Young man yells at cloud

Young man yells at cloud

Summary: Doctorow has valid concerns. Networks are not yet built to handle massive use of clouds. The legal environment for cloud users is, well, cloudy. Fact is these are early days. In PC time it's 1978. In Internet time it's still 1994.

TOPICS: Hardware, Cloud

Blogger-novelist-activist Cory Doctorow is out today with a screed condemning the whole idea of cloud computing.

(Here he is in Wikipedia. Doesn't that live somewhere in the cloud?)

Here is a summary.

The Man is trying to put us down. It's all a conspiracy to make us pay for what we could do ourselves for free. The corporate shills want to control our machines and through them, our brains.

I agree with Doctorow on many things. On other things I'm sympathetic.

On this he's dead wrong.

Running a PC is a hassle. There are software updates, there are anti-virals and anti-spyware and registry cleaners to worry about. It can take five minutes for even a Netbook to boot up, and another five minutes to shut it down.

Hardware is not the issue. Client hardware is an incredible bargain. The issue here is software.

All the problems now endemic to Windows machines are slowly infiltrating the worlds of the Mac and Linux, too. This has to do with the size and complexity of modern operating systems, and the large number of very nasty people working overtime to break them.

Maybe, if you have just one laptop, you can deal with this expense and hassle. But even small companies may now have 10-20 or more PCs running at once. The expenses of managing clients are driving companies to the wall.

The idea of the cloud is to abstract this complexity, take it out of the hands of users and put it in the hands of experts. One set of experts can handle the hassles of thousands of users, and hundreds of companies, for less than those users and companies are paying now.

Or as Mark Twain once said, "Put all your eggs in one basket and watch that basket."

As to the broader market, Mr. Doctorow has one kid, a toddler. Congratulations. I have three PCs, my dear wife runs three, my daughter has two and my son has a desktop for gaming with a terabyte of storage.

We use both wired and wireless networking to keep it all together. Several times a year I lose a day of work scrabbling around on my knees, under a desk, trying to check wiring. I have a repair guy on speed dial. I'm not that unusual, and becoming less so all the time.

The complexity and vulnerability of PCs means you can't just run one. I always have my Netbook on standby for emergencies. If malware infects me, or the cable goes out, I can be at a local coffee shop within minutes.

I no longer even trust my PC for really important stuff. That goes on a USB stick. You can get a 32 Gigabyte stick these days for about $70. Next week it will be less. Wear it around your neck, plug it into the cloud anywhere and, if everything works right, there you are.

Now Doctorow has valid concerns. Networks are not yet built to handle massive use of clouds. The legal environment for cloud users is, well, cloudy.

Fact is these are early days. In PC time it's 1978. In Internet time it's still 1994.

What 30 years of experience tells me is that condemning the future when you don't know what it looks like is never a wise move.

Topics: Hardware, Cloud

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  • Nice theory, but...

    "Or as Mark Twain once said, ?Put all your eggs in one basket and watch that basket.?"

    But isn't moving to the "cloud" putting all your eggs all in one basket...and that all you can do is watch...because you have NO control over it.

    And how about when your "cloud" provider suddenly goes out of has already happened multiple times...then how do you run your business? can''re screwed.

    "Cloud" computing? No thanks. :-(
    • I agree and...

      Not only do you have the issue of the provider going out of business. Security is at the top of the list as well. A company can tell or have in a contract that they do this and that but unless you or your IT people see it first hand and approve you have no idea if it is up to standards. Also as we have seen in recent google outages the cloud is like a egg very fragile and even the almightly Google is not Immuned to this. I feel cloud computing internet applications or what ever else you would like to call it have a place. But i do think that the cloud is what Google Salesforce etc are trying to convenice you that it is.
      • Assets are bought out of bankruptcy all the time...

        ...and contracts with valid data users are assets. I suspect the fear of your data disappearing is overblown.
        • That is even more frightening

          My data may not disappear, but who might be buying it. Just imagine who might buy Google. They have the biggest data base of personal information of anybody in the world. So you can worry about your data disappearing in the cloud, or being abused in the cloud.
    • Absolutely, IT_Guy_z

      I don't always agree w/you - but here you're 100% on the money!

      Whenever I hear somebody like Dana, or Leo Laporte for that matter, tout "cloud computing" as The Pot of Gold at the End of the Rainbow, I wonder what they're smoking and where I can get some. Have they forgotten what they themselves have to say about how banks routinely lose hundreds of millions a year in electronic fraud and identity theft - and quietly cover the losses so they don't rock the e-banking boat?

      For that matter, have these cloud computing advocates forgotten what Google did for the Chinese government in order to be allowed to offer Google in China? I'm sure there are thousands of dissidents in hard labor camps who remember it very [i][b]very[/b][/i] well, thank you!

      And how long will Google hold out if the [b][i]next[/b][/i] Inquisitor General Alberto Gonzalez comes along and demands ALL searches be saved so the DoJ can hunt for music and movie fire sharers - sorry, "terrorists and pedophiles"?

      I'll keep my applications and my files on a local drive, thanks all the same....
      • RE: Young man yells at cloud

        That goes on a USB stick. You can get a 32 Gigabyte stick these days for about $70. Next week it will be less. Wear it around your neck, plug it into the cloud anywhere and, if everything works right, there you are.<a href=""><font color="LightGrey"> k</font></a>
  • RE: Young man yells at cloud

    Mark Twain, though a superb humorist and writer, had a
    checkered career as a businessman.

    I'm not so concerned with a cloudster going out of
    business as IT_Guy_z: seems to me data plus applications
    plus customer base would be liquidated at the close. As
    for determining value, some reasonable multiplier on
    annual revenue would make sense.

    I'm not so inclined to casually accept that the cloud is
    necessarily more secure than our current situation. First,
    the cloud does nothing regarding the malicious strangers
    offering us candy over the network. Beyond that, the cloud model
    requires centralized data, presenting a single break-
    in, big score target, and, perhaps, executable instructions
    being sent to the client. (My gut feeling, central data, local
    processing is the most scalable cloud configuration.)

    With a central repository with which a black hat may insert
    malicious downloaded code, with multiple nodes along the
    network where a black hat may set up a man in the middle
    attack stand, and with old school malware which may be installed on
    the clients to gather sensitive information before
    or after any encryption, there seem to me enough
    complexities that we will trade one set of insecurities for
    • You're right ...

      I see things a tad differently, but that's definitely the gist of it. It's another fiasco in the making, I'm afraid.
  • My solution to the PC problem ...

    ... is going to be a centralized application server with thin clients strategically placed throughout the house. As my three children start to grow up their demands for media and web content is going outstrip my ability to provide tech support to all of these stand alone machines.

    A server and thin clients are going to eliminate most of my current headaches since I only have to deal with one point of failure. With hardware so cheap I can have a fail over or even a small cluster. Not running a Windows environment, except for serving a few remote clients with a VMware image on demand, makes it economical and easy to manage.
  • RE: Young man yells at cloud

    The more things move to the cloud, the less control you have over them. For most people that is a good thing. However, the lack of control and lack of security can be very problematic for many people. Ideally, the cloud should be a seamless extension of your local system, with the ability easily migrate where the line is drawn. Also, as Cory noted, we will all almost certainly end up paying for the service in one way or another. Like all subscription services, you may someday want to retire and then discover that you don't own anything at all.
    • Ever hear of downloads?

      You can always back up your data locally, just as easily as you can back it up to the cloud.

      This assumes you want your eggs in two places, or need them there.

      No objection to that by the way.
      • Backup locally? No...

        Backup on the cloud.

        Last night, my DSL connection went down 14 times! I was able to carry on working and when the internet connection temporarily came back, my machine synched with the data in the cloud.

        Likewise, at work, we don't currently have WLAN, so my iPod Touch can't synch with MobileMe or my other mail accounts. I continue working as normal, writing e-mails etc. and when I get in range of a public network or home, it syncs the data with the cloud.

        Even if you are just running a web browser to access the cloud, you still need to configure the underlying OS and ensure that it is patched and that the anti-malware software is up to date. That means that pain is still there.

        Thin clients, as mentioned, are a solution, at least on a local network.

        Until the Internet can reliably handle clouds and Internet connections have 100% coverage with 100% uptime, syncing with the cloud and being able to carry on working locally is the way to go.

        GoogleGears might help, but HTML and JavaScript aren't the right tools for developing cloud applications, even the GUI elements - at least not in their current form and the lack of standardisation of browsers.
      • Heard of downloads!

        But that's only one of many, many trees in that forest. I'll be darned if I want my backups living in some nameless server's piece of the cloud. I don't think any discussion of the cloud can be done without including security as one of about 5 major concerns with cloud computing.
        And whoever dreamed up "cloud computing" anyway? Sounds like a Microsoftism.<g>.
  • The cloud will not reduce any costs...

    of managing corporate PC's. Most management is spent on the desktop PC and the cloud will do NOTHING to reduce these costs. There will be just as many desktop PC's running the same bloatware OS's with or without the cloud. Your premise is so wrong. Did you not think about what you were claiming before you wrote it down.

    All the cloud will do is increase broadband traffic and put your data at unnecessary risk. The traffic being generated because of the cloud is more bloated than that traffic that is generated locally.

    Your article is insane in its claims.
    • Yeah, it does - big time

      The high cost of PC maintenance stems from the complexity of applications that used to reside there, not the hardware itself. Going thin client and locking down the desktop is SOP in major enterprises, not, as you seem to want to have it, some radical new idea. Cutting down on all those tech calls to individual desks cuts cost by reducing employment - maybe that's your complaint.

      A second saving from cloud technology is that it pools resources. Individual systems don't own excess capacity to accommodate surge load - they scale up and down according to demand. Matter of fact, the the box huggers' great dismay, they don't own any hardware, they pay for service, or ideally for outcome.

      Your supposed point about data is particularly off base. It's somehow better to be shipping data back and forth to whatever client is processing it at that instant, then depositing back in the enterprise store? Or have multiple unreconciled copies at various geographic locations? Whatever you have in mind, it ain't gonna fly.

      Another advantage of cloud computing (see DISA's RACE for an example) is that a new capability can be prototyped in hours or days, rather than through a lengthy, costly, error-prone development process. The agile, cost-competitive enterprise is the business that survives.

      I suggest you attend at least one workshop and get the basics before blowing a lot of smoke.
    • will not reduce any costs...

      If you weren't so fanatic in your writing I could agree with portions of what you said.

      IMO it "could" (not "will") reduce costs. If I could use multi-hundred dollar apps at $50/year I wouldn't have to own, update or upgrade the app or subscription, whatever it was. Subscriptions for development apps are notoriously expensive.
      But that's not to say that I would actually save anything, just that I "could" and "should". If in 2 years I've paid equal to or more than a subscription, which IMO is pretty likely with some of these guys that don't know any better, that means it's just a goldmine for someone and a ripoff for the user.

      Woulda/shoulda/coulda: Something history tells us we can not trust ANY software company to be fair with. Market-bear runs them all, with Quality and Reliabilty and usually longevity being at the bottom of the list.
  • OS Channel

    The 'Cloud' won't really kick in until my cable company provides the OS Channel which I can use on my AIO (computer/media center/phone) machine. I switch to the OS channel, pick my OS, and start 'clouding.'

    Early adopters of the 'cloud' will be only those for whom it makes current sense. The end (home) user will stay with the (constantly improving) current environment until the last minute.
  • RE: Young man yells at cloud

    Forget the inflammmatory political comments, even though I voted for Obama. The focus here is the "Cloud". I agree that it's not secure, no matter what the company says, and, yes, one does lose control. Again, when they go out of business........good luck!!!
  • Old man yells back

    I side with Doctorow up to the 'free' and suggest a 3-tier solution as a possible candidate to unify both his and Dana's views. Setting it up will currently be against the law because of The Man.

    Will the cloud provide economies of scale and relieve Dana of his home PC mismanagment problem? My guess is yes it will.

    Will The Man try to monetise the cloud and lock consumers in, keeping most of the money for his shareholders? Of course he will, just as he tries to do now. I mean are M$, INTEL, Apple, Coca Cola, ... regularly summoned before legislative committees because the lawmakers are bored? 30 years of experience tells me that the IT and telecomms. corporates will try the same tactic as the entertainment industry, making great strides in efficiency and keeping most of the money for themselves. That's if they can stop arguing amongst themselves.

    It seems to me that a combination of:
    1. OPLAN for neighbourhood networking;
    2. A business type datacentre for IT resource sharing run by a neighbourhood IT expert (rather than a household);
    3. Global cloud services run by corporations.
    would be a way to protect consumers privacy, control and financial concerns whilst also providing a fallback when Google or Amazon goes down (again).

    Changes to the law and EULA's are required to allow 1. and 2. These are envisioned but not yet actioned in the Digital Britain report for one.
    • Love your subject line

      The cloud provides a host of problems, just as PCs provided a host of problems. That's why I noted how early we are in the evolution of clouds.

      I'm old enough to have at least known a PC user in 1978. She had a Cromemco. She even had four other people as terminals on her Cromemco, working remotely.

      I kind of doubt she still has it...