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News, Information and Updates on Hardware and IT Tools to help improve your Medical practice
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Microsoft offers Bing Rewards users 100GB of free OneDrive cloud storage

Microsoft offers Bing Rewards users 100GB of free OneDrive cloud storage | IT Support and Hardware for Clinics | Scoop.it

The entire purpose of Bing Rewards is to—surprise!—reward you for using Bing. Usually, that entails earning points by conducting web searches and cashing in those points for gift cards and other goodies. But you don’t have to conduct a single Bing search to claim the latest juicy offering: Through February 28, any Bing Rewards member can claim 100GB of OneDrive cloud storage for absolutely free for two years—no searches or rewards points required.

The offer won’t entice Office 365 subscribers, who already enjoy an endless bounty of storage space in the sky, but this is a don’t-miss offer for any other OneDrive user. OneDrive's free tier offers only 15GB of data, and 100GB plans typically cost $2 per month.


There are surprisingly few strings: You’ll obviously need a Microsoft account to claim the 100GB, but if you’re a Bing Rewards member you already have one. Accepting the offer gives OneDrive the right to send you promotional emails, though you may cancel them at any time. And as mentioned, the freebie storage disappears two years to the day after you claim it. Microsoft obviously hopes you’ll fill up the space and pay to keep using the extra gigs after the deadline, but be sure to read up on what happens when your cloud storage dissipates just in case.

Head over to your Bing Rewards dashboard and look for the “Free storage” header next to a OneDrive logo to get in on the action.

The story behind the story: As Microsoft shifts to embrace services more and more, expect to see more hooks like this—the use of one service to entice you into using other Microsoft products and the greater Microsoft ecosystem. Now that Windows 8.1 with Bing (with Bing as the default search provider) is rolling out in low-cost devices that are often constrained storage-wise, using Bing Rewards to dangle gobs of OneDrive storage is a natural promotion. And once you’re signed up with Bing Rewards, you’re more likely to start using Microsoft’s search engine to claim more freebies, of course.

But who cares about all that? The important part is the free 100GB of cloud storage. Go get some!


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The Biggest Thing in Cloud Computing Has a New Competitor | WIRED

The Biggest Thing in Cloud Computing Has a New Competitor | WIRED | IT Support and Hardware for Clinics | Scoop.it

Docker is the hottest new idea in the world of cloud computing, a technology embraced by Silicon Valley’s elite engineers and backed the industry’s biggest names, including Google, Amazon, and Microsoft. Based on technologies that have long powered Google’s own online empire, it promises to overhaul software development across the net, providing a simpler and more efficient means of building and operating websites and other massive online applications.

But some of Docker’s earliest supporters now believe that the company behind the technology, also called Docker, has strayed from its original mission, and they’re exploring a new project that aims to rebuild this kind of technology from scratch.

On Monday, a San Francisco startup called CoreOS unveiled an open source software project called Rocket, billing it as a Docker alternative that’s closer to what Docker was originally designed to be. “The original premise of Docker was that it was a tool that you would use to build a system,” says Alex Polvi, the CEO and co-founder of CoreOS, a company that has been one of Docker’s biggest supporters since the technology was first released early last year. “We think that still needs to exist…so we’re doing something about it.”

The project is still a long way from complete—CoreOS is open sourcing an early version of the technology in the hopes that others will help define and build it—but some notable names are already eyeing the technology, saying that it could help fill some holes in the cloud computing landscape. Craig Mcluckie, who helps oversees Google’s cloud computing services, calls the Rocket project “interesting,” saying that, if it continues to progress, Google will consider contributing to the project.

A Shipping Container for the Internet

You can think of Docker as a shipping container for the online universe, a tool that lets developers neatly package software and move it from machine to machine. Today, when running large online applications such as a Google or a Twitter or a Facebook, developers and businesses often spread software across dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of machines, and Docker provides a more efficient means of doing so.

It’s based on technology built into the Linux open source operating system—technology that Google has long used to more efficiently run its online operation, the largest on the net—and it seeks to provide a standard way of using this technology, something that any developer can use across all their own machines as well as atop cloud computing services from the likes of Google and Amazon, services that let them run software without setting up their own machines.

But for Polvi, Docker is no longer the simple container format it was originally designed to be. The trouble, he says, is that the software that runs Docker containers—known as the Docker Engine or Docker runtime—has evolved into something that’s far more complex than it was in the past. “If you pay attention to all the things that Docker is doing, currently, it’s really evolving into more of a platform, rather than a container used to build a platform,” he says.

Basically, Docker the company is packing the Docker runtime with all sorts of software designed to help developers run complex applications, and Polvi believes the technology should remain a simple building block for online applications. For instance, the Docker runtime now includes software for running containers across a large cluster of machines—software that behaves much like separate tools offered by Google, another San Francisco startup called Mesosphere, and other companies—and in this way, Polvi argues, it now competes with its own partners.

So, Polvi and CoreOS have built a new container format known, appropriately enough, as App Container, and they’ve created a runtime for this format called Rocket. They fashioned this software with an eye towards added security, but the main aim, Polvi says, is to return the Docker idea to its roots. “It’s time to rein things back in,” he says, “with an alternative.”

As Google indicates that it could contribute to the project in the future, Matt Trifiro, the head of business development at Mesosphere, says that the company’s engineers have already helped shape the project. Though Google’s Mcluckie says the project is still “nascent,” he, like Polvi, believes that a container technology should remain as a simple, modular technology that can be used to build much larger things. Trifiro argues much the same. “You need a nice, self contained unit that doesn’t have a lot of dependancies,” he says. “We think that [Rocket] serves a unique function in the marketplace—and we think it’s going to take off.”

‘Competitive Tension’

Cloud computing software and services from Google and Mesosphere will continue to run Docker containers, and both companies are careful to say they do not intend to split with the Docker project. You’ll hear much the same from Pivotal, another notable cloud computing company that’s eyeing the Rocket project. “Linux containers are important for the industry and we will collaborate with anyone on open standards to incorporate the lessons Pivotal has learned from years of running containers in production,” says Pivotal’s Andrew Clay Shafer.

On some level, these companies are trying to navigate what Polvi calls “competitive tension.” Though Docker the company is now offering tools that seem to compete with their own, Google and Mesosphere still believe in the basic idea of Docker—and they know it has enormous support from the wider community of internet developers.

Like Rocket, Docker is an open source project, but in some ways, it’s controlled by the company behind it. Rocket is an attempt to create a project that is “more open,” that allows for contributions from a much wider community. Polvi says, for instance, that anyone can build their own runtime that works with the App Container format.

This sort of thing often happens in the world of open source software, where outside developers and companies will grow dissatisfied with the direction of a project and start their own, hoping to better serve their own needs. CoreOS offers an new version of the Linux operating system that aims to simplify large online applications in myriad ways, and Polvi believes that the company’s customers are better served by the new project. But Polvi would be just as happy if Docker evolves into something that’s closer to Rocket.

“We intend to collaborate with Docker. We can contribute these ideas back to Docker,” he says. “It’s just that having an independent implementations will help things go faster.”



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What Is "the Cloud" — and Where Is It?

What Is "the Cloud" — and Where Is It? | IT Support and Hardware for Clinics | Scoop.it
There's at least one funny joke in Sex Tape. While frantically trying to cut off access to the amateur porn vid he accidentally uploaded to iCloud, Jason Segel tries to explain why deleting the file won't work. "Nobody understands the cloud," he says. "It's a fucking mystery!" He's kind of right.

"Cloud" is a buzzword that vaguely suggests the promise and convenience of being able to access files from anywhere. But the reality is that the cloud is hardly floating like mist above our heads — it's a physical infrastructure, its many computers housed in massive warehouses all over the world. And yet as long as it's easy read email on our phones and watch movies on our laptops, we generally don't take the time to wonder where our data actually goes, how it gets there, and what happens to on its way.

What is actually happening when you punt your files, photos, and videos up to servers owned by Apple, Google, and Amazon? Let's peek behind the cloud, and face reality.
Origins of Cloud Computing

While the term "cloud computing" has only entered the public's lexicon in the past 10 years or so, the idea's been around for decades. Cloud computing basically refers to a process of sharing resources to optimize performance. Practically speaking, that means using a network of computers to store and process information, rather than a single machine.

The early days of computing actually leaned heavily on a pretty similar concept. Back in the 1950s, when computer mainframes were the size of a room, users would log on to a dumb terminal to take advantage of the machine's processing power. (They're called dumb terminals because they can't really do much of anything without the mainframe.) This time-sharing model is pretty analogous to the way cloud computing works on the internet today. But instead of one massive mainframe in the middle of a room, we rely on a global infrastructure of servers and data centers to do the heavy lifting.

By the time the 90s rolled around, it was pretty clear to the cyber-prophets of days gone by that the future would enable the whole world to share resources. Engineers started using a drawing of a cloud to refer to this network in patent drawings in the mid-90s. Compaq engineers coined the term "cloud computing" in late 1996, and less than a year later, Steve Jobs described a proto-iCloud at WWDC:

It was pretty revolutionary at the time. You store your files one place and you can access them from any device. Fast forward to the iPhone era, and it's easy to forget the dark ages, when you actually had to burn CDs and tote around external hard drives. Now you start watching a movie on your laptop, switch to your tablet, and finish it on your phone without missing a scene.

Let's back up for a second, though. The idea of cloud computing is almost metaphysical. In more practical terms, however, the applications of cloud computing tend to revolve around one key feature: storage.
Life Without a Hard Drive

A wonderful thing happened about a decade ago. Thanks to a confluence of factors, lots of computers started getting persistent, high speed internet connections. Not long thereafter, mobile devices started getting the same thing. So if devices are always online, and data transfer speeds aren't abysmal, why not just store all the software and storage online?

That's essentially where we're headed with the 21st century notion of cloud computing. Cloud computing means that your laptop works less like a standalone computer and more like a dumb terminal. Ever used a Chromebook?

From a technical point of view, leaning on the larger network of computers in the cloud makes great sense. Suddenly, you don't need to worry as much about hardware specifications, like RAM or hard drive space, because the network can do the heavy lifting.

Distributing the load across lots of powerful servers means web-based applications can run more dependably and efficiently. These servers are constantly updating, and those web apps more or less always work. If one server crashes, there are others to pick up the slack. Your IT department at work probably loves this idea.

Those are the broad strokes of cloud computing. What people sometimes blindly refer to as "the cloud" is something a little bit different.
The Truth About "the Cloud"

Cloud computing is wildly popular at the enterprise level, where IT managers are focused on maintaining stable systems that are used by hundreds or thousands of employees. Most consumers encounter the cloud on an individual basis, however, with cloud storage. Where's that sex tape? It's in the cloud. But wait, what's the cloud? It is not a giant hard drive in the sky.

When you store something "in the cloud," you're actually storing it in a very physical space. That file slides across the wire and then lives on a physical server—usually more than one—in some far flung place. And depending on which cloud storage service you use, that file is now in the possession of a giant corporation to whom you probably pay a monthly fee. Anybody who's ever used Dropbox knows that this makes it incredibly convenient to access files or to share files from any computer with an internet connection.

In the past, you just bought a computer with a hard drive inside and stored your files there. Now, you pay a company like Apple or Google to store the file remotely and provide you with access when you ask for it.

If your data lives "in the cloud," it actually lives on a company's server, and you more or less pay a membership fee to work in that company's sandbox. Depending on that company's terms of service, you may or may not actually own or control that data once it lives in cloud storage. This raises a few glaring concerns in terms of security and privacy.
Storms Ahead

The Sex Tape example is a terrific analogy for how helpless you can be once you've uploaded something to the cloud—terrible movie, terrific analogy. Once your data's in the cloud, you've lost some basic control over it. If you upload a file to a cloud storage service like iCloud, Google Drive, or Amazon CloudDrive, you're actually making copies of that file. The file likely lives on several servers in case Godzilla attacks one of the data center or something, so if you want to delete that file, you're trusting the company to delete all of the copies.

As we've seen in the past, this doesn't always happen like it's supposed to. So you're not really in control of your data if you're not in possession of it. You're just not.

Let's say the police want to have a look. Depending on its particular privacy policies, the company you picked for your cloud storage can actually hand over your data whenever the authorities ask them. Sometimes, the cops don't even need a warrant. Companies like Google publish transparency reports on a regular basis that show how many hundreds of times this happens every year.

So just keep that in mind next time you're uploading something to Google Drive instead of storing it locally. The cops would need a warrant to break down your door and go searching through your personal hard drive. The process of getting information from Google is somewhat more streamlined.

Once you're at the stage where you're uploading files to Apple's servers, you've already agreed to the company's terms of service. (By the way, those terms of service probably failed to clarify who actually owns the data in the cloud.) The shitty part about this concern is that you can't do much about it, except trust the company storing your data and hope nothing bad happens.

Granted, tracking down deleted files and worrying about warrantless police searches don't necessarily affect the average person on a daily basis. However, the concern that a hacker could get ahold of sensitive information should be. Look no further than the catastrophic iCloud hack to understand how this is a very real concern.

What you can do is encrypt data before you upload it to the cloud. Here's how.
What's Next

The cloud is convenient. That fantasy that Steve Jobs described in 1997 is now a reality for a lot of people, and that's awesome. The cloud so awesome that the world's biggest technology companies are scrambling to find out how to make the most money they can off of it.

For now, the monthly fees you pay for cloud storage are comparable to what you'd pay for an external hard drive back in the day. The advantage is that you can access the data from anywhere and never have to worry about the data disappearing—probably. The disadvantage is that you don't have as much control over the data and never really know what's being done with it, and could be hard-pressed to make it disappear if you want it to go away.

Google was already talking about how to put advertising on the cloud nearly a decade ago. The dystopian future in which you'd have to watch pre-roll ads just to update your resume is not as dystopian as you might think.

Cloud storage is just one aspect of cloud computing, though. While the promise of this very 21st century technology is exciting, the reality of living in a world where we all carry around dumb terminals and depend on a for-profit entity to manage our data is sobering. This doesn't mean you should use iCloud or Google Drive or Dropbox or OneDrive or CloudDrive. It just means you should know what you're really doing when you're using them.

The cloud isn't magic. It's a business.
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