Now that Christmas is coming up fast, you need ideas for presents. One of the items that I hear being advertised repeatedly are netbooks.
Those of you in the know understand that netbooks are basically small laptop computers that can access the Internet for all sorts of reasons; chief among them is accessing the Internet. However, the processing speed and memory are small to non-existent. You have no room on the thing to store any information or to install any programs.
So, why is a netbook better than, or comparable to, a laptop or a desktop computer? And why am I talking about Christmas presents when this is a column about law? Both are very good questions.
As the netbook doesnt really have enough memory to run programs that you actually might want to run on a computer, where is the value? I know theyre inexpensive, but how can it compare to a laptop or a desktop with actual memory? One you can run programs with, or store great amounts of information?
Well, netbooks are built to take advantage of the cloud. What, by chance is the cloud? There are a great many questions in this column, arent there? More so than usual, right?
The cloud is, for lack of a better phrase, an amorphous amalgamation of servers based around the world, allowing people with netbooks to access programs and documents through the Internet. Its almost like the big computers in my youth.
Back in the good old days, before everyone had one, two or three computers in their homes, most desks in offices had workstations that were connected to one giant computer. All of the processes and storage were taken care of by the big one, and the workstations were just terminals that accessed the computer. The cloud works in exactly the same way.
If you want my learned techie opinion, the cloud is going to be the way we access programs and documents in the future. Instead of one large computer taking orders from smaller computers, a user will access the cloud. We will be a mobile society with little to no storage or speed concerns. Sounds ideal, doesnt it?
I can see all of the advantages in this type of situation. For a fraction of the cost of a desktop or a laptop, you can purchase a machine that can access the Internet, along with any programs you may want or need.
There will be no more CD-ROMs with programs on them, cluttering up your office and CD storage cases. There will be no more need to upgrade your computers for more memory when the thing slows down or replacing the hard drive when the old one becomes all filled up. Think of the money and time youll save when you move to the cloud. Everything is everyones. Sounds like a great socialist ideal, and I will refrain from inserting my own political views on this one. However, I am not, and, for the foreseeable future, will likely not be comfortable with the cloud.
The issue with this new way of computing ease and freedom comes down to privacy. If your documents and programs are in the cloud, how can they possibly be private? Can anyone just access my information? And, if I have an issue with these matters, under what jurisdiction do I bring said action, and what laws can I possibly bring action under? Finally, can I please stop asking questions? The gimmick is really, really becoming tedious.
Usually, if someone does something bad to a person or a property, the proper jurisdiction is where the action took place, or where the bad person resides. But if your information is stored among servers based all across the world, what jurisdiction can you bring suit? What will happen to the bad guys? If theyre based around the world, possibly in places where the intellectual property laws are lax to gone, did they really and truly break the law as they know it? Not to mention, what laws may apply?
The laws of the place where youre located, or the laws of the various countries where the servers are located, or where the bad guy lives? Some of these questions are just beginning to be answered throughout the courts of the world, but no uniform laws have been designed.
See, there are a great many questions that need to be answered before Im comfortable with the cloud.
Christopher L. Markham is a general practice attorney based in Frederick. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.