle. One even came with a micro USB cable for $5. Beats $29 at Radio Shack or the Apple Store.

  6. Steve-O-Rama

    Thanks for the Dropbox tip, Kelly! :D

    Be careful with the super-cheap power adapters. There have been documented cases of the voltage & current ratings being grossly out of specifications, and some of them getting very hot under stress.

    USB example:

    Personally, I wouldn’t ever depend upon my target device’s on-board power protection to work against something that’s way out of spec, or handle very ‘dirty’ DC. I mean, is it going to work when you pull a bit more current, and who knows what’s going to happen if there’s a mains voltage spike? Probably rhymes with POP! Caveat emptor, fellow users. Stick with the name-brand stuff, sold through reputable/licensed sellers.

  7. Art€

    I have a LOT of electronic gear (although I say it myself ;)) but have got a small pack of interchangeable connectors and normally just 1 USB cable with a mini output and can adapt this to any other type. I also have a 3400 mA extra battery which I can use in an emergency. In that way I can keep my cables and problems (ie. weight) to a minimum.

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