If you access the internet from only one device this article won’t mean much to you, so I won’t mind if you go read something more interesting.
However, if you own a computer and a tablet, or a computer, smartphone and tablet, then reading about Evernote and Dropbox might be worth a few minutes of your time. If you’re like me and juggle a lot of devices then learning to squirrel your digital crap all over the cloud becomes more vital. At home I have both a Windows and Linux desktop, at work I have Windows, Linux and Mac desktops, and between the two locations I have an iPod touch and iPad 2.
What a pain it is to think of something you want and realize you left it in your other computer. Moving to the cloud is in its early stages, so 100% tried and true solutions are in the future. As society evolves towards the day when internet access has five nines of uptime, 99.999%, then we can develop a new paradigm of trusting our files to the cloud, and that will be the difference between life before personal computers and life after them.
Although I’d like to be a cyborg and meld my brain with silicon I’m not quite there yet, but I do think of the Internet as my auxiliary brain and that presents some problems. Before the Internet going to work meant leaving my main auxiliary brain at home – how inconvenient. Sure, someone invented the laptop and it was a good idea at the time, but it was only a stopgap solution. After we got smartphones and tablets it became pretty obvious trying to sync all our crap between every device we owned was a losing battle. The solution was to put all digital kipple in one location and then let all the machines, big and small, fetch what we needed from that primary storage.
What this means is the cloud is our new auxiliary memory and the machine we use is less important. The old fanboy battle between PC versus Mac becomes silly. If I can read my docs, listen to my music and look at my photos from any device, does it matter how big or small it is, or who made it, or even who owns it? Instant access is what counts. Memories are best served fast.
When the cloud becomes our digital memory deciding how to organize memories becomes significant. I’m playing with two tools, Dropbox and Evernote. Both are free to use with an introductory amount of cloud space, but fill up your cloud attic, and you’ll have to pay for more space for your white elephants. That’s cool, but I haven’t committed to either one yet because I’m still evaluating how they store my memories. I’ll probably buy into both, but I haven’t decided.
Dropbox is like having a hard drive in the cloud. You create folders and store whatever kind of files you want. It’s very computer centric. When you join you get 2gb of free space. If you convince a friend to join they give you another 250mb of space. If you get enough friends to join you can get up to 8gb of free space, but after that you rent larger blocks of space. By the way, if you join from this link I’ll earn some extra space.
Evernote is different, it’s database centric. Evernote is a free-form database where you leave notes, either ones you type, or ones you email via a smartphone, or clip from the web, or cut and paste from your own computer documents. You can even embed PDF files. If you spend $45 a year, upgrading to the Premium version, gets you more memory processing features and more storage space.
The neat thing about Evernote is being able to search your collection of notes. Since I’m getting old and the access speed on my biological memory has become erratic, untrustworthy and slow, having cloud base memory with search is nifty indeed. Because Evernote is a free-form database, throw your data in any old way, it doesn’t matter, and let search find it for you. You can be as sloppy or neat as your personality.
Both programs install as programs on your computers, work from web apps, or install as apps on iOS and Android smartphones and tablets.
I can access Evernote and Dropbox from my PC, Mac, Linux, iPad, and iPod touch. If I think of something I want to remember, or read something I want to remember, I can choose to remember it the old way, or I can memorize it in my auxiliary memory.
JWH – 1/24/12