Tech Talk 6 – the final pre-amble?

We are just about to begin with the new tech and solutions! (There is one more small piece of back story). Hopefully you will see that all that time we spent in the weeds of minute detail about piracy, devices, and content management pays off here. I think that anyone would be able to hear about the new tech and say “wow, that is cool”. But without a vision of how YOU might be able to use new tech, without knowing how it could help you streamline your set-up, increase your productivity, and solve problems you are having or may soon have, it is all just a bunch of shiny new toys.

For the next few episodes, I am going to be talking a fair amount about the pending release of iOS5, iCloud, and a little bit about the new Mac OS “Lion”. The vast majority of technical and factual data comes from the WWDC 2011 keynote speech.

The final back story. Cloud computing has been around for quite some time. The basic tech behind cloud computing is not terribly complicated and has been in use since at least the beginning of personal and enterprise computing, if not much earlier. Basically, you are accessing your data on a remote server from a different location. That is the core, and should sound familiar to most computer users (and probably not too exciting). What makes modern cloud computing exciting, and iCloud in particular, is the further integration of automated procedures, Push technology, and the ability to access your personal data in the cloud from a wider selection of devices wirelessly.

Apple’s first big attempt at marketing this tech to the individual user was a thing called MobileMe. I was extremely underwhelmed by MobileMe. It was very limited and, with few exceptions, only duplicated capability that many users already had. It would sync your email across multiple computers/devices wirelessly. Most power users had already solved this issue long before by switching from POP email delivery to IMAP. It could wirelessly sync your calendar across multiple devices as well, which many of us still had to do via a USB cord. But, at that time (as with today) you had to plug your iPods and iPhones directly into your computer for updates often enough that needing to sync via a cord was not a huge drawback. It would sync your address book also, but this was just like with the calendar – not too useful for most people since we had to use the cord and link directly to the computer regularly.

It could potentially solve some problems for cross platform users – people who worked on Apple and Microsoft systems. But, none of this really worked. I tried it briefly and found it more hassle than it was worth. My boss (also known as Dad) was a cross platform user at this time and I set him up. But there were endless problems. Every time he would sync (when that worked – about 30% of the time – it would simply hang or crash the device(s)) he would end up with multiple copies of data. Instead of syncing, he would end up with sometimes as many as 6 instances of the same events. The same held true with contacts. Every sync ended up duplicating either new entries or the whole address book. My pop has over 2,000 individual entries in his address book. When those begin to duplicate, things get out of control quickly.

That tech was so bad, it took me more than a week to even figure out how to fully unsubscribe, turn it off and remove it. I would follow the procedures, and the next day, it was BACK! I would finally get it off of the computer, and it would reappear on his iPhone. This was a tech support Gordian Knot. Apple has admitted that MobileMe was less than successful. But they knew that they were onto something and they kept at it.

Enter Lion, iOS5, and iCloud!