Jury Duty

I had jury duty yesterday. The last two times I was summoned I called in the night before and was told I didn’t even have to go in. This time I not only had to go in but ended up being selected for the jury in a case of assault and (attempted) theft. It was a very educational experience, so I have a lot to write about. Click below to see it all.

Blondes Have More . . . Claws?

Divers discover new crustacean species. Heck, not just a new species or genus but a whole new family, south of Easter Island. If that’s the only place it lives, no wonder it wasn’t found earlier. Easter Island is pretty far from anything else anybody might care about, and 900 miles south of that is truly the far end of nowhere. In any case, the thing that makes this little beasty interesting is that it appears to be covered in fine blonde hair. There’s a picture at the link in case you can’t imagine a hairy crab.


There has been a lot of buzz lately about the possibility that Google will introduce a remote-storage facility called GDrive, which would let you store documents on their servers for access from anywhere.

Rumored to be in the works for some time, GDrive would offer users unlimited storage space for just about any kind of document. Currently, a handful of applications exist that turn one’s Gmail account into a virtual network drive.

Do you trust Google with all of your data? Google believes you will, and will try to earn your trust by making sure that the data you entrust to its storage service is “more secure than it would be on your own machine.” Google even sees the data on your PC ultimately serving as a local cache, with the master stored on its servers. Personally, I’d rather not entrust my files and data to a third-party service, no matter how benign. Plus, GDrive will have to compete with current online storage services that provide a finite amount of storage, such as iDrive and FreeDrive.

The basic idea of a virtual network drive is not new. I tried iDrive and FreeDrive years ago, though I actually preferred XDrive to either. From about 2000 to 2002 I was also working on something very similar, under the moniker C3D, while I was at EMC. The security issue mentioned above is just silly, in light of that experience; methods for encrypting data so that the server can’t actually peek at the contents of your files are so simple and so well known that it’s reasonable to expect implementors will deal with that adequately. The problem is bandwidth – not theirs; yours. Using a 1-10Mb/s pipe even to retrieve files from the server is a significantly different experience than using local files, and many people have asymmetric connections so storing those files would be even worse. With aggressive caching and prefetching a lot of this effect can go away, but not all of it, and since that pretty much requires that the machines sharing data always be on it doesn’t do a lot of home users very much good. Perhaps surprisingly, it’s at the corporate level (where machines stay on all the time) that such a facility becomes most valuable, and much of the value lies in bandwidth reduction for content producers.

In practical terms, you wouldn’t want to use a virtual network drive as primary storage. The model of your local storage becoming a cache for data which exists authoritatively somewhere else is a great long-term vision, but it’s not here yet even for LAN environments and certainly not for home users separated geographically from the servers. What is more interesting about virtual network drives for the home user is their potential as a form of backup, which is why many of the players in that space have moved in that direction. For example, iDrive is really iBackup now, with the original virtual network drive functionality still there but mostly used to support backup. The idea is that your files are quietly mirrored to their servers over the network, in the background, so that if your machine ever crashes you can restore from their copy (so long as you have the right passwords or keys). That’s actually really valuable, but it doesn’t require a particularly high level of integration between the virtual network drive part and the backup part. If GDrive becomes real, I would expect various “backup to disk” tools such as Backup4All, HandyBackup, or SyncBack to become a lot more popular overnight.