Opinion Australia

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Cloud Computing – getting closer!

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The concept of ‘cloud computing’ had me very confused for a while, I really had no clue what these buzz words actually meant., or what benefit it would give me. Eventually ‘daylight dawned’ and I not only understood what the pundits meant, I discovered that I’d actually been using it for some time! 🙂

At the simplest level, even a personal website is cloud computing. Basically *anything* you access/store/manipulate etc anywhere online, and off your own hard drive, could be gathered under the umbrella term. In practice however the term has slowly developed to the point where it’s taking on a subtle difference. Now it’s becoming understood as covering any activity you currently do locally, i.e. on your own computer HDD, but can be done online.

So for me, apart from this sort of site, the most obvious use of ‘cloud computing’ has been Google Mail which I’ve been using for some time. However I’ve slowly been getting used to accessing my *data* online as well. I have been using a backup service called ‘Mozy Home‘ and currently have some 45Gb backed up ‘just in case’. It ‘syncs’ overnight when I’m asleep and ensures that if the machine is stolen or destroyed I’ve not lost all my data… photos, music, documents etc. Diverging slightly from the topic, being with Mozy has some added benefits. If the computer is stolen and used by the thieves, it’s possible I might be able to locate who they are and where my machine is by downloading *their* files which Mozy would have backed up! 🙂

Moving on, I’ve just started using an online facility called ZumoDrive. It’s still in beta and ‘invitation only’ but still worth checking out. The free account gives you 1Gb of space to give you a chance to evaluate its usefulness. Basically it’s a hybrid system that creates a ‘virtual drive’ on your computer which you can use exactly the same way as any other drive on your machine, with a few important differences.

To begin with the data isn’t stored on your hard drive, it’s uploaded to the ‘cloud’. Secondly, that data can be accessed anywhere you have access to a computer. Thirdly, you can use it as a ‘file sharing utility’ by giving access to other people via your own, or alternate email address logins!

Naturally it has a few drawbacks, the main one being using it for *all* your data needs a fast broadband account… and if you have no web access you have no access to your data. For the most part tho this just means modifying what you upload and for storage/easy access of images etc it’s ideal. I tried using it to ‘stream’ my Lord of the Rings music to my netbook using a free connection at the local Macca’s and it worked perfectly. I’m seriously considering opening a monthly account (10Gb for $2.99/month) and using it for more file transfers!

There are other ways of achieving the same ends, tho perhaps not quite so elegantly. One of these would be the Windows Live SkyDrive. With the SkyDrive, Microsoft has given all users a 25Gb online storage space which they can access, use for file sharing etc. It isn’t as versatile as ZumoDrive, but is free and of course, works.

The point is that as the cloud develops more and more features and functions will be made available for online use. Already Google online offers tools including a word processor, spreadsheets, presentation software etc. Add in the mail service, blogging facility, photo storage etc and you can begin to see a time closing in where purchasing an expensive computer for ‘home use’ will be a thing of the past.

From my perspective – sooner the better! 🙂

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Written by welshdog

February 24, 2009 at 7:12 am

End of the line?

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I think I’m finally reaching the ‘end of the line’ as far as actively developing websites. I’ve around 20 sites and domains on the go and sadly none of them particularly fills me with any desire to keep them active. Over the past few weeks I’ve been seriously considering doing something drastic about it, like closing down 90% of them or more. Basically… I’m bored.

Yes in theory I could continue developing’static’ sites ad infinitum because the space I have allows me to make an almost infinite number of sub-domains, but even though, once made, they can continue indefinitely with no further interference from me, I’m still ‘responsible’ for them so in practice I *do* end up looking after them – even if it’s just a 30 minute visit now and then to check the links are all functioning properly. Examples of this sort of site are Talk Tidy, and Hymns and Arias, neither of which require *any* input from me whatever.

Sites I really *should* support with an active presence, apart from this one, include the forums such as Australian Opinion, and Strictly Magic (which is still in its infancy) and I just don’t have any interest any more. Strictly Magic will have to have enough work to get it functioning of course, but I really don’t have any desire now to spend as much time online as I have in the past. There are things I’d rather do… for example write my life story (such as it is) on the netbook, go walking with the camera and record what I see… maybe read books, who knows, just more than sit in front of a computer the entire day.

Of course not all the domains are developed in any way at all. Some have never had *any* sort of website on them! I bought them on the basis that I’d develop *something*… then got bored before the site ever eventuated. Those domains can just be allowed to expire.

I can’t allow all the domains to close of course because some are ‘family’ sites, such as blogs, forum and gallery, which rely on my hosting space for maintaining their web presence, but the rest can pretty much either die off or be passed on to someone else to look after.

Still working out the fine detail, but I’ll be cutting out at least a dozen or more of the active domains and reducing my personal web presence to a minimum. Still, if anyone knows someone who’d like to take over the ODPS or Australian Opinion, let me know and we can discuss the best way to set about it! 😀

Written by welshdog

January 6, 2009 at 8:31 am

Happy birthday mouse!

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Sometime in the next few days the world will be celebrating the 40th birthday of Doug Englebart’s ubiquitous pointing device, so common to all computer users… the mouse!!

I’ve never been sure whether the plural of this kind of mouse is mice or mouses but it may not matter soon since there are claims that the mouse will soon be soon be losing its pre-eminent position as the pointing device of choice. In fact some claim its days are actually numbered and soon we’ll be doing without them entirely.

I for one haven’t used a ‘real’ mouse in years, preferring to use a trackball, but even these ‘stationary mice’ use the same principles as their mobile cousins, it’s just that I move the ball with my thumb.

The alternatives seem to be the ‘trackpad’ favoured by laptop and notebook users, ‘touch screens’ favoured by PDA’s and the like, and a new desktop model Microsoft is promoting where you wave your hand at the screen to tell it what you want done.

For my own part, I’ll be sticking with the trackball/mouse until some whizzkid produces a cursor placement device that follows my eye-movements and let’s me ‘think’ what I want done! 😀

Will the mouse last another 40 years?

Written by welshdog

December 2, 2008 at 7:02 am

Caved in – bought a HTC Diamond.

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After months of waiting and searching around I decided in the end the Samsung Omnia wasn’t go to arrive in Oz anytime soon. Besides which there were a few issues that were concerning me about it which left me balancing between choosing it, or the new HTC Diamond as my replacement PDA.

In the end Telstra solved the problem for me by essentially giving it to me ‘free’ as long as I continued on my current plan. As I had no intention of changing the plan anyway it suited me so I agreed and said thanks. Of course this is the 4Gb model not the 8Gb, but I thought it would be more than adequate for my needs

Well it arrived, is more or less set up, and so far is doing pretty much what I wanted it to be able to do. Of course I’ve been using it as I used the old iMate and haven’t explored the gizmo’s yet but will be starting on that soon… when I get time.

I’ve not read through the manual yet, but I think on balance reading the manual for a change might be productive as I have to sort out a new interface completely different to the ones I’ve used for the past 3 years or so. I’d like to be able to watch movies on it as well so testing out the DivX capabilities will be fun!

Over the weeks since its introduction I’ve heard complaints that it’s not intuitive… it’s slow… battery life is suspect and the rest and while some are clearly rumours spread by iPhone aficionado’s, there *are* issues in several areas that need working on.

It *does* feel slow, subjectively at least, when loading web pages. They seem to take longer to load than previously, but this is almost certainly down to the cpu over head of rendering the higher screen resolution and isn’t that onerous. Battery life is however dire. Even as a phone, coupled with occasional browsing and game playing, the battery is lucky to make it through the day. I’ve a suspicion I’m going to have to shell out a few dollars more for a battery capable of carrying a higher load if I want to watch movies!

The unit as supplied didn’t come with a dedicated car kit in the box, but I have a USB converter for the cigarette lighter socket so I can charge on the move at least. What’s worse is that local suppliers have *no* accessories available at all and say they are having problems sourcing any… which means going to the HTC Online Store and paying top dollar! Bearing in mind the shift of the US$ against the $AU any purchases will end up costing even more!

It’s not all bad of course. The ‘touch-flo’ interface is very nice to play with and looks set to become a favourite. Having said that, one of the best things about the Diamond is the new game called ‘Teeter’ which is simply ‘rolling’ a virtual ball into holes thru various patterns. What makes it special is the tactile feedback you get so that when you ‘hit’ a side you *feel* it at the point it touches the side! Smiley Really weird til you get used to it… but makes for a really fun experience!!

Conclusions? Well I can’t say I’m ecstatic about it… but it’ll do… for now. There is still massive room for improvement but it is a real step up from the iMate for me. Is it as good as an iPhone? Well that really depend on what you want. The unit is smaller and lighter which is both a good thing *and* a bad thing! 🙂

Ultimately it’s horses for courses. I prefer to use an OS I’m familiar with and WinMobile 6.1 suits me fine. Perhaps the 8Gb model might have been ‘better’ but given my previous usage patterns, I think 4 Gb is sufficient. Right now I’m happy with what I have. 😀

Edit:
Just checked out the prices for Accessories and learned the cost for me to buy a desktop cradle and extended battery pack will be $AU185. Will have to discuss this with the wife before splashing out. No worries – I can manage well enough without either for a while yet.

Written by welshdog

October 14, 2008 at 8:04 am

I've been converted!

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A short while ago I bought myself an external SATA HDD Docking station and a couple of SATA disks to allow me to put my money where my mouth has been all these years and finally back up my computers the way I nag everyone else to!

One thing that occurred to me after receiving it was that I could finally check out all those hard drives I’d removed from machines I’d outgrown or had simply died. Currently I have at least 24 and I know there are more tucked away in various cupboards! 🙂

Trouble is they take up room… along with the several dozen CD drives, floppy drives, power boxes etc that are cluttering up my cupboards and the hassle of fitting them into a machine, checking them and removing them is just too much effort to contemplate!

To use the external docking station tho I needed something that would convert a SATA connection to am IDE… and that finally arrived today after the sort of fuss you’d think remarkable was it not for my ongoing jinx’ [i](I just take the effects of the jinx as a matter of course usually – tho occasionally get frustrated by it)[/i].

Anyhoo… I have the docking station… I have the ‘converter’… I have the discs. Now all I need is the time to sit and work through them. I’ll report back with what [i](if anything)[/i] useful is found on them and bearing in mind some go back 10 years or more I doubt they’ll be much use! 🙂

Edit:
After some work I remembered that nothing related to the jinx will work as well as I might hope, and so it went with this little project. Whilst each part connects to the individual pieces… none of the individual pieces will connect to each other!!

Will have to find a work-around but as usual, that’s the way it goes. 😀

Decided now to take one of the HDD’s, the converter *and* the dockingstation to my friendly local tech store and ask for advice… they’re pretty helpful and resourceful usually so might have a more elegant solution than mine, which is to run around screaming and banging my head against the wall!! 😀

More later!

Written by welshdog

October 8, 2008 at 8:20 am

Posted in I.T and similar

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One step forwards…

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Wrote this up on the ‘Family Forum’ but figured it deserved to be out here as well. Nothing important really, just an update on the development of our technological setup here at home.

It’s all down to me having discovered a few weeks ago a small utility that allows me to backup all my data online. Ok it cost $100 a year but bearing in mind I lost 40 Gb of priceless photos a couple of years ago I think it’s worth it. What’s more, tho I repeatedly exhort everyone I talk to about computers to back up consistently and regularly… I’ve *never* done it myself! Until I signed up for the online backup service I don’t remember *ever* backing up any of my data. And remember I’ve been using computers since 1983!!

Actually I suppose I’m arguingagainst myself to a certain extent if in all that time I’ve not really lost that much essential data? But that’s besides the point. In the ‘old days’ we stored stuff on 1.5 Mb floppies (and of course much smaller!!) so losing one or two made little difference to the overall picture. However, modern hard drives are getting seriously *huge* and the amount of data one can potentially lose in the event of a catastrophic breakdown is immense so I’m still reccomending regular backups… but at least now I can say it without having my tongue in my cheek as I do so!! 🙂

Strangely it was paying for the online storage that made me realise the need for a more ‘physical’ storage system at home, so, after a little thought I went out and bought a ‘docking station’ for SATA HDD’s.

The SATA drives allow ‘hot-swapping’ which means I can (if I want) remove one drive and instert another without too much hassle, and being in a docking station means I can literally lift them out without the need to dismantle a ‘holding case’.

The dock I bought was more useful than most because it also does duty as a USB Hub and has an integrated card reader. The only fly in the ointment was that all my ‘spare’ HDD’s are IDE which obviously is a pain because SATA and IDE have diffferent connectors.

To help sort out the problem I went out and bought two new drives. One, a 500Gb Seagate, the other a 1Tb Western Digital. The 500Gb set me back $105.00, the 1Tb $195. I think I got a pretty good deal there!

Of course this didn’t solve the problem of how I was going to access the old IDE drives… so I searched around and sourced a IDE –> SATA or SATA –> IDE converter made by Skymaster. Lord knows if it’ll work but it was only $45 including delivery so I have my fingers crossed! I had an email telling me the order had been despatched so I’ll find out soon just how well it *does* work… and I’m keeping the fingers crossed! 🙂

One of the reasons for wanting the converter desperately is that a couple of years ago I was in the process of cleaning off my desktop computer ready to reformat and reinstall. I’d copied all the photos I’d collected over the past five years, and deleted them off the hard drive… when my daughter accidentally knocked the external HDD off the desk… effectively destroying the only photos we have of her first 5 years!! I’m hoping against hope that it was just the connection that was damaged… so when the converter arrives the first step will be to stick the old 44Gb drive into the docking station and see if perhaps it *might* work.

If not… well the last quote I had from a forensic data recovery firm was between $1000 – $3000 which ain’t cheap in anyone’s book!

Either way, after all these years I *finally* have a decent backup system in place for my data, photos etc, etc, etc. So far I’ve uploaded 35Gb to the online service and copied another 50 Gb to the new backup disc.

If I ever need the online service to *download* those files might cost a fortune… so I may even have to resort to having it all sent to me on DVD’s (whichever is cheapest)… but at least it’s safe… where ever it is!! Cheesy

Written by welshdog

October 3, 2008 at 1:32 pm

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Lappie blues

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Finally fixed the laptop. After some prevarication and testing I decided the wireless card might be faulty so  managed to force myself to get out and buy a new one.

This time instead of the Netgear WG511T which worked well for several years, I bought a D-Link DWA-610 ‘Wireless G Notebook Adapter’. Installed it, connected it, and it works.

So far it is *nowhere* near the speed of the old card but that might be a function of it’s ‘iffy’ connection with the Belkin router I have. Having said that, the router itself is nearing the end of its use-by date and is showing its age badly, needing constant reboots to keep it functioning at all!

Maybe a firmware update would solve the problem, but it really is ‘old tech’ compared to the new breed of machine available. It might be simpler all round to just replace it… if the cost is acceptable that is.

Written by welshdog

September 28, 2008 at 9:08 am