Saturday, January 8, 2011

Selling My Soul To Google?

Yeah, another long breaks between posts. When I started this John told me that what I needed to do was write every day. The thing is, I do write every day. I write a lot every day. I just write it in different places. The textbooks I'm writing don't belong on a blog. They are often high priority as well and taking the time to write here takes away from that. With the semester approaching I definitely have other writing to be doing, but I have some thoughts bouncing around that definitely belong in this venue.

Just recently my wife and I got new phones. The effect this has had on my life and how I'm doing things has been so pronounced that it it nothing short of remarkable. It isn't just because of the phone though. Other factors certainly come into play as well and the total effect is that the value of certain technologies that had seemed a bit silly to me has really come into focus.

My wife got an iPhone. I kid her that she has sold her soul to Apple. It was a gradual process. It started with iTunes and then went to iPods for her and the kids. The iPhone has just cemented it. She truly belongs to Apple now in a way that she will have a hard time reversing. She doesn't mind it right now and perhaps never will. We will see.

I understand this because I was tethered to Microsoft for a while. I managed to break free piece by piece going to OpenOffice first. The move away from Exchange was the hardest, but Evolution was close enough and I got my files moved over so it worked out well. When I got a laptop with Vista on it I cut the link completely and wiped the drive and put Ubuntu in its place. I am a much happier person as a result.

For small form factors I have been an early adopter. I got the Compaq iPaq shortly after it came out. It was a thing of beauty. A little computer I could hold in my hand. It was Windows, but I could forgive that at the time. My next handheld was a Zaurus. With the slide out keyboard and Linux on board I loved that thing. Those devices weren't phones though and I didn't carry them with me everywhere because I didn't want to have to carry multiple devices. About three years ago I got a T-mobile Dash as my first smartphone. It was Windows and at the time I was still tethered to MS so it worked well with what I was doing. It had a little QWERTY that worked well for me, but no touch screen. That turned out to be a problem because so many of the programs for the platform needed to you be able to point. When I broke free of MS it wouldn't talk to my Linux boxes at all. So it because just a phone with a keyboard for texting.

My new phone is an Android Motorola Flipside. The advances in smartphone technology are staggering to me. The Dash seemed nice to me, but the reality was they were trying to put a little PC in my hand. In the three years since the OS developers have figured out how to do handheld devices. This phone has a slide out keyboard, but it isn't a handheld PC. It is a smartphone and the user interface is wonderful. I love the multiple workspaces.

In the last year Trinity moved from Exchange to T-mail which is hosted by Google and it really G-mail. That hadn't been a big issue for me when using Evolution. The switch was just a change in what machine I was pulling things down from to store on my laptop. However, this phone automatically synched to my T-mail account. Unfortunately, the way I was doing things it wasn't too helpful because my laptop would take things off the web and store them locally. I liked that because I liked to be able to work on e-mail when I wasn't connected to the internet. The phone is far more connected though and getting to see my e-mail from anywhere my phone was trumped has for the moment trumped the ability to work offline. So I have basically moved from Evolution to using G-mail. The calendar features and the way they work on my phone are also great.

What is really happening here is that I'm moving into the cloud. This does worry me a bit because I really don't have this data locally anymore. I might start having Evolution pull stuff down for that purpose, but we'll see.

In this move I'm also playing now with Google Docs. It had always seemed like a novelty before, but now I'm seeing some of the value. The ability to share documents is significant for many applications. I'm also starting to see the brilliance of Google in other areas as well. Chrome has tabs that can easily break off into new windows and each tab runs as a separate process. That is touted as good for stability and it made sense to me, but I didn't see it as groundbreaking. However, in my changes over the past week or two my tabs have now turned into my apps. One is my e-mail. Another is my calendar. Now some will be my documents. Chrome OS starts to make a lot more sense as well.

So the question is, am I selling my soul to Google as surely as my wife has sold hers to Apple? I'm afraid the answer is yes. I haven't sold out completely though. I couldn't replace my laptop with an Android tablet for example (though the ones from Asus with keyboards are very tempting). That is only because I do some things that aren't in the Google toolbox yet. They have no equivalent for Eclipse. Similarly, their text documents aren't a replacement for LaTeX/LyX in editing large documents. However, I can see a world now where those things would be run either in the browser or in something that spawns off the browser.

Many of you reading this probably moved in directions like this a while ago. What are your thoughts? How has the transition been? Where are the rough spots? What can't you do in the cloud? What things do you see never moving into the cloud?