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Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Future use of desktop computing is in the clouds

July 5, 2010
by Mark Ollig

Yes indeed, folks, the use of software program applications are moving from inside our desktop computers to the Internet and straight into the clouds.

Our investigative friends who just love gathering statistical tidbits at the nonprofit “fact tank” known as the Pew Internet & American Life Project, just released a new study on Internet cloud computing.

Pew reports the technology experts expect by the year 2020 we will “live mostly in the cloud,” using software applications accessible in the clouds (data servers) via “cyberspace-based applications.” We will access these applications through networked devices such as smartphones, mobile devices, and other Internet appliances.

In 2020, our personal and business computers will be generally used to access the particular Internet data server (cloud) where our program applications and files will be located.

In the near future, we will probably be seeing “cloud-desktop” hybrid computers.

Examples of cloud computing applications include popular e-mail services from Gmail, AOL, Hotmail, and Yahoo mail.

YouTube recently announced its free online video editing application to all its users. This application is not downloaded to your computer; it is available on YouTube’s website. This is a very good example of a cloud computing application.

The social networks we participate (and sometimes live in) are also considered part of the cloud. There are 500 million of us using the social networking site Facebook. Facebook is an example of a cloud-based social networking site.

Twitter, Facebook, JustinTV, UStream, YouTube, and blogging sites like Google’s “Blogspot” are examples of social networking sites using hardware and software inside a data server or “social networking cloud.”

For our word documents, we can utilize free cloud applications like Google Docs, which allows for the creation and sharing of documents, slide presentations, and spreadsheets. The software applications and files are stored in one of the data server “clouds” Google owns, not on our personal computer’s hard drive.

I upload and store many of my digital photos on the Internet image hosting site, I use my free Photobucket account for all the digital picture images I download to the Web Site of The Week forum.

Flickr (owned by Yahoo) and Google’s “Picasa” are other examples of popular digital image and video hosting sites.

These online hosting sites are convenient places to store our files, but I would advise we also backup our videos and digital images using DVD rewritable disks, portable USB flash drives, or USB external hard drives in the event the online hosting site has a major meltdown. I know, chances of that happening are slim, but why take the risk?

Being we have more of our digital photos, videos and documents stored on various Internet-hosted cloud servers, we should consider backing up these files to a local offline storage device.

Some people use Carbonite or similar online Internet backup services to save the files stored on their personal computers and Macs.

During the next decade, many computing processes normally performed on our personal computers will be moving to the Internet cloud.

Pew reported 71 percent of their “highly engaged and diverse set of respondents” agreed with this statement: “By 2020, most people won’t do their work with software running on a general-purpose PC. Instead, they will work in Internet-based applications such as Google Docs, and in applications run from smartphones [mobile devices]. Aspiring application developers will develop for smartphone vendors and companies that provide Internet-based applications, because most innovative work will be done in that domain, instead of designing applications that run on a PC operating system.”

Surprisingly, this columnist was not called upon by Pew to be one of the highly engaged and diverse respondents.

A majority of those in the Pew survey were in agreement about the expansion of cloud computing and how it will become our prevailing way of computing.

Security concerns will no doubt arise about our information being kept in a “cloud.” We must remember that our information is being stored on a particular company’s data server. We are placing our confidence in the data servers these companies maintain. We can only “trust” that our personal data being handled by these “cloud operators” will not be compromised.

I understand the hardware is redundant and backed up. My concern centers on our data being protected. I don’t care how much encryption they use, nothing is totally fail-safe or impenetrable in the computing world when it comes to the abilities of those talented computer hackers and evil cyber crackers lurking out there.

Pew recognized this in their report and said cloud computing presents “security concerns” regarding people’s private information being exposed by computing thieves, governments, corporations, opportunists, and my favorite – “human and machine error.”

Your humble columnist suggests we add our own safeguards, like making sure we have current copies and backups of our important and irreplaceable data files and keep them – off the cloud.

To read the full Pew report, go to

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The Web is evolving from static to Semantic

June 28, 2010
by Mark Ollig

Tim Berners-Lee’s dream was to create a universal database where information could be easily shared among everyone – anywhere they were.

Berners-Lee was instrumental in creating the original HyperText Transfer Protocol program (HTTP) and HyperText Markup Language (HTML) used between a computer’s web server and a web browser.

In his personal history Berners-Lee wrote, “. . . in 1989, while working at the European Particle Physics Laboratory, I proposed that a global hypertext space be created in which any network-accessible information could be referred to by a single “Universal Document Identifier.”

The Universal Document Identifier evolved from an application which identified a resource (or particular document) into the commonly known Uniform Resource Locator or URL, which identifies the specific address location of a file document name or web page on an Internet server.

In 1990, Berners-Lee completed his hyperlink software program code he called “WorldWideWeb” (WWW).

Simple static pages of data and information could now be accessed and associated with each other by way of hyperlinks.

In 1991, the Internet became the connecting “highway” which carried Tim Berners-Lee new hyperlinked World Wide Web solution to the public.

Today, at age 55, Tim Berners-Lee is an MIT professor. He heads what is called the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) which maintains the current Web standards along with working to bring to fruition the full potential of the Web.

Recently, the W3C published information regarding the Web’s evolution into a more multifaceted design known as the Semantic Web, which Berners-Lee had envisioned as the “second part” of his original World Wide Web design.

We use a variety of search engines like Google, Bing, and Yahoo to perform queries for data. We simply type in a word or group of words for what we are looking for.

Some of us even use “search operators” in an effort to narrow down the search results we are presented with.

Of course, we all know what we end up seeing-once the “enter” key is pressed – an endless list of web pages with references to the word or words we typed. It is up to us to sort out what is applicable to our original intent.

Information contained in the Web, to me, is somewhat analogous to an enormous data text file filled with seemingly countless lines of programming code.

A Semantic Web would better support us in our searches, as it will be acting as an intelligent database.

A Semantic database would have the entire Web’s data information uniquely categorized.

A typical database has its information categorized by programmers. A person uses the database to access its information based upon the commands and categories programmed. If the data is not organized and updated regularly, the user will end up spending more time retrieving additional information than is actually needed. Chances are good, some of the information might end up being out-of-date, as well.

The Web we currently use simply stores its data in what has been called “information silos” meaning the information is stored in a “static-like” manner.

The Semantic Web will instantly be aware of – and will actually know – what this stored information means. It will have the ability or intelligence to comprehend how this information relates to other information stored elsewhere throughout the Web, without having to be “hyper-linked” to it.

The future Web will not have its data distributed via hyperlinks; the data contained within it will be fully integrated or “bridged” via a “standardized query language” across the entire Web.

Standards of a Semantic Web include a database which allows each person to input and control their own data contained in it. Of course, there will be rules to be followed to ensure the information being accessed or added is correctly categorized, organized, accurate, and current.

The Semantic Web is “a database where each person controls their own data,” says Sandro Hawke, systems architect at the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C).

In 1998, Tim Berners-Lee wrote, “The web of human-readable document is being merged with a web of machine-understandable data. The potential of the mixture of humans and machines working together and communicating through the Web could be immense.”

I trust this ever-evolving Web will continue to promote greater individual independence, understanding, accomplishment, and fulfillment, not just within our own personal lives, but within the lives of all our shared communities – whether they are virtual social networks or physical geographical locations.

My personal hope is that we will continue to benefit from the resources and enrichment offered from a free, open, and maturing Internet and Web – which is not controlled or manipulated by either the government or corporations.

For more information about Semantic Web technologies, access the W3C at

A link describing the original 1991 HTTP is

Time Berners-Lee website is

You can also follow my rantings on Twitter at bitsandbytes.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

High Twitter usage causes 'over capacity' downtime delays

June 21, 2010
by Mark Ollig

Recently I have been seeing a large, white whale in a fishing net being suspended in the air just above the ocean by eight tiny birds on my computer screen.

Of course I have been feeling alright lately, why do you ask?

Its users are well aware of what happens when the Twitter online social network becomes unavailable – the dreaded “Twitter is over capacity” message is shown using “fail whale” image I was describing.

Twitter has been having noticeable challenges staying online without interruptions during this month.

According to the website monitoring service Pingdom, during this month of June Twitter has so far been unavailable, or “down” for almost five hours.

Pingdom reported that during May, Twitter’s total downtime was 52 minutes.

The site: is an online business which provides monitoring services of websites. Pingdom also provides website statistics and will alert a client if their website being monitored goes offline.

Since January of this year, Twitter has been down for a total of 9.8 hours.

The web link: also provides some interesting information about Twitter users.

Twitter has many popular celebrities and politicians using their social network.

These users obtained their authenticity via verification by Twitter and have “Verified Account” stamped on their Twitter profile page to guard against imposters.

The number-one person being followed on Twitter today is Britney Spears. Her username, “britneyspears,” has 5,246,365 Twitter followers.

Lady Gaga is Twitter user “ladygaga,” and ranks fourth with 4,519,292 followers.

President Barack Obama, user “BarackObama,” is the fifth most-followed user on Twitter with 4,268,619 followers.

Late night talk host Jimmy Fallon, Twitter user “jimmyfallon,” is 23rd with 2,606,456 followers.

The popular singing teen Justin Bieber, user “justinbieber,” is ranked at number 25 with 3,103,364 Twitter followers.

Even the White House is on Twitter. User “whitehouse” is ranked number 60 with 1,768,918 Twitter followers.

CNN’s Larry King, also known as twitter user “kingsthings,” is ranked at number 85 with 1,642,475 followers.

Your Bits & Bytes columnist’s Twitter user name is “bitsandbytes,” and has a somewhat lower Twitter ranking at 190,782. I do boast of having 246 faithful followers though.

To see the most popular Twitter users, go to: for the current top-ranked listings.

Some of the Twitter users I follow post their messages, or “tweets” on a daily basis; these include film critic Roger Ebert, whose twitter username is “ebertchicago.”

Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web, is using Twitter with the username “timberners_lee.”

It is interesting to read what is on the minds of these famous people.

Twitter is a two-way medium, so one can respond to their messages. Sometimes the celebrity will surprise you with a reply!

As you know, I am a Star Trek fan and so I follow Leonard Nimoy (Mr. Spock) on Twitter at username “TheRealNimoy,” and also William Shatner (Captain Kirk), who uses the twitter username “WilliamShatner.” I was surprised how often Mr. Nimoy and Mr. Shatner use Twitter to send messages.

Many of these celebrities seem to be using Twitter as an online public diary of sorts; and it’s been a great way for their fans to stay connected to them.

The actress Elizabeth Taylor is a frequent user of Twitter. I follow her tweets and she usually writes a message once a week – more if some celebrity she likes is in the news. Her username is “DameElizabeth” on Twitter and she has 221,865 followers. Her Twitter rank is 775.

More local area businesses are using Twitter to post information to their followers about their products, promotions and service announcements. Restaurants are using Twitter to message their daily specials to their followers – who are also potential customers.

As of June 8, Pingdom reports Twitter is now averaging 2 billion tweets per month.

Twitter reached 1 billion tweets per month in December of 2009.

Pingdom reported for May that Twitter was averaging 64 million tweets per day, 2.7 million tweets per hour, 44,481 tweets per minute, and 741 tweets per second.

That’s a lot of tweeting.

Pingdom calls this Twitter’s “Tweet Growth.”

Information about my Twitter username, “bitsandbytes,” can be found at:

The Pingdom website is:

To get real-time updates on Twitter site outages, you can visit:

Anyone who would like to see the picture of “a large, white whale in a fishing net being suspended in the air just above the ocean by eight tiny birds,” go to:

Today’s column is being dedicated to Lynda Jensen.

Lynda gave me so much support during the time I knew her while writing these columns. I will never forget Lynda’s sense of humor and the playful banter we shared. Lynda provided me with encouragement when I needed it, and showed me kindness. I truly valued Lynda’s wisdom and friendship. I will miss her very much.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Will YouTube offer live video streaming soon?

June 14, 2010
by Mark Ollig

During the last five years, the users of YouTube have been uploading video content which has been viewed and commented upon by a world-wide audience.

YouTube started online public beta-testing in May 2005, and was later acquired by the Internet search engine giant Google in October 2006.

During the last couple of years, YouTube, which is headquartered in San Bruno, CA, has been broadcasting more live public events – such as a recent U2 concert.

As we know, real-time broadcasting over the Internet of public and private content and social events has become increasingly popular. If you Google or Bing “live video streaming” you will come across many of the sites providing it.

So, what will YouTube’s plans be for the near future?

The online folks are blogging that YouTube might be jumping into the live-streaming video fray, by allowing their subscribers to broadcast their own video streams in real-time to the masses.

It’s still very speculative, but a possible new feature YouTube is making plans for was allowed to slip through.

In viewing the YouTube help page, it shows something which has caught many of us by surprise.

On the help page, there is a display menu with an individual tab curiously labeled “Live Stream.” Here is a shortened URL link for you of my “snap-shot” picture of it:

Video live-streaming by individuals over the Internet isn’t something new, as my readers will remember I have written a few columns about social video live-streaming and life-casting in the past., UStream, Live-stream, Stickam, and others are examples of online mediums for providing individual users a venue for live video streaming.

Live video streaming of public, educational, local government, and breaking news events by citizen reporters and tech journalists, along with personal life-casting and live-streaming social video content created by people over the Internet will continue to increase. I feel this type of live video content casting is the future road being paved for the Internet to travel upon.

The concerns about reporting accuracy, personal infringements, and copyright claims will need to be monitored and addressed, when needed.

Certainly, increased bandwidth allocation issues will need to be addressed by not only the sites like YouTube, but by the providers of the networks on which the Internet itself is carried.

Since social live-streaming video sites like have been able to survive though these video challenges, I suspect the larger YouTube site will be able to also.

It is interesting to note the very first video to be uploaded onto the YouTube site occurred Saturday, April 23 2005. YouTube founder Jawed Karim made a brief video (19 seconds) of his visit to the San Diego Zoo, which he labeled “Me at the zoo.” The video was filmed by Yakov Lapitsky. To see this historical video, go to

ComScore, a company which calls itself “a global leader in measuring the digital world and preferred source of digital marketing intelligence,” released its video “media metrix” or Internet audience measurements for the month of April.

The company reported more than 30 billion videos were watched online, with 13 billion of them mostly viewed on YouTube. Hulu, another popular Internet video content source, had a reported 958 million of their videos viewed online.

178 million Americans watched some type of online video during the month of April. ComScore broke this number down further and reported the average online videos watched per viewer was 170.5 for the month.

The average length of an online video watched was 4.4 minutes.

ComScore reported June 2 that “social networking” ranks as the fastest-growing mobile content category.

“Social networking is by far the fastest-growing mobile activity right now. With 20 percent of mobile users now accessing social networking sites via their phone, we expect to see both application and browser usage continuing to drive future consumption of social media,” said Mark Donovan, ComScore senior vice president of mobile.

For more interesting online usage statistics, check out

As far as when YouTube will start allowing users to stream live video over their network, the official information I have found says they have “no immediate plans to release a live streaming video service” – at least for now.

If you are on Twitter, be sure to read your humble columnist’s opinions and occasional rants by following my user name bitsandbytes.

The Bits_blogger and I greatly appreciate all the followers of the online “Web Site of The Week” forum, as it recently went over the 10,000 views mark since the first post was made March 14, 2008.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Google's Chrome OS will be set inside the clouds

June 7, 2010
by Mark Ollig

Most of us understand the Operating System (OS) as the software “brain” inside of our computer which directs how the programs and hardware resources are used.

Instead of the OS being inside our computers, someday it will be located inside a data server, or cloud.

The new open source operating system called Chrome OS is based on Google’s Chrome web browser and is intended to work solely with web applications.

Google’s Chrome web browser has seen a surge in popularity among users – it now has over 70 million people browsing the Web with it.

I had been using Mozilla FireFox (3.6.3) as my primary Internet web browser, but this last version has been running sluggish for me and so, lately, I have been using Chrome (5.0.375.55), which displays the web pages much better and also seems to run faster. I think FireFox has gotten loaded down with too many add-ons.

The Apple Safari (4.0.5/531.22.7) browser runs well also, but at this point, I still prefer Chrome.

I rarely use Microsoft Internet Explorer (IE).

Recently, the news on the blogospheres reported Google actually banned its employees from using Microsoft Windows on their work computers because of “security concerns.”

This decision by Google may be part of a plan for them to showcase their Chrome OS, which will be released to the public (for free) this fall.

“It’s something which we are very excited by . . . we expect it to reach millions of users on day one,” said Sundar Pichai of Google, when talking about Chrome OS.

Today, there are countless people who are actually using many of the Google “cloud” based applications. I use Microsoft Word for writing my weekly columns; however, since I have a Google Gmail account, I could also use the Google cloud application called Google Docs.

The Google Docs application allows one to create office documents, spreadsheets, drawings, presentations, and forms.

All the programs and information created are stored not on your local computer, but in the piece of Google’s hardware called a data server, or cloud.

One advantage about this is being able to access one’s information from any computing device, plus not having to worry if the computer we are using “crashes.”

Google’s recently improved version allows for real-time chat while collaborating on a document-in-progress with another user.

Another feature allows for a user to have the ability to upload, store, and share any file from one’s personal computer into Google Docs. The files will be stored in their original format and are downloadable from anywhere you happen to be.

Google states, “Uploading files to the cloud allows them to be safely stored and accessible at all times.”

Storing files “safely” is important; however, I wish they would have added “securely.”

Google Docs has a huge template gallery. Some of these templates include personal budget planners, resume makers, project management schedules, business cover letters, invoices, and literally thousands more. All of them are free which saves one from having, to purchase software office bundles or separate programs.

Google Docs reminds me of all those DOS utility shareware programs we had available on the ol’ BBS back in the day.

To wander through this endless list of useful applications from Google, check out

If we look at the disadvantages of having one’s information exclusively stored in a cloud, a concern I would bring up is not having the programs and the files we create stored on our computers anymore. We will need to “trust” the company’s cloud where these programs and files reside in that they will be safe, secure, and accessible.

I currently perform my computer’s backups onto an external hard drive. In the future, the plan is for us not to be concerned about backing up our computing device’s software programs and files or how much hard disk or virtual memory we are using or if we need to upgrade a particular software program.

Our computer will eventually become a “terminal,” or piece of hardware we will use to access and manage the programs and web applications we have stored inside data cloud servers.

This sounds a bit retro to me, as in the 1960s and ‘70s when computing power was located inside those large rooms filled with IBM mainframe computers. The way to access them to run applications was through a terminal, which consisted of a screen and a keyboard with no real intelligence or storage inside.

In the future, will we come to think of having not only the OS, but all the applications we use inside of those data servers as the “cloud’s” true silver-lining?

I do believe, someday we will be doing all of our computing in the clouds . . . I just hope there aren’t too many thunderstorms.