Day one of the web challenge: finding options for success

WakooparesultsYesterday was day one of my "web-only" challenge, the effort to examine if it’s possible for me to boycott desktop applications. The heavily-skewed pie chart shown to the right is the direct result of using Wakoopa, a small application that tracks and records what programs you run, how long they ran, etc… This also means I’ve taken another "exception" in my effort since Wakoopa is a client application. ;)

As you can see, I spent 99% of my day in a single application. Let me offer the breakdown so you can see what Wakoopa saw. Note: it only shows 5.5 hours of tracked data, yet I used my UMPC much longer than that. I suspect there’s a lag in the collected and reported data.

Now that you know I was pretty honest for my first full day of effort… here’s some thoughts on the experience so far.

In order to fully embrace the idea, I reconfigured my home office. Typically I use my MacBook Pro and an external monitor there. When I’m anywhere else in the house or not at home, I use my Samsung Q1 Ultra Premium. I removed the MacBook Pro from the equation and connected my UMPC to the 19-inch external monitor. I also paired my Apple Wireless Keyboard and Bluetooth Mighty Mouse to the UMPC. This setup is now my full time computing platform; I’ll only use the MBP for heavy lifting with podcasts, videos, etc… The nice part of this setup is that I only need to have one single device configured to my liking. When I leave the office, I can simply disconnect the external monitor and walk away with my UMPC. That’s what I’m doing this very second as I’m writing this post from my outside deck while the kids are in the pool nearby.

I’ve switched my browser on the UMPC from Internet Explorer to Firefox during this challenge. The support for extensions is a must if you’re going to live solely in a browser. Now some folks will rightfully argue that installing browser extensions is conceptually no different than installing full, client applications. Therefore, I’m voiding the very core of my test. I think there are two fundamental differences here that need mention. First, a full client application typically offers functionality but also offers a "place" or "environment" for that function to be used. Take the simple case of Microsoft Word, for example. You don’t simply start creating a document on your desktop space. The Word environment is where you create the actual content. A browser extension doesn’t need to include that environment, framework or "place" to work. It works in the browser, which makes it much lighter.

That leads me to my second, related point because part of this challenge is to show people that they may not need 100-, 250- or 500GB of storage capacity on their device. Installed extensions are likely have a much smaller footprint than desktop clients. Even those that offer nearly-identical functionality. Case in point: I had to upload our podcast yesterday, but my standard solution is Filezilla, an FTP client application. I found that the FireFTP extension for Firefox has nearly the exact same look, feel and function, so I used that to upload the show instead. So we have a full client and a browser extension on par with each other. The footprint for Filezilla, the full client? 12.1 MB of space on the hard drive. The same functionality and end-user experience in the browser with FireFTP? Well, the download is 135 KB. I looked for the actual installed footprint, but can’t seem to find it. [That was done in the Firefox browser too: just type C: in your address bar.] Regardless, I’m sure it doesn’t inflate to over 12 MB. ;)

So it’s clear that during my challenge, I’ll be adding plenty of extensions along with finding various web services. As I do that, I’ll continue to share the experience: highlighting extensions and services that help me in my workflow. Perhaps they’ll help you in yours. In my next entry on this topic I’ll be highlighting my current web-only solution to another challenge I had right out of the gate. It works for me, but caused a change in my workflow. That too, is part of the experience: determining if workflow changes are actually worth it in the end. I have no doubt that certain full-client solutions are better than lighter options with a browser and a web connection, but the journey is more important than the destination in this case.

Before I sign off and jump in the pool (it’s 94-degrees here!) I wanted to throw out a topic for thought. If you were crazy enough to take this challenge with me, what would you do about applications that come standard with your OS? Regardless if you use a version of Microsoft Windows, Mac OS X, or a flavor of Linux, there are applications bundled with your operating system. On a lightweight computing challenge such as this, would you allow for those to be used or should the test be to strictly use functions in a browser. As I continue down this path, I suspect I’ll be stuck using some of them, but I’ll be looking for options nonetheless. Thoughts?

Programming note: I’ve added a "Web" category to the site that will encompass this challenge and all future posts that are related enough to warrant a "Web" designation.

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