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May 11, 2007

Comments

Sky (Jim Schuyler)

If you travel to even-farther-removed places, the connectivity issue becomes really critical. When I'm in Northern India - there's one particular place I frequent - we all use Internet Cafes. Up to about 12 months ago you had to use their computers - you couldn't plug your computer into their router. Then they got wise and now we plug in directly. Back then they had 10 to 15 computers sharing one DSL line (128k bi-directional is pretty typical for 10 people to be sharing). I work alongside another org that has satellite and community mesh wi-fi available in the same town, and I can use that if I let them know in advance, but I have to walk down a steep hill in the dark to another hotel where they have a wi-fi in the lobby, and then I sit in the lobby and get decent connectivity - generally about 512k bidirectional all to myself.

Now, get this, the hotel that I stay in (up the hill from the wi-fi) locks its doors at 10pm, so I have to get back before I'm locked out. One night I stood in the cold for 15 minutes jimmying the lock and I would have gotten in soon, but then the night watchman spotted me and let me in - otherwise I would have been sleeping on the street with the dogs and cows. And the cabs stop running at 9pm, so you gotta walk after that. Ah the dangers of using wi-fi!

Oh, sorry your question was "web-based applications?" No way could we depend on them for our working groups that span the globe.

That's why I took to offline blogging -> http://blog.dlfound.org/sky/wp/?p=173 . I settled on Ecto for that, after looking at several different packages. I write my blog posts, compose and format them, even insert photos, all offline and then when I have a connection I -click- the button once and upload everything. This is an absolute necessity, given the locations I've been frequenting.

And although we do use Google Docs a lot now for working groups in the US and EU, we don't try to use it when anyone's in Africa or South Asia because their connectivity just isn't broad enough for it to work. We even use "Postmanet" (drop it in the mail or send with a friend who's going there) to send our multi-hundred-MB video files back and forth rather than try to transfer them electronically. Last time I was in Delhi, I had a 250GB USB drive onto which I transfused the contents of three video cameras (HDD cameras) and one person's laptop drive...and brought everything home for processing. And I burned a bunch of data onto DVDs as well.

Universal connectivity is still a ways off.

Bill Webb

I agree, in principle, with your online/offline thesis, although I use Google D&S a lot both with broadband and dialup with good results. Takes it a while to load on dialup, but nothing horrible (and I'm used to a T-1 connection). I also find that the automatic backup works well. Haven't lost anything yet.

That's not to say that it wouldn't be a problem with some of the slooooow dialups overseas. I'd like to see Google come out with a desktop version of GD&S that could be used off- or online, with data stored on the HDD until a connection was available.

(And, while I'm wishing, I'd also like to see margin control.)

bw

Arun Kumar

You say that "Most online applications present two versions of the problem:

1. You can’t run the application unless you are connected to the Web.
2. If the connection drops while you are working, all your data is lost."

There is one solution (actually, a representative of a class of solutions) that you should take a look at: Kerika (www.kerika.com) which operates as a hybrid P2P network. All your data are always stored locally on your computer, and the computers of your team mates, so you can work offline when you need to and synch up later with your buddies when you get a chance to go online.

Because Kerika uses a storage server that kicks in automatically when it detects that your team mates are offline, you don't have to worry about being online at the same time as them. And if you yourself are offline, Kerika simply buffers up the updates you made locally until you get a chance to go online again.

More importantly, you can communicate your ideas in a visual form, by literally sketching out your project, process or strategy and then adding your content to these digital pages. This is particularly important when you need to make sure everyone is always "on the same page" with respect to strategy and process, and this is something that is really hard to do well with email, whether you are talking about traditional email clients like Outlook or Web 2.0 ones like Zimbra.

Two other points I would make:

- When people are frequently offline, you need a distributed document management system, not a centralized checkout/checkin system like you get with hosted services. Kerika provides that in a seamless way.

- A system like Kerika gives you far greater privacy than you can ever hope to get from any hosted provider, Google or anyone else. You can set up your private network, at no extra cost and in just a couple of minutes, so that your project materials stay within a ring of trust consisting of your computer, your team mates' computers, and your private server.

Take a look at this demo: http://www.kerika.com/demo_intro.html. It's just a couple of minutes long, but I think you will be amazed by what's possible!

Regards,
Arun

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