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Firefox OS: Why My Hard Drive & Software are Obsolete

Firefox OS: Why My Hard Drive & Software are Obsolete
Firefox

    While the debate of Windows v. Mac v. Linux rages on, at times rising to a roar in certain circles, I meekly raise my hand and offer a newly emerging fourth choice: none of these operating systems really matter anymore.

    Why not? Because for writers like me, and for many others, all the software and storage space you really need is now online. All that matters is that you have your browser — and at the risk of sparking another flame war, I recommend Firefox.

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    Need a word processor, spreadsheet, photo program, or really most anything useful? Old-fashioned desktop applications aren’t necessary anymore, for the most part. You can fire up your browser on any computer, and given a decent internet connection, you’ve got your entire OS and hard drive right there, from anywhere you log in.

    Now, before people start chiming in with “But I need X Application in order to do my work!” I have a disclaimer: my needs are relatively simple, so you may not be able to do what I’ve done. But I’ve intentionally simplified my needs, and for many people, this simplification can not only work, but be better than what’s offered on the desktop.

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    Here’s my Firefox OS, with an intentionally heavy reliance on the Google suite of software:

    • Word processor. I use Google Docs & Spreadsheets. I used its predecessor, Writely, in the past, and it works well. I’ve never been a fan of the bloated MS Word … until recently, I used the much smaller and faster open-source word processor, AbiWord. But when I would forget to email myself a text file from work to home, I cursed myself and made the switch to Google Docs. I haven’t regretted it yet.
    • Spreadsheet. Again, Google Docs & Spreadsheets. It isn’t as feature-rich as Excel or OpenOffice yet, but it does the job for most of my needs. In fact, it’s rare that I ever need anything more, and I suspect that’s the case for most people. And I expect the software to improve over time.
    • Email. This is a no-brainer. Gmail, all the time. It’s so much better than desktop email apps, and better than its competing webmail apps too. Fast, easy to use, powerful searches and features … enough can’t be said about Gmail. It’s my No. 1 app for work and personal use.
    • Feed reader. I’ve tried a lot of blog readers, including some good desktop and online readers. But Google Reader is by far the most efficient. I read it 2-3 times a day, and crank through my feeds. I can get through 100+ posts a day very quickly.
    • Blogging software. For my main blog at Zen Habits, I’ve tried various software, but so far the best for my needs is WordPress. It has everything I need, and is very extensible with lots of great plugins.
    • Photo software. One of the biggest reasons I need a hard drive is for all my photos, at work and home. I’ve solved that with Picasa Web Albums — another Google solution. I tried Flickr, but their free account is too flimsy, and Picasa just works better. Plus, if you like their great desktop software, it’s so perfectly integrated. I just uploaded all my thousands of photos from home, and it’s nicely organized online.
    • Hard drive. What do you need a hard drive for? Besides the space needed to run your system, and software such as your browser, we use hard drives for file storage — for our word processing and spreadsheet documents, photos, music files, PDFs, etc. Well, for the most part, all my files are now saved online. Between Google Docs & Spreadsheets, Gmail, and Picasa, everything I save is stored on the internet. The one thing I haven’t found a perfect solution for is mp3s, but I haven’t been using those much, and I’m sure a solution will turn up soon (let me know in the comments!). Another great solution is online storage such as Box.net, MediaMax (25 GB for free!), Gmail Drive and the like.
    • File management. The main reason for an OS is to manage your files. Well, since all my files are online, that’s now a moot point. How do I manage my files now? Well, as I use mostly Google software, I use Google’s philosophy: tag and archive everything, and use the tags or Google’s fast and powerful searches to find anything you need. This takes a bit of an adjustment on the user’s part, trusting this new paradigm to work, but trust me, it’s much better than filing stuff in folders. You save a heck of a lot of time filing and finding stuff. It’s not hierarchical, so that’s difficult for many people — but it works.
    • Backup system. One of the big problems with a hard drive is the very real possibility that it will crash sometime during its lifetime. And unless you’ve been good at backing up your files, you will lose that data. With all my files saved online, there’s no need to back up these files, which can be time-consuming and troublesome. Good news: most of these services do a good job of backing up your data for you.
    • Calendar. For its ease-of-use and simplicity, Google Calendar (of course). It doesn’t have all the functionality of certain desktop calendar programs, but it works great for me.
    • Bringing it all together. I use a lot of Google apps, but Google’s main problem (for me) so far is that it doesn’t integrate these services well. Well, enter another Google solution: the Google Personalize Homepage. It’s now my home page. But I don’t use it like many others do, with all kinds of fun and distracting widgets, or to read all my blogs. No, I just have all my Google services on this page for easy access, along with quick bookmarks for all the other stuff I use for work and for my blogging, and some stickies for taking quick notes. One page to rule them all.
    • Miscellaneous. I’m a fan of GTD, so I use Tracks for my to-do lists. I use other online software, such as Backpack for keeping other lists, but the ones above are the main apps. I also use AutoHotkey to quickly bring up the pages I use a lot, like Gmail, my to-do lists, my story ideas file, and the like, as well as to type my different signatures and other shortcuts.
    • Firefox, of course. All of this is possible with Internet Explorer or the very good Safari or Opera browsers, but Firefox just makes it that much better. It’s so easy and fast to use, plus there are certain extensions I can’t live without — Foxmarks, Gmail Manager, FireFTP, Download Statusbar and Web Developer among them. Give me Firefox, and I don’t care what brand of OS I’m using.

    Is online software as feature-rich as desktop software? Not yet. But it’s good enough for my simple needs, and it’s getting better all the time.
    Have I really gotten rid of my hard drive and software? Not yet. I still have all my old files on the hard drive, but they’re collecting dust. I no longer store my new files on my hard drive, and I rarely use my old desktop software. I keep them on my computer just in case I need to open up a specially formatted file, but for my nitty-gritty daily work, I don’t need that old software anymore.

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    Someday, none of us will, and the decades-old OS debate will be a thing of the past.

    Leo Babauta is a writer, a marathoner, an early riser, a vegan, and a father of six. He blogs regularly about achieving goals through daily habits on Zen Habits, and covers such topics as productivity, GTD, simplifying, frugality, parenting, happiness, motivation, exercise, eating healthy and more.

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    Leo Babauta

    Founder of Zen Habits and expert in habits building and goals achieving.

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    Last Updated on May 14, 2019

    8 Replacements for Google Notebook

    8 Replacements for Google Notebook

    Exploring alternatives to Google Notebook? There are more than a few ‘notebooks’ available online these days, although choosing the right one will likely depend on just what you use Google Notebook for.

    1. Zoho Notebook
      If you want to stick with something as close to Google Notebook as possible, Zoho Notebook may just be your best bet. The user interface has some significant changes, but in general, Zoho Notebook has pretty similar features. There is even a Firefox plugin that allows you to highlight content and drop it into your Notebook. You can go a bit further, though, dropping in any spreadsheets or documents you have in Zoho, as well as some applications and all websites — to the point that you can control a desktop remotely if you pare it with something like Zoho Meeting.
    2. Evernote
      The features that Evernote brings to the table are pretty great. In addition to allowing you to capture parts of a website, Evernote has a desktop search tool mobil versions (iPhone and Windows Mobile). It even has an API, if you’ve got any features in mind not currently available. Evernote offers 40 MB for free accounts — if you’ll need more, the premium version is priced at $5 per month or $45 per year. Encryption, size and whether you’ll see ads seem to be the main differences between the free and premium versions.
    3. Net Notes
      If the major allure for Google Notebooks lays in the Firefox extension, Net Notes might be a good alternative. It’s a Firefox extension that allows you to save notes on websites in your bookmarks. You can toggle the Net Notes sidebar and access your notes as you browse. You can also tag websites. Net Notes works with Mozilla Weave if you need to access your notes from multiple computers.
    4. i-Lighter
      You can highlight and save information from any website while you’re browsing with i-Lighter. You can also add notes to your i-Lighted information, as well as email it or send the information to be posted to your blog or Twitter account. Your notes are saved in a notebook on your computer — but they’re also synchronized to the iLighter website. You can log in to the site from any computer.
    5. Clipmarks
      For those browsers interested in sharing what they find with others, Clipmarks provides a tool to select clips of text, images and video and share them with friends. You can easily syndicate your finds to a whole list of sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Digg. You can also easily review your past clips and use them as references through Clipmarks’ website.
    6. UberNote
      If you can think of a way to send notes to UberNote, it can handle it. You can clip material while browsing, email, IM, text message or even visit the UberNote sites to add notes to the information you have saved. You can organize your notes, tag them and even add checkboxes if you want to turn a note into some sort of task list. You can drag and drop information between notes in order to manage them.
    7. iLeonardo
      iLeonardo treats research as a social concern. You can create a notebook on iLeonardo on a particular topic, collecting information online. You can also access other people’s notebooks. It may not necessarily take the place of Google Notebook — I’m pretty sure my notes on some subjects are cryptic — but it’s a pretty cool tool. You can keep notebooks private if you like the interface but don’t want to share a particular project. iLeonardo does allow you to follow fellow notetakers and receive the information they find on a particular topic.
    8. Zotero
      Another Firefox extension, Zotero started life as a citation management tool targeted towards academic researchers. However, it offers notetaking tools, as well as a way to save files to your notebook. If you do a lot of writing in Microsoft Word or Open Office, Zotero might be the tool for you — it’s integrated with both word processing software to allow you to easily move your notes over, as well as several blogging options. Zotero’s interface is also available in more than 30 languages.

    I’ve been relying on Google Notebook as a catch-all for blog post ideas — being able to just highlight information and save it is a great tool for a blogger.

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    In replacing it, though, I’m starting to lean towards Evernote. I’ve found it handles pretty much everything I want, especially with the voice recording feature. I’m planning to keep trying things out for a while yet — I’m sticking with Google Notebook until the Firefox extension quits working — and if you have any recommendations that I missed when I put together this list, I’d love to hear them — just leave a comment!

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