Welcome to Cloud City

Wednesday, February 6, 2008 at 23:20

I've decided to try a technology experiment for 2008. I'm moving to Cloud City. That is, I'm going to attempt to reduce or eliminate my dependency on local computing resources. The idea is to do as much as I can using web-based and online services - basically, migrate as much of the stuff I use most of the time to cloud computing and see if I can actually operate that way.

I've been aware of the various applications and services that are available to use for several years, but never got around to trying any of them. So now I will.

I was motivated to do this for three reasons:

  1. Observing the way I access various services when I'm travelling - I can get a lot done using VPN and remote access technologies - I wondered how far I could take that idea.
  2. The fact that I use a lot of different computers every day, and it can be a pain to co-ordinate where I've left something or worked on it last. I have a NAS and various servers at home but enabling and securing access to them from other locations is a pain. USB keys are the new sneakernet, but not without issues (reliability, easily lost/stolen).
  3. I've been looking at the new micro-sized laptops that are/will be available. Specifically, the Asus EEE PC, the Everex Cloudbook and the OLPC XO-1. I got to thinking about actually using a small machine with only limited solid-state storage and would it be possible to do all my normal day to day (personal) computing on a device like that? Surely, you'd want to rely as little as possible on data you store on that machine or on removable memory cards.
So I've set myself a goal of moving away from locally installed applications and storage and seeking out online options instead. So far, I've accomplished the following:

  • Finally organized some of the 9.7 gazillion photos we have, created some albums of the best ones and put them up on Picasa.
  • Moved all my email usage to webmail. Nothing new about that - I don't think my kids have ever even seen or used a "mail client" - it's always been webmail for them. But I have 5 or 6 accounts I used regularly and using a mail program has been my habit since PINE was bleeding-edge. I consolidated them all via GMail using their Mail Fetcher.
  • Moved all my bookmarks to del.icio.us. Again not new, and I'm not yet seeing how I will benefit from the social aspect of it, but it does do a couple things for me - 1) Allows me to access all my bookmarks from any computer. No more bookmarking something on one machine then trying to find it again from another. 2) Allows my wife and I to have easily shared bookmarks. We can each flag stuff for the other to read. Maybe that's a partial win for the social thing.
  • Started moving some documents that I reference often to Google Docs. I've been using OpenOffice for a while, and GDocs imports their formats as well as the ubiquitous MSFT Office formats (which I also use, just like everyone else with a real job). Outside of work, I don't have any complex documents that the GDocs tool can't hande (yet...).
So that's my Cloud City experiment. I'm still researching mass online storage options, better photo storage, easy no-brainer online backups and more.

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