Saturday, March 26, 2011

One week with my head in the clouds....

I’ve been pretty exclusively living the cloud dream for a week now. My email and office productivity applications are on google, Gmail and Docs. I even migrated one of our internal sharepoint sites to Google sites. My OS is Joli OS, which is a cloud PC, so no Windows 7 running underneath it all.

So far it has been a decent experience. 

I figure other people are looking at doing the same thing. I know Enterasys is working with Appirio to kick off a pilot next month with 30 or so employees. My experiment is a more of a proof of concept than a real pilot. These users will be shown Gmail and have their outlook replaced with this. We’ll setup calendar synch and free busy sharing so it won’t be that disruptive.


First I think most of us use web based email for our home emails anyway, so it really shouldn’t be that big of a change for most people.

Priority inbox is definitely my favorite features. I’m not sure how it figures out which emails are important, but it does a really good job of doing it. This allows me to focus on the emails that need a quick response first and then deal with the rest of it when I get time.

Labels are great. When I was on outlook I would file my emails based on sender instead of topic, because I could only choose one file to put them in. Arguably search is good enough that I can still find them, but having the ability to put multiple labels on an email is a better solution.

There are some cool Outlook 2010 features I miss, like mailbox cleanup, which removes duplicate messages in a thread. I really miss being able to easily insert screenshots and images. With Gmail I need to take a screenshot, save the screenshot then upload it to my email. It’s not horrible, but it’s not as easy as pulling down a list of my active screens and choosing one.

Generally I think the user interface is better in outlook. Performance seems to be about the same. Using Joli OS I couldn’t do offline mode for my email, which sort of stinks. I use cached outlook all the time since many times where I live connectivity is spotty at best. I suspect this is as much a problem with my OS as gmail.

Google Sites

Google sites works well. It was easy to bring up a new site and moving new content in was a breeze. I also have the option to share this with people outside of my domain, something I can’t do myself in Sharepoint. I need to have a new site created on an extranet site and that means I need someone in the IT Web team to help me.

It was easy to add new documents especially if they were already in google docs. they have a ton of templates and gadgets, though most of the gadgets seem more focused on consumers. I can’t imaging I need a pacman gadget in my intranet, though it could make the day go by faster.

Generally I like it. I do want to spend some time trying to build a google gadget. I was looking for one that let me grab part of a website so I could quickly “integrate” with legacy web systems. I’m dying to find one that lets me map cube or office locations on a map based on the username. I’m surprised I can’t find one so I can type in a persons name and have their location shown on an office map.  Looking for “google map office location” is not the way to find this.....

It is very easy for me to spin up  a site and start collaborating with people outside of my domain and it warns me when I try to share it with someone external to me. Nice....


Well I’m writing this in docs, and it works fine. Frankly I think most people that hate the ribbon will love this version since it looks like Word used to. I can link to URL’s, include images, do bullets, all the things I normally do in a document.

I haven’t tried doing fancier stuff like newsletters, but I don’t normally do that in Word either.

Presentations are, at least to me, about the same. It took me a while to figure out how to put the corporate template online, but I also had no idea how it was done in PowerPoint either. It seems to work a little differently and I essentially created 4 slides that look the new slides with the right header and footer and you have to duplicate them. In presentations, saying new slide, gets you a blank one not a branded one.

One cool feature when you insert a video, it automatically searches for a video with the title of the slide. It didn’t do that for images which would be nice.

The big win though is really with collaboration. I can share the documents externally or with others in my company and we can all, at the same time, work on the document together. We’ve actually stopped mailing copies around, wait for exeryone to make their changes than some poor guy, usually me, has to merge them all back together. Now we just send out the link and work on it. No need to check in and out like in sharepoint 2007. I think sharepoint 2010 is better than 2007 but still not as good as google docs.

The other great collaboration feature, that got turned on this week, is the ability to start a discussion in a document (or spreadsheet, presentation etc). The discussion remains with the document until it is deleted. You can also resolve the discussion and leave it with the document. I can imagine this being a very popular feature.

Joli OS

So this is actually one of the main reasons I love the google vision. I have an operating system that runs really fast (boots in something ¼ of the time) and since all it does is web, no other processes compete for resources. It’s way faster than my windows 7 box, which lately has had many processes running away and killing performance.

Even cooler though is the fact that since everything is in the cloud if this machine dies, I don’t lose anything. Now arguable you could do this with Windows too, but if you have space on a local disk, everyone uses it and none of us back it up.

Also I can get to my desktop from any machine. They are even working on an ipad and android version so I can synch my desktop between my ipad, my Dell and my EVO.

Now it’s by no means perfect in fact some things are just annoying. For example I can;t lock my screen. I can sleep or hibernate but neither of these options seem to come back correctly. Or it will lock if idle for a few minutes, when I need to go now, I like to be able to hit ctrl-alt-del and lock it up.

I also have some java applications that work fine in windows, but not in joli OS. I think these are application issues, but it’s still a pain.

The most annoying thing though is I can’t get dual displays working. I love having two monitors, so much so that I installed “Air Display” so when I’m home I can use my ipad as a second screen. If there is a way to do this, I can’t figure it out.


So after a week, I’d call it a success. I am able to work, some things are easier, some are harder, but I also think it will get better. Joli releases new updates every few months, Google every week has something new. I won’t see anything drastic from Windows 7 or Exchange until 2013. I’m pretty sure by then the cloud will be better and I won’t have to upgrade.

As much as I hate to say it, I’m a cloud believer....

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