Google the Great!

Pretty much since I started this blog I have been back and forth between multiple vendors hardware and software. Lately, I have been playing around with a lot of the online services that are on offer with the most recent one being Yahoo!

Whenever I switch provider they must be able to fulfill a specific requirement and that is to be able to send mail as another address other than the one provided to me by service X.

My entire contacts list has my @me.com email address, so when I send email from Gmail, Outlook.com, or Yahoo! I want it to appear to the recipient as though it came from my @me.com address. This works just fine on web-based mail clients or mail clients running on a desktop/laptop computer, but this feature is not possible from Mail.app (used by Gmail and Outlook.com) or the new Yahoo! Mail iOS app.

However, I since discovered that there is an official Gmail app for iOS developed by Google and guess what…? It allows me to use the same “send as” functionality as mentioned above!

So, as you have undoubtedly figured out by now, I have decided to switch back to Google’s services because all of the contacts that I need are available via the app too. “But what about your iOS contacts list?” well my dear friends that has been addressed here. Work like a charm!

Naturally, I will utilize the Google web-apps for my @gmail.com account via Google’s Chrome browser and sync my bookmarks with the same account too. This is beginning to not sound very platform agnostic considering all the other things that I now use Google for:

  • Maps & GPS
  • Google Translate
  • Picasa
  • Google Wallet
  • YouTube
  • Google+

As part of this Google conversion I discovered that the traditional Google app for iOS contains a web-based Tasks application. I don’t recall Google offering a Tasks application?! So, I will now give this a shot and see if it can fit into my GTD strategy for the year.

Here’s how my setup looks now:

  • Desktop OS = Ubuntu 12.04.2 on a Dell Latitude D430
  • Mobile OS = iOS 6.1.3
  • Mail, Contacts, and Calendars = Google
  • Tasks / To-do’s = Google
  • Online Storage = Microsoft SkyDrive (contemplating Google Drive)
  • Browser = Google Chrome
  • Bookmark Sync = Google Chrome

Now, here’s the thing… Should I use Google for literally all of my online needs does this defeat the purpose of being a platform agnostic technologist? Let’s think about this one… because even though Google has Chrome OS and the even more popular Android OS, I can still utilize all of the above on a Windows XP/Vista/7/8 Desktop/Laptop, Windows Phone & Surface tablet, iPhone, iPad, OS X desktop/laptop, and any flavor of Linux.

Is Google really a Plagtech’s dream come true vs Yahoo! that I previously quoted?

This blog was originally set up to make a point about vendor lock-in. Certain technologies that tie you to a particular set of hardware or software e.g. applications like Things that only work on OS X and iOS and thus making it harder to switch to another OS should you need to.

If I am using Google for the items mentioned above I am not prevented from using any device I choose. The only Google service that I can think of that has some sort of restriction is Google Play whereby purchases can be streamed to any device, but only downloaded to an Android device. This is not really a major issue for me as I have been purchasing my music from Amazon since my last iTunes vs Amazon vs Google post many moons ago.

Anyways, I think that is enough rambling from me today. I’ll give this whole “Google is Great!” thing a thinking over, but so far it seems to make sense.

Tracking diet 2

I decided to keep using the Strava app to track my bike rides. It is a means of motivation for me to track if my average speeds and times are improving or not.

I also just discovered that I am in the top 5 out of 50 for a particular segment of the bike ride I take to work!

The cool thing about it is that I didn’t even bother to look at these stats beforehand, but the app has been completely overhauled and accessing such details is a lot easier.

I’m not going to compete for first place or anything, but it’s nice to know my riding is improving over time.

Yahoo! – A Plagtech’s dream come true?

Per my previous post I was expressing my concerns for the Google, Apple, and Microsoft ecosystem approach to their respective Gmail, iCloud, and Outlook.com web services.

So, I decided to check out Yahoo! as they seem to be the only viable web service without a desktop or mobile OS ecosystem that they try to lure you into. After signing up for my ymail address I was shown a list of applications for iOS, Android, and Windows Phone/Surface that I could use to access ymail.

This is awesome, as they have a dedicated app for each ecosystem. Right now, I setup my Yahoo! account on my iPhone using the traditional method. So far so good, as I can sync mail, contacts, calendars, notes, and reminders. However, I think I will give the iOS app a shot and see if it offers more functionality and/or a better experience.

Web services aside here is how my current platform agnostic setup stands:

  • Desktop OS = Ubuntu 12.04.2 on a Dell Latitude D430
  • Mobile OS = iOS 6.1.3
  • Mail, Contacts, and Calendars = Yahoo!
  • Tasks / To-do’s = Evernote
  • Online Storage = Microsoft SkyDrive
  • Browser = Firefox 20.0
  • Bookmark Sync = Xmarks

The only item I may re-evaluate is the online storage, as I want to utilize a service that I can use to sync a local file server with a cloud storage provider. Microsoft SkyDrive offers a Windows and Mac sync client that can be installed on a desktop/laptop which will provide synchronization for locally stored files. What I would prefer is to use my Raspberry Pi NAS setup to sync to a cloud storage service, so that locally my NAS can do network sharing to any computer without installing a client as well as being able to access the files from any device across the Internet.

More on that later…

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Mobile Plagtech Dilemma

I’ve been messing around a lot with my iCloud, Gmail, and Outlook.com account setup and I just can’t seem to find the right one without being lured into a fully fledged ecosystem.

It’s pretty clear that if you use Android, then its best to use your Gmail account. Likewise if you use iCloud use iOS and if you use Outlook.com use Windows Phone.

Now, each of these accounts can be stored on their rivals OS, but sacrifices have to be made.

On my iPhone I can sync mail, contacts, calendars, reminders, notes, bookmarks, find my iPhone, etc. all with my iCloud account.

However, when I setup Outlook.com I can only sync mail, contacts, calendars, notes and reminders.

Even worse, with Gmail I can only sync mail, calendars, and notes!

Bookmarks I can sync via my Gmail account by using the iOS version of Chrome, but what if I sync my bookmarks to Outlook.com? There’s no IE for iOS, so you’re left in a pickle.

Its these little things that bug me about ecosystems. I’m sure the same kind of thing would happen if I tried to sync my iCloud account on Android or Windows Phone, so this is not a dig at Apple.

I just don’t see why it has to be this way…

Maybe the only way to be platform agnostic on the mobile front is to use a Yahoo! account…?

I’ll get back to you on that one!

Tracking diet

There are a lot of apps out there that like to track your every move and I have a lot of them installed. These aren’t malicious apps that are digitally stalking me by the way, because I give these apps permission to track my movements.

I also have a number of apps that track my weight, water, and food intake as well. No location data is taken with these types of apps, but they are still tracking my daily/weekly habits.

So, I have decided to say toodle doo to all of these apps and the reason being isn’t due to some fear and paranoia of my data’s wellbeing, but due to the simple question of why?

Why do I need to track every walk, run, hike, and bike ride? Why do I need to track every meal, snack, and glass of water I consume?

The simple answer to these questions is because I can! The apps are available and easily downloadable. Some of them are free and others are no more than $2-$3 each, so hardly breaking the wallet.

However, I have finally decided to say to hell with them… except WeightBot. I think it is good track your weight and BMI and the good thing about doing this is that it doesn’t have to be daily… heck, it doesn’t even have to be weekly either!

The other apps, such as Livestrong, require a lot of fiddling around that just takes time throughout the day and then the workout apps like Strava Cycling, Strava Running, MapMyHike etc. are just distractions from the task at hand.

If I want to go out for a hike or a bike ride then I take pleasure in doing just that without the need to track every minute of every mile.

Here’s to app tracking liberation!