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Tuesday, March 9, 2010
Betting the Company on the Cloud: Sure Thing or Long Shot?
Betting the Company on the Cloud: Sure Thing or Long Shot?
We've been hearing a lot about "cloud computing" for the last five years, although the concept has been around much longer. Last week, in a live webcast from the University of Washington campus, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer made some bold statements that have some people in the IT industry excited, and others worried. The gist of that talk was that Microsoft is betting its future on "the cloud." http://www.wxpnews.com/MY5HU3/100309-MS-in-the-Cloud
One of the most interesting - and perhaps surprising - things to come out of that speech was that by next year, 90% of Microsoft employees will be working on cloud-related technologies. How does that tie in with another big surprise that came from Microsoft this past week: that they have decided to discontinue development of their Essential Business Server (EBS) product, a server suite that includes Windows Server 2008 R2, the System Center Essentials server management software, the Forefront server security product, and the Exchange 2010 email server. The package was made for mid-size businesses, but Microsoft says those customers are gravitating toward "products that address cloud-based management and virtualization needs." They have moved the EBS team to "projects within the Microsoft Server and Cloud division." http://www.wxpnews.com/MY5HU3/100309-Essential-Business-Server
Did the Cloud kill EBS? That's what I'm hearing from some EBS fans, and they aren't happy about it. In fact, I've heard from a few IT admins who think the company's all-out cloud efforts are misguided at best, and could be disastrous. In fact, a significant number of IT professionals have expressed decidedly anti-cloud sentiments. Their attitude seems to be "You can take my on-premise datacenter when you pry it from my cold, dead hands."
It's not that surprising when you think about it. Many IT pros see the cloud as a threat to their jobs. If organizations move all of their data and applications to the cloud, what happens to those organizations' IT staffs? Management's perspective is different: contracting those services out to a cloud provider simplifies things. They pay a set fee and the cloud provider takes care of it all. There will be no unexpected expenditures for a new server to replace one that died or just got old and out-of-date. You don't have to worry about all the personnel expenses involved in running an IT department: salaries, insurance, liability issues, training, paid days off. The cloud looks attractive when you're looking at it from that point of view.
And of course, Microsoft's view of the cloud is different, too. They hope to be the cloud provider, delivering those cloud services to other companies. In January, they launched Windows Azure, which is a cloud platform that includes an online operating system and online database (SQL Azure). And Office 2010, which launches in June, will be much more cloud-centric, with Office Web Apps to let you store, edit and share documents online. http://www.wxpnews.com/MY5HU3/100309-Office-Web-Apps
It's not just enterprise and business computing that's headed toward a cloudy future, either. Cell phones are, by necessity, cloud-based devices and the new version of Windows Mobile, rebranded as Windows Phone 7 Series and unveiled last month at the Mobile World Conference in Barcelona, is tightly integrated with Office online, Windows Live, Xbox Live and other cloud services.
What about the consumer operating system? There are no details available yet on the OS that the blogosphere is calling Windows 8, but there have been plenty of rumors. One anonymous blog post that is thought to have been done by a Microsoft employee did make the intriguing statement that it will be "something completely different from what folks usually expect of Windows." http://www.wxpnews.com/MY5HU3/100309-Windows8
That very general statement can lead to all sorts of speculation, and may be a little alarming to those of us who like Windows - especially Windows 7 - a lot. Do we really want "something completely different?" Different in what way? A totally redesigned (Zune-like?) user interface? A web browser based OS that only lives in the cloud, a la Google Chrome OS? Personally, I'm not hoping for either one of those. I like the Windows 7 UI, especially with a touch screen. There are refinements I'd like to see made to it, but I don't want a drastic overhaul that will take me weeks to learn and lower my productivity in the meantime.
As for the idea of a cloud OS, I asked readers what they thought about that back in December, when details about the Chrome OS were first revealed. The majority of those who commented on that article said they were not ready to accept a cloud-based OS. One person put it best when he said it takes the "personal" out of personal computing. http://www.wxpnews.com/MY5HU3/100309-Chrome-OS
I'm not anti-cloud. I think there is a very viable market for cloud-based services. For many small businesses that can't afford to support an IT department, it makes good business sense to contract it all out to a provider. For large enterprises, the savings can be even more dramatic. But I want the cloud to be a supplement to the choices we have now, not a replacement for them. Web apps are handy, but I don't want to be left high and dry, unable to even compose and print a document or open my accounting spreadsheet if I don't have an Internet connection. And there are some files that I just don't trust to the cloud. Do I really want all my tax forms and documentation of my expenses and income stored "out there" somewhere?
As much as I love the Internet and all it has brought me, I sometimes feel a little wary about just how dependent I am on it. I've talked to many others who feel the same way. Many of us, I think, are uncomfortable with the idea of becoming even more dependent on having a "connection." There's a reason that same word is used by addicts to describe those who supply them with their drugs of choice.
Nevertheless, more and more integration between the desktops in our homes and offices and servers on the Internet is probably inevitable. But there are a few things that I think will have to happen before the average person will accept it. As a matter of fact, if Microsoft really wants to push people to the cloud, I would suggest that they drop that name altogether and come up with something friendlier. The people I talk to (except for ubergeeks who love anything new) are afraid of the cloud. The word conjures up an ominous image; see my blog post on why I think it's a bad name: http://www.wxpnews.com/MY5HU3/100309-Cloudy-Days
Tell us what you think. Is Microsoft really going to bet the company on the cloud? Will they kill off more of their products that aren't cloud-based, as they did with EBS, and consumer products like Encarta and Money? Will the next, "completely different" version of Windows force us further into the cloud (and if so, will that be the impetus to finally drive computer users to Linux)? How much cloud is too much? And what about those rural folks who are still making do with 56K modem connections - what would a mass move to the cloud mean to them?
In last week's editorial, I asked if our technology is making us easier targets for criminals, and suggested that we all might want to think before we post such information as the fact that we're out of town to sites like Twitter and Facebook, lest we tip off burglars who then know that our homes are likely to be empty.
Several readers chimed in on the subject, and Tim G. brought up an excellent point: even those who don't own a computer and have never clicked a mouse still have a huge amount of information about them published on various sites on the Internet. That's certainly true - and just because you never use social networking sites, it doesn't mean there's no info about you on them.
In fact, I just looked over the last few days of posts in my Facebook friend feed. One friend posted about how great it is that her sister is at her house all week, visiting from Wisconsin. Another friend noted that he, his wife and his kids were having a great time at Disney World. Another posted photos via his mobile phone, of his mom and dad at a church function. The sister, wife and parents might not have anything to do with social networking sites, but there are now a lot of people who know they aren't at home.
Tim and Jon M. also pointed out that just as technology has made it easier for criminals to find victims, it has also made it easier, in many cases, to find and stop criminals - sometimes before the crime is even committed. Just another reminder that all technology can be used for good or bad purposes.
As always, thank you to all who participated in this discussion!
MediaWidget is the quickest and easiest way to transfer all of your music, videos, photos, podcasts, and more from your iPod to PC. Check out the cool Youtube demo and download the trial here: http://www.wxpnews.com/MY5HU3/100309-MediaWidget
If you're still using Internet Explorer 6, you might want to consider a browser upgrade now that even Microsoft seems to have acknowledged that the 9 year old version of IE is "dead." Many web sites don't support it anymore, and last week a group of people held a mock funeral to put it to rest. The interesting part is that the Internet Explorer team at Microsoft sent flowers. Remember that you don't have to dump your XP OS to get a newer web browser; IE 8 works fine and provides better page rendering and much better security. Read more about the demise of IE 6 here: http://www.wxpnews.com/MY5HU3/100309-IE-6-Funeral
Microsoft executive advocates web tax
Some readers have accused me of always defending everything Microsoft or its representatives do. Those who have really kept up with all of my articles and blog posts know it isn't true - and I'll prove it again by taking a stand firmly opposed to the suggestion made by Microsoft vice president Scott Charney at last week's RSA security conference. His idea: impose an Internet usage tax to cover the costs of security breaches. Just what we need during a shaky economic recovery - even more new taxes. What would that money be used for, exactly? Among other things, to inspect and quarantine your computer if it gets infected with a virus. I think it's a bad idea. Malware is a problem, but there are better ways to deal with it. Let us know what you think at firstname.lastname@example.org or in the forums at http://forums.wxpnews.com . Meanwhile, read about it here: http://www.wxpnews.com/MY5HU3/100309-Clean-Computers
Verizon is getting Microsoft phones soon, but not Windows Phone 7
I got all excited when I read that two Microsoft phones were coming to Verizon in May or June - but it turns out these aren't running the new Windows Phone 7 Series operating system that everyone is so eager to see in person. Instead, they're based on the long-rumored "project Pink" and are said to be targeted at teenagers. While not full-fledged smart phones, they do provide access to social networking sites and have physical keyboards for easy posting and text messaging. You can read more about them here: http://www.wxpnews.com/MY5HU3/100309-Microsoft-Phones
Xbox Live members will now be able to "express their real identities"
Remember way back in the 1990s, when a cartoon in the New Yorker became famous for the line, "On the Internet, nobody knows you're a dog"? We've come a long way since then, when personal anonymity was considered a positive aspect of online communications. Today, people (and presumably dogs, too) are more interested in advertising their "real identities" than in hiding them. In keeping with that, Microsoft has announced that now Xbox Live members will be able to include information about their races, religions and sexual orientation in their profiles. Is it a sign of progress, or a recipe for disaster? You can read more here: http://www.wxpnews.com/MY5HU3/100309-MS-New-Policy
How To: Using XP Features
How to take ownership of a file or folder in XP Home edition
If you're denied access to a file or folder, it may be because your user account doesn't have the proper permissions. If your user account is an administrator, you can take ownership of the file or folder and change the permissions. But in XP Home edition, how to do that isn't obvious because the Security tab on the file's properties sheet is hidden during a normal logon session. Here's how to get around that:
Reboot the computer and press F8 to invoke the startup menu.
Use the arrow keys to select "Safe mode with a command prompt" in the startup menu.
Log on with your administrator account.
Navigate to the file whose permissions you want to change.
Right click the file and select "Properties."
Click the Security tab. If a security prompt appears, click OK.
Click the Advanced button.
Click the Owner tab.
In the Name list, click Administrators group.
Now the administrators group owns the file and anyone with an administrator account can change the permissions on it. You can also take ownership of a folder, which makes you owner of the files in it.
XP Security News
This month's Patch Tuesday is a (relatively) light one
Last month's Patch Tuesday was a big one, with 13 security bulletins that addressed 26 vulnerabilities. This month is much lighter: just 2 security bulletins that fix eight vulnerabilities, and none of them are rated "critical." You can read more here: http://www.wxpnews.com/MY5HU3/100309-Fixing-Holes
XP Question Corner
VPN server on XP Home?
QUESTION: I have set up a VPN server before with my Windows XP Pro computer so I could connect back to it from hotels when I travel. My mom and dad are going on a trip and they want to do the same thing. They have XP Home edition. Can they have a VPN with Home? I thought I read that Home doesn't support it. Any tips or tricks? I'm going to visit them in a couple of weeks and can upgrade their system to Pro if I have to. Thanks so much. -Ellis H.
ANSWER: You might be thinking about another way to connect remotely, Remote Desktop services. XP Home doesn't include the Remote Desktop server, just the client. But the good news is that XP Home can be set up as a VPN server just like its "big brother," Pro. You configure it the same way as in Pro, too. One of the most common connection issues with a VPN is the firewall. That applies to both the firewall on your broadband router, if one is built in, and any software firewall that's enabled on the computer (including the Windows firewall). Here is some information about troubleshooting VPN server problems in XP Home: http://www.wxpnews.com/MY5HU3/100309-WinXP-Home-Vpn-Server
XP Configuration and Troubleshooting
Remote Desktop Connection 6.0 prompts for credentials
If you have the Remote Desktop Connection 6.0 client installed on your XP Home or Pro computer, you might find that it prompts you for credentials, and you also might not be able to use the smart card for logon that worked fine with RDC 5.x. There is, luckily, a workaround that will allow you to revert to the features in the previous version of RDC if you need to. You can find out more about it in KB article 941641 at http://www.wxpnews.com/MY5HU3/100309-Remote-Desktop-Connection-6
DHCP client causes an invalid IP address
If you try to boot Windows XP and can't connect to the Internet, you might discover that you have an invalid IP address (0.0.0.0) and you might also get a confusing error message that says "Dependency service does not exist or is marked for deletion." If you're wondering what in the heck that means, it indicates that the DHCP client software on your computer didn't initialize properly and this can happen when you uninstall Norton Antivirus. To fix it requires a registry edit. Get the instructions in KB article 812335 at http://www.wxpnews.com/MY5HU3/100309-DHCP-Client
This Week's Links We Like. Tips, Hints And Fun Stuff
Disclaimer: WXPNews does not assume and cannot be responsible for any liability related to you clicking any of these linked Web sites.
An epic four-minute-long Rube Goldberg machine in action, with nearly any imaginable object incorporated into a daisy chain of elegant chaos. The band performs the song while wearing paint-splattered jumpsuits, the reason for which is revealed at the end: http://www.wxpnews.com/MY5HU3/100309-Goldberg
Picture Collage Maker Pro: Your Best Shots Can Create Unique Photo Collages!
Photo Tip Download. You've got great shots. Now here's a novel program that lets you use them in all kinds of cool ways. From personalized business calendars, to special occasion greeting cards you can instantly entertain, impress by email or print with emotional punch. Whether you're a mom who wants to create photo collages to share with the family, a business person who wants to create professional calendars that customers will use every day, or a student who wants a way to present homework that will impress your teachers, Picture Collage Maker lets you transform your special pictures into precious memories. Picture Collage Maker comes with a library of professionally-drawn templates that offer you a wide variety of photo layouts and backgrounds for your collage. You have complete control over paper size and orientation. It's so easy to use you'll be creating them in minutes and won't be able to resist emailing them to your friends. Download the trial version here now. http://www.wxpnews.com/MY5HU3/100309-Picture-Collage-Maker
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