The Personal Cloud
Cédric Beust talks about moving his music to the Amazon cloud:
This move got me to step back and look at the bigger picture, and I realized the the Cloud had been slowly but steadily sneaking up on me these past years. I never really noticed it and I never made the conscious decision to use it, but the amount of information that I have stored on some random servers is pretty impressive.
He talks more about moving his personal digital items about the cloud. This is not an isolated phenomenon. On one hand, we have digital devices that do so much. For example, your phone also doubles up as your camera, video recorder, address book, GPS, clock, alarm, gaming device, music player, calendar, and so on. But on the other hand, we seem to be increasing the number and type of devices we work with. A typical technology person has one or more of the following: desktop (usually at work), laptop, tablet (iPad), smartphone, ebook reader (Kindle), high-end camera/video camera, game player (XBox), streaming device (Roku), etc. Integration of everything in one device seems to be farther, not nearer.
And if we have to live with multiple devices, then we want to be able to access the same data across them all. With storage prices shrinking and greater high-bandwidth availability, companies like Google and Amazon are doing exactly that. Now, there are many small players offering some elements of access to our data, but I think long-term, we will have a few major vendors. Here are a few thoughts on that:
- Google Music is the latest offering by the search giant, but Google is already offering a host of services – Google Docs, Health, Picasa Web Albums, Bookmarks, Reader, Calendar, Gmail, etc. that move much of the desktop stuff to the cloud.
- Of these, Google Bookmarks is perhaps the most seamless. It syncs between different computers in tandem with Google Chrome. One of the reasons why even when Firefox and Internet Explorer (or even Opera!) have improved tremendously, I am still sticking with Chrome as my default browser.
- Many of the other Google services don’t have the sync setup which is a problem. There are some documents that are more easily edited using a desktop application, for example, a document with long tables or many pictures. It should be possible to edit them locally using a native app and have it automatically sync up.
- The sync issue is also going to be a problem with Amazon’s service as well as Flickr and SmugMug. I am using SmugMug and it is a huge problem when I change many photos in the desktop Picasa app and cannot sync only the changed ones.
- I guess Dropbox is a good solution for synching, but it is not much use with uploading pictures that you can view online (I haven’t used it, so correct me if I am wrong). In comparison, source control services are much better. You can view your code online and I have seen a couple that even allow you to edit and run them in their environment.
- I still have to digitize many of my printed photos. For some stupid reason, I continued using an analog SLR for a long time after digital cameras had come up. I suppose scanning the films may make for better quality pictures, but the time commitment required scares me – I have done some, but much remains. I also have some music and videos stored on tapes that I need to digitize.
Personally, I am not very concerned about storing commercial music, books or movies online, particularly the latter two. There are so many books I have yet to read and movies I have to watch, so there is no sense in hoarding them. Read or watch and move on to the next one. I mean, I would like to read “The Catcher in the Rye” again, but my book reading rate usually runs around one per week and I haven’t even finished many of the classics, let alone newer books. Music doesn’t fall in the same category and there aren’t actually too many good songs despite the millions available, but you do get tired of some songs after hearing them one too many times.
One of the things that happen as you get older is that you start hating clutter, even virulently. And that starts getting applied to all the fun stuff you bought when you were younger. In the last couple of years, I gave away tons of books I had purchased. It didn’t make much sense keeping books I had read years ago and not touched since. If someone else could make use of it, that is much better. Unless you are into collecting stuff, buying stuff doesn’t make sense anymore. The rise of rent-based Netflix and Hulu is a response to this realization dawning on most people. One problem is that the continued existence of brick-and-mortar operations like Blockbuster and DVDs at Wal-Mart mean that there are contracts in place that prevent movies and TV series from appearing within a reasonable time frame at the online locations.