Monday, January 23, 2012

Clouds, but it's not Weather!

Application: iPad
Function: Cloud Computing Apps
Cost: DropBox, CloudOn and OnLive have free options, Splashtop Desktop is $4.99

This post is a bit of a departure from the marine apps normally reviewed. I thought it was applicable for some of us who need to do a little work while on the road.  When you talk to most boaters about clouds they are probably thinking about storms or weather. In this case we are talking about the virtual computing Cloud. As an avid boater, I sometimes have to do a little work while I play.  The Cloud and some additional apps helps me do this with ease.

I have been trying to wean myself off of the Microsoft Office programs and use the iOS apps to do my work. There are some times when I still need to edit or modify a Word or Excel document.  There are a couple of apps that allow this whole Cloud thing to happen and work for me.

The first is Dropbox, and it is exactly what it sounds like. It is a place to store files and get access to them from anywhere you are. Dropbox stores them on their secure server with various data plans.  The Dropbox program has to also be installed on your PC, Mac or Linux machine.  You can then access them with your iOS device or your PC anywhere you have an Internet connection.  The problem with DropBox is that it does not allow you to modify the files from your iOS device.

Another iOS app that works with your Dropbox account is CloudOn. The CloudOn app gives you a desktop that allows you to access your Microsoft Office documents.  The app let you view and modify your Word, Excel or PowerPoint files on your iOS device and saves them to your DropBox account. The files are automatically updated on your laptop or PC at home through the Internet. The interface is shown below.

Another way to deal with your Microsoft Office files is OnLive Desktop.  This app is fairly new and was just released on January 13th. OnLive, as most of you know, has a very popular game streaming site.  They soon realized they could stream anything, even a Windows Desktop. That is exactly what you get as shown below.  This app is free with 2GB of storage. Check our the other data plans on their site.

When you log into OnLive Desktop you will see a actual Windows desktop with icons for Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint and a Recycle bin. This desktop allows you to create or modify files on your iOS device and save them to the OnLive Cloud.  To access your files on your PC or Laptop, simply access their website and login.

If your not comfortable with this whole weatherless Cloud thing you could use Splashtop Remote.  This app allows you to securely connect over the Internet to your laptop or desktop at home.  You will have to install the Splashtop Streamer on your PC to connect your PC to the remote iOS device. With a secure user and password the app will bring up your desktop just like you were sitting there in front of your PC. You can run any application on your PC remotely over the Internet on your iPad.  If you needed to modify a Microsoft Office file you can easily do that then email it to yourself. This app will cost you $4.99 but it is well worth it.

It is a strange new world out there pilgrims. Embrace the Cloud and enjoy the flexibility and freedom Cloud computing can give you!


  1. Hi Mark. My husband and I are taking our 4 kids sailing in the Caribbean for 5 months starting next month, between Panama, Guatemala, Belize and the DR. The best schooling option for our freshman son is an online program. So we need to figure out the best way to get internet on the boat. Currently our plan is a) wi-fi when available b) use sea crane USB wi-fi antennae when needed to get signal c) use our iPad with 3G and 10 gigs per month when available if there's no wi-fi. Do you know if those are reasonable options? Do you know if we have 2G voice & data coverage (as indicated by the AT&T website) will that be enough to stream video for his lessons? Also, one last question. Will our gps apps work without cell coverage ie; anchor alert, iNavX?

  2. Sounds like a great trip, good luck. It is amazing how many restaurants, marinas, coffee shops and hotels have free WiFi. If you can't get marina WiFi you might have to check those out.

    Streaming video is pretty intense and will eat up your GBs pretty fast. Check with AT&T for those countries, roaming rates will most likely apply. If you have the 3G iPad it has an internal GPS and will work with all GPS apps including iNavx. The WiFi only iPads do not have a internal GPS.

    Check out the Drag Queen anchor alarm app listed on my site.
    Have a great trip and let me know how things worked out!