Sunday, January 31, 2010

Cloud Computing for Gullible People (Not)

In this issue of our electric co-op magazine there's a full page ad from a company that calls themselves firstSTREET about the GO COMPUTER. It purports to be a safe, secure, user-friendly operating system targeted at senior citizens. There's all sorts of info on the ad but nowhere do they mention what the OS is. The CPU is built into the keyboard housing so there's no tower. It's using an Intel Atom N270 (1.6 GHz) processor and the rest of the specs, from the website, are as follows.
# 1 GB Ram
# 160G Hard drive
# 4 USB Slots
# Built-in Wireless
# Speakers come built-in

It actually looks pretty good up-front but as you get into it there are some disturbing clues in the ad. I'll quote some passages I found interesting.

*in the unlikely event that your computer does develop a problem we'll send you a replacement absolutely free*

Sounds to me like there's a heck of a fat profit margin in this thing!

*since your data is remotely stored, you'll immediately have access to all of your original emails, files and photos ...instantly.*

Ok, so we're talking about cloud computing here and, at this point I tried to find a decent tutorial on cloud computing to link to but everything I found was overcomplicated so I'll just have to write my own.

Traditionally, the software applications (programs) you use on your computer are located on the computer's hard drive. This started way before the internet. You bought a computer and installed a word processor, maybe an image editor, possibly a spread sheet, some games, whatever. Then came the internet and full-time, always-connected high-speed connections. Now it's possible to use all sorts of fancy software which *isn't* located on your computer; it's located on the web. The industry first referred to this technology as *web 2.0* but, as it became more sophisticated and the possibilities began to expand, folks started calling it *Cloud Computing*. What's the advantage for you the user? First of all, you don't have to buy a Word Processor, secondly, if your computer crashes, you don't lose any of your important stuff because none of it is located on your computer, it's all right there on the web where you left it.

So what's the bottom line on the GO COMPUTER?

Price: $879.00

Holy Mackerel Sapphire, that's almost 900 bucks for a cloud computing system. They've gotta be kidding!

*Cloud Computing* is currently a major industry buzz word. The folks at gOS are soon to release what they're calling Cloud 1.0 which is targeted at low-priced netbooks, Canonical and Red Hat are venturing into the cloud computing market while Google's (cloud computing) Chromium OS is under rapid development and beginning to get lots of media attention. Cloud computing is going to be a big thing because it lowers the cost of a basic computer by an order of magnitude. Looks like firstSTREET is trying to get their licks in quick, before the competition shows up and knocks the stuffing out of their margin. For example, check google shopping for an HP 2010 mini (netbook). It's got a smaller screen but very similar specs to the Go Computer at about a third the price. If you go to eBay and search Computers & Networking/PC Laptops & Netbooks for 'mini netbook' you'll find plenty of seven inch machines running Windows CE in the $50 to $200 range. Of course Windows CE is something of a joke but I'm guessing there'll soon be plenty of them listed with Linux operating systems and larger screens too.

Senior citizens, with regards to firstSTREET's GO COMPUTER, all I can say is don't do it! Just don't. Take half of that $900.00 with you to an electronics discount or monster-variety store (Fry's or Walmart) and buy whatever sort of Linux or Windows 7 laptop they offer for that price (It's likely to be a superior machine) and have your grandkids show you how to use it. You can *Cloud Compute* on any machine that has a browser.

A couple of moderately helpful cloud computing resources:

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Oh, Will You Just Shutup About Illegals

I get so tired of listening to pseudo-patriotic diatribes going on about illegals. I lived in Brackettville, seventeen miles from Mexico as the crow flies, for fourteen years and learned a few things about illegals.  Without illegals you can't farm because you can't hire farm workers;  American citizens won't do that kind of work for any sum of money.  Without illegals you can't run any sort of construction business because you can't hire workers;  American citizens won't do that kind of work for any sum of money.   Without illegals you can't get rid of garbage, eat fast food, or do any cattle ranching because (by now I'm sure you've guessed) American citizens won't do that kind of work for any sum of money.

No matter how you feel about illegals, the fact is that businesses all over the United States would be severely crippled without them.

Most illegals have forged, bogus Social Security cards but the U.S. Government is pleased to accept their taxes and Social Security payments.  For our government this is *free money* because they'll never have to pay a refund on the taxes collected on bogus Social Security accounts and they'll never have to provide any benefits to those workers.

Thousands of American citizens make out like bandits by renting substandard housing to illegals at premium rates.  The illegals will never complain for fear of being deported.  The landlords never have to fix anything or worry that their tenants are going to make trouble for them and those landlords are paid in cash so the chances are good they don't bother to report the income.

Medical facilities and mechanics routinely charge illegals about twice the going rates with complete impunity.  They know that illegals will just pay the money, in cash, and never complain.

Once our government has pissed away millions of dollars on a giant fence, illegals will find other ways to get across the border. The fence isn't a solution.  I don't like it but the only solution I can think of would be to annex Mexico as our 51st state.

Mexican nationals are, de facto, an integral part of the U.S. economy and, while I'm debunking mythology, the majority of those who abuse our nations welfare and social services systems are native born American citizens who grew up in this country and have learned from the inside how to properly exploit the system.

No, I don't have any brilliant ideas about how to solve the illegal problem but figuring out that the only solution our government has come up with so far is going to be a fiasco isn't rocket science. American politicians have always chosen to deal with the hard problems by throwing money at them. The problems don't ever go away but when the government starts throwing money people tend to stop bitching and start grabbing. We call that the Status Quo and it keeps folks complacent until they get distracted by the next big problem.

If you're up for some irony, who do you think is building that much vaunted fence?