Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Accessing Everything, From Everywhere

I am a gadget-holic. I own an Amazon Kindle, an Apple iPad, a Motorola Droid cellphone, a Dell Studio laptop, and a desktop computer. I use every one of them on a regular basis, though some more than others obviously. What do I love most about all of them though? They are all connected. Virtually everything I do on one of my devices, is instantly replicated across all the rest and is stored online in some fashion so that I can access it from other computers and/or internet connected devices should the need arise.

I’ve setup my office email to use IMAP, so that my inbox is stored on my mail server and not locally on my computer. What does this really mean? It means that my inbox is accessible from my desktop computer, my laptop, my cellphone (Motorola Droid), my iPad, and from any web browser. This access makes me productive at work because throughout the evening as I receive emails, I read and delete them; whether sitting at my daughter’s gymnastic class from my phone, or sitting on my couch at night with my iPad playing a game, I periodically take 1 minute to check my mail and remove anything I don’t need or flag anything that I need to respond to/follow up on the next day. Doing this gives me a clean inbox each morning when I arrive to the office. No more spending the first hour of my day on email.

For years I carried around pocket USB flash drives with all of my essential files, including copies of anything I was currently working on or files that I may need at any given moment. Now, instead of a flash drive, I use DropBox. I have the DropBox application on my laptop and desktop, so whenever I save a file to “My Documents,” it instantly syncs between both computers. I also have the DropBox app for my iPad and Droid, so when I’m on the road I can access files from anywhere.

Not only does DropBox allow me access to all of my important documents, it also gives me a backup of my documents should one of my devices fail. This type of peace-of-mind is priceless.

Google Calendar is wonderful. Accessible from an application on my Droid and iPad, as well as any web browser, I always know what’s going on and when. I have 5 different calendars, one for work, one for family events, a personal calendar, a calendar for my wife’s schedule, and one for all my bills. Whether on vacation or just out of the office for a day, I always know what needs taken care of and nothing ever slips through the cracks (unless I forget to put it on my calendar... which happens more than I’d like to admit).

Using an application called EverNote, I create shopping lists and jot notes to myself whenever I need to from whatever device I’m currently using. I also keep some notes that are import to me like my home IP address, WEP key, etc. Once I create these notes they are accessible from my Droid, iPad, computer, and the web. I love looking through the Sunday ads and typing my shopping list on my iPad or computer and then going to the store with just my cellphone and having access to the list, it’s such a time saver.

I keep my address book in Google Mail’s contact area. It instantly syncs with my iPad and Droid. I can export it to my computer to do mass mailings (for business or personal use), and I categorize everyone into any different groups so that I can quickly filter out who should receive my mail, whether it’s physical mail or email.

While not business oriented, all of my devices provide me entertainment in some way, and again, this entertainment of often synchronized between all of my devices so that I spend less time making things work, and more time just enjoying them. For example:

Kindle: I love reading, but don’t carry a book with me all the time. Reading on my actual Kindle device is by far my favorite reading because the screen is so clear and it’s like reading a regular book; however, I always have my cellphone, or iPad, or a computer near me. With all of the Kindle applications available, I never have to be away from my book. If I get some free time at work I can just open the Kindle application and read my book from desk on my monitors. If I make an impromptu hair cut appointment I can read from my cellphone while I wait for my turn in the chair. If I’m in the car with my iPad (which I carry with me all the time in case I need to connect to my office and fix anything that’s broken), I can read when I get bored. All of my books are accessible from all my devices and Kindle WhisperSync keeps my book page synchronized at all times, so I’m never worried about where I am in the book.

Netflix: With Netflix streaming video, I (or my wife and daughter) can watch movies and television shows from any of our computers, our televisions (which are all hooked up to the internet), or from my iPad. What’s great is when we stop what we’re watching and switch devices, we can resume the show from right where we left off. No fast forwarding and trying to remember where it stopped, just click “Resume” and we’re good to go.

SlingBox: Having a SlingBox hooked up to our living room TV gives us access to live television, as well as our DVR from virtually anywhere with internet access. With an iPhone (which is installable on the iPad) and Droid app, I never have to be without television. Now, honestly, I don’t use my SlingBox very often but it is very nice to have instant access to my child’s favorite TV shows (which we DVR) no matter where we’re at. If she’s restless in the stroller or in the car, I can hand her my iPad or cellphone and give her some entertainment.
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