Tools for Thought

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Cloud Studies Contest: Win a Pantech Matrix Pro

by Andre · 14 Comments

att-pantech-matrix-pro-dual-slider This isn’t the usual T4T post, for a couple of reasons.

First, instead of giving advice in my usual presumptuous fashion, I’m asking for it. I’m radically redesigning my workflow and need a few intrepid readers to share some successful or dramatic examples of how they’re using the cloud. Second, I’m “selling out” by aligning myself with a commercial promotion — cell phone geeks take note. I’ll get to the details in a few paragraphs, but first, an explanation . . .


Just as it’s often said that true writing is rewriting, I believe that true thinking is rethinking — the ability to step back from deeply entrenched assumptions, opinions and perspectives, and actively look for further alternatives. As a mental exercise, I often find it useful to periodically reexamine the assumptions I take for granted and invert them to see what happens.

A recent starting point for that self-examination was 10 Technologies I Resist. I went down the list and see if there were a few of those technologies I could test drive to broaden or reverse my perspective. There more more that a few that I found worth experimenting with: virtual outsourcing, IM, online finance trackers, mobile email and Office 2.0. That last one is the kickoff point of this post. For the next 30 days I’m going to migrate all of my information into the cloud, and chronicle the progress of the project is a series of posts called “Cloud Studies.”

In switching from full self-employment to office work, I’ve had to distribute my personal and professional work across several platforms: a home desktop, a work desktop, a laptop, a netbook and a cell phone. Trying to reconcile my data by copying locally-stored files, or sharing them by email, was getting ridiculously convoluted. So my goal is to design a virtual architecture that integrates my data in the absolute minimum number of buckets.

I recently, painfully migrated from the Palm OS Treo/Palm Desktop combo — that’s been the bedrock of my GTD system since I first implemented it — to the Windows Mobile equivalent: a Treo Pro and Microsoft Outlook. My goal is to sync my phone and various Outlook desktop/OWA clients over the air with a hosted Exchange account, then gradually layer on additional services: Skydrive for mass storage, Live Mesh for file synchronization, Mindjet Connect for mind maps, and possibly My Phone for PIM data. If none of this sounds less convoluted that my previous scheme, I have a pretty good idea that once the infrastructure is set up, my workflow will be dramatically streamlined — essentially accessing one “computer” from any device.

This Is Where You Come In

Here’s what I want. I want you or anyone to post in the comments or email me the coolest cloud-based work setup they use on a daily basis, with a least one example of how it allowed you to do something you couldn’t do previously. “Coolest” here can mean a few things:

  • The most efficient: e.g. how you run your life through a personal wiki or WebDAV
  • The most dramatic: how you use Backpack and Twitter to dispatch work to a team virtual assistants in St. Croix (real-world examples please, not creative writing)
  • The most elegant: how you eliminated your additional computers and run them as virtual images on Amazon EC2 from your netbook
  • The most democratic: how you’ve replaced all of the files and applications on your hard drive with free and open source web apps

You have 48 hours from “now,” 12:00 a.m. Thursday, April 16, 2009, until midnight Saturday, April 18.

What’s In It for You

As you’ve no doubt gathered from the post title, the winner scores a brand new Pantech Matrix Pro. The Matrix is a dual-slider Windows Mobile 6.1 Standard (non-touchscreen) smartphone in the form factor of a feature phone. In simpler terms, it’s a phone that slides up vertically for a numeric keypad, and horizontally for a QWERTY keypad. I’ll be posting a review of the phone shortly, but the bottom line is that I would probably make it my default phone if I hadn’t just renewed my Sprint contract (long story). Included with the phone is a $100 gift card that can be applied to any products and services sold through an AT&T store, online or offline.

If you have everything you need in the mobile space, then don’t play to win. Play to share your favorite cloud hacks.

Tags: Technology


  • Michelle SimonsNo Gravatar // Apr 15, 2009 at 10:37 pm

    I sure wish I knew what you mean about how to win. I must be stupid. I use twitter all the time to post but i dont know about any clouds.

  • AndreNo Gravatar // Apr 15, 2009 at 11:19 pm

    @Michelle: “The cloud” is just an increasingly common expression for remote data storage and services like Gmail, Google Docs, Mobile Me, Flickr, and others that replace computing activities that used to be done directly on your own hard drive. Gmail instead of Outlook, Flickr instead of iPhoto, GDocs instead of MS Word are a few examples. I used to sync my calendar between my Treo and Palm Desktop on my laptop. Now, the syncing is done “over the air” using a remote Exchange server so that I don’t have to set up a new device relationship with each computer.

  • Brent JohnsonNo Gravatar // Apr 16, 2009 at 3:12 am

    Right now, we’re in the process of putting together groups of family and friends to communicate through Twitter regarding my mom’s upcoming lung replacement surgery.

    As it stands right now, I’m posting updates through Twitter, and I have them appear on a private WordPress page for family and friends to read.

    As the surgery approaches, we’re also putting together a fundraising team to help raise money to cover the estimated $525,000 surgery. The fund raising teams will likely have computer access for many of their tasks, but we plan on implementing Twitter into that as well. During the events themselves, we will be able to coordinate the event (and the site volunteers) through the use of Smartphones and Twitter. That means all we will need are our cell phones, and we will be able to dispatch important announcements to team leaders spread over a large event or venue. It will enable to us communicate walkie-talkie style without having to purchase (or rent) expensive walkie-talkies. Since these are fundraising events, it’s important to us to conserve as much money as possible so it goes towards the fund (and not expenses).

    Once the surgery starts, we will be able to post short Twitter updates about my mom’s condition for everyone to read. During the critical surgery, the last thing I will want to do is lug around a computer in order to update a website. Furthermore, I don’t want to have to call dozens and dozens of people to let them know her condition. Utilizing Twitter, I can easily post short updates LIVE, and everyone can either use their favorite Twitter client, the Twitter webpage, or our WordPress blog (with Twitter plugin) to see how well she’s doing. It will simplify everything during a very trying time for us and allow us to keep everyone updates minute by minute.

    Another nice little benefit … not only will Twitter preserve the history of the tweets regarding her surgery for her to read at a later time … it will also give everyone a quick and easy way to respond and offer well wishes and such for her to read shortly after the major surgery. We will be using Twitter as a mini-Guestbook.

    We also plan on involving COPD groups and other people with COPD and hope they will follow the progress of all of this. Sooner or later, most of them will face the option of a lung transplant. If they are able to see the trials and tribulations we face dealing with fundraising, pre-surgery medical issues, the surgery itself, recuperation, rehabilitation and so much more, hopefully they will walk away more informed and better prepared to make the decision for themselves when that time comes.

    Twitter seems to be the easiest choice to implement our simple plan. It’s nice that you’ve posted so many Cloud options for us to choose from. I knew of a few and will definitely check out the others. There could very well be an easier or better option for us. We like the Twitter option because it’s flat-out simple to use. We will be dealing with people of all ages. Twitter is easy to learn, especially if we provide a simple cheat sheet of codes. I hardly see anything that we can’t do using a combo of Twitter and a Google Calendar (and our WordPress install as well).

    Thanks for the consideration.

  • Sam Joseph HobsonNo Gravatar // Apr 16, 2009 at 4:27 am

    I use schedule world to keep my PIM synced across my laptop, virtual machines, and my BlackBerry. That’s about it.

  • GirlxoxoNo Gravatar // Apr 16, 2009 at 8:19 am

    You are definitely not making it easy. I started with cloud computing and then decided I didn’t like always having to have internet access to do anything (I travel a lot to countries where internet is not always readily available), but then I am switching back to more cloud computing now – but not entirely.

    So here’s my cloud computing setup for Blogging.
    Google Calendar – all entries are scheduled there for my food reviews website. It’s a private calendar, but all the reviewers have the address so they can see when their review will be published. Also like that they can search by their name and at a glance see the dates for all their reviews.

    Google Docs. All food reviews are written & stored there (about 850 and counting) .

    Google Spreadsheet. Used to keep track of all income for months and all payments to reviewers.

    Leaving Google … – Use it to edit images. Works just like Photoshop which I have on my computer, and I love that I can import pictures from a URL. Unfortunately, I still save the edited images to the laptop. stores links I come across during the day. Stores all contacts – phone, gmail, facebook etc. I don’t want all contacts on my phone – some I probably will never use.

    Mobile Phone. Use it for blogging also to my mobile phone features related website – using SharpMT, xnViewer and PocketScreen for screenshots (guess that’s not really cloud but I like the all in one – FAST aspect of it). – all contacts, texts sync from mobile to Dashwire.

    Speaking of sync – Google mobile (and calendar) sync (I know I said I was finished with Google).

    Business phone line (for blogging contacts): Google Voice (formerly – rings my cellphone.

    There’s a lot more cloud computing I could do but I’m just not that comfortable with it yet.

  • MichelleNo Gravatar // Apr 16, 2009 at 8:28 am

    Between work and classes I tend to be running around more than I’m at a single computer. So I cobbled together a combination of Evernote, Google Calendar and twitter to keep all my notes and meetings accessible regardless of what computer I’m currently stuck using.

    We use an Exchange system at work, so I keep my work calendar synced to my Google calendar using Google calendar sync.
    This lets me keep all my appointments synced together so I know where I’m supposed to be regardless of where I am!

    For quick additions to your Google calendar from the road you can sign up for which will link your twitter account to your Google calendar.

    I keep all my class and work notes on Evernote. I have the web app installed on firefox so I can clip web pages that I want to read later. You can install Evernote on your Windows Mobile phone or your iPhone so you can have it when you’re away from the office. I don’t have a Windows Mobile phone so I installed Evernote on my iPod Touch, which at least allows me access whenever I can find an open wifi connection.
    My final use was to install it on my Sandisk Cruzer flash drive so I can open the desktop version whenever I’m in class and take my notes on the computer then sync it before I disconnect the flash drive. All my notes are saved in the cloud and backed up on my flash drive, so I have access to them online or offline.

    I also have a Live Mesh account for the times I need to take files between home and work on a regular basis and want them accessible from multiple places.

    Not the most elegant solution, but it does make sure you don’t miss appointments and keeps all your notes easily accessible from multiple places. Hope it gives you some ideas!

  • Kevin A.No Gravatar // Apr 16, 2009 at 10:13 am

    I’ve used various MS technologies to acheive “cloud-like” computing over the past few years. Anything from Live Mesh, Live Mail (to a hotmail-hosted domain), WHS, and various other stuff.

    I rarely sync my WM devices to the phone, because Windows Live for Windows Mobile syncs both my e-mail and contacts OTA. In turn, Windows Live Mail syncs contacts back from the hotmail acct back to my desktop, thereby un-neccessitating the requirement that I use Outlook to “back up” my contacts and mail.

    On the WHS side, I can not worry about “backing up” computers because WHS does it for both my desktop and laptop. I can tell Vista to redirect Documents, Music, etc. to the WHS side. And once Mesh for WHS plugin is complete, I can tell WHS to handle meshing important documents to MS’s cloud network. So I don’t have to deal with offline files, or synctoy, or other solutions where I need to be necessarily connected to “my” network to get a sync on my files.

    I may be a bit MS-centric here, but I’ve beta-tested various MS products over the years, and WHS, Mesh, and WLWM/WLM are three products that stood out because it cuts out the unnecessary middle-men. Why should I be required to be in my network or establish a VPN into my network to make sure my file is up-to-date? WWAN technology are only going to get better, I just have to ensure that I have short bursts of ‘net connectivity (3G or higher) to get up-to-date contents. Same thing with “sync your mail” into Outlook. With apologies to MS, I don’t particularly use Outlook, since it is bloated and tends to get confused occasionally. WLM is all I need, and MS has made it very easy to sync to a hotmail-hosted account, which in turn does the same for the WM5+ devices. I need not to be “at” my computer to get the same effect as an actual sync.

    With SSD becoming standard, I may resort backing up my files via Mesh so that I don’t end up losing it. Which in turn would be backed-up via Home Server server backup syncing to the mesh, and folder redirection on the desktop, and Mesh is smart enough (supposedly) to not use the WAN connection. Which in turn would result in less end-user confusion about which “file” residing where is the most up-to-date.

  • Bryan BNo Gravatar // Apr 16, 2009 at 10:30 am

    I use quite a bit of cloud based computing. I use Gmail across 4 computers and 1 smartphone, as well as the Google Talk IM. I use MOZY to backup my personal documents, and use Microsoft LiveSYNC to sync my computer documents. I also use XMarks (formerly known as FoxMarks) to sync my bookmarks and passwords across 3 of the 4 computers. That’s about the extent of my cloud computing.

  • Catherine Cantieri, SortedNo Gravatar // Apr 16, 2009 at 10:47 am

    I’m looking into Mobile Me right now, but I share your anxiety about the cloud business.

    I know this won’t win me squat, but I just wanted to participate in the conversation.

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  • Kevin A.No Gravatar // Apr 17, 2009 at 7:29 am

    To comment on people who are looking forward to GDrive and SkyDrive, to me that is less of “cloud” computing than Live Mesh. Granted, you can only use 5G on Mesh as opposed to 25G (or more) on other stuff, but as far as I know, those do not allow the fine-grained control that is built into MOE (Mesh Operating Environment). While Mesh interface is rough since it’s in beta, I can specify that a file be downloaded only on open, or if it’s under 50M, or if I want it synced to the MS servers as data as opposed to metadata that tracks changes. Those are the technology that is going to advance cloud storage, not just an “online drive” that basically mirrors what you store.

  • Kathleen PearlmanNo Gravatar // Apr 17, 2009 at 12:28 pm

    I have no idea -that’s why I want to win, so I can get in on this sort of thing….

  • RayNo Gravatar // Apr 17, 2009 at 10:02 pm

    A few year ago, one of my friend told me that one of the best gift you could give to your kid when they grow up is the set of his/her photos you take for him/her every year. Now, we are in the digital world. Photo also goes digital and can store more information. Geotagging the photo is one of the useful function. A more than $1000 Nikon D90 12-Megapixel D-SLR Camera Kit with 18-105mm DX has the geotagging function. I would like to win this Pantech Matrix Pro so that I can use my bluetooth GPS. Then I will make a program to stamp the geocode on the picture taken from the phone. I can also link the photo to Flickr or Virtual Earth.

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