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Friday, December 2, 2011

Group Presentation - Cloud Computing

Our group presentation topic was to discuss the theory of cloud computing. Cloud computing is a fairly new technology idea. Cloud computing covers moving many aspects of the computing industry into the "cloud" defined by Wikipedia as "the delivery of computing as a service rather than a product, whereby shared resources, software, and information are provided to computers and other devices as a utility (like the electricity grid) over a network (typically the Internet)."

In our presentation we introduced a few of these cloud computing services to the class. The first of which was Google Apps. Google Apps is a cloud service provided by Google. It is similar to Microsoft Office. Google Apps is a web application that provides a word processor, presentation software, a spreadsheet application among other things. Google Apps also has an interesting feature where multiple users can work on the same document at the same time.

We also discussed the Amazon Cloud Services and Windows Azure Services. These services are provided by Amazon and Microsoft respectively. They are both online hosting services.

Another group member discussed the Google Chrome Book. This is a hardware laptop that runs the Google Chrome OS which provides almost instant access to the internet and other Google services.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

What Does Entertainment Look Like Ten Years From Now?

Clearly predicting the future is not an easy task. But I'll go ahead and take an educated guess at what entertainment will look like ten years from now. I will begin by discussing where entertainment currently is. Then I'll go over a few technologies that have recently been release and going from these technologies I'll give a guess to how we will be accessing entertainment ten years from now.

Now we all know that books, newspapers, magazines, the radio, and television was around long before the internet. Since the internet has been around people have been putting multimedia online. From the first images that took minutes to load. To prerecorded video that you could pull up 'on demand' and watch at your leisure. With some adventurous people even streaming live video and audio over the internet. Currently entertainment is a little cleaner than that. There have been advancements in satellite technology that now let us stream advertisement free radio stations just about anywhere in the world. We can take the device from our media center in our home to our car and once we arrive at work we can pull that device and put it in the small stereo in our office and continue to listen to any of the hundreds of stations available. But I feel this is old news, we have passed that already. Wherever you have internet access you have the ability to stream hundreds of radio stations for free, ad supported of course or for a nominal fee ad free, over the internet, with the ability to skip songs, and pause at your will. This gives the end user just that much more control compared to where radio has come from. Most users won't even need an extra device for this. If you have a smart phone and data plan you can visit the mobile website or install the app and begin streaming and customizing your station to only play what you like. Personalization and control has changed a lot in radio. Even with television we now have the ability to pause and rewind live TV. The ability to pull up OnDemand and watch shows that we missed from last night or last month. Even movie rentals have changed with OnDemand. No longer do we have to take a trip to the local movie store to rent a movie overnight, then have to worry about returning it again in the morning. Online we have the ability to use services such as Netflix and Hulu. For a small monthly fee we can watch a large collection of movies and TV shows at any time we want. With the ability to pause, rewind, fast forward through the video. The accessibility to these services has changed as well. Where OnDemand requires you to be at your TV, remote in hand. Netflix allows you to access the content from your smartphone, tablet, PC, game console, even some DVD players and TVs have access to the internet and can utilize this service. This has changed how people go about renting movies and catching up on TV shows. We are no longer tied down to being at home. Google just opened up a new cloud service Google Music. I have not played with this service much but from what I have read you upload your music collection to Google and you then have access to your collection from your PC, smartphone, tablet, just about any internet connected device. Google even included the ability to cache content locally for if you are in a non coverage area - think airplanes and subways. Briefly, books, newspapers and magazines. No longer are we tied down to what we can find at the bookstore, news stand or checkout line at the grocery store. Amazon has the Kindle where you can purchase books from their store and have multiple books on your device wherever you take it. Amazon has even released versions of the Kindle Reader for your computer and tablets - you don't even need another device to use this service! Google has Google Books which I have never used so I don't have any information on, but it exists and I know there is an Android app for it because it came preinstalled on my phone. Apples has iBooks which is basically their version of the Kindle Reader. It runs on your Mac iPhone/Pad/Pod. Apple has also just recently released Newsstand with their most recent version of the iOS mobile software. Users now have the ability to subscribe to or make one time purchases of magazine issues and newspapers that will be available on their mobile device right as, if not before the print issues hit the newsstands. Services like this make it that much easier for us to access information quickly, whenever and wherever we want.

Just from writing the above paragraph and putting the thought into this I can already make suggestions on what entertainment will look like in ten years. I feel that entertainment will be available with you everywhere. All your books magazines and newspapers will be available on every internet enabled device you have. Movies will be available electronically at the same time they are released in movie theaters. Could this cause movie theaters to close? TV shows will stream on your smartphone, computer and tablet just as they do on TV. But the user will have control over all of this. If a TV show airs every Tuesday then the most recent episode will be available on your devices Tuesday, you'll have the ability to pause it, rewind and fast forward. If you leave off at a certain point in reading or watching a movie on one device it will be held at the same spot on all your devices so you can start right where you left off previously. In ten years entertainment will be available to everyone, any time and anywhere, at the users control. This is the disintermediation and personalization that we have discussed being put into production.

What Makes A Community?

The question asked is what makes a community? Whether virtual or real. Is a virtual community a real community? These all bring us back to the question of what makes a community, and can we have these things in an online community as well. I believe that if we can have the same things in an online community that we can have in a real physical community, what can stop it from being a 'real' community.

To consider something a community there are a few things it needs to have. The most obvious of these being people. This is obvious and doesn't take any explanation. Now these people need interaction, and communication between each other. They need to be able to talk, express ideas, and give feedback to each other. With the interaction and communication this community will need rules. You cannot have a meeting if everyone talks at the same time without stopping then leaves the meeting. No one will be able to gather any information. This community will need to be able to set rules on things like who can talk, when they can talk, maybe even what they can talk about. One thing I feel like I skipped that should be listed near the top of this list is a meeting place, location. These people need a place to go for all this interaction and communication. These people will also need identity. Other people will need a way to identify the others while communicating and interacting together. These people will also need a common interest together. They need something to talk about that they all enjoy and are interested in.

These are the basics of a community. Can we have all of these things online in a 'virtual' community? Absolutely, people that have access to the internet can meet in a specified location on the internet, they can all have a common interest together, the users can have their own handle or identity on the internet, rules can be set and informed by moderators, and everyone can have communication and interaction over the internet with the other users. As far as I am concerned this can be an online virtual community as it is similar to a physical community.

Presentation Topic

My personal presentation to the class was of the cloud storage platform Symform. I choose to present this company to the class because I have worked with their product in the past and I believe that they have an interesting product that I have not seen anywhere else. Sure there are other online storage platforms: Dropbox, Windows Live Sky Drive, etc. However I do not know of any other storage platforms that incorporate the users of the service as contributors to the storage pool.

Symform is interesting to me in how it approaches the cloud storage idea. Yes other companies provide cloud storage but, is it true cloud storage? Dropbox, Windows Sky Drive, and Amazon Storage Cloud all provide storage that is centralized in just a few of their data centers. A security breach at that facility could compromise all of your data. Even a physical security break could cause your data to come across the wrong eyes. Also natural disasters could cause a problem. What if the datacenter floods, look at the Western Digital factory in Thailand hard drive prices have gone to what they were 6 years ago due to a flood in the area that damaged this facility.

Symform takes the users of its service and uses part of their storage as contribution to the storage cloud. They have no data center for centralized storage. All of your data that you sync to the cloud is split into multiple pieces, encrypted, then copied to multiple contributors. With storage like this, physical and natural damage to the drive that your data is on will not cause loss of data, as your files are in many more locations in different geographic areas. To combat a security breach of the system that your data resides on the Symform cloud uses industry standard 256-bit AES encryption on all of your data bits before sending them to the cloud of contributors.

The idea of cloud storage is a fairly new thought. I have discussed a few providers of this service. However I feel that Symform has their own unique approach to providing this service that is interesting and breakthrough.