About Anything

The personal blog of Al Stevens. Focus is overrated.

Archive for the ‘cloud applications’ tag

Lucid Chart — Drawing made simple

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My needs for visio-style diagrams are rather modest. I keep track of our company network which includes a dozen servers at three sites and the necessary firewalls, routers, switches, access points and load balancers to keep it all accessible running. At home I have a couple of servers and a handful of printers, scanners, access points and laptops.

I’ve used SmartDraw in the past, but recently tried out Dia, and except for it’s quirky interface, found it quite adequate. Given my desire to move as many applications as possible off my laptop and into the cloud, neither SmartDraw nor Dia are options.

LucidChart (www.lucidchart.com) popped up on my twitter radar a couple of days ago, promising “attractive flow charts, org charts, and more for the web or print” so I signed up. A free account provides up to 5 megs of storage and gives you all of the editing features, including the ability to collaborate on drawings — something I’m not sure I need.

The javascript web-based editor took a minute to load, but after that was very snappy. Using elements form the four libraries provided — Flow Chart, Network, Electronics and Audio Equipment —  I knocked out a network diagram in only a few minutes.  The drag-drop interface is intuitive and easy to use and there’s easy access to both item and page properties so you can type in values for things like object width and height if you want to be precise.

 There are some how-to videos on the site, but so far I haven’t stopped long enough to view them. Once drawn, I was able to print the diagram easily to pdf — it was annoying that the background was heavily watermarked with “LucidChart Free Premium Trial Removes theis Watermark”. A free premium trial is free for 30 days and then $50 per year after that, which allows an unlimited number of users from your organization and 100MB of storage.

The intial libraries were minimal — I ended up using rectangles in several places, even for my simple networks. Each device seemed to have only four attachment points, so complex connections looked a little spaghetti like. I couldn’t figure out a way to add text labels to devices. My solution was to use text boxes placed above or below the device drawing. A group function would have made this much more reasonable. Without that the text became another object to manage.

There is an option to upload your own images. I’ve yet to try that, but that is still not a great substitute for a comprehensive set of libraries.

Overall, I’m planning to use LucidChart as my prefered network/flowchart package going forward. I’ll probably sign up for premium. I’ll definitely look forward to more libraries, more attachement points on the objects and a grouping function.

Written by Al Stevens

April 14th, 2009 at 11:06 am

Moving my laptop into the cloud

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I want to cut the cord to my laptop. I want a lighter and cheaper one, one that I don’t need to worry about losing, breaking or having it fail.

It has way too much data and way to many applications living on it that I depend on way too much. It’s mostly backed up, but it would take me days to recover the data and reinstall the apps. It’s speced for development, so it’s heavy. Half the weight of my backpack is my laptop.

With all the buzz about cloud computing, plus some recent experience with a few cloud apps, I’ve come to the conclusion that it just might be possible to replace my Dell Precision with a little Dell, HP or Acer, maybe even getting ambitious and going for a diskless machine. My goal is to do evertyhging I do today, but on a $500 or less machine, weighing under three pounds, that could be replaced with a fully functioning one in less than half a day.

So, I’m embarking on an project to move everything possible into “the cloud”.

I’ve laid out a high level plan: 1) Inventory my current data and apps 2) Categorize them by feasability of moving into the cloud 3) Start with the easiest group 4) Move down the list 5) Once pretty far down the list, evaluate whether a netbook is feasable. I’ll document progress here.

Written by Al Stevens

April 8th, 2009 at 12:41 pm