Head in the clouds

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - Web -

WHAT com­puter are you us­ing when you’re not us­ing a com­puter? A cloud com­puter.

Google’s new cloud-based lap­top, the Chrome­book, of­fers users in­ter­net ac­cess us­ing the Chrome browser.

But it’s not re­ally a lap­top and it doesn’t have ac­cess to the web. It is the web, on a com­puter-like ob­ject. There is no desk­top or wall­pa­per, no pro­grams, fold­ers or files. There are not even any soft­ware pro­grams in­stalled. So, how do you do stuff with it? Its suc­cess re­lies on the sup­po­si­tion that ev­ery­thing we do, we can do on­line, through cloud com­put­ing.

Cloud com­put­ing is ba­si­cally stor­ing all of your files on the in­ter­net, in­stead of on a com­puter hard drive. No more run­ning home to pick up doc­u­ments; no more leav­ing files at work. If all of your email, cal­en­dars, con­tacts, books and doc­u­ments are stored on­line, you can ac­cess them any­where, from any de­vice.

In fact, if you lose your com­puter, phone or tablet, your files re­main safe be­cause they’re not stored on your ma­chine. It sounds like the fu­ture, right? Well, the fu­ture can be a scary place. With closed-door op­er­at­ing sys­tems, like those on the iPhone and iPad, mak­ing pok­ing around in com­puter files im­pos­si­ble for most users, there is a new end-user sim­plic­ity be­ing of­fered by the cloud.

But the ‘‘ dumb­ing down’’ of com­put­ers and de­vices is only dumb­ing down the users at a time when com­puter lit­er­acy is be­com­ing more es­sen­tial. The re­deem­ing idea of cloud stor­age is that the user is al­ways con­nected and their tech­nol­ogy ex­pe­ri­ence is the same ev­ery­where, on ev­ery de­vice.

How­ever, se­cu­rity and pri­vacy is­sues are be­com­ing ev­ery­day con­cerns. Com­pli­ance with terms and con­di­tions, com­bined with legal or con­trac­tual is­sues, com­pli­cate mem­ber­ship.

These things are usu­ally over­looked by causal, young or in­ex­pe­ri­enced users.

Be­cause a lap­top or tablet can do all of these things and more, the Chrome­book may not be a sales suc­cess. The most gamechang­ing thing about its re­lease is it sug­gests a com­plete cul­ture shift in the way we use tech­nol­ogy.

Is stor­ing ev­ery­thing on­line, in the cloud, the fu­ture of com­put­ing? We’ll see.

In the mean­time, I’m still back­ing up my hard drives and re­sist­ing com­plete sur­ren­der.

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