Learning to fly

As we add mobile devices to our inventory of digital tools, there are new issues to address. These include synching address books and calendars between all our digital things and sharing files between them – and each other – with a minimum of effort. Many of us have already discovered how useful Dropbox is for moving books and other files between the desktop and device. It’s just one of a growing number of WebDAV services giving us the ability to store files on the Internet so they will be available anytime and anywhere we need them.

Dropbox [Win and Mac – free and premium] is an awesome service. Anyone who registers an account gets 2GB of online storage at no charge. Install client software on your desktop and it sets up a virtual folder in your file manager called Dropbox. You can create your own sub-folders for books, documents or even databases. Now, when you save or copy a file into your Dropbox folder, it is uploaded to your online Dropbox account and is available to you from wherever you access the Internet. Use the iPad’s Dropbox app to move a book file from your desktop to your iPad or save a word processing document and pick it up from another computer or mobile device. Even if you’re at a computer that doesn’t have Dropbox installed, you can still download any of your files by using the Web interface. And, there’s even a Public folder so you can make files accessible to your collaborators for document reviews or group editing.

Dropbox isn’t the only service using WebDAV. Google Docs and other Google services offer many types of cloud-based services. The online archive of books for your e-reader uses WebDAV to insure your library is always available. Apple’s MobileMe [Mac and Windows – $99/year] provides 20GB of storage, keeps your address book, calendars and email synched between computers and devices and can help you find a lost device. They have a new data center in North Carolina that is just coming online and an event scheduled in early April to discuss the next version of their iOS. An upgrade to their desktop operating system is due for release this summer. Speculation is high that Apple is taking the leap into cloud computing and with the company’s focus on portable devices this would be a logical next step.

What I find impressive with all these services is how easy they are to use. I’m already taking for granted the ability to send a print job from my iPad in the living room to my printer in the den or watching a Netflix movie “instantly” on my wifi-enabled television. Learning to fly in these virtual clouds has been a delightfully simple experience and I’m excited about its potential. If today’s examples are any indication, the future of flying is looking good!

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