Wednesday, March 16, 2011

[GEEK POST] My Cloud Adventures, and the Holy Grail of In-The-Cloud and Offline Working

I've been yapping about this on and off on Twitter for a few days, so let's get through the basics so we're all on the same page: I have been experimenting with "working in the cloud", so to speak, to figure out what all the fuss is about. So right now, this is my setup:

  • I carry an iPad (wifi only model) anywhere. This is great because it takes at least 3kg off my daily workpack (I used to carry a laptop everywhere) and since you can find wifi virtually anywhere in HCMC, it's not a hassle to go online. For the times there is no wifi and I need to go online, I have Joikuspot Pro running on my Nokia X6.

  • I have an old MacBook at home, which hardly ever leaves the house now.

  • I have a basic Core2Duo desktop tower at the office running Jolicloud (dual boots with Windows, but guess which OS I use more), which more or less is Chrome running on top of Ubuntu Linux.

So basically, for my work and play needs, I need to be able to access these things:

  • email (naturally), for office email and personal email

  • digital notes. I want to be able to replace that crummy old paper notebook someday, and getting into the habit of taking all-digital notes

  • my files, of course. And the only files I need to carry around are work files anyway.

  • tasklist. this needs to be separate from notes because I need a more intuitive service that I can put dates, checklists and timelines on.

  • office suite: word processor, spreadsheet, slideshow creator.

  • calendar. with all the various devices I carry or leave at home, it's difficult to keep track of appointments or dates unless it is synced over the cloud.

  • twitter, and better in the form of a client program.

So for now, the setup is like this:

So far the ensemble is working pretty good, decreasing my dependency on one device to carry everywhere. But still, the geek inside of me ideally wants a single interface to access all those services (at least for email, calendar, tasks, notes, and files), if not one single service/app for all the above.

Of course, everything can be done through the browser (which is what Chrome OS wants to do, and what Jolicloud is doing already), but at times when we don't have an internet connection, it would be ideal if we could access our services offline.

For example: I use Dropbox and recommend it to anybody I can because the files are synced to the cloud, and can be synced back to any number of devices. But the files are copied back to the Desktop and the Mac, so I can use them even if I don't have an internet connection (for the iPad, it only applies to files I have already downloaded through the iPad client). I have used Google Docs for a long time but found it impractical because I haven't found an ideal file-sync system like Dropbox for it.

Same case would go for accessing my email, calendar, tasklist, notes; the exception probably being Twitter.

So ideally, a cloud service which caters to all of the above, but provides offline access (usually through client programs) is the ideal. And of course, I'd like to be able to send appointments, tasks, schedules, notes by email through one interface (rather than have separate services for each). Google basically has all these services, but its direction towards Chrome OS actually contradicts the need of locally-installed apps for offline access. So, Google probably won't do this, so it might be up to someone who can create a service which sits on top of the Google platform and enriches it with the locally-installed apps. That at least, would be how I would see people really starting to "work in the cloud" for at least the next 2 years.

So, who is it gonna be?

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