2013-03-24

[Technology] Computing Independence Project

That's not a real project name (well, it might be, but it would be someone else's).



Largely due to the inevitable Breaking of Trust between Google and myself (that is, their cancelling of Google Reader), I'm compelled to re-establish my technological independence, which is to say I need to shift myself towards open source solutions that I control.



In the short term, it will mean finding or creating open source software that handles my common tasks.  One interesting challenge is, because I now use a mobile phone, I can't rely simply on desktop applications, of which many exist.  I can't simply use Evolution for my calendar, or Liferea for RSS reading, because I want to be able to have that information available and synchronised with my phone.



I don't think I'll find a perfect solution in a timely manner, but I need to at least start moving in that direction.  It's not just for my benefit; I feel like it's preferable for users to not be at the mercy of a distant party who controls both access to your data and access to the software you use with it.  Very importantly, it needs to be easy to switch to and use.  A solution isn't a good alternative if a user has to read a manual and spend half a day setting something up.



Here are some things that I want


  • a personal data store that I can host myself


    • needs to store calendaring data, mail, contacts, tasks, RSS items, perhaps even photos, and basically the state of any application information

    • needs to be "secure"


  • a set of mobile apps that can access my data


    • they need to be open source

    • right now, run on Android


  • a set of desktop/web apps that can access my data 


    • right now, run in GNOME or Firefox

    • ideally, they should be able to replicate all my favourite functionality




Task Management


I've been surprised that after a decade of waiting, Google still hasn't released a good task/todo list manager.  In some ways, I've been holding back my digital management of tasks because of this.  I've used a few different apps, but they haven't had good synchronisation between my desktop experience and my phone experience.   Google provided a token Tasks pop-up in Gmail and hasn't done much since.  I'm generally better off e-mailing myself to-do items, using the calendar to schedule some, and a spreadsheet to collect long term goals. It's a mess.


Photo Sharing


PicasaWeb has already been scheduled for sunsetting, but that was nominally alright because Google+ subsumed that functionality.  I was initially wary that G+ would be cancelled soon (like Wave) but as it became more integral to the identify portion of Google, I thought I'd be safe. Given that Reader has been cancelled despite having more active users than G+, I'm not sure my photos are really safe there.



One problem with hosting my own photos is bandwidth.  I'm with TekSavvy, but I'm not sure what experience running a webserver sharing my photos will give.  I'm not sure how to make albums easily sharable on existing social networks.  I'd like photo to still be instantly uploaded from my mobile device to the photo sharing service.



At the very least, I could back-up regularly all my album information from G+/PicasaWeb right now, so I could recreate them later when I absolutely had to.  I wouldn't really need to re-download most photos because they're generally already saved to my hard drive, save some that were web-edited.


Blogging


Oh boy.  I really do like Blogger.  Ah well!


Mail, Calendaring, Office, etc.


Basically, I need to do a lot of research for existing options.  Of course I don't want to create anything new or large.  I just want to identify major entities that have promising futures.  (At least with open source, if they're future collapses, what you've already had isn't taken away from you.)



Let me know if there's any sort of web activity that I might want to re-evaluate.  I'd be happy to hear your suggestions.





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