Leapdragon 2016 - Aron Hsiao Was Here

Cloud time  §

I'm spending part of the break between summer and fall semesters quickly "onlining" my entire digital life, even the parts of it that have previously not been amenable to such action.

The entire home directory, including files dating back twenty years, has gone onto Dropbox where everything I'm currently working on and everything I have ever worked on can be instantly accessible to me not only at my own desk or laptop but also on my iPhone, in my office cubicle(s), and at any public computer where I care to pause for a moment and work on whatever it is I'm currently "working on."

Same thing is happening to my email folders, which contain mail dating back to the mid '90s and have been migrated a dozen times between a dozen different local email clients over the years. Today there's a process running in the background uploading some 100,000 messages at about 20GB into my Gmail box, including (hopefully) folder structure. For anyone wondering how I'm doing this, no, it's not using the (painful) single-folder copy method from within Thunderbird or similar. Tried that, failed. Also didn't want to set up my own POP server and fetch via Gmail (too much information loss). Instead, I'm using an IMAP script called imap_upload.py (Google it) wrapped in a couple scripts of my own. Working like a charm.

As a part of the project I've also run scripts with some shaky command line tools like unoconv to convert all of the OpenOffice files and attachments in my life to Microsoft Office formats. That kills me, almost more than anything else, but there is no point trying to challenge the power of the social. MS Office files, despite open source advocates' claims tot he contrary, are destined to be more transparent for a longer period of time (hence more "open") simply because there are so many more people using them today. If I had to bet on either MS Office or OpenOffice files being readable in 1,000 years, the choice is beyond easy: MS Office, if either. OpenOffice, no chance. And since OpenOffice files require what is "special" software by most peoples' and devices' standards, it had to go if working in the cloud is my goal.

The only things that aren't going online and/or aren't getting converted to the "most exchangeable" formats are the "big media" archives right now… music collection, videos, photos, disk images, and other multi-terabyte stores. Those will just have to wait until bandwidth and processing power for conversions catch up (I'm doing this all on Verizon with a <1Mbps upstream using an aging laptop).

It's all a little scary. I'm not from the cloud generation; I'm from the computer generation. It still feels more secure to me to have the "master copy" of all my stuff on my very own hard drive, though intellectually I realize that this is folly. Google is far less likely to experience downtime, and Dropbox is hosted on Amazon S3.

The benefit is that I will be entirely mobile and, for the first time in my life, essentially computer-agnostic. Sit down anywhere, at any device, Linux, Mac, Windows, Smartphone, or other mobile device, and pick up all of my work and communication mid-stream, transparently and seamlessly.