Early last year I professed that the desktop was dead and talked about how I was in the process of moving everything I could to online storage rather than local. My point being I didn’t want what piece of hardware I had on me at the moment to affect what data I could access, and didn’t want to have to lug everything around to ensure I had what I needed. Basically I was dreaming of being hardware independent and no matter where I was if I had a browser and web access (via a laptop, a smart phone, or a internet cafe) I could get to all my stuff.
A lot has happened in the last year and that dream has been adopted by hordes of people and it’s now called keeping things in the cloud. It was probably called that then too but far fewer people were aware and talking about it. I’ve been continuing my own move towards it with varying successes and thought I’d post a little bit of an update here in case anyone else is trying to do this kind of thing themselves.
Last year I mentioned GoogleApps as a big help with this and it’s still a core part of my system. I can’t think of a recent day that has gone by that I haven’t used gtalk, gmail, and gcal. And with the addition of googledocs and googlevoice (which I admit I haven’t spent much time with) this remains a very serious contender in the war against hardware entanglement. I can access all these things on my mac, my netbook and my iPhone just as easily.
a new addition is Evernote which I find extremely useful in keep track of thoughts and notes, as well as archives of info and data that I need access to at some other point. The native iPhone client makes it perfect for jotting down ideas when ever I have then, even offline and that it auto syncs with the web and desktop version is ideal. This is really the perfect set up in my eyes, an iPhone client for being mobile, a desktop client for your home system, and a web version for traveling or use on computers that aren’t your own. The uses of it are endless and I’ve only scratched the surface of the functions it provides.
One thing that is important for me and I still haven’t found the best solution for it a to do list. Sure I could use any of the above for a simple check list, but that seems like too much work to replace my previous to do list system which was chicken scratch notes on the back of whatever scrap of paper I happened to have laying around at the time. To replace this I’m looking for something a little more robust, that can remind me of impending deadlines and priorities, and also allow me to easily check things off. I tried out Things and was pretty impressed with how it handled things but the deal killer is it has no auto sync to the cloud. Info is stored on your desktop or your iPhone and you have to open both apps while the two devices are on the same wifi network for them to talk to each other. This is retarded and makes the $50 price of the program completely unreasonable. If they get cloud syncing added it will be back at the top of my list.
From that I switched to Toodledo which does much of that but between a web and iPhone version only. I liked it but honestly it was too hard to add new things and too much detail in the sorting so I lost items I added and found myself not looking at it. A to do list is no good if you don’t look at it. After all this I circled back around to check out GoogleTasks. Since this is integrated into gcal and gmail now it’s been pretty useful. It’s very simple, but that is actually want I want to some extent and it mimics the scrap of paper feel I was looking for.
I mentioned having a netbook above and this has been something that has pushed me along on this quest. Part of my motivation on this is I get sketched out taking thousands of dollars of computer equipment through customs and TSA security all the time when I travel and I honestly don’t trust them to keep my stuff secure or intact. I wanted something that I could take with me on trips instead of my MacBookPro but that would still allow me to do the work I needed to. If everything I have is hosted in the cloud and accessible from a browser this should be no problem, right? I looked around and eventually settled on the Lenovo S10 because of hard drive space and built in features like a webcam. It also has a PCI slot which allows me to use my Verizon EVDO card for internet anywhere and I have it running Ubuntu. Best of all it was only a few hundred dollars and the only thing on it is a browser and a few movies or MP3s that I have for that trip so if it gets lost, stolen, broken, etc it’s not that big of a deal.
In the world of larger data storage I and many people I know trust and love Amazon S3. Mac folks can couple that with Jungledisk and it’s a pretty seamless option for storing files in the cloud that you can get to from anywhere if you need them. This also serves as a nice backup plan in case of a disaster that kills all your local backups. I also know some people who are fans of Box.net though I haven’t spent much time with it myself to be honest.
That’s pretty solid arsenal of cloud storage and webappery if you ask me. It’s not 100% perfect yet but it’s much better than it was last year and I’m really looking forward to where things are heading. If you are using any of these things or have your own suggestions I’d love to hear them in the comments below. I’ve gotten a lot of ideas about how to use these myself from talking to other people so I love finding tidbits that I somehow overlooked.