“Whose cloud is it anyway?” As many of us dive into the brave new world of cloud computing, smart phones, tablets and social networking a lot of us are left wondering: what is happening to all that information that we supply to these new technologies? Is our data really our own or have we passed co-ownership to a cloud service provider or social networking organization? When post something that is intended to be private, is it really private or is the information being used for purposes outside of our intended use? How much personal information is being sucked up by the services we interact with and how is that personal information being used?
Regardless of whether you are a consumer, an office worker, a government employee, a student or a law maker, these questions are ones that we should all be asking. When we use services such as Facebook, Hotmail, Twitter or Gmail, are we really getting these services for free? In reality, we are paying for these services by trading personal information in exchange for using the services. This information can be used to deliver better ads or help us network with other people with similar interests. Our personal information is the new currency on the net, it is extremely valuable and we should all spend it wisely.
The New Information Economy blog will explore issues related to our data and our identities and discuss topics we believe are worth highlighting. These posts are our own opinions. No one is paying us to say what we say and we are totally open to debating the issues. This blog was started by Doug Miller and Jeff Gould. We have worked together on and off on several client projects and while we often have differing opinions, we respect each other’s point of view. Here is a bit more about us…
I guess I have been a techno geek for all of my 30 years in the computing industry. Back in the early years, I was the first person on my block to buy a Commodore 64, a brick-sized cell phone from Radio Shack, the first Apple Macintosh and the first portable Compaq computer that sported a CRT screen. Not much has changed over the years. I was a UNIX then Linux guy for many years. I started using Windows NT when it first came out. I’ve had a smart phone of one flavor or another since before the term smart phone was used and I bought my first Windows-based tablet computer back in the early 2000s.I have always been open to new technology and try to look at new products without bias or prejudice. I also like to look at the intersection points between competing technologies and explore new areas of interoperability. For example, I was the CEO and co-founder of Softway Systems, the company that built the Interix UNIX subsystem on top of Windows NT. The product was eventually acquired by Microsoft (where I ended up working for five years) in 1999 and lives on as the Subsystem for UNIX-based Applications (what a sexy name – not) in Windows today.
I have been an independent consultant since 2004 and have provided services to a wide range of large and small technology companies. I have kept with the interop theme and like to think that I specialize in understanding both the technical and marketing aspects of competing technologies in a number of markets including system software, cloud computing and mobile devices. Over this time I have provided business and technology services to a number of major IT clients including HP, Intel, Microsoft and numerous technology startups.
I also dabble in marine electronics and run a very successful online business focused on marine Automatic Identification Systems called Milltech Marine. Building this company using a variety of interconnected cloud services has been a great learning experience.
In the spirit of keeping an open mind I use many competing technologies:
- Smart phones: one HTC Titan II running Windows Phone 7.5, three Android-based phones running a mix of official and open source Android releases, a drawer full of older phones.
- Tablets: an iPad Mini, an original iPad, a Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.7 running on Verizon’s LTE network, a ViewSonic tablet running CyanogenMod port of Android, a Windows-based tablet running Windows 8, a Kindle Fire.
- Computers: too many to list but most are running different flavors of Windows, one Samsung Chromebook.
- Cloud services: Milltech Consulting uses Office 365, Milltech Marine is a paying Google Apps customer, I have personal accounts on Gmail, Yahoo and Hotmail, I use various cloud-based services such as 3DCart, Google AdWords and PayPal for running the businesses.
- Social networking: Profiles on LinkedIn, Facebook, I ghost-tweet daily for one of my clients. I run a MeetUp site for a scuba club I belong to.
I have ghost-written numerous articles and white papers for a variety of clients, have published material on sites such as Interop Systems, am a regular contributor to SafeGov.org and also blog on marine topics.
NOTE: The opinions I express on this site are mine. While I have consulting clients that pay for other work I create, I am not paid by anyone or any company to write on New Information Economy.
This blog’s subject matter notwithstanding (and despite what my friends say), I’ve never really considered myself a geek. I’m more of a mathematically inclined English major who likes to write about technology. For the past ten years at Peerstone Research I’ve advised companies and investors about enterprise software and hardware. Before that I was the editor of a French computer magazine (the European edition of U.S. tech pub InformationWeek), and before that I ran a consulting firm in Paris (I’m a British and American dual national by birth).
These days I do most of my work on a big Lenovo Thinkpad running Windows 7 Ultimate in 8 Gbytes of memory (a thousand times as much as the Mac IIfx I had 20 years ago – incredible how things change!). My travel machine is a tiny 11 inch MacBook Air – I love the look and feel of the thing, but for serious writing nothing beats the Thinkpad keyboard.
My phone is an iPhone 4S. I’ve owned every iPhone since the first one. I’m a reasonably satisfied albeit somewhat undemanding customer, because the reality is that the tablet in my life (see below) has made my phone less important than it used to be for everything other than calling or texting. I have no interest in Android phones – Doug’s experience with his many Android devices doesn’t inspire me. I’ve heard good things about Windows Phone and I like the look of the Nokia Lumia, but I’m in no rush to change. I might experiment when Windows Phone 8 is out on the next rev of the Lumia line (when they upgrade to multicore, a Retina-grade screen and more memory than 16 Gbytes).
My tablet is the new iPad (aka iPad 3), which replaced my iPad 1. Really this has become the most used device in my life after the Thinkpad. I have the 64 Gbyte Verizon LTE version, and it was worth every penny. It goes everywhere I go. I take it in my car or when I’m walking around the city (I live in San Francisco). I read it in bed and at the dinner table (when my wife is not around). I take it to the gym to watch iTunes U video lectures on the exercise machines (I recommend all the MIT math and physics courses, especially Gilbert Strang’s linear algebra, also Ramamurti Shankar of Yale’s course on Maxwell’s equations and quantum mechanics – if you want an explanation of the Schrodinger wave equation that doesn’t skip the math but is still accessible to mere mortals, this is for you).
I also tried the Kindle Fire, but was disappointed by the crappy build quality (I dumped my original Kindle as soon as I got my iPad). Nothing about the Android tablets I’ve seen so far impresses me. Google has shown itself to be utterly clueless about tablets (Page is no Jobs). If they don’t get back into the game by Q4 of this year (expected release date of the first Windows 8 tablets), my bet is they never will. About the only thing that could tempt me to give up my iOS tablet would be a really good touch-enabled implementation of Microsoft Office on an ARM-based Windows 8 device. But I will only consider buying one if the hardware is top notch. Microsoft and its OEMs will have to match the best of what Apple has to offer – no compromising on memory, processor speed or screen quality, and no price premium either.
Having begun my computing life on Dave Winer’s gone but not forgotten More, I’m now completely wedded to the Microsoft Word outline format for writing everything from one line phone notes to novels. So far I haven’t found a reason to upgrade to Office 2010. But if the ARM version of Office 15 is compelling, maybe I’ll upgrade my laptop Intel version as well.
For browsing, I have IE, Firefox and Chrome installed on my Thinkpad, but only Firefox and Safari on the MacBook Air. I’ve been a Firefox fan for many years, but for the last few months I’ve been using Chrome most days, because Firefox’s seemingly unfixable memory hole bugs were driving me insane. I’m the kind of person who typically has 50 to 100 tabs open in five or six separate browser instances, and Chrome handles that a lot better than Firefox. IE is faster than it used to be, but I’ve never liked the way it handles tabs. I use it mostly for institutional sites that choke on Chrome.
For email, I was a longtime Outlook user, and I still think it’s the best email fat client around. But for the last 18 months, as I’ve ramped up my interest in all things cloud, I’ve forced myself to live on a diet of my own dogfood (so to speak). I run Gmail and Office 365 accounts side-by-side and use both every day. Based on my experience so far, I trust the security and freedom from ads in Office 365 a lot more than the creepy data mining going on in Gmail. But I have to admit that the latter’s browser interface is slicker and faster. Since I’m not a government agency, K12 educational institution or corporation with vital trade secrets to protect (examples of organizations that should really think twice before exposing themselves to Google Apps), I personally don’t have a problem with Google’s cynical but undeniably alluring give-up-your-privacy-for-great-free-services offer. But let the buyer beware, there really are a lot of landmines hidden in this ground.