Reader rabid: Gmail failures, Amazon blunders, and government spying

I write, you respond. Ain't the InterWebs grand? The residents of Cringeville chime in about Gmail failures, Amazon's Orwellian nightmare, and the evil governments can achieve with the help of technology

It's time once again to recap the best of what's been pouring into my mailbox (now that my e-mail is working again). Here's what the residents of Cringeville had to say about what I've been saying lately.

In a recent post ("Gmail Gfails, Internet survives again") I asked whether Google's total Gmail meltdown last week made people less confident about cloud computing. By and large, my readers say no. Like D. J., who says:

It didn't shake my confidence one bit. When it came back, all my emails were there and secure. For me, it was a good time to get more work done with less emails to worry about :)

[ Also on InfoWorld: "Gmail Gfails, Internet survives again" and "Amazon makes amends for Kindle blunder -- to a point" | Stay up to date on Robert X. Cringely's musings and observations with InfoWorld's Notes from the Underground newsletter. ]

Cringster E. M., who until recently was employed by a company that provided internal tech support for Google, argues that cloud computing is still far more reliable than personal computing. To wit:

Think of the main server going down as equivalent to your personal computer going down. When the server goes down it affects thousands of people and is back up in a couple hours. Your personal computer going down only affects you, but chances are it's not going to be fixed in a couple hours. You'll be lucky if you can get it fixed by the end of work tomorrow. Since everyone's computer goes wonky at some point you could argue that a single server going down affecting thousands for 2 hours two or three times a year is better than thousands of computers going down for an optimistic average of 24 hours spread over a year.

On the other hand, there's a contrarian in every bunch. J. C. had this to say:

I never have and never will have confidence in "cloud computing." Anything that depends on a centralized server, as opposed to a local machine, is inherently unreliable in my book. I'll use Google for email, since I like their service the best of the ones I've tried, but I won't use any other Web-based apps.

Meanwhile, someone calling himself "pyrite" objects to my subject line:

I'm not less confident in the cloud, but I've lost a lot of faith in your usage of the -fail suffix.... Try to sound less like a 4chan tool.

First: Hey, don't blame me, blame the Twittering masses. They called it "Gfail" way before I did. Second: Dude, just calling me a 4chan tool is likely to tick off somebody at/in 4chan, who would clearly find me undeserving of the title. That kind of grief I don't need.

In my post about Amazon's Orwellian Kindle snafu ("Amazon makes amends for Kindle blunder -- to a point"), most readers were as appalled as I was by Amazon's ability to remotely delete books from its customers' devices, as well as the lack of any guarantees it won't happen again. A reader named Aubrey adds this:

I would never consider buying an e-book or reader as long as there existed the possibility that the seller, the publisher, or the state could prevent me from selling or giving away my purchased copy of the material, or could in any way hinder my access to my own library.

While G. P. poses some interesting questions:

I can buy a Kindle for $350, spend more money to download digital media, which can disappear at any time, or I can buy this netbook for $300, install this Ubuntu on it, spend more money to download digital content which I can copy offline to a memory stick and keep it as long as I want. What does a Kindle get me that I don't already have at less cost? What is the economic benefit of spending $350?

Finally, in response to my post about the Obama Administration's less-than-ideal approach to customs searches ("Borderline behavior: 'New' travel search rules just won't fly"), reader F. B. adds cautionary words about the reach of government power thanks to technology:

Any twentieth century dictator (insert your favorite here) would die for 1/50th of the security apparatus available to our last five presidents. The atomic bomb and the nerve gassing of the Kurds and the installation of government monitors inside ISPs and phone companies have shown us that there's no  such thing as a weapon too monstrous, invasive or just plain silly to use.... This is partially the result of the liberal mind's inability to see the seed of fascism inside itself, but largely the simple availability of the technological tools modern fascism requires.

He adds that he no longer flies. So if he's on any no-fly lists, he'll probably never know about it.

Thanks to all the Cringesters who make this blog so lively, both in the comments fields and my inbox.

So what should I write about next? Post your topic suggestions below or e-mail me: cringe@infoworld.com.

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