Sunday, May 29, 2011

Keeping it all together

Regular readers will know that I've got a pretty eclectic approach to computing. I have no real affinity for any one OS, and have desktop devices running Windows 7, a Macbook Pro on Mac OSX and a netbook running Ubuntu netbook edition. Chuck in my ever to hand iPhone, and the challenge for me is keeping everything together and in sync.

In all honesty, it's made a bit simpler in that the Ubuntu netbook rarely sees the light of day. It's an old Asus Eee with virtually no memory or storage, and I put Ubuntu netbook on it more as an experiment than anything else (it works fine though).

What is happening therefore, is a slow and gradual transition to cloud computing. Applications I tend to prefer are cross platform, and with an ability to sync seamlessly with whichever device I'm using . I'm not a complicated, or power user, which makes life simpler still, and what follows is a brief description of my key picks.

If you work in different locations on different computers and haven't used or come across Dropbox yet, you're missing out. You install the Dropbox client on all the devices you use and it creates a Dropbox folder - so it's installed on all my PC's, laptop, netbook and I have the iPhone app. Whenever you are connected to the Internet, whatever you have saved to this folder is synced to Dropbox. Then, whenever you connect using one of your other devices, all the changes are automatically synced back to that device. Simple. Add in versioning, so you know which is the latest version, and the fact that it's free for up to 2GB storage, and you not only have a way of keeping everything in sync across multiple computers, but some free online storage too.

If you are going to check it out - drop me a line first. I can refer you, and that helps me boost my storage space!
Highly recommended.

One of the things that many people require from their computing devices is a good way of collating all those snippet of information, notes, screenshots etc. There are literally hundreds of thousands of solutions out there, but one of the best is Evernote.
Evernote, like Dropbox is cross platform, and you can sync to all your platforms. Like Dropbox it's also accessible online, and like Dropbox free at the basic level.It also has browser extensions so you can clip all, or bits of web pages directly to your Evernote account.
You can record text notes, voice notes, photo notes, documents - pretty much anything. It's fully searchable, you can have multiple "notebooks" within your account, and use tags on notes. A Premium version (which I use) brings added benefits, but for most people, the free version is just fine. If you need to store "stuff", then this is the way to do it.

Gmail is my preferred email route, because everything is available on any Internet connected device. It's got a a lot of functionality too - more than most people realise, you've just got to dig a bit to find some of the optionsd and settings.

My calendar and contacts are all handled by Apple's "MobileMe" service. You have to pay for it, but it keeps my calendar and contacts beautifully in sync on my Macbook and iPhone (I tend not to do anything that needs calendar and contact access on the PC, although I could always access Mobile Me through the browser if I wanted to.

I've tried a few times to manage contacts via Google Contacts, but I find there's always some corruption/duplication though the sync process back to the iPhone/Macbook. I know some manage this perfectly fine, but I've never managed to do so to my satisfaction.

So there you have it. Core functions of email, contacts, calendar, notes and document sync/storage handled through some first class online/cross platform applications, that are free.

It's a no brainer.

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