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Friday Five – February 4, 2011

This week… a little bit of IT in the world of politics and a little bit of politics in the world of IT…

#1 – How Egypt Turned Off the Internet [Gizmodo]

“Under Egyptian legislation the authorities have the right to issue such an order and we are obliged to comply with it,” Vodafone Egypt explained in a statement shortly after. Along with Vodafone, Egypt’s other three major ISPs, Link Egypt, Telecom Egypt, and Etisalat Misr, all stopped service.

The article goes on to talk about how without turning off ye olde landline telephone service, Egypt couldn’t really disconnect everyone, as those who still had analog modems were able to dial into other country’s ISPs. A pricy option, to be sure.

#2 – The Computer Attacks You’ve Never Heard Of [lifehacker]

We’ve all heard of worms, Trojan horses, phishing, and other common computer security attacks that aims to infect your system and steal your data. But what about bluebugging, smishing, and scareware?

Get caught up on your badware terminology! I think “pod slurping” is my favorite term of the bunch.

#3 – HTML5 and Web Video: Questions for the Industry from the Community [IEBlog]

  1. IE9 will support H.264. Microsoft has released an add-on for Firefox on Windows to support H.264 and today we are releasing a plug-in for Google Chrome on Windows to provide support for H.264.
  2. We will provide support for IE9 users who install third-party WebM video support on Windows and they will be able to play WebM video in IE9.
  3. Many parties have raised legitimate questions about liability, risks, and support for WebM and the proponents of WebM should answer them.

If you look back at my first Friday Five you’ll see an article on Google dropping support for H.264 video in Google Chrome. Microsoft took this as an opportunity to not only say they will continue to support H.264 in Internet Explorer 9, but to go one step further and provide a plugin for Google Chrome so its users can still see H.264 encoded video. Oh, it’s on…

#4 – Google: Bing Is Cheating, Copying Our Search Results [Search Engine Land]

Google has run a sting operation that it says proves Bing has been watching what people search for on Google, the sites they select from Google’s results, then uses that information to improve Bing’s own search listings. Bing doesn’t deny this.

As a result of the apparent monitoring, Bing’s relevancy is potentially improving (or getting worse) on the back of Google’s own work. Google likens it to the digital equivalent of Bing leaning over during an exam and copying off of Google’s test.

In unrelated news (or is it?)… Google suspected that Microsoft Bing has been pilfering their results for their own use. The article goes into great detail about how exactly Google determined Microsoft was doing this, and gets into a debate about whether this is “cheating” or just smart business.

#5 – Mozy Drops Unlimited Backups, Introduces New Pricing [lifehacker]

Mozy—our previously favorite tool for setting up foolproof, off-site backups—has changed it’s pricing, most notably dropping their unlimited backup plans. Bummer for Mozy users. Here are the details:

Under the new plan, you can back up 50GB on one computer for $6/month, or 125GB on up to three computers for $9.99/month… As a loyal Mozy unlimited user, I admit I didn’t really know how much I was backing up, so I checked the computer I back up the least from: Turns out, it’s 226GB. Uh oh. You can add an additional 20GB of storage to the 125GB account for $2/month per 20GB, so we’re talking an extra $10/month for an additional 100GB. In my case, for example, I’d need to pay $20/month to back up this one computer—up from my previous $5/month for the unlimited plan.

This one hurts me, personally, as I’m a user in pretty much the same situation as the one outlined above, and I’ve recommended them to others as a fantastic online (“cloud”) backup tool as well. Now, of course, any business has a right to change their pricing and their product offerings, however from the 70+ pages of customer complaints and the constant streaming of complaints on Twitter, Mozy probably could have handled phasing out a significant (and very vocal) portion of their user base a bit better. One real issue is that for people within days of their plan ending, they’re immediately pushed into higher cost plans before they’re able to switch to another vendor, instead of offering a 30-90 day grace period. As you can imagine, for home users with large backups, it can take weeks to upload that initial backup. The 25 GB test backup to another service I’m running right now is slated to take 3-4 days.

Mozy’s competitors wasted no time in offering incentives to switch, using cutesy names like CrashPlan’s http://crashplan.com/mozyonover (disclosure: I’m testing CrashPlan’s service now). However, I don’t believe that Mozy didn’t see this coming. Mozy was bought by tech giant EMC, and the rumor is the new division had trouble controlling costs. EMC probably forced the issue to get costs immediately under control, and at the same time is focused on turning Mozy into a corporate-focused tool instead of a personal tool.

The change also sparked much discussion on whether other cloud-based storage solutions were going to follow suit or not, but based on some of the great long term deals being offered by competitors, I’d guess probably not. It does, however, illustrate one of the issues of online tools that you “lease” vs. tools that you own – rarely do you have control over what the vendors decide to do with their cloud-based applications. You really can’t rely on any vendor, as they might decide to just close up shop one day and leave you with nothing. You always need to have one eye on alternatives. I didn’t with Mozy, and even though I’m among the fortunate that’s still locked into my pricing for another year and a half, I’m looking at the alternatives now. Mozy seems to be giving prorated refunds to departing customers, which is about the only positive thing they’ve done. I can’t say, though, that I know exactly what their terms & conditions specified in that regard, so I suspect that they could discontinue that practice any day. At this point, they’ve already done quite a bit to ruin their reputation, so one more log on the fire wouldn’t do much more. It seems like really understanding all the legalese you clicked “I agree” to will become as important and understanding the features of the product you’re buying.

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