hey you, I got off of your cloud

Posted: December 15, 2011 in Observations and Commentary
Tags: , , , , , , ,

All buzz centers on “the cloud.” You no longer need to download songs or movies or books to your gizmo of choice. You no longer need to worry about computer storage for your photos and personal files. Those productivity applications you use, you don’t need to run them from your PC. Everything can be forever accessed, run and stored in and from “the cloud.”

I’m sure this is a gross oversimplification, but my understanding of “the cloud” is all your data – from movies to songs to Word files to photos to applications and beyond – resides on servers found elsewhere and is fetched wirelessly by you. When I say “elsewhere” I mean elsewhere on the planet Earth, not literally in a cloud. I’m sure the facilities storing all this digital content are super secret and located eight stories underground in nuclear-safe bunkers. Retrieval occurs through some sort of amazing wireless communication protocol that literally sends messages to outer space from your device, shoots them back to Earth, communicates with the super secret servers, finds and gets your stuff, blasts it back to outer space and then funnels it down to you in a matter of seconds. In many ways it sounds similar to a hard-wired network where files are centrally located on servers and retrieved as needed by those connected to the network. Only now there are no hard wires and the network consists of everyone everywhere. This is all packaged neatly under the nifty moniker “the cloud.”

Although the cloud concept is rather mind-blowing, it makes me feel old and very fogeyish. I do not like the idea of my stuff being stored somewhere other than my house. There’s something very reassuring about knowing your things are maintained by you and accessible only by you. As one example, I own an iPod. I love that spectacular little piece of artistry. Adore it. Nonetheless, I’m the guy who still purchases CDs. When I bring home a new CD it is immediately ripped into my iTunes library. Do I actually pull out the CD and listen to it as I did in the pre-iPod days? Yes, but just in the car and only because I don’t have the doohickey connector which hooks the iPod into the car’s sound system. Other than the car exception my CDs sit unplayed, only to emerge if I have a hankering to listen to something specific while driving. Obviously, that hankering has to hit before I leave the house. I realize it’s much easier (and cheaper) to download new music directly from the iTunes store. No muss, no fuss. That’s how Red gets all her music. I would never buy her a CD because she’d never listen to it. For one thing, she doesn’t have a CD player. Hmmm, maybe I should give her my old (and perfectly functional) Discman. It would be worth it to see the “my dad is so out of it” look fill her face.

So why do I insist on buying the CD and going through all that rigmarole? If I only listen to CDs in the car, wouldn’t it be more cost and time effective to buy the iPod connector thingy? Yes, it probably would be, but if I stopped buying CDs I’d lose one essential element: Peace of mind.

Right now my entire iTunes library (about 10,000 songs) sits on an external hard drive connected to the home’s main PC. If that hard drive crashed or became otherwise compromised I could lose my entire digital music library. (I really need to create a backup of these files. It’s one of those things I keep putting off until the day when I will regret not having done it.) So in a sense I am playing with fire. In another sense, I’m not. If all else fails I still have the CDs. They provide a level of comfort that the music is always within reach. Yes, it would be a major project, not to mention royal pain in the ass, to rip everything into a new iTunes library. (The initial ripping took many months. Doesn’t that sound painful?) But at least I know in a musical emergency most of my music is immediately available and accessible on CD. Unfortunately Red’s 400 or so songs would be lost since they were all downloaded, so I really should back up that sucker.

The reassuring pleasure of holding something in your hand and knowing it’s there for you when you need it. Even the fanciest of clouds can’t provide that, no matter how safe and secure they claim to be. I don’t care if the companies offering cloud services appear indestructible. Google, Amazon, Microsoft, IBM, Verizon, doesn’t matter. They can fail. Remember when AT&T was as blue chip as they came? Can anyone say Enron?

But truthfully, long term file security is a minor concern. The core issue is more than that.

Thanks to technology we’re losing jurisdiction over our lives, bit by bit. Think about how it is used by the government, banks and credit agencies alone. When we start letting other people manage everything which is important to us, even things as insignificant as a music file or movie, we lose more and more control. This is probably an inevitable, though not very desirable, step in the evolution of technology. It’s quite likely in 50 years people won’t think twice about not having the physical object in their possession. But this is not 2061, not yet. It’s 2011. And while I still can I will continue to look through my CD collection with its booklets and liner notes, hold a book in my hands, and keep my personal files where they belong – snug in my house and under my control, not flying through the chaotic atmosphere to and from the amorphous cloud.

  1. El Guapo says:

    You can go on and on on this topic.
    As far as the “denying technology” though, your email, hell, this blog are in the cloud.
    I don’t use the cloud any more than I need to, but for music you digitally buy and store, that might be recoverable if something happens.
    Something else I just found out – with Amazons service, the artist gets a royalty cut everytime you stream something you’ve uploaded.
    That’s kind of cool…
    But like you even though I work in tech, I have minimal interest int eh cloud either – just another way for the man to keep his foot down on your neck…

    Oh, and I recently suffered a total system failure. Yeah, back up your drive.


  2. I’m proud to be fogeyish along with you. It’s mine and having it with me is part of what makes it mine. I’m freaked out enough having the final drafts of my posts only on WP. I’m sure I could re-create from my draft files, but it still makes me nervous to think about it.

    I’m sure some day I’ll learn to use the Cloud, just like I learned to use a mouse. But just like the mouse, I’m not going to like it right off.


    • John says:

      That’s another “backup” task I mean to do: copy my final posts into a Word file. I have my drafts which are about 90% of what the final turns out to be, but I don’t have the final final.


  3. sparklebumps says:

    I just noticed this on my XBOX and I have no idea what it’s supposed to do. Thank you for enlightening me.


  4. munchow says:

    Cloud is nothing for me either. I like to have the actual CD’s too. They take space, but I like the covers, I find it easier to scroll over the collection whenever looking for some music but don’t really know what it is. But on the other hand I am all digital when it comes to photography. So I guess it comes down to where you stand.


  5. We are in accord, John. I still buy CDs. Hell, I still have my old turntable and several vinyl records. (I even have a few cassette tapes made for me long ago by dear friends that I listen to in the car.) We need to maintain control in our lives, not mindlessly go like sheep wherever the current “shepherd” points us.

    As for the band, can I play drums?


    • John says:

      I have my vinyl too. And lots of homemade cassette tapes (which I have no way to listen to). You can play drums as long as, you know, you can play drums.


  6. Fogey on, dude! I’m with ya…


  7. I am concerned about the cloud, too. Even though I embrace technology, I definitely see some problems with cloud storage being compromised – and then what do you do? I don’t buy c.d.’s anymore. But that’s because I play a song until I get completely sick of it, so it doesn’t really matter if it’s on my iPod or a c.d. Once I’m done, I pretty much move on.

    Interesting that your c.d. philosophy and mine kind of mirror our philosophies about returning to the past, isn’t it?


  8. whiteladyinthehood says:

    I get my music from the iTunes store but then I burn my own CD’s to listen to. But then, I name my CD something like Summer Time Jams or whatever and I forget what songs are on there…I have an iPod – its cool (I never use it)…and have the car connector thingy – its cool (I never use it)…I’ll never give up real books though – I want the book in my hands with physical pages..


    • John says:

      I used to burn my own CDs too. But then I stopped listening to CDs, so it seemed kinda pointless to continue! In theory Playlists serve the same purpose, but it doesn’t have the same cache.


  9. I played a cassette of Beach Boys two days ago. It was Pet Sounds.


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