Tuesday, February 26, 2008

100% Online Experiment

A week ago or so, I rescued what looked like a broken laptop from a trash pile, intending to maybe use it for a prop for a commercial or film or something. It was a Dell Inspiron, about five years old. It had no power supply and was missing three keys on the keyboard. On a whim, I took the laptop to a Circuit City to see if they had something that could power it up, just to see if it worked at all. My intention was to perhaps hack it into a digital photo frame using one of the many cool tutorials available online.

I was pleasantly surprised when the laptop powered right up. I bought a universal power supply and brought my new toy home. All I had to do was bypass the password (easier than I thought it would be) and I was up and running. A wireless mouse/keyboard combo, and the missing keys problem was solved. It took me about an hour to completely wipe out all traces of the previous owners and I was ready to make this computer my own.

I was about to start installing MS Office, Adobe's Suite of products, Final Draft, etc, when an idea occurred to me. What if I didn't install ANY software on the computer and just used the the free online equivalents? Was it possible? Could I operate 100% online?

So far, the answer is YES. Granted, I can't do advanced video editing, vector drawing or really advanced photo editing (yet), but I can do everything else I'd want a typical computer to do. Here's what I'm using so far, and I'll update this list as I discover new products.

Google Docs
- This is Google's online version of MS Office. It's not yet nearly as robust as MS Office, but it does a really good job of functioning as a sturdy word processor, spreadsheet and presentation program. Better yet, all of these Google Docs are sharable and embeddable and able to be worked on in a collaborative fashion. Plus, it saves all your work online and you can access from any computer that has internet access.

Gmail - A great web-only email solution. Gmail's been around for a few years now, but it's been over the last year or so that I've migrated from Outlook and Yahoo Mail as my primary mail sources over to Gmail. Gmail has added tons of great features lately, such as chat directly inside of Gmail, and there are a bunch of really useful add-ons.

Google Reader - This doesn't really have a good desktop equivalent, but it's something you should be aware of and using if you're not already. It's the best RSS newsreader I've come across. I love it.

Google Notebook - Great notebook/clippings service. Allows you to collect and organize anything you find on the net, specifically for doing research.

And lest you think it's all Google... Screenwriting - Great online screenwriting program. It's still in its basic form, but I can see this becoming a serious challenger to Final Draft or Movie Magic, especially with it's online collaboration features and ability to store your documents online.

- A basic imagine editing website. Connects directly to your Flikr, Facebook, Picassa, and a host of other places where you might have photos hanging out. It lets you do interesting effects, and sort of layers. But it's really only a placeholder program until Photoshop Express debuts sometime later this year (hopefully).

Adobe also has a simple video editing program called Premiere Express, but at the moment, it's really only useful for mashing up youtube videos. But I can see the potential for doing very basic editing down the line.

Those are the biggies at the moment. As I come across new problems, I'll be sure to catalog my trials and errors and solutions. We'll see if I can operate on a computer 100% online!

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