My Cloud Computing Apps

Lately, I have found that I rarely have a need to use desktop software for any of my computing needs. These are the online-based services that I have found to be indispensable in my everyday life to organize, communicate, and stay informed.

  • Google Gmail – I can access my mail from home, work, Wi-Fi hotspot, my iPhone.
  • Google Calendar – Anything that relates to time/date/place/to-dos, it goes in my Google Calendar.  I can access this from practically anywhere.
  • Google Reader – This is my online RSS Newsreader. With Google Gears offline support, I can catchup with all the latest news feeds even when I am on a plane.
  • Del.icio.us Bookmarks – I find that I have not bookmarked a page in IE or Firefox in ages! Instead, all my bookmarks are on this handy service.
  • MP3tunes – All my iTunes music safely stored and synced online with MP3tunes.com.  I can stream my music from the Internet.  This service doesn’t store and sync my iTunes videos and movies, so I use other means to backup and sync these files.
  • .Mac – I use the iDisk service to keep any storage of files and folders that I need to access from anywhere.  The one other feature that I do like is the Photo sharing capabilities.
  • SlingBox – Ok, its not really an online service, but its how I watch TV now.  Place-shifting means I can watch TV shows streamed online from any single Slingbox location.  Place one SlingBox hardware in your parent’s home in Canada and you can catch international TV right on your computer.  Quality is not the greatest, as it depends a lot on the upload speeds of the SlingBox locations you are getting the streams from.
  • Google Docs – This service can almost replace your traditional Microsoft Office apps. Unfortunately, it is not as speedy as having a desktop app.  Speed and offline portability are the biggest factors in me not completely switching over to using online-based office apps.
  • Google Alerts – This is how I read the latest news. I give search terms that I find most interesting, and everyday they will send me the top links to news stories and blog entries that match my keywords.
  • Kayak – I give it my top flight destinations and the maximum price I am willing to pay, and I get a daily report of any matching deals.
  • Twitter – This service is basically a mashup of fan site / blog / and alerting service. You can alert all your followers via SMS text, IM, and email with “what you are doing now”. I am still a little weary of letting everyone know what I am doing now, but I can see how it can be used to alert a large number of people at once, with whatever information you wish to share. This is most useful for people with a mobile lifestyle, who may not get a chance to post their thoughts to a blog.

Why Mozilla Firefox is so popular

I’ve been thinking a lot about how web browsers have become the central strategy for much of Web 2.0 and the Mobile 2.0.  Cloud computing is the next major step for many tech companies’ strategic roadmap including IBM. One of the biggest contributors to this surge is Mozilla’s Firefox web browser.

Why has Firefox surged to  the top?  Two things. Add-ons/extensions, and tabbed browsing.  I cannot even imagine browsing the web without these innovations.  Those two simple ideas have made my online experience a sheer joy.  My top ten add-ons include:  del.icio.us, Foxmarks, Adblock, Google Browser Sync, Google Gears, Google Notebook, Operator, Greasemonkey, Firebug, and User Agent Switcher.

The upcoming FIrefox 3 also promises new innovations to make browsing even more simpler and useful. The aptly named “Awesome Bar” is indeed awesome.  You just start typing in anything that you’ve accessed in your browser URL, and it comes up with possible suggestions.  Unlike type-ahead, the suggestions you get can come from any position in the URL (not just the first n characters). Also, the performance and security enhancements are much needed as pre-Firefox-3 browsers had started to become slow.  I remembered the primary reason that I had switched from IE to Firefox back in the day was because Firefox 1.0 was so much faster than IE 6.0.  Performance is as much part of the user experience as UI. You can have the prettiest user interface, but if the user has to wait longer to get their information, they will perceive the product as crap.

Mozilla’s next phase is to rule the mobile browser space. The space is already crowded with the likes of Webkit, Opera, Pocket IE, etc. How awesome will it be to be able to keep those Add-Ons while surfing the mobile web on any smartphone platform. That’s Firefox’s bread and butter.  That’s what will make them successful in the mobile web 2.0.