Sunday, January 30, 2011

Cloud Nine

I've caught up on some work this weekend -- which means I was justified in canceling the fiddle lesson and the hospital shift -- but I've also wasted some time.

My latest toy is Google Docs. I'm coming late to this whole cloud computing thing, see (although, come to think of it, blogging is a form of cloud computing). Last night I downloaded a free Blackberry app that automatically keeps all of my data backed up on the web, making the prospect of sudden phone failure a little less scary. I always tell myself I'm going to back everything up with my USB cable, but I never do. (My sister had to get a new phone after inadvertently dropping hers in the sink, which is what inspired this particular project.) After watching the app dutifully back up my BlackBerry last night, I asked Gary, "Hey, are there any, like, web-based word processors?"

"Google Docs," he said with a yawn. This morning, I checked it out.

I'm in love. Now the documents I'm currently working on can live on the web, which means that I can access them from any computer -- at home, at work, in libraries or computer cafes in other cities, in the houses of friends or family -- without having to worry about cables, thumb drives, the horrific possibility of overwriting a new version with an old one, and so forth. When I'm done with them, I can download them onto my desktop.

To be sure, this system isn't perfect. Google Docs can't handle WordPerfect files, so I have to download in another format (doc or rtf). Since WordPerfect's better about converting to other formats than from other formats, the easiest way for me to get the text back into WordPerfect is to cut and paste everything into a new WordPerfect document, which is, admittedly, a bit of a pain. But the ease of access -- and the fact that there's only one version of the file I have to worry about before downloading, rather than the plethora of backups I used to keep on home and work computers and thumb drives -- makes that hiccup worth it.

Unfortunately, my netbook's a bit big for me to lug everywhere (it won't fit in my purse), and I can't edit Google Docs from either my BlackBerry or my Kindle, although I can view them. On the mobile front, they can only be edited from Android devices or the infamous iPad, all of which are currently a bit too pricy and a bit too lacking in anything I'd call a real keyboard. So I'm going to be keeping my eye out for some sort of small, affordable clamshell device, basically a browser with a decent keyboard. As cloud computing grows in popularity, though, those should start hitting the market.

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