Wednesday, October 1, 2008

A Suite of Web Apps That's Replaced My Desktop and Local Storage

Last year I successfully went paperless and this year my goal is to render my desktop and local storage  redundant for as many day-to-day activities as possible, using a browser as my only client for a new life completely in cyberspace. I still have 3 months to go until the end of the year, but even now the only thing I need my desktop for is audiovisual editing and the only thing I need my external storage for is archiving my extensive audiovisual library that I can't yet move completely to cyberspace. So I can now list the basic suite of web apps that have allowed me to fulfill this year's goal a bit early:

First,  some noteworthy web apps I use regularly that never had equivalents on my desktop:

  • Twitter - microblogging

  • Blogger, Wordpress - blogging

Next, the web apps that have replaced their desktop equivalents:

  • Diigo, - bookmarking

  • Yahoo Mail, Google Mail- email

  • Yahoo Contacts, Ovi - contacts

  • Google Calendar, Ovi - calendar

  • Google Reader, Feedly - feed reader

  • Google Notebook, Evernote - note-taking

  • Google Documents, Zoho - word processing, spreadsheets, presentations

  • EditGrid - spreadsheets

  • Autodesk Project DRAW - drawing

  • Aviary - image, color, and vector editing

  • Meebo - instant messaging

  • Toodledo - get things done (GTD)

  • TSheets - time management

  • MindMeister - mind mapping

Finally, the storage I currently use in cyberspace, replacing my local storage:


  • DropBoks

  • Gspace - turns each Google Gmail account into a virtual 8GB "drive"

The redundancy you see in some cases is deliberate and you can consider it as risk management. I also use various synchronization programs, all freely available to synch online services on the web with my Nokia N95 8GB and Windows Vista desktop, the latter is mainly to ensure high availability of my data in the absence of an Internet connection or when a service is offline. Google Gears takes care of my data from many of their online services with an offline mode synched to my desktop, so I use this as well. I'm using the free versions of all of the services I've listed, which completely fills my needs for now. I use the Firefox 3 browser almost exclusively, but I'm also testing Google Chrome. To ensure ultimate portability "on the go" I keep some open source portable applications, including a Firefox 3 browser with all of my addons and plugins along with Google Chrome, on a 2GB USB memory stick on my keychain.

I've kept this post relatively short because I plan to go deeper into detail later about these and other web apps I'm using. I mainly wanted to start a dialogue about the use of these web apps and their lessening of our dependence on the desktop and local storage, so I'm looking forward to seeing your comments about your own experiences.  I've already become fairly comfortable living in my browser as a denizen of cyberspace, what about you?

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Saturday, June 14, 2008

Getting Things Done (mostly) with Google

I'll start off by saying that I'm deeply troubled by the way Google caved in to pressure from undemocratic governments and censored search results, for instance in China. I think this lapse in corporate governance has opened for all companies a Pandora's box that didn't need to be opened just for the sake of more business in a segment that Google already dominates. Having said that, I will continue by saying that otherwise I have the greatest respect for the intellect and vision of Google's founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page. They are true computer scientists in the tradition of Bill Joy at Sun, unlike some of the other super-rich technology guys who are actually light-weight dilettantes with no real academic discipline or even background, but whose names will go unmentioned, though we all know who they are. And  unlike most of those other super-rich technology guys' companies, Google actually gives away some of the most interesting and useful software on the planet, absolutely free.

Recently I decided to implement David Allen's "Get Things Done" (GTD) and I've started looking at the tools available on the Internet, since over the past few years I've gone almost totally paperless and at the same time I'm almost 100% online (between my home laptop w/ Wi-Fi and my 3G smartphone with unlimited data connection). At the same time, over the past few months I've found myself using more and more of Google's free software and almost all of these Google applications work well now with both full-sized and mobile browsers. I use Google search as my preferred search engine with web history turned on (after getting over some queasiness about privacy), I've ditched Bloglines for Google Reader, I started using Google Calendar exclusively, and I now throw dozens of links into my private Google Notebook everyday in addition to my more formal, public bookmarks through Diigo. The list keeps growing and I use iGoogle to launch everything in my full-sized browser (the mobile version of iGoogle is still fairly limited). In short, I think they got me!

Over the next few weeks I'll put together a "mostly" Google suite for GTD, and I'll publish the results here for everyone to critique and add any suggestions for improvement. I'll also look at substituting most if not all of my remaining desktop applications wherever possible with their online Web2.0 or Saas "equivalents", for instance I might replace Freemind with Mindmeister. One goal will be more or less seamless integration of this GTD tool set on both the mobile and desktop platforms, though maybe through a well-defined process rather than actual integration. Another goal will be to maximize the use of each tool's fitness of purpose for a given task and minimize any overlap or duplication, like a master carpenter's well-designed tool box.

Thanks for dropping in to read this brief introduction to my new little project, and stay tuned... :-)

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Diigo ( ) Is the Best Social Bookmarking Service

Diigo Annotated

Diigo has convinced me to "switch" from bookmarking. Well, that's not exactly true, since posting to Diigo allows me to post simultaneously to other major bookmarking services (with the same tags and comments), so has not lost a user. In fact simpy and ma.gnolia have gained a user, since I would not be using them at all (even though I am registered on both services) if it weren't for Diigo.

The Diigo toolbar for Firefox works flawlessly and in addition to tagging and commenting posts like you would expect, Diigo offers "remembered" highlights and sticky notes for the sites you have visited while using the service.

Finally, highlighting in Diigo is more than just that, it offers a right-click menu on highlighted selections that lets you search these using various search engines (these are freely customizable!) and even to post the highlight and associated URL to one or more of your personal blogs (this is also configurable). I am in fact using this feature to post to this very blog.

The only things I miss from are the tags that are offered up as an option when you start a new post and the ability to easily send to another user simply by including their "for:" tag. But hey, who says I can't peek at first to get some suggested tags, copy these, cancel and then post to Diigo? I am doing this routinely now. And Diigo offers its own forwarding option for sending posts to friends, although in my opinion not quite as slick as the one offered by

A quick survey (ratio actually) between the number of users who posted the same links on both sites reveals that has about 50 times as many users as Diigo. So the social aspect of is still much more powerful, but maybe Diigo will gain more market share with time, since they offer a better service.

Friday, January 11, 2008

PragueBob's Prague Blog

Please see my news and commentary blog about Prague and the surrounding Czech Republic at