In compliance with Pantech’s guidelines, I had to wait until today, April 19, to unveil the winner of the challenge I issued in my last post. For those of you have better things to do than follow links, the challenge was thus:
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.
I got a bunch of great answers that were informative and inspiring. It’s a platitude to say that I had trouble choosing only one, but that was definitely the case here. But let’s skip the handwringing and get down to brass tacks. Who won?
Congratulations . . .
Kevin A, whose implementation of cloud services struck me the most extensive and integrated setup (if you’re not Kevin but still want second crack at the Matrix, keep reading):
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
As Kevin admits, his solutions are rather MS-centric, using Windows Live services to sync Windows Mobile and Windows Home Server over-the-air (OTA) — but he’s managed to completely bypass Outlook and Exchange ActiveSync in the process. If I were willing to migrate from Gmail to Live Mail, I’d probably install WHS and follow Kevin’s lead. Like the other examples posted by contributors, this isn’t a 100% “Cloud” solution (WHS is doing the heavy lifting until the Mesh plugin is available), but the level of integration demonstrated is closest to the “single distributed computer” ideal I’ve been trying to model for my own setup.
Other Noteworthy Contributions
The most moving post for me was by Brent Johnson, who’s using Twitter to chronicle his mother’s upcoming lung replacement surgery among friends and family, and to organize teams to raise funds for it:
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.
Girlxoxo had a very extensive setup, and virtually tied with Kevin A’s solution (but Kevin’s seemed more streamlined by a hair):
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 …
Pixlr.com – 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.
Delicious.com stores links I come across during the day.
Keepm.com. 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).
Dashwire.com – 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 Grandcentral.com) – rings my cellphone.
Rather than paste the entire comment thread here, check out the great contributions in the last post.
Still Want to Win a Matrix Pro?
Tools for Thought is the first of over two dozen sites that are running contest for the Matrix Pro, courtesy of Pantech. The details of each contest will probably be quite different, but the prize is the same: the Pantech Matrix Pro. Head on over to one of the remaining sites:
|The Gadgeteer||April 30|
|Gear Live||May 10|
Good luck, and thanks for all of your contributions!