As a new mom, I’ve been reading a lot of books/magazines/pamphlets inside diaper boxes/Web sites that emphasize the importance of establishing a routine with your baby. With me, they are preaching to the choir. There are few people that appreciate the importance of routine more than I do. And when it comes to work, my routine relies on the computer – but not just any computer. My computer. With my desktop icons arranged just so, my Firefox plug-ins in place, my calendar events color-coded, emails sorted by project, and tasks neatly tagged and arranged in Outlook, I’ve spent the last three years with my computer creating an work-efficiency powerhouse.
So a few weeks ago I started bawling like a baby about to cut a tooth when my computer began its slow ascent into computer heaven. It wouldn’t go quietly – one day it would work, the next day it wouldn’t. For weeks I bounced between machines at work, at home, even at my father-in-law’s house. And even when it finally took its last breath, I was still a few weeks away from getting new a computer, so I continued doing a shuffle between various work and home machines. In the past few weeks, I have worked quasi-regularly on seven different computers. Some stayed in my comfort zone (like my blazing fast home desktop), and some were well out of it (like the backup of the backup laptop here in the office).
I had a hard time coping those first few weeks of the great computer shuffle. But I found my own personal pacifier: the “cloud”. If I was going to move from computer to computer, I needed to start moving the basis of my operations from the thick client of a hard drive to the thin client of the Internet.
It was hard at first, but I managed, and even became comfortable, working with online services. Am I a permanent cloud-hopper? No. But I feel I can weather the crisis of a broken computer in stride now.
Here’s a look at some of the services I used:
- Microsoft Outlook Web Access – There was simply no getting around this one. I needed to check my email and update my calendar. It was nearly unbearable, but I made it through. I got by managing email and calendar, but I simply could not organize my tasks within this paltry interface.
- Remember the Milk – RTM is my lovey – now that I have it, I can’t live without it, and I take it with me everywhere. Where Outlook Web Access failed in my task organization, RTM picked up the slack and then some, so much so, that I’ve stuck with RTM. RTM allows me to quickly enter, tag, schedule, and search all my tasks.
- Meebo – Nothing was more frustrating than installing and reinstalling instant messaging clients, sometimes having my buddy list carry over, sometimes not. Meebo came to my rescue. I logged in once, and there was my full buddy list. Meebo did a great job when I was in need. But in the end, I just missed too many IMs as the client just sat in dozens of Firefox tabs I had open.
- Google Docs – While I had MS Office on every computer I used during this time, I never knew from one day to the next which version it would have, or whether I could use it to connect to our network. So any document I had to look at during this time, as long as it wasn’t super-secret or sensitive, found its way into my Google Docs. Additionally, I did not have access to OnTime, a tool we use for Bug tracking here at Beaconfire. So instead, I would use a Google Spreadsheet for bug tracking. It wasn’t ideal, but it got the job done.