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 tinyurl.com/ye7h3t5.
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.