Saturday, 7 March 2009

Google me up

Sorry if this is at all incoherent, I ended up getting a bit distracted, so I've lost my train of thought (although I think it may have finished) and can't be bothered reading it through, sorry.

There's many things I don't like about the internet, which I can't be bothered listing, but there are also many things I do like about it, and Google is one of them, more the company than the search engine.

I currently use Googlemail and blog using that account, I also have all my contacts in Googlemail now (something that didn't take long to set up) and use Google calendars, which I sync using Google sync with surprising effectiveness, meaning that I no longer fear that if both my PC and phone die at the same time I loose all my contact details. The concept of a single unified system for storing my important data, whilst a little scary in many ways, is also quite comforting. I trust Google to have decent security and systems set up that if a server does fail somewhere, I'm not going to lose all my data and I trust them not to sell all my various details to third party companies resulting in massive span. What makes it all so wonderful is that it's free (and I tempt fate saying such things), but I think that if it came to it, I wouldn't mind hugely paying a small amount for it, but I really hope that doesn't happen any time soon. I'm a huge fan, for obvious reasons, of free alternatives to stuff, Thunderbird for example (with it's various add ons and easy interface it makes outlook mostly pointless).

Which incidentally leads me further into my joy of Google and open source type things. When I finally decided to bite the bullet and try as best I could to own the stuff I had or get rid of it entirely I was left with a slight problem. Outlook gave way to Thunderbird, I was already a Firefox convert (from it's relatively early days) so why not use their mail service as it must be good too, and the rest of office went for OpenOffice, which is a reasonable replacement. However, I had recently moved to Googlemail, as my Hotmail account had become the latest victim of spam, and at the time Thunderbird only supported POP3 for Googlemail accounts resulting in a messy situation where if I ever used the online email viewer I'd have to select all my previously read emails in Thunderbird and set them to read, which was a bit annoying, but live able. It didn't take long however for Googlemail to release IMAP compatability meaning that my emails where now synchronised on both their servers and in Thunderbird, happy days. Thunderbird being part of the Mozilla project meant that it had a variety of add ons which could be used and one which I downloaded was Lightening as I was looking for a way of having an integrated calendar system like I had with Office that would sync to the phone I had (either a smartphone or an old PDA phone), but again, unfortunately I was foiled and had to resign myself to the fact that I didn't really have enough appointments to warrant it. So finally I decided that instead of having to always installing Outlook so I could backup my contacts whenever I changed phone or reformatted my computer, I'd prefer a more central place to store them. As it happened Googlemail had a contact system which I mostly used for email contacts and had very few other details, but the thought of going through all my contacts (which admittedly isn't that huge, but will still take a while) and add them into Googlemail was not exactly appealing. So I finally get an iPhone and sync all my contacts from outlook onto it and go about my merry way still wondering what's the best thing to do, having also noticed iTunes telling me I could use Google Contacts to sync that stuff, my interest was again aroused, but my laziness held me back. And then Google Sync came along, in beta, I do like betas they're always so much fun to try something that could potentially not work properly. Yet this isn't the case with Google Sync. I can't quite remember what I had to do, but it was pretty painless and the results are brilliant. It allowed me to relatively painlessly sync all my contacts to Googlemail (I did have to merge a few contacts and trim some excess fat from my contacts, but it was all quite simple) and set up a calendar on my iPhone that syncs with Googlemail too. All that automatically sync when I add new data on either my iPhone or my computer all via an exchange server set up by Google (currently for no cost). Finally back to my Thunderbird woes, Lightning has a Google calendars add on which sync with the internet and thus my iPhone and I'm currently looking into having all my Google contacts sync with Thunderbird too, I forgot to look at this earlier, but it should be easy enough.

So all my various information is now up in "The Cloud", lets hope it doesn't rain and they all fall out.

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