The “Cloud”

Virtual Reality (VR) Coming to Your Life Sonner than You Think!

Virtual Reality, or “VR” for short, is coming on fast. I’ve been engaged in watching it for many years, and in the format of head mounted displays “HMDs,” I first experienced one about 1996, where the world around me was filled with flying dragons and you had to spot and shoot them before they got to you. Cartoonish by today’s standards, but I got the experience of wearing it and considering the usefulness and applications to come.

In March, Facebook bought a successful Kickstarter project, Oculus Rift for $2B. The foundation of VR has been the simulation and gaming industry, with applications in the engineering the medical field.

So why is Facebook interested in a gaming device? From Dice:

“In the longer term, Facebook could attempt to build a virtual reality, one in which users interact with each others’ avatars amidst a digital landscape, rather than via a newsfeed or postings. In theory, that sort of simulacrum presents some prime opportunities for advertising: imagine all the digital billboards and wall-ads that Facebook could sprinkle around a virtual city.”

Think Star Trek Holodeck, minus the tactile input of feel. Now consider the applications that may flow from that, when a very capable HMD is in the sub $300 range.

Here’s the conditions to look forward to: If you think it’s rude now for a group of people in one place to all be nose first in their smartphones, get ready to walk into Starbucks and see 5-6 people at the bigger common table, laptops open and on, and they all are interacting in a virtual world, while sitting next to each other.

There will be exciting uses, like going up the Eiffel Tower with friends, when you all aren’t in the same place, and certainly can’t afford the time or have the money to go there…or NASCAR races, or hiking trails in the Grand Canyon.

As with any technology, there will be appropriate and effective uses, and then someone will turn it into an obsession and amplify the angst we have over being present and not being there when we are physically with others right next to us.

You heard it here. It’s going to be part of our worlds. It’s been driven by the gaming community and then other industries will piggy back on what solutions were put in place. As a side note: The graphics card market, that is an essential piece of the puzzle, also matured as a demand from the gaming community, to get closer to virtual environments being very lifelike in look and experience. Expect the business world the pick up the banner and apply it to meetings, or distance learning, or project construction reports, with this being a path to further develop augmented reality, too.

SSDS: A blessing, a curse and a cautionary approach

Just built another systems up, with a Samsung 840 240GB SSD. While I’m used to spending the next few hours wandering by the bench, clicking restarts, get updates, etc (some of you know the drill well), it was strikingly different last night.

I pieced a small form factor Dell Optiplex together (and saw issues with cable routing and screw heads and fan blades – another post worth making) and fired it up with the install disk inserted.

About 1.5 hours alter, I had gone from Win7/SP1 to all updates loaded (more than 103), and application software loaded (Office, Reader, Flash, and security). Usually I get most of the way there and then it’s a few more overnight hours and a few more reboots first thing in the morning.

I’m getting jealous of these systems, as they go from off to Desktop in about 15 seconds…

Oh, an high speed cable connection (about 39M download) didn’t hurt either, but I’ve used it for builds before, too.

As I was being dazzled at the rapid completion of progress bars, I reflected on a comment from a shop owner here I occasionally drop in on regarding his experience as an early adopter.

Kirk mentioned he had gotten and SSD about a year ago. It was great, but one day it was dead…as in really, really dead. Think about it: While disk errors send shivers up our spines, unless we hear that horrible grinding, and/or screeching noise, we techs have a degree of comfort that the data is not really gone, just accessible as a non-boot drive, and all is mostly right in the world.

An SSD? It’s common failure mode is DEAD! no connecting via a USB adapter (which is ever present with me, like a credit card, when I leave the house), as it’s DEAD!

Blessing: FAST!

Curse: Dead usually really means dead.

Cautionary approach: Back up, back up, and back up. And did I mention backup? Expensive? Not near as much as a data recovery specialist…and I haven’t even done my homework to see if that’s a function out there yet (I suspect it is, and I also suspect it’s costly).

How to resolve the risk? RAID 1. Bite the cost bullet and get two, if you’re going to get one…and than have a “conventional” drive the same size you can clone to, or a partition on a larger drive you can image to….Couple that with an offsite cloud service to ensure a redundant, real time data set is stored for a rainy day SSD drive failure.

Those who know this know I don’t need to say anything else on the topic. In many ways, it’s current common sense, even for conventional, mechanical drives, but it’s one now where a safety net for data recovery from the local failed drive isn’t really there anymore.

UPDATE 3/8/13: As I stated about, the end of life of an SSD drive is way closer than we’re used to when it begins to let you know it’s about to fail, as discussed in this article at MakeUseOf: Can Data Be Recovered From A Failed SSD?

My Cloud Backup: 10 Questions You Need to Answer

As with all technology, the first company in the market commands high prices, then, over time, with the concepts proven out, the imitators come along, figuring a method of entering the same market, yet having been spared the development costs, they can come in at a lower price point. It happened in the telecommunications market, firt in landlines, then later in the cell phone market place. We’ve seen it all before, and here is another field worth assessing: Cloud Storage.

For the home user and small businesses, Carbonite has been a good choice for a few years now. Early in 2011, I stumbled across Digital Lifeboat and signed up for an account as a tester. I’m all set for life and had to test it’s capability for a friend, who had a computer stolen. It was the think that got him back all his files….there is also Mozy, which has been around less time than Carbonite, but longer than Digital Lifeboat.

Each of these services have strengths and weaknesses, so the right one for you is a matter of clearly evaluating what things you use on your computer and how they store and access the data. Here’s some things to consider:

  • Do you use a single computer or do you operate more than one?
  • Are you running Windows or Mac OS, or both?
  • Do you have a server based environment (and it doesn’t have to be using server operating systems, just you share centralized files/folders)
  • If you have a multi-computer operation, do you have mulitple, simultaneous users?
  • Do you have critical “work product” on just one computer or more?
  • Are you now using an external backup drive for your redundant storage?
  • Do you use any software that runs and SQL database?
  • Will you need to periodically need to access individual files remotely?
  • How much data do you have now?
  • How much more data do you anticipate generating this year?

The answers to these questions will lead you to the right product for you. Certainly, price is a consideration, but if it’s your primary one, you could purchase the wrong product for your requirements, and then, when disaster strikes, be missing the most critical files of all. Short of that, you may find you end up getting some of your needs met, but you’ll find you then add on and add on to the price to get what you really need to secure your valuable data files, possibly ending up spending much more than you had to, had you thoughtfully considered the details of this process.

I’d be happy to help you figure out what’s best for you on a consulting basis. I make no money off of any of these products, but I have been able to use two of the three mentioned above, in home and business environments. I could run out the costs, but that is counter productive in my estimation, as your requirements need to be established first, then pricing can be reviewed. That’s my expertise: Determining what you really need, not what your friend/networking associate says they use, or is an affiliate for.

And that brings up a global issue: If anyone recommends a particular service or product, you need to ask if they are professionally engaged in the use of that product, and also if they will be paid on the back end. It’s not bad if they are, it’s nice to help someone out, but if they aren’t someone who specifically understands the service, they may well be making a costly recommendation to you, not comprehending your needs, or even capable enough to know there is much more detail to such decisions. Always get a second opinion, before spending your hard earned money, or committing to more overhead.