User Input

User Input: Polluted Cloud Edition

“I hate the PC.” — Larry Ellison

In 1996 the president of Oracle predicted the PC would be gone by now and everything would be in the cloud; information whizzing around making that little noise like the cars on The Jetsons. I feared a world where I needed to rely on something as flaky as my 14k baud modem. And while Larry’s dream is being realized by Google and Amazon, I’m not exactly seeing the chrome and ivory future that he was referring to. My desktop computer is alive and well – and a fair bit beefier than the PC I had when I was told they were going to die out. So much for the cloud, right?

Mark Zuckerberg at the office.

But what happens when my DSL modem has a little fit and starts tossing packets in the trash like carbs in a West Hollywood pot luck? My computer is still just as porn worthy without the tubes and pipes connected to it – or is it? I’m trying to remember what I did for useless hours on end before I connected my old PowerBook 145 to the land of cats falling off of things and being verbally abused by a 12 year old. My computer may not need the Internet to function, but sadly, we humans do. Now that my workday grinds to a halt if I can’t use my email, and shoplifting is no longer the preferred method of stealing music, I’ve come to realize that Larry Ellison’s vision of the future snuck up on us so subtly that we didn’t even realize it got here. Do I still fear it? I’ll tell you after I finish watching episodes of TV show’s I can’t even get in my country.

How do you use your computmatronic device with no Intertubes? Has your world really been sucked into the cloud, or are you able to get through the day with no Hooniverse or AtomicToasters?

[FYI: “User Input” is the AtomicToasters Question of the Day™ asking you, the teeming millions, to answer our pressing questions.]

  • Without the interwebz, my T42 makes a good doorstop. It's running Ubuntu and is basically a glorified web PC. Luckily, I have a suite of tools I can use to tap into my neighbors' tubes, even if password encrypted (WEP is preferred as it's more easily broken).

    My desktop is a little better off. I still have a lot of the programs and data I need on it. However, all my banking and whatnot is done in the ether.

    My work PC is useless without its connection to the work servers. All my data is on network drives and my major tools for work (i.e. AFT/Fathom, MathCad, etc.) are on network licenses. What really sucks about this is I have a 64-bit laptop that would be great for working on stuff when away from the office, but our VPN client software is 32-bit only and I wouldn't be able to get my network licenses. So, it sits on my desk as a second computer for now.

  • I still need my PC for local processing of graphics, primarily; everything else is in the cloud.

    But I'm absolutely appalled at how e-tethered my life has become. I work in IT, so I long came to accept (indeed, I *chose*) the computer-centric lifestyle when on the timeclock. But it's the at-home use that I just can't reconcile. All my hobbies are now unthinkable without a PC or net-connected device.

    Cars: Need to fix 'em? Find out how online. Order parts? Online. BS about 'em? Online. Drool? Online.

    Photography: Film sucks. Download snaps on the computer, edit them to something worthwhile, share them on the web, order prints from Snapfish.

    Writing: Typewriters mostly suck. Google Docs makes my work available anywhere I happen to be.

    Scale Modeling: Research prototypes online. Order parts online. Create custom graphics on the PC. Discuss techniques online. Share the finished work online.

    Music: Follow faves online. Discover new stuff…. online. Order concert tickets online. When shafted by tickebastard, follow streaming concerts and bootlegs…. online!

    God forbid I get into MMORPGs or spend any time leeching off torrents and TV shack…

    Say nothing of Facebook and other social networks du jour. My family and friends exist more online than in the real world at times.

    And when I plan a vacation to "disconnect from it all"… Oh sweet irony, how the fark does this get started? By researching destinations, amenities, costs, etc online!!!

    But this should not be a surprise. I met my eventual wife online in 1996 before anyone really knew this was possible. I landed jobs and apartments, found cars and toys all in the tubes.

    And with the cloud tethered to ever more sophisticated mobile devices, I fear I'll never break free of the leash. It is indeed scary how the brave new world crept up upon us. Welcome to 1984!

  • We don't have a teevee, so my desktop is our HTPC. Aside from those duties, which can be accomplished online and off, it is a fairly decent gaming rig (although I only play Portal), and photo editor. When the net throws a fit, I usually just go outside and play.

    • TechieInHell

      "Outside"? *shudder*

      You know that's where all the air pollution is don't you? You need to stay indoors, where Fresh Air is provided by air conditioners. Read the New Jersey Environmentalist Manifesto. It's all in there.

  • Pretty much everything I do with the computer anymore is online, one way or another.

  • P161911

    I resisted getting a dial-up connection until 1995 or so. I resisted getting DSL until 2004. I'm currently debating switching to cable modem. I am in the process of ditching DirecTV for an over-the -air antenna and internet on my TVs in some form (Netflix, Hulu, or maybe Google TV if it is cheap enough).

    On the last couple of vacations I have caught myself sneaking a peak and e-mail or Hooniverse.

    • I have friends that have ditched cable. They can watch everything they want on the web (most networks broadcast their shows on their websites shortly after it airs), Netflix's fancy new VOD, Hulu (oh, I guess that's web), torrents, and Redbox.

      • P161911

        That's pretty much what I am going for. I will probably miss Speed the most, but not $65/month worth. I'm trying to do this with minimal outlay on new hardware, although when I have mentioned the yearly savings the wife is VERY understanding on some new hardware. I currently use Netflix over the XBOX a good bit. That and I need to get either an HD Tuner or HD Tuner/DVR for my big projection screen that is "HD Ready". I am trying to do this where it is simple enough for my technophobe wife to handle and I want to be able to sit in my recliner and watch a big screen with minimal hassle as opposed to a laptop sized screen.

      • We ditched cable and for the most part haven't really missed it. In fact I haven't even felt arsed to pursue the online options. Might try a PlayOn license for kicks though, just for the convenience of guests and such.

      • Mr_Biggles

        We haven't had cable for years. We have an antenna that gets 8 channels or so, which covers local and national news. Any shows we really want to follow I get through torrenting.

        Admittedly part of the reason for not missing the cable is lack of time to take advantage of TV since the little'uns showed up, and neither of us are really sports fans. I could see wanting it if I was really into sports.

    • I did it and haven't looked back.

  • Charles_Barrett

    My distrust of VOD (Video-On-Demand) is a prime cause of my overwhelming collection of DVDs (especially in the arena of erotica). Even if I obtained something as a streaming download, free or otherwise, I am going to want to commit it to some durable media for my own pervy porn-hoarding pleasure peace of mind…

    • While almost to the point of wiring up an MP3 player in the car, and carrying most of my movies around on a portable hard drive, there's still nothing like being able to hold something in your hand. Whether vinyl or digital, the cover art, the inserts, and the disc itself add more than the sum of their parts. And the permanence of of a physical collection, especially as a rarely used archive, gives a sense of ownership that leaves even DRM-free Amazon purchases cold. The cloud may giveth, but the cloud will also take away, appropriately starting with 1984 for Kindle.

  • tonyola

    When the net is down, I can still play music, run Cakewalk, play games, read stuff, watch movies, etc. Or as others have said, go outside. An outage is bothersome but not a killer.

    It's interesting. When I moved before, the stereo was the very last thing to be taken down at the old place and the first to be put up at the new. Gotta have tunes if nothing else. Now it's the computer. I don't listen to broadcast radio (either regular or satellite) anymore and my entire music collection is now digitized and on the PC.

  • Deartháir

    We should have probably put in a disclaimer on this article: Techie doesn't leave his house, except to go to work. And frequently, not even then. So the "going outside to play" option is just not a valid option for him. Take away his internets, and he'll start to withdraw like a crackwhore jonesing for a fix.

    It's actually kinda fun to watch, if you have one of those protective suits they use for training attack dogs.

    • You, scotch and wire cutters are a dangerous mix.

      • Deartháir

        I thought we destroyed all the evidence of that little adventure…

        • TechieInHell

          Not *all* the evidence. The damage to my psyche is permanent.

          • That's what the wire cutters were for. Resistance is futile.

  • njhoon

    I work in the tech field so a 'puter with out the interwebs is pretty much a big expensive jukebox. I must say that in the last 15 years I can count the days I haven't had the internets, moved 3 times in that time, so maybe 6 days total not hooked up. Now what I have found myself doing in the last 5 years is purposely not touching a computer on the weekend until after dinner on Sunday. Que my foil hat I will leave my cell phones at home on purpose.

  • Well, depending on which bar he walks into, it could be a fight-starter.

    • Deartháir

      I'm not sure that would be such a big deal in the bars Techie frequents.

  • Jim-Bob

    I am addicted to the internet like a whore to crack. I used to keep 2 computers-one clean, one dirty- for my variety of online needs, but sadly the dirty one caught fire, so only the clean one is left. It’s also a $230 netbook, which I have found is more than adequate for my non-gamer lifestyle. No optical drive? Who needs CDs and DVDs anymore when you have a SD slot, USB ports and an internet connection? All my software-save OS- is FOSS that I have downloaded off the internet. There is really no need to buy expensive software for most things anymore with so much good free stuff available. I watch videos and foreign TV shows (Top Gear!) in the cloud, but keep music locally and prefer to buy CDs rather than buy individual songs from Amazon or iTunes. It’s no more expensive, and it gives me a physical backup for when the hard drive crashes or the laptop catches fire. I do not keep CDs in the car though as I have my truck set up with an old iPod I bought off E-Bay for $3.25 because it was broken. I fixed it with a soldering iron and now use it to store all the music I need in the car. It’s only a 4 gb 1st gen Nano, but I really don’t need to carry more than 1,000 songs at a time either. I do like to keep physical books for some things (like service manuals for old cars), but sometimes I just download a PDF and print off what I need. It’s free, and it allows me to immediately access the information without the wait involved with ordering it, or the cost involved with buying it through Amazon or iTunes. some classic novels are also available online for free, and I have taken advantage of that too. In short, I couldn’t imagine life without the internet. It has just become so ingrained in my life that I go into withdrawal without it.