Author Archives: Pete Knight

The Future Of The Personal Computer Is In The Cloud

The Future Of The Personal Computer Is In The Cloud

The predictions that the PC is about the go the way of the dinosaur (or the pager, or the fax machine) have largely come from the financial sector and rabid Apple fans. Both of these groups have seen declining computer sales, especially the recent 14% drop, as proof of their theories. Microsoft’s huge recent faux pas, Windows 8, is just further proof that personal computers will be crowding the landfills and we will all face the sunset, singing “Kumbaya”, reading the lyrics from the screens of our iPads and iPhones.

How many of these reports were written on a touch screen, and how many were composed on the more familiar personal computer configuration of screen and keyboard?

Most Comfortable Interface

Touch screen mobile technology may indeed prove to be the most common computing experience, but for the foreseeable future, it simply has not, and likely will not, taken the place of the keyboard and screen interface, especially in the work place.

Users who have access to both tablets and full sized computers find that the two technologies are complimentary rather than competing. Tablets and touchscreen technology are gaining more usefulness in the workplace on a daily basis. Text and email are becoming as accepted as voice for business communication, but many people, especially those sending professional emails, are loath to compose on a touch screen. University of Pennsylvania professor Amy Sepinwall finds “any extensive email writing, word processing or power point work on my iPad, and find even web surfing easier on my PC than on a tablet.”

Mobile technology is closely tied to Cloud computing, and as Cloud applications improve, the traditional roles of the keyboard and screen personal computer may transition to mobile. Google, who is working hard to stake a claim in the Cloud game, also realizes that Cloud applications, whether mobile or PC based, require ever faster broadband connections.

The need for faster broadband is the impetus for Google’s recent forays into city wide fiber-optic networks. In April, Google announced that it would expand fiber-optic service to Austin, Texas. Last year the search giant began providing high-speed Internet service to Kansas City. Although every Internet and Cloud application will benefit from the higher speeds, Google’s emphasis seems to be on Chromebooks.

The Cloud As OS

Google Chromebook computers are personal computers in the sense that they are a keyboard and screen interface, but the laptops, manufactured by Samsung, Acer and Google are loaded with the Chrome OS, which is not so much an Operating System as it is a glorified web browser. The Chromebook is designed to run more on Cloud applications than with software actually loaded onto the computer itself.

Will the Personal Computer go the way of the dinosaur? Very likely, but even standing on a pile of iPads, we cannot see that day on the horizon.

By Pete Knight

The Cloud Is Killing The PC, And Giving It New Life

The Cloud Is Killing The PC, And Giving It New Life

The Cloud Is Killing The PC, And Giving It New Life

For several months we have been hearing about the imminent demise of the Personal Computer. After all, new computer sales dipped 14% last year, so surely the industry must be doomed, Doomed, DOOMED!

The personal computer industry has certainly slumped, but these are dynamic companies. It is probably unwise to write them off because of a slump. Looking at the reasons for the slump is instructive. Some believe that the market is being lost to mobile and cloud applications. This school of thought holds that the newer, smaller, and faster technology has rendered the PC obsolete.

No Reason To Upgrade In Today’s Economy

One of the most popular theories is that the personal computer industry is slumping because the rest of the economy is slumping. There is certainly merit to this assumption. In some ways, the personal computer industry has made itself redundant. Gamers, professional video editors, and computer scientists want and need the latest and fastest machines. The average computer user wants to check email, update their social media, input sales data or other spreadsheet type application at work, and maybe play a few hands of solitaire while the boss is looking the other way.

Unfortunately for computer manufacturers, five year old processors are more than able to do the job. In the past, new computer sales were driven by the need to upgrade hardware to keep up with the newest applications. The “Killer App” phenomena has always been a driver of technology sales. The current Killer App is the Cloud, and for now, the Cloud does not need a new personal computer to be useful.

Mobile and Cloud

Part of the wonder of Cloud computing is that most of the actual computing, processing and storage, takes place “in the Cloud”. This means the end user enjoys better and more up to date services without the need to continually upgrade hardware. This is bad news for companies which depend upon sales of new computers.

Another factor thought to be eating away at traditional PC’s is the rise of touchscreen mobile devices. Touching and swiping seem to be a more elegant way to interface than being tied to an old fashioned, clunky keyboard and mouse. Mobile devices are also a terrific way to interface with Cloud applications- their small size and relatively limited storage often require an Internet Cloud connection for maximum usefulness.

Is Bill Gates dream of a Windows PC on every desk top in the world becoming a thing of the past? Probably not. Although sales are slumping, the personal computer will remain an important tool for work, entertainment, and communication. Granted, most of the things that are done on a desktop personal computer can also be done on an inexpensive smartphone. As slick as a touch screen seems, for many important applications, the PC can be a more efficient interface.

By Pete Knight

The Death Of “The Death Of The PC Era”

The Death of “The Death Of the PC Era”

For months, we have seen news reporting the impending doom of the personal computer. This prediction is somewhat unnerving for those who grew up in the era when we bought our first pickup trucks for less than the cost of a popular pair of “athletic shoes”.

Market forces are accelerating the supposed end of the full sized pickup as well. It should be pointed out that the days of the pickup truck being Detroit’s biggest revenue source seem to be coming to an end. Modern pickups are more plasticized and computerized than the tough and simple trucks of old, but they remain an irreplaceable tool for countless applications. The pickup will become less popular for day to day personal transport, a job for which they are suited but not the best choice.

The so-called “death of the PC” is based on the increasing popularity and usefulness of mobile devices and cloud computing. It is sexy and fun to have all of your data at your fingertips, and an amazing amount of work can be done with a smart phone and a WiFi hub or any other link to the Internet. If this is truly is the Information Age, then communicating data is the highest of arts, and that is what mobile devices do so well.

As tablets and smartphones become more universal, it would seem as though laptops and desktop computers will be considered clunky dinosaurs. Remember that before the desktop personal computer became a necessary tool for high school kids to update their social media, even before they allowed a generation to complete their Beanie Baby collections on auction sites, personal computers were a tool for business, for work.

As the ‘net becomes ever more pervasive (there are applications that help you control your home lighting from a smartphone- lightbulbs with their own IP address) we will see an increase in the number of devices we interface with on a daily basis. As more tools become available, we will learn to select the best tool for the job at hand. A smartphone or tablet may be an ideal device to read a blog or business report, but actually typing the blog or generating the report (to say nothing of creating the software) is better accomplished on a full sized computer.

The growth of cloud computing is making the mobile revolution possible, but it is far from killing off the personal computer. The cloud actually makes desktop machines better computers. Workers who use mobile demand the best devices for work, and rarely is that device one that tries to be a universal machine.

By Pete Knight

A Basic Look At Gaming As A Service

A Basic Look At Gaming As A Service

A Basic Look At Gaming As A Service

The developments that have come together to create a modern world has come from some surprising places. We cannot imagine a world where we could not go on line and reserve airline tickets, make dinner arrangements, or even buy a book from Amazon. Did you realize that the technology and protocols that make e-commerce possible were first developed by and for the on-line pornography business?

It is easy to understand that some of the earliest interfaces between computers and the non-technical general public was through video games. In 1952, A.S. Douglas did his PhD at Cambridge on EDSAC vacuum-tube computer by creating the first graphical computer game, a version of Tic Tac Toe called “Noughts And Crosses”. The very first video game was Tennis For Two, played on an oscilloscope at the Brookhaven National Laboratory. The first real computer game was Space War, which was developed in 1962 at MIT. Later versions of Tennis for Two and Space War would become truly important parts of AtNoughts-And-Crossesari Computers.

The video game industry has grown to generate more than $25 billion per annum. The lion’s share of this development has been for gaming consoles, which provides far from the best gaming experience. A gaming console is just a computer, even though its architecture and interface are different from a traditional desktop. Like any other computing situation, the biggest weakness of the gaming console has always been keeping it fed with up to date software. Cloud Gaming is a relatively cheap alternative to the constant need to feed a console.

Cloud Gaming may be one of the easiest cloud concepts for the non-IT users to understand. Anyone who has played a game through their Facebook account has had a cloud game experience. With cloud gaming, not only is the software handled in the cloud, but the records of the gaming experience are recorded and archived there.

Massive Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games seem like the most natural fit for cloud gaming, but any type of game that is played on a console or with local software can be found through a cloud gaming service. The area of greatest potential for cloud gaming is the freedom of interface options. For those who simply must replicate the console experience, thin-client type devices are available which are basically a console without a disk slot. The disk is replaced by a connection to the Internet.

Games can also be played on any desktop or laptop computer that is connected to the ‘net. Smartphones and tablets are already popular gaming platforms as cloud- connectivity significantly increases the potential sophistication of gaming on mobile devices, although the experience may be limited by the speed of the users data connection.

By Peter Knight

The Cloud: A Place For Your Stuff

The Cloud: A Place For Your Stuff

The Cloud: A Place For Your Stuff

cloud humor

Comedian George Carlin was not far off the mark when he dismissed the modern home as “a place for your stuff”. A place to keep your stuff, your personal files and data, is an important part of day to day personal computing.

For those of us who do not work with IT professionals on a daily basis, our first introduction to Cloud Computing is often taking advantage of free or cheap on-line storage of our data, our “stuff”. Cloud storage presents a number of advantages as well as a few pitfalls for the casual or non-professional computer user. Before we explore how and why home computer users can take advantage of cloud storage, let’s review previous storage options and why they became popular.

Computer storage is usually expressed terms of bytes. A single byte is approximately the amount of data required to form a single character on this page, so it is easy to see how kilobytes and megabytes begin to add up. It was not very long ago that a megabyte was considered a lot of data. Today home and office computers are commonly sold with 500 gigabyte hard drives, and it’s not unheard of for a family to fill the drive with files, pictures, music, videos and other “stuff”.

Beyond the need to store lots of data, it is often necessary to carry your data from one computer to another. This is common for workers or students. One of the earliest popular forms of portable data storage was the 3 ½ inch floppy disk. Floppies had been around for almost as long as there had been personal computers; many of the original operating systems and programs were installed from 8 inch and 5 ½ inch floppies. With the 3 ½ in disks, not only was the media significantly smaller, the drive itself was smaller and faster than other formats. A student could save a report or paper onto a floppy, drop the disk into a pocket, and quickly access it at the school’s computer lab. A very good system, as long as the student did not want to load pictures or videos into his presentation.

The next big thing in portable media was recordable optical disks. Compact discs were a familiar media for music, and it was not uncommon for computer programs and data to be shipped in the format. The real revolution came when CD-R drives became popular a CD could hold ten times the data of a floppy, and was generally faster and more durable. The biggest advantage of floppies over CDs and DVDs was their ability to be rewritten (floppies were magnetic). Rewritable optical discs are available, but because of a disc’s low cost, they were never widely adopted.

Optical media remains popular, but for transporting data, solid state of Flash Storage is becoming increasingly popular. Various forms of flash cards are used for storing data in devices like cameras and music players. USB flash drives are a very durable and fast method of carrying data between computers and their capacity is beginning to rival installed hard drives.

Cloud storage eliminates most of the disadvantages of physical portable storage. The biggest advantage is that there is no need to carry a physical media between work stations. The files are available on any device that is connected to the Internet. Cloud storage is secure enough that the military is turning to it.

By Peter Knight

Crime Mapping: The Great Equalizer

Crime Mapping: The Great Equalizer

Crime Mapping

One of the most interesting and useful tools that the Cloud has developed is mapping. When the Global Positioning System was developed it was envisioned simply as a tool to assist Military leaders to keep track of assets on the battlefield. Mapping has grown so far beyond this relatively simple use that it would be nearly as hard to do without as cell phones.

Of course there is much more to mapping than peeking at your smart phone to locate the nearest latte’ stand or even watching the cops on TV tracking the bad guys on their tablets. Mapping combined with Big Data is useful in everyday and long term risk management, at the personal and corporate levels.

Risk Management, whether as a formal, corporate process or an daily personal evaluation of the safest route to the grocery store, depends on getting all the useful information you can find and process. Knowledge of the potential for criminal activity in an area is useful information, whether we are allocating law enforcement resources or looking for the best place to park our car on a late night.

We are all familiar with the pre-Cloud concept of crime mapping from watching old detective movies. The detectives are sitting in the station, cigarettes dangling from their mouths, staring at a map tacked to the wall which shows all of the bad guy’s hits. If he stares long enough, the detective will figure out where the crook is going to strike next, and then the cops can be there to nab him.

Using crime mapping as a risk management tool is a similar process, except that we can use the resources of the cloud to do the hours of staring at the map for us. The data that goes into a crime mapping application combines a mapping app with crime data from law enforcement. The law enforcement data is usually part of the public record and available to anyone. Google Maps is the most popular mapping application, although app developers are free to use the application whose interface they are most familiar and comfortable with.

Crime Mapping Apps

Whenever I hear or see a police scanner I think of my old Granddad.

Back in the mid-70’s Granddad got a police scanner which ran all day and night in his bedroom. My grandparents lived on a hill over looking a medium sized city in Oregon. Not a big enough town that there would be constant chatter on the scanner, but enough that when something really exciting happened, Granddad could take his binoculars to the back porch and watch what was going on.

The Crime Mapping Applications available for the general public on mobile devices do not all provide the immediacy that Granddad’s scanner had. The data that the app uses may take minutes or hours to update for the general public. Some of the developers who are building crime mapping are tailoring their services to meet the needs of police departments and other first responders.

crimemapping-cloud

CrimeMapping.com

The Omega Group, developers of CrimeMapping.com Mobile app have also developed FireView, an analysis tool for fire departments to facilitate tracking fire and EMS responses. CrimeView and CrimeView NEARme are leading desktop and mobile analytical tools for law enforcement professionals. The CrimeMapping.com Mobile app allows users to view maps of crime activity near their current location, as well as investigating crime history near homes, businesses and schools. Incidents can be filtered by the time of occurrence and date. The map will show the type of crime with a distinctive icon, and the app allows filtering by the type of crime as well.

RAIDS Online

crime-mapping-cloud

BAIR Analytics has worked with law enforcement agencies around the world for more than 20 years. BAIR stands for Behavioral Analysis & Intelligence Resources, and the company takes a scientific approach to providing public safety, national security and defense industry tools. RAIDS Online is a desktop and mobile tool designed to help law enforcement agencies disseminate crime information quickly to the public they serve. The service combines crime mapping with dashboard analytic tools to enhance public safety. Users are able to filter by date, location, and 27 crime types. Data is displayed with eight layers of limited offense information to protect victim privacy.

Balancing Privacy and Usefulness

One truism of any mapping application is that as more users participate in the service, the better and more accurate the service becomes. Both the Omega Group and BAIR Analytics enjoy the participation of numerous law enforcement agencies in North America and worldwide. Information about an incident may have to go through several administrative layers before the general public gets to see it on their smart phone or tablet. However, if a user discovers that there was a burglary two blocks away from his home within the last few days, he is more likely to pay better attention to the mysterious teenager wandering the neighborhood when he should be in school.

By Peter Knight

Does That Cloud Smell Like Burning Rope?

Does That Cloud Smell Like Burning Rope?

Does That Cloud Smell Like Burning Rope?

When we report on the rise in Cloud Computing it is easy to focus on the bold moves that entrepreneurs are making, and the innovation and technical wonder that goes into producing unbelievably gargantuan server centers. It is not uncommon to forget the experience of the tech workers down in the trenches, the ones who spend their working lives focused on their screens, furiously tapping away at their keyboards, keeping the Cloud doing what the peace-cafeCloud does.

What does it take to deal with such intense, day in day out time working immersed in the virtual world? According to recent reports, more and more Silicon Valley employees are turning to “herbal help”. It should come as little surprise that marijuana is popular in the San Jose area, given Silicon Valley’s relative proximity to San Francisco and Haight-Ashbury. There may be a generational difference between denizens of Silicon Valley and the Hippies of the Haight, but the cultural ties are there.

What is different is the growing acceptance of marijuana as medication. It is a difficult to say whether the appeal is therapeutic or recreational. However, there are more than 100 medical marijuana dispensaries in San Jose, many within blocks of Cisco Systems, Google, Adobe Systems, Apple, and eBay. The pot stores report that as much as 40% of their customer base is in the tech industry.

The tech giants are not pleased with the thought of their workers being stoned, of course. Both Cisco and Adobe have strong company policies against workers using drugs, but neither company screens applicants for drug use. Reportedly, companies are finding it more difficult to find candidates who can pass a pre employment drug test.

As interesting as the alleged high incidence of marijuana use among tech workers is, the medical marijuana industry in San Jose and elsewhere is far from a sure thing. The “industry” received a serious shot in the arm in 2009 when the Obama administration announced that it would not prosecute medical marijuana related cases. However, the “industry” is still run by, well, potheads.

Silicon Valley investors are beginning to see potential in the industry, however. The founders of Privateer Holdings have experience appraising ventures like the Tesla and Fisker electric cars and Groupon. The group is now raising funds, including some crowd-sourcing, to help finance legitimate marijuana enterprises.

By Peter Knight

Image Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Haight-Ashbury

Heroes Of The Cloud – Part 9

Heroes Of The Cloud – Part 9

Heroes of the Cloud – Part 9Cloud Heroes

A study of Cloud Computing should include not only the companies and entrepreneurs who have raised the Cloud from a concept to “the next big thing” in Information Technology. The study should also include those who have come to depend on the power of the Cloud.

Earlier in our look at the pioneers of Cloud Computing… (1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8) we partially defined “The Cloud” as a metaphor for the Internet. Another very workable definition would be that the Cloud is a tool for handling Big Data. Big Data is loosely defined as data sets that include from a few dozen terabytes to several petabytes. How much information is that? If you carry your contacts, pictures, music, games and files on an 8G microSD card in your smart phone, then 131,072 of your friends would need to combine their phones to equal a single terabyte.

Spy movies and James Bond gadgets aside, the national intelligence services are built around information, that is to say data. To perform their mission, a huge amount of information must be gathered, stored, analyzed, and eventually disseminated to the proper parties. At every stage, the information must also be protected ion the interest of national security.

While all of the intelligence services are in the information business, perhaps the most data intensive is the National Reconnaissance Office. The NRO develops and operates “overhead reconnaissance systems”. In other words, the NRO runs spy satellites.

The NRO is a hybrid organization composed of military members, Central Intelligence Agency staff, and DoD Civilian personnel. The NRO’s Chief Information Officer, , was recently awarded a Life Time Achievement “Legacy” Award from CloudNOW.

CloudNOW (Network of Women) is a non-profit consortium of leading women in Cloud Computing. The award was announced in conjunction with the March 2013 Women’s History Month Celebration.

Ms. Singer has held a number of Senior IT Leadership positions in the Federal Government. Previous to joining the NRO, she was Deputy CIO with the CIA, responsible for ensuring that the Agency had the Information Infrastructure necessary to accomplish its mission. Ms. Singer also served the State Department as the Director of Diplomatic Telecommunications Services.

With her background in the Intelligence service, Ms. Singer is intimately familiar with Cloud Security concerns. She writes Recent trends in cloud computing demonstrate the architecture has matured and offers distinct advantages for cyber security defense.

By Peter Knight

CloudTweaks Comics
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