Friday, December 13, 2013

Web Tools - The 2009 View

This blog was written in 2009 and shared here for historical purposes.

I was recently reflecting on activities I perform that have moved to the web or have been adapted to now leverage the web.  I want to briefly talk about some routine activities that I cannot do without the web.

I am a runner who currently uses a Garmin GPS running watch to track my course, distance, elevation gain/loss, time/speed while running and store the history in the web via Garmin Connect (a pure web 2.0 application – the watch connects via Bluetooth to a USB plug that uploads data directly to the web leaving nothing on the PC).  You can later export Garmin Connect data to any PC if you really want kml or tcx files (and there is a web 2.0 app that will convert tcx to gpx if you want that).
I used to estimate distance/speed with a wristwatch and kept a “my documents” based running log and (much earlier) a “paper” log.
I run on the beach around Port Jeff and check the tides at http://mobilegeographics.com:81/locations/4934.jhtml to avoid starting a course that ends under water.  Beats using a paper tide chart; really beats getting wet.

I log my training runs via twitter (twitter.com/billmerrow is joined to facebook.com/bmerrow so both social networking tools log my exercise/runs).
Sometimes I even tweet about less important things than exercise.

I use a Garmin Colorado hiking GPS for geotagging photos as well as plotting routes and logging waypoints for quick returns.  I export kml files for Google Earth maps with links to my photos.
I used to use topo maps and log notes in a paper journal and keep numerous image directories with “manual” notes files/explanations of what was shot/where/when.
Prior to getting the running watch I used my Garmin Colorado for runs and geotagged photos of the key course elements/created Google maps of various courses.

As a prosumer photographer (that means Canon charges me more for cameras and lens than they charge you),  I share photos via my flickr Pro account and do quick edits of flickr resident photos using web based tools (my fav now is the Picnik web photo editor).
I also use fat client software (ACDSee or Photoshop Elements) for fancier editing but more and more the authoritative source of my images is the web – and I see a time when my permanent images will exist only there.
Gmail is my web email – it recognizes and displays flickr picture references just as it does Picasa (which I used to use).
Previously I managed all my images in several large folders – I still have these as a backup/dump out back (143GB with 73500 and counting photos) but my primary workspaces are web based.

My banking and insurance and investments are all handled via the web – I am not sure I would even know how to go about doing most of this offline.  I certainly could not even find the phone number of the (probably insolvent) financial institution’s computer voice response system without the web.  Oh, I guess I still sometimes use an ATM but more and more I use less and less “paper” money.

I use the web based medhelp.org weight and exercise tracker.  I also use the Weight-Tracker.com web site to summarize data to share with my doctor (for its nice looking charts).  Most of my medical records test results are available online and no place else (I am fairly confident of this as my doctor’s office can do NOTHING without their online systems and PDAs).
I can often get free copies of my own records via email but have to pay for any paper copies.

All my own records and indices are maintained in html for a private (home based) set of web pages.  Prior to modern times, I kept my own records in a text log file on a PC or in Outlook contacts.
Many Years Ago (in a time before Lady Lovelace gave birth to computer programming), I used to keep paper notes.

I have been using Gmail as my personal email since 2004 and keep roughly 10k emails that reside in the cloud.  I make email notes of important information that I send to myself because the Gmail search is really REALLY good (beats paper notes that I cannot find once I forget where I put them).  I also have various Outlook pst files for work and personal use but will welcome all mail moving to the web - relying on 20GB spread across too many pst files is just asking for problems.
Before PCs I used a CMS based mainframe email system.  Before that I have heard that you handed your mail to Ben Franklin and I guess he must have used lightning bolts to transmit it thru the ether . . . or something like that.

I welcome hearing your own experiences about depending on web based tools and what you used to do Before Web (send me your thoughts/comments via email and interesting items will be reported in a follow-up blog).

Bill Merrow