What happens when the servers are gone?

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Late last year I read an article on Gizmodo that discussed one mans experiences of running a blogging service, that was then taken offline for personal reasons. He told his story of his web-based service that he took offline, tried to bring it back online, failed and then tried to get users their data back as a last resort. he tells about the outrage and inevitable negative response he received from the community, and decided to issue a warning to the world, one that would tell people to beware of the hordes of media being uploaded into social media networks such as Facebook and/or Twitter.
Although his story was full of woe, there was a moral that he tried to leave at the end of it:

In a way I’m writing this to encourage everyone who’s profiting from this stuff now to set aside some of the money to help the users in what is sure to come. But also to the users to wise up and also to stop being such children.

There’s a lot more to the article and the extract above is a tiny fragment of that, but it is mostly written from the perspective of that of a provider, not so much from that of a user of such a service (Even though these are clearly the people reading the article). As I was reading this on the train, I finished reading, and stared out of the window dreamily attempting to imagine how my own life would be affected by such a world-changing event such as Facebook or Twitter disappearing. As an (Occasional) user of both Facebook and Twitter among many other ‘cloud-based’ social media services I eventually came to the conclusion that, surprisingly, I’m mostly quite prepared for a social media apocalypse.

So why write about this? Whats the point here?
Well, bear with me and I’ll try to get to that (I may repeat myself but meh).

Firstly, consider that the way our world and social society currently work are unlike anything that we have ever had in human history. We have accepted a normality regarding releasing control of our media and identity-related assets into a ‘cloud’, which we have little idea how this data is used.

After considering my own contingencies and backups of my own generated media (And feeling a little bit good about my natural distrust of social media networks), my mind wandered to others. Those who stood out the most especially were those who’s losses in the same potential catastrophe would affect me in their unpreparedness. This may sound selfish at first glance, I admit, but I ask that you think about this… If your wife/husband/other-family-member loses (for example) your childhood photos or other important media such as the baby photos of your own children, does that not affect you? Of course it does.

Remember, this can happen at any time. PCs crash, hard drives die, fire happens, etc… I dont mean to sound like a scaremonger here, but most of us apparently at some point lost interest in keeping huge photo albums of pictures in and instead place gigabytes of photos, taken from mobile camera-phones on Facebook as backup (Once again, Facebook is NOT your friend). A lot of people don’t backup separately either, just to Facebook. Somewhere in this process, we lost the part where our parents and grandparents would meticulously maintain physical photo albums and store them in the safest of safe places.
So, if for example, my own girlfriend were to lose our holiday photos then this would be an issue for me. Likewise, I would expect it to be an issue for her if I did the same. As such, I will certainly be making sure her laptop and photos are backed up like mine are already.

This is why it is important to plan for these things, make backups, and don’t fall into the mindset that so many others (Especially the younger generations among us) that Facebook cares about you. They really do not, and I’m often surprised at those I meet that imagine Facebook as this consumer dreamland created just for them (Yes, I’m that guy that reminds people that Facebook is an evil corporation). Why else would Facebook sell your data to anyone willing to pay them enough? Worse, what happens if they throw in the towel when the next Facebook (Remember MySpace?) comes around and people move to that?

Realistically, Facebook wont last until the end of time, or even the rest of your life, so what happens then?

My Solution?
I put the redundancy of my digital content at the top of my list.
I have a home server which I backup my phone and PCs to remotely via Dropbox/Google Drive.
My PCs and laptops also backup directly to my home server automagically when at home.
My home server backs up my photos to external local storage nightly.

Where does this leave me?
It means I can leverage the ease of cloud based services to facilitate my own remote backup purposes.

How can you do this?
Well, it’s actually not that hard. All you need is a place to backup to (Your PC will do), a Dropbox account (Which is free upto 2GB to start) some free software and you’re good to go. Alternatively, you can backup directly to your server via WebDAV (Web folders), which takes out the middleman and also means you do not need your private photos going through some cloud company. This is an approach I’m moving to, as having complete control of my own data is important to me.

New Year & New Life

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Well, its 2013.

I feel like I’d just got used to 2012 and now here I am a whole year later…
So many things have happened in the last twelve months, and I can already see so much more will happen throughout 2013, so much so that I’m writing this to solidify some of my goals and review some things I wanted to do. Read the rest of this entry »


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Amazon Web Services… I got annoyed so much with them today that I made the image you see here. It describes in a somewhat comedy way how I feel sometimes. Read the rest of this entry »

Black Mesa Source has been released!

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Finally, Black Mesa Source, the free and (Almost) complete remake of the original Half-Life has been released. Read the rest of this entry »

Yep, I’m getting excited about Halo 4!

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Yes, yes and yes.

I love Halo, the Microsoft Xbox series of computer games, ever since I first heard about it. I enjoy these games immensely mostly because there is such a rich backstory and ‘universe’ of information surrounding the games themselves. There is so much more insight to be gained from digging a little deeper into the games revolving around Master Chief, last survivor of the Spartan soldier program…

As such, now whenever I hear about new Halo games, I get excited, and for every release I get progressively agitated until release. I’ve booked time of work for each release day (Except for Halo: Reach, unfortunately) and picked up my copy at midnight before going home and playing the game all night until either I finish or I get so tired that I can barely hold the controller.

I love the Halo games… and it’s that time again.

When I heard all the way into last year that Halo 4 is coming, I quietly noted the date and busying myself with my life in preparation for the ‘release’. In all fairness, there is been a lot to busy myself with, but anyway… It makes me think back to what got me into Halo.

When the first Halo was announced (And even released), I didn’t own an Xbox, but I managed to ‘borrow’ my friends xbox for 3 weeks and played the game non-stop during that time. I completed it 3 times and loved every moment. It was everything I hoped it would be and more. I bought an Xbox soon after this for the purpose of playing Halo and also because Halo 2 was then soon to be released. After that, Halo 3 couldn’t come soon enough for me, while ODST was a nice alternate perspective to the universe but one that I’d seen already through reading the books. The Halo book series, by the way and especially the first ‘The Fall of Reach’, are amazing for fleshing out the universe of this series of games.
Halo: Reach, to my shame, I have still not finsished yet… even despite all my harping about being such a fan of the Halo series, but I know how it ends because its a prequel. I should do that.

Regardless of that, I can feel the excitement inside me growing when I watch this video.
it’s really good.

Valve making noise about Windows 8, says linux is faster!

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Valve is certainly kicking up a stink about Windows 8 these days…

Gabe Newell, has gone on record to say “Windows 8 is a catastrophe for everyone in the PC space.”
This is a bold statement, even though it is not the only one of its kind. There are plenty of people predicting the failure of Windows 8.

Over at the Valve Blog, they have posted benchmarks regarding Left for Dead 2 running under Linux (Note: Linux 32-bit), in comparison to Windows 7. According to the blog post by the Valve Linux Team, with some tweaking (Putting it simply), they managed to achieve 315fps on Linux using OpenGL compared to 270.6 in Windows using Direct3D.

After this work, Left 4 Dead 2 is running at 315 FPS on Linux. That the Linux version runs faster than the Windows version (270.6) seems a little counter-intuitive, given the greater amount of time we have spent on the Windows version. However, it does speak to the underlying efficiency of the kernel and OpenGL. Interestingly, in the process of working with hardware vendors we also sped up the OpenGL implementation on Windows. Left 4 Dead 2 is now running at 303.4 FPS with that configuration.

I find this interesting, especially as they later got it to run faster in Windows using OpenGL. I’ve personally toyed with Linux quite a few times for the purposes of my main workstation, but I’ve always eventually returned to Windows because I like playing games… And because Valve’s Steam runs on Windows (As well as many of the games it distributes).

Now, conversely, I know Valve has had a Mac client out for some time and been playing with a Linux client also but the main point to remember is that many game developers still develop exclusively for Windows regardless of if Valve (Or Gabe) thinks that is a good or a bad thing.
This is a very important point to remember, because it is all well and good Valve porting all their games to Linux (Pending their anticipated OS-Apocalype of Windows 8), but Steam is still just a delivery platform when you take Valve games out of the equation.

Will other devs move to Linux following Valve’s example?
It could be said that Linux is awaiting that ‘critical mass’ product, or ‘killer app’ just like the Xbox has Halo and the Playstation 3 has Gran Turismo. It’s vital that Valve are placing their platform as that role, potentially putting themselves as the front runner to a new market.

They are also set to make a ton of money (From me probably also) if this takes off…

Its also critically important to remember that Linux controls a global market share of 2%, which you can see here.
This is important for many reasons, but the most important ones being that Windows has over 90% because Microsoft meticulously maintains an ecosystem for Windows/Office, from trained professionals to software tools and developer relations. There is a lot of hand-holding when it comes to Microsoft, because it’s in their best interests to hold onto that 90%.
I’ve heard people shout at me about “What about Apache?!” or “Linux is running most of the web servers in the world!”, which I don’t dispute or wish  to attempt to disprove, but the point remains that Microsoft servers run a hell of a lot more things than web servers (I understand that so does Linux). My point is that there is an installed, entrenched, trained and invested Microsoft world out there and even though I can see there being a way out of the Microsoft world, I still doubt it will happen.

What’s going on with Windows Home Server?

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Those that know me personally and/or have discussed management of home media with me will know that I’m a big user and supporter of a few media-orientated technologies/services. One of them is Microsoft’s Windows Home Server (WHS), both in its original form and the updated Windows Home Server 2011.

For the record, I use WHS 2011 at home, migrated from an original Home Server installation.

My WHS2011 installation sits at the center of my media home, serving video and pictures to all of my media ‘outlets‘. I use the term ‘outlet’ because it is a term I have recently been introduced to that makes a lot of sense. But what is a media outlet? An outlet, quite simply, is anything that I use to consume my media regardless of its physical location, platform or type of device. I mean anything within my home like my Xbox360, bedroom Raspberry Pi Media Center or even remotely like my laptop or Galaxy S2 Android phone (Which I stream the same media to when I’m out).

Read the rest of this entry »

Why “patent-trolling” is bad for the human race

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Note: I’ve been writing this article in draft form for about 6 months (I’ve been coming back to it with the intention of finishing but never really did until now) and merely the fact that it remains relevant shocks me. I don’t really feel it’s finished but I wanted to get it out there anyway. I’m planning to add to it later.

I recently had a conversation with one of my well respected work colleagues where I made the statement “Patents are the worst thing ever to happen to the human race”. I believe this was in response to the very public recent events between the big tech companies that have essentially been suing each other without stopping for breath. I am of course referring to Apple, Microsoft, Samsung, HTC and Motorola to name just a few.

I was promptly given a stern talking to and informed that I really had no idea what I was talking about, which I decided was not a battle I wanted to fight with someone that I like working with.

Now, I know the statement I started this all with sounds very sensationalist, and with the accompanying title to this post I would be inclined to agree, but I do feel that there is some fuel to this fire that I’ve started by merely moving my lips. Read the rest of this entry »

Re-watching Star Wars – The Machete Order

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Warning: Lots of talk about Star Wars ahead! If you are not a Star Wars fan, you may wish to turn back now.

First of all, I would like to claim no ownership of the invention of the ‘Machete Order’ of watching the Star Wars movies, that goes to the writer of this (Admittedly lengthy) blog post regarding how this order of watching this popular series of movies goes. I recommend you read it.

Now, I stumbled upon this article, read all the way through it, and found myself agreeing with much of what was said.
Again, I recommend you read the article for a much more in depth explanation, but I’ll put down the gist and what I took away from it.

I’m not the biggest Star Wars fan, but I know more than I care to admit about a certain galaxy far far away than many people, which I don’t know is a good or bad thing. I’ve often thought about watching the entire set of movies in a ‘marathon’ (Probably with friends) but the daunting prospect of watching 15 hours of Star Wars ignites the flight reflex in me.

Read the rest of this entry »

Living the life of a ‘packrat gamer’

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Well, I’ve finally (FINALLY!) finished Bioshock. Yes, Bioshock, the game that was released over 4 years ago in 2007. This is not because of difficulty or unwillingness, but mainly because I’m a self-confessed ‘packrat gamer’.

“But what is a packrat gamer?” I hear you ask… Read the rest of this entry »