The ‘C’-word…

I had been resisting the urge to publish a commentary on all the ‘Cloud’ hype out there..   Until now…

As others have pointed out, a cloud used to be the standard image for ‘the external network’ in slide presentations going back to the pre-web days of the 80s..

I should know, because I created many such slides, and presented then to customers, on a regular basis!

X.25 'Cloud' in the '80s..

X.25 ‘Cloud’ in the ’80s..

It seems that every IT-related company feels it has to have ‘cloud’ somewhere in its offerings, to appear to be up-to-date, and ‘relevant’, in today’s internet-enabled marketplace, in the way that products and services had to have an E- prefix in the early 90s, and an i- prefix later..
There used to be something called web-based-services, in the late 90s, which seems to be the – more basic – origin of all the ‘cloud’y offerings today..

Companies may be seduced by the apparent efficiency and cost savings of ‘clouds’, but the fact remains that they should still be very worried about age-old concerns, such as security, privacy, and reliability..    Trusting your companies’ essential and proprietary data to a third-paty – however famous – would seem to be a business risk too far..   Companies used to promote their ‘five-nines’ reliability for data, but that would seem to be – in practice – impossible to achieve with any external ‘cloud’, however sophisticated..

The cloud concept is ideal for consumer-level engagement, where your company can offer storage to ‘the public’ for their photos and other items, accessible from multiple devices, and for commercial sales and marketing, where you actually want more people to get easy access to your stuff!

One place where the ‘cloud’ concept does make sense for a corporation, is internally, on their own, private, intranet.  Once again, this is not a new concept, and many companies were using internal intranet-based collaborative services years ago, long before the c-word was even though of in this context..    This may be more appropriate in the modern world of BYOD (Bring Your Own Device), where – for better or worse – employees are bringing their own, personal, devices into the corporate environment..   I remember the times when deliberately bringing a camera into work was potentially a sackable offence, and there was a time when a few mobile phones were available without a camera, but now the smart-phone and tablet phenomena presents companies with a potential security nightmare.

So.. ‘Clouds’ do have their place, but – as always – beware of the hype!

© Robert Gadsdon, 2012

MS Surface – Killing Itself?

Microsoft seems to be hell-bent on upsetting its partners again, at a time when it really can’t afford to do so.    Someone has thought Microsoft should be more like Apple (again?) and do it all itself, with regards to Windows RT and the newly-announced ‘Surface’ tablet..

Not surprisingly, OEMs who were planning Windows RT devices are now adopting a wait-and-see attitude, to see how well Microsoft’s pioneering device sells in the real world, currently dominated by Apple and the Android Army..

Microsoft – whatever Steve Ballmer thinks – is not – and never will be – another Apple..     A potential third competitor in the ARM Tablet business may well turn out to be dead-on-arrival, thanks to Microsoft’s arrogance and bad business judgement..

More reading:
http://www.channelregister.co.uk/2012/10/31/acer_delays_rt/

© Robert Gadsdon, 2012

Apple and the cult of ‘Arrogance’

Much has been said in the press recently about the perceived ‘arrogance’ of Apple’s response to quality issues with the release of the iPhone 5, and the mapping fiasco, and – recently – the less-than-stellar release of the iPad Mini..     Their response to reception problems with the iPhone 4 was classic – blaming the owners, who were ‘holding it the wrong way’..

At the moment, the perception of Apple products as ‘very desirable’ and ‘cutting edge’ outweighs the reality that several new products only offer relatively little real improvement over the previous version..     If the orders are still flooding in, and people are queueing in droves, why should the company care?

For better or worse, it seems that arrogance amongst technology company leaders has become – almost – a badge of honour, gaining grudging respect from the general population..    The heads of Apple, Oracle, and Facebook would seem to be prime examples of this, especially the previous head of Apple, who seemed to have taken the art of arrogance to an entirely new level….  At least the current incumbent has been able to issue an apology – of sorts..

It may be true to say that the successful companies are those who make fewer serious mistakes than their competitors..   The head of the support organisation of a (then) highly-regarded computer company used to – internally – refer to them as the ‘cream of the crap‘..   In other words, not really great, but the least bad compared to all their competitors..

However, this tolerance of arrogance may will be dependent on an organisations’ continuing business success..   Arrogance may be a virtue – of sorts – while things are going really well, but may be a distinctly self-destructive vice, when things start to go wrong..

More reading:
http://articles.latimes.com/2012/sep/28/business/la-fi-tn-steve-jobs-tim-cook-maps-antenna-20120928

And.. If you want to see how embarrassingly awful the Apple maps are:
http://theamazingios6maps.tumblr.com/

© Robert Gadsdon, 2012

‘Windows 8 Only’ CPUs – Bad for Business?

First we had ‘EFI Secure Boot‘ limited to Microsoft control, and now Intel and AMD have both recently – and somewhat coincidentally – announced that their new tablet-focussed CPUs – ‘Clover Trail‘ and ‘Hondo‘ respectively – will be ‘Windows 8 Only’, with Intel even going so far to state categorically that ‘Linux will not be supported’..     I can only assume that some ‘arrangement’ has previously been negotiated with Microsoft for them both to come out with similar position statements..   Anti-competitive, to say the least…    Hopefully their ‘consideration’ from Redmond will compensate then for losing the potentially far more lucrative Android business?    Another reason for this artificial pre-emptive restriction may well be that they do not want to be compared in a head-to-head test with Android on ARM….

Opinion:
Intel – and to a certain extent, AMD – are both worried by the continuing success of the ARM architecture, and they see Microsoft as their ‘ally’ in the coming battle..
Microsoft is scared by the rising star of ARM, which can break their cosy monopolistic relationship with Intel and AMD that has existed for many years..
Windows 8 RT (for ARM) is a desperate attempt by Microsoft to prove it can provide typical Windows functionality on the ARM platform, but it really doesn’t.   Many of the ‘standard’ apps are missing..

Now, we will wait to see who can come up with the first ‘unofficial’ port of Linux to these CPUs..    After all, they are both just X86-based…

Robert Gadsdon  (C).2012

Further reading:
http://www.theinquirer.net/inquirer/news/2205462/idf-intel-says-clover-trail-will-not-work-with-linux
http://www.theinquirer.net/inquirer/news/2205758/amds-hondo-will-only-support-windows-8-at-launch

http://www.techradar.com/news/software/operating-systems/windows-8-launch-disappoints-windows-rt-still-a-headache-1107573

This article was first published recently, in ‘Adventures with Linux’, but is included here, updated, as this is a more appropriate place!

© Robert Gadsdon, 2012

4G – Bragging Rights, but Not Much Else – Yet…

After all the hype about ‘Everything Everywhere’ (a brand ripe for parody, if ever there was one) and their announcement of tentative ”4G” services in (parts of) the UK, there have been several articles commenting on the perils of early-adopters (and there are many).   One of the more concise and erudite dissections is in The Register http://www.theregister.co.uk/2012/10/26/4g_no_thx_no2/

I have the privilege to live out in the desolate wastelands of Buckinghamshire, and I can attest to the spotty availability of a half-decent 3G signal, so I had to laugh at the reports on 4G that were in the press..

Lets see…   Poor coverage, high battery consumption, no proper voice support (falls back to 3G for that..), not usually much faster than 3G in most areas, and extra costs (not surprisingly).    And..  there are developments in 3G (‘dual-channel HSPA+’) that are – in practice – just as fast, today..

As the articles say..  There might possibly be a compelling reason to upgrade – in a year or so’s time

© Robert Gadsdon, 2012

The Perils of Themes..

One of the good things about open technology is that anyone with a modicum of skills can create stuff, and this includes themes – the layout and colours and fonts and positioning of graphical content.   I have encountered this in browsers (Firefox) as well as here and now – in WordPress..

The only problem, is that so many of these are created by amateurs, with little regard to form or function..    Many of them would probably be fine if you were – say – supporting a local football team, or a particular ‘artist’ in the music scene..      Choice is good, but sometimes there is too much of it.   There are some good themes out there – I use Silvermel for Firefox, and it is excellent.    Good to look at, and fully functional, and regularly updated (essential with Firefox’s rapid update schedule, these days..)    There are many more Firefox themes available, but most of them are – IMHO – not what I want to stare at for hours on end..

I have been spending a lot of time trying to find a suitable, functional, theme for this site, and have found most are – frankly – quite ugly, and many do not have the options for customisation that I need..   I have also found that some of the customisation features don’t actually work correctly..   Very frustrating to get the header fonts and background graphics nicely set up, only to find some ugly mess when you look at the site preview..    I even decided – in exasperation – to use the same theme as on my WordPress-hosted blog, only to find that the version available here had many of the customisation options missing!

I know, I should bite the bullet and teach myself CSS, but why should I have to!