written for Canadian Community News by Mike Sterling
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We have been looking at the 'Cloud' as a way to the future. One of the big players is Google.
They have grown from nothing to one of the most powerful companies in the world. They have products galore. Some are industry leaders and others are junk.
They have attempted to duplicate Microsoft Office on the Cloud. That means producing copies of MS Word and Excel. They want to copy a successful suite of software and are charging nothing for it.
There are others that have copied Microsoft Office. Open Office has done so and charge nothing for their clone. Google is the first, I think to try a Cloud based solution.
I thought I would give their 'product' a try on a serious, but small project so I attempted to build a modest spread sheet and document what I was doing in Google Docs i.e. the clone of MS Word .
It's been a frustrating and dismal experience. What's the matter?
I don't know where to start, but here goes:
Google's spreadsheet is not running on my laptop, it is running on the Cloud on some server someplace inside the Google Empire. Fine ok, but .... there is a hitch.
I feel like every move I make is hard to predict in terms of time.
For example, I try to copy some text to the clipboard and then using (ctl v), I paste it to a spot in the spreadsheet. That's an easy and often used requirement.
Sometimes all is well and in a reasonable length of time I see my text in the place I want it to be.
Other times, too many times, I see nothing. Oh ok, maybe I did not hold CTL down or something, so I try again.
Nothing happens and so I try again and bang! I get all three of my pastes at once. Very poor indeed. No immediate feedback at all. The reason? They Cloud cannot keep up the pace on such time critical, but trivial actions. The net is tuned to give priority to downloads to browsing customers and slower response to uploads.
The response of the system is NOT predictable. Keep in mind Google developers are sitting right next to their server empire and not using normal high speed internet. There is a clear lack of testing in real places with real people. They must not be listening. There are lots of complaints.
I'm on a fast network, but not consistent enough to rely upon for Google's Cloud, so I have to be very careful.
Have we been here before? YES! Time sharing using big mainframes caused exactly this type of difficulty. What did the industry do?
The industry moved to personal computers and work stations that had their own power and quick response that could be relied upon. We go to the network for less time critical operations.
Also, Google in their infinite wisdom refuses to fix obvious oversights and downright bugs. Maybe they don't refuse to fix them, they just don't do anything about them. They've lost touch with the users.
I looked up the oversights and bugs I encountered on places that deal with such things and I find hundreds of comments just like mine, but with cuss words added.
One minor thing that causes all sorts of angst is trivial in MS Excel, but impossible in Google's version. Those in the know say this is an outstanding bug/oversight for over a year.
Also, there are other strange things that happen. Operations lead to bad results. What gives? I log out and log back in again and the cell contains the right value. What a mess! Where in heck did that mystery number come from and how did it get corrected?
Also, keep in mind when you're using Excel or Word on your computer you are working on a copy of the real object and when you save, you save over the top of the original.
Everyone knows this and if they want to save the old copy for a while, they do a 'save as' to create the new version. They can always go back to the original.
Google on the other hand works on your version step by step and it changes your original with the first operation and keystroke that you make. That's a real surprise.
Workarounds? Sure... what you have to do is make a copy before you do anything and then work on the copy. It's backward to the way most every other application works.
Why on earth Google makes that subtle change, I cannot tell you. It is not necessary. They just did it.
The whole application is not ready for use by any serious user. I would not trust it with a real project. Yes, it's free and I think that's the problem. There are other free clones and also there is the real thing from Microsoft.
I'm going back to Office. I know what I'm getting.
Google has a tremendous cash cow in their search engine and the ads that go with it. They have started so many, many other projects and turned them loose too early. They are at most trial products.
Great promise, but poor delivery. Don't they have serious project management for all their products, not just Google Search?
I hope their robot car stuff is checked out by the way before they let it loose on the 401.
Have they no quality control? If you look at their interfaces for various applications they are messy, constantly changing and ambiguous. They are murky too. The standard colours they select help to hide the purpose.
A great example is YouTube uploads. There are millions, if not billions of them, but the user interface is constantly changing for those who manage channels. I'm continually surprised when things change so often and not for the better either.
Google is making a fortune from their search engine and a lot from Android.
Do they have to put out applications before they are ready and change things for the sake of change? Why sprinkle controls all over the place and invent new little icons without much thought.
Come on Google, you must be better than that. I'm getting off your Cloud until you are out of the storm.
Maybe there are no storm clouds, just intermittent sprinkles, but you will get wet anyway.
The Cloud must have a lot of bandwidth and it will have to be tuned to the application. That's hard to achieve.
Deploying a lot of applications to the Cloud is certain. The balance between what is local and what is Cloud is crucial. Google has not worked it out as of now.
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Sunday, March 15, 2015