Ex Die in Diem


Canonical Data Store

My computing setup has changed a great deal over the last five years, taking in phases of laptop, desktop, mobile and tablet use, and various combinations thereof. With the exception of the smartphone-only era, this shifting model of computing has required various methods of synchronisation in order to stay current on various devices.

My current approach is lightweight and in flux: I use my iPhone and iPad more or less interchangeably for most tasks, and have a new Mac mini at home for serving up movie files and generally consolidating data. Oh, and for computing, I suppose (it’s been a long time since I had my own computer, and I sometimes struggle to remember what people do with them). The current binding glue of my digital life is Dropbox, which holds all of my interesting data and does a pretty good job of shuffling it around between devices, including pushing this blog post to my server for publication.

The issue that I face, and have been facing for years, is one of primacy: which device holds the current, finished, most-up-to-date, correct version of a file? Ideally, of course, the answer to this question is “all of them”, but that’s not going to hold much water if you’ve ever used more than one computer at once. Changes happen during periods of offline use and never get synced, files mysteriously revert, the versioning elves decide to branch a file between computers, or something else throws a spanner in the works.

Most of the time, in most cases, it’s fine for things to go mildly awry: we’re terribly resilient creatures, and more than capable of recreating the work we slaved over the first time quickly and often with small improvements here and there to structure or tone. It’s a fundamental property of humans that we learn through practice, so having to redo is often a blessing in disguise. On the other hand, if you need to know when your train leaves or the name of that book that you just tried to ask the cashier about, it helps to know that you’ve got the right information at your fingertips. You need a Canonical Data Store. Mine looks like this:

Leuchtterm1917 notebook

Despite the advantages of digital information in ubiquity and backup, you always know that whatever you write on real paper with a real pen will stay pretty much exactly the same over time. It never runs out of battery, and the problematic lack of sync at least means there are never any file conflicts to deal with.

The rest is just a question of habit: everything of importance goes in the book, no exceptions. That way, you can always be sure that anything of importance can be found in the book. Simple and elegant. Just the way I like things.

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