While I was in LA my laptop started acting funky; it would basically take it five minutes to perform even the simplest of functions. After several hours fiddling with it in safe mode and out of it, I said “screw this,” cracked open the recovery disc and reformatted the entire drive. And just like that my laptop was once again cruft free and runs a treat. I understand Unix partisans may moan and groan that I did not use this opportunity to release myself from the shackles of that hateful Microsoft Vista, but look, it was midnight when it all went down and I wanted to sleep at some point, and the recovery disc was already there. Sue me for taking the easy way out.
That said, I did decide to abandon Microsoft in one arena, which is that I’ve made the executive decision that my default word processor going forward is going to be Google Documents. There are a few reasons for this: Google Documents exists out there on Teh Internets, which means that I can access it from anywhere and it’s independent from any one computer, which is frankly useful since I switch out between my desktop and laptop with frequency. It’s platform agnostic; as long as I have a recent browser I don’t have a problem. And, importantly, Google has finally gotten around to making a few user interface tweaks that make all the difference: Maybe no one else finds “word count” or the ability not to have text go across the full length of the browser window dealbreakers, but those are precisely the two things that kept me from using it regularly. As a final nice touch, in those terrifying instances where one is (horrors!) away from connectivity, Google Gears allows you to work offline and then sync up. And of course, it’s free. Done and done.
I recognize there is the issue of whether I can trust Google with my data. But, you know, last year I switched my e-mail over to GMail so I could access it from anywhere while I was on my book tour, and I never switched it back and at no point since then have I been particularly concerned that someone at Google is gleefully traipsing through my mail, reading all my secrets. Yes, they have a program looking at keywords, the better to serve me up ads. So what. At the end of the day, unless I own my mail server (and I don’t), someone somewhere can access my e-mail. If I was really worried about it, I would own my own server, and I’d encrypt every damn e-mail I send. I don’t. A year of GMail suggests that Google, in fact, does not plan to invade my privacy every time I use one of its services. And, you know. Anything I don’t want to risk Google or anyone else seeing, I won’t use Google Documents for. I still have Microsoft Word, after all.
This does mark a certain evolution in my conception of online privacy, I’ll admit. Believe it or not, I am a fairly private person, and I’m not especially inclined to hang out every little thing I write or do in the online data cloud, especially work that’s in process. Even a year ago I wouldn’t be inclined to make an online app my default word processor. But at the end of the day my experience suggests the theoretical erosion of my privacy for what I would this application for is balanced out rather handily by the actual, practical advantages it provides me in getting my work done. I could be wrong. I guess I’ll find out.
But in the meantime it means my laptop will run faster, unencumbered as it is with piles and piles of crap. And if I start having performance issues again, well. Then I guess I will switch over to Linux after all.