Google’s Chromebook – a solution in search of a problem?

Someone said to me, on Twitter, about Google’s Chromebook, a Cloud-based laptop, in a tone of dismay “All my stuff in the Cloud?”

No, absolutely not, in my case – I wouldn’t dream of it. As far as I’m concerned, the Cloud is an unnecessary and overhyped crock, OK for email, for those who think webmail is a good idea (again, not me), but not for much else.

All my software, all my data, all my email, all my photos, everything I do on my PC, are where they belong, in my possession, not uploaded to languish in a server farm on the other side of the world, with unknown levels of security and redundancy**.

**In this context, redundancy means having the same data stored in multiple, widely-separated, locations, so that if one goes down, the rest are there to pick up the slack until the problem is fixed.

The Cloud, for me, has the taint of the Emperor’s New Clothes about it. In addition, my data represents a lot of work, so why would I want to upload it into cyberspace, with whatever risks that entails, when it’s nicely tucked away on my PC, backed up to external HDDs which are not connected to the Internet? And that, by the way, is the only way to ensure safety – offline storage. Anything stored online, or connected to the Internet, is at risk. And that risk gets bigger every day, and with every new hacker group that comes along.

As for the idea of sacrificing, say, Word, to use some minimally-featured online app (feature-light so it’s fast to access), well, that’s never gonna happen as far as I’m concerned.

Doing something just because it can be done, like the Cloud, is rarely a good enough reason. Look, for example, at the havoc at Sony, caused by hackers. Imagine what might happen to your precious data if they turned their malign attentions to the Cloud’s server farms. What then?

Today’s news says “LulzSec, the hacking group that has been identified as being behind the latest attack on Sony, is now going after the FBI…”

If those buggers will take on the FBI (or, as it turned out, an associate organisation called Infraguard), don’t think that your online data storage is safe, because odds are it’s not – hackers are getting increasingly sophisticated and increasingly aggressive; they love a challenge and server farms must be very attractive targets – maximum return on investment in terms of the effort expended to chaos caused ratio. And systems with built-in multiple redundancies can still be taken down, it just takes more effort.

And LulzSec is only one organisation. Anonymous is still out there, of course, as well as many other, more – er – anonymous groups.

So are conventional computers safer? No, but it’s not worth their while to fuck with individuals when, with little more effort, they can take down  much higher-value targets for greater publicity and, in their own world, greater kudos. Taking down Cloud server farms could screw with millions of computers (if Google are right about the anticipated uptake of this technology – and that needs to go mainstream, not just within the geek community – to be a success), so why mess with individual machines?

3 thoughts on “Google’s Chromebook – a solution in search of a problem?

  1. I agree with you on this one, Ron. The Cloud doesn’t appeal to me at all.

    But having said that, even all our external back-up hard drives and disks won’t help if electricity ever fails bigtime, for ever (I’m thinking apocalypse, of course).

    Only solution is hard copies! Think how much room all that would take up now…

    Did you ever read a story called The Waveries by Fredric Brown? That left a lasting impression and in this internet age it has an even greater resonance…

    • To be honest, Pat, if electricity ever did fail so catastrophically, computers would be the least of our worries, and hard copies would wind up as fuel for the fire. And it would trash the Cloud’s servers as well.

      Under normal circumstances, you’d have to be really unlucky to get a power cut in the middle of backing up – the last power cut I remember was back in the 50s, ignoring the deliberate cuts of the 3-day week.

      Not read The Waveries, but just downloaded a copy.

      I used to be a big fan of post-apocalypse fiction – the idea behind John Christopher’s Death of Grass is genuinely scary given how many food crops are grass-based (researchers come up with a cure for a rice virus, only to find it had been holding in check an even more virulent strain that wiped out not only rice but all forms of grass, including grain crops) – but nobody ever considered, though it was much smaller then than now, how devastating the end of the pharmaceutical industry would be if any of the apocalyptic scenarios came to pass.

      The only one that did, as far as I know, was “Dreamsnake” by Vonda N. McIntyre.

      If you haven’t already, Kate Wilhelm’s “Where late the sweet birds sang” is a must-read.

    • Reading The Waveries. Not a great writer, but his ideas are good and he can keep the tale moving along, which is more than you can say for many.

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