A Philosopher's Blog


Posted in Business, Technology by Michael LaBossiere on October 12, 2009
T-Mobile Color Sidekick
Image via Wikipedia

While some folks have been pushing Cloud Computing as the next great thing, there has been a rather nasty cloudburst. to start things off.  Over the weekend, many T-Mobile Sidekick owners were struck with a lightning bolt from these clouds as owners lost contacts, calendar data, to-do lists, and their photos. This loss was due to a “glitch” at Danger, a company owned by Microsoft. This did not impact all Sidekick owners, but the loss was still significant.

While Microsoft is working on rectifying the situation, this misadventure shows the risks inherent to cloud computing as well as the importance of having a method of backing up data down on earth, away from the clouds.

While this incident should be taken as a clear warning and a chance to learn a valuable lesson (admittedly one that should have been obvious), the cloud does offer some interesting advantages. For example, having data in the cloud means that you can (in theory) access your data from almost anywhere and with a variety of devices. Of course, as this incident shows, being able to access your data is not very useful if your data has evaporated.

This, of course, leads to the old advice: back up your data and put not your faith in clouds. Also, avoid using a device that doesn’t let you back up your data yourself.

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Should the US Postal Service Survive?

Posted in Business, Politics by Michael LaBossiere on October 12, 2009
United States Postal Service
Image via Wikipedia

I must admit that I haven’t written a real letter in years. I suspect that is true of many folks as well and is one small factor in the financial woes of the USPS. Of course, more significant factors in the USPS’s woes are corruption, waste, mismanagement and all the usual woes that afflict business and government. While the USPS is technically not run by the government, many folks like to point out that it is run like the government and this is part of the problem. Because of these problems, some folks have suggested that the USPS either be subject to a major overhaul (perhaps becoming truly private) or that it be dissolved.

While I do not write letters anymore, I still use the the mail to send in race entries and pay bills.  I also get my magazines (National Geographic, Scientific American, Newsweek, and Smithsonian) via the mail.

Of course, now many races offer online registration and I actually pay most of my bills online. When I send packages, I almost always use UPS or FedEx. I can also read most magazines online. As such, even I am beginning to wonder if the USPS’s days should be numbered.

On one hand, the mail services offered by the USPS can be handled by other means-either electronically or via private companies such as UPS or FedEx. Aside from my magazines and bills, about the only thing I get in the mail is junk. I certainly would not miss that.

On the other hand, the USPS handles a massive volume of material and if it were to go belly up, the truly private companies would be hard pressed to handle all this. Of course, they could scale up to handle the load; but this might simply serve to transform them into versions of the USPS and they could well suffer the same problems. Also, it is not clear that anyone would step in to handle daily mail deliveries and pickups. This would be a rather significant loss to businesses and individuals.

My considered view is that we do need the sort of services that the USPS provides. However, the constant financial woes and other problems of the USPS need to be addressed in an effective manner. This might require fundamentally changing the USPS. Actually, it probably will.

Of course, I am willing to consider that perhaps the USPS has almost outlived its legitimate lifespan. Perhaps the USPS is like the telegraph: once an essential communication tool, but no more. I don’t think we have reached that point yet, however.

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