Sometimes I wake up at 4:30am in the morning and ponder over things. I don’t want to, I just can’t get back to sleep. On the weekend I was pondering over whether technology was making my life easier or harder. Certainly I seem to be working a lot more hours and have my fingers in a lot more pots than I use to, but I feel this probably isn’t so much caused by by technology, rather its something that technology allows me to do. Technology does however simplify some things and recently has started to make me “device independent”. That is I am no longer locked into “my computer” or “my phone”.
Take for instance, the concept of adding gadgets or to the home page of a search engine. The concept isn’t new, I just never saw the point of adding the weather or a clock gadget onto my desktop, despite how easy it was to do. But I realised that over the last year or so, I had built up a control panel of gadgets on Google, which accessed services I was using on my desktop, netbook, iPad and iPhone. For instance:
I need to track time between my projects, so I use a free web based product called Activity Tracker Plus. I can push the go button on a project, and it will record how long I spend, until I push the off button. Interestingly I can walk out the door and push the off button on my phone, rather than run back to the computer. I can also add notes to each entry. This makes life a lot easier for billing my time, or gaining insight into where my time is going.
For keeping track of what I need to do, I use a product called Remember the Milk. This allows you to create tasks with a wide variety of attributes such as due date, priority, category and location. It has interfaces optimised for the web, and a separate front end optimised for the iphone and another for the ipad. The back end data is stored somewhere out in the cloud and it syncs automatically to each device I use it on. I don’t like the name but am in love with the product.
The third main thing I have on my Control Panel is my Calendar. It is small view of my Google Calendar, which I can look at separately on the web, or on my desktop, iphone and ipad – where its all syncs automatically. This automatic background syncing is critical to me as I can’t be trusted to manually do it.
I use two different products to manage documents. When collaborating with others, I use Google Docs. This means that I can have a look at a spreadsheet anywhere I have a web browser. Alternatively If I’m just working on something myself and I want a bit more power, I use Open Office and store all my documents in Drop Box. Drop Box then Syncs these documents onto all my devices. My google based control panel gives me a view onto both types of documents.
So I realised that the reason I had finally started adding gadgets to my search engine, wasn’t so much because they were handy, but because they provided me with a view on the cloud based services that I use to make myself Device Independent. And of course the nice thing is that all these solutions are free, simple to deply and everything expect the time-sheets solution is scalable for a larger team. :)