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Thursday, September 19, 2013

Living The Online Life

I'm interested in the Chromebook.  I've read lots of articles and reviews, but can't really get my head around not having apps running locally.  On the other hand, most of what I do is "in the cloud".

So, is it really possible to work and play ONLY online, using Chrome OS?

I wrote a post last year about living in the cloud, primarily using just my BlackBerry phone and PlayBook, so this is a slightly different under-taking.

Don't get me wrong, I don't need a Chromebook and won't be buying one anytime soon; but it piqued my interest enough to have a look at what can be achieved.

The Preparation

I use a number of apps, which run locally on my laptop; so I had to get the web alternative readily available.

Enter the Chrome Web Store to set up the apps that I use the most; Dropbox, Evernote and since I already use Google for my email, calendar, and documents (Google Drive), I felt I had everything I needed to live and work only in the cloud.

Anything else, and I would find it as needed.

The Experiment

For the last few days, I have only been using the Chrome browser on my laptop.  I'm running a developer version, not a stable release; but so far I haven't noticed any issues.

I haven't fired up any applications (apart from the ones that start automatically, and sit in the background).

So, my Chrome browser is running, and I've changed the settings so that my new tabs show the apps launcher.  Also running are:

  • Evernote Web (I love Evernote),
  • Lucidcharts (I'm adept at Visio, but want to learn something new)
  • Dropbox (I have 2.88Gb, and used 1Gb.  I also use Google Drive)
  • GMail

I also have a number of other sites open, but since they are standard websites, I'll ignore them here.  Obviously, Blogger is open too; for the purposes of writing this post.

I also set up Offline access for Google Drive - so, should there be an internet outage, I can still access, edit and create documents; which will be sync'd when the network is re-established.  In fact, this was my one main concern.

My Observations

The functionality in Evernote is lacking versus the actual Windows app (you can't record audio into a note, or edit tables) but otherwise, I have been creating notes and uploading documents and images without issue.

With regards to Dropbox, should I need to update a document, this will involve me downloading it locally, then re-uploading to Google Drive.  This means I do still need some hard-drive space available - but not gigabytes worth.

Of course, the staples of the internet are available to me.  Let's face it, we all use iPlayer, online banking, catching up with the news, play games, watch films and not forgetting shopping.  It's all there; but only if our connection to the World Wide Web is switched on.

Another area that takes up many column inches (do we still say that, even though it's online?) is that of security.  More and more we are being bombarded with news of the latest breaches, with payment and login details being 'stolen'.

Does this bother me?  I'd be a liar if I didn't admit there is some risk - of course there is; and there has been much mentioned of Google taking over the world and ignoring our privacy.  Facebook also regularly comes in for criticism for constant changes to its policy.

The Conclusion

I don't think there is a conclusion.  This will be an ongoing debate for some years.

However, I think we need to take a chill pill.
Online life is here to stay.
Technology will change (again!) and we'll once again be looking at new and varied ways to spend our online existence.
We can't escape it; but we can do our part to make sure we are as safe and secure as we can be.

This is not a definitive argument.  I can't possibly cover every angle here.  There will be the doom-sayers, who claim that being online means giving up our freedom and privacy.
On the opposite side of the coin; I find it incredible that I can store away some documents, for example, via Dropbox, and then be able to retrieve them either on my phone, or another PC/laptop, anywhere at a time to suit me.

Without internet access, our ability to work and play on the computer becomes severely hampered.  We rely heavily on being connected today; and the moment that is taken away, it's like living in the dark ages. Our fingers tapping on the table, waiting for the connection to be re-established!

My experiment has proven to me that it is entirely possible to live a connected life, and not use any installed applications.  Not only is this good news as there is nothing to slow down the performance of my laptop, but it also means everything I want is in one place.

Why?  Because, I can login to Chrome anywhere; and my apps, documents, email, calendar and more are there...

... online.

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