Surviving a Two OS World

I live in a two OS world.

At work, I live mostly in Windows 7, with some brief excursions into XP.

At home, as you’ve probably guessed by now, I live in Xubuntu.

Keeping the two worlds in sync isn’t that big an issue, though. In fact, I’d say it’s hardly an issue at all.

The glue that holds my worlds together is actually Google Calendar. I’m not a huge Google Calendar fan because of some of its reliability issues. Calendars will sometimes go down for minutes at a time. It’s not a horrible, but since I use Google Calendar as my to do list, it does occasionally compromise productivity.

Digression 1: I have so many concerns about the reliability and uptime of Google Calendar, I set it to send a daily summary email of my calendar, so if the live calendar isn’t available, at least I have an earlier version from which to work.

Digression 2: I’ve been looking for a replacement web calendar on and off for about a year or so. I’ve yet to find something as good that will also let me seamlessly import all of my Google calendars (the .ics file is quite large, which I think causes some import issues).

I find that just by putting stuff I need to do on my calendar and then checking my calendar, I can move pretty easily between Xubuntu and Windows without missing a beat. And anything I can’t do on a particular OS gets accomplished the next time I’m on the one I need, since it’s on my calendar and since I check my calendar religiously.

I’ve discussed this before, but the AbiWord/Gnumeric to Microsoft Office conversion/translation hookup is imperfect, but workable. One OS concession I usually make is to send out files from Xubuntu as PDFs wherever possible, just so I know files look like I want them to across OSs. Also, PDF is now an open standard, which is pretty cool.

Obviously, with the cloud and whatnot, a lot of work gets done in the browser. I pretty much set up every browser the same way, so I never have to shift mental gears, no matter where I’m working. For me, that means Chrome for Windows and Chromium for Xubuntu. I always install AdBlock, Chromed Bird (for Twitter), and the Web Developer Toolbar, which to be frank, just isn’t as good as the Firefox version.

I put in browser bookmarks for pinboard and CiteULike and change the default search to DuckDuckGo. This pretty much gives me a flawless illusion of always working on the same computer, no matter what the OS is.

It seems pretty much every article about working across computers mentions Dropbox. I too am a Dropbox user and I use it to work across multiple computers but in a fairly limited way. I don’t have the Dropbox client on my home computer as a way to maintain a psychological boundary between work and home. I work with files using the web interface, which is pretty nice, but not so nice that I feel compelled to work more than I need to at home.

And that’s really all that it takes for me to work across computers and operating systems. It’s really just a matter of finding a workflow that works and replicating it across computers. The less I need to think about where I’m working, the less likely it is that something will go wrong.