Saturday, December 22, 2007

The Year of Living Online

For my final post of the year, I thought I’d highlight what, for me, was the most significant aspect: the move to working and playing online and taking advantage of many of the new web services out there. I’m not there yet, not by a long shot, but I finally got to experience the promise of broadband.

Key to that has been getting “decent” broadband. While places like Australia, Singapore, Hong Kong, Japan and South Korea are spoilt for choice when it comes to high-speed access, Thailand is like a lot of Asia in that coverage is still sparse, including in the capital Bangkok. So it was with great relief that I welcomed TOT broadband into my part of town this year for the first time.

The first thing to change was that I started using Google and its associated services as they were intended to be used – online. I know there are still many people who prefer to download their Gmail into a traditional email program, but for me it’s a better overall experience doing everything online, from where I can see which other Gmail colleagues and friends are connected and even kickstart a quick chat session when I need some information in a hurry.

It also makes things easier when travelling. Before I had multiple email accounts that I would divert to Gmail, which I considered my roaming account. Now I have ditched the other email accounts and just use predominantly Gmail. If I think I might need a certain document while I’m away, I simply email it to myself knowing that I will be able to retrieve in whatever city I am. I’m sure Yahoo and Hotmail are just as adequate when it comes to this, it’s just I happened to get hooked on Gmail first (although I’m making it a goal to get acquainted with the other services in the new year).

The other thing I like about Google is the associated services and how they’re all starting to work well together. This year I finally put my domain name ( to use and parked it with Google Apps. Not only can I give family members their own email account, I’ve also started this blogging thang for the first time. I chose Blogger as my blogging platform mainly because it seemed to pick up more hits on Google’s search engine than other platforms. And thanks to Google Analytics, I can see how few people really visit the said blog.

Sticking to Google, its Reader is the best thing for reading RSS feeds by a long shot. I’d experimented with desktop RSS readers, but doing it online fits in better with the way I’m now working. And again, if I’m overseas I just fire it up and all of my regular feeds are there. I’ve also made limited use of its online word processing and spreadsheet offerings, though mainly to open up files for a quick look – if I want to keep them, I still tend to download them to the desktop.

I haven’t yet made use of any online storage services, but I’m sure that’s going to happen soon for backups.

Now lets get on to the fun stuff. Like a fair chunk of the Internet population, I signed up for Facebook this year. Great if you haven’t got enough procrastination aids at hand. And yes, I did get slightly addicted to begin with, although that addiction is starting to wane. Slightly. Probably the most useful aspect of it is keeping in touch with people in other states or countries. I’m crap at sending personal emails, so this one lets people see what I’m up to and send the occasional message. Not to mention challenging me to a game of Rock, Scissors and Paper, Pass the Soccer Ball and other mindless diversions.

I’m guessing that something bigger than Facebook will arrive in future, particularly a social network that lets you “own” your personal data, but in the meantime it’s probably the hottest social network going and I’ll still be there next year.

I’m also a fan of, the music service that allows you to select an artist or group that you like and it finds similar music choices and plays them. Another audio service I’m enjoying is podcasts, particular The Podcast Network, which has hundreds of podcasts and new material coming all the time.

And I couldn’t not mention the other major fun diversion I’ve found online this year: fantasy football. I’m a recent convert to the round ball game, but this web service, which allows you to manage a team made up of players from the English Premier League, is addictive. Especially if you’ve got friends doing it and there’s a small wager involved.

I’ve also been playing around on the mobile Internet as well, as many readers of this column will be aware. As I’ve noticed previously, I think you first need to be on the broadband Internet before you can make use of the various services coming to the mobile Internet, as most (not all) seem to be versions of what you’re doing online already – mobile Gmail, mobile Facebook and mobile Fantasy Football sprint to mind.

And as I’ve also mentioned in the past, I still think mobile phones need to be more user friendly than they currently are. This was really put in focus by yet another new toy I’ve been using – the Linksys iPhone with Skype that is reviewed here. The Skype VoIP phone simply worked. No messing with settings or giving other family members a quick lesson in usage. Maybe that’s the type of experience that other iPhone offers too, although I won’t know until it arrives in Asia. Maybe next year.

In the meantime, have a great New Year and see you back here sometime in 2008. – Geoff Long

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