Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Weekend Assignment #364: Partly Cloudy

Weekend Assignment #364: Ahead in the Clouds?
Suddenly the marketing departments of Microsoft and other tech giants are all about "the cloud" or "clouds," the practice of storing large files online and streaming them rather than everyone storing them locally on their hard drives. Do you think this is a good idea, a bad idea or both?

Extra Credit: Do you still buy CDs and DVDs?

At this moment, John is watching YouTube videos in the bedroom on his iPad. Walking by there a few minutes ago, I heard the distinctive voice of the Eleventh Doctor, and immediately joined John on the bed to watch the two brief Doctor Who videos from this year's British comedy/charity event Red Nose Day. We compared notes about BabelColour, a particularly good maker of Doctor Who-related videos on YouTube, and then I moved on. We actually do have downloads of the mini-episodes "Space" and "Time," but we watched the streaming versions anyway on John's silly little tablet. He also uses it to stream Netflix.

All in all, though, I'm not that much into using cloud-based streaming and storage in preference to having the file locally, or even a physical object. I don't buy many CDs, but I do buy every Doctor Who CD from composer Murray Gold more or less as soon as it's available in the U.S. A few of them I've bought twice, because I've been known to wear them out.Then I rip them to iTunes at work and at home. If the CD player in my car worked, I'd play the actual CDs on it. And I often raid the CD shelves for Beatles CDs to add to a computer or my outdated iPod Mini.

Videos? Okay, yes, I'll settle for YouTube streaming if the video is short and amusing and I don't really care about it, or if I know I'll eventually have a good commercial copy, or I can't get it any other way and I need to see it right now. Otherwise, I'd rather have a download for stuff I'm going to watch once or twice, or watch about a dozen times in the next few months until the DVD comes out. Mostly, I have the same attitude toward video that I have toward books: if it's something I know I like, I want to own it, and have it instantly available to me at any time, day or night. I suppose I could stream something at 3 AM just as easily, but will that same show be available to watch online at 5 AM on a Wednesday morning three years from now? Maybe, maybe not. I'd rather not take that chance.

Then again, there's a certain Luddite undercurrent to my protestations. I don't know how to stream something from Netflix or iTunes, and I don't especially want to learn. If I really had a good reason to do it, I'd do it, and it probably wouldn't even be hard to figure out. But I'm not there yet.

I do host photos remotely on Picasa and Photobucket and Flickr, but with very few exceptions I have the same exact edit of every image on my hard drive, and probably on my G drive as well. The few files I have on Google Documents instead of my hard drive in Word or Excel format are either things I got from other people or needed to share with Carly for a meme. Really, the only files of mine that exist in a cloud and not on my computer or my emails.

Still, if I had an iPad or even an iPhone, I'd probably start to embrace cloud technology. I saw at the Gallifrey One convention that an iPad not being used to the fullest extent of its capability is hardly worth having, especially for the price. Even so, the more time John spends in the bedroom, streaming Dr. Horrible on his iPad for the fifth time this week, the more I want to get into the act - clouds and all.


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