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Lost Gmail Emails and the Future of Web Apps 273

Posted by Zonk
from the i-like-keeping-my-stuff-thanks dept.
brajesh writes "Recently some people lost all their Gmail emails and contacts. The problem seems to be contained and fixed, but this incident shows how far are we in terms of moving all communication online on services like Gmail for your domain(beta). Will it ever be possible to do away with desktop solutions like Outlook and Thunderbird? Given the nature of the internet, will it ever be possible to truly move to an 'online desktop'?"
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Lost Gmail Emails and the Future of Web Apps

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  • Sure (Score:5, Insightful)

    by coleopterana (932651) on Friday December 29, 2006 @01:28PM (#17399918) Journal
    You have the potential of losing email anywhere you store it--it's trading the server for your desktop, in a way. Every new solution used en masse will have new problems. I suppose I'm always a lot more worried about hard drive meltdowns then server problems--someone takes a lot better care of those, or so I'm told.
    • by motek (179836) on Friday December 29, 2006 @01:45PM (#17400204) Homepage
      ...whatever you mean by that. This is about control over my stuff. Or rather perception of control. I am a control freak. Almost. And I am not alone. I had an issue with using software like Outlook in the first place (file format and such) because I may lose access to my archive. Now someone is trying to convince me to give up yet more control. Thanks, but no, thanks. My willingness to trade this control for release from my responsibilities (for taking care of my stuff) only goes that far.

      I hope and expect the on-line desktop to be as successful as Java-station (or whatever it was called).

      -m-
      • by shmlco (594907) on Friday December 29, 2006 @01:56PM (#17400394) Homepage
        Your "control" is an illusion, and the potential to lose your data is just as real. In fact, a service org probably has RAIDed drives and automated and offsite backup systems superior to what most people are doing on thier own... if they're doing it at all.

        In your case you may "think" you're in control, when in fact your last backup copied over the same corrupted data, your archive DVD is now unreadable, and your last full offsite backup is two months old.
        • by motek (179836) on Friday December 29, 2006 @02:20PM (#17400742) Homepage
          I would not call it an 'illusion'. For one reason or another, enthusiasts of on-line services assume their detractors to be technologically inept bozos. That is short sighted. The matter is that I can (and I am forced) to take steps to ensure the security of my data. And I alone am to blame if I fail to do so. There is definitely something to what you wrote. I did realize that when I wrote my post. This is what 'perception of control' was supposed to mean.

          Please realize that my arguments against the 'google desktop' are not technical. And not even relate to that company's level of service (even though there is something to be said about it; but this is a beta, so no matter). They are on the level of perception, not the net result (and on a large scale). In a way this is similar to the 'airplane effect'. Everybody knows that overall air travel is way safer then driving. Still, plane crashes are way more publicized then car accidents. And great many people (including seasoned travelers) get an uneasy feeling boarding a plane, while getting into their cars every morning without giving risks they are taking any thought. Why so? I believe the root cause to be the perception of control. Or, as you preferred to call it, an 'illusion'.

          -m-
        • RAID is not backup (Score:2, Insightful)

          by bigredradio (631970)

          I agree that they probably have better redundancy than the average user, however, if they are taking the responsibility for my data, they should be making backups that can recover in case of data loss. RAID is good, however if a file is corrupt, or deleted, then it is corrupt on multiple disks or deleted from multiple disks.

          Are they willing to take on the added cost of backup/storage. If so, how far back to the backups go? How often is the backup run?

          If my data is local, then it's my responsibility to m

        • Granted online services in general probably have better equipment, better techs and redundancy that I can only dream of but the intangible that the parent poster is talking about when speaking of control is based on value and care. As a customer I am valuable to an online service and they will take a lot of steps to ensure my satisfaction (if they want to stay in business that is) but they will only go so far. I, on the other hand, have no problem spending the better part of my life recovering something if
        • What you are missing is that "control" here is only a shorthand for "independence". No person can really have control over a computer anyway because it is a magic box that operates on the atomic scale, but one can possess that magic box and operate it.

          If you have your data on your computer then the only thing you are relying on is power and the continued operation of your computer. You are independent because, with a generator, you have in your possession the only things you need. On the other hand, if g
          • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

            by Scaba (183684)

            So, let me get this straight - the first thing you'll want to have access to after a "world-society-ending" event is a encyclopedia of questionable accuracy, filled with mostly trivial information? I guess that's OK, though, since you'll be easier to defend against by those of us who will hoard food and weapons.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by rhizome (115711)
          In fact, a service org probably has RAIDed drives and automated and offsite backup systems superior to what most people are doing on thier own... if they're doing it at all.

          I'm having trouble resolving this comment with the topic of the thread, namely "Lost GMail Emails."
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by cloudmaster (10662)
          Number of users for whom I've lost email: 0
          Number of users for whom Google has lost email: >0

          You forget, those people who run "enterprise" systems - they're just people who go home sometimes, and when they're home, they don't forget how to run a proper system. My mail servers are faster, though, and will remain that way until Google starts offering dedicated machines with gigabit connectivity to my workstation. Maybe you can't manage to figure out how to automate backups, and maybe you think that
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by SirCyn (694031)
        You can not directly control the computer or the programs that it runs. You merely interact with it. Your idea of control is an illusion. With snail-mail you have paper, you can directly control that paper. With e-mail the computer has bits and bytes, you have what it shows you.
        • by motek (179836)
          Thank you for enlightening me. I really appreciate your insight.

          -m-
        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by mr_mischief (456295)
          I see you've never lost a letter sent through the postal service. Good for you. Will you be contacting Guinness and Ripley's, or shall I?

          A programmer or an administrator has the possibility of much more control over his or her email than a person dropping a scrap of paper in a steel box.

          Of course, any idea of absolute control over anything is misguided and even a bit silly. You don't have absolute control over your own body. If you did, you'd never get sick. You probably don't have absolute control over you
      • My willingness to trade this control for release from my responsibilities (for taking care of my stuff) only goes that far.

        Well, you can keep your money under your mattress, but banks are generally safer, even though you have a lot less control over when you can make deposits and withdrawals, etc.

        For me, I regard on-line mail services and "desktops" as soon becoming like my bank (they aren't there yet). I look forward to using Gmail as my primary email account, and letting Google protect my corresponde

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by TheMeuge (645043)
        I don't see why you don't set your Gmail to POP all email to your desktop.

        That's what I do. If Gmail loses my mail, then so be it, because while I have the convenience of an online email account, I also have the assurance of control and safety of my RAID5 desktop.

        As far as security issues... if I care about Google bots reading a particular email, I'll use PGP.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by rm69990 (885744)
        Gmail offers POP downloads for both all incoming AND outgoing e-mail. Install Thunderbird, set up with Gmail, download everything once a week and backup your contacts to Thunderbird's address book. There, problem solved :-)

        I personally use Gmail for the interface and delete e-mail after it is 30 days or so old anyways as opposed to storing it (I'm much more worried about accidentally remaining logged in to Gmail on a school machine, exposing years of backups, than I am about Google's handling of my e-mail)
    • by toddbu (748790)
      someone takes a lot better care of those, or so I'm told

      In a world where everything is free, I sometimes wonder. In cases where you've paid for a service, you have every right to demand that your data is restored if lost. Not that the company is guaranteed to help you, but at least you can insist that they do something. If they don't, you always have the option of a lawsuit. So what is the consequence of Google losing all your data? Apart from some bad press, there doesn't seem to be any.

      I'm not su

      • by Kadin2048 (468275) <slashdot.kadinNO@SPAMxoxy.net> on Friday December 29, 2006 @02:20PM (#17400728) Homepage Journal
        The nice thing about GMail is that having your email on the server, and having it on your desktop, are not mutually exclusive. It's trivial, if you know what you're doing, to set up your GMail account so that it's always backed up to a local machine. There are even step by step [blogspot.com] instructions for doing it. You just set up a POP connection and suck down your entire mailfile, and then set up your local mailreader to download the new ones periodically.

        Google rightly doesn't make any QoS promises, because it's giving you a free service. However, it's a pretty good bang for the (lack of) buck; and it doesn't preclude you from doing things to protect your data on your end. Until Google came along, I don't think most free webmail services let you have this level of desktop/web-service cooperation. (Though I think Yahoo's mail does POP access now. Not sure about Hotmail.)
      • Re:Sure (Score:5, Insightful)

        by gregmac (629064) on Friday December 29, 2006 @02:23PM (#17400768) Homepage

        In a world where everything is free, I sometimes wonder. In cases where you've paid for a service, you have every right to demand that your data is restored if lost. Not that the company is guaranteed to help you, but at least you can insist that they do something. If they don't, you always have the option of a lawsuit.
        Most EULA's (you know, the things you agree to when you sign up for the service - even if you pay them) or contracts specifically say you acknowledge that they're not responsible for loss of data, or liable for any damages you suffer because of it.

        It sucks for the end user, but it means the company doesn't get sued out of business if they make one little mistake.
        • by toddbu (748790)
          I agree, at least in principle. Let's say I run a calendar service and I miss an appointment for a multi-million dollar deal because my service lost the data. I can't sue for the lost business because of the EULA. But it's unclear to me from the EULA that I don't have the right to demand the recovery of the actual data that represents the calendar appointment.
    • by drsquare (530038)
      The difference is, on my computer it's my own fault and in my own control whether my e-mails end up lost, not the fault of some overrated PHD making a mistake on the other side of the world.
    • by Myopic (18616)
      I suppose I'm always a lot more worried about hard drive meltdowns then server problems

      Well, yes, a server problem which chronologically follows after a hard drive meltdown would be like rubbing salt in the wound. That is what you meant, right?
  • by gavinroy (94729) on Friday December 29, 2006 @01:29PM (#17399930) Homepage
    No one ever loses their data on their PC.
    • by paeanblack (191171) on Friday December 29, 2006 @01:41PM (#17400142)
      No one ever loses their data on their PC. ...and dead-tree-format is impervious to fires, floods, and accidental disposal.

      If it's important, make a backup or twenty. Unfortunately this commandment was engraved on Moses' third tablet.
    • by Trails (629752)
      Parent is exactly right. Moreso, GMail is still in beta, maybe for a reason?

      Has anyone ever lost data due to an error in a beta desktop app?

      The fact that the article claims (or insinuates, with that aggravating CNN & FOXNEWS technique of posing statements as questions, e.g. "Pakistan supporting Taleban troops?" to get around backing them up) that this incident demonstrates some innate problem in web apps is idiotic. It's like saying "it's colder than normal on the west coast, so global warming doesn't
      • by HMC CS Major (540987) on Friday December 29, 2006 @02:03PM (#17400498) Homepage
        Google claims most of their stuff is beta, so that's hardly a defense.

        The fact of the matter is that all hard drives fail at some point, and most RAID controllers eventually fail, too. Relying on a service to do backups for you is safer than no backups at all, but it's not sufficient if you have truly important data.

        The "innate problem in web apps" is probably closer to reality than you want to admit - companies like Google, Yahoo, and MSN are fighting a battle in scalability. Having multiple redundant backup systems (array + offline backup) makes scaling much, much more expensive than designing a single fault-tolerant, semi-redundant primary system (large array of whatever kind).

        If you think all of the massive online media sites (think Flickr, for example) have backups of all of your photos, you're probably mistaken. They certainly have basic protection against single disk failure, but that's not always going to save the data in the event of a catastrophe.
  • But... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by m-wielgo (858054) on Friday December 29, 2006 @01:29PM (#17399934) Homepage
    Do we want too? I don't like the idea of somebody besides me having ALL of my data.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by $RANDOMLUSER (804576)
      Why? They'll take much better care of it than you do. (RAID, daily backups, off-site storage, regular hardware upgrades...)
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Nos. (179609)
        Sure, but I've never lost all my email... apparently gmail has
      • by Daemonstar (84116)
        It's not about the availability of data, but of the contents. If I wrote some anti-view pieces (if only in a journal or diary), I don't want other people with potentially dissenting interests to get ahold of it. And what about my Quicken data? What about home-business accounting files? What about my audio/video files that I have backed up from my bought media, but the *AA's don't see it that way? What about porn fetishes? :P

        The potential for abuse is too high; I'll stay with my own RAID and backups,
      • Are they now? Like someone said in another thread, given the size of Google's data set how likely is it that they just don't bother doing backups, but just rely on RAID-like redundancy? Would they really be able to recover if their data center blew up?
    • by Xugumad (39311)
      Bah! Unbeliever!

      But seriously, I agree. I'd love, and I'm sure I'm not alone, the university I work for to use GMail for all its e-mail (the supplied web mail service is... well, lets say suboptimal). However, this is not going to happen, for reasons ranging from confidentiality (I'm sure students would love Google to have a copy of all their e-mail, for example) to reliability (I just love it when I can't even read my existing e-mail, when our network link goes down). Personally, I'm more expecting Google
  • Recently some people lost all their Gmail emails and contacts.


    Will it ever be possible to do away with desktop solutions like Outlook and Thunderbird?


    Because local mailbox file corruption never happens?
    • by pilgrim23 (716938)
      After reading my mail I tend to immediately delete it. Seems to work for me. Usually I use elm but occasionally I will get wild and use a more exotic client like Pine.
  • Simple answer: YES. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by dada21 (163177) * <adam.dada@gmail.com> on Friday December 29, 2006 @01:30PM (#17399952) Homepage Journal
    I use Gmail for Domains and love it -- we've even been moving customers over to it and they love it.

    I still use a POP3 e-mail app to download e-mails for archival purposes or to better format them for printing. I also use POP3 to get my e-mails to my cell phone/PDA (HPC Trinity P3600, best product ever) and it works fine.

    I am ready to move to a virtual online desktop TODAY. Anything I need to backup I will -- everything else I'd rather pay someone else to host for me. While graphics design and high-data jobs require me to work locally, almost everything else works just fine remotely. I can see Wordpress evolving to the point that it could compete with Word locally, and I already use Google Spreadsheet for all my spreadsheet work (I've actually removed my office suite entirely as of last week).

    As long as it works over my T-Mobile EDGE connection (bigger than a thin client), it is fine with me. Those days are quickly coming that I won't care what OS I am running as long as my browser is compatible with my online desktop.
    • by ceoyoyo (59147)
      I'm sitting here at my Grandmother's borrowing wireless from a neighbor. The signal is very weak and page loads are on the order of 30 seconds. The idea of online apps makes me shudder.
      • by dada21 (163177) *
        I'm sitting here at my Grandmother's borrowing wireless from a neighbor. The signal is very weak and page loads are on the order of 30 seconds. The idea of online apps makes me shudder.

        No, you're just supporting the reality of supply-demand. You have a demand for a service (Internet) at a given price (free). The supply of that service is limited, so you're getting what you want, but because the supply is limited, the quality is comensurate with what you're willing to pay (nothing).

        If you wanted better ser
        • by ceoyoyo (59147)
          Precisely. 30 second net latency is fine for my given work, because it's all local, on my computer, and thus has effectively no latency.

          If you want me to use your online apps, you have to give me the same quality of access, at a price that is equal or cheaper. At the moment, for me to use online apps the way I use local ones would require me to sign up for high speed access for the two weeks I'm here. Oh, can't do that. Even if you could, it would take the phone or cable company at least a couple of wee
          • by dada21 (163177) *
            So right now I can see that the "online desktop" might work pretty well for office workers, so long as they don't travel. As soon as you travel at all it's going to cost you quite a bit, and for dubious advantages.

            But all I do is travel -- my entire business life revolves around fast net access. When I go to India or Switzerland or Poland or France, my EDGE-based cell phone tethered to my laptop works fine -- nearly everywhere. I have a variety of SIM cards from a variety of providers, but my net annual c
            • by ceoyoyo (59147)
              Again, you're in a special situation that doesn't apply to the majority of people who use computers. I'm a student -- no billable hours for me! I think you'd also be quite disappointed in the ability of your "almost unlimited" high speed net access to keep up with a full online desktop as well. Is it fast enough? What kind of hard drive do you have in your computer? Mine's a 5400 RPM drive and I get irritated when programs have to do a lot of disk accesses. But that's still WAY faster than any portabl
        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by mysticgoat (582871)

          If you wanted better service, you'd just invest in either a better antenna, or a relationship with your neighbor so that they move the wireless router closer to you, or you'd spend money on the quality of service you require -- at a given cost.

          Or he could invest in a can of Pringles potato chips and a few minutes of his time googling for directions on turning it into a decent antenna.

          Basically grandparent post is all about ineptitude at thieving bandwidth. As with any other kind of thievery, the respon

  • well (Score:2, Interesting)

    Personally I don't want any email stored on my computer. Granted, I have enough space for it, but with different breeds of viruses and what not, I'd rather not make provision for them to occupy a single sector.

    As to the contacts and emails being lost... Backup, backup, backup! GMail has an export feature.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Digital Vomit (891734)
      Personally I don't want any email stored on my computer.

      Me neither. That's why I write all my email by hand.

      • >Me neither. That's why I write all my email by hand.

        You are Chuck Norris and I claim my £5.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday December 29, 2006 @01:30PM (#17399960)
    Those users were victims of a deliberate cross-site scripting attack in Firefox 2.0. If this problem had involved Windows Live Mail and IE7, do you honestly think we'd be using terms like "lost" and dodging the real issue, which is browser security?
  • by Brigadier (12956) on Friday December 29, 2006 @01:33PM (#17400026)


    I think that is the direction that joe average wants the internet to go. He wants to upload and save all his pics to the net, have all his e-mails accessable via the web from anywhere. He wants his bills e-mailed to him and he wants his banking online. He also likes the idea of accessing his phone messages via his computer.

    The traditional desktop was never by choice I dont think. It evolved this way because of technological limitations, lets be honest. If it were from pure design it would be no bigger than a note pad. So my point is yes it will be a reality it's just a matter of companies investing in gurantees. As opposed to just selling a hot service without really backing it up. This applies not only to e-mail but to online sales (security), storage services like flicker and utube (bandwidth and up time).
  • by dave-tx (684169) * <{moc.liamg} {ta} {todhsals+80891fd}> on Friday December 29, 2006 @01:35PM (#17400054)

    You can use POP [64.233.187.104] (google cache link, the original seems to be missing) to back up your Gmail mail....Anyone have a alternate method that they use?

    • by garcia (6573)
      You can use POP (google cache link, the original seems to be missing) to back up your Gmail mail....Anyone have a alternate method that they use?

      I'm the reverse. I have all my mail sent local first and then I sent it on to GMail. That way it's backed up in two places *and* I have easy access to all my e-mail from remote locations that might not have putty or allow me to run something other than the browser.
  • by brennanw (5761) * on Friday December 29, 2006 @01:36PM (#17400082) Homepage Journal
    ... why would we really want to move to an online desktop in the first place? The PC revolution moved us away from a mainframe/terminal environment. Why would we want to move back to a similiar model?
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by loxfinger (571135) *
      I like having my email online so I can check it anywhere there's a computer and an Internet connection. Notebook PC's are a pain to carry around everywhere....
      • by 87C751 (205250)
        I like having my email online so I can check it anywhere there's a computer and an Internet connection. Notebook PC's are a pain to carry around everywhere....
        So do I. That's why I'm set up to hit my personal server with an IMAP client.
    • by dada21 (163177) * <adam.dada@gmail.com> on Friday December 29, 2006 @01:47PM (#17400230) Homepage Journal
      The PC revolution moved us away from a mainframe/terminal environment. Why would we want to move back to a similiar model?

      I don't think the PC revolution moved us away from client/server -- it was the bandwidth/process/cost ratios that did. A PC with sneakernet provided better cost/efficiency ratios that did mainframe/terminal. As PC networks progressed, it really surpassed the server/terminal environment. But now we have extended the network beyond the office, and bandwidth is up, costs are down, so the focus today is on offering people access to their data from everywhere instead of just their hard drive.

      I love client/server if it means having a really powerful server and a weak client. My PCs at home sit around doing nothing 80% of the day -- wasted hard drive space, wasted processor time, wasted hardware. Sure I can crunch some scientific equations on the PCs when they're dark, but all that technology could be better used if it was shared for others to use.

      I would rather lease processor time/hard drive space to use as I needed -- in the amount I needed -- than worry about buying the latest and greatest every 6 months just to keep up. There are times when I have to RIP a 4GB print file on my most powerful PC and I wish I could get a cluster of machines to RIP it faster. For me, client/server in this case would make sense -- if I had 4-6Mbps of bandwidth to send the RIP'd info to my local printer. I _have_ RIPd big EPS files on a remote PC in the past and sent it via DSL to the printer (yes, 500Kbps was fast enough to keep the printer humming along).

      For most people, leasing space/processors online would be cheaper -- and I think ISPs will move in that direction in the near future, as they already have in the recent past. Advertising-sponsored web servers are the norm lately, and I don't see why this won't make many happier. Google's apps are ad-sponsored and they work fine for me (and have even connected me with great online services through reading those ads on occasion).
    • The PC revolution moved us away from a mainframe/terminal environment. Why would we want to move back to a similiar model?

      Well, what do you think the web is? You request a page from a server, it sends one back, your browser renders it. You change some data on it, hit "Submit", it sends the changes back to the server for processing, the server responds with another page. Lather, rinse, repeat...

      Now go look up the detail of the 3270 display terminal protocol. Control characters define regions of the screen and assign attributes to those regions — sounds a lot like "<div style='background-color:black;foreground-colo

  • There are people claiming that they received e-mail stating that it was a malicious attack. I'm guessing that it's just some pranksters jumping on the bandwagon, but who knows. Others are claiming that Firefox 2 had a scripting vulnerability which led to this problem.

    mandelbr0t
    • by Jugalator (259273)
      Yes, I think this is really about users getting "owned" through third party software weaknesses and Gmail could honestly ignore them and still not be very evil in my opinion, but they're probably trying to save their accounts due to the publicity this story earned.
  • if your boss canned you via email, you can always claim you never got the message.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by operagost (62405)
      Yeah, but you'll stop getting paychecks and he'll move your desk down to the basement. While you're down there, we've got a little insect problem. Could you take care of that? That'd be great.
  • by rs79 (71822)
    "will it ever be possible to truly move to an 'online desktop'?""

    Probably for a while, but that's stupid. Server functions will migrate to your desktop. Many of us have already done this. The rest of you folks are called "Windows users".

    • Sad, few people will understand what you said, but I agree.
    • Re:duh (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Doctor Memory (6336) on Friday December 29, 2006 @03:15PM (#17401480)

      Server functions will migrate to your desktop.
      Yep, and I've migrated them back off again. Nothing like trying to run make on a good-sized project when somebody suddenly decides to load 300+ snapshots into Postgres (even running Solaris). Now a database/file/print server sits on a milk crate next to the dehumidifier in the basement, and my desktop is no longer subject to the desires of others.

      If you've got server functions running on your desktop, you don't have either a desktop or a server...
  • Yes. No. Maybe. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by captnitro (160231) on Friday December 29, 2006 @01:39PM (#17400118)
    Will it ever be possible to do away with desktop solutions like Outlook and Thunderbird? Given the nature of the internet, will it ever be possible to truly move to an 'online desktop'?


    Absolutely. But that doesn't necessarily make it a good (or bad) idea.

    Personally, I don't like the idea of my entire digital "memoirs" being elsewhere where anything can happen to them. Now, it's not a rational fear -- Google has a datacenter, and I'm tapping this out on a five-year-old Athlon T-bird (newer HDs, however). But if something goes wrong here, I have full control. I know the routines for extracting data off of a dead drive. They've spent money to ensure that the likelihood of failure is much, much lower than my old little desktop, but if something goes wrong there, I have no control. Again, not a rational fear -- they're much more skilled than I am at recovering my data. But they're also not going to stay up until 3am just for old e-mails to my family from when I was a freshman in college.

    I think one of the things I dislike about Web 2.0 most of all is the fact that all my data is elsewhere. There's a lot to be said for ownership and control. I have no problem with distributed applications, but I want my crucial data no more than 100 feet away.
    • I have no problem with distributed applications, but I want my crucial data no more than 100 feet away.
      Well I sure hope you keep the harddrive somewhere waterproof when you take it scuba diving.

      (Just joking, I got your point)

  • I for one... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jimstapleton (999106) on Friday December 29, 2006 @01:41PM (#17400146) Journal
    will probably never move to an online desktop. (bet you were expecting something about overlords)

    (1) I don't want my personal data on another person or groups computer, especially without an option of having my own baackup of all my data. Even with the latter, I'd be leary, but the latter hasn't even happened yet in many cases, so I'm not expecting it to happen soon.

    (2) An online storehouse like that would be a hackers dream. I'm not likely to have anything majorly secure on my system, but nonethelless, I'd rather remain a small unimportant target (my PC), than a large glowing beacon of temptation (remote server housing a lot of people's data).

    (3) Occasionally ISPs have trouble. I've not seen this with my ISP yet, but I've known a lot of people who have had 4-24 hour downtimes. I don't want to loose access to my documents/data if that ever happens with my ISP.

    (4) I don't have to deal with slower (compared to hard drive access) network connections and stressed servers making things slow when I'm using my computer.

    (5) If I'm travelling around, and using my notebook, I don't want to have to worry about my documents not being available when I go somewhere that may not have internet access. Kein danke.

    I understand 4 can be handled, and so can parts of 2, but I am really *not* keen on using an online desktop except for thnings that are naturally net-dependant anyway (such as email).

  • People with desktops need offsite backup to preserve their data. People with web apps need onsite backup, or "othersite" backup. This is certainly one of the reasons I don't like the web app thing so much. It's no big deal for me to ZIP or tar-gzip my desktop data, and transfer it someplace. Pulling down data from some of these web apps in a standard format is less straightforward. So. These things really ought to have a "download all your data" option. Not sure what format you'd want to use. For Gm

    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      hese things really ought to have a "download all your data" option. Not sure what format you'd want to use. For Gmail, maybe Berkely DB format would be sufficient.

      It makes more sense to export your mail in mbox format, which is apprehendable by a wide range of tools. Who stores mail in a berkeley db file? The ideal solution of course is for them to sell you backups of your own data. Oh sure, they should let you download it for free, it's your data, but for a few extra bucks they can mail you a DVD-R, wh

  • Two Things... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by localman (111171) on Friday December 29, 2006 @01:47PM (#17400238) Homepage
    First, this loss of data by Google doesn't say much about the online vs. desktop storage debate. Chances are that less people have lost email through this recent gmail foul-up than who lost their email because their own computer crashed. It's just that now there's someone to point the finger at.

    Aside from that, though, I don't see that online will replace desktop in the foreseeable future -- there's too many things that are cumbersome to do online (like music and video editing) and way too many things that I wouldn't want in someone else's hands. The former might be fixed when we get consistent gigabit broadband (though maybe not if video quality and speed expectation continues to increase), but the latter, I don't know. There's certain things I create that I want to keep to myself.

    Cheers.
  • by pla (258480) on Friday December 29, 2006 @01:47PM (#17400244) Journal
    Given the nature of the internet, will it ever be possible to truly move to an 'online desktop'?"

    Sure - As long as the server lives in my home office.

    A decade ago I actually had such a setup for a few years, until my ISP decided to actually enforce the vague and arguably impossible "no servers" rule in their TOS. My email went to my home machine, which I could check by SSH'ing in from anywhere in the world. If I needed a file, I could tunnel in, mount a share off my home fileserver, and do whatever I wanted.

    XP has actually made that more doable, in that Remote Desktop works pretty damned well even over slow connections. So now I have access to GUI-only information as well (yeah yeah, I used to do VNC or remote X desktops, but even over a broadband connection those crawl, and don't (directly) support sharing any non-GUI resources such as files, printers, and sound).


    The problem here comes from our ISPs, who want to sell us something then have us never use it, whether our already meagre upstream bandwidth, or unwritten but strictly enforced monthly caps (*cough* Verizon *cough*). Never forget, in the heat of all the debate on the subject, that "net neutrality" only applies to big companies who view us as consumers of content. We small-scale end users have never enjoyed neutrality.

    So to answer the question - We can truly move to an "online" desktop just as soon as enough of us force the ISPs to let us use the bandwidth we pay for however the hell we want. Not before.
    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      XP has actually made that more doable, in that Remote Desktop works pretty damned well even over slow connections. So now I have access to GUI-only information as well (yeah yeah, I used to do VNC or remote X desktops, but even over a broadband connection those crawl, and don't (directly) support sharing any non-GUI resources such as files, printers, and sound).

      FWIW you can use FreeNX to get an X connection that is around the same level of efficiency as RDC.

      It doesn't get you resource sharing, as you

    • My ISP blocks ports 80 and 25 - particularly irritating, if you ask me. My ISPs TOS, if read to the letter, would mean that multiple browser windows or tabbed browsing are inappropriate because it's more than one session over the broadband pipe.

      I agree that it would be ideal if I could use every port I want, block the ones I want to firewall - but I'm too cheap to pay for that kind of access.

      So I work around it. I use dyndns [dyndns.com] to create a pointer to my dynamic IP address. My ISP does not block https or ssh
  • by LoudMusic (199347) on Friday December 29, 2006 @01:50PM (#17400308)
    I think it's absolutely possible. But I think a synchronizing system like .Mac uses makes more sense. In the event that you are unable to connect to the internet service (you're down / they're down / ...) you still have everything from your last synchronization. And this also provides even more backups of your important data.
  • Back in Feb '05, I discovered all of my January mail disappeared. Gmail support was completely f'n useless. They couldn't/wouldn't share any info about how it might have happened.. At that time I was mostly testing gmail but now I have crud in there I'd like to retain.. I was hoping these problems were behind them.

    Their final reply before completely ignoring me:

    > Hello,
    >
    > Thank you for your reply.
    >
    > We have completed a thorough investigation of your Gmail account, and can
    > confirm that a
  • It isn't necessary to completely move to an 'online' desktop. Desktops as we know them now have their place, they have their own significant advantages, and I am sure that with time we will all be using both. A lot of people can't imagine an "online desktop," but the next batch of netizens will probably already be accustomed to the idea, and will use it, alongside a traditional desktop OS, be it a linux distro, Mac's OS, or Windows. As for losing all yours emails, shit happens. Anything you have any use fo
  • Will it ever be possible to do away with desktop solutions like Outlook and Thunderbird?

    WTF is wrong with a desktop solution? Our client systems are every bit as powerful as the servers, so why can't we use some of that power to provide a responsive and consistant user interface? Quad core laptops are coming, but to hear the way you guys speak, all the processing power should only be used for rendering crappy flash animations.

    Don't replace the desktop with a browser. Replace it with a better desktop.
  • Its safer to fly than it is to drive, but if the plane crashes your almost certainly going to die. Having google handle your mail and address books is certainly safer than storing them on your personal computer (most windows users I know reload their system almost every year), but when google loses your information-- your not getting it back.
    • "It's safer to fly than to drive"

      Is that based on a deaths or deaths+injuries number? Per time interval of use? per absolute time interval regardless of use? distance? trip?

      I've always seen that, but never seen the number, it's a stat I'm not sure I trust.

      Numbers can be magled to proove whatever you want. I could say without looking at any numbers there are fewer plane related deaths per year than car related deaths. But the total number of minutes per year that people are in cars is probably a lot more.

      Oh,
  • by Lethyos (408045) on Friday December 29, 2006 @02:25PM (#17400794) Journal

    Amazing! It turns out that there is a risk that data might be lost when the systems storing it fail. Indded, this is a remarkable revelation.

    People need to get real. There is no magic with any service. Faults occur and mistakes are made. If anything, your data is safer with Google than anyone else because they know how to properly deal with huge volumes of data and how to preserve it correctly. Many service providers and most home users have no clue how to survive data loss and client applications that store mails on your disk do little to improve reliability in the absense of redundancy and backups.

    To tangentally plug Apple, I am looking forward to Time Machine on Mac OS X 10.5 which uses the copy-on-write features of ZFS to provide incremental backups.

  • I, for one... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Starker_Kull (896770) on Friday December 29, 2006 @02:35PM (#17400952)
    ...am surprised that more FOSS advocates are not sounding the alarm about this one. Forget arguments about availability, backups, etc. - all of those are technical arguments, and time is on the side of those who argue that broadband is becoming ubiquitous, large companies have better backup systems than individuals ever will, etc.; it WILL be technically feasible; if not now, then in a few years. That's not really the problem.

    It's ALL about control. For instance, Microsoft would love to make an OS that you rent rather than buy. Moving large portions of the software industry to a rental model is a software shop's wet dream, and Web Apps are a perfect way to introduce and enforce such a model. What happens when they have your data and the (proprietary) applications to read/write/process that data? Do you think the cost of software will go up or down with their increased leverage? "Okay, you don't want to pay anymore for using Enumerate(c)? That's fine, we'll send you your binary data files in a few months or so. Have fun getting the data out of them." You know how just about every EULA under the sun makes it clear that the software has, essentially, no guarantee as to performance? If web apps have the same lack of guarantee, what leverage do you have if you want to switch to a different software provider? It's the best form of lock-in yet devised.

    Of course, people will argue that, 'Of course, we'll still keep local backups', or 'Our computers will not be THAT thin of a client'. Sure they will. Until the killer app comes out that there IS no local version of; Google is making tentative steps in that direction. That's the whole point of FOSS, particularly open document standards - so you, as a user of that data, have the leverage to pick and choose a different software provider, or write code yourself, or hire someone to do it from scratch, to access that data. I have little interest in contributing/participating in a software model that reduces the limited control I have today.

  • Will it ever be possible to do away with desktop solutions like Outlook and Thunderbird?

    Well, I have, at home at least...

    I use Gmail, and sure, there was a problem, but as the story said, it should have been solved by now.

    One may ask why one would be willing to trust Gmail in not crashing or deleting your mail, but on the other hand, having this happened for the first known time, after all these years since the service went only, with all their hundreds of thousands of registered users, it's obvious that
  • You can backup your gmail account through the use of POP, however this is cumbersome and it does not allow you to reimport them should something happen. Google should really consider offering a zipped archive of all your mail as well as some file with the metadata and allow you to reimport all your emails (they could keep some checksum to make sure it's really gmail messages that used to be there). This would make gmail even better (it's already better than most webmail free services which don't allow POP).
  • I simply forward my GMail to my local POP3 account and get a local copy using ThunderBird. Once a week, it takes me about 10 minutes to delete stuff that I don't want permanently archived. When I backup my stuff to DVD-Rs, I also include my ThunderBird inbox.

    Google relies on replication of data for backup - statistically OK, but for a free service I don't mind also doing my own backups.
  • You don't have to give up control of your information just to have access to it from most any computer.

    With a USB thumb drive (which has ever increasing capacity) along with some apps from here [portableapps.com], I can have the best of both worlds. My data is with me at all times, and it's in my hands, not the hands of some corporation which may use my data in ways I don't like, or lose it, or go under.

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