Tag Archives: software

The Move to Online Applications

I just had a discussion with a friend about the difference between online and offline software, and the differences are pretty clear cut:

  • Online software is just that: online. Quite a few (more than expected) websites support Google Gears, and hopefully offline syncing will become the norm.
  • Using things like JavaScript and AJAX for websites is relatively new. Standards, expectations, and features are constantly evolving. Things have gone from the barely interactive webpage to a hardy application that happens to run on the web. Nevertheless, there’s still a long way to go before websites can match the power of offline applications.
  • Security? Privacy? They’re all second thoughts so far in the world of web applications. Many tech websites are pushing for developers to put extra thought into privacy and security, but it’s one of those things that don’t provide a direct return in profit, so it will take longer to catch on. In the meantime, we users are exposed. Now, this is where it all becomes subjective: is privacy and security really all that important for the data you’re uploading? Most services provide SSL logins, and that’s generally enough to protect the account from hackers. Beyond that, there’s not much over-the-“air” encryption going on, and just about anything can be sniffed and tracked. So, do you really want to hide family photos or phone records, or do you really care if someone gets a hand on those? Like I said, it’s subjective.
  • Nothing can beat free. With Web 2.0 (am I allowed to use that term?) came the advertisement model, in which ads pay for the services. In some ways, it’s a win-win. You get the services free, and perhaps even discover new websites you didn’t know about via the ads, while the company gets their revenue. Sometimes a website might present offensive advertisements, but the upstanding ones are usually pretty good about what they let in.

As for offline applications…

  • It’s offline. Internet goes down? No problem. Service is down? No problem. Nothing is keeping you from firing up your software on your computer.
  • The feature-set and UI for applications is a well-trodden terrain for offline applications. Everything you could do with online software you can do with offline software, and in a consistent interface.
  • Everything is saved on your hard-drive, and you can encrypt, lock, wipe, or otherwise mangle your data in whatever way you please that makes you think it’s safe. You can’t get that kind of control over the storage of your data with other online services.
  • However, this usually comes at a price. Unless you pay, you’re pretty much guaranteed a sub-average experience. For example: I admit OpenOffice is nothing like Microsoft Office. That’s not to say Microsoft Office beats OpenOffice in all areas, but Microsoft Office can certainly throw a heavy, if not critical, punch in features and ease-of-use. Then again, you can’t get this experience online either, so you pretty much have to pay period if you want all the features.

Before everyone starts advocating open-source, let me explain myself. Continue reading


MediaMaster – Your Music, Anywhere: Now with Open API

I don’t think I’ve mentioned MediaMaster here yet, but it’s about time I do. I use it quite a bit, and love it! I have all my music uploaded to my free account, which, despite being free, has unlimited storage! I’ve also uploaded my own picture to give make my profile (note: all songs are limited to 30-second previews for legal reasons) be my own, and give me that warm fuzzy feeling all backgrounds should give you when you look at ’em. *wink*

The interface itself is awesome.  They have 17 different columns, and you can decide which ones you want, and where each one goes. You can view your collection through one giant list of songs, albums, or artists. You can change the artist or album view to list, thumb, or tile (hybrid of thumb and list) views. There’s also a quick search that helps you filter out songs until you find the one you want. All these features and more are a result of MediaMaster listening to their users, and writing in most of the requested features within months! This is almost unheard of in the Web 2.0 world, where small companies can’t handle (or don’t want to handle) the amounts of feedback they receive.

If you’ve been moving from one music player to the next, you know how much of a pain it is to move your ratings and playlists and whatnot from place to place. MediaMaster hopes to be an end to those troubles my providing you one location to store all your music. If you don’t want to use their Flash client, you can write your own using their Open API they just released. I’m writing up a quick console-like application to help developers (and myself) figure out how the API works faster by giving them (and myself) a tool to play around with without coding anything.

Duplicity Backs Up Beautifully (And Anywhere)

After struggling with what good backup system would work for me, I’ve finally settled on duplicity. It doesn’t have a user interface, and it doesn’t even use cron (though you can manually punch it in). It does, however, do exactly what I want: It can tell me what my system looked like at a particular date, because it tracks deleted files as well. Not only that, but it compresses and encrypts everything into what appears to be a custom tar format.

And, unlike most other backup systems, it can back up onto FTP, or just about any other storage medium for that matter, because it doesn’t use fancy links or any other junk. It uses plain ‘n simple manifest files.

Duplicity is something you can have working within minutes if you can use a terminal. Granted, you have to manually back everything up, but that’s good for me, since I don’t really have a standard schedule of when I’m on and off the computer.

Give it a try some time.

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