Long-form blog posts and editorials. Topics cover both personal and the world at large. 

To the cloud!

I bet a bunch of you use the great Pandora app to listen to music. Now imagine instead of playing internet radio, it plays the music you have (I am being told right now that Last.fm does this). Imagine all the music you own, available on the internet for you to access anywhere by any device. No more worrying about whether that iPod will have enough hard drive space to carry all the music. Because everything will be in the "cloud"

Having music online is just part of the big picture of cloud computing. The gist of cloud computing is that instead of using a computer to do work and entertain, all you need is a portal or device to connect to the world wide web. Once there you can perform all the normal task one does with a computer such as listening to music, watch movies, word process, do projects, play games, etc. The single biggest benefit is that all your content and things will be available anywhere there is an internet connection. No more having to put things into thumb drives and having multiple devices to do different things. 

Some say it is the future of computing. In a ever connected world (if only US will catch up to Asia in terms of Internet speed) where people are as mobile as ever (cue the lady that fell into a fountain while texting), it makes sense to have the computer be on the internet, while only needing a device to connect to it for access and use. This all sounds absolutely awesome and great, but there comes the big question: do you want all your media and documents uploaded online? 

It is not hard to tell that people like to own tangible things. The digital revolution sort of blurred that line in that instead of things we can touch like physical discs, our movies nowadays are streamed to us, or in a computer file if you purchased it digitally. Cloud computing will fulfill the prophecy in that a person technically won't own any of his or her media at all! They will only have access to it since it is all stored online.

Are you going to be comfortable will only having "access" to your files? Now in the grand scheme of things it makes no difference since that same piece of music will still be able to be heard by you whether you have it on your computer of you are accessing it through the internet. But as the cliche goes, shit happens. The internet is manmade after all, and manmade things sort of not work perfectly from time to time. Anything and everything digital in essence is just ones and zeros. If a "1" suddenly gets misplaced then boom that movie file stored online no longer works. Bottom line, I am not sure if people are comfortable enough to allow the internet to keep their files and keep is SAFE.

There comes the question of accessibility as well. Not at the user end, as people are as connected as ever. People in metropolitan cities have high speed internet at home, mobile broadband on the road, and many establishments carry free wifi. Connection from the user is not the problem. The problem is the hosting end. As we all with a cell phone know that data cost money. Thus having media and things on the cloud takes up a lot of space. Having to transfer everything you connect also takes up space. Who is going to pay for the bandwidth? Everybody's favorite cloud syncing software Dropbox starts charging once a user uploads more than 2gb.

Not to mention all the computer serving power to host everything on the cloud (Watson?). Remember, just because it is off your computer and on the internet does not mean it does not have to be stored at least somewhere.

So it is still quite cost prohibitive for cloud computing to happen for anything other than documents (Google Docs), pictures (Picasa), music, books, etc. Things that are relatively small in terms of file size. Definitely won't be seeing movies anytime soon (movie editing and sharing right on the cloud? can only dream for now), much less high definition.

I don't need to mention how absurdly easy would be to SHARE stuff if things were on the cloud. Want to borrow this movie I have? Oh here is the download link. It's that easy.  

Perhaps it is the minimalist in me, but I for one welcomes cloud computing and the future it brings. The convenient and accessibility is just too damn good to not utilize. Ever have that one paper you've spent all night on but forgot to print and brine to class? Had you have done it on the cloud, then all you need to do is find a computer at school and print it out! No need for USB thumb drives or emailing it to yourself (which by the way is the one the first and primitive forms of cloud computing: it replaced physical mail).

I would love to have all my music and pictures and movies online to be accessed anywhere. Do I trust the cloud to keep my files safe from sudden acts of god? HELL NO. As with anything digital, you should always have a backup plan. Anything valuable and irreplaceable should have a second copy somewhere safe anyways. Even if things were not on the cloud, valuable files should be backed up regularly. For example my entire music collection has mirroring copies on two computers, one iPod, one backup hard drive, and another hard drive that is somewhere that is not my house (in case acts of god happens to the house, knocks wood). If that is does not guarantee the safety of my music then I deserve to lose it (and then cry).

True cloud computing for all facets of actual computing has ways to go, but I am liking the way it is headed (I dropbox all my documents and projects). People should embrace it too, and not just because Microsoft decided to use "to the cloud!" as a marketing gimmick. It has real and substantial value to the end user.