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My First Computer
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Timex Sinclair

The Timex Sinclair 1000

That's my first personal computer which was a Christmas gift from mom in 1984 or so. I believe it was sold at the time for about 100 bucks at Boscovs in Wilkes-Barre, PA. At the time that was the probably among if not the cheapest computer on the market. But man, did I make the most of it. Those keys are worn flat by my trek through learning BASIC, or at least Timex Sinclair's version of it (not sure anyone anywhere ever learned whatever the "pure" form of BASIC might have been). It led to bread and butter for the rest of my life.

There were a lot of these on the market so it's not a valuable artifact of early computing; they can be found on Ebay for about 50 bucks. I am not sure of the whereabouts of the one above anymore.

The "Timex Sinclair 1000" was actually the British "Sinclair ZX81" and was fascinating more for its cheap price and able capabilities if you didn't want to do too much and were also able to put up with the flimsy engineering just 100 bucks got you. It was in every sense of the word just a way for someone who wanted a computer for computing's sake with respect to learning and experimentation.

It All Fell Apart
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Two of my initiatives fell apart. First, my exit from Facebook. That is no surprise to anyone close to me who knows of my penchant for quitting it every six months or so. The effort seemed to go a bit longer this time around, but ultimately, as always, the utility of Facebook wound up drawing me back. Facebook has become the Internet and walking away from it is like walking away from the Internet itself in every social way that counts. I appear not ready for that.

Secondly, I cannot live off the cloud. The idea of working with data locally and utilizing the cloud for the rare cases I need a file available everyplace is a nice one, but the task of synchronizing individual downloaded applications and associated data between my desktop and my laptop, when most of my online time is away from either (at work or via my mobile phone) is no longer worth it. Back when the Internet was new, all of that was exciting and fun to do. Now it feels like needless endless work. The uniformity of the interface and the access to data I generate from anyplace anytime far outweigh the value of performance at the neglible differences experienced between.

So, I remain completely bound to the Google App ecosystem. Microsoft's One Cloud ecosystem is nice but too late for me. They should have been working on what Google is doing 10 years ago. They don't even have a Chromebook equivalent yet, that I know of.

Making Desktop and Cloud Computing Work Together
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I've got this idea that I want to exist in a hybrid personal computing world where not everything is in the cloud yet where the balance between cloud-and-not-cloud does not involve resorting to Microsoft on the PC side. Why is that? Because even Microsoft doesn't really believe in the merit of desktop computing anymore so ceding my client side computing operations to, say, Microsoft Office, means putting my Google Apps life in clumsy conflict with One Drive. What I want is my complete ecosystem to remain in line with Google Apps and Android, yet desktop applications that exist to be desktop applications and nothing else.

Were Microsoft comfortable with not building out One Drive or trying to build its own Windows phone universe (which isn't working out), the natural solution would be to use Word, Excel, and Outlook as I did for the first decade of my digital life. Then, as needed, I could store those files in Google Drive.

As it is, it's just too unsettling putting one file type that cries to be used within its own ecosystem, inside of another. Even though you, I, and the rest of the world knows there's nothing functionally wrong with that whatsoever. Microsoft easily supports Office documents opening on Android, for example - it just doesn't feel natural. The full feature set of Google Drive assumes you're using Google Sheets, Docs, etc., as well as vice versa, and to have documents living outside their native homes where those features are effectively useless is frustrating and inefficient.

Therefore my use case model has this stipulation of not resorting to Microsoft products for PC based work no matter how tempting. "Neutral apps", programs designed to work on their own outside any ecosystem, are best for this approach.

This particularly hurts because the best e-mail interface for GMAIL on the PC is of course Microsoft Outlook. Most people don't know that when you subscribe to Google Apps like I do (this point doesn't apply to the average "free" consumer GMAIL service), Google provides a nifty Outlook synchronization tool for mail, calendars, and contacts. It works so well that at the end of the day you have no idea you're working with Google e-mail instead of, say, Microsoft Exchange. The problem there is thateven outside my concern for bucking two ecosystems against each other, how long will Google keep providing such a smooth bridge to its competitor, or, for that matter, how long will Microsoft honor that bridge itself? Yes, for that very uncertainty, even Microsoft Outlook must be excluded from my paradigm.

Too Late to Just "Microsoft It"

For those who might wonder why I don't just jump ecosystems back to Microsoft where their legacy is solid on the PC even while their direction is the cloud, the answer is that I tried . I found out I was too deeply invested in Google Apps and Android, an investment that swelled gradually and without my particular notice over the course of 8 or so years. Trust me, I was mortified when I came to the realization. Even my flippin' voice telephone service is tied to Google.

Sadly, Microsoft didn't "clouderize" itself soon enough for me, though I believe that if they start pushing the hybrid "local and cloud computing together" model today, they'll have a distinct advantage over Google for future generations. People are waking up to the value of keeping crap on their own system. It keeps programs and data super responsive, and, assuming you manage basic PC security, keeps data safe close to home, away from easy access and control by corporations and government. I think Microsoft would do well to begin pumping this message to "bring back" people to PC side computing, but as I say, I think they've already concluded there's no future in PCs. A conclusion not entirely unjustified insofar as the "normal" market is concerned. Everything I'm writing about here is from the perspective of someone who still sits in a chair to compute at a desktop computer; one who isn't satisfied digitally by thumbing every goddamned thing into a smartphone while calling it "being on the Internet" - if you'll pardon the passion.

Here's What I Got So Far

I have at least two parts of my hybrid model settled on. For an e-mail client I am finding Mailbird to be the best defacto client side interface to GMAIL (after the forbidden Outlook I mean). Google should buy'em and make it their client side solution for those who want a client side e-mail interface.

For finances, I have returned to classic Quicken which works with the Interwebs just enough to keep data synced. Previously I was using web-based Mint but, even beyond the objectives of moving some operations back to the good ol' local hard drive, I hate their interface. Does too much and isn't responsive enough. Plus I don't want ads while going about my personal business (which is why, by the way, I pay the five bucks a month for Google Apps).

For general productivity beyond finances, I am looking at Open Office or Libre Office, but have not yet committed.

I'll update how it's going in later posts.

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