I’ve been ill, and to be quite frank I am sick of it. If I so much as look at a computer I go dizzy and get a raging headache. I have been asleep for the best part of 3 days but I have too much to do at work and that is worrying me more than being ill. So, damn it, I am going to work tomorrow and that’s that. This is kind of a test note to see how i cope with a bit of typing.
Before I got ill I killed my computer. A stupid mistake made as I was trying to make a rescue disc for my daughter’s netbook. I formatted my c: drive instead of my USB drive. DOH!
Anyway I knew it was gone so decided to rebuild it. Before it died I had programmes for everything you can think of, in multiple versions so I could work out which is the best. A veritable graveyard of software testing and mucking about so that, when the family asks me to fix a computer or asks for some advice, I kind of know what I’m talking about. If only you lot, and you know who you are, knew how much time and effort I put into keeping your computers working after you’ve abused them!
After I got my computer working and all lovely and up-to-date it was like a different machine. And that is because it had no software on it to muck anything up. I decided that I was going to install as little software as possible and go, where possible, to the cloud.
You might have seen those adverts on the telly from Microsoft where some cocky little brat says “To the cloud” and lots of whizzy things happen. More than likely you thought, “WTF is going on?”
The cloud comes from a thing that us techies always draw when we talk about and draw computer networks. We always draw a cloud. We do that because we do not care about what is inside the cloud, we only care what is outside the cloud, so we just draw it as a fuzzy blob.
Using the cloud is a term that means that you don’t care where the service you are using is, just that you can use it. In practice this means “stuff on the internet”.
Take Facebook for example. You didn’t install it onto your computer by getting a CD and sticking it in your drive like the olden days, it’s just there, on the internet. It is in the cloud. Same with eBay, Amazon, Flickr etc.
The more sceptical among you will realise that you can replace the word “cloud” with “internet” and realise that in reality it’s just a load of marketing B.S.
There are some key things that I use that I have to install a load of software for and they are Microsoft Office, Outlook, OneNote and Password Safe. It was my intention to replace those things with Cloud based alternatives.
First up, Windows Live. It gives me Hotmail (e-mail), calendar, Facebook integration, MySpace integration, Word, Excel and PowerPoint. It’s free. And accessed through your browser. And brilliant. If you don’t use it then seriously you need to check it out. Go to http://www.live.co.uk and give it a go. On one page I can see my e-mail, calendar and social network update instantly.
The real beauty is that you can access all of it from any computer anywhere. This is the first time in my computing life that I haven’t installed an office application and e-mail client.
Not only do you get all that. but you also get 25GB of free disc space to store your documents, including photos, videos and music. Brilliant for keeping backups of your essential items.
But that’s not all! You also get to use Microsoft Mesh. It’s not part of Live but you can access it from the Live web site. It puts a little bit of software on your machine, so there is a small download to do, but it will then synchronise anything you tell it to automatically “to the cloud” and will then synchronise with every PC you install Microsoft Mesh to. So your files automatically end up on any computers you wish. Brilliant!
Password Safe is what I have always used to store my passwords. So far I have 35 passwords and remembering them is a nightmare. This little programme stores them for you safely so you don’t have to remember them. Unfortunately when your PC dies you can’t access the passwords because they are on the dead PC.
So searching for an alternative “in the cloud” I found a site called PassPack.com. It allows you to keep all your passwords online, it can even import them from Password Safe! All you do is log in using a super duper secret password and then you can single click any of the passwords in your list and it automatically logs into the appropriate web site for you. I hardly ever do that but having all my passwords available to me all the time is great. And it’s free. When my PC dies next time, so what? My passwords are nice and safe “in the cloud”.
I take a lot of notes about all kinds of things and normally I use the fantastic OneNote. It really is truly brilliant for someone like me. There is nothing as good “in the cloud” but I was determined to see what I could find that could do most of what I needed. I decided to use a fantastic site called Evernote.com which lets you keep your notes organised and stored and accessed through your browser. It’s really good, and free. It also has apps you can download to your mobile phone which you can then use to add notes from your moby to the site. Pictures, sounds, text noes… pretty much anything. If you don’t like Microsoft products then give Google a try, it has very similar applications to Live. I just prefer the Microsoft ones.
Anti Virus. Up to now I have always bought my anti-virus. Normally Kaspersky But I’m pretty skint lately so it’s going to be AVG for me. Strictly speaking not “in the cloud” but it’s free so I’m counting it.
So there you go. A PC that can do everything I need (except make music) with very little software installed, which means it is nice and fast and responsive.
Next time you get a new PC give the cloud a try. You might be surprised just how good it is.
P.S. My head is spinning and I feel sick…
P.P.S. For making music I use some professional software called FL Studio. My next song, as part of CrowLee, is called “The Invisible Man in the Sky” and will be produced just as soon as we put the finishing touches to our current song, “The Day Santa Died”, Cert 18!