Let's start out with a simple, yet largely unpublicized thesis: cloud computing is bad.
Many people, even many powerful and profitable businesses
would love you to believe otherwise
. They assure you
their shiny, distant machines can be trusted.
" ...one of us, one of us ..."
From security failures
with Google Docs
to Paris Hilton's hacked Sidekick
(as the biggest of many Sidekick-related tragedies
, without even looking at the Blackberry problems
), there's ample evidence that cloud computing
is "chock full of fail."
The idea seems so idyllic. Create and store your data -- documents, music
, whatever -- and store it "in the cloud," on distant servers you don't own and don't control, accessing your material via the internet. The problem is that, like, say, communism, it only works in an idealized state. When real life and real people are involved ... preposterous.
Why? Well, let's look at a number of elements ...
- I CAN'T GET ONLINE: You and your co-workers have a presentation to do on Monday morning. All week you worked on it, collaborating with Google Wave and posting the results on Google Docs. You're feeling confident about your work, and on Sunday night you're gonna fulfill your responsibility to download the file so it can be prepped for a laptop and tested on a projector, since you're first up at the meeting first thing the next day. But you live in Los Angeles, and the rains were heavy as hell and knocked down a tree, which snapped wires that fed your DSL connection (true story, happened to me). You're not getting online tonight, and you can't just drive out to a cyber cafe or something because, oh, your husband is sick and can't be left alone. You are, as they say, screwed.
"... and that's how I got fired ..."
- I CAN'T TRUST YOU: Let's say your phone is, oh, I dunno, a Verizon Droid
. You enter your contact information into the device, or maybe you sync it up via Gmail. That means your contacts are on a computer somewhere, available to anybody smart enough to hack into 'em. Why do you care? Well, let's say you work for, oh, I dunno, a design firm that manages the website for a defense contractor, and you talk to lots of department heads to get sign off (true story, happened to someone I worked for). Suddenly, all your contacts -- name, your notes about them, job titles, et cetera -- are a national security risk. Good job, you just encouraged Al Qaeda! You are, not to put too fine a point on it, caught out there.
- I CAN'T KEEP WHAT I PAID FOR: Let's say you own an e-reader like, let's just say an Amazon Kindle. You buy a book that you love and bought wholly legally. One day, you go look to read your book to go do a report on it and whammo, your content got remotely redacted
, player! As David Pogue at the New York Times
explains: "apparently the publisher changed its mind about offering an electronic edition, and apparently Amazon, whose business lives and dies by publisher happiness, caved. It electronically deleted all books by this author from people’s Kindles and credited their accounts for the price." When you spent your money, you didn't buy
the book, you licensed
it, and that license can be revoked with or without your approval or knowledge. You are, just for kicks, anally raped.
"There was of course no way of knowing whether you were being watched at any given moment. How often, or on what system, the Thought Police plugged in on any individual wire was guesswork. It was even conceivable that they watched everybody all the time. But at any rate they could plug in your wire whenever they wanted to. You had to live—did live, from habit that became instinct—in the assumption that every sound you made was overheard, and, except in darkness, every movement scrutinized."Some say
that moving some content (entertainment based) to float in the ethereal nothingness is a fix for a season of The Office
hogging up 20GB of hard drive space, and that "most average consumers are not going to ... buy terabyte external hard drives" to keep their purchases. Really? So, if I wanna keep the stuff I buy at the store, I'm not just gonna find a place for it at home, I'd expect the store to keep giving it to me when I want it? That kind of westernized laziness saddens me deep in my soul parts.
Me? I can't buy it -- literally. For years, I was elated with my Treo 680
, which allowed me seamless integration of notes and contacts with my Mac, let me do web browsing and word processing, had basics like cut and paste, but most importantly let me manage my own security. Aside from the unavoidables of SMS and voice call records, I decided what went out and what stayed. Then, on one horrible December night before the birth of my latest daughter, my Treo 680 leapt to its death
out of the camera bag I use as a "utility belt" and down the cold, cruel hard wood steps of my apartment's atrium. I was crestfallen
Luckily, my research had already led me to what I believe is the best phone on the market
, and as soon as my financial situation slows down a little, it will be mine. Not for the technologically faint of heart, the Nokia N900 once again keeps all the data local (being largely plan agnostic helps with that) while bringing me new 3G speeds, 48GB of hard drive space (I'm happy
to keep my own files, thank you very much), Linux OS capable of installing OpenOffice and a video player that handles multiple formats natively, plus oodles of other bells and whistles. I tingle just writing about it.
Let me be clear that I'm not an anti-Google person (even though I am a pro-Apple person and recognize the antagonism between the companies
as Nexus One moves to compete with the iPhone). I use Google Reader every day (as is shown in the right nav here). On an everyday basis, I would not search with any other engine (sorry, Icerocket, although I do go to Ask.com for specific things I can phrase properly). Also, as you see, I not only criticize Google's cloud aspirations, but Amazon and other companies -- and if you ask me about the iPad, I'd have similar concerns about not being able to control my own machine. Google just happens to be the public's vision of a leader in the drive for cloud computing, and I feel they're going in the wrong way (even if I understand their reasons). I have to paint them all with the same brush.
When I see "a bare knuckled bucket of 'does'" ads for the Droid, I think about what it can't do -- be free from the tentacles of the cloud (and yes, that's a weird mental image, but factual). I look at the G1 or the Nexus One (and how
, huh?) and I shudder. Avago Technologies chief information officer Bob Rudy told the San Francisco Chronicle
that "The days of owning software are coming to an end." I don't think he, or anybody else, has the right to tell me what kinds of products I can't own (unless the products are people, because that's clearly not cool
) especially based on decades of consumption. I'd no more trust a Photoshop in the clouds than I'd trust public transportation to get me to work.
Which, essentially, is what's likely to happen. Those that have to will live in the cloud, because doing it my way, the safe way ("the safe way is the slow way, Muadib") is both challenging (maintaining your own security, hard for a culture weaned from personal responsibility) and expensive (the phone I want has an MSRP of -- brace yourself -- $650 with zero carrier subsidy). The continued tiering of society in a "post-racial" world. Good luck with that.Playing (Music): "Thank You" by Lupe Fiasco off of his Enemy of the State mixtapeUPDATE: Mere hours after this blog got updated, Nokia announced that they'll be shipping Maemo 6-based smartphones in the second half of 2010. Yes, the $650 phone I want is a Maemo 5 phone. I can't wait like Nu Shooz.
UPDATE 2/5/10: Google strikes back ... *sigh*
Labels: computers, phones, smartphones, technology