There must be a way to make this work!


Household chores are never really fun, but you do them so you can eat dinner using clean plates and your clothes don't smell like the dog: Chores are a means to an end. In the old days, you learned how to take care of all the things in the house from your parents when you were growing up and that knowledge transferred across generations. For example, my washing machine is a few evolutionary generations beyond what we had growing up, but everything I learned in the 70's to operate a washing machine mostly applies today: put the dirty stuff in, add some detergent, hit a couple buttons, and pull out the clean clothing 45 minutes later. On a daily basis, we use many of the same appliances that we used 30-40 years ago and in basically the same way, except for one: Yep, you guessed it, computers.

As much as we might want to, we can't treat computers as simple appliances. The set of tasks we accomplish with computers changes all the time; the kids are doing school projects, we're sharing songs and pictures with everyone in the family, playing games, sending/receiving email, managing all of our calendars, doing finance tasks (it's just about tax time, right?), and making online purchases. It's tough (impossible?) to make an appliance that adapts to so many different uses. (Maybe the integration of iOS features into MacOSX will improve the situation, but only time will tell at this point.)

To top it all off, we want access to our apps, docs, and web sites from any of the devices in the house. When I get bumped off the computer by the kids, I want to be able to switch to a laptop and pick up with the same docs that I was just working with. Maybe "the cloud" could help but I'm a skeptic and I also find comfort in being able to lay my hands on the device where my data lives. So, let's also demand reliable, shared, and permanent storage from our computing appliances. Oh, and just for fun, maybe you want to keep your private files private, too. This is starting to sound like drudgery.

As much as the great minds in Cupertino and similar places keep trying, none of our computers behave like appliances. They need attention, and sometimes it feels like lots of it. It seems like not a day goes by where the kids aren't asking about setting up some VPN software to support a multi-player online game or the website for the summer camp registration doesn't work with our browser. Imagine if you had to call the Appliance Repair guy to come over every other day to help you press the right buttons on your dishwasher? Seems ludicrous, but that's essentially what it's like with our computers. So, I'm all about finding ways to help push computers more into "appliance-space" and less in "consume-all-your-free-time land."

Now, I'd be lying if I said I didn't enjoy the challenge sometimes. After all, if the solution to a problem is a new gadget or some great new piece of software, who am I to say no to that? Beating down computer problems by applying a little new tech or putting together some sort of "mash-up" solution yourself can be lots of fun.

So, my plan here is to talk about the journey through the home IT scene and hopefully help make some of this problem more like a simple appliance than the insufferable pain that it sometimes can be. I'll talk about some situations I've faced some ideas to work through it. As they say, "Watch this space!"

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