gMail, gCal, and the deCentralization Movement

I’ve had a gMail account for ages now – at least a couple of years. And I’ve used it about as much as I use my hotmail account… not at all. I got a hotmail account way back when it was still HoTMaiL, before it became a Microsoft juggernaught, and it had its utility, I suppose. Just like anything so fresh out of the gate, though, I wasn’t terribly impressed with the speed, the interface… in essence I was unimpressed overall with webmail.
Since then I’ve looked at webmail with disdain, as a backup to my regular avenues of email communication, POP and IMAP through native clients. I’ve had friends swear by it, seen for myself that there are situations where webmail would be very convenient, and even used it a few times myself. Thing is, I take in a *ridiculous* amount of mail every day, from a wide, wide variety of locations. Then there’s the *ridiculous* amount of space taken up by emails.
How ridiculous? Let’s review. I use MailSteward (an excellent archiving program that sticks all my old emails into a handy searchable relational database) to store the 80,000 emails and attachments I’ve kept around since I first got my Powerbook (back in… oh, 2001?) Since my last bout of spring cleaning with MailSteward, I’ve still got 2014 messages in my boxes – using up about 3.1gb. That’s right, three point one *giga*bytes. On this little Powerbook, with its measly little 30gb hard drive, you can only imagine the impact email has had. This isn’t spam, mind you – this is *legitimate* correspondence. If we average about 3 spams to every one legit email (the actual ratio is higher , I think), that means three times that number has coursed through my email client. That’s a lot. A lot a lot.
gMail’s got 2gb of handy email space. It seems like so much… and maybe for the average user it is… and hey, maybe I should delete emails. I’m going to try it out for a bit and see what happens. Fact is, the whole decentralization of computing that we’ve been witnessing in the past couple of years (okay, okay, actually it’s been like 15 years, but not to the general public) is pretty exciting. All those web-based apps, usable and responsive thanks to the magic of AJAX, web-based email, all good stuff.
A friend of mine said that I should be able to, at any time, get up and sit down at any given computer, and with a little bit of setting up, keep on working. Now, that’s all relative – I often need some specific bits of software to operate – but in general that’s really not a bad way to go (as much as possible.) So really, most web projects can be stored (including original templates and other graphics files) in a subversion repository (Google Code even provides that for you), so that takes care of that. These days you don’t really even need Photoshop or Illustrator, what with GIMP and Inkscape being freely available and mostly cross-platform. Text editor or IDE? There’s plenty of options available. Calendaring, spreadsheets, email, word processing, all handled with web-apps, and pretty efficiently too.
I’d say it’s almost feasible to get up from my Powerbook and sit down at nearly any workstation, Windows, Apple, or Linux, and with a little bit of wiggling, get back to work. Hm. Let’s find out…

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