24 February 2014

Cyberspace December 2013



Going mobile

If you work for a large firm or enterprise you may well have experience in using Citrix technologies to access the corporate IT systems. This allows you to use applications on any computer (Mac or PC) in a way that either makes the remote corporate desktop take over the local computer, or you can just use the remote applications in a way that it seems like they’re running locally. On a fast connection with good IT systems it can be just as good as being in the office. The big advantage of this is that all your data is safe on the corporate system, and you can reconnect anytime and carry on working. There are even Citrix clients for iOS and Android that work fairly well despite the small screen size. This, combined with diverting your desk phone to your mobile means that unless you need a paper file, you become “location independent.”

Amazon has now entered this field and are trialling “remote desktop computers.” The idea is that your local computer (Mac, PC, Linux, iOS, Android) does nothing at all except run the Amazon software that connects to the remote PC, and that PC lives in their data centre. Every time you connect you log into your “own” PC, which will be in the state in which you left it. So let’s say you’re a small firm. You don’t want to be too involved with technology but you’ve got a new employee or a temporary contractor. You buy for your employee a basic PC or Mac that only has the operating system installed (around $400). You then log into a web page at Amazon and click a few buttons, and some minutes later a new remote computer has been provisioned with the software you requested (eg Microsoft Office). The new user receives his login details and is up and running. Since Amazon is already offering servers in this virtual environment you can share documents with each other, and the computer and documents are all backed up. The user can log off at work and log in at home or at a client - the same computer desktop is available.  You pay for the remote PC by the month USD$35-75 depending on configuration. If you downsize your firm then you delete the PC and stop paying for it. Amazon is not alone in offering this type of service, but this seems to be the first relatively accessible offering to a wider market. You still might need some technical advice in how to configure email and file sharing services, but it certainly is an interesting model for a firm who doesn’t want a huge capital outlay or wants to outsource its IT management and backup.

Quick notes

In the late 90’s I was on a Law Society sub-committee on technology. One of the things we discussed was how many NSW solicitors had email addresses, and at that time it was well under 50%. I recently read a report (http://goo.gl/9lq3Tl) that a retired South Carolina attorney was disciplined for failing to have an active email address. We’ve come a long way.

Online dating profiles can be used in ways you don’t expect. The accused in a recent USA shooting has had his Match.com and AdultFriendFinder.com profiles and comments tendered in court.
My organisation has recently issued me with a Windows Phone 8, which I've been keen to try. I'm a very happy Android Nexus 4 user and ex-iPhone user, but Windows Phone 8 has been a bit of a challenge. Despite that, the Nokia Lumia 820 has great battery life and free downloadable GPS maps.