Friday, 12 February 2010

Still bouncing on clouds...and seeing the binary world in a different way.

Last year I wrote about cloud computing and how it seemed to us that the next few years would be dominated by the development of the 'cloud'. In just a few months since that time we have been able to make use of some of these tools in order to start to increase the flexibility of our school systems. Our recently installed wireless network is (after a few teething problems) allowing us to use a range of different types of hardware in order to develop a single 'product'. In the case of this blog for example, Google Docs has allowed me to use two different PCs and my mobile phone to draft and edit the entry before uploading it to Google Blogger. These tools allow me to collaborate with my colleagues on a variety of documents and resources and it's all free. How long this will remain the case I do not know, but the free to use model has a logic to it; build a community / followership and generate income through the provision of additional services and associated advertising.

These tools have really re-focused me on the importance of the software we use being productive above all else. The simple but effective tools found online or on my iPhone serve to remind me that I use these tools in order to 'get the job done'. In the last few years the huge and complex programmes that are dominant in market have started to get in the way of this simple principle. This is why some of the top commercial packages have been referred to as 'bloatware'. Are we now finally at that long predicted point where they will finally lose their grip?

The cloud 'revolution' has meant that we can supplement our website with Twitter, which enabled us to push our information more reliably and quickly during the recent poor weather. During that time we also made public our Facebook page. It is early days yet, but we believe that we can't ignore such technologies. We hope that we can be a positive influence within these arenas, including important advice and information in a way that may be more accessible to some people than more traditional methods.

The cloud may be the driver that leads to the development of more user-friendly devices that mean you don't need a good grasp of computing before you can get on with the job. Indeed, for the first time in many years I find myself seriously considering replacing a desktop with a non-Windows PC. This brings to mind my former colleague and friend, the late Paul Vigay. Paul was a RISC-OS programmer and disciple (who was moderately well known due to his involvement with crop circle research). Paul was my systems manager for 5 years in the 1990's and despaired as I oversaw the conversion of the school's Acorn network (RISC-OS) to a Windows system (Intel). To be fair this was the right choice at the time, but now? The truth is that I have had enough of those times when I have nearly finished a task when the dreaded 'blue screen of death' appears. So with the broader operating context changed, Mac OS10+ well established and my iPhone and iPod consistently delivering my next upgrade is likely to more radical than those in the past.