oda: Chrome tab with a sad face on blue-violet field field (degoogle)
Prying myself out of the cloud is hard when I've continued to be too ill to get much usable time in the day. So I'm going for ambient effects. It's kind of morphing into a general 'why aren't we doing proper backups anyway?' project, too. The backup coverage is not as tragic as all that -- Dropbox and other cloud services are pretty good for covering the gaps, and my raw photos all end up in a locked flickr stream, but there's a definite dependence on external cloud services that I don't want to fix by just paying a new cloud service. (Even though that would at least be a matter of aligned interests.)

So... let's see. Thunderbird still seems useful, but I'm mostly using it for archival and not really reading mail in it. That's probably not a plus, but to be honest I'm not reading/replying to a lot of mail at all. I've noted the presence of a portable Thunderbird, which means it can be run out of a crypted space or cloud synced share or both, and that's very interesting. A synced/encrypted Thunderbird that can live in a dropbox and/or memory stick is about as handy as Gmail without being web-based, and it's very flexible about who it will talk to. The person who kindly hosts my mail has been busy, so no IMAP there yet; I imagine I will want to use Thunderbird a lot more once there's IMAP for my main mail.

I like Dropbox and I liked Mesh before it stopped working on XP, and in general I like multi-way sync, especially with versioning. I do not know if I like Dropbox enough to pay for it, especially with the privacy concerns, even with tack-ons to encrypt the contents (I would rather give money to people who get it right, as a point of principle.) I've been comparing to Spideroak for a while now... but haven't tried the Spideroak sync yet. I think I want to play around with Spideroak sync and then decide. I prefer Spideroak's ethos, and it's a true backup solution with sync tacked on, which may be more what we need anyhow. Where Dropbox really shines is around shared files, so I need to see if Spideroak can be usable that way as well.

Spideroak does seem to work pretty well, with the exception of some cruftiness with iTunes, which is the major reason I use it -- it builds up a lot of copies and I have to go in and manually delete them to make room. What I'd like to do is set up a policy to only keep certain ones, like a tiered incremental plan. It also seems to back up the entire library over and over again, rather than doing change-only partial backups as promised. Possibly because it's almost always open and iTunes isn't a very polite app and may not play well with being rifled while open? I wouldn't put it past iTunes, which has been a cranky beast since the day I installed it and hasn't really gotten much better. I do not have the brain cells to play with other music management right now, though, so I'm stuck with it.

I have also looked at Zoho -- in a very cursory manner at their mail, and deeper at their spreadsheets, which aren't a bad replacement for Google Docs, though they're showing a few buggy bits and aren't as well developed. From there I sort of toppled sideways into Creator, which I gather is a kind of Access-like (I have never seen Access so I'm not sure) forms creator which has some nice integration with Sheet -- you can export a set of records to Sheets and then operate on it in the spreadsheet. Anyhow, it seems functional and cool. I haven't looked at the plain writing app yet because I mostly write into text files. I haven't played with sharing yet. The major alternative to something like Zoho would be some sort of versioned sync that lets me share spreadsheets with my honey, since that's a major thing we do with Google Docs.

I'm actually pretty close to looking at some sort of version control like git or svn -- I've only used them in a very rudimentary fashion in the past (and mostly rcs and perforce) but version control speaks to my former-sysadminly heart in a way I cannot deny; being able to roll back to older versions was great at work and it's sort of a basic need whenever you have two or more people with their paws on the same files, even if they're both reasonably careful about it. (Google Docs and Dropbox bake that in.) Either that, or backing everything up/repositing everything on a version controlled file system, which I'm not sure is easy to do with the kind of shoestring budget I have. (A handful of random old PCs running Windows, and no brain budget to switch to a UNIX. Plus shell access to a remote UNIX box with web/mail/ssh but no PHP.)

July 2012

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