Wednesday, 17 September 2008

The Bigger The Cloud, The Better.

I've resigned myself and gone with it.  I'm whipped.  Look, I wasn't always like this - in the early '90s, I was as outraged by Microsoft's surely tightening stranglehold on the computers of the day.  In the mid '90s, I mounted my own little war on Microsoft by getting rid of IE (it was a crap browser, anyway) and installing Netscape.  Late '90s - trying to get MS Office replaced with - well, something else...

The point is, I was just doing what the hippies twenty years earlier had been doing - I was rebelling against "establishment."  I saw the zeroes piling up after the significant digits in Bill Gates' fortune, and I rebelled.  Yet in a very direct and major way, MS levelled the ground and provided a starting platform for a lot of VERY clever people to make software that changed the world.  And provided a good incentive to Linux developers to make better software.  And encouraged a few other software companies to produce some innovative applications.

And then Google displaced Altavista, and I was pissed all over again.  Also, things like those wiki things and CMS's started appearing.  Why would I want to keep my information anyplace but my own PC?  Of course, being a system administrator at several medium organisations soon allayed my fears about using a server on the LAN.  Keeping them on a server out there in teh intarnets, that was still worrisome.

But Google made something of themselves, and next thing I was using Gmail and Google Apps, and Notebook, and Calendar.  I was annoyed that Google had my documents on their servers, but I accepted that we don't have any privacy anyway (sorry all you privacy campaigners, but come on!) and that if someone wanted my data it was as safe on a server out in the cloud as it was on my Internet-connected PC at my desk.

I put my notes on wikis, my more often used documents on a very good Internet file server, and let Google keep my email archive.  Then Gears, and suddenly, all that could happen offline as well as online.  My whipped status was definitely developing nicely.

Then two weeks ago, Chrome.  I've given up, resigned myself, and become one of the sheep of the wave of the future.  Google will own all our asses in another two years anyway, I may as well.

In a weird kind of way, it makes sense though.  There are two ways to prevent loss of privacy, the obvious one which is to get off grid, off computers, hide all the paperwork in a trunk buried out in the Nullarbor and go find a cave in Mt Meharry to live in.  The second, less obvious way, occurred to me while I was a system admin at an ISP.  I often got asked if I did spend my day reading email, and my answer was always "yes.  but my own email, I get enough to do with responding to my own email, why would I want to increase my workload by reading someone else's?"  So the second way is to make sure there are a LOT of people using the services online, to hide in plain sight among a steganographic mountain of similar data.

Google may be skirting the edges of Being Evil but by being so popular they're also Being Good.  I feel pretty safe putting my documents on their servers, having my email archived there, and of course stuff like this blog and my Picasa and Flickr pages are there to be publicly available.  Clouds are good, with my data spread out among multiple machines and networks, and buried in terabytes of similar data fragments, I can feel pretty relaxed.  Google's got my back... %)

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