Moving into the Cloud

posted on 09/09/08 at 01:17:54 am by Joel Ross

I often wonder how much I rely on my laptop. And I'm not referring to development, but for the other things I do - email, twitter, IM, IRC, and RSS feeds. Or put another way, how much of a performance hit am I taking by running those things locally? My laptop has 3.325 GB of RAM (don't ask! I'm still bitter). After a normal day of usage, here's the memory usage of some of my "utility" applications:

  • Outlook: 374 MB
  • FeedDemon: 202 MB
  • Trillian: 51 MB
  • Twhirl: 104 MB

That's a total of 731 MB. In fairness, that includes paged memory, but still, that's a fair amount of memory. I did have to reboot today - I know Outlook and FeedDemon can get much higher than that when they've been running for a few days. So I started to see if I could move my utilities online - run them in a browser rather than a stand-alone client. There's no point in talking about twitter or the other social networking sites - those are pretty obvious, since they started online and it's only out of convenience that you move them offline. But even for the rest, it's not that hard to do, if you know the right tools.


Email is probably the easiest one to move online - people have been doing online email forever. Email is inherently online. There are lots of options - for personal email, at least. I use Google Apps For Your Domain, and have been very happy with that decision since I switched. The more and more I use the Gmail interface, the more I like it - the keyboard shortcuts are intuitive and despite it being a web application, it actually responds quicker than Outlook sometimes. There are plenty of other online email systems out there - Yahoo and Live Mail are the two other large players I can think of right now, but pretty much every ISP and web host will provide some sort of online interface.

The challenging accounts to get online are the corporate ones. Luckily for me, RCM (and NuSoft before them) offers Outlook Web Access, so that was an easy one. For companies that don't offer an online interface, I'm not sure how you could handle it - I would NOT recommend blindly forwarding all email through another online account, such as Gmail, though.


I've used Trillian since the days of the "IM Wars" - back when AIM would update their protocols on an almost daily basis, and Trillian would hurry to push out an update shortly afterwards. That was back in 2001, I think. I use it for instant messaging on MSN, AIM, Yahoo, Jabber (well, GTalk, actually), and RCM's LCS server.

Again, the easy part of moving these online are the large, public services. Meebo can handle ICQ, MSN, AIM, Yahoo,  Jabber and GTalk, so I'm set there. Meebo's interface is actually pretty good, and you can create an overall account that allows you to store preferences about your IM experience, as well as your different IM accounts. There's even a firefox add-in to show toast whenever you get an IM.

I also use Trillian to connect to IRC channels, and luckily, there's a solid web replacement for that as well. I first heard about Mibbit as a way to get around corporate firewalls that block the ports needed by IRC, but it's also a solid IRC client, even when you have the option of a desktop client. It's a lot like Meebo, in that you can create an account and store the different servers / rooms you access so you don't have to enter them every time.

About the only thing I think I'd miss by moving IM / IRC online is the logs - Trillian logs everything for me, so I can go back later and review. I'm not sure I could get that if I'm using an online system. That would prevent having discussions like this available for future reference.

RSS Feeds

I have never really liked the options for reading feeds online. I started with RSS feeds in RSS Bandit, moved to Newsgator Inbox, and eventually settled on FeedDemon. But I know I'm probably in the minority. Just based off of my FeedBurner stats more than 50% of my subscribers are reading this in a web browser - possibly even 75%. Google Reader and Bloglines are the two most popular options, but Newsgator also offers a decent online offering as well - and it integrates read status with FeedDemon.

So Now What?

I went through this exercise, and ultimately only stuck with one of the options - I have removed my personal email from Outlook, and solely use the Gmail interface. Other than that, I've settled back into my old ways. But I at least know I have the option, and if I had to, I could move online in a heartbeat - the online stuff is all set up. It's just a matter of pulling the trigger and moving to it. It's also nice to be able to sit down at a different computer and know that I have the ability to get at the information I want to be able to get at. But at least for now, I'll stick to the thick clients.

Categories: General, Software