Tracking My Time with Toggl

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Today was a busy day. I was working on six different projects for two different clients. Nothing is unstarted and nothing is done; it’s all a work in progress.  How can I keep track of it all?  Toggl.

I’ve been using Toggl for free for almost a year now. I get enough value from it that I upgraded to the “pro” version.

What is Toggl?

Toggl is designed for effortless time tracking. You can easily capture fragmented worktime. Switching a task or creating a new one is as simple as one mouseclick.  It’s a cloud based service that’s accessed via web browser or desktop client (Linux, Mac, and Windows) or an app.  Enter what you’re doing and click start. When done, click stop. If you’re picking it up again later, click continue. Tasks are grouped by client and project.  The website can generate reports suitable for printing or as CSV downloads.

Toggl is not just for consultants.  At the end of the day (or week, or month, or year) it gives you a way to look back and see how you’ve spent your time. Toggl is a  great tool.

Our heads (and servers) in the clouds

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The SternData web server is now operating in the cloud — Amazon's Elastic Cloud 2, to be exact.  From the time I logged into Amazon's AWS Management Console until I had this server up and running was about 1.5 hours, and most of that was used uploading data from the old server.  Best of all, this service is provided free, at least for the first year.

I selected the basic 32 bit Linux server (t1.micro) and installed MySQL locally.  The package includes use of Amazon's database cloud and investigating that is on the to-do list.  The dynamic IP address is managed by ddclient and dyndns.com.

When it’s just out of reach

I spent a frustrating day last week waiting for someone to do something to bring a server in an unknown location back online.  The system was offline for 20 hours and my one contact was unable to explain what had happened. 

Well, Steve, what have we learned from this? 

Now that the system is back online, you can be sure that I'm backing it up to a machine I can touch and see, and I'm building a clone on a VPS at a company that's been immediately responsive to every tech support query I've made and gives me access to the entire virtual machine.  It really comes down to trust and verification. And complacency.  If you know something is wrong, fix it.  Just because the bad thing hasn't happened yet doesn't mean it won't happen a little later today.

A service level agreement is only as good as the counter-party's ability to execute.  If you have no faith in that, there's no SLA, no matter what might be on paper.

Data in the Clouds

Not those clouds, not Mr. DataI’ve been using cloud data storage for a long time, and you may be using it, too.  At a previous employer, we used LiveVault for near real-time offsite backups.  I have several hundred megabytes of mail stored at Google.  You are probably storing mail with your provider.  We’re already in the cloud, with only a password between us and the public.  If you use Mozy or Carbonite, both of which I recommend for personal use, your PC has been duplicated somewhere “out there” or “up there”.

I just signed up to use ADrive. They offer 50 GB of free storage.  For a few extra bucks, you can get automated backup tools.  I’m not exactly sure what I’m going to do with ADrive, but I thought I’d check it out.  In the process, I’ve begun defining my ideal personal or small business cloud storage solution.  It would offer

  • PKI encryption using the openGPG standards
    The process of sending to the site would encrypt with my GPG public key. Thus, only I could decrpypt data when downloading it.
  • Two factor authentication
    Access requires both a password and a single use code sent via SMS.
  • Crossplatform support
    Windows, Mac, Linux, with command line tools and, in the Linux world, support for rsync

What do you want from an inexpensive, comsumer cloud storage solution?