An Operating System for Your Personal Cloud

Lenticular Clouds Over Timpanogos

Everyone has a cloud strategy these days. Of course, when you hear about clouds, you hear questions like “Are we talking about IaaS, PaaS, or SaaS?” This assumes an enterprise-centric view of clouds that is belied by what Robert Scoble calls the game of games. Facebook, Google, and Apple are most selling clouds in various guises and see their cloud strategy as a key to their future.

The problems with these “personal clouds” is that they have no operating system. An operating system is what makes your personal computer personal. Without an OS, it would be a special purpose appliance that does specific things (like run an office suite) but not others (like play a game). There are certainly those who wish that was the norm, but for now, at least, we have general purpose computers that run a variety of applications and can be configured according to the dictates and wishes of their owners.

[An aside for those of you getting ready to comment: yes Facebook allows apps and is an app platform, but they are ancillary to the experience, not core. The core experience is still very much a Facebook-determined thing.]

The user-focused clouds we see today are special purpose. You can’t customize them much or make them do something their builders didn’t envision in the selection of applications that they offer.

In contrast a personal event network is like an OS for your personal cloud. You can install apps to customize it for your purpose, it can store and manage your personal data, and it provides generalized services through APIs that any app can take advantage of.






Place-Based Networks

In the Classroom

Here’s a thought-provoking piece on place-based networks from Gideon Rosenblatt.

Imagine if the Internet worked the way the real world does – and that physical places still helped build connection and community.
That’s the idea behind Place-Based Networks; it’s mobile, social technology to help you connect with people based on your shared interest in a place.

I imagine that our personal event networks could help with that. If your personal event network knows where you are and what venues you frequent, it can automate things like tagging in your communications, negotiating meet-ups, and so on.





Podcatchers for Smartphones

IT Conversations Logo

As you might guess, given that I’m Executive Producer of IT Conversations, I like listening to podcasts. I’m also an iPhone user. Not to put too fine a point on it: iTunes sucks rocks for listening to podcasts. The problem is mostly that iTunes has a crappy interface for subscribing to and managing podcasts. It also downloads only one episode per day, with no way to change the defaults. Moreover it will stop downloading podcasts that you haven’t listened to for a while and you have to remember to go in an start it up. I started feeling like I had to “take care of iTunes” like it was a recalcitrant pet or something.

For some reason, it never really occurred to me to download an app for listening to podcasts, although I’ve downloaded several single purpose ones (like the This American Life app). Then Paul Figgiani introduced me to Downcast. I’m in love. I no longer have to fight iTunes and all my favorites are right there waiting for me to listen to them when I go for a walk or drive to work. The interface is good, with plenty of controls for skipping forward and back or adjusting the playback speed. I also like the built-in “share” features although I wish they allowed me to customize the default text for the share.

Unfortunately, Downcast isn’t available on Android. I have an Android tablet (Galaxy Tab) that I’ve used Google Listen on. It’s a functional podcatcher, albeit a little bare-boned compared to Downcast: no speed or skipping controls and no built-in sharing.

So, go grab Downcast, plug in the IT Conversations feed URL and enjoy great tech talks from the longest running podcast on the planet…no matter where you’re at.







My Letter to Senator Hatch in Opposition to PIPA

The Honorable Orrin Hatch

104 Hart Office Building

Washington, DC 20510

Fax: 202-224-6331

Dear Senator Hatch,

I’m writing to express my opposition to the Protect IP Act (PIPA). I have a PhD in Computer Science, have taught Computer Science at BYU, started several high-tech businesses in Utah (one of which,, sold to Excite@Home in 1999 for $450 million), was the CIO for the State of Utah under Gov. Michael Levitt, and am the Precinct Vice-Chair in Lindon 04.

I’m pleased with Sen Reid’s decision to postpone the vote and with your recent opposition to PIPA. However I’m still concerned that the thinking that led to PIPA will lead to other equally bad legislation in the future.

The problem with PIPA and similar legislation is that it looks at copying as a feature of digital goods that can be selectively disabled. In fact, everything I know about computer technology leads me to believe that copying will only get easier and easier as technology progresses. We will never again live in a time when copying things is as difficult as it is now. And this will be true regardless of the laws we pass because copying is fundamental to the nature of computers and digital goods.

Consequently, efforts to make copying more difficult by technical means (such as the DNS blocking provisions in PIPA and SOPA) hurt legitimate uses of technology while leaving those who would copy without permission plenty of ways to circumvent those measures. You cannot plug this hole by hobbling the Internet and also be a proponent of economic growth. Those positions are incompatible.

I believe that the answer lies in enforcing existing laws in the courts where the accused are afforded due process and in working with other nations to create legal regimes wherein the guilty can be tried and punished. There are no technical shortcuts that will solve this problem.

I’d be happy to discuss this matter in more detail. I look forward to seeing you at the convention.


Phillip J. Windley, Ph.D.

Note: the paragraph about copying paraphrases Cory Doctorow’s argument in his talk The Coming War on General Purpose Computing. I recommend listening to it.