Archive for category computers
I love the idea of cloud computing. Not having to constantly say, “Oh shoot! That’s on the other computer!” is worth every minute of finding the right cloud service.
But which is the right cloud service? There are a ton of them out there:
5. Amazon Cloud Drive
I cannot figure out what Amazon is hoping to accomplish with their cloud service. I really cannot. It seems almost like they just tagged it on because everyone else was doing it. While Amazon Cloud Player is a great service that allows you to stream or download digital copies of almost any song you have purchased on Amazon (and I have bought a lot of CD’s on Amazon over the years), the Cloud Drive is just plain vanilla. Upload times are awful, there are no mobile apps, and there are no real advantages to it.
4. Microsoft SkyDrive
So much potential, Microsoft; and that just leads to so much disappointment. In theory, SkyDrive should be fully integrated into Microsoft Office. It isn’t. On my Macs, I have to run an older version of Office (2011), and saving to SkyDrive is not just cumbersome – it is also unreliable. The interface is terrible. The process is confusing. It is a major frustration. Even using the downloadable client does not ensure success because there is no way to ensure it is syncing with the Cloud.
I get called an Apple fanboy all the time, but a lot of Apple products don’t impress me. Take iCloud for example (or actually because I am writing about Cloud services). The concept is great. It is supposed to be fully integrated into the Apple productivity suite iWorks. The problem is that it isn’t. You can only use the integration if you are running Mountain Lion (OS 10.8). Still running Lion, like I am on my knockaround Macbook? Sorry, you have to use an incredibly cumbersome web interface and then upload your documents EVERY TIME you save them.
2. Google Drive
I love Google Drive, in principle. What kills Google Drive is not the convenience of the service but the mediocrity of the apps it uses. I would love to replace my current document editors with Google Drive’s integrated apps, but they lack some very crucial tools. The biggest oversight is the inability to zoom. That’s right. You cannot zoom in a Google Drive document. If you use standard browser zoom, then your toolbar zooms as well and your cursor goes off like a sailor on shore leave. The mobile apps are mediocrity personified. If Google fixes this, they will rule mobile document creation.
Where Google Drive shines is in sharing your files. Drive allows all kinds of file and folder specific sharing settings, and that means you can share a document publicly without worrying about someone using the link to see your personal information on the Drive.
The old reliable is just that – reliable. Dropbox was the first name in Cloud storage, and they just keep things working. You edit a document in any program, and you save it to the Dropbox folder on your computer. You can right click items on your computer to share them through links to the Cloud, although you have to go to the browser to get the links.
Dropbox has a business model focused on keeping things as effortless as possible. Everything is integrated into your local device (whether PC or mobile). The integration on iOS has continually been improved and if Apple ever opens the sharing API to developers, Dropbox will be the first to get it right.
Dropbox’s only limitation is the size of the drive you get. I was an early adopter, so I have a 9GB Dropbox drive, and it is free to me. Most users will get stuck with 2GB unless they pay.
Services I haven’t tried.
I hear good things about Box.net and Barracuda’s newest entry into the fray, Copy. I haven’t used these services yet, so I can’t speak about them with any knowledge. I just downloaded Copy, so I will be playing with it for a couple of weeks; and I will update you when I have a better opinion.
I use an iPhone, an iPad, and two Macs (an old Macbook I just got and a Mac Mini in my office). You would think that I use Apple’s integrated apps for pretty much everything, wouldn’t you? In fact, I don’t use their apps except when I have to.
- I use the Agenda iOS app and Google Calendar for my schedule. Google Calendar is just a better cross-platform format than iCal, and Agenda has a nice clean interface that reminds me of a desk calendar. I find iCal to be cumbersome.
- For browsing the web, I use Google Chrome. The ability to sync all my settings across ANY machine I am using regardless of OS is very important to me.
- I have been using Gmail for my email for years, and while sometimes I wish I had a desktop mail client I could rely on, Gmail works just fine. Google has been adding features like Google+ integration and opening the API to developers, and Gmail is just GOOD at email.
- I take all my notes on Evernote. I even use Evernote for my mileage log. Every piece of paper I receive, every important document I need to consider, it goes into Evernote. I just throw things in there and organize it when I can.
- Rather than using Apple’s mediocre Reminder app or Google’s lackluster Tasks option for my To Do List, I use Any.DO. This nifty little app on iOS also has a Google Chrome plug-in that runs in its own window on my computers. It is well-designed and efficient at what it does.
- Until recently, I was using a combination of Apple’s Pages word processor and a virtual Windows XP machine to do document creation. Since last month, however, I have been using a combination of Microsoft Word for Mac 2011 and Dropbox. As far as I am concerned, Dropbox still owns personal cloud storage. Since Apple’s iCloud does not work on older Macs, it is cumbersome for me to have to download and upload documents every time I edit them at home. Microsoft’s new licensing plan allows me to have five computers running the Office Suite, so it just makes sense to use Word.
- For social media, I update almost exclusively from the Everypost app for iOS. Rarely do I ever post something from one of my computers. Everypost updates Facebook, Google+, Tumblr, Pinterest, and Twitter simultaneously, and you can use it for links, pictures, and YouTube. The only social media platform I interact on is Facebook, so I don’t need something like Tweetdeck or Hootsuite.
So, there you go. I would say that probably 95% of everything I do online employs one or more of these seven apps. Because they are all cloud-based, I have access to everything whenever I need it, and that allows greater flexibility in where and when I can be productive.
I am a gadget nerd. I think everyone who knows me know this about me. Given a choice between buying something I should probably buy and a new gadget, I will probably buy the gadget. Not surprisingly, most of my gadgets are from Apple.
Back in 2009, my aunt and cousin gave me the money to buy my first Macbook Pro – the one I still use at home to this day. It is an amazing, beautiful piece of hardware that has served me well over the past three years and will probably continue to serve me well into the future.
In 2010, my wife and I got our first iPod Touch, and we fell in love with it almost immediately. The ease of operation was a big selling point for Nichole, and for me – well, it was a nifty gadget.
Last spring, I sold a guitar and my iPod to buy an iPad 2 – one of the best investments I ever made. My iPad is my life. It organizes everything that was scattered and confused about me. Using just a couple of apps (Evernote being the chief one), I am able to search and access years of papers and thoughts that until now resided in several file boxes in my basement.
Last winter, Nichole got the iPhone 4S and I bought an LG Englighten, which runs on the Droid OS. I was being fiscally conservative – getting an inexpensive phone so the monthly phone payments could go toward her phone, which she needed for work. (Nichole works in a deaf program, so text messages and email is the staff’s primary means of communication during the day. Couple that with a very active schedule, and you can see why she would need one.)
While Nic was thoroughly enjoying her iPhone, I was raging at my Droid. It was fugly, and it required factory resets about every 6 weeks. This means constantly having to reinstall apps and dealing with duplicated files. The media player was garbage, and the onscreen keyboard had keys so small I couldn’t type on them. On top of that, the battery generally lasted about 4 hours unless I went in and killed all my apps about ever 20 minutes.
Then the iPhone 5 was announced. Our mobile provider had switched to the pooled data plan, and since there are nine devices on our plan (only 2 for Nic and I, we share a plan with my brother from another mother, Charlie.) I scraped together my pennies, and Charlie let me have one of his device upgrades; and at 3:01am on release day, I ordered an iPhone 5.
It arrived a week ago. I pressed a couple of buttons and voila! All my contact information, all my notes and files from my iPad were on the iPhone as well. Choirs of angels sang. It was great.
I love the iPhone 5. I really do. The experience is fantastic. The device is a miracle of technology.
But then, during Sunday service, Siri – the sometimes obnoxious assistant that resides within the iPhone 4S and 5 – started talking from my pocket. This was not good. She kept talking. I had to to turn the phone off.
She kept doing it – talking when she was supposed to. Eventually, my home button stopped working. Long story short, I spent yesterday between two visits to the Apple store and last night, walked out with a brand new iPhone 5. Turns out my initial handset had a defect, a bad connection that short circuited the home button.
The process of moving my files and stuff from the broken iPhone 5 to the new one? About ten minutes because everything was backed up on iCloud (which is finally a legitimate cloud service). All my apps took a little while longer to download, but the iCloud backup restored all the app data so once they were on the iPhone they had all the same data. I replaced the handset and did not lose a single thing.
The post-Steve Jobs Apple builds systems. This is a very different Apple from the one that made hip music players and cute little white laptops. The iPhone 4, 4S and 5 – the iPad 2 and 3 – the new iPod Touch – Siri – iCloud – even the new Thunderbolt and Lightning digital connectors – all of this is part of a system that is shifting attention away from individual devices to a comprehensive mobile solution for connectivity and sharing. Right now, they are working out the kinks; and it is a little frustrating for some of the early adopters because they are thinking on a much smaller scale than Tim Cook and his team are.
I love my iPhone 5. I love the apps being written for it. I am in love with the Cloud and its potential.
Did I mention my iPhone is LTE and so in Manchester and Nashua my cellular data connection is actually faster than my home connection?
Yeah, I like my new phone. I like what Apple is doing.
Kevin Roose has some things to say to iPhone and Apple. It is quite humorous, especially his graphics. Check it out.
If you don’t know who Kevin Roose is, he wrote the book Unlikely Disciple, and as a result has something of a cult following in the Christian realm. To the rest of the world, he is a writer for New York Magazine.
This video illustrates pretty succinctly the difference between Apple and Microsoft’s philosophies. Microsoft is all about specifications and information. Apple is about experience.
Google has finalized their $12.5 billion merger with Motorola, and if Google is smart, they will pull their licensing of the Android operating system and do an Apple. They will release Android 5.0 on a Google-owned and Google-manufactured device like Apple does with the iPhone.
Simplicity. Right now, Android developers have to write software that works on at least 4 versions of Android that span over 300 devices with different specs – from screen-size to processing capability to ports and drives. The Android development world is awful. As a result, many users have wildly varied experiences. My LG Enlighten is a low-end Android phone, barely meeting the minimum requirements for running Android 2.3 Gingerbread, but there is also Android 2.2 Froyo, Android 3.0 Honeycomb, Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich, as well as Nook and Kindle Fire branch OS’s which are based on Android’s kernel but wildly different from the standard releases.
For a developer like Dropbox, writing for all these variants is a pain. It isn’t quite as hard as trying to write a universal app of Mac OS X 10.5-10.7 as my friends at Logos Bible Software are discovering, but it is still a pain of the royal type.
If Google is smart, they will develop a brand new version of Android that runs only on their own device. Let people keep their older devices, but phase out support like Apple did with iOS 3 and iOS 4. Invest heavily in designing an experience rather than just a clunky and sometimes unreliable OS.
You might be surprised to hear me say this, but I think Android has the makings of a far better OS than iOS. Because it is not a scaled down version of a desktop OS but is instead it’s own creature, Android can do things iOS can’t. It integrates with Google’s other services so well that I actually considered getting an Android tablet until I discovered that Google does not have a mobile version of their Documents service (now called Drive).
If Google is smart, they develop Android 5.0 or Android 6.0 to run exclusively on a small group of devices – a compact phone, a larger phone, two tablet sizes (7″ and 9.5″) and at least two docking systems like what they tried to do with the Atrix. The Atrix was actually an ingenious idea, and if Google can monopolize on it, they could have tremendous potential.Design the OS so that your phone or tablet has limited capacity to save battery life, but when you’re home and you plug it into the shell, the capacity doubles or triples. Resource swapping like that reduces the need for multiple devices, but it has to work right EVERY TIME. You have to be able to get a day and a half out of your phone AND have desktop capacity when it is plugged into the larger unit.
Think about it. One unit that is both the iPhone and the Macbook or iMac. Forget the flawed Chromebook idea. Google needs to find a way to have one device that provides two experiences – the portable and the desktop. That is the only way to beat Apple at their own game.
But it has to work. Android phones would be fantastic if they would just do the stuff we want them to do. I paid $700 for my iPad. I would never pay that for an Android tablet. I got my Android phone for free – and that’s about what I’d pay for this multi-device mishmash that Android is right now.
If Google can do it and do it before Apple and Microsoft roll out their ideas for integration (and what are Apple’s OS X 10.8 and Microsoft’s Windows 8 but exactly that?), then Google has all the backend resources and apps to really make it work. But they have to do it right.
Here’s to the potential of Google and Motorola’s merger, which somehow I think they are going to squander.
That’s my techno two-bits for today anyway.
So, I love Evernote. I use it for everything. It is by far my favorite “cloud” app, and it is on every piece of electronics I own. Everything goes into Evernote (including all my blog posts). I have even scanned all my papers and notebooks from college and seminary into Evernote.
Last night, Evernote upgraded their Android app, and the new interface made me practically giddy. Evernote, Dropbox and Gmail are just about the only apps that work correctly on my Android-based phone, and this new Evernote is a) gorgeous and b) stable.
Dear Evernote, you are everything I always wished I could be. You are the wind beneath my wings!
I love my iPad, and with Apple making a large fortune on the new iPad launch (nearly $2 billion in the first weekend), there are clearly a lot of other people who love the iPad as well. Some people love them too much.
If you’re a pastor who uses an iPad, drift on over to iPad in Ministry. They don’t post often, but when they do, it is usually interesting content.
Here are a list of things I do and don’t do with my iPad:
- I carry my iPad around, but I don’t preach from it. I am too animated when I speak. I’d much rather lose my grip on a $25 Bible than on my $— iPad! (I don’t even want to think about how much I spent on the thing some days.)
- I use only the Apple Smart Cover because that was how Apple designed the iPad to be used. I had a third party black leather case, but ultimately I decided the Zen of the unit without ornamentation was for me.
- I spent the $80 to have the iPad encased in clear plastic – at the kiosk outside of the Apple store – and it is the best investment I made with the thing. I will never use an unprotected iPad again.
- I use four apps more than anything else (Evernote, Logos, Netflix and Facebook) but I have more than 200 apps on the iPad. Why not, right?
I love my iPad, but won’t be upgrading to the new one any time soon.