Dropbox Pro: More Space, More Features

Dropbox today announced that “Pro” accounts, which pay $9.95/month, will get an automatic bump to 1TB of storage (from 100GB). Nice!

Even better, we’re getting new features like remote wipe for devices, and something I’ve wanted for a long time: expirations for shared links.

Once you send out a shared link, you no longer have any control over how many times it’s shared or used by those to whom you have not intentionally granted permissions.

They’ve also added passwords for shared links, which is nice for when you want to have a little additional control over stuff that gets out in the wild.

Granted, it’s still remarkably easy for a malicious person to push your files out to the world, so these are perhaps small blessings, but nevertheless, I feel they’ll be helpful.

Read the full announcement from Dropbox here.

Florida’s Economic Recovery Ranked #6 In Nation

Business Insider ranked the 50 states based upon various—arguably arbitrary—factors and placed Florida in the number 6 position.

Notably, the report cited an 8.9% increase in statewide housing prices (measured from Q1 2013 to Q1 2014), a 3.1% bump in payroll jobs (June 2014 vs. June 2013) and a higher-than average growth in the state’s working-age population.

Ahead of Florida in Business Insider’s rankings: Colorado, California, Texas, Arizona, and Utah.

The team responsible for the report, which was published August 4, 2014, posted separately about their methodologies.

FBI Releases New Documents Showing 9/11 Sarasota Connection

We’ve all known since that fateful Tuesday in 2001 that Sarasota had a connection to the events of the day we call 9/11. I’ve written previously about being held up by the Presidential motorcade as “W” made his way to Emma E. Booker Elementary school to read to the kids. Then there was the flight school in Venice where some of the “I don’t need to know how to land” hijackers trained.

Much later, we learned some bits and pieces about the Sarasota Saudis, and—perhaps the most concerning detail—that the FBI was playing cat and mouse about what it did and didn’t know.

On Monday of this week, though, a new set of documents emerged—documents that the FBI had previously failed to acknowledge even existed—that reveal even more bizarre details about the 9/11 Sarasota connection and what appears to be an FBI coverup.

Thanks to some extremely diligent efforts on the part of the Broward Bulldog and their ongoing investigative and legal actions, the FBI released the documents which, although heavily redacted, reveal information uncovered as far back as 2002.

An article published by the Broward Bulldog and picked up by the Miami Herald reveals the new details. They include a man dumping information into a dumpster behind a Bradenton storage facility, and a man who arrived in Sarasota, FL in November, 2001 harboring apparent intentions to purchase land and establish a Muslim compound in Florida that was (is?) feared to include carrying out or facilitating terrorist activities.

The documents are available online thanks to the BrowardBulldog.org site.

Starbucks Barista Burr Grinder with New Hopper

Replacement Hopper for Starbucks Barista EL60 Grinder

Starbucks Barista Burr Grinder EL60
Starbucks Barista Burr Grinder EL60

A while back, my treasured Starbucks “Barista” Burr Grinder suffered a nasty fall.  It’s a long story. Not my best day.

The grinder itself was just fine, but the coffee bean hopper that sits atop the grinder didn’t fare so well. The “business end” of the hopper was ruined. I call it the business end because without the hopper installed, the grinder won’t run for safety reasons. It also is used to set the coarseness of your grind.

Broken Hopper for EL60 Burr Grinder
Broken Hopper for EL60 Burr Grinder

Locating a New Hopper

This should be no problem, right? I’ll just search Google for “starbucks barista grinder hopper” right?

Oh boy.

It turns out that Starbucks has sold a few different private label grinders wearing the “Barista” moniker. There were a number of results in Google that made me think I’d have no problem finding parts for my grinder. Unfortunately, though, it became clear pretty quickly from the photos on the sites that my grinder wasn’t the one they were selling parts for.

Starbucks EL60 Grinder
Starbucks EL60 Grinder

In the end, I turned the grinder over and located this sticker, which told me that I have the “EL 60″ burr grinder specifically.

While that was nice for informational purposes, it didn’t seem to be much help online when hunting for parts.

Ultimately, I decided that my grinder was manufactured by Solis, a Swiss company which offers this model which appears (from the photo, anyway) to be identical to mine. Other searches revealed that my grinder had been sold as the “Solis 166″ at one time.

Nice to know, but no parts.

After a few more rounds of Google searching, I decided that it might be worthwhile to contact Baratza, which appears to make (or at least import) the successor models to the EL 60—both for Starbucks’ “Barista” line and otherwise.

Prior to purchasing the replacement hopper from the Baratza website, I contacted their support department by filling out a form on their website.

I was very impressed with the great service I received—especially since I was only planning to spend $10 on the hopper (or, as it turned out, $14 including the lid). After inquiring as to whether or not they sold the replacement hopper I needed, I received the following via email:

Hey David,

Our hopper does not fit right onto the Barista. However, I did have one crafty customer modify one of our hoppers, he made a guide for doing the job. I have the guide attached- sorry it is in two parts, but the customer sent it to me already in PDF form like this.

Regards,

Pierce Jens
Baratza Email Support

Nice!

The PDFs that were attached were somewhat helpful, but unclear in some ways, so I decided to create this post as a way to “upgrade” the available information about how to make the Baratza hopper work on the Barista EL60 / Solis 166 grinder.

I ordered the grinder right away, and added the lid as well. I had a suspicion my lid (which was intact) would fit, but I could see that the Baratza hopper was kind-of a “smoke” color, whereas mine was clear. For $4, why not get the matching lid?

Opening the package, I decided the grinders Baratza sells today indeed must share some common ancestry with my grinder, as the hoppers are exactly the same diameter at the point where they come to rest on top of the grinder.

However, the “notches” that allow the hopper to adjust the grind—not to mention get “seated” properly in place—are not where they need to be on the Baratza replacement hopper.

EL 60 Grind Adjustment Notches
EL 60 Grind Adjustment Notches
Baratza replacement hopper as shipped
Baratza replacement hopper as shipped

So… I reviewed the modifications made by the generous and helpful person who created the PDFs that Baratza sent me, and went for it.

How I Modified the Baratza Hopper to Work in My Barista Grinder

The guides Baratza sent referenced a “rotary tool” which the customer apparently used to grind new notches in the Baratza hopper to make it fit. I’m guessing it was a Dremel tool of some sort, which I don’t have.

So I read and re-read the guides and decided that an super-sharp razor blade just might do the trick.

WARNING: Razor blades are incredibly dangerous. Seriously… use every possible precaution to avoid injury if you try this. Clear the area of any bystanders or spectators, and proceed at your own risk.

I started with 2 vertical cuts on the side that didn’t have anything in the way, as shown below. By cutting straight down, no body parts were in the “line of fire” (so to speak) in the event that the razor blade were to slip.

Baratza hopper mod: first cuts made with razor blade
First cuts made with razor blade

I was quite pleasantly surprised at how easily my sharp razor blade cut through the plastic hopper. If I got a little stuck, it just took a little forward or backward motion (not enough that I’d refer to it as “sawing”) to make progress.

I took my time, and when I had two nice vertical cuts, I very carefully made a horizontal one to finish out my notch.

Once that first notch was cut, I turned the hopper around and tried to discover what needed to happen on the other side. From what I could see, my hopper was slightly different from the one pictured in the guides I received. In my case, there was a “tab” that ran all the way to the “top” (when sitting upside down as it was when I was working on it) of the hopper rim. After some tinkering, I decided that at least part of it (enough to match the height of my other notch) needed to be removed. I decided not to remove all of it because it seemed like it may have had some purpose. Honestly, I’m not sure.

Baratza hopper mod: tab to be partially removed
Tab to be partially removed

Again, the razor blade really seemed like the ideal tool for the job. I worked very slowly and kept body parts out of the way in case of slippage.

Tab partially removed
Baratza hopper mod: tab partially removed

Once that was done, I cut a notch in the “rim” of the hopper just like the first one.

With both notches cut, I did a little comparison to even things out a bit, and ultimately cut both notches a bit “taller” than I had done originally. Once they seemed to match, I installed the hopper onto the grinder…

My Starbucks Barista grinder with its shiny new modified Baratza hopper
My Starbucks Barista grinder with its shiny new modified Baratza hopper

Voila!

The new hopper now works just as the original one did. By rotating the hopper, the grind can be adjusted from “coarse” (with the little tab above the french press as shown in the photo above) to “fine” just as before.

And… as before, the safety cutoff switch is activated properly only when the hopper is properly installed and rotated far enough to be “locked” into place.

Thank You to Baratza and the Unknown Crafty Customer

I wouldn’t have attempted this mod if it weren’t for the fantastic service from Baratza (thank you, Pierce!) and the anonymous Baratza customer who blazed the trail and wrote up the guide to the modification he or she made.

Hopefully, this guide is helpful to you. If I can answer any questions, I’ll do my best! Just add a comment below.

With this nifty mod, I plan to enjoy my Starbucks Barista EL60 grinder for many more years. It has truly been the best grinder I’ve ever owned! And… next time I need one, I’ll be buying a grinder directly from Baratza.

Enjoy!

Steve Rinehart: Sarasota EntrepreneurPhoto Courtesy of Rinehart Homes

Steve Rinehart: Sarasota’s Newest Custom Home Builder

Those of you who know me well already know this: I’m a huge fan of entrepreneurs.

Especially the “chase your dream, innovate and adapt as necessary, and work really hard ’til you see it come about” variety.

Steve Rinehart: Sarasota Entrepreneur
Steve Rinehart: Sarasota Entrepreneur
Photo Courtesy of Rinehart Homes

And this is precisely why I was intrigued when I first met Steve Rinehart. It was about two and a half years ago now, and a good friend of mine was providing some entertainment in a local night club venue. He suggested that I meet up with the owner, because he had real vision but had run into some difficulties in the business.

The venue was “The Loft Ristobar,” and it was located in the building that had previously housed Sarasota’s highly popular Tex-Mex chain restaurant, Don Pablo’s.

The Loft was a concept that was either ahead of its time, or perhaps just better suited to a bigger market. But the idea, I thought, was brilliant. Restaurant by day, live entertainment venue in the evenings, and then… after hours on weekends, it transformed into a full-on night club.

But, as you might imagine, those are at least two (and possibly three) different businesses all rolled up into one. This meant that the business was surprisingly complex, with lots of areas that needed specific attention.

Creating a clear marketing message out of the three of them was what I was immediately tasked with doing. Let’s just say it wasn’t the easiest thing I’ve ever been asked to do.

And to top it all off, Rinehart Homes, Steve Rinehart’s day job, was busy and complicated enough that it demanded lots of his time and most of his attention. The management Steve had in place at The Loft did a bang-up job, but it just wasn’t enough to get the concept to really take off.

Why Not Franchise?

As Steve related to me, many times during the course of his time operating The Loft Ristobar, people would come in and ask about Don Pablo’s. Where did it go? What happened to it?

The reality was that the Sarasota store had long been one of the chain’s top-performing restaurants. But when the parent corporation ran into financial troubles, it closed all but 38 stores—the ones that were geographically easier for them to manage. A new company bought the brand and those 38 stores out of bankruptcy and they were doing OK.

The idea of coming back to Sarasota was a good one, but the company wasn’t ready to take the plunge yet as they were taking a measured approach to growth.

So Steve did what any enterprising entrepreneur would do: he seized the opportunity and negotiated the chain’s first-ever franchise deal. In May of 2012, five years or so after it had closed, Sarasota’s Don Pablo’s reopened as a franchise operation.

That business has been through its fair share of ups and downs, but today it is humming along with a great management team in place. Steve has high hopes for its future.

In the meantime… Sarasota’s real estate market had begun to pick up.

Building Custom Homes in Sarasota

Since 1994, when Steve Rinehart first obtained his Florida General Contractor’s license, he had attacked the home-building business with gusto. Not one to get stuck depending upon others, Steve went out and got his roofing license and a pool contractor’s license as well. This enabled him to be highly flexible and churn out homes at a surprising rate.

The business model is pretty simple in this world: you find a big tract of land and make a deal. Then you carve it up, stick up a model home or two, and build a community.

Steve’s reputation—and that of his boutique team—in that business is very good. Over the years, he and his team have built more than 300 homes that way, and provided many affordably-priced, but very nice homes for a lot of people.

But as he tells it, when the real estate market starts to heat up—especially in an intrinsically attractive market like Sarasota/Bradenton—bigger and bigger national players are willing to come in and pay far more for land than it’s worth.

That makes this business less and less attractive to a boutique team like Steve’s.

And so… the handful of higher-end projects that Steve had taken on in the last few years had started to become more and more interesting.

With a few completely custom projects on Sarasota’s Siesta Key (along with a high-end renovation or two) under his belt, Steve decided it was time to launch another new entrepreneurial venture.

With the help of 20-year veteran real estate investor Joel Match, Steve recently launched Rinehart Elite Homes. Their first project under this new name? A gorgeous home in Lakewood Ranch’s exclusive golf course community, The Concession.

As you might imagine, Steve’s life is never boring. But given his passion for excellence, his hands-on attention to detail, and the track record of satisfied home owners, I think it’s safe to say that Rinehart Elite Homes is going to be a luxury home builder to contend with.

Business Strategy, Marketing, Sarasota, Technology & More…