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Thursday, September 23, 2010

You CAN Take It With You!

O.k., you can't take "it" beyond your present life, but remember when Flash Drives were the way to take your computing with you?  Before that CD burning & floppies & tape were the way to save your work.

That's so Twentieth Century!  Today everybody from big multinational companies to individuals use "the Cloud."  You may be using it and not even know it.
  • Can you connect to your email outside of your work?  
  • Do you use Open Source software like Open Office?  
  • Do you save your bookmark's via Delicious?  
  • Have you discovered how to save notes or information and pictures on the internet using Evernote?  
  • Used 1 of the online calendars I told you about last month?  
  • Saved video on YouTube?  
  • Put photos on Picasa?  
  • Tried GoogleDocs?
If any of those are not yet part of your online life, here is how to explore their possibilities. 
The last 3 or 4 are part of Google's empire claiming, among other things, "You can make money without doing evil" -- see Google's Philosophy.  If somehow you missed them, on the Google search page, right after "Mail", click "more."  You can even share access to work on a project with someone else.  Beats attachments and faxing.

Evernote lets you make notes online, capture pages on screen, upload even handwritten notes from a scanner, and is fully searchable when you put in "tags", as well as it searches your note's text.  I recently used it while taking a video class.  Hit the Pause button to write a note, then pressed Play until the next note.  Don't you wish you could do that with a real live lecture?

Originally I didn't want to share my bookmarks on Delicious, but learned it makes suggestions for "tags" to find favorite sites so much easier.  As my site's title implies, I'm constantly searching.  My bookmarks were organized by topic but grew faster than fruit flies on a banana.  Now I just click the icon on my toolbar to search by text, tag, or date added without leaving the screen where I'm working.

I first discovered Open Office when a library where I worked substituted it for more familiar but expensive Microsoft software.  Yes, there is a learning curve!  Any software has one and now there are books to help you use it, a large online database including tutorials, an email list, and a forum for help.  There's word processing, spreadsheets, presentation, and drawing software.  It's not as "robust" as the expensive software, but it probably has the features you use.

Whether you use Gmail, Hotmail, or sign in to another account, chances are it doesn't exist only on your work computer.  With WiFi at libraries, fast food restaurants, coffee shops and more, chances are you can connect with any of these options from any laptop, netbook, or smartphone.

I hinted earlier about security.  This part of "the Cloud" is like the Joni Mitchell song where "I've looked at Clouds from both sides now."  Some worry, while others say providers go out of their way to prove their security.  See the Wikipedia article on Cloud Computing and be sure to read sections on Security if you worry.  I'm not sure I agree 100%.  Have you received messages from friends whose Hotmail address books were hacked?  You were told your friend was mugged and stranded in London. The bigger the online target, the more attractive it is to cyber villainy.

I'm also impatient and rather like the little girl in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory who always said "I WANT IT NOW!"  Sometimes these resources seems a bit strained to work as fast as I want, but then software seems that way to me, too.  The price of FREE is right and the portability is exactly as I like it.  That's another form of security to me.  It's a form of backup.

Last month's article on Calendars show how easily programs or display topics can be created and you can keep track of your own commitments.  This month you see how research of any kind can travel.  Let me travel to your site and bring you a storytelling program with exactly what you need.  For more information, go to