A Life In The Cloud – or, why do we need a hard disk at all?

OK, I am a software-guy. I need my Visual Studio, of course supplemented with Reflector, I need my web server (both of them, actually), I especially need my Fiddler, I need my Notepad++, I need my FileZilla, and I need a bunch of other things and products which make my life as a Software Architect a little easier, a little more efficient and a little more pleasant.

But, the last week I helped a friend of mine to install her new notebook. And, there came a question – which software does she really need to install on her laptop? Money being an issue, too.

Should I install anything?

She uses Hotmail for emailing, for ages now. I think it was her only private email address she has ever had, since almost 15 years now. So, I showed her a few other cool goodies Windows Live has to offer – Office Online, at the first place. She does not need Access, Visio, or Project at her private computer. She needs Word, Excel, and from time to time PowerPoint. She has got it all with Office Online. And the files she creates – she can save it to her SkyDrive (she didn’t even know she had one Smile)

comic_cloud_appsShe is a heavy Outlook user, in her private life as well. At the moment stacked with Outlook 2003. But, why, actually? Whenever I call her, she is trying to establish a Bluetooth connection between her computer and her brand new HTC Mozart. Just to sync calendar and contacts? Windows Phone 7 has no problem syncing both of them with Hotmail Contacts and Hotmail Calendar.

That leaves us with two other productivity tools – notes and tasks. Well, if we agree that Outlook Tasks are, how would I say it, quite… useless, why not think about switching to  rememberthemilk.com? And then install WinMilk on the phone to have it always in sync.

As for the notes, Windows Phone 7 comes with OneNote mobile, which can be synced with SkyDrive OneNote notebooks. Furthermore, there is Evernote. A great little service. And a Windows Phone 7 app is coming soon. I have personally organized a whole little world around EverNote, and even though I find OneNote slightly better now, especially in the combination with Windows Phone 7, it’s hard to give up on the whole treasury stored in EverNote.

That leaves us with, what… photos? Photo editing, photo storage or photo sharing? Photoshop Express, a free online service from Adobe, is just great for the online photo editing. And, if you already have a SkyDrive, it can perfectly function as a personal photo storage – you can view slideshows and browse the photos in a really nice way. And for sharing – if you hate Facebook (I don’t), why not use Flickr?

So, then, why having a hard disk at all?

You still need a hard disk. Or, at least, you still need to install a browser somewhere Smile

And a few more things. Internet is not always an option – just imagine, sitting in the high-speed-train, where your cell-based internet speed decreases from HDSPA to GPRS. Or in the airplane, where it’s not an option at all. You’ll just need to have some files offline, too. The best option would be if those files could be synced back to your online storage, as soon as you have an internet connection again.

There is a solution to that problem, as well, it’s called Live Mesh. It gives you 5GB online storage, as a part of your SkyDrive, and it syncs your offline files with this storage. So, no problem, write your word documents offline – in the plane, in the train – and the first time you are connected again, they go to the cloud. When Live Mesh is installed on more computers, it actually syncs your offline files between all those computers, as well, using the SkyDrive as the “central reference”. Great, you’ll think, that’s it.

Well, almost. Microsoft kind of screwed it up there – although these 5 GB are effectively a part of your SkyDrive storage, you can’t actually edit those files in the cloud by using Office Online. Even worse, you can’t even upload a file manually to that synced storage, you have to store it offline first.

I just can’t understand the reasons why did Microsoft put those boundaries. It can just happen that you are at your grandma’s place, and after milking the cows, you remember that you need to quickly change few sentences in your Live Mesh-synced CV, and to print it out. Well, you can download it to grandma’s computer from the synced storage, upload it to another folder on your SkyDrive (which is not Mesh-Synced), edit it, print it out, and hope that you will remember to put the changed version back to the Mesh-Synced storage once you have access your computer again.

This is NOT cool, not cool at all.

Any other reasons for still having a hard drive?

Well yes, there are (at least) two more reasons why you still need a hard disk. Smile

You need a Foxit Reader, a great little PDF Viewer. And you need a decent CD/DVD burning software.

And let’s not forget a media player – you must have one, you still somehow need to play your music and videos. And, also, there is no (free or cheap) online storage which can store my music collection…


Hmm… and that would be it with on-premise (offline) software for my friend’s private use.

Or, are there any more ideas out there? What do we need to keep offline, and what can we put into the cloud?