Virtualise your life - mixing mobility and cloudivity

Virtualise your life - mixing mobility and cloudivity

Summary: OK, so maybe "cloudivity" isn't really a word, but it sounds good, doesn't it?I've covered how you can work anywhere using online office suites, and weighing the benefits between cloud and mobile computing.

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clouds.pngOK, so maybe "cloudivity" isn't really a word, but it sounds good, doesn't it?

I've covered how you can work anywhere using online office suites, and weighing the benefits between cloud and mobile computing. Last night I had a dream; to cut a long story short, whilst I was waking up, a chain reaction of thought processes kicked off. I could almost feel the neurones in my mind firing off signals to each other.

Why can't you mix both worlds - mobile computing to cloud computing, enabling you to work anywhere and therefore everywhere?


 Image Gallery: See how to mobilise and virtualise an entire hard drive, enabling you to work anywhere and do anything.  Image Gallery: Setting up mixed cloud and mobile computing Image Gallery: Virtualisation and mobilisation 

By mixing mobile computing to enable access everywhere, utilising whatever Internet connection you can around (preferably 3G of some sort or wi-fi), synchronising your entire hard drive using a cloud storage solution, which can then be synchronised with another machine or downloaded elsewhere - this opens up the idea of truly using your machine everywhere.

Using some jiggery-pokery with dynamic DNS settings, or using third-party tools to access your computer's remotely, it is easy nowadays to be a thousand miles away from your desk and still use your computer as if it was there in front of you. I'm aware of that, and use some of those resources myself to work away from the desk - but with Windows 7 supporting use of virtual hard drives (VHD), this opens up a potentially quite useful idea.

Windows 7 concept logo, courtesy of Long Zheng (nice chap)We have heard for a while that VHD, the virtual hard drive used to virtualise entire operating systems with Microsoft Virtual PC, will be a feature in Windows 7, but until then the ability to move entire virtual machines around doesn't have to be a pain. Using two computers - one of them your primary computer, and say another one is a public computer at your University library. You can install all of your applications, move your documents, adjust your settings, onto a virtual machine and it is all contained within one single file - your virtual hard disk.Diagram showing VHD synchronising across the cloud (Note: this image when clicked may not fit on your screen)

Your virtual hard drive needs an operating system for it, but it doesn't have to be Windows. If you're happier using Ubuntu, Linux, even Mac OS X if you can get it to work, use it! You can then synchronise this folder using many of the products out there - FolderShare, Groove, AllWaySync - but for me I've used Live Mesh because it was already on my machines.

Mesh works well because not only can you synchronise large files across a cloud, you can leave it there suspended within the cloud, allowing you to download when and where you like; consider it more of a "manual method" to move your virtual hard drive. The best thing about it is once you've done working on one machine and you save your state or simply turn off your virtual machine, it's still saved within that one file, which can then be synchronised behind the scenes back to your cloud. Once you get back to your primary computer, it's there waiting for you as you left it the last time you used it on that other machine.

Diagram showing VHD synchronising across the cloud with Windows 7 support (Note: this image when clicked may not fit on your screen)

Although Windows 7 probably doesn't support VHD yet (there is no evidence to show it working in the production environment, ie. no screenshots, even though it's been confirmed it will be supported), this will no doubt make life easier for those using this technique.

Some of you may think, "what's the point?" and quite rightly so. There isn't necessarily a point, but it's another way to work effectively. Even with remote access tools, doing all this without a cloud service and using a flash drive, mobile computing and cloud computing as separate entities, this is just another way to get work done wherever you may be.

I've created a photo gallery demonstration following step-by-step how this is done, feel free to check it out and comment on your thoughts and ideas, and constructive criticisms if you feel they're appropriate.

Topics: Mobility, CXO, Wi-Fi, Virtualization, Software, Operating Systems, Networking, Microsoft, Hardware, Windows

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11 comments
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  • Great idea, but concerns still linger

    The dream is certainly a nice one. The dream has been presented in different forms for at least the last 20 or so years. Each time a slightly different technology was at the heart of the dream. Each time similar concerns emerged.

    - who owns the data stored in the cloud, ASP or service provider?

    - who gets to access this data?

    - If others are allowed to access it, what may they do with the data.

    - If the data or, perhaps, the whole service becomes unavailable (always at the most inconvenient time, of course), what recourse is available for the person using that service

    - How can the data be backed up in case of an outage

    - Are the applications in cloud-ville available in another form for when it is a very sunny day and the cloud is inaccessible?

    I could go on and on but, I suspect Zak would get upset.

    It's wise to know the answers to these questions and to have a plan B.

    Dan K
    dkusnetzky
    • Right, those are all the kinds of questions people asked when

      we transitioned to using the electric grid instead of having our own generators. Also very similar to when we switched to using banks from keeping money under our mattresses. But, both grid electricity and banks have gotten much more reliable than the alternatives, and we even created the FDIC. Nobody even thinks of going back to generators and mattresses. We won't think about going back to bloated PCs either, where our data is not mobile (only available from one location) and we get waves of viruses, disc drive failures, etc. Oh, lets not forget not having our applications everywhere either.
      DonnieBoy
    • Bingo. If Adobe's online garbage version of Photoshop is anything to go by

      then nobody would trust any of them. (their EULA states they own anything placed onto their server. No thanks.)
      HypnoToad
  • Same idea as Ulteo

    The Ulteo is a lean Linux machine/desktop stored on Ulteo's servers. I found I can't use it because my Vodafone UK connection doesn't provide enough bandwidth.
    Nice idea for the future, though.
    peter_erskine@...
  • why don't we start by

    defining "cloud" and "cloudivity" and how it is diffrent from already existing technologies. Does adding 3G or wifi justify a new name for various implementations of "sync"ing technologies? All these behind the back synchronizations have another major problem - somebody (or something) has to decide which files will be re-written with newer versions and whether this is really what the owner wants.
    pupkin_z
    • Come on man, get with it. Where have you been. The cloud is all

      applications and data coming from the web. They may be cached locally, but you never have to install applications or think about it. Your applications and data follow you around and are available wherever you can connect to the cloud. The versioning problem is the same as for the desktop, but, much simpler, you do not have 22 versions of the same document floating around trying to figure which is the most recent. If you do goof up, you can look at previous versions and revert to one of them if you want.

      Man, where have you been?????
      DonnieBoy
  • RE: Virtualise your life - mixing mobility and cloudivity

    "Cloudivity" is something I've coined which conjoins "productivity using the cloud". The cloud is essentially online storage connecting your devices, folders, networks etc., similar to how Live Mesh does it.

    Adding 3G and Wifi to connect to these services shouldn't need a new name, as ultimately these two are standard Ethernet alternatives, rather than replacements.

    As far as I know, in terms of re-writing files, you have access to all the files and folders you've added to your cloud, and the ability to re-write them is up to the owner of the files. The same thing applies with your own computers - if you decide to overwrite something, it's up to you. The only difference is, instead of using a physical computer to store the files, you're using a cloud storage solution - an online hard drive.
    zwhittaker
  • For all of Zack's dreams to come through, we need a better execution

    environment for offline and local computing. In other words, we need to add Java to Gears, before offline really works as well as online, and also, to make web apps just as responsive and functional. But, Google Apps is pretty amazing right now, and the word processor works offline already. Can't wait for the next wave of improvements to Gears and Google Apps.
    DonnieBoy
  • Things to consider

    Issues such as server reliability, bandwidth and internet connectivity must be seriously considered before one jumps into cloud computing

    But you can always try your own cloud computing using dynamic dns services and terminal services such as thinserver

    http://www.dyndns.org
    http://www.aikotech.com/thinserver.htm
    ThinkFair
    • And increased malware risk...

      Good points, yours... but the theory always makes the reality more alluring than it is.
      HypnoToad
  • RE: Virtualise your life - mixing mobility and cloudivity

    HypnoToad - have you got a link? I'll check it out with my law student friends - could make for an interesting post :-)
    zwhittaker