where cloud is short for cloud computing, a recently commercialised concept but something I have been doing for years for the banal reason of poverty. The Wiki description reflects the recent adoption of the principle by the majors but the baic principle has been in operation for decades even with the limitations of dial-up connections via WWII era telephone exchanges when keep a connection through a 9600 modem for more than 5 minutes was a result.
It wasn’t rocket science to work out that my data was best left on a distant commercial server for two reasons (1) that it was physically secure elsewhere and (2) that I would be able to access the data from wherever in the world I happened to be as long as I had some sort of internet access. Privacy was not really a concern as PGP (stood for Pretty Good Privacy) was then freely available (not so much now since it became a Symantec product) but I would not use that level of encryption any more as the mere use of a 1024 bit key would have a state agency coming through the door with a universal key as soon as it was realised that I was using that level of encryption and therefore up to something no good. Current UK legislation is such that I would be imprisoned for simply failing to disclose my pass key/phrase to anyone authorised to ask for it and I suspect that US legislation would empower the FBI to come and arrest then extradite me to the USA or even a third party state where I could be lost and then interrogated using a methodology not legally available in the US or the UK.
Back to the plot: by fixing on Gmail as my primary e-mail provider, as well as an e-mail repository, I have a stable calendar and somewhere to keep important documents with the bonus of technology that syncs well with my iPhone. Google acquired Picasa sometime ago and although there is a slight learning curve, Picasa is a very useful tool for managing and remotely storing photographs and images of any kind. A recent example of real world use was for the Blackswan‘s Open Competition when the mission was to store pictures of entries of every kind of art work and thence to run the slide show from which the competition judges made their selections of the work that they wanted to be physically brought for exhibition and judging for the various awards. Although the competition rules clearly specified jpg/jpeg files on CD with a specific file title i.e. the name of the piece on the entry form (remember these were only pictures of pieces of art) the some entrants’ interpretation of the rules was such that the Blackswan received images in all formats and in sizes ranging from a couple of hundred Kb up to hundreds of Mb. Flickr would probably achieved the same end and can be used for the same purpose but Picasa worked well on judgement day and provided a medium by which the judges from afar could view the entries in preparation for the day.
Cloud working also works for those boring documents for which a copy needs to be kept for example the tediousness of old-school bureaucracies like Mendip District Council one of whose standard delaying tactics is to ask for originals and everything in writing. Although to be fair, the work is done by Capita who have their feet well under the table in Shepton Mallet and presumably other councils around the UK. I wonder if a Freedom of Information request would oblige the council to reveal where data about me is kept? No sooner than wondered than done Will blog any reply I get (if any) but seems to me to be a reasonable question: I take care of my data so I’d like to be reassured that the council are happy that its customers’ data is secure in both senses of the word. Of course there is the risk that having the knowledge and temerity to ask such a question might lead someone to regard me as fit for work…
Have just checked with Google – I have plenty of space left “You are currently using 466MB (6%) of your 7519MB.” (Was very disappointed to discover that WordPress want to charge me nearly $20 a year for a mere 5 megabyte.)
Lost the plot somewhere but to summarise, clouding is the way I have been operating so it’s good to know that the world has caught up with me. My personal data space requirement, even with photographs. is actually very small as it is for most people. Domestic disk sizes are beginning to be measured in terabytes but who uses that much?
In the interest of completeness, feel I should add the fact that the other two majors, Microsoft and Yahoo offer similar service – of the three I prefer the Google version, Yahoo‘s is not as complete and Microsoft‘s is literally clunky with so much advertising that my disk drive won’t keep still and the computer’s fan comes on too much for my peace of mind. But the whole point of clouding is that I need not worry about the age and fragility of any one specific device 🙂
Microsoft just sent this link http://www.windowslive.co.uk/hotmail/lookwhatyoucando#/festival but, like so much Microsoft stuff, it kind of assumes that I am running on Windows 7 with at least 3Gb of memory and a 3GHz+ processor; it’s going to take more (or rather much less ) to move me away from Google.