Life in the Cloud

by | Dec 20, 2011

Due to a chain of circumstances that I won’t bore you with, I realized last week that I needed a new computer.

This seems only slightly insane, since I have two computers sitting on my desk. And three unplugged under the desk.

It was somewhere around the time my iMac crashed for the 73rd time, this time right in the middle of an interview I was recording. It will be repaired, but in my present business I can’t really afford to try to use an iPad for 5 days and computer repairs are an inevitable part of being in business.

Here’s where it got interesting.

Migrate? With What?

I started thinking about migrating data and programs from one machine to another, but for some reason I kept drawing a blank.

Then I realized why: so much of what I do I’ve already moved to the cloud or to other people’s servers.

I’ve got a backup disk with lots of gigabytes of stuff, but most of my critical files are backed up with various services like Dropbox. I’ve got files on my web host servers, files on and

Most of the files on our backup discs are about the past, and we’ll probably never look at them again.

It’s like the paper files stashed in filing cabinets everywhere. Some estimates say that 90% of them will never see the light of day again. But for some reason, we need to keep them.

Looking at the new iMac, I decided to see if I could operate it more like a hybrid of a terminal. Although it has software on it, most of it is for connecting to cloud services.

I sat down and after going through the obligatory Apple setup, I immediately downloaded Google’s Chrome browser.

I set up and logged into my main social media and membership accounts:

  • Twitter
  • Google+
  • Goodreads
  • Third Tribe
  • Flickr

I felt quite at home, but I had no files. In quick order, I installed:

  • Dropbox
  • Evernote
  • Skype
  • EZs3

In a couple of cases, like the handy Call Recorder utility for Skype, I had to send an installer file over from my larger machine. But it all took less than 40 minutes.

With WordPress for blogging, and the handy iA Writer App for dealing with text files, I felt ready to go. This blog post is the result.

Can You Live in the Clouds?

Looking at this modern little computer gave me a good feeling. When you spend time writing, rather than designing books and covers, the big monitors that are so handy for graphics work become a liability.

Over a year of writing on my iPad has taught me this: distraction-free writing environments help focus, and you can be much more productive.

So it’s going to be an experiment. All the graphics can stay on the big screen, and the rest of our work can easily move to smaller screens and more intimate devices.

In that scenario, the cloud is pretty much all you need. And while I’m trying to figure out the new Magic Mouse—a little slippery bar of soap that’s been gifted with the touch interface—I’m starting to wonder what’s going to fill up that 1T drive this thing came with?

Have you found yourself migrating to the cloud and similar services? Has it affected your workflow? I think it’s the shape of the future, starting now.

Photo by Fractal Artist

tbd advanced publishing starter kit


  1. Sharon Beck

    We recently received 43 gig of raw scans from a friend we had provided source material for. He had used them for books, but had been unable to sell them as a batch. So we are uploading them to our cloud while keeping them on thumb drives, keeping our hard drives cleared of the mass of files. Well worth it. Cloud backup of archival/source material is so useful.

  2. J S

    The cloud can be be a liability (is the internet ever out…)

    I run a full Linux shop. I use a Network Attached Server to store files in ( now but also used using a RAID setup – so if one HDD goes down the data is still there. Then less frequent hard backups to DVD.

    The other thing I do .. I carry a flash drive around with both my OS and storage space. I can boot up Linux on any machine (such as the machine at the library) and be in a ‘home’ environment practically anywhere. Look up LiveUSB or LiveCD on your favorite search engine.

    • Joel Friedlander

      J S,

      Thanks for the input. Yes, the internet does go down. I had a RAID setup on a network of Windows machines at one time, until 3 of the 4 drives crashed one night, taking all the data with them. Luckily, we were running nightly tape backups. We’ll just have to keep cobbling together our own solutions to this situation, I suppose.

  3. Rinn Falconer

    Absolutely. I use Android products, but have had much the same evolutionary workflow experiences Joel.

    I have a 10″ Samsung tablet that I now do 95% of my computing on. I was skeptical that I could write/type on this unit effectively, but a bit of time invested in retraining myself has paid off. The key for me was to find a keyboard I was comfortable with (turned out to be Hacker’s Keyboard). If I really needed a physical keyboard for some reason, the charging base is also a keyboard that the tab plugs into.

    I also use Dropbox, which creates a seamless environment between the various machines in my home. If I have 5 minutes to kill in a lineup somewhere, I can whip out my smartphone and get some proofreading done easily.

    On the tablet I still have full read/write access to Excel files for chapterlists, .Doc files, etc. I haven’t lost anything and have gained quite a bit. It hasn’t all been roses, but the benefits have outweighed the bugs so far. Dropbox did have an episode a while ago where their password protection failed, but let’s hope they don’t have a repeat performance of that. Ever.

    I stream internet music while I write. Thousands to choose from, each playing music of a reliable type, and commercial free.

    What I find interesting, and even a bit amusing is how unintentional all of this has been – I’ve just been following the path of least resistance.

    • Joel Friedlander

      Rinn, that sounds a lot like my own experience with the iPad, which I’ve written about here several times. Although I don’t do the majority of my computing on it, I do almost all my writing this way. For graphics it’s not useful, and I certainly couldn’t lay out a book on the iPad or create reproduction PDFs.

      I also found the addition of a keyboard was the critical step. Luckily, with the iPad you can use the standard Apple bluetooth keyboard. Even today I frequently get people stopping at my little “writing studio” in the local Starbucks to check out the setup because it’s so minimal. Good luck with your tablet.

  4. Stephen Godden

    Cloud computing is part of the future, but, to my mind, your hard-drive should be used to keep the maxim “always make back-ups”. Be a shame to lose all your content if the cloud suffers a catastrophic collapse at some point.

    Yeah I know, security is built in, multiple back-up servers, and so forth, but there are two laws that relate to computing. Moore’s Law and Murphy’s Law. Don’t let the exponential delight of one, blind you to the historical despair of the other.

    IMHO of course :)

    • Joel Friedlander

      Stephen, I wholeheartedly agree. If I’ve learned anything since I bought my first PC in 1986, it’s that your hardrive will probably fail. I now use the Time Machine backup with an external hard drive on all my Macs, and also keep copies of especially critical info both locally and remotely. It doesn’t mean I’ll never suffer a data loss, but when it happens next, I hope to keep it from being catastrophic. Thanks for the reminder.



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