January 20, 2010

The Cloud Is Within Reach From the Air

At the turn of the new year, I mentioned my current state of thinking around 2010 computing, saying the trends were toward getting lighter, faster, mobile and connected. While many are shaking in anticipation of Apple's announcements next week, spurred even further tonight with news from the Wall Street Journal about Apple's embracing a cloud-powered iTunes, I took a major move myself this week to practice what I project, aiming to live a much more cloud-connected life. The tool? A new (to me) MacBook Air, purchased from the Apple Store online, refurbished, saving me more than a few bucks.

While the Air is not brand new, it's a big step forward beyond the 2007 era MacBook Pro I've held onto the last two years-plus. Despite that machine's slightly-faster CPU power and larger hard drive, contrasted to the Air, its sluggishness grew too much to bear, bogging down from applications and mysterious bugs as time went by. It came to the point I could barely use apps like Microsoft Office without completely stalling. So I'm trying a new experiment, one that gets very close to this promised cloud future that is coming.

First, I am keeping the "old" laptop at home as the home "media" machine. That laptop will stick around and be the computer where I use Photoshop, my 60+ gigabytes of iTunes and our family's photos and videos. (And yes, it's all backed up)

Second, I am going to do the best I can to keep the Air light on applications, with the clear exception being Microsoft Office, out of necessity, not out of love.

When I set up the Air, I did not move over all my music, or my photos or my videos. The Air's 128 GB hard drive, even if it is a fast solid state drive, didn't need to be chewed up with 90 gigabytes of media. And I left more than 90 percent of my applications and utilities on the old machine, including Adobe's extremely demanding family of CS applications, from Photoshop and Illustrator to Reader. If I can help it, I will stay in the browser as much as possible, visiting Office on occasion, and maybe, if I want to, firing up Tweetie, should I grow tired of Web clients.

The goal is to choose Webmail over desktop mail, Spotify over iTunes, and for the most part, live in Safari and Chrome whenever possible.

This is not a full move to the cloud. I am not yet ditching Office for Google Apps (yet), and I still need to find a place to hold all that rich media in the cloud, if I am to do this for real, but it's close, and I am going to make a concerted effort to do as much as I can online rather than off. It's good for the computer, and it's good for me.