Friday, December 01, 2006

The Itinerant Techie's Kitbag

In my job I get sent to many different places to do many different things. However, wherever I go, there are some basic tools and resources that I need to have access to . Tools which, when I first started, were all located on my laptop, or even worse my home PC. Over the last year, and mainly by stealing things I see other people using, I've built up a browser based kit bag which allows me to free myself from my thick client and become as flexible as possible. The goodies are:
  • Email - Simple really, but I used to use a thick (Thunderbird) client to my web mail. Recently web UI's (with the dawn of ubiquitous AJAX) have become very rich. Sign up for something like google mail or yahoo mail and learn the keyboard shortcuts. Oh, and keep your personal emails out of your work mailbox. Makes separation easier when you leave! If possible, add a widget to your shiny new web desktop (see below) so you can see what's in your inbox without having to have the page open. Oh and learn to use labels.
  • Calendar - Have one, and one only. Again, I used to use my Outlook calendar. Then Google came along with one which integrated perfectly with my GMail. Get it to send you reminders. Same as the webmail, if possible add the widget to your new web desktop (see below) to see your calendar in miniature.
  • Contacts - Again, put them in one place. Upload them all to your webmail service. GMail lets you upload CSV files which you can dump out of your thick mail client. Whenever a new contact comes along, make sure you add them.
  • RSS Feeds - Get yourself a web desktop such as Google IG or Netvibes. Make it your home page. Create yourself some tabs to keep things organised and subscribe to all your RSS feeds in one place.
  • To Do List - Using the web desktop mentioned above, find the To Do List Widget and add it to your front page.
  • Post It's / Short Notes - Like when you have to take notes during a phone conversation - phone numbers and the like. Yet again, find the web desktop widget and add it.
  • Bookmarks - Free your bookmarks from your browser! Move them all to something like Now you can get at them from everywhere. And you're sharing them too. If you're interested in a freinds bookmarks, add the RSS feed for their page to your web desktop.
  • Research Jottings - Start doing research on the web, using the web. Get a Google Notebook account and start sharing what you collect.
  • Writing Documents and Spreadsheets - Stop doing them locally with Excel and Word and then sending out various copies and trying to merge in all the changes when you get them back. Get a Google Docs and Spreadsheets account and collaborate!
  • Publish Information - If you have come across something you think others can make use of, publish it. Get yourself a blog for free and start letting others know what you know. Then incorporate their feedback.
  • Instant Messaging / Web Conferencing - Collaborate across great distances for free with Google Talk or Skype. Get a headset to speak rather than type, web cams to see who you're talking too and shared drawing boards with uSeeToo. Store your Skype contacts centrally with Skype v.3.0.
  • Podcasts - Subscribe to your favourite podcasts with iTunes. Charge up your iPod before you hit the road and keep up to date with all the news and tunes you need while away from your desk.
  • Pics - Finally, it's nice to share your pics. There are loads of cool and free photo sharing tools out there such as Flickr!, Google Photos, or PhotoBucket. Get your freinds to join too so they can see the private pics you don't want the world to see. Maybe even get involved in some groups and see what others are doing.
  • Disk Storage - This is something I don't yet use, and it's rumored that Google are working on a Google Disk. If you have any recommendations for a web disk, leave a comment and let me know.
Well, that's it. It's worth saying that you can make integration with all of these tools far easier by employing the browser plugins and extensions which many of these tools make available or have been provided by nice third parties. I use loads with Firefox 2.0 and have buttons for, right click to blog something, quick toolbar access to Notebook and a "new mail" notifier. This kind of breaks the model as you to have these installed on a machine, but they're nice to come home to after you've been using someone elses system for a while.

Oh and one more thing, if you can control what you install on your local systems and it's Firefox try Google Browser Synch. This means that all the Firefoxes you use can have the same remembered passwords, search history etc. Very clever.

If anyone has any other options, comments or things to add, please add a comment.

No comments: