Google to Offer Personal File Storage Service

I just came across an article from the Wall Street Journal about Google’s plan to offer consumers a service to store their personal data files.  I’m pretty excited about this, and so should you, for several reasons.

First, mass data storage is getting cheaper and cheaper, but to really push prices down, it takes the economies of scale a company like Google or Amazon can get by combining thousands of users’ storage needs into a single service.  Providing a service like this will decrease the total cost per gigabyte to even lower levels, which theoretically could make it cheaper to sign up and pay for a service like this than to go out and buy a hard drive.

Second, Google usually does services right (not always, but usually).  It looks like they have an eye towards consumers, rather than businesses (like Amazon’s S3 service), which will, hopefully, mean good integration with your desktop.  I sincerely hope to see a tightly integrated OS setup where users can treat their Google storage service as “just another hard drive” on their computer.  I’d really rather not see some cumbersome client software you have to download, but rather a network share on your computer.

Third, and most important (to me at least), is the freedom from worrying about backups, redundancy, and scaling.  More and more, I’m watching movies and TV shows on my computer or home entertainment system via iTunes and similar services, and my storage requirements are expanding rapidly.  There will be a time in the very near future where I’ll need a terabyte or multiple terabytes to store my movies and TV shows for access, rather than as DVDs.  And I’m not alone: many people are doing just this, as everything becomes digitized and always available.

Anyway, it’s all still very early to get too excited about this service, but I really hope Google does this one right.  Keep it simple, no client software, cross-platform, and as cheap as possible is the way to win consumers here; and I know that now – and in the future – people’s storage requirements are just going to increase.

Happy Thanksgiving

Sorry for the lack of posts lately – we’ve been pretty busy. We hired another software developer, and we’ve been working to expand our consulting business a bit. Unfortunately, the blog suffers for this, but it’s not for a lack of interesting stuff! Over the last few days, we’ve had the fortunate experience to work with memcache and a number of other performance-related tools to help fine-tune a very large PHP codebase.

In addition, we’ve been putting efforts into invotrak (our invoice-tracking tool) along with other projects we’re pretty excited about. We should have some details on at least one new site being launched soon, so stay tuned!

Updating Rubygems in Leopard (Mac OS 10.5)

After updating my Mac to Leopard (MacOS X 10.5), I noticed I had a couple issues when updating Rubygems. For instance, when running “gem update mongrel_cluster”, I would constantly get build errors. After doing some digging, I found that you need to set ARCHFLAGS to your system type. Here’s how you would update all your rubygems on Leopard:

sudo su
[Enter your password]
export ARCHFLAGS="-arch i386"
gem update

Note that you’ll want to change the i386 to the actual architecture you have (my MacBook, for instance, is an Intel processor, while you would want to use “ppc” for non-Intel Macs).

Once I had updated my gems, things started working fine again. For instance, mongrel_cluster was having issues configuring a new project, but after updating the gem using this method, it seemed to be working fine. Hope you find this useful!

Time for iPhone To-Do Lists!

I’ve had my iPhone for a few weeks now (and yes, I got my $100 rebate), and I have to say that my biggest gripe is the lack of a good to-do list application. Of course, this is a fairly small gripe in the grand scheme of things (Apple got a lot right with this device), but it’s still important to me. One of the major ways I work on a day-to-day basis is to set lots of small, achievable tasks using my to-do list, then check them off as I get things done.

There are several to-do list iPhone web apps out there (notably, 37signal’s Ta-Da Lists), though it’s just not quite what I’m looking for. I really like the built-in to-do list in iCal, so having an actual iPhone application (not just an app via Safari) that can sync to my pre-existing iCal to-do items would be ideal. Hopefully Apple will be forthcoming with one (especially since it seems to-do items will play a bigger role with the Mail client in Leopard).

Java through the ages

I wanted to point out a great article on ReadWriteWeb today, by Alex Iskold, about the history of Java and the missed opportunities the language has had over the years.  Even if you’re not a software developer, it’s still a great overview of a language that is both elegant and powerful, and the drama of free market competition.

Of course, don’t get the impression that Java is dead!  It’s anything but: kiosks and embedded devices run it, along with consumer-facing websites and plenty of enterprise software.  Many other technologies have been eating away at it over the years, and will continue to do so, unfortunately, for many of the reasons in the article.

Like Alex, I think the biggest issue Java faced (and got wrong) was with the web.  Before there was web 2.0 (and web 1.0 was still being explored), Java applets were the way to integrate interactivity inside web pages.  But applets were horribly slow, limited in their abilities, and complicated.  I think if Sun were able to do it all over again, they shouldn’t have focused on placing Java applets inside web pages, but focused more closely on making Java the core of web development.  Like Alex states, imagine how great it would be if we could manipulate the DOM using Java, say if it were an integrated part of the browser.

But, alas, that didn’t happen.  There’s still time to reinvent how Java and the web co-exist, but for the time being, it’s being edged out in favor of new technologies and languages.  So here’s to you, Java!

Take us with you!

Cool news for you iPhone and iPod Touch owners: this blog is now specially formatted to look great on those devices!  I just checked it out on my iPhone, and readability is greatly improved.  Meanwhile, nothing will change for existing PC-based readers.  It’s the best of both worlds!

Implementation was about as simple as it can get.  An easy-to-use plugin and theme by ContentRobot did all the grunt work for us.  So if you have a WordPress blog of your own, check out iWPhone.

Moving on up….

We’ve just “completed” our move to new offices.  It’s a little larger, a little nicer, and so far, I’m very happy with it.  We’ve got the place wired for gigabit Ethernet, VoIP, plus wireless for the laptops, and it should be pretty slick.  Only snag, thus far, is Verizon (our ISP).  We’ve got our telephone line installed, which is really only used as a dedicated line for faxes, but the DSL connection still isn’t syncing.  So, for the time being, we’re working from home.

Sorry posts have slowed down recently (though, when have we ever posted fast?), as we’ve been taking vacations and getting this move pushed through.  Hopefully we’ll be returning to normal soon!

The future of AJAX web applications

There’s an interesting opinion up by Joel Spolsky, a software developer and founder of FogCreek Software, about where the direction AJAX-based web applications are headed. He makes an interesting, and I feel very apt, comparison with the olden days of mainframes and Lotus 1-2-3, and the current state of the interactive web. For instance, he likens the idea of sites like Google’s Gmail with Lotus 1-2-3, where the development team spent all of their time writing code and optimizing it for the current day’s limitations, rather than looking ahead and adding new wiz-bang features that would give them their “long-term competitive advantage.”

And I think Joel is completely right. Gmail, for one, has been stagnant for the last three years or so, and haven’t been preparing for the future. Check out this blog article from Lifehacker about a comparison between Gmail and Yahoo Mail. Their conclusion? Yahoo Mail has spent the last two years innovating and adding all sorts of new features, while Gmail has very little improvements (except, perhaps, incrementally increased storage levels).

[Read more...]

Apple iPhones reduced in price

iPhoneYesterday, Apple dropped the price on the 8gig iPhone (that killer, must-have gadget that’s apparently been selling like crazy since being introduced), along with new product announcements in their iPod lineup. Unfortunately, it looks like this price break puts a lot of us early adopters in a tight spot: those of us who shelled out the full $600 for the 8gig models are now realizing the price of purchasing early: about $200.

If you’re not already aware, if you bought your iPhone within 10 days of an announced price break, you’re entitled to receive the difference from Apple (provided you claim this within another 14 days of the announcement).

Should Apple reduce its price on any shipped product within 10 calendar days of shipment, you may contact Apple Sales Support at 1-800-676-2775 to request a refund or credit of the difference between the price you were charged and the current selling price. To receive the refund or credit you must contact Apple within 14 business days of shipment.

Sadly, we at Draconis bought out iPhones 16 days before the announcement: 2 days later and we would have qualified for that rebate. But I’m not bitter over it: I love my iPhone, was willing to part with the full price without expecting any kind of rebate, and anyway, these things are out of our control. Anyone else in the same boat as us?

Hiding a mounted volume on MacOS

Quick note here, that’s especially useful to people using BootCamp on their Macs and don’t want their Windows-formatted partition appearing on their desktop. To hide it whenever the Finder starts (it will still be mounted, but not visible on the Finder), open the Terminal and run the following command:

/Developer/Tools/SetFile -a V /Volumes/Untitled

Replace the “Untitled” with whatever the volume name is listed as in /Volumes. Note also, that you will need to have Apple’s Developer Tools installed in order for this to work. It’s free, but a fairly large download. Hope you find this useful!