What’s the Buzz? I’m a cloud skeptic.

Google Buzz logo new.pngThe “cloud” – it’s the big buzz word at the moment in the computerverse – storing your data/music/videos/photos/whatever in the cloud somewhere and access it when you need it from anywhere on any device.

Sounds great, but the problem at the moment is twofold. Firstly for many citizens of Australia, internet connectivity is just not solid enough for it. I’ve tried streaming music services, and while they mostly work OK, if a couple of other people in the family decide to watch a streaming video – well there goes the music listening experience as the broadband connection maxes out and the music turns into a staccato of network buffering pauses.

Secondly, there is the matter of keeping control of my own data. Storing data in the cloud (without having a local copy) means that you can lose access to your data (possibly permanently) if …

  • Your network connection goes down
  • You’re out of range of the internet (with a mobile device)
  • The service you’re connecting to has an outage
  • The service you’re using gets retired by the service provider
  • The service provider goes out of business.

Even when service providers try to make your data available when they retire a service  you can still run into problems. A case in point is that for the short time it was available in 2010 to 2011, I used Google Buzz quite a bit, making 199 posts. When Google retired Buzz, they made a user’s Buzz posts available as a PDF file stored in Google Drive. But a couple of times recently I’ve gone back to my Buzz posts to try and find something, and discovered that the PDF file Google provided is not searchable! Copying and pasting text from the document doesn’t work either, resulting in a block of meaningless characters. I don’t know how Google constructed the PDF to be this way, or whether it was deliberate or not, but the end result is that I have my content – but essentially only as 34 page graphic – no text.

I tried various techniques to recover the text content, like printing the PDF to a TIFF file and trying to do OCR, and even printing to paper and doing OCR, but the quality/accuracy of the resulting text was pretty ordinary.

Fortunately, because I’m such a cloud skeptic, when Google Buzz was operating, I was saving local copies of my Buzz posts by automatically downloading them via an RSS feed using Outlook. Using these, I’ve now put all my Buzz posts into a web page, so that I can find my old content (and link to it) if needed.  It wasn’t a perfect solution as the downloaded RSS posts didn’t have any of the images associated with the post, or any of the post comments, so I had to do a fair amount of manual tidying up and formatting to achieve the final result.

Update 20 Feb 2015. I have now migrated all my old Buzz posts into separate WordPress posts, so now I can find and view them on a mobile device.

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