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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 July 17, 2019

    The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

    The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

    What happens in our heads when we set goals?

    Apparently a lot more than you’d think.

    Goal setting isn’t quite so simple as deciding on the things you’d like to accomplish and working towards them.

    According to the research of psychologists, neurologists, and other scientists, setting a goal invests ourselves into the target as if we’d already accomplished it. That is, by setting something as a goal, however small or large, however near or far in the future, a part of our brain believes that desired outcome is an essential part of who we are – setting up the conditions that drive us to work towards the goals to fulfill the brain’s self-image.

    Apparently, the brain cannot distinguish between things we want and things we have. Neurologically, then, our brains treat the failure to achieve our goal the same way as it treats the loss of a valued possession. And up until the moment, the goal is achieved, we have failed to achieve it, setting up a constant tension that the brain seeks to resolve.

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    Ideally, this tension is resolved by driving us towards accomplishment. In many cases, though, the brain simply responds to the loss, causing us to feel fear, anxiety, even anguish, depending on the value of the as-yet-unattained goal.

    Love, Loss, Dopamine, and Our Dreams

    The brains functions are carried out by a stew of chemicals called neurotransmitters. You’ve probably heard of serotonin, which plays a key role in our emotional life – most of the effective anti-depressant medications on the market are serotonin reuptake inhibitors, meaning they regulate serotonin levels in the brain leading to more stable moods.

    Somewhat less well-known is another neurotransmitter, dopamine. Among other things, dopamine acts as a motivator, creating a sensation of pleasure when the brain is stimulated by achievement. Dopamine is also involved in maintaining attention – some forms of ADHD are linked to irregular responses to dopamine.[1]

    So dopamine plays a key role in keeping us focused on our goals and motivating us to attain them, rewarding our attention and achievement by elevating our mood. That is, we feel good when we work towards our goals.

    Dopamine is related to wanting – to desire. The attainment of the object of our desire releases dopamine into our brains and we feel good. Conversely, the frustration of our desires starves us of dopamine, causing anxiety and fear.

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    One of the greatest desires is romantic love – the long-lasting, “till death do us part” kind. It’s no surprise, then, that romantic love is sustained, at least in part, through the constant flow of dopamine released in the presence – real or imagined – of our true love. Loss of romantic love cuts off that supply of dopamine, which is why it feels like you’re dying – your brain responds by triggering all sorts of anxiety-related responses.

    Herein lies obsession, as we go to ever-increasing lengths in search of that dopamine reward. Stalking specialists warn against any kind of contact with a stalker, positive or negative, because any response at all triggers that reward mechanism. If you let the phone ring 50 times and finally pick up on the 51st ring to tell your stalker off, your stalker gets his or her reward, and learns that all s/he has to do is wait for the phone to ring 51 times.

    Romantic love isn’t the only kind of desire that can create this kind of dopamine addiction, though – as Captain Ahab (from Moby Dick) knew well, any suitably important goal can become an obsession once the mind has established ownership.

    The Neurology of Ownership

    Ownership turns out to be about a lot more than just legal rights. When we own something, we invest a part of ourselves into it – it becomes an extension of ourselves.

    In a famous experiment at Cornell University, researchers gave students school logo coffee mugs, and then offered to trade them chocolate bars for the mugs. Very few were willing to make the trade, no matter how much they professed to like chocolate. Big deal, right? Maybe they just really liked those mugs![2]

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    But when they reversed the experiment, handing out chocolate and then offering to trade mugs for the candy, they found that now, few students were all that interested in the mugs. Apparently the key thing about the mugs or the chocolate wasn’t whether students valued whatever they had in their possession, but simply that they had it in their possession.

    This phenomenon is called the “endowment effect”. In a nutshell, the endowment effect occurs when we take ownership of an object (or idea, or person); in becoming “ours” it becomes integrated with our sense of identity, making us reluctant to part with it (losing it is seen as a loss, which triggers that dopamine shut-off I discussed above).

    Interestingly, researchers have found that the endowment effect doesn’t require actual ownership or even possession to come into play. In fact, it’s enough to have a reasonable expectation of future possession for us to start thinking of something as a part of us – as jilted lovers, gambling losers, and 7-year olds denied a toy at the store have all experienced.

    The Upshot for Goal-Setters

    So what does all this mean for would-be achievers?

    On one hand, it’s a warning against setting unreasonable goals. The bigger the potential for positive growth a goal has, the more anxiety and stress your brain is going to create around it’s non-achievement.

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    It also suggests that the common wisdom to limit your goals to a small number of reasonable, attainable objectives is good advice. The more goals you have, the more ends your brain thinks it “owns” and therefore the more grief and fear the absence of those ends is going to cause you.

    On a more positive note, the fact that the brain rewards our attentiveness by releasing dopamine means that our brain is working with us to direct us to achievement. Paying attention to your goals feels good, encouraging us to spend more time doing it. This may be why outcome visualization — a favorite technique of self-help gurus involving imagining yourself having completed your objectives — has such a poor track record in clinical studies. It effectively tricks our brain into rewarding us for achieving our goals even though we haven’t done it yet!

    But ultimately, our brain wants us to achieve our goals, so that it’s a sense of who we are that can be fulfilled. And that’s pretty good news!

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    Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com

    Reference

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