Outsource your personal computing

I’ve used all versions of Windows, many versions of the Mac OS, and many other operating systems, including most flavors of Linux. As this article points out, they all have their pluses and minuses, and these days, switching between one and the other is not a really big deal. My main gripe against Windows was that I was always having to play Network Administrator at home, and I just don’t have time for that.

A few years ago, I made a list (yes, I’m that type-A) of all the things that I do with a computer, like writing documents, doing my taxes, storing music, etc. Then, I made a list of all the programs (applications) I use to perform those tasks. Next, I made a list of all the file types that I use when using those programs (.doc, .xls, .html, etc.). Finally, I made a list of all the places I need to be able to access those files. I put all of that stuff in a spreadsheet grid, and checked off whether they could be done in Windows, Mac, or Linux, and with what applications.

It sounds complicated, but the idea was a simple one: what computer system and programs could I use most cheaply, reliably, effectively, that would be available wherever I need it?

With the advent of Gmail, Flikr, Google Docs, Ning, and other such services, the stuff I actually need or want to store on my computers at home has changed drastically. In fact, there is almost nothing that I want to store exclusively on my home comptuers. With secure lock-boxes in the cloud like Box.net or Amazon’s S3, it makes much more sense to have at least a copy of your critical documents stored off-site, just like big companies do, in case of fire or other disaster.

Walking around with a portable computer in my palm has made the need for wireless access even more acute. I access and edit documents, photos, music, books, and Websites all the time, from everywhere. About the only thing I must have a home computer for is audio recording and video editing (I’m an actor, y’know!). But even that I would do online, if I could; sadly, that technology simply doesn’t exist yet.

My impression is that our computers are becoming more “dumb terminals” to the cloud. Yes, it’s cyclical, and we’ve been down this path before. But never have we had such a powerful mainframe as the Internet.

Is this true for you, too? What, if anything, do you HAVE to have on your home computers, and nowhere else?

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