Chrome OS: The Cloud and its Discontents

This has been big news since July, but I’ve only recently started to pay it any mind. Google Chrome, the web browser, is going to be its own operating system. This means that when you boot up selected computers you won’t see Windows XP, Vista, or 7. You’ll see Google. And from the way Google is evangelizing Chrome OS, booting your computer is going to be pretty damn fast!

Initial reactions are positive because this means that all of the Googling that you do will be squished into a much faster Operating System (OS). You can use Gmail, Google Search, Google Docs, Google News, Google Calendar, etc. without having to deal with any shitty MSN defaults.

Cloudy With a 100% Chance of Chrome

After conducting more research, things get more interesting. This OS will be featured in netbooks as opposed to fully functioning laptops or desktops (yes, I said “fully functioning”, implying my bias towards netbooks). This is great for netbook fan boys because Google is putting its faith in the core belief system of the netbook, which is that everything anybody could possibly want is online and making that available to consumers while eschewing unnecessary software makes for a better and more practical experience.

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Non-profits such as One Economy Corporation offer netbooks to poor and underserved families so that they can have access to opportunities such as jobs and career building tools that were once impossible to access because of the high cost of broadband and computers. But for the non-poor, tech-saavy professional and/or student, a true netbook should freak you out because of the ever-presenet but sometimes unstable cloud.

Take for instance when Google’s servers shut down and people couldn’t use their services in:

February 2009
March 2009
September 2009
October 2009

Aside from the one in October many people, including corporations could not access anything that was shared in the cloud. In fact I wrote about one of these GFails.

Another thing about the cloud and with netbooks is that, as a student, I don’t feel as if Google docs is robust enough to provide me with a “lite” alternative to a bulkier Microsoft Office package. I can’t deal with the slow, hard to maneuver, painfully-unable-to-export-in-the-format-that-I-want, cloud-happy code written into Google Docs. It’s great for collaboration, but to be honest I usually copy and paste things from Word. The same goes for Excel and Power Point. Maybe Google Wave is different, but I don’t know — I’m not special enough to have been invited.

One last thing about the cloud being the major component for a netbook with the Google Chrome OS.

I’d love to see the cloud as something that wasn’t as vaporous and misty as it already is. Working for a company that uses GWhatever for just about everything, having a GCrash was a big GFail that resulted in hours of a loss of GProductivity, which got people GPissed.

I don’t want to have to be in the cloud and look down at the Earth below praying that my footing stays solid. Give me an external hard drive and a much better way to utilize Excel, Power Point, and Word, and you just may have a netbook customer out of me. But you better catch me soon because once I get the money to buy a Mac, I’ll be gone faster than you can say:

Google: Error; Server Error: The server encountered a temporary error and could not complete your request. Please Try again in 30 seconds.

Or even worse, “The webpage cannot be found: HTTP404”

Personal Note

It’s been about 6 weeks since I last updated this blog. That’s really bad on my part. I apologize to the 8 or so random daily viewers who stumble across the site looking for a way to make a black and tan. You guys really like when I talk about beer. Maybe this is a sign that I should start listening to the stats, or err umm…viewers because you guys are people…yeah. So yeah, let’s not have that happen again. Perhaps my next post will be about beer.

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Too Big To GFail?: Why Cloud Computing Should be Given a Second Opinion

When sites go down, people start freaking out…and for good reason.

GFail

GFail

Some time around 4-ish today while I, along with millions of others around the world, battled the dreaded 5 o’clock deadline,  a terrible thing happened. Gmail crashed. For some, it may have happened earlier in the day, but for me it happened during crunch time — the time I had to buckle down to beat my deadline. And did that happen? No. Because even though everyone with POP, IMAP, or iPhone email integration was fine, many businesses’ secure, “https” Gmail accounts were not. Thanks Google.

Although these occurrences are rare for the Silicon Valley giant, our reliance on Google gets to be very scary when companies are forced to fly blind because of third party outages. Sure, companies have their own servers where information can be stored, but Google Docs is used by many 9 to 5ers to get projects done more efficiently, and not being able to access these documents puts these projects on hold until the disruption can be remedied (in my case it took about one hour).

This is what scares me about cloud computing and relying on third parties such as Amazon and Google to house all of our precious information. This may just be a knee-jerk reaction to the situation at hand, but it’s times like these when IT professionals need to consider making it mandatory for people to back up their files (even the ones on Google Docs).

Google should also consider finding a way to back up its system by using some sort of special, secure, open API whereby professionals  who use “https” can access their Gmail when something like this happens in the future.

So what’s your opinion on this? Does your company or University rely heavily on Gmail? Where were you when the world (wide web) stood still?