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Mar. 11th, 2008 | 03:35 pm
location: cafe where I was yesterday

(Typing this in the café again - everyone's here, waiter is still a bit nervous as apparently the guy has been seen wandering around, but nothing's going to happen about it I'm sure.)

My latest exploration of Not Real Work is to challenge myself to work with web applications for the rest of the month. Last month, I tried using a thing called Circus Ponies Notebook to organise my project work, and while it was good and is undoubtedly good for a lot of things, I'm getting edgy about using proprietorial software - particularly as I now use the Eee quite a lot.

Really, everything I do should be plain text, ODS or other open formats, but even then there are some things which would require downloads. I'm also thinking about the fact that really, I can't afford to spend £1400 or whatever on a new Macbook Pro, and it might be a better use of my cash to get a normal PC laptop and load it with Ubuntu. Also, these days, I have internet access pretty much everywhere.

Other pros:

* Most of these things offer collaboration and sharing, which I don't need very often, but if I ever want to show somebody a document and invite feedback, I can. In some cases the permissions need to be more sophisticated, I think - "leave comments but don't alter anything" for instance - but it'll do. I already use Google Video for this purpose, making demo videos of things I have done for clients.

* Most of them also offer phone access, even Google Docs, should you really want to read something you've written on a teeny screen.

Cons, of course:

* If I do lose net access I'm completely screwed until I can get it back or go somewhere else. Mind you I'm almost completely screwed work-wise anyway if I lose net access. More important, though, is the reliability of the sites themselves - if Google goes down I can't pop out to a net caff and work there. Google doesn't exactly go down very often mind you, and I generally trust that they will be able to keep my data, probably more reliably than I will.

* I also have to trust the security of whatever service I'm using. I see no reason in this instance that any of them would have any interest in nicking my notes about Second Life projects, stealing my code isn't going to help anyone much, and I'm not dealing with confidential client information here that would require that I followed certain standards, so I think I'm okay, but it's something to bear in mind.

* Not amenable to desktop search engines. Though it's not like you can't search Google Docs, and I'm less and less impressed with Spotlight when it comes to actually finding things, since everything is indexed by damn Spotlight these days and I always end up with a hundred irrelevant RSS feed entries and bookmarks.

* Web browsers are never going to be as good as local applications specialised for whatever purpose. Pages or NeoOffice or Abiword are always going to be faster and better and provide more options than Google Docs, and when it comes to any sort of graphics work, well.


So - web apps, yes. Probably I won't stick with them, but I'm going to see what happens for a bit. I'm dividing my project work into the following groups:

Tasks - I took a look at Remember The Milk a while go but I never really got along with its interface. Recently I've been looking at Todoist and it seems just the thing - simple but with lots of options. So I'm going with that.

Logs and Timesheets (the latter being me recording when I'm actually working so I can turn it into an invoice later) - Google Docs, the old favourite. Logs are just documents. Timesheets are just spreadsheets. This is not too hard. I have to remember to regularly download these things for backup purposes, mind you. I wonder if I can automate that.

Notes and brainstorming and idea stuff - a combination of Google Docs and something called MindMeister, which is an online mind-mapping tool that can also be used offline, if you're using Firefox. Why does Google Docs not have an offline mode? What kind of sense does that make? Mindmeister uses Google Gears to do this, and Google can't even use it themselves? Zoho, which has a competing browser office suite, has an offline mode!

*cough* Anyway, I love me some mindmaps and MindMeister is good for them - you'd hope so, since that's all it does - and also allows sharing in case I ever encounter somebody who cares. I even have a premium account with them.

Diagrams - I'm thinking about using Gliffy for these, but to be honest I don't draw a lot of diagrams anyway, apart from mindmaps, and I don't send them around a lot, if ever; they might as well be on paper. Plus I already have Omnigraffle. Which, I see, has had a new version come out, three months ago, and I didn't even notice - shows you how much I actually use it, wonderful as it is, and might perhaps indicate that it's not worth paying the upgrade price.

Things which aren't going online (or at least aren't going to be done with web apps - they may well go online, on a secure server) - I already have a lovely template for invoices which I do in Numbers and frankly, I'm not going to waste my time in Google Docs to do that. I'm also not going to start editing media online. There are some good tools at the moment for image editing but they're nowhere near as good or fast as local ones. Video and audio editing, I don't know of any decent tools for, and for all of these things the uploads and downloads of source material take so long.

I'm not going to be coding online, either, well, no more than I do at the moment. There are, again, no decent editors that I know of online, and I have SVN repositories anyway. If I really need to use my code on another machine I can check those out - and if I have Second Life access I can always code inworld and copy and paste the scripts out later.

Right. That's enough of that. Now, if you'll excuse me, I think I have talked about how I am going to do things for long enough, and should, perhaps, actually do some of them.

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