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Are you ready for Chromium OS?

January 21, 2011 2 comments

There is a lot of hype about Google’s new open source project, Chromium OS. The new OS will run on portable devices that run strictly web based applications. An introductory model dubbed the Cr-48 is being offered by Google through a very exclusive pilot program.

The Cr-48 seems to have adopted a design similar to that of an Apple MacBook, but that’s not the reason Google thinks the new OS will become popular. Rather than placing strong focus on hardware, the new offering places emphasis on what Google does best – innovation. If you are among the lucky chosen to participate in the Cr-48 pilot, I suggest that you not focus on the hardware, but consider how the OS changes the way you interface with the web both for the better and for the worse.

Click here for a demo of the Cr-48 running ChromeOS.

The concept is cloud based, similar to services already offered by IT service providers like IBM or Amazon. Current cloud models require the user to access the cloud based system through their primary device (ie – a Windows machine). With Chromium OS, you’re sitting on the cloud 10 seconds after powering up your machine. Click here to see how the boot process has been improved compared to a traditional device.

There is no more concept of what Google refers to as “legacy” applications. This means that your brand new copy of Microsoft Office 2010 would be considered obsolete since it is not one of the cloud based applications available on Chromium OS (nor could it be installed on your machine running the OS). Rather than local storage hosting your content, you rely solely on the cloud for all your computing needs.

The Cr-48 (and I suspect all Chromium OS models) has built in Wi-Fi, and also a 3G card capable of picking up a signal if you do not have an internet connection available (same connection your modern hand held device uses).

So now that you know the basics (if you didn’t already)…do you think we ready for a device that relies solely on an infrastructure that still lacks the speed to keep up with features of lesser powerful modern devices? Take the iPhone for example. The iPhone relies pretty heavily on an internet connection of some type, and many of the features of the iPhone are restricted by our internet capabilities (ie – Tethering, FaceTime, ). Take away the iPhones internet connection however, and you still have the ability to use the apps loaded on to the device that do not require a signal to function (ie – you can still play Angry Birds if you’re lost in the woods). Take away the signal from a device running Chromium OS, and you have a nice paper weight with a built in flashlight.

The good news? Your devices become simply an interface to the same portal hosting the same content you have personalized over a period of time. For example, I have a Windows desktop, a laptop running Windows, a netbook running Windows, a MacBook Air, and a few Windows desktops I use at work. Sure, all my own machines are running on a home LAN and I can access files from any machine assuming they’re all turned on and have acquired an IP from my wireless router, and I can also access my work files by turning on my VPN….but I have a hard time remembering which applications and files are on which machine. Even if I had the best memory in the world, is that something I want to waste my brain power on?

What if you could access your personalized content (ie – desktop, personal settings, etc) not just through your device, but through any device? Yeah…you can do it now with one of those subscription based apps running on your PC that is always connected to the internet whenever you need it, right? Actually, my trusty $220/mo internet connection is down as we speak and I can’t even submit this post when I’m finished until it comes back up. What if you didn’t have your device with you and needed to access some content, or even just wanted to check your email on a friends device without hunting around on his device only to find he only invokes his browser through command line because he deleted his shortcut by accident and never figured out how to get it back? Just log off of his account, log in with your credentials, and it’s as if you had your device all along.

What about the concept of having all your content hosted on a “cloud” that you can’t touch or feel? What happens when that cloud is down, and all you wanted to do was look up the address for that interview you’re running late for (because you know that’s the only time it would ever actually go down, right?)?

For me, there are some things I prefer to be hosted elsewhere, but other things that I prefer to store locally. For example, I am comfortable with the fact that my email is hosted by Google and not taking up precious space on my own devices. Initially, I was outraged by the fact that Google thought they could store my precious emails whether they were doing me a favor by hosting it or not. When I delete an email, is it actually deleted from all their servers? Probably not…

Have you or anyone you know been locked out of GMail for one reason or another (ie – forgot password, hacked, stolen, sold on a Chinese auction site, etc…) and tried to recover within a reasonable amount of time? I’m pretty sure that most of the time, you can just kiss that account goodbye. Let’s face it…Google does not offer the kind of support most folks expect from their (albeit free) services. Can you afford to lose all your personalized content and applications because of an account issue that Google could not reach out to you within some kind of reasonable SLA to address quickly?

So let’s just look at the features highlighted by Chrome OS. I want to comment on each separately since there are only 6:

Instant web: Boot time in 10 seconds, and instantly wakes up from sleep. Sounds like my MacBook Air (only it might boot faster than 10s). Websites load quickly and smoothly…nothing new there. And let’s be honest…support for Flash wasn’t considered a feature until the iPhone lacked it.

Same experience everywhere: This is the bread and butter, I’ve already commented about the benefits of this above.

Always connected: 100MB of free 3G isn’t all that much, especially if this is a primary device being used for multimedia. It seems we should be past the point where we’re paying for “Always connected” these days anyway. In my opinion, if anyone is going to lead the way into free mobile internet access, it should be Google.

Security built in: While this doesn’t really sound like a “feature”, Google has done lots to ensure the protection of your data on the cloud. There is an interesting video here on the details. It is still not known how secure the data actually will be once your friendly neighborhood hacker becomes more familiar with the architecture of the OS, but sounds like a good implementation to me.

Forever fresh: Simple enough. I’m not sure how much easier updates could get than what most modern OS’s already have today.

Amazing web apps: From what I’ve seen in the demo video, this looks pretty exciting. I’m not sure anyone really uses CD’s to install software anymore, but nice to highlight anyway.

I don’t doubt that the way we access our personalized content will significantly change over the course of time, but are we ready for something like this just yet? Consider the advantages/disadvantages I’ve touched on, and let me know your thoughts on this technology.

Choosing a DBMS


I thought I’d post some information about database management systems for those who are a little less familiar with them than your typical DBA or developer. Maybe you’re a new IT professional, maybe you’ve been tasked with making a decision in your company on which DBMS to use for a new project, or maybe you’re just trying to see what’s out there in the DBMS world.

I want to focus on some of the relevant enterprise DBMS….Oracle, IBM DB2, and Microsoft SQL Server. We’ll leave MySQL and some of the others for future discussions. I work with these three systems on a regular basis, and to no surprise…they all have their ups and downs. I’ll share some pros/cons on each one.  There are lots and lots of lower level features and topics we could discuss about each DBMS, but this is just meant to be a quick overview from the average users perspective.

All in all…Oracle is great for the very advanced user/DBA, but very friendly for those not very familiar with database management systems.

Oracle Pros:

  • Some great bundled tools for quick deployment
  • Very fast/reliable/stable
  • Lots of flexibility for the advanced user (troubleshooting/tracing/configuration)

Oracle Cons:

  • Extremely resource intensive.  An Oracle DB will consume most of a systems resources if not deployed on a real server.
  • Difficult to troubleshoot
  • No more thick client for Enterprise Manager after the 9i release.  DBA has to rely on the web version of EM for performing maintenance.  (The real Oracle DBA will seldom/never use EM though, however it is good to have for the Oracle newbie)
  • Backup/restore is not simplified
  • Requires a client install in order for a workstation to be able to connect to a database
  • Documentation is not organized very well, difficult to find relevant information when having problems

SQL Server is great for those that love Microsoft products (which a lot of people do).  For those that do not like relying on Microsoft updates, and regular GUI changes, SQL Server probably is not for you.  This is probably the quickest DBMS to get up and running, but seems to have problems with SPID (system process identifier) blocking issues which cause the database to lock up until locks are manually released.

SQL Server Pros:

  • Very simple backup/restore
  • Configuration is simple
  • No client required.  Connectivity is built in to the OS
  • Ability to authenticate using Windows credentials, or pre-defined SQL Server credentials
  • Easy to troubleshoot basic issues (SQL Profiler)
  • Great for .NET developers sandbox environment

SQL Server Cons:

  • No *NIX support (Windows only)
  • Not as customizable as Oracle/DB2.  Some would argue that SQL Server is barely an enterprise DBMS
  • New versions (2005, 2008) are like changing from Office 2003 to Office 2007.
  • SPID Blocking
  • Not a very knowledgeable user community
  • Microsoft Support…say no more

I’ve saved the best for last.  I recognize benefits in all of the DBMS listed on this page, but DB2 is simply my favorite.

DB2 Pros:

  • Quick deployment
  • Not terribly resource intensive
  • Easy command line interface for quick maintenance
  • Native client app (Control Center (db2cc)) provides a simple front end for maintenance
  • Some great tools for configuration
  • Supports a wide range of OS’s (Windows, Linux, UNIX, AIX, and more).
  • Improved backup and restore capabilities in 9.5+ releases
  • Very easy to troubleshoot
  • Documentation is very simple to locate when having problems that require research
  • World class support

DB2 Cons:

  • It doesn’t come with any games….(I had to put something here).

Hopefully this was helpful to some of you who are doing some initial research on these systems.  If you have any problems and you end up here…feel free to reach out to me.  I’ve seen most problems with all of these systems somewhere along the way, and usually have a pretty good memory when it comes to these things.

Here are some links to get you started with the Express (free) versions offered by each vendor:

IBM DB2

Oracle

SQL Server