Operation Foxbook: Life Inside the Browser, So Far

By  |  Thursday, September 25, 2008 at 11:18 am

I’m typing this in Firefox on an HP Mini-Note netbook. In fact, I’m doing everything in Firefox on the Mini-Note at the moment, because I’m engaged in the experiment I call Operation Foxbook, in which I spend a few days trying to go cold turkey on desktop applications and my fancy MacBook in favor of working in a manner that’s as close to purely Web-based as possible.

How’s it going so far? Not bad, but not entirely free of bumps. A few notes on the Web-based applications I’ve been using:

Blogging: Technologizer is based on the wonderful WordPress platform. I’ve gone through periods of writing blog posts in desktop tools such as Ecto, but lately I’ve just been writing directly into WordPress. No changes in my habits required here.

E-Mail: I’ve been tending to bop back and forth between Apple’s desktop Mail app and Gmail (into which I route both my personal and Technologizer mail) in recent months. For the duration of Operation Facebook, I’ll just skip the bopping and work in Gmail. It ain’t perfect, but it’s more than up to the task.

Calendar: Actually, when I want to check my schedule, I’m as likely to do it on my iPhone as on a computer. When I do use the computer, I’ve usually done so with Apple’s iCal. But I use MobileMe to sync the iPhone and iCal, and it also gives me a Web-based calendar service that looks and behaves much like iCal. I should be in good shape there.

Image processing: Here’s where things get tricky. I do most of my image wrangling for Technologizer in Photoshop–it’s probably the most purely desktop-centric work I do.

Yesterday, I needed to grab and edit an image of the logo for Google’s Android OS for a post I was working on. With Photoshop out of the picture, I decided to try Aviary, an impressive-looking suite of graphics tools that wasn’t available when I wrote a review of Web-based image editors for PC World a couple of months ago. Aviary is impressive–unlike most online image editors, it’s aimed at pros rather than casual shutterbugs, and comes closer to feeling like a plausible Photoshop substitute than any other Web image editor I’ve seen…counting Adobe’s own Photoshop Express.

I brought a copy of the Android logo into Aviary’s Phoenix image editor, cropped and resized it…and got an error message when I tried to export it so I could bring it into WordPress. Oops. Aviary still looks extremely neat, so I’m going to come back to it. But I had work to get done, so I hopped over to Picnik, the image editor I named as a Best Bet for my PCW review. Picnik doesn’t set out to replace Photoshop, but for what it tries to do, it’s one of the best-designed Web apps of any sort I’ve ever used. And I was able to get the Android logo into shape with it in a couple of minutes.

I was going to write in this post about the experience of dumping the big, powerful, expensive MacBook Pro for small, simple, and cheap Mini-Note, but that really deserves a post of its own. Which I’ll write soon. Stay tuned for that and more of Operation Foxbook as the experiment continues…


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7 Comments For This Post

  1. marty_k Says:

    Try http://www.picnik.com/ for image editing. It’s not a Photoshop substitute but should do for simple editing ;-)

  2. Relyt Says:

    I use Aviary and was in the private beta….what is your name on the site? What do you think of the tools? I personally love Phoenix but find Peacock confusing!

    Good luck on the rest of your voyage….

  3. Harry McCracken Says:

    I’m Harrymccracken (simple, huh?) at Aviary. I’ve only used Phoenix so far, but will dig into the other stuff, too–I admire what they’re trying to do…

  4. Relyt Says:

    Yeah, they really have a great project on their hands. Pretty neat tools so far! They just released Raven (vector) but I don’t have a high enough plan to use it (running on student discount). It sounds pretty interesting.

  5. Kyle M. Says:

    I kind of like Splashup for online image editing. It’s a very close approximation of Photoshop’s UI (even closer than Phoenix, IMO) and syncs with Facebook, Flickr, etc.

    Can’t wait to hear more of your observations. Would you buy a $200 Firefox netbook?

  6. Kevin C. Tofel Says:

    Glad to see you take up the experiment Harry. I did the same “web-only challenge” for two months using an Ultra Mobile PC to test the lack of client apps (other than Firefox, of course), cloud/web services and how well a lower powered device can handle the workload. Given the growing netbook market, I thought it worth the effort. To keep myself honest for the experiment, I posted my online Wakoopa statistics. Through that free app, my client usage was tracked and over 60 days, I used Firefox 98% of my computing time, which is about 10 hours a day, 7 days a week. Have fun with it; the HP Mini-note should easily handle most, if not all, of your needs in this experiment.

  7. mathiastck Says:

    You might want to try google’s chrome for this. It’s not a firefox replacement yet, but for a lot of sites it’s much faster.

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