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With ‘Cloud Computing’ You Can’t Keep Your Data Under Your Control

Propeller in 2008
Propeller in 2008 (I was ranked higher at some stages)

THINK before you touch Cloud Computing. The term “Cloud Computing” is vague and broad. It refers to all sorts of things and it’s malicious in the sense that it tends to take both data and control away from the user. That’s why I call it “Fog Computing”, avoiding marketing euphemisms.

Many people gradually take their computer activities online (e.g. photo sharing, news readings) and there is always risk when there is a mediating party either between peers or between a producer and a peer. This mediator offers a so-called ‘cloud’ or a Web platform under which people engage in some activities. This gives the mediator/intermediate enormous control and makes all parties dependent upon this mediator, e.g. for advertising, lifeline, costs, features, and data.

Yesterday I received another reminder of why I must not ever trust so-called ‘clouds’ or Web platforms that store my data in some mysterious proprietary form and give me no access to this data (except data slices that are presented as Web pages, not raw data).

So, what’s it all about?

AOL has money to spare in order to buy the Microsoft-funded Arrington with his rag while at the very same time AOL betrays a vast community of existing users at Propeller (good treatment to few bloggers, but not for a site with like a million members). Well, AOL has just killed Propeller with no prior warning. I have been on this platform for over 4 years and submitted about 24,000 stories there. It all vanished overnight without warning (none that I saw), just an apology. The whole site was shut down. The Webmaster appears to have also blocked the Web Archive a couple of years ago.

Propeller shows why social networks and Fog Computing are a risk. One day you just can’t access your messages, submissions, etc. It’s just like that and it’s not a violation of the terms of service. The mediator (AOL in this case) is allowed to do this.

So yesterday I asked, “Can #identica and #twitter guarantee that they won’t just suddenly announce shutdown one day? What about #reddit #digg #facebook etc.?” I wrote this as part of my Fog Computing cautionary tale. “Has #identica yet implemented a feature for exporting one’s entire user history in a way that makes it displayable/usable? And #twitter,” I asked.

“I’m not a tech person,” replied a peer, “but would assume it should be possible to transfer into own status net app (I believe it is free/libre)”

My reply was that the “first thing I did when I joined #identica was check I could export just in case. At the time there was no such option.”

As far as I know, none of the Web platforms I’m on allows me access to my own data in a form that I can interpret without access to a server I neither own nor control. If that does not scare you, wait a few years. No Web site lives forever and life of a Web site is often just a matter of money; it doesn’t need to make sense to keep it alive, it needs to make money to keep it alive.

Innovation Era Reaches Peak?

Shrimp USB drive
Shrimp-like USB drives. And who said innovation was dead?

Check out this interview with a senior figure at IBM. It reminds me a great deal of classic predictions that nothing could be invented after the 19th century. History repeats itself.

An era of inventions ended with the passing of the 20th century, says a prominent thought leader from IBM.

Remember: being adverse to common hypotheses grants attention. I believe that such statements should serve as an example. The first among these videos explains it rather well. People tend to thing that a peak has been reached at present date.

Front Page Feeds and Technology Feeds

Man and his dog

ABOUT a year ago, I agreed upon a rule for myself: Read more of the technology sections in Web sites; feeds likewise. Front pages and doorway pages tend to concentrate on celebrities (sports included), sex, and death.

This disposition is a matter of personal preference, of course, but the general advice is for each person to choose feeds that intersect with and correspond to main interests. Good feeds encourage reading. Reading re-enforces knowledge and in the lack of distracting detail, the mind is better stimulated, as well as focused on consistent information.

Related item: Greedy Feeds and Generous Feeds

Newsgroups Habits

Man and his dog

IN the last 8 days of February, I may have set a new personal record. I composed nearly 400 posts, which had been sent to various newsgroups, especially technical ones. I am admittedly somewhat addicted at this stage. I merely try to catch up and keep up appearances as a regular reader and participant.

Below is my personal take on newsgroups and in particular UseNet:

  • Newsgroups are suitable for like-minded people to support each other and contribute on-topic ideas
  • Newsgroups are a place for pressing, on-topic news to be raised and openly discussed. The newsgroup has a chance of having impact on the parties (e.g. companies) involved and/or being discussed.
  • In UseNet, content is made eternally public owing to (or put negatively — due to) newsgroup mirrors
  • Key advice: always watch newsgroup post headers. Especially when reading high-traffic newsgroups, keep all headers in sight. Headers in newsgroups can help a great deal in discerning and predicting the poster’s behaviour and his/her chance of returning to the discussion. Such habits are less important for E-mail where most typically the sender is known, assuming good spam filters operate.

Related item: Newsgroups Statistics

3-D Interaction on the Desktop


Screen-shot of Metisse for FVWM

I have just had a rare chance to become part of an exciting experiment. It took place at the The Manchester Visualisation Centre, which is near my office. This involved a new method for interaction with visual data.

A pen is being moved in 3-D space and its route gets traced in real time. Atop that, vibrations are as subtle feedback that indicates contact with items on the screen. It was only a week ago that I discussed the issue of 3-D desktops, i.e. ones with depth, where one can interact with items and be able to feel them. That notion of depth could become a good surrogate for virtual desktops. Another issue is the sensitivity of touch, realisation of depth without special displays and stereo-imagery glasses, and also the motion arms that move up and down, thereby leading to tiredness.

I must admit that got quite excited about the device and asked the lady how much it would cost to purchase one for my workstation. When I was told that the cost is 10,000 pounds per unit, I immediately gave up on the idea. Needless to mention!

Related items:

‘Get the Linux Facts’ Campaign


IF your business awaits in the crossroad, having to make a choice between Linux and Windows, look no further. There has been a great deal of fuss over biased figures, which falsely showed Linux servers to be weaker than Windows counterparts. Help yourself to the true facts and do not be misled by heavily-funded propaganda.

Open Source Development Labs (OSDL) and member company Levanta have announced the free availability of an Enterprise Management Associates (EMA) study titled “Get the Truth on Linux Management.”The study re-examines previously reported, anti-Linux management claims — deriving updated analysis from in-depth research with more than 200 end users. The “Get the Truth on Linux Management” report is available in its entirety, for free download, at the Levanta website.

Related item: Microsoft-funded Benchmarks

Linux Certified Engineers (LCE/MSC)

Season of the playful penguins
Season of the playful penguins from Oyonale

Novell are reporting that Linux is soon to be perceived as a discipline. Judge the article for yourself.

Masters in Linux down under

Novell has teamed up with Charles Sturt University in Australia to offer what we believe is the first Masters Degree focused on Linux. The university decided to debut the degree because of rapid growth in demand for Linux training and expertise. The degree program includes obtaining Novell’s Certified Linux Engineer certification, including passing of the Novell Practicum exam. This is good evidence of growing interest in Linux by new entrants into the IT workforce, and the University’s choice to go with Novell in the curriculum is a nice vote of confidence.

Related item: Open Source in Schools

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