Sunday, November 20, 2011

High-Tech Changes

So, now that the property has been purchased, I have already been working towards the (hopefully not very) dramatic change in lifestyle.

One thing that I thought I had already done a fair job of was downsizing our gadgets but there certainly was room for improvement!

Thank goodness for Kijiji! I was very surprised as I found myself selling off three computers, including four LCD monitors - most of which had been running 24/7 at our house. I think I will notice a reduction in our hydro bill - or at least I hope I do. Two of our computers were replaced by something that I really have been impressed with - an original Apple iPad with 3G coverage.

With a little finagling, I have been able to get the iPad to stand in admirably for our kitchen computer (used mainly for IM, email, and scheduling), and my desktop computer (used mainly for email, surfing, and accounting).

IM+ has handily replaced the Google Chat page that I left open with my GMail account.

For the GMail page itself, I simply use the AppleMail application that came with the iPad. I set up the iPad (and my iPhone earlier) to sync via exchange, and this works fairly well. Sometimes push notifications are dicey, so I have it set to poll for updates every 15 minutes. Donna uses iMailG HD so that we don't have to worry about switching accounts or anything confusing like that. I've recently downloaded the Google GMail app, but I don't see any compelling reason for me to use it.

As far as FTP access goes, FTPtogoPro is a great app that I was more than happy to pay for, as it allows me to easily upload my photos directly to my online backup.

FileBrowser works great for surfing my personal files on the downstairs server.

I am really impressed with "GoodPlayer" - after purchasing both Azul and CineXPlayer, I was annoyed to realize that GoodPlayer does everything they seem to do, only more. It can browse my server via SMB, and it can play .ISO files directly. It's basically the VLC of the iPad world.

For accounting, I finally weaned myself off of MYOB, which I have been using since I first began my business. In its' place, I opted for EasyBooks - and I'm really happy I did. It didn't take more than a half hour to get the accounts set up, and, so far, I haven't run into anything I wasn't able to undo and puzzle out. I'm sure that as I use it more, I'll become more familiar with the ins and outs of a different accounting package. We'll see what sort of accounting post I do next year after year-end. That may be a totally different story, as it's when the most "once a year" brainpower is required.

Even my server ended up receiving a makeover. Previously being super-happy with a DLink DNS-323, I realized that it used an unrealistic amount of power for future solar resources. I replaced it, and my EnGenius router, with an Asus RT-N16. Flashing the Asus to TomatoUSB was a bit of a challenge, but I prevailed, and it has the awesome power of dual USB ports - so I plugged in two 750GB Hitachi external hard disc's, and was off to the races. It took two days to copy the 750GB off of the DNS to the Hitachi drives, and I ended up connecting the DNS directly to my netbook and on to the Hitachis, rather than doing it through the network, as that was much faster.

In case anyone is wondering, I can confirm that I can stream 720p through this setup to my netbook attached to my 32" television.

I do want to replace the upstairs netbook though, and see if the iPad, through a dock, can transmit a good enough picture to the television to watch movies and television in that fashion - especially when we are on the homestead. That would allow us to downsize even more.

Oh, and I should add that one of my first purchases was a bluetooth keyboard. The on-screen keyboard is excellent, and I often switch to it if I want to be on the chesterfield or in bed (not recommended - it affects your marriage AND sleep), but for touch-typing, a keyboard is hard to beat!

Anyway, I just thought I'd fill people in as to my continuing technical evolution... If I don't write many more articles that are so Windows-centred, you'll understand :). I'm really trying to simplify my computing experience, so uniting many gadgets into one is helpful, especially when that gadget is something that I don't have to work hard to replace (Apple tracks the applications which I purchase, and so if I move to a new platform in the future, I simply have to re-download the software I need, and do not need to worry about purchasing it a second time... Awesome!)

If anyone else has any experience migrating to a different platform, I'd love to hear from them, or if you have iPad questions or suggestions, I'd be just as happy to hear from you!

Stay tuned, we're deep into conversations about yurts or alternatives, and I think I've got enough ponderings there to create one or two more blog posts...

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