I think I may have finally done it!

Without blabbering on too much I think I may have finally found the winning plagtech combo. Before I explain, here are the two key pieces of tech that I have now standardized on:

  1. Browser = Firefox
  2. Productivity = Microsoft Office 365

Using Firefox & Firefox Sync to keep all of my browsing history, tabs, usernames, and passwords together I can literally use any desktop or mobile operating system and have everything in one place.

Similarly, for Office 365 I now have a seamless experience for Outlook across any desktop or mobile operating system as well as full access to industry standard applications like Word, Excel, PowerPoint etc. (as not all online application systems/companies accept Pages or GDocs) on any platform at any time!

I will continue using iOS and my iCloud account, as my Apple ID is tied to a lot of iTunes/App Store purchases, iCloud Photo Library, and iMessage. As for which computer I use it literally doesn’t matter anymore! LITERALLY… DOESN’T… MATTER!!

I love Microsoft’s productivity tools and they really do make a difference with regards to how I get things done and with Firefox as my browser there is no bias to a particular system e.g. it’s no surprise that Safari is only available on macOS and iOS or that Google Chrome works extremely well with GSuite.

It’s 10:14pm PST on April 27th 2018 and my time starts… now!

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Plagtech revamp

As I switch between different operating systems I have always tried to use applications that work across these different environments, for example I use Firefox as my browser because it works flawlessly across Windows, OS X, and any Linux distro.

However, using Firefox as an example again, it doesn’t work so well on iOS and Android, especially on iOS compared to Safari.

Similarly, in a bid to try and break out of the so called walled garden I switched to Outlook.com instead of me.com and started using the Outlook.com iOS app instead of the native Mail, Contacts, and Calendar iOS apps that Apple provides.

I then went one step further and completely stopped using my iCloud account altogether, restored my iPhone back to factory defaults, then setup my iPhone from scratch under a brand new Apple ID.

Again, this was all in a bid to cut off any ties from one vendor and try to keep everything neutral. However, what I have learned from doing this is two things:

  1. My iPhone is my primary computing device (welcome to the post-PC era!).
  2. Native apps provide the best experience.

Yes, it really is true. Even though I am typing this blog post from my Windows 10 PC (my iPhone is currently restoring from my iCloud backup), my iPhone really is my primary computing device. As I switch between different desktop OS’s the one constant in my digital life is my phone. As I use it so heavily I started to realize the importance of native apps.

Without using my primary iCloud account on my iPhone I noticed how much I depend on it, which was one of the points I raised in an earlier blog post. I think iCloud is the sole reason iOS is so freakin’ awesome!

The Outlook.com app is great in a sense that a single app allows you to work with your mail, contacts, and calendars in one place, but I noticed that this severely impacted my GTD work flow. The app is completely decoupled from Notes and Reminders, which I rely on heavily. Also, the built-in Messages app would not work properly because it is not capable of pulling the contacts from the Outlook.com app. This meant that iMessage and FaceTime could not work on my iPhone, which is another must have because I use it to communicate with friends and family overseas.

Switching back to my primary iCloud account has enabled me to revive all of the integrations that I took for granted with the native apps on iOS. So, that’s iOS sorted, but what about OS X, Windows, and Linux?

  • Linux: Let’s start with the easy one. I am very confident that I will not be using Linux as a primary desktop OS again for a long long time, so I do not need to worry about that. I have been using Ubuntu & Fedora as virtual machines within OS X and Windows, but I do not need to worry about syncing my data to the VM’s, as everything is on the host.
  • OS X: The second easiest one is OS X, because I will set this up just like iOS.
  • Windows: So here is where things get interesting and I know I have touched on this point before. I love using Microsoft Office and having signed up for Office365 with my Outlook.com account I can still use that to sync documents and continue using OneNote. However, I can use the iCloud Control Panel application in Windows to sync with Outlook for mail, contacts, calendars, and reminders as well as Internet Explorer (and now Firefox!) for my bookmarks.

This gives me the best of both worlds, as I can now fully utilize the native apps across iOS, OS X, and Windows that are designed to work extremely well within their own environment all the while utilizing iCloud as the glue (or SaaS if you feel so inclined) that holds all of the information together between each environment.

I feel as though this is still very platform agnostic, because if I continue to use Windows I can! With the added benefit that I don’t have to switch cloud providers, which for some strange reason I always feel is necessary!

What about Android? Exactly! What about it?! I very rarely use it for personal use like browsing/shopping/checking emails etc, so I was actually thinking of using it primarily for work. Seeing as the company I work for is a Google Business Apps shop and Android is drenched in Googleism why not use it for meetings instead of obnoxiously  pounding away on a physical keyboard when taking notes? Anyway, that can be it’s very own post.

Going back to the context and title of this post the reason I am calling this a plagtech revamp is that this experience has changed the way I look at being a platform agnostic technologist. In order to be plagtech one does not have to abandon the native apps that work so well on each respective platform. I can still enjoy the power of native apps and the seamless integrations they provide, so long as the cloud service providing the behind-the-scenes mojo works well across multiple platforms. In this case, so far, iCloud seems to do a bloody good job across iOS, OS X, and Windows.

A week with Fedora 23

After my week with Fedora I am once again drawing to the same conclusion that I have before. It’s a solid OS, especially for all of my geeky tasks like running Vagrant boxes, writing Chef recipes, using Git, and various other tools, then Fedora is a dream come true.

However, for day-to-day GTD I really like the native Microsoft Office apps on Windows and OS X. I don’t mind using their web-based counterparts (in Firefox) when using Linux for say, a quick glance at OneNote, but the Linux platform doesn’t have the neat integration’s with apps like Box as they do with OS X & Windows. This, you will say, is because Box doesn’t develop the same apps for Linux, but that’s not my fault unfortunately.

Also, when it comes to tasks like managing my photos or music there’s just something that feels unfinished about Fedora. It’s as if the software is in constant beta mode. People may snarl at me for saying so, and yes, I know it is all open source software and community driven work (which I do admire!), but when it comes to trusting software with my sacred photo collection of almost 10 years I can’t help but feel safer using software that is more well polished. From my experience the application Shotwell is an iPhoto clone and I can’t stand iPhoto (now Photos), especially with the way it sorts my pics. I’ve fully converted back to the old school method of creating my own folders and dragging and dropping the pics from my camera’s SD card. So retro, but it works the way I like it!

So, do I still like Linux? No, I love Linux! However, it will still not be my full time OS for personal computing at this time.

What’s coming next? I am currently on my RDMBP typing this post as I wipe Fedora off the E6430 and install Windows 10.

Operation Get Outta Ma’ Garden!

As one of my many experiments I have decided to break out of my regular iCloud account and use a temporary Apple ID that is fresh and clean. 

The reason for this experiment is to find out two things:

  1. How dependent I am on my original iCloud account. 
  2. How much of the iOS experience depends on the iCloud integration. 

The second point is the most interesting one for me. iOS in of itself is awesome software, but just how awesome is it if you do not use any of the iCloud features that integrate with the operating system?

To find that out I have done the following:

  • Switched to Outlook.com for email, contacts, and calendars via the Outlook app. 
  • Using OneDrive for 1TB of cloud storage. It is set to automatically upload my camera roll for backup. 
  • Productivity suite: Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Office Lens, and OneNote all synced with OneDrive. 
  • Firefox browser that is configured for Firefox Sync across my Mac, PC, and Galaxy Tab. 
  • Waze maps. 
  • Amazon Music. 
  • iMessage will continue to work with all of my family & friends who use iOS. It’ll be based on my mobile number. 
  • Viber for IM to my other friends who use various other platforms. 
  • HipChat for work IM. 
  • WordPress… Of course 🙂

I was able to skip creating an Apple ID when setting up my iPhone, but I had to create a new one in order to download the apps above. I would have thought that downloading free apps wouldn’t require an Apple ID, but it wasn’t to be, so I created a temporary one using my Outlook.com address. 

Cloud Storage

I was taking a look at the different cloud storage options out there and reminded myself about OneDrive and the Office365 deal that I saw a while back.

It looks like the deal is still available and I am very tempted to sign up. For $9.99 per month you can install Microsoft Office on up to 5 devices and each family member (up to 5 people) each get 1TB of OneDrive storage!

iCloud and Google have 1TB options for $9.99 per month as well, but the fact that you get Microsoft Office thrown into the mix as well is pretty awesome, especially as I use it all the time!

I currently have 30GB’s of OneDrive storage for free, but if I plan to use the OneDrive app to automatically upload my photos and videos, then I will need more storage.

OneDrive