Tech Friday (on Monday) – iCloud & Skype

ownCloudUnless you have been living under a technological rock the last couple of weeks you, by no doubt, know that the biggest news in tech the last few weeks is the announcement of the not very well-kept iCloud by Apple. It was rumored to be coming for more than a few weeks and even the week before Jobs came back from his medical leave for apparently one day to make the announcement, semi official announcements were being made straight from Apple and company. As of this past week, the cat is officially out of the bag at this point, but we are still left wondering about as much as we were before the announcement took place to be honest.

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Amazon Cloud Drive

Amazon Cloud PlayerMid-last week Amazon announced a couple of new services called Cloud Drive and Cloud Player. There was much hub-bub after the announced about how this would put Amazon ahead of Google and Apple in this niche of the field and much grinding of teeth over the seeming very open privacy options that Amazon has stated in the Terms of Service for these particular services. I want to give some thoughts on both aspects, but first I think should define just what each is.

Cloud Drive is just that. A virtual drive up in the cloud. Think of it as a memory stick (thumb drive) that is virtually attached to your system. It is, initially intended for storing your music on it, but it is, even at this stage, more than capable of storing any kind of data you might desire to store, from movie files, data file for your word processor or spread sheet program, to photos, and anything else in between.

Cloud Player is the tool that will play your music files from a browser window. So, anytime you have a connection, you have access to your music basically. They of course have versions that work in almost all computer platforms and already have support for I-Phone/Pad and Android as well.

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Bucking the Technology Trends

BuckingLooking back I have to wonder if I have done this my entire life or is it a fairly recent phenomena.  The ‘this’ being the seeming running in opposite directions of the technological trends.  I have looked around recently and found several cases where I am seeming going in the opposite direction of the popular tide in regards to a technological trend.  A few, going back a bit more, are really not that hard to grasp.  For instance, the entire push toward the mini-laptop computers just really made little sense to me.  Sure, they are inexpensive extremely light weight machines, that with a light O/S like my usual Linux can do a pretty good amount of stuff.  On the other hand, they are extremely limited in processing power, usually light on memory and such as well, and having hands like Kurt Warner, using a keyboard that is smaller by approximately a third just does not work well.

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Catch Phrases

I notices this past week at the seminar I was involved in that certain catch phrases and ideas catch on like wild-fire and become the words that everyone is using to define the direction we are moving toward. The little seminar itself could almost be described that way, as it was this big idea coming out API called Newspaper Next. I am reminded of things that I worked on back in 2002 or so-called Internet 2.0, which itself has been replaced by Web 2.0. Do not get me wrong, I think it was a wonderful seminar and there were some really good ideas that came out of it. I think it is good that the media industry has some folks starting to realize that business usual is going to lead to no business in a few years if things are not shaken up and changed a lot.

What really irks me about the catch phrases are those two or three people at the office and the one or two friends that you have. You know the ones, they hear a couple of new terms or catch phrases and really jump on the band wagon and run with it. Usually it is the person that really has no understanding the methodology or any real understanding of what they are really talking about that does that kind of thing.

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Cloud Computing

Has anyone outside of the high-tech world of system administrators and the like heard of this buzz word in the last couple of years? I am curious more because I completely understand what it is and the concept is so as the world turns to me. It is, for those that are wondering, suppose the be greatest thing to happen to computers since the microprocessor and html or something like that.

You see, back in the beginning of computers – well – okay, back in the beginning of when computers started to be utilized we had big computers that occupied entire rooms and sometimes even the whole floor of many fine institutions like universities, banks and fortune 500 companies. Now pretty much everyone at those companies could access and use the computer power in said big machine by what was called a terminal or even more correctly, a dumb terminal. So called, because basically it had not processing ability – it instead just offered a display back of the processing that was taking place on the main computer. Interesting that I used the word main, as those big computers were often called main frames.

Fast forward to 2008, when I hear an interview on NPR this morning (yes, in case if you have not figured it out, I probably listen to more talk radio, especially NPR in the mornings, than typically I do of music – at least from the radio). So they are interview this fellow from some nameless fortune 500 company in regards to cloud computing. Not the first that I have heard of it, but maybe the first for some of you. The basic idea is there is this internet cloud. You computer on the desk or better yet in your lap, is a low powered system that really doesn’t have much computational ability. How does this work, well, when it needs to actually compute something, it talks to the internet cloud and the processing is passed off to some machine up there in the cloud. The computation takes place the result is returned to your low powered PC – which is basically just displaying the results – like – ta da – a terminal. Interestingly enough, with the ability to potentially access time on super computers (granted, you would have to have a pretty good limit on your credit card to do this much) you can have all sorts of computer processing power at your fingertips.

Interestingly enough the whole reason that we have gotten to such expensive systems on the desktops is that since 1980, when the first manufactured PC’s started to appear, we have gone full swing with the pendulum the opposite direction. The model basically putting at persons fingertips the full computing power they need. The downside to this is of course that so often the computers sit there idle or running with a minimum load in order to compensate for that one or two spikes a day that requires a big honking amount of computer power. This model was also desirable, as the network infrastructure was lacking to support the above model – as dial-up for home especially was TOO slow.

So, to all my former students who I had said the pendulum was starting to swing the other direction since Windows 3.11 and especially with Windows 2000/XP – the concept of Cloud Computing takes us just about full circle to the former days.