Sunday, April 29, 2012

Tiptoeing Through ‘The Cloud’

A few days ago Google launched its “new” Google Drive service. It seems all they did was change the name of Google Docs. Despite that disappointment, that’s not really what this blog is about. It’s about cloud storage in general.

I find myself asking, “Just how much storage do we need?” With digital photography, ebooks, documents, spreadsheets, presentations, videos - all this data takes up space. And with so many people having smartphones these days, everyone needs someplace to store all those pictures and videos. My smartphone has more computing power and storage space than the desktop computer I had in college. In fact, I have individual files that would probably each take up most of the hard drive on the PC I had back then. Now, though, not only do I have a little over a terabyte of total storage on my current PC, but I have a shade over 80GB of storage online (not counting Gmail, or Yahoo Mail). Here’s the breakdown of the cloud storage I currently have:

  • Dropbox - 2GB free
  • Box - 50GB free (normally only 5GB, but I got 50GB for free during a promo for downloading their free Android app a couple of months ago)
  • SkyDrive 25GB for free (another free promo - SkyDrive recently changed their free storage to 7GB, but I got to keep the 25GB for free since I was already signed up for it)
  • Google Drive - 5GB

And here’s a chart, courtesy of ‘Geeks are Sexy’, that shows the various cloud services and their costs:

So, Google Drive, in my opinion, seems a day late and a dollar short, considering how much competition there already is for cloud storage service. So far, I’ve only found a handful of practical reasons to use them. The first being sharing files between my PC, laptop and smartphone easily. It was, when I was job hunting, useful to have my resume in the Public folder on Dropbox for easy sharing with prospective employers. Other than that, I’m currently in the process of sorting and uploading all of my role playing game PDFs to my Box account (since it has the largest chunk of space) so they’re readily available for gaming night, even if I’m not at home.

So, the real question, for me anyway is, do I need all of this online storage? No. No I don’t. Not really. Mostly, I think I have all this cloud storage because, well, everyone offers free space in some amount and free stuff is almost always cool, and most offer Android apps even for the Nook (except SkyDrive - what’s up with that Microsoft?) and being a gadget and technology geek, it’s just cool to have them all.

Then there’s the debate about what should and shouldn’t be uploaded to ‘the Cloud’ like sensitive data. Naturally, anything uploaded that’s of a sensitive nature should be encrypted. For me, though, nothing is uploaded that would really need encryption. Data that I don’t want getting into the “wrong hands” stays on my PC’s hard drive, not the Cloud.

There are plenty of Cloud storage services out there to choose from, some free and some not. Pick any one, or several, of your choosing. Frankly, I don’t see any overwhelming differences between any of them that would make me endorse one in particular.

~ JC

Additional Links (if you’re interested):

Sunday, April 22, 2012

U-verse vs Xfinity - Just My Humble Opinion

Back on March 2, the day after I had AT&T U-verse installed at our new house, I posted a comment on Facebook (see the below screenshot - and yes, the different colors indicate different people and was done to protect other’s privacy)

As you can see, I stated my very unvarnished opinion of Comcast at the time and was rather shocked that a former co-worker, who rarely comments on anything on my Wall, blasted me for it. Essentially, my assessment of U-verse being faster and their technicians actually knowing what they’re doing was challenged, mainly because he’s one of those people who thinks his opinion is the only correct one. He also didn’t know, or seem to care to know, why I held that opinion. So, here we go. The explanation of why, even though I don’t particularly like AT&T in terms of cell phone service, I do prefer their cable and internet service over Comcast.

First of all, my assessment of speed is based on experience, not a “speed test”. Frankly, I don’t give a shit about a speed test. I had Comcast’s Xfinity at my old apartment, and I was not impressed. Are they faster or slower based on speed tests? Don’t know, and don’t care. My experience and observation is that what I have now through AT&T U-verse is faster and more reliable. At the old apartment, whenever my roommate and I were both online, it became fairly obvious that we were being throttled. Hell, even if only one of us was online, getting Hulu to play without it buffering every 30-60 seconds was a treat. That’s not to say that things are perfectly smooth with U-verse, but it does seem much smoother to me. But ultimately, none of that even matters. What really makes me not like Comcast is their seeming lack of customer service and their install technicians’ lack of professionalism.

Let’s be clear here. I’m speaking from my experience and observations (and a little bit of some friends’ experiences as well). You may love Comcast Xfinity and get along swimmingly with them. I, on the other hand, hope I never have to have them for cable and internet service again.

First we’ll roll back a bit to the old apartment complex. There was a junction box for the cable and satellite companies to use to get their respective signals to the various apartments. Comcast left the cover off after installing ours. Now, that may seem an honest “oops”, but despite pointing it out to both our apartment management and to a Comcast installer, it remained uncovered and exposed to the elements the entire year we lived there. (strike 1).

The day we had our AT&T U-verse installed, the neighbor rang our doorbell to ask if the AT&T guys were still here. Why? His internet wasn’t working. Guess who he has? Yep, Comcast. Despite the fact that AT&T and Comcast do not share a junction box at this location, they still tried to lay the blame on AT&T for the neighbor’s internet working. The AT&T installer even showed our neighbor where they hooked up outside and how it didn’t affect anything running into his townhouse, mostly because AT&T doesn’t come in via coax, but through the phone lines and then piggybacks to the coax inside the house. Yet, the very next day, Comcast did unhook a line going into our house while working on the neighbor’s service and then a few days later, when they evidently, finally, fixed it, they left a length of coax cable running along the ground from three or four houses down to our neighbor’s house - where it still sits because they still haven’t come back to secure it or bury it (strikes 2 & 3). And no, I haven’t called them, because I’m not their customer, so I don’t give a shit.

Now, they already have three strikes, but here’s where they really take the cake for me. This actually dates back to before I moved into the aforementioned old apartment. I was still living at my best friend’s house. His (now ex) wife had moved back in and had a contract with Comcast. Naturally, she wanted to either a) have her service hooked up at the house or b) be let out of the contract if that couldn’t be done. She was told, despite the fact that they hadn’t been able to get anything but satellite service at that address since they had moved in years before, that they could transfer the service there. An appointment for installation was made - and subsequently cancelled because “service is not available at that address.” So, my best friend can’t get Comcast, his next door neighbor can’t get Comcast, but the very next house has Comcast. What? They can’t run cable another 300 (if even that) yards because “there aren’t enough potential subscribers in that area.” What the hell? We’re talking about two more houses over from where it stops, on a major road! Not impressed, Comcast; not impressed at all. Incidentally, he has U-verse now, too.

That’s not to say that I’m willing to let AT&T completely off the hook, mind you. Then again, to date I’ve not had any reason to complain about the service I have through them. Music and video stream just fine. We’ve not had an outage. The billing has been accurate.

Ultimately, it’s just like mobile service really. One person’s experience may be great with one provider and total shit with another while the next person has the complete opposite experience. As for me, though, I’ll stick with U-verse.

~ JC

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Sunday Evening Bloggin’

Normally I enjoy blogging on Sunday mornings. You know, grab a cup of coffee, put on some music, sit down at ye old PC to do my weekly cathartic activity. Today was, obviously, different as I’m blogging from my laptop and it’s after 6:00pm.

I’m almost always the first one up. Having to be at work at 7:30 am five days out of the week, my internal clock just tends to wake me early, even on weekends with no alarm set. Today, though, my fianceé was the first to rise because she was heading out of town to visit her brother in college and watch his choral performance. I got up a few minutes after, but my routine was still thrown a tiny bit off. Instead of starting the blog, I started my laundry (naturally, a pot of coffee was put on to brew prior to even the laundry being attempted).

After that, and after my fianceé left for her road trip, I have to admit, I was a bit unsure of what to do next. I ended up flipping channels on the TV for an hour or so. I even attempted to go back to bed for a late morning nap, but couldn’t fall asleep. So, I decided to take a shower while my last load of laundry was in the dryer.

Prior to the shower, though, my best friend called to ask me if I wanted to meet him and his girlfriend for a late lunch - to which I agreed. So, clean and shaven, I headed to the grocery store for a few things and then headed out to meet them for a wonderful lunch at the sushi buffet.

So, now that the aforementioned laundry has been folded and put away and the dishwasher has been emptied, I can relax in front of the TV or perhaps getting a little reading done. But, most importantly, I can post this blog and keep on track for my goal of actually posting every Sunday for 52 straight weeks for the first time since I started this project.

~ JC

Saturday, April 07, 2012

Laptops, WiFi & Family

This weekend, Roxanne and I headed home to North Carolina to visit family and to return her parents’ van, which she had borrowed to bring more of our stuff out of storage down to the ATL. I had Friday off for the Easter holiday, so it seemed like the opportune time to do so. In fact, I’m actually writing this on a Saturday evening instead of Sunday morning, and from my future in-laws’ dining room table instead of my home office. As much as I love living in the Metro-Atlanta area, it is good to occasionally get to come home to visit. We went over to my Gramma’s house Friday to have lunch with her, Mom, and my niece, and even found time to stop by and talk to my sister while she was at work. Of course, no visit home would be complete without me having to become the family tech support guy *grin*.

This trip’s tech support adventure, though, was pretty fun. Friday morning I headed over to the local BestBuy with Roxanne’s Dad to help pick out a new laptop for Roxanne’s Mom. Shopping for computer stuff is always fun, especially when it’s someone else’s money. After looking around a bit, I finally came to the conclusion that it really didn’t matter that much as far as hard drive size, how much RAM, et cetera. The most important thing was to pick one with a large screen so Mom could actually see the damn thing. So, we ended up picking out a Toshiba with a 17” screen. The fact that it also has an Intel i5 quad core processor and 6GB or RAM, was secondary (but still makes me jealous). Since I don’t live here anymore, I even mad Dad go ahead and get the one year of Geek Squad technical support, just in case.

Step two of tech support weekend was in getting the WiFi on the router to, once again, be password protected. When I left for Atlanta, and took my computer with me, the security for the router somehow got borked - I’m guessing, due to the fact that my computer had the Linksys software loaded on it, so was the master computer for the home network. The odd thing about it is, the name of the router reverted to the default name of “linksys” but somehow kept the password I had set for admin access, while deleting the WiFi password. Normally, I would have just connected to it via a web browser by going to and changed all the settings that way, but it wouldn’t let me connect. So, I had to go to Linksys’ website, download the ISO for the router’s software (we somehow lost the CD that came with it), burn that to a CD and install it on what is now the main working PC in the house. From there I was able to secure the WiFi with a passkey.

So, Mom has a new laptop so she can go anywhere in the house to get on Facebook (including the back patio if she wants) and the WiFi is secured so the neighbors can’t jack Mom & Dad’s internet. Mission accomplished.

And now, maybe, we can go through the stuff we still have in storage here and decide if we need/want to haul any of it back to Atlanta, or just wait until next trip.

~ JC

Sunday, April 01, 2012

Put It Together Your Damn Self

Last week I wrote about hunting for furniture. Ironically, a couple of hours after posting that blog, I ended up ordering a coffee table and matching end tables from Ebay. Thanks to IKEA, most furniture these days is what I like to call “put it together your damn self” furniture. Only the really expensive, rich people furniture comes already assembled it seems.

As to my accusation against IKEA for inventing the “put it together your damn self” variety of furniture, I have proof to my claim - from their own website, no less.

In my 40 years of life, I’ve put together lots of self-assembly furniture, from bookshelves to desks, and now a coffee table and end tables. Some of it has been pretty easy, some of it has been a royal pain the ass. I remember a very large desk and hutch I put together several years ago. It’s actually still at my Grandmother’s house because I really didn’t want to disassemble it to get it out of the room it’s in, so now my uncle uses it for his home office. It took somewhere in the neighborhood of 6-8 hours to put together; and I had help with that one.

Anyway, it can be a pain sometimes, but there’s two big advantages to the “put it together your damn self” concept when buying furniture. First, it’s cheaper. Second, I get to play with tools *grin*. Third, in the case of the furniture I just bought, it gave something to do while watching TV and drinking my Captain Morgan’s Lime Bite Rum & Cola last night. *wink*

And it’s nice to have proper living room furniture now instead of a weather beaten wicker coffee table and a pair of folding TV trays for end tables.

~ JC