Life\’s Direction

Alternatives for Online Email and Application Service Providers

Posted in Uncategorized by lifesdirection on December 29, 2007

Recently I have been getting a number of questions from various friends as to the reliability of online services such as Google Documents, Google Mail, Yahoo Mail, Hotmail Scribe etc.

If you are like me, these services that are offered to store documents, emails and other such fun things online come in very handy as I am frequently (although less of late) accessing many machines, including the multiple types of machines that I run at home. While it is intriguing to me as a hobbyist to run all kinds of systems and always look for the “best OS” or the “best Window Manager”, latest Linux distribution etc. I have always had a problem.

My documents are sprawled across many computers and this makes them inaccessible.

The simple minded (who scoffs at this point) says that I should use Google Documents, or that I should use Scribe or that I should use XYZ online service provider for all my documents and emails. While these solutions work most of the time, they are un-reliable at times, they are un-reliable at crucial times.

I have heard of people never receiving email with their Google accounts and not having the email even bounce back as undeliverable. I have seen bugs with the way Hotmail handles content as well as people complain that Google Documents is ‘slow’.

Well first of all most of these high-tech online services are making your web-browser consume just about all the CPU and RAM it can grab a hold of on your system and making your web-browser which was really meant to just ‘load a page’ run around like a football player.

There seems however to be a good compromise however with certain services, that allow for synchronization with your desktop PC and the ability to load the files offline using a client program when you dont have an internet connection. This allows for the user to have a digital copy on their computer. A simple example of this is a program I have called ‘Stickies’

Stickies uses a protocal called ‘web services’ this allows for the program to upload and synchronize my ‘Stickies’ (or post-it notes) with the amazon web services server. What this means is when I make a sticky note on my computer, the program will, go and create a sticky note on amazon’s web server, the same stickynote that I made on my computer in fact. So if I ever need to access or move to a different computer or use two computers with the same sticky notes (like home and work) then I can install the client on a different (or new) computer and it will go to amazon and download my stickies via the amazon web services.

While this does not deal with privacy issues (U.S. Law to the best of my knowledge allows the gov’t to look at whatever they want if the servers are in the US) it does deal with the issue of being ‘stuck’ to the web.

Amazon is not the only provider of web services, nor are they the creator, they are just an example.

Many a times we use ‘web services’ because they are minimalistic and functional, for example ‘Google Documents’ we use the programs because they are well designed and simple and do not take a huge number of resources to install and run. Consider Microsoft Word. Who wants to load the entirety of Microsoft word the behemoth to type a simple document, sounds absurd doesn’t it? Need more RAM for your computer, thats probably why, we tend to be lazy so we use an axe to trim the hedges in the back yard. Why? because most of us only know how to use an axe and we think that learning a new program can be quite a task. It really is not that hard. Programs are very easy to learn, especially if you are on an Apple Computer. (the reason for this is apple interface designers always keep simplicity and efficiency in mind).

Take a few simple windows applications for example:

  • Abiword
  • Rough Draft
  • Miranda
  • JDarkRoom

These are very simple client applications. They are designed to be simple and designed not to slow your computer down to a halt. Various Office Suites and web-browsers load all kinds of bells and whistles that you probably don’t use, they also provide you with various visual distractions that prevent you from focusing on the task at hand. (JDarkRoom is a good example of a minimalistic editor, DarkRoom is the Mac alternative). Applications like “Think” allow you to focus on what you are doing! (btw if anyone ever finds a Windows version of Think then please please please let me know).
In short, I am not convinced that web-applications will completely replace desktop applications furthermore, if you are not withing the reach of an Internet connection (some coffee shops like starbucks) yet you still want your information available there are some really good alternatives.

What are some of the applications you use to get simple things done?

What are some of the applications you would like to see?

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  1. JDarkRoom update! « Life’s Direction said, on January 20, 2008 at 12:36 am

    […] I usually write my blogs using JDarkRoom, you can see it in the image above in the banner I am using for my blog. I have also mentioned it in this post. […]


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