Dropbox

In the spirit of promoting those products that really make a difference in your work life, let me give a loud shout-out to Dropbox. I’m a road warrior, kinda, in that I migrate between my home office and a bunch of coffee shops, so I’m always mixing my work environment between my laptop and desktop workstation. Some things I work on, like source code in SVN already naturally has a model of disconnected work with a synchronization step. But other things (things I’m doing right now), like talks and presentations, workshops, general writing do not. How to get the benefit of disconnected editing with connected synchronization?

Enter Dropbox! Dropbox sets of a folder on each machine you install it on, and you attach that folder to your Dropbox account. Anything you save in that folder gets replicated up to an “in the cloud” copy regularly while you’re internet connected. And when you’re not, it’s just like any other local copy. You can also share Dropbox folders with others, which is really handy for collaborating on things like PPTs. No more shipping around the latest copy of that Word document.

Functionally, it’s nothing that hasn’t been done before, but it’s been done really well, it’s part of my work-life now, and for small folders (<1Gb) it’s free. For anyone who works on more than one machine regularly and with disconnection, it’s a real time-saver.

Ellison and Balmer

If you haven’t had a gander at these videos at All Points Blog showing Larry Ellison (Oracle) and Steve Balmer (Microsoft) opining on the “cloud” take five minutes and have a look. Larry’s still at stage one but Steve appears to have moved on to stage two.

PostGIS Down Under

If you’ve been putting off registering for FOSS4G and are planning to attend the PostGIS workshop, better delay no longer – a little birdy tells me that the workshops program in general and PostGIS in particular are almost full.

Snow Leopard

Being a colossal Apple fanboi now, immediately upon returning home from vacation I ordered the latest version of OS/X, “Snow Leopard” and promptly installed it on both my laptop and workstation. Without testing on one first. Whoops.

It looks like the new version of XCode is producing output that can’t link to libraries compiled with the old version, so this morning I’m re-compiling everything I ever installed from code on both machines.

On the bright side, the performance claims seem to be bearing out. Apps are starting faster and boot-up in general is quicker.

Bottoms Up?

In his take on last month’s GeoWeb conference, Sean Gorman expresses his love for the “bottom up” style of geo-webification:

Top down being standards developed by committees (W*S, GML, CWS etc.), data sharing initiatives in the form of Spatial Data Infrastructures (SDI), and implementations built around protocols like SOAP. On the other end we have bottom-up approaches where de facto standards are created around iterated implementations (KML, GeoRSS, SpatiaLite etc.). Data sharing takes the form of indexed geodata that is directly Web accessible (e.g. Jason Birch’s work with Nanaimo). Protocols for implementation in the bottom-up category typically follow a RESTful philosophy.

But, how do I find all this wonderful “bottom up” data? Here’s a hint, it starts with “G”… Basically the “bottom up” folks have looked at the SDI publish-find-bind triangle and decided that “find” and “bind” are too much trouble. Someone else will have to deal with that. And fortunately (?), someone (starts with “G”) has.

The rejoinder to my complaint is that the bottom up approach demonstrably works, while the SDI approach demonstrably doesn’t. But that doesn’t stop me from worrying about handing over a big part of the geo-webification program to a big, privately controlled, black box. One of Jason Birch’s concerns about his elegant SEO-oriented approach to civic data publication was that the big black box was returning his data the “wrong way” (funneling certain address searches into the wrong place). We are back to hacking against a private black box API; it’s Win32 all over again folks.

My geo-webby self loves that this stuff (mostly) “just works”. My open-sourcey self worries that we are merrily affixing the golden handcuffs to ourselves. I, for one, am ambivalent about our new Googley masters.