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:

http://www.dummies.com/how-to/content/what-is-cloud-computing.html
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8RMWO9JxZjA
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