Dennis D. McDonald ( consults from Alexandria Virginia. His services include writing & research, proposal development, and project management.

Harsh Realities of Windows 7, "Standalone" Devices, and Cloud Computing

Harsh Realities of Windows 7, "Standalone" Devices, and Cloud Computing

By Dennis D. McDonald

Ed Bott’s Windows Activation Technologies: an unauthorized inside look is a look at what happens when Windows 7 automatically gathers and sends encrypted data describing your Windows 7 installation back to Microsoft so Microsoft can see if you are running an authorized copy of Windows.

Ed concludes, even though he can’t see inside the encrypted packets of transmitted data, that no “personal” information is being sent — aside from details of various files that have been added to or changed, as well unique ID information about the physical computer itself.

This is not something I’m losing sleep over. I’m not anti-Microsoft. There are many emerging alternatives to the MS Approach. Besides, my computer is constantly connected to the web anyway.

I currently use a Windows 7 computer, a Sony Vaio laptop I got lastDecember. I’ve been very pleased with the experience. But watching the fun and games of how different vendors battle to keep their software updated on my machine is constantly, uh, entertaining.

First, there’s the periodic update to Windows itself. I’ll come into my home office and see that my computer, despite having gone to sleep, has shut down and restarted overnight dues to a recent Windows software update. Ok, I can handle that. But I do let out a sigh. I know then that in the coming days a host of other suppliers will be duking it out to make sure their software is updated and synchronized with Windows.

Plus my anti-virus and anti-spy software has to continue their updating. Plus there’s the seemingly constant Java updates. Plus there’s the Sony Vaio itself; it has a maintenance dashboard of its own which purports to manage everything else, and that has to be kept up to date. Plus there are firmware updates to the Blu-Ray player, plus there’s Intel wanting to do something.

The list goes on. After a few days things settle down. I can go back to normal anti-virus checking, usually without too much disruption.

Which gets me to thinking. Is it my imagination, or is it getting more complex just to maintain a local “standalone” computer, even in this day of Cloud Computing? Isn’t keeping all these applications and devices running smoothly and interconnectedly awfully complex, expensive, and error prone?

What’s the optimal dividing line between doing things locally — and keeping everything up to date — and doing things “in the cloud”? I’m reasonable experienced computer user, but I was hoping, perhaps naively, that this whole computer technology thing was supposed to get easier as we progress, not more complex. But I get the impression that, at least with this great new Windows 7 computer I’m running, things are getting MORE complex, not less.

OK, I admit I’m also asking the computer to do a lot. It’s an always-on work device, a home entertainment center, a graphics editing workstation, a host to various music devices, a telephone for calling my daughter in the Dominican Republic, and even an occasional gaming center. So complexity is definitely a reasonable outcome. So when somebody like Microsoft, faced with massive software piracy worldwide, decides to do something about that piracy, I can — almost — understand the desire to peek under the covers without my really knowing what’s being peeked at.

I admit I look to coming devices like the Apple iPad with some eagerness. Given how people really use computers for a mix of work, communication, and recreation, I do see opportunities for foolproof devices that focus on supporting, say, 70-80% of how I currently use a computer — and doing those things pleasantly and well. Plus, if the device maker makes it easy to connect to a TV to stream web based programming in between email and social networking sessions, I see a whole new world emerging where the less I know about what’s going on under the hood, the better.

What do you think?

Copyright (c) 2010 by Dennis D. McDonald

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