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Category: cloud computing

THE CLOUD

THE CLOUD

I recently heard a lecture on The Cloud. The Cloud is our future. The Cloud will store everything. You won’t have to worry about backups. The Cloud will work across platforms. The Cloud will keep files compatible with current versions of software. You can collaborate in The Cloud. The Cloud is the greatest thing since sliced bread.

The Cloud may be our future whether we like it or not and you can collaborate in The Cloud but I have some  issues with the rest.

Do you trust all your data to the cloud? Really? What happens when it rains? Seriously, what good is all your data in the cloud when you don’t have wi-fi or your ISP is down or your cell provider throttles you back to a snail’s pace? My favorite program, Evernote, runs and syncs in The Cloud. If the internet is down I can still use it because there is a local copy but that is not true of many of the apps on my iPad. They depend on The Cloud. No wi-fi, no work. I don’t have wi-fi or ISP 24/7 and I am sure I am not the only person who doesn’t. Do you really want to be totally dependent on your ISP or cell provider for access to your data? And if you were what would that cost?

What does work across platforms mean? A Word file in The Cloud magically becomes a Pages file for Mac users? If only. I suspect he meant you can use The Cloud from your iPad, your Android tablet, your PC or Mac, your smartphone, etc. But if you put a Pages file up in, say, Dropbox, your collaborator isn’t going to be able to read it if they have Word.

You won’t have to worry about versions of software in The Cloud. Hmmm. Does The Cloud magically convert those Windows 98 files I can’t read now to Windows 7? ┬áNext year will it convert everything to Windows 8?

Let’s pretend The Cloud has all those magic properties. What does something like that cost? He tossed out figures. Basically it depends on which one of The Clouds you choose. What? There is more than one Cloud? So if put all your data on Cloud A can your potential collaborators on Cloud D see it? Will we need multiple Clouds?

I welcome The Cloud. But let’s eliminate the thunderstorms, tornadoes and hurricanes first.

Cloud Storage Options

Cloud Storage Options

Say you want to store some genealogy files online where you can easily get to them with your laptop, iPad, smartphone, Android device, etc. Maybe you want to backup, show relatives, share, refer to while at a research site. What can you do? There are multiple options but this is about cloud storage.

To know what cloud storage is best for you really need to know what you want. Do you want to store, sync, collaborate, backup? I have used all three of the following free storage options.

Dropbox, with 2 GB free storage, is promoted by many. The prime reason most give for preferring it is the ability to sync files. When you are on your laptop and you change a file it automagically changes that file on your desktop and all other devices. That is not always a good idea in my book. Yes, it gives you a mirror backup on all your devices but if you mistakenly delete a file or overwrite a good file it is gone on all your devices. If I am collaborating with a researcher and they change the file it is changed whether I think that was a smart idea or not. If you want to share files or collaborate you need to give the other person log on information. I’m not comfortable with that. I can attach it to an email instead. You can limit the folders they see. 
Dropbox has an app for almost every device making logging on pretty much a no brainer. There are ways you can up your free Dropbox storage to 8 GB which involve giving out your friends’ emails.
Windows SkyDrive gives you 25 GB free storage, no strings. It provides backup and makes your files available from another computer. You can chose which files your want to sync and which you don’t. You can chose who you want to share with and which folders you share with them. You can provide a link to files you want others to see. Reviewers like to note is the 50 MB limit on file size. Check your files and see how many you have which are 50,000 KB. If you have a lot of large pictures saved in .tif that might be an issue. Otherwise you should be good to go.
Windows SkyDrive does not have an app for all your devices. You need to log in. Make it a favorite or a bookmark.
Amazon Cloud Drive gives you 5 GB free storage. If you buy an album during the promotion period you can get an additional 20 GB. Amazon wants you to buy music from them and store it on the cloud drive so it is available to you wherever you are. I did put some music there – music you buy from them does not count against your storage limit – but mostly my storage is genealogy files. That’s really what it is, storage which you can access – no sharing, no sync, at least not yet. Apple, in its infinite wisdom, has withheld approving any app which accesses Amazon because, of course, they want you to buy music from them using iTunes. If you are using the storage for backup or to have files available to you from another computer then this is not an issue. It works for storage. 
Google’s cloud drive for the masses seems to be lost in space. You have long been able to collaborate on documents. Google has free photo sharing through Picasa. They made cloud storage available for the Google Apps customers but reviews were not exactly glowing.
Your computer manufacturer may also provide you with some free cloud storage. There are some other companies that provide a small amount of free storage.
Is it safe? The original file is still on your hard drive I hope and you do back that up, right?
Bottom line: there is free cloud storage out there. Chose the one that suits your needs. Or chose all of them. In theory you could have 58 GB free cloud storage that way.
Useful Item #2 – Netbook

Useful Item #2 – Netbook

Laptops are portable, sort of. They are heavy, most weighing in about six pounds. They don’t go very long without power. And what do you do in a library when you have a laptop but need to go get another book?

Netbooks are small laptops, generally with 9-10″ screens. They weigh under three pounds. They aren’t new. Gateway made tiny laptops in the early 90s but they just didn’t sell. Others have made them since. After 17 years their time has finally come.

Mine fits in my purse. Ok, I tend to carry a large purse when I am traveling. The first day after I got mine I shoved it in my purse and carried it around all day, shopping, to lunch, to the library, to the grocery store, etc. It’s doable.

The battery keeps going and going and going. The reason is you close the lid and it hibernates. Some manufacturers claim the battery lasts nine hours. Mine does BUT I don’t use it steadily for those nine hours.

Two weeks later I went on a two week trip with the netbook as my only computer. Mine has a camera, wi-fi, bluetooth, a 160 GB hard drive and 2 MB of memory. I loaded up my programs, my work files, my pictures, my music [the sound isn’t bad] and my genealogy files.

With cloud computing through programs such as Gmail and Evernote, your data is available to you wherever you are. More and more storage is available that way. My netbook came with 10 GB cloud file storage. Windows Live provides free cloud file storage. Cloud computing is the future.

There is no CD drive. To add a program you need to download it, install it from an external CD drive, copy it to the netbook across your network or copy it to a flash drive and then use that as your installation disk.

Some come with wireless cards. In fact, you can get a pretty inexpensive netbook with a built in wireless card if you sign a two year wireless contract. For about $30 a month you can “tether” your netbook to your smartphone to connect — which sounds cumbersome to me. Or you can connect when you are at one of an ever growing number of places with free wi-fi access, places from city parks to fast food outlets. It’s a great excuse to go to Dairy Queen.

The screen IS small for reading long documents but that’s what scrolling is for. I wouldn’t want to do eight hours of work on it. That’s really the only downside. My biggest gripe is the inability to disable the built in touchpad to use a wireless mouse. There is a way to do it but it just doesn’t work. I finally cut a piece of lightweight cardboard and taped it over the touchpad. That effectively eliminated about 85% of the problem. If you use the touchpad you don’t have this problem.

I think a netbook is the perfect tool for research trips.

All Your Notes, All the Time

All Your Notes, All the Time

How would you like to have all your notes with you all the time so you can’t forget something? It’s possible.

I’ve been using a product called Evernote for nearly five years. About a year ago it totally changed from a program on your computer to one that is shared. I admit I was reluctant but now I can’t live without it.

If you share your notebook or notebooks the notes are also on your personal space at Evernote and shared with everyone you have shared with. That could mean merely your other computers. Or it could be other people. Think of the possibilities. You could use a notebook to share information among all the researchers of a certain line.

A note I add to the notebook on my desktop computer is almost instantly there for me in the program on my netbook or my laptop. I can use my SmartPhone browser to go to the web space, see my notes, add new notes. If I used a Windows Mobile compatible phone I could have the program on my phone. It also works on Macs. And you can run it from a flash drive.

When you are researching on the web you easily clip from a web page and there it is in your notebook, including the URL so you don’t have to make a separate note. The URL works later if you need to go back. You can also clip from any document you can copy from on your computer — a word processor, spreadsheet, pdf, etc. Your notes are right there when you want to enter them into your genealogy program, insert in an email, add to a blog — whatever, wherever.

Did I mention you can include photos, audio, ink, pdf, anything you can scan in too? You can snap a photo with your SmartPhone and email it to your Evernote. If you photograph a document Evernote will recognize the text in the photo. Again, think of the possibilities.

The program is free for up to 40MB per month, $45 per year for up to 500MB per month.