It's Time to Break Up With Your OS

In the world of cloud computing where Google is pushing Chrome OS as a browser and operating system (OS) to manage all your online apps, we’re no longer required to stick to the one computer. You can break free of all those apps designed for use on one operating system only. You can be free of your OS.

We live in a time where spreadsheets can be managed in a browser, accessed by multiple people in many locations. Collaborative works can evolve as quickly as it takes to do the actual work. No-one needs to fuss around with managing who’s in charge of the master document and ensuring everyone has the updated version. This is progress.

The same goes for email, chat communications, to-do lists, word processing, rss feed reading, calendars, etc. These online counterparts to your old office staples are more convenient, more collaborative and free. Backups are made by the provider and you can make your own backups as well. It’s time to reassess what you really use computers for. Browsing? General office stuff? Is that all? If so, it’s time to break up with your OS.

Yes, occasionally you’ll have a program you need to use for work or a game which only runs on one OS. This can’t be helped. You need to use the right tool for the job. However, you can still work on your other everyday computer needs so that your transition between computers and operating systems is easier.

It’s liberating to have no particular ties to any single computer or OS. Give me a login and a browser and I’ll have Firefox set up in no time, ready as I like it, and with all my regular communication needs and data on hand.

This freedom allows you to travel. Changing between computers is simple. Also, physically travelling with a tiny netbook that will only run a browser is now a piece of cake. Many smartphone apps can access your data online too. Living in the cloud is becoming a very portable option.

Why should you break up with your OS?

  • If you live in the cloud, your data is safe from physical harm, ie. hard drive failure, house burns down.
  • If you collaborate on documents regularly, you’ll find it much easier using online applications.
  • Moving between computers becomes far simpler when your documents are always in the same place online, ie. moving between home and office.
  • Disengage from it emotionally.
  • Move documents into the cloud (Google Docs, online to-do lists, photos, calendar, email, other documents kept in online document storage). If you’re worried about the reliability, ease your way in by syncing back to your desktop for a while. Have a trial separation from your OS.
  • Make sure every file you would normally access on your computer is available online in an easy-to-use place: Profile photos, insurance documents, website backups. Your computer is now temporary storage only. You’re in a friends-with benefits situation.
  • Also back up your documents on to an external hard drive (formatted to suit any OS).
  • Back up your browser settings and customisation. You want to be able to sit down at a new computer and within minutes be using the same settings as you are accustomed to. More on this later.

If you’re regularly doing all that you need to do within your browser, then you’re most of the way to being rid of your OS already. If you’re not quite there, then I’ll help you to accomplish your move with a few simple steps. Then you’ll be free of that OS and on to better things (they’re no good for you anyway).

What to do: Plan of action

Okay, here’s a step-by step plan of action for breaking up with your OS.

  1. Get a Google Gmail account (if you haven’t already). This will get you a Google login that you can use across all Google services. Choose your name wisely! Set your account up to pop email from all your other accounts, so that Gmail is the go-to place (if you then use IMAP back to your desktop for a while that’s okay, but the plan here is to have somewhere online that is your email headquarters).
  2. Upload all your everyday documents to Google Documents (or similar service).
  3. Put all your photos online, using Flickr or Picasa. There’s options to make some photos more private than others. Learn and use wisely.
  4. Import or sync your calendar data in to Google Calendar (or similar service).
  5. Import or Sync your to-do lists into Remember The Milk (or similar service).
  6. Sync/Import your favourite RSS feeds into Google Reader (or similar service)
  7. Choose a browser which will allow you to back up your settings and extensions so you can take them with you. Firefox settings can be backed up (to online storage) using the FEBE Firefox extension. Google Chrome can be carried around via USB. Choose something that works for you (personally, I don’t like to rely on a USB). Note, in order to break free from any one OS, make sure this browser can be run on anything, ie. is available for multiple OS.
  8. Set up easy ways of accessing all your online data. If you’re using Firefox, you can use the Fast Dial extension to show a selection of your favourite websites when you open a new tab. Very handy for accessing your “apps”. Or, if you’d prefer, set up a great homepage using Netvibes or iGoogle.
  9. Back up any remaining documents using free online storage such as Dropbox or Box.net.
  10. Find online apps to do all the things you used to do with an OS-based application, such as online picture editors, chat, IRC, Twitter, listening to music, watching movies & playing games. Bookmark them for future use. For extra backup for bookmarks, import your bookmarks into something like Delicious. This isn’t entirely essential (if your browser backup is done right), but it will provide a little peace of mind (don’t forget to use the private option for links you want to keep to yourself!).

You’re free! Now, test it out by moving to a new computer. Preferably with a fresh install. No apps anywhere and a brand new login. See how long it takes you to get your preferred browser set up. Spend the day working with just this set up. Don’t install any apps (except your browser if required)!

And there you have it. You’re free of that good-for-nothing OS. It’s time to go out and party like the free person you are.

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Comments
  • http://www.lionsad.com Fabian

    Hi,

    that is a very valid point that one should avoid vendor-lock in. However what you are missing here is that you are just exchanging one “lock” with another – not gaining true freedom like with Open Source.

    Especially the high centric on Google can be problematic.

    So in 10 years at least I think you’ll write another article:

    its time to break up with Google.

    but hopefully by then one can run his own gmail and other services with ease …

    Best Wishes,

    Fabian

  • http://pirk.com egrep

    Agreed with Fabian on the no vendor lock in, but in my case I decided it was time to develop a working and business relationship with Google and use mostly their services.

    Google offers so much, and has what I think as the best privacy policy on the intenet today, with the most control over keeping your data private if you want.

    I have made the transition to the cloud, with only a fairly large mp3 collection locally. I bought 200 GB of Google storage for $50/yr to allow me to store my music online also. Only uploading copyright free music at the moment until I can verify that uploading my own personally owned music, that will not be shared adheres to the terms and conditions of uploading listed on the Google upload page.

    All docs, files, programs for both my personal files and my work files are all in the cloud now. My complete office pc is a $300 netbook. Linux of course… ;-]

  • http://claimid.com/smange Angela Alcorn @smange

    Heh – Fabian. You might well be right. But it’s possible to move in to the cloud without using Google products.

    The problem with all mega-giants is that they keep buying the little guys. For instance, Delicious and Flickr getting bought by Yahoo. But you can try!