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End User 

The internetgiveth…

In May, I devoted a column to griping about how difficult it has been to keep one’s calendars and contacts synchronized between devices and online services. I am super-jazzed to say that our wait is officially over, and I’m wearing my party hat. Plaxo, whom I mentioned at the time, has released a preview, or beta, of its revamped service, which now offers syncing — of both calendars and contacts — between Outlook, Outlook Express, Mac, Yahoo!, Gmail (calendars only, for now), and several other databases. And not only does it work beautifully, but it has already saved my butt when my calendar got corrupted.

This, finally, is one completed lane in a bridge to a unified online experience, where we can use all the available tools, and our data is available in any one of them.

Run, don’t walk, to Plaxo.com. You’ll be glad you did.

Another service I want to mention is GrandCentral.com, where you sign up for a phone number for life, for free, to be forwarded to any other phone number you choose. Voicemail and everything. This is the latest über-cool web technology that Google has acquired. They have it in beta, and one can sign up to be invited to join. Now we get to wonder how Google plans to tie GrandCentral in with the rumored Google Phone …

... and the internet taketh away.

End of summer is typically a slow time for tech, but this month screeched to a halt a couple of times, forcing us to become all too keenly aware of our reliance on the internet.

On July 24, a power outage in San Francisco took out services at a major colocation facility at 365 Main St. Colocation, or colo, is a business that offers rental of a server in a secure, climate-controlled, 24/7-staffed, and yes, power-redundant building. Colo might mean sharing a single server with other folks, or having one, or two, or a gajillion servers all to yourself. One might own the server, or just rent it. To ensure that your website shouldn’t ever go down, you should host it on a colocated server.

(Bringin’ it back home: San Antonio’s Rackspace, for example, is a colocation agency.)

Apparently, 365 Main’s “continuous power supply” was not exactly that, and consequently, some of the web’s most popular sites — Netflix, Craigslist, and Technorati, to name a few — were out for several hours. It was money down the “series of tubes,” and at least one service’s user base is said to have been permanently damaged by the failure.

Then Skype went down on August 16. Skype is the incredibly useful voice-over-internet-protocol (VoIP) service that lets one have audio and video conversations around the world for free, or on the cheap if one needs to call a conventional phone. For two days, 220 million users were blocked from logging into the Skype servers.

And then Elton John claimed the internet is destroying music. He wants the internet taken down for five years. Sir Elton may be off his piano bench, but Web heads obviously can’t take anything for granted these days.


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