Putting My Life In The Cloud


I'm currently (Feb 2010) using a Nokia N900 (which is pretty nice, but not perfect ) as a smartphone, having been a very long time PalmOS user (I'm pretty sure some of the data on my Treo has been there since it was a Palm III in ... 1996?).

As such, the move is pretty non-trivial; there's a lot of data permeating many aspects of my life. Thankfully, not as much as many other people, but it's hampered that the vast majority of it is only on my PalmOS device; I've never been much of a PIM person or anything like that; I don't normally access this data from any other applications.

The biggest hassles I've had with my PalmOS device have all been around data synchronization and remote access. The big "oh wow this sucks" moment was when I was in the middle of writing a book on the thing (no, really; it's novel length, and was written entirely on PalmOS devices, starting in Graffiti, which only proves that I'm insane). I had set things up so that the writing I did would get exported to wiki pages online for other people to see, and they did. Then they started sending me emails with suggestions and corrections and stuff... and the only way I had to integrate the corrections was to print out the emails, take them with me on the train, make edits on my PDA, and make notes on the paper emails if I disagreed with something, and then turn those notes into email replies.

I cannot overemphasize how much that sucked, bearing in mind that the point of a PDA is to save time. I considered technical solutions to the problem, but realized fairly quickly that when your plans involve automated runs of 3diff as a method to manage synchronization without user intervention, it's time to come up with other plans.

Then people started using new-fangled gadgets that did web stuff decently well, and cell phone companies started coming up with plans for web access that didn't make me gasp in horror at the cost, and at first I was like "enh", because the time when I'm away from a computer is, for the most part, a good thing for me. But then I thought "Hey, I could do my writings on a wiki directly and skip all that bullshit I had to deal with before". This is a killer app for me; writing on the subway or train is all kinds of nice for me. From that moment on it was only a matter of time.

The Point

The philosophical thrust of "hey, wouldn't it be great if I could just edit wiki pages directly from my phone?" combined fairly quickly with "wow, porting all this data is gonna suck; I don't ever want to do this again" in my head, to lead to a very significant decision:

I don't want there to be any data I can't lose without remorse on the phone itself, ever.

I don't just mean "I want good backups", I mean that I should be able to interact with any important data on the phone via some other means, in more-or-less real time, without worrying about synchronization or backups.

In other words, like the aforementioned wiki/writing issues, but everything. The obvious solution there is to move everything to web apps, because we've reached the point where that actually is perfectly sensible for just about everything on my PDA. The kids these days call the place where I'm planning to put my data "the cloud". (Just so I don't give the impression of actually being a cantankerous old luddite, I work for EngineYard right now; I know shit about the cloud that "the kids these days" can't even imagine. Hell, I've forgotten things about the 'net that most people wouldn't understand without 5+ hours of explanation. I just liked the phrase.)

There are going to be exceptions, of course; I'm not sticking all my music in The Cloud(tm), I'm just going to sync it to the device (the N900 has rsync! swooon) like a normal human being.

But everything that can reasonably be cloudified, will be. That's my over-arching goal here.

What To Replace, With What

Long-Form Writing

This one's easy: I run my own wikis. Smartphone do wikis. Done. (And, in fact, a great deal of my phone purchase research was geared towards this.)

This has the signifcant advantage of being way, way better than either the PalmOS memo app or pedit32, which is what I used as an alternative. The size limits really drove me nuts. Being able to use vim (even with the annoyance of c&p to and from the browser) is just gravy.


As a general comment, there is no better way to learn vocabulary than a good spaced-repitition flashcard program, and you can fake a lot with respect to languauges if you have the vocabulary down.

I was using SuperMemo for PalmOS. This one's actually being a bit tricky. There are a bunch of flashcard sites, but many of them are pretty half-assed in the quality of their spaced repitition and it's a hard thing to evaluate quickly. Also, one of the front-runners, smart.fm, currently doesn't support mass card adding. Suggestions welcome.


Just quick jotting down of ideas sort of stuff. I've mostly used the PalmOS memo for this... you really can't get a lot worse than that. I'd like something with tags, because my stuff tends to get pretty unorganized.

The front runner right now is http://threetags.com/, primarily because of the whole hierarchical tag concept. Evernote concentrates primarily on non-text stuff, and I'll probably use it for picture sharing and such. Other suggestions welcome, as always.


On my Palm devices I used STRIP for those site passwords and accounts and such that I used infrequently enough to not always remember. Also things like credit card information should I lose my wallet, that sort of thing.

While this had nothing to do with why I started using it, http://threetags.com/ is supposed to do client-side encryption, which makes is appropriate for this.

On the other hand, sometimes I'm going to need that stuff offline. I think that http://threetags.com/ has export, and the export can be GPGd; if so, it's just a matter of a couple of scripts.


So, the big player here is Google Calendar. It's important to me that friends be able to share my calendars without too much trouble (i.e. without having to sign up for Yet Another Site). Having said that, Google Calendar is kinda weak as a calendar. The "try out our beta stuff" button just gave access to half-way decent repeat options. It still doesn't have what DateBk5 calls "floating events"; basically tasks, but you can say "alarm for this task every day at 11:00 until I finish it".

So, is there anything better that's equally accessible?


This is extra nice for me, because it means dropping a device from my usual pile (my rockbox-running sansa). Nothing to do with the cloud, except that the music lives on one of my home servers and will just get synced to the phone (as was the case with my sansa). There's a graphical rsync in the extras app list; how cool is that?!?

On the other hand, the FM transmitter is nigh useless, and the volume transmitted to me bluetooth headset is noticeably quieter than my sansa was (I have no idea how that even makes sense, but there it is). Hardly show-stoppers, though.

Dictionary Lookup

I regularly used my Palm device to do Lojban word lookup. This is something that must be local to the device, but ideally would sync from an online source (i.e. jbovlaste. I'm fine with hacking together my own program or script for this, but perhaps there's something out there I can use.

Ah, I see QStarDict in the app list; will have to play with that.


Show PHP error messages