Hey, You! Get Off My Cloud.

29 Apr

by Roger White

 

Our eldest offspring graduates high school this spring, and as we help her gear up for her college adventure, we find ourselves dealing with periodic outbreaks of sanguine eagerness and heartrending nostalgia. Not from Lindsey, mind you; steady girl she, this one can’t wait to hit the road. Nooy, these schizophrenic episodes of brilliant, optimistic sunshine followed by immense black clouds of wistful despair emanate from her mother and me. One minute we see our dazzling world-changer bound for an abundant horizon, and the next we cover our heads with ash lamenting lost childhood. Oh, where is that little girl we carried? If I were a rich man, yadda deeba deeba...

 

But that’s for another episode.

 

Hang with me here, however. The point I’m meandering to involves clouds and horizons and atmospheric disturbances. Kinda sorta. You see, one of the many things on the higher ed checklist for daughter numero uno is the purchase of a new laptop for our bright, shiny grad. For middle-aged, big-pink-eraser-loving boomers such as ourselves, attempting to pinpoint the optimal laptop computer amid the chrome and plastic jungle of touchpads and notebooks and ultrabooks and RAM capacity is a daunting task.

 

For example, one such high-tech, high-priced gizmatron we’ve been considering is something called the Chromebook. Have you seen this thing? From my limited understanding, a Chromebook is a laptop computer—and it isn’t. Apparently, the Chromebook doesn’t have any actual real things in its innards, such as word-processing programs and photo-editing da cloudfunctions and the like. Nope, the Chromebook points its user to the web for all that stuff. If you want to create a document, you have to access the internet to find the appropriate program, and if you want to save said document, you have to store it on the internet, too—in some nebulous realm called the Cloud.

 

I have several issues with this concept, not the least of which is understanding just what the hell it is. So I’m buying a slick, sleek, razor-thin, state-of-the-art laptop that has nothing in it? Whenever I hit any function key, do I simply get shuffled off to the interwebs?

 

Me: “Let’s see. Let’s try the calculator.” Click, clack, clack.

Chromebook: “See Cloud.”

 

Me: “Hmm. Create Word file.” Clack click.

Chromebook: “See Cloud.”

 

Me: “Well, f*#@! Chromebook, see wall.” Throw.

Chromebook: “See8 Cloj j4j. Sorry, Dave. Don’t, Dave. 601.”

 

Now, you should note that Chromebook didn’t invent this odd paradigm; it’s just the most visible example. This setup is known in the geek world as a thin client. Thin clients, to use the vernacular, “only provide a web browser and rely on web applications to provide general-purpose computing functionality and storage facilitation.” So if I crack open this here thin client, I imagine I’ll find nothing but a tiny modem and a sticker that reads, “For repair or maintenance assistance, you guessed it, pal: See Cloud.”

 

So what is this Cloud? Is it the interwebs its own self? Does it hover above the interwebs? And who runs the Cloud? God? Bill Gates? Is there one great big Cloud or 650 million tiny little head cloud guyClouds? How do I know that you’re not poking around in my Cloud? Hey, you, get off my Cloud.

 

And why the Cloud? Clouds are so ephemeral. Clouds tend to disappear or drift away. Or turn into messy storms. The idea of storing my vital documents, such as my personal collection of cats-playing-the-piano videos, on something called the Cloud doesn’t fill me with confidence. How about calling it the Vault? Or the Core? Even the Big Weenie, for crying out loud. But the Cloud?

 

Aha. I looked into this a bit more, and in my research I found this unsettling piece of info. And I quote: “Network-based services, which appear to be provided by real server hardware but are in fact served up by virtual hardware simulated by software, are often called cloud computing. Such virtual servers do not physically exist and can therefore be moved around and scaled up or down, somewhat like a cloud becoming larger or smaller without being a physical object.”

 

Hence, the Cloud. So the Cloud doesn’t physically exist? Is this like the tree falling in the forest? If a writer’s soon-to-be-blockbuster novel was stored in the Cloud, and the Cloud drifted away, did the writer actually write a novel at all? Where the hell is my dark and stormy night? And what if a college student’s term paper is due tomorrow and a dark and stormy night knocks out internet access? Is she up the creek, in the forest, with the trees falling, in the night, under the Cloud, with no paddle, in the thing, with the deal?

 

Upshot of all these lamentations: The whole idea feels like a hoodwink. A scam. A fiddle faddle. state of artThe reality may be that we just aren’t tech-savvy enough to get it, but we’re taking no chances. In the meantime, dear daughter o’ ours, here’s a spit-shined, reconditioned Smith-Corona with new ribbon. The “n” sticks, but you’ll get the hang of it.

 

Roger White is a freelance writer living in Austin, Texas, with his lovely wife, two precocious daughters, a very fat dachshund, and a self-absorbed cat. For further adventures, visit oldspouse.wordpress.com.

 

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10 Responses to “Hey, You! Get Off My Cloud.”

  1. Ryan April 29, 2014 at 3:51 pm #

    I too am torn by the Chromebook. Is it the ideal solution for a niche market, or will the users constantly be upset at the inability to do things if not on a wireless network.
    Mind you, I have a big man-crush on Google, so I’m not just some Apple user gone trolling!
    On a side note, it only took a couple days for users to load Linux distros on new Chromebooks, which suddenly made them into very cheap and useful lightweight laptops.

    • oldspouse April 30, 2014 at 11:34 am #

      Thanks. Does Google know about this, er, crush thing?

      • Ryan April 30, 2014 at 12:09 pm #

        They’ve tried to explain to me that I need to realize there are more software companies than just them and that I shouldn’t limit myself to something that might not be felt equally by both sides…

  2. talker blogger April 29, 2014 at 4:39 pm #

    I know !!!! This cloud computing is so confusing … It’s like you pay for something you don’t see, touch, feel .. It’s real money buying virtual imaginary empty space ..

  3. MissFit April 30, 2014 at 10:51 pm #

    brilliant. i was hoping to see a post from you soon. your stream of consciousness is epic. always a treat 🙂 Lucky daughter

  4. shrink on the couch May 3, 2014 at 11:37 am #

    My son has a Chromebook.He likes it but it doesn’t replace a regular full service laptop. I’ve been looking for a new laptop for myself … brought two home in all, Asus brand (recommended by several) but the hard drives on both crackled. So after many hours of uploading, downloading, deleting, and saving and deleting some more … I took them back. Now I’m trying to recover from those two weekends of no sleep. P.S. I hated Windows 8. A ridiculously, unnecessary upgrade with a fancier visual interface. I downloaded a program that allowed me a Win7 lookalike interface. Now that is truly crazy. Or maybe I’m just too old for change?

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