America · Computers

So, the cloud

I had intended to follow up my last post with a long, informative piece about where the various cloud hosting providers were registered and where they kept their data.

I had hoped to work out how to escape from the situation in which all of my personal and business data is being provided to foreign authorities that consider me, my company, and my customers to have no legal existence except as surveillance targets.

But I can’t do it.

The short answer seems to be that every cloud document hosting, music sharing, email hosting, code hosting, or online office applications company you have ever heard of is either an American company, or using American hosting, or both. If you are not an American citizen, information about you is being used by American security authorities, and you have no legal standing that might allow you to question how it is used.

And in any case, if you’re British like me, your own government has also engaged in all sorts of baroque deals to make its own internet data available to the American security authorities, and then to share the analysis results without any of the legal obligations.

I think that I have nothing to hide from any legal authority, and it’s incumbent on people like me to help to make the point by moving away from those authorities that we can no longer depend on. But it’s not easy to do.

For what it’s worth, I have moved my email hosting from Google mail (American company, American hosting, named in NSA leaks) to (Australian company, American hosting, not yet named in an NSA leak)—a marginal improvement.

And I’ve moved all of my web hosting—apart from this blog!—from Rackspace (American company, American hosting) to Hetzner (German company, German hosting). Perhaps next we’ll learn a bit more about the German government’s own monitoring apparatus.

It’s not enough.

Crap Things from Unaccountable Quangos

Good and bad of the Olympics, so far


The family and I went out to watch the Olympic women’s cycling road race yesterday.

Olympic women's road race, outboundOlympic women's road race

We watched them zip past on the way out of town, and then I stuck around to wave them back again in the hammering rain.

I really enjoyed it—you don’t get to see a great deal, but cheering people on in the rain gives you an uplifting sense of communal goodwill. Good crowd too, for two seconds of action on such a wet day.

Not so good

Linking to a photo on the Guardian website from Mike Blake of Reuters:

These soldiers, who were presumably in the Olympic park on security duty, have been called in to fill some of the premium seats left empty in an artistic gymnastics session. Other under-attended events at the weekend included swimming and diving sessions.

Gymnastics! Diving! You can be certain these events were over-subscribed with the general public.

As far as I can tell, the picture above is from the GA004 session on Sunday morning. That’s a session that we tried to get tickets for in the initial round of applications over a year ago. But, just as with all the other things we applied for in that round, we failed.

Still, looking on the bright side—those guys up there definitely deserve the seats more than the people they were actually allocated to.

Crap Things from Big Companies

SkyDrive: OK, let’s face it, it’s a bit pants

This is the second time I’ve been forestalled in writing a positive note about Microsoft’s SkyDrive cloud storage and apps service, by going to the site and finding it isn’t actually working at all:

I hadn’t asked for Hotmail. This is just where the site redirected me when I tried to log in to SkyDrive on my phone.

I must say this is nicely fitting, in light of Microsoft’s recent attack on the unpredictability of Google Docs: “Different… better… completely gone…” Perhaps they decided it was time to get ahead in the race to “completely gone”.

It’s a pity, as I kind of liked SkyDrive. I evaluated Office365 for business purposes a year ago, but gave up on it when I found it included no way to download your files—perhaps that was intentional for purposes of corporate control, or perhaps it’s fixed now, but it doesn’t seem to have been an issue with the SkyDrive office apps. In many ways I prefer the interface to that of Google Docs, and I think of Microsoft as the underdog nowadays in a way that makes me (dangerously) more inclined to trust them. And in fact, I probably will continue to use SkyDrive for the odd thing.

But it’s clear now that Microsoft aren’t really all that great at keeping it running. I’m afraid, despite my liking for the service, that it does appear to be just a little bit pants.