Posted by: Frank | June 30, 2008

My Personal Computing Quest

Central to my personal computing strategy is the creation a trusted source for information. I long recognized that one of the big values of PCs is that you can use them to store and then retrieve information, allowing me to not have to try and retain tons of information in my brain.

My quest began when I started working, and began with a Sharp Wizard and a Tandy 1110FD (Radio Shack) laptop computer. Back more than 15 years ago there was no such thing as notebook computers or handheld computers. The Tandy was more like a notebook in that it weighed around 4 pounds, and had a full size keyboard but a small 10″ wide by 6″ tall monochrome LCD screen. The operating system and productivity software was all on a ROM chip, so the machine booted very quickly, but it had no hard drive; data was stored on 3.5″ floppy disks. Still, it was a useful note taking device because it was portable, light, booted quickly, and had a built-in word processor. Unfortunately, the battery technology back then was not very good and suffered by the memory affect that over time significantly reduced battery life.

I used the Sharp Wizard to store personal information, like appointments, addresses, and tasks. Software came on flash cards and I could type notes using the physical keyboard, though the keyboard was hindered by an alphabetical layout rather than a qwerty layout. Over the years the Wizard was replaced by an Apple Newton Messagepad, a variety of Windows CE Handheld and Palm-sized PCs, and now Pocket PCs.

Today the Tandy has been replaced by my Asus Eee PC, which is much smaller and much more functional than that Tandy way back when, even though it shares the same purposes as an information repository. Other big differences are software and connectivity, which combined with the size of the Eee PC and the Pocket PC have enabled me to nearly achieve my personal computing quest.

A big step came when the latest version of Evernote was announced. I have been using OneNote, and had tried Evernote previously but did not find it to be as good as OneNote. However, the latest version that just went into public beta has surpassed OneNote in usefulness for me. The key feature is integration with servers on the Internet where you can store information as well as synchronize that information with other Windows and Macintosh computers.

What Evernote enables me to do is enter information and have that information available to me from any computer that I may use. If all I have access to is a web browser, then I can use the Evernote website. If I have my Eee PC, I access the information that has synchronized to it; likewise if I am sitting in front of my Mac Mini. I can also query that information using my Pocket PC, though unfortunately for now the Evernote Pocket PC client is very limited and is designed for entering information into the Evernote repository, but doesn’t provide a way to edit information or carry a copy meaning that I need an Internet connection in order to access my information in Evernote on my Pocket PC.

For me, the Asus Eee PC and Evernote are great together and are helping me achieve my personal computing quest. If, you are looking for a great way to store and retrieve information I recommend Evernote.

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