Chris Elleman Technical Stuff

15 Jan/11 Off

My iLife

Read an interesting article in the Evening Standard (Living the iLife) about people who were abandoning all of their possessions for a suitcase and laptop and just wandering around with all of their data "out on the cloud"; reading the article I found it interesting that none of these people seemed to have kids, but it got me thinking, could I achieve something similar?

A problem I have, is that I'm quite mobile (being at home over the weekend, then on the train and/or staying in London during part of the week), and having my digital content tied down to one place is a real pain; so how could I change to make my data more mobile, this is a particularly relevant, as the media company is going through a big technology change looking at these different issues, so here's my quest...

Step 1: Music

I like listening to music, but the "old" way of doing it just doesn't work for me; buy a CD, rip it to MP3, upload it player of some sort; even the iTunes route still feels a bit rubbish; buy it on iTunes, download it, sync it to device. In both these instances, I seem to spend a lot of money and time downloading and managing different devices, what I need is a different way of doing it. A work friend was a big user of the legal Napster service, I gave that a go, but ran into several problems, firstly, the search feature was awful, I had real difficulty finding stuff I knew was on there, secondly, the music selection wasn't that great, thirdly, I still need a PC to use it, so it got binned.

I did some more research on the web and found Spotify, now this seemed more like it, really good search feature, good level of music content (although Dance/Trance music is still a bit under-represented, but nothing is perfect), and the killer app, software for all of the major mobile vendors, i.e. Android, iPhone/iPad, Symbian/Nokia, Blackberry, and Windows Mobile - finally, wherever I am, whatever device, I can access the same play lists, and as I'm now a premium subscriber, I can sync the play lists offline, so I can listen to music without an Internet connection, sorted!

Step 2: Documents

Another problem, as I'm an avid Microsoft user, all of my important documents typically live within my home PC's My Documents folder and have for many years. A number of years ago I wrote a PHP based internet file store, so that I could upload documents and have them available whenever I needed them, typically, between home and work. There have been major advances in this field over the last couple of years thanks mainly to Google Docs, this service allows you to upload your MS documents onto Googles servers, then access and edit them from anywhere, provided you have an internet connection, although, Google are talking about an offline mode coming soon. This negates the need for an expensive office suite, certainly for home documents, and gives you the piece of mind so that when your home PC dies, the important stuff is backed up offsite.

Step 3: TV

This is a tricky one, if I wanted to download TV from various places, again I am faced with a problem, the content will be at my house, but now I want to view it on the train; the problem here is the file size, typically, for a 40min TV show, the file size is ~400MB which presents a problem for Wifi networks available on virgin trains and even in some hotels. Luckily, virginmedia just increased my upstream bandwidth to 5MB (as I'm on the 50Mb service), which means that I can stream the entire file if required, but currently, I'm thinking about how I could sync the data to all my devices and this is a question to which I don't have an answer, I could even upload the files to one of my "Cloud" servers and stream from there, but this is something I'm definitly going to have to think about...

Step 4: Favourites/Bookmarks

A very simple problem, making sure that all of your bookmarks are accessible on all devices, and google springs to the rescue with Google Bookmarks, which really does what it says on the tin.

Summary

StepSolution
MusicSpotify
DocumentsGoogle Docs
TV??
Favourites/BookmarksGoogle Bookmarks