La vita cloudy

I’ve done it. I’ve moved entirely into the cloud. The process started a year ago when I bought my Chromebook Pixel. Well, actually, it started before that, when I shifted to Gmail and Google Calendar and Google Docs and that drove me to switch from iPhones to and Android phones and tablet and then to try a Chromebook. I still owned a Mac, but it did less and less, in the end just acting as a print server for my Google Cloud Print and as a Skype machine because (1) Microsoft refuses to make Skype for Chrome and (2) Leo Laporte whined about my using Google Hangouts on This Week in Google.

But last week, my Mac died. I/O error. I/O error. OK, OK, I get the point. It’s four or five years old; not worth fixing. It so happens that the moment it died I was trying to set up a Skype talk into a conference in Las Vegas. They couldn’t do Hangouts. So I had to call in on Skype from my Nexus 7 tablet and it worked. Check off one use for the old, dead Mac.

I went through a few false starts trying to check off the other function: printing. I got a Lantronix PrintServer for Google Cloud Print but it still required me to set up printers in Google and that still required having a Mac or PC. I’m using the Lantronix but I also wanted to make this test pure: no other computer required. I got a Brother printer that was alleged to be a Google Cloud Print ready but it wasn’t really. Then I got an Epson and it worked. The Epson has a web set-up I could handle on my Chromebook, arranging to print directly to it with no middleman. It even sends scans directly to my Google Drive.

Ding, dong, my personal computer is dead. I bought my first machine, an Osborne 1, in 1981. I turned off my last one 33 years later. Leo Laporte, Gina Trapani, and I talked about this at some length at the start of This Week in Google. Now Leo’s had some fun at the expense of my Pixel, though he has come around to like his. And so I asked whether for lots of people, we’ve moved past the idea of needing to own a computer that stores data and runs applications locally.

Of course, this move still depends on what you need to do with a computer. I write — in fact, I’ve just written a 55,000-word tome about the future of journalism (betcha can’t wait for that!) using my Chomebook and Google Docs and Drive. I use the web — Chrome, of course. I communicate — everything I could need except Skype. I share. I do basic photo editing. I don’t do rigorous photo or video editing; for that, I’d still need local storage and computing. Gina says she still needs to code locally. OK, but all that, too, could change as connections speed up to gigabit speed and as remote apps and servers continue to gain power over what a personal machine could do.

We also discussed the need for a security blanket: backup. As we chatted, folks in the TWiT chatroom gave us suggestions for local hard drives and for online services such as Backupify that can backup or sync data to another service, such as Dropbox. I’ll work that out next. (In the meantime, I backed up my tome to a thumbdrive.)

So now I live in the cloud. It doesn’t really matter what device I use to get to my stuff: my Chromebook, a computer anywhere with Chrome on it, my Android phone or tablet. I still run apps, but they, like my stuff, will follow me around.

Oh, and by the way, for the first time in decades, I no longer use any Apple or Microsoft products. That’s not because I have anything against either. I just don’t need them.

Welcome to the next era of personal computing without a personal computer.

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  • Terrific post, but I get hung up a little on your use of the word “computer,” and the phrase “personal computer,” as if to say such a machine and a Chromebook are separate things. A Chromebook is a computer, yes? It’s a personal computer, just one that approaches its duties a bit differently than a Mac or a PC.

    • I defined that in the post: a computer that operates by storing data and running applications locally and that is *personal.* I can use *any* computer because my computing is in the cloud. Yes, of course, a Chromebook and a phone and a tablet are all computer but my point is that they are now no longer personal computers as we’ve defined them since 1980.

  • RuzaR

    I heard the podcast and loved the discussion. The LG Chromebase (ChromeOS All-in-One) finally launched and it will hopefully allow others to embrace this new method of working. ChromeOS plus a Windows Live ID to get access to the web based MS Office suite (for free) covers most people’s needs easily.

  • nacengineer

    Welcome to the core of the Linux revolution, sort of. Essentially you’re communicating what Linux users have been saying for years.

    1. Buy new computer
    2. Put linux on it
    3. Move your user directory (in your case Google takes care of this but Dropbox or an external device could do this too)
    4. Compute

    #3 for a lot of linux guys is basically a scripted operation, which can be done based on how linux manages user profiles.

    You don’t need MS or Apple to have a successful time in computing, which is what I think you are really starting to realize. However I would fear being so tightly coupled to Google’s services. For me this would be less than optimal, given their habit of killing projects with no regard to user opinions.

    As I see it, you’ve essentially just swapped one dependency for another. Plus unless I’m misunderstanding it, you also now have 2 machines vs one, a $1300 pixel and a $200 Nexus tablet vs one laptop a MPB retina @ 1300.

    As a side note, you say you run Skype on your tablet, that’s a MS product, non? I think products are becoming less about who makes them (Apple, Microsoft, etc.) and more about where you can get them. (web based vs. desktop)

    I think for the average user, like yourself, the Chrome OS paradigm is a good one with the caveat that you’re now solely dependent upon Google. For the others, perhaps a transition to a Linux platform such as Ubuntu is perhaps a more realistic route especially with the Office365 and Google Doc offerings making the need to do a local install of MS Office unnecessary.

  • Mark Stevens

    What Espon printer did you buy?

  • Spencer Dailey

    Any details on that 55,000 word tome? My interest was piqued with your definition of the word ‘journalism’ shared on TWiG.

  • HudsonJoe

    Great post Jeff!
    My one comment would be that I don’t think network (and in particular wireless) connectivity is as ubiquitous as you may think. More than once in the last two years I have been working in a customer’s data centers in suburban NJ and NY where I am not allowed on their network and don’t have enough signal to have a phone conversation let alone work in the cloud. If I had been dependent on information or tools in the cloud my customers and I would have been SOL.