Over the past couple of months, I’ve been transitioning a lot of my normal computing activities to the internet. What I mean by this, is where I used to use some software based solution for something that had to be installed on every computer I used, or had to be used on only a single computer I’m now using a web based solution.
For instance. I used to manage my email through Mozilla Thunderbird on my home computer. This worked fairly well for me and allowed me to filter spam etc. But in all reality, I really want to be able to access my email anywhere, anytime, with any computer. I’ve now redirected most of my email addresses by either forwarding, or using gmail’s POP3 functionality, and it’s much nicer to manage my email this way, not to mention the ability to search archived stuff way cool!
I’ve also had an ongoing problem of managing my contacts and calendar on my windows mobile based cell phone. You see, the “standard” way to keep this thing synchronized is to use some variety of Microsoft Outlook, and their anti intuitive and very painful ActiveSync. The problem of course is, only one computer can be the “master” which you synchronize with, and if you try to sync with another you run the very real risk of deleting appointments or contacts on either your phone or the computer. Enter goosync. Leveraging my aforementioned move to gmail, I can now synchronize my phone (over the wireless internet connection I’m paying for) with my google calendar and contacts. Sweet!
How about social networking? Well I’ve had a MySpace profile for some time, though I rarely visit it and I’m seriously considering getting rid of it. However, I’ve recently discovered (and become addicted) to Facebook. I find that their particular implementation of social networking seems to allow you to use this for “professional” purposes and mostly dodge the less desirable social networking behavior that turned me off from MySpace in the first place. As a software developer I’m also very attracted to the open API architecture and the multitude of very well written applications, in fact I’m just waiting for the inspiration to hit me so that I can write my own.
Another consequence of joining Facebook is that I (re) discovered Pandora Radio. I had given Pandora a test drive when it was first released, and only the “QuickMix” was available. I was fairly disappointed after only a few minutes of using it and quickly dismissed it as just another over hyped new “Web 2.0” app. When I noticed that there was a Facebook application for it though, and noticed that what my friends were listening to showed up as status updates I was intrigued, and gave it another try. This time I was able to create my own station, seeded by artists and songs that I liked. Having only supplied one artist seed I found myself LOVING every last song that was played on a station. I now listen to it exclusively where I used to listen to the “chillout” station over at Digitally Imported using Winamp. Still another step away from desktop apps!
One disappointment I have with Facebook however, is that while it does allow you to upload unlimited pictures, and share the albums publicly, it does not have any screen showing all of your public albums. For instance, I can share and link you to this album containing some artistic shots, but I have several other public albums that you’d never know about, unless I directly linked those as well.
In order to remedy that I’m evaluating using some other online photo management service like Picasa then linking it back to my Facebook account. It’s a real shame though since I think that Facebook offers an ease of use that so far I haven’t seen in the alternatives.
My last discovery in the world of Cloud Computing has been a password management system. You see, I have more logins than I could possibly keep track of, in fact I’m CERTAIN that I have logins to forums and other sites that I don’t even remember exist. As a result, I have the same problem of remembering passwords that many computer users experience, and I’m not great about picking unique passwords! To resolve that I went looking for some good online password management. Now, I’ve conducted this search before, and come up wanting for security or functionality in the solutions I’ve found. Not so this time!
Allow me to introduce Passpack. What I like about this is that it uses a lot of AJAX, and consequently the information I enter is encrypted in my browser before it even hits the wire! Very cool. It also has the ability to generate strong passwords then automatically enter them for me at the login prompt for the website! I could go on about the features for a while but I’ll save that for another blog entry when/if I feel so inclined. If your interested, or conducting your own search for an online password manager I recommend Passpack, go ahead and follow the link over there and check it out.