The Hubbub Around Google+

I really hope that every person who is praising Google right now and clamoring to get invited to join Google’s latest project has never fallen into any of these camps:

  • berates Facebook for knowing too much about us
  • laments the power Apple exerts on the web and technology companies
  • laments the size of Apple and other large companies
  • stresses privacy and ownership of content

If you have ever fallen into any of those camps you should be looking at Google’s latest offering, Google+, with increasing suspicion. This has nothing to do with how good the service will be, but more about how many people are fawning over the latest offering from Google.

I think it is safe to say that Google has taken the place of the “good guy” for many people, and maybe deservedly so. However, never lose site of the fact that Google makes money doing pretty much one thing … selling advertising. I think it is a fairly safe bet that all of the information Google will be gathering through its new Google+ service will also be to gain just that, more information on users so that their advertising can be both more effective and more lucrative. They have to make money after all, otherwise they can’t continue to offer their services.

Apple and Microsoft are both pretty straight forward, they want your money any way they can get it. That’s pretty transparent, and they say as much. Google has never been that transparent with their motivations (and neither has Facebook or Twitter or many other tech companies for that matter). A lot of time is spent on “don’t be evil”, but that’s a corporate slogan, not entirely the company’s motivation.

I hope that Google+ brings to light some good ideas, I don’t know what they could be because I haven’t used it at all, even though I probably will. However, with Google again trying to bring more of the web under its umbrella, I can’t help but fear that this could be another step toward the siloing of the web into larger and larger companies. I hope not, because losing the truly distributed web would be a damn shame.

An Opening for Rural Communities

Rural communities are dying, or at least that is the accepted wisdom within the mainstream media and those who live in larger cities. I’m not going to get into a pissing contest between what is better, rural or urban, but to deny that there are unique challenges facing rural communities today that they have not had to deal with in the past would be both incorrect and extremely shortsighted.

The questions should be what can we do to change things? The demographics are not going to change drastically for many reasons, but what can rural communities do to both keep those people who are currently there and maybe even grab a few from outside to bolster their ranks?

I’m going to focus on one opening where rural communities are in a unique position (I think) to take a huge step forward and encourage innovation in the technology realm: symmetrical, high-speed broadband.

I understand that there is a capital expenditure that is needed in such endeavors, but in the USA, asymmetrical broadband is the norm and is borderline criminal. People speak of the web as a publishing platform, but the current infrastructure leans HEAVILY toward only consuming. The paltry upload speeds keep people from doing two things: uploading large files and hosting their own stuff in-house.

Rural communities could turn this problem on its head by investing in networking infrastructures and then opening them up for people to use as they would like. Not only would it benefit schools, libraries, law enforcement agencies, government offices, health services and any other public services, but it would also open it up for the citizens to try to build companies in these areas because bandwidth is plentiful and affordable.

It’s time for rural communities to band together and start to think outside of agriculture and natural resources as the only viable economic activities and invest in something that can benefit everyone. Their small size would allow for cheaper roll outs, so less capital is needed to get going. Being smaller also would keep larger telcos off of your back (hopefully).

The future is quickly coming, so let’s get on board!

Final Cut Pro X Reactions … Reaction

First off, the disclaimer: I have not used prior versions of Final Cut and I probably won’t be using the newest version for a while either. iMovie has fulfilled my needs for a long time and will probably continue to do so.

This short post has more to do with the reactions coming out right now to the release of Final Cut Pro X.

I tend to get a good laugh out of people when something new, rewritten or different is released. The backlash is predictable and funny to read.

Yes, a complete rewrite of a program is not going to have all of the features of the last version. If they wanted all of the features of the last version, they would have kept the old codebase and just added more features. That’s not what happened here.

No, your specific needs did not probably come up in a discussion about how this rewrite should go and what features should make the first release. Will they in the future? Maybe. However, just be aware that your specific needs might not be met by this particular piece of software … and that is just fine.

Yup, Apple might be giving up your little segment of the market and moving the goal posts again. I think they’ve been pretty clear that an entirely digital distribution system is where they see things going, and new versions of their software are probably going to represent that philosophy.

However, let’s step back for a second and just imagine that Apple is doing exactly what they said they were going to do: rewrite Final Cut Pro. Looking at what is there, it looks like a solid foundation to build on top of, and one that is far more modern than the old version.

I expect that some major additions are in store for Final Cut Pro X from this point forward. The reactions have been over-the-top and reek of people who jumped when they should have waited.

I for one, look forward to using it in the future … like most new products from Apple.

Mini Host

Since around 2005 I have been paying for some sort of web hosting, every month, to pay for at least one WordPress site and some other, smaller, websites. It has been as low as $4/month and as high as $21/month (as it currently is, but they are not at all comparable). I’ve also tried my hand at hosting sites from my own home on a small server running with Intel’s Atom processor. That also worked well.

However, I’ve always wanted to take that last idea to the next level … to really set up my house as a mini host. Set aside a small part of the basement that I now own (WHOHOO!), get myself a server rack, purchase some rackmount hardware and then go at it! I would move everything over to those “new” servers (read: used) and run all of my business from my basement.

Yes, I currently use Rackspace Cloud Servers and have been very VERY happy with how they have worked. It has been great and made moving really simple because I just kept everything there and I could move wherever I wanted with no problems.

However, I want more power and the fun of doing this myself. There is also a need for a “large-ish” file server for backups here at home along with general file storage. A rack would mitigate the later need as well.

Right now I’m looking for a rack, talking with Comcast about what it would cost to get some static IP addresses to my home, and then searching out some used hardware to get started. I don’t need server-grade hardware, but I do want to get some rackmount cases and then get started.

Am I going to do it perfectly? Oh heck no, but I’m going to learn a lot and get to drill some holes and run some cable. I’m looking forward to it.

WWDC 2011 Keynote: iCloud

This is decidedly the one announcement that is both the most cryptic and has the ability to be the most revolutionary. Everyone was expect “iCloud” in some form, mostly revolving around a streaming iTunes service (which we did not get), but I don’t think people were expecting a complete and total rethinking of the “digital hub” concept that Steve Jobs has touted for the past decade.

It is hard to talk about what iCloud means without talking about what iCloud is supposed to do in its current form this Fall.

Mail/Calendars/Contacts

Since iCloud is going to replace MobileMe (may she rest in peace), it will handle the main feature set that MobileMe was used for. Not much to talk about here. I’ve been very happy with MobileMe for these three, so I’m hoping that it will worked “as advertised” with iCloud as well.

Apps, Books, Backup

Easy enough as well. Apps can now be pushed to any device when you purchase (so push Twitter to your iPad after you installed it on your iPhone), and you have a list of purchased apps right in the App Store. Welcome addition.

Books work like they have before. Bookmarks and current reading positions are synced across devices. I’ve used this, it works.

You can also do partial backups right to iCloud. Here is what is saved:

  • Purchased music, apps, and books
  • Photos and videos in the camera roll
  • Device settings
  • App data
  • Home screen and app organization
  • Text and MMS messages
  • Ringtones

That’s a good amount of information. It isn’t everything, but if you connect to Wi-Fi, your iOS device will automatically download the latest backup if you put in your Apple ID. All part of untethering your iOS device from a computer.

The backup parts will happen only when connected to Wi-Fi, but it is a lot better than having a person lose all of their information if they break their iOS device.

Documents in the Cloud

Save a document on one device and have it on all devices. That’s what it will hopefully do. Right now it is baked into iWork, but Apple has opened this up for 3rd party developers as well. There isn’t a lot to talk about here, but I’m hoping this makes “cloud syncing” a feature that is just there … for everything.

Photo Stream

This one is a little more complicated. Basically, you take a picture on one iOS device and it gets pushed to the rest, including your Mac or PC. Photo Stream on your iOS device (including you Apple TV 2nd gen) will keep up to 1000 photos for 30 days until you are able to connect to Wi-Fi and back everything up (see above).

At the same time, your Mac or PC will save EVERY photo that you push through to your photo stream. So, you don’t have to worry about losing any pictures at any time, they’ll always be on your Mac or PC (or you can always move them into another album on your iOS device where they will be kept in perpetuity).

iTunes in the Cloud

No, it is not a streaming or subscription iTunes service.

What you now have access to is all of your purchased iTunes music on all of your devices where you can download your music as many times as you want.

This fixes the famous issue where someone loses their iTunes library and wants to get their music back. Now they can log into the iTunes Store and do just that. YAY! New purchases can be pushed to all of your devices as well, which is kind of nice.

iTunes Match

For $25/year, you can have access not just to music purchased through iTunes, but also to your other music as well!

There are two tiers here:

  1. music that you ripped or downloaded somewhere else that is in the iTunes Store can be downloaded on your other devices just fine without having to upload any files
  2. music that iTunes cannot identify is uploaded to iCloud and then is passed around for you to enjoy (up to 20,000 files … I think)

That’s pretty cool as well, but you do have to pay for it.

Price/Overall Impressions

Everything listed above (except iTunes Match) is now … FREE!

Yup, that’s right, Apple has released something huge for free. I’m imagining that they are not going to have a huge issue covering the costs, but this is a major shift for them and it also opens it up even more for 3rd party developers to include iCloud in their offerings. If every Mac/iOS/PC customer with an Apple ID can have access to iCloud … that’s a large market.

This entire offering (and it is really a collection of many services under a single name instead of one large offering) is going to define Apple going ahead. They’ve moved iOS to being on-par with the Mac platform in many ways, and this is another huge push.

However, what remains to be seen is how this all works. MobileMe, for how well it has worked for me, got off to a rocky start and I expect some growing pains with iCloud as well.

With the Apple Stores obviously pushing iCloud to as many iOS and Mac customers as possible, the uptake could be quick (which would be great for data retention). However, iCloud comes with the same fears as any “cloud” technology: privacy, reliability and data caps for three. Will they be an impenetrable barrier, or has Apple finally figured out how to get people to move into “the cloud”?