Cloud Integration Shootout: Office Suites part 2 (the Mac conundrum)

Users of modern Macs face an unfortunate dilemma when it comes to cloud-integrated office suites. Google Cloud Connect is not available for Macs; the company blames Microsoft for their lack of support for open APIs in the Mac version of Office. And the OOo2GD extension for OpenOffice (and friends) doesn’t work properly on any version of OSX after 10.4 (Tiger) due to Java issues. What this effectively means is that true Google Docs integration is simply not possible at the current time. Users are left with two equally cumbersome and unappealing options.

Microsoft Office 2011 for Mac includes native (though rudimentary) hooks into Microsoft’s own cloud infrastructure. Applications in this suite offer the ability to “Save to SkyDrive” or “Save to SharePoint.” There is not, however, support for automatic synchronization. It is still a manual process, an extra step in your workflow which means this is not true integration. And for established Google Docs devotees, it requires a separate collaborative space to be created and maintained.

NeoOffice is a Mac-specific fork of OpenOffice. I tested version 3.2 Beta Patch 1. Through a feature known as “NeoOffice Mobile,” it does provide support for saving to Google Docs; but again, true integration eludes us here. Users are inexplicably required to create a separate NeoOffice Mobile account, even if they’re only using it for the ability to save directly to Google Docs. The account creation process is tedious (you are asked to donate money), and credentials do not appear to be saved between sessions. So when you quit NeoOffice, and then start it up the next time, you have to separately login to both NeoOffice Mobile and Google Docs. And you have to do this every time. There’s no automatic synchronization, either.

The elegance and seamlessness of both Google Cloud Connect and OOo2GD are sorely missed in OSX Leopard and Snow Leopard. Hopefully someday soon, one of these options will be available, or perhaps an entirely new solution will present itself.

Cloud Integration Shootout: Office Suites

google cloud connect

 

 

Analysis: LibreOffice 3 + OOo2GD versus Microsoft Office 2010 + Google Cloud Connect

 

The following is a comparison of cloud integration options for two popular office suites. Both options allow synchronization of documents, spreadsheets and presentations to Google Docs. Both options allow for either automatic or manual syncing, depending on user preference.

 

 

LibreOffice 3 + OOo2GD advantages:

  • None of the costs associated with Microsoft Office
  • Multi-platform (Windows, Mac, Linux, many other Unix variants)
  • Supports other cloud services besides Google Docs (Zoho and generic WebDAV)
  • When used with user-controlled WebDAV, allows for total control/ownership of all data
  • Translated into many other languages besides English

 

LibreOffice 3 + OOo2GD disadvantages:

  • Some problems with certain versions of Mac OSX (seems to be Java related)
  • Needs Java 5+ to work, on any platform

 

Microsoft Office 2010 + Google Cloud Connect advantages:

  • Allows user to disable Protected View for documents synced with Google Docs
  • Allows application-level configuration of a proxy server to access Google Docs
  • Does not require Java

 

Microsoft Office 2010 + Google Cloud Connect disadvantages:

  • The cost of the office suite
  • Limited to the Windows platform
  • No option for end-to-end control and ownership of all data
  • Does not support any services other than Google Docs

 

Conclusion:

The most impactful factors to consider are the platforms being used by all potential collaborators, and any enterprise requirements for internalization of data.

If you’re dealing with a heterogeneous client environment, OOo2GD is the way to go. The interface looks the same across all platforms it supports, which simplifies training through consistency and uniformity; the only caveat is that you may have problems if any Mac users are running one of the versions of OSX affected by the known Java issue. If you’re an all-Windows shop, none of the above is a concern, and either option will work fine.

Some companies are hesitant to embrace cloud computing because of the inherent risks of having your data stored on someone else’s hardware, in a physical location you do not control. This would be a show-stopper for Google Cloud Connect, because all synchronized documents will live on Google’s servers. Assuming your company sets up its own internal WebDAV instance, which could be accessed by employees via VPN, OOo2GD would provide a completely self-owned and internally-controlled solution. This would allay many of the typical fears associated with cloud computing.

 

My experiences with Shoreline East commuter rail: the first 4 months.

 

Shoreline East

After driving back and forth to work in New Haven since July 2003, I’ve been commuting by train for four months now. The following is an objective document of my experiences thus far, in hopes of better informing the decisions of those who might be contemplating such a change to their daily routine. I should mention that this evaluation is from a decidedly Yale-centric perspective. Your mileage may vary. I’m also going to jump quickly from one thought to another, so bear with me.

Positives:

The obvious primary benefit, to most, will be the freedom from having to compete with rush hour traffic on Interstate 95; this is especially important during the winter months, when snow often makes a bad situation even worse. You also save on gasoline, since you’re not driving as much. Normal wear and tear on your vehicle is reduced for the same reason. A monthly train pass, when purchased using pretax savings to receive a discount (a Yale benefit), is often far less expensive than monthly parking fees, especially on Yale’s medical campus. The majority of shoreline train stations offer free parking, so if you live too far away to walk or bike to them, you likely won’t be paying to leave your vehicle there during business hours. Yale offers numerous and frequent free shuttle options to and from the State Street and Union Stations. Shoreline East’s service is generally very reliable, even during this brutal winter, especially when compared to Metro North. In unexpected situations where there is an appropriate need, riders are offered a guaranteed ride home program, facilitated by a local taxi company; this compensates for the loss of “mobile autonomy” that comes with taking the train. Many riders enjoy the personal relaxation time afforded them by train commuting, taking advantage by reading (as I do), catching up on email, or grabbing a quick nap. Cellular providers’ voice and data coverage of the Shoreline East route appears to be reasonably good, with at least one unfortunate dead zone for most in the area of Hoadley Neck. You should check your own provider’s coverage map to be sure. Finally, there’s the intangible benefit of knowing that you’re doing something good for the environment, by keeping one more pollution-emitting vehicle off the road.

Negatives:

Being on a fixed commuting schedule set by someone else can be a bit jarring at first. It reminded me of being back in elementary school, and taking the bus. You are adding a bit of extra time on both ends of your commute, particularly on those infrequent occasions when the train is late. Walking to your job from State Street or Union Station (or taking a shuttle) also adds some extra time, and every once in a while a shuttle will be too full to accommodate any additional passengers. The bottom line is that you will probably have to leave your home a bit earlier, and arrive back home a bit later, than if you were driving. You may also have to make special arrangements with your supervisor depending on which train home you wish to catch. The Shoreline East train departing Union Station at 5:10pm requires most folks to leave their offices prior to 5pm in order to get there in time.  If you do elect to walk, you may want to take into consideration the route you may have to take. The most efficient route can sometimes take you through a potentially unsafe neighborhood, and you should plan accordingly. Although Shoreline East’s service is generally reliable as I mentioned previously, those rare times when a train is significantly delayed or cancelled can be a source of major headaches; this is part of the sacrifice of personal convenience you make when taking the train. Lastly, during peak periods in the holiday season, Shoreline East trains can be plagued with occasional overcrowding by non-commuters. The aforementioned relaxation factor is usually negated during such rides.

Conclusion:

I continue to enjoy commuting by train, finding that the positives have outweighed the negatives. Since my perspective thus far is limited to the colder months, I look forward to a time when I can leisurely walk or bike to my local station instead of driving there. I expect my appreciation for train commuting will only increase when that time comes.

Two and a half memes?

For a few days already I’ve been sick of hearing about a certain delusional actor who likes to hit women and generally act like a supreme douche. But the more you people talk about him, the more you inadvertently promote him and ensure that he will eventually continue to make money off of the suffering and hateful exploitation of other human beings. Stop quoting the catchphrases, stop turning this into a meme, just let it quietly die and drop out of the media spotlight. Even that is more than he deserves.