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I mentioned yesterday that my wish for Santa was that he do the actual write-up on several tech items I keep meaning to get around to. Here is second-best: a reader who sends in a supplementary description of his "machine-independent" computing life, in which you can just stop thinking about which computer has the "real" copies of your files. The reader writes:

>>You may be interested to know that automatic sync to a personal cloud storage account is now built in at the OS level in Ubuntu.  It's actually cross platform, you can check it out at UbuntuOne.com.  You need the application to do the sync that's built into the Ubuntu OS, and since I'm an Ubuntu user I haven't tried it, but I think it's a very good sign that the sort of functionality you get using dropbox and sugarsync appears to be headed for operating system integration.

ubuntu.jpgBetween Ubuntuone, box.net and google docs I am also completely machine independent. You might also want to look at a device called Pogoplug.  It's essentially a NAS adapter with a built-in webserver, so it allows you to use off the shelf USB hard drives to set up your own personal cloud.  So I hung a few terrabytes of cheap storage on it and put it on a shelf in the dining room (the new version has a WiFi radio) and I keep my huge files (movies, music, photos, backups etc.) on it and can access them from any computer anywhere in the world even if all the computers in my house are turned off.  Pogoplug completes the toolbox to allow you to never have to think about which files are where.  The only hard part remaining is breaking the habit of just saving files locally.<<

I'm grateful for that -- and for the arrival of my children and their spouses, with whom I'll be spending the next few days (off-line). Merry Christmas to all.

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James Fallows is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and has written for the magazine since the late 1970s. He has reported extensively from outside the United States and once worked as President Carter's chief speechwriter. His latest book is China Airborne. More

James Fallows is based in Washington as a national correspondent for The Atlantic. He has worked for the magazine for nearly 30 years and in that time has also lived in Seattle, Berkeley, Austin, Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai, and Beijing. He was raised in Redlands, California, received his undergraduate degree in American history and literature from Harvard, and received a graduate degree in economics from Oxford as a Rhodes scholar. In addition to working for The Atlantic, he has spent two years as chief White House speechwriter for Jimmy Carter, two years as the editor of US News & World Report, and six months as a program designer at Microsoft. He is an instrument-rated private pilot. He is also now the chair in U.S. media at the U.S. Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, in Australia.

Fallows has been a finalist for the National Magazine Award five times and has won once; he has also won the American Book Award for nonfiction and a N.Y. Emmy award for the documentary series Doing Business in China. He was the founding chairman of the New America Foundation. His recent books Blind Into Baghdad (2006) and Postcards From Tomorrow Square (2009) are based on his writings for The Atlantic. His latest book is China Airborne. He is married to Deborah Fallows, author of the recent book Dreaming in Chinese. They have two married sons.

Fallows welcomes and frequently quotes from reader mail sent via the "Email" button below. Unless you specify otherwise, we consider any incoming mail available for possible quotation -- but not with the sender's real name unless you explicitly state that it may be used. If you are wondering why Fallows does not use a "Comments" field below his posts, please see previous explanations here and here.
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