Rise of the personal ‘cloud’

THE long-awaited launch last April 25 of Google Drive puts into focus advances in consumer cloud computing, the term for remote computing and storage services accessible through the Internet.

Google Drive offers five gigabytes of free online storage space that can be synchronized with various devices in different platforms. This means that if you place a file in the Google Drive space in your laptop, is accessible from anywhere via your browser and in all other connected devices, even Android phones (the iOS app is still coming).

Google is late to the online storage space party — Dropbox, Box.net and Microsoft’s Skydrive predated it by years. But the stature of the search giant as well as the promise of tight integration with its already popular services and its mobile OS Android give it a key advantage.

I’ve been using Google Drive but I still rely on Dropbox because I work on three operating systems – Windows in the office, OSX on the laptop and Linux on my home desktop – and only Dropbox supports all three. Google Drive still does not have a Linux client and its iOS apps are still not available.

With all these offerings we are finally realizing what a Sun Microsystems employee said decades back, “the network is the computer.”

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Have phone, will travel

IN the early morning of Feb. 5, I guided an experienced taxi driver to a nondescript and obscure hotel in Makati using Google Maps, GPS and my Android phone.

It was something almost right out of the movies—we were getting a real time rendering of where we were on the map (indicated by a moving blue dot) and using it to find our way through Isabelle Royale Hotel and Suites (I told you it was obscure).

On Feb. 4, I took the red-eye flight to Manila for the Condura Skyway Marathon with my wife, Marlen, and the kids. For that trip, I took copious notes of travel details in my phone, an LG P500 running Android Froyo, instead of the handy paper notebook I used to always keep with me.

Google Maps with GPS on Android Froyo in the LG P500

VIRTUAL GUIDE. Google Maps uses GPS to pinpoint my exact location on the map. Using the system, I was able to guide a taxi driver to an obscure hotel in Makati City.

I kept travel details in Springpad–a free notes-taking web service that has mobile clients for smartphones like the Android and the iPhone. Springpad is a really great web and mobile application that’s very useful for writing and organizing notes. I’ve used Springpad in my Android phone for more than a month and find it indispensable. I came to Springpad from Evernote, another free note-taking service with mobile clients. While both are great web services, I prefer Springpad because I find that it fits my workflow better.

Since we would be arriving in Manila at past midnight, Marlen and I were worried about finding our way to the hotel. Hours before our flight, I took a screengrab of the Google Maps rendering of the areas leading to Isabelle Royale Hotel and Suites intending to show it to the driver.

But the driver of our cab said he wasn’t that familiar with the place. I suspected he was feigning ignorance. I turned on Google Maps and GPS intending to to check where we were on the map so that we could find our way to the hotel.

I was pleasantly surprised to find that Google Maps renders your location in real time. I was connected to Smart’s HSPA (a high-speed mobile Internet network) network and the map tiles were downloading and rendering flawlessly—fast enough to keep up with us, as represented by that blue dot on the screen. Maybe I was just lucky or maybe the network wasn’t as congested because it was early in the morning (I encountered some lag in buffering maps data when I used it early in the afternoon two days after).

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