Adobe’s Moved Creative Suite Exclusively To The Cloud. Is This Good Or Bad?

cc-toolsAdobe has announced that, from now on, the only way to get Creative Suite is via the cloud. That’s right, no more boxed versions of CS – you get it via the Internet or no Photoshop or Illustrator for you. Many people are wondering how this is going to work in the real world, myself included.

Related article: The Register: Adobe kills Creative Suite – all future features online only

I’ll preface this by noting that I’ve worked with graphic designers throughout my career, and do web design myself. These are tools I use, so I’m more than a little concerned about what this is going to entail. I have my doubts as to whether making CS exclusively cloud is such a great idea.

I can’t help but think of all the graphic designers I know who are still using older versions of CS, either because they can’t afford to upgrade their computers or because they have client requirements that can only be met with older versions.

Bear in mind, a graphic designer’s computer is not a $500 PC. (Or, it shouldn’t be.) Most of them use Macs because it’s the standard in graphic design. Yes, Macs are more expensive, but in my experience they last longer than those bargain basement PCs. Those who use PCs use the super-high-end models. Why? Because that’s the kind of processing power you need if you’re doing 3D rendering or serious layout.

But graphic designers are poor sods like the rest of us who can’t afford to buy a new computer every five seconds. This means there are a ton of graphic designers out there with slightly or more-than-slightly obsolete computers using old versions of Adobe CS to make a living.

They need those boxed versions of CS. If their computers die, they can’t just go buy a new one. Maybe they have to scrape up the money for a new hard drive and pray the computer holds together until they get paid for their current gig. Maybe they have this one client who absolutely refuses to use anything but Photoshop 6 and insists upon files in that format – and they’d love to tell this particular client to jump out a window only it’s their most lucrative contract and they need to pay rent.

Similarly, I know a lot of graphic designers whose Internet connections are far from always-on. Have you heard about the PR gaffe about Microsoft Xbox and the always-on connection? I happen to live relatively near Janesville, Wisconsin (the town mentioned in Microsoft’s PR gaffe) and there are plenty of people around here who do not have reliable Internet access.

If Adobe CS is cloud-only, what happens to graphic designers if their Internet connection dies? Because right now, if their Internet connections are down they can still Photoshop all they like and send files to their clients on CD, if it really comes down to it.

Now, if you read Adobe’s FAQ they make it clear you can use your software offline. But personally, I don’t trust that. They don’t even call it Creative Suite anymore – it’s Creative Cloud. What if there’s some special filter you need that they decide to make online only? What if your licensing gets screwed up and you need the connection to re-enable the software? I’m sure the graphic designers out there can tell you the number of times they’ve had to contact Adobe to fix licensing issues. Let me put it this way… it’s enough of a problem that Adobe has a Licensing Repair Tool.

I can tell you what it’s like to have software that requires the Internet for full functionality because, putting on my gamer hat for a moment, I have a video game I play (Might & Magic Heroes VI) that Ubisoft REALLY REALLY wants you to play online. You can play it offline, but you’re prohibited from using certain spells or abilities. In other words if you want to play offline you have to put up with a limited version. This could quite easily happen to Creative Suite, if it hasn’t already.

(May I note that Ubisoft just had a major outage that prevented Might & Magic Heroes VI fans from using the program? Didn’t affect me. I play offline.)

I’m also concerned about costs of Creative Suite… er, Cloud. On the face of it, $50 a month seems reasonable compared to $1,500-$3,000+ for upgrades or new versions, right? Well… maybe, until they start upselling. How soon does this become like in-app purchases? You get the basic game free but if you want to be able to play more than a crippled edition you have to buy the in-game purchases. Will $50 a month become $50 a month plus $20 for these filters and $15 for those filters and $25 to be able to export to a particular file type?

Okay, my graphic design peeps, sing out: What do you think of Adobe’s decision to move CS exclusively to the cloud? Will you be grabbing a boxed copy of CS6 while they last? Reply in the comments, and don’t forget to subscribe to Tech Tips by email and follow on Facebook. You can also follow @trionaguidry on Twitter.

 

Your Webcam Can Be Used Against You

webcamSmile! Your private life might be streaming live on the Internet!

Did you know hackers use viruses to commandeer the webcam on your computer, tablet, or smart phone? Makes you think about all the places you take these devices, and what they could be recording. In this month’s The Northwest Herald I talk about the dangers of unsecured webcams and microphones:

It’s not just your devices, but those of the people around you as well. Chances are, you’ve had a phone or tablet nearby during a private conversation with a lawyer, a doctor, a friend. What if someone else was watching and listening through that device?

Cameras can be hijacked in a number of ways. Cybercriminals can commandeer them with viruses, then extort you by demanding money for the deletion of potentially embarrassing photos and videos. Sometimes they have the nerve to imitate law enforcement, claiming that you have illegal content on your computer and will go to jail if you don’t pay their fee.

I’m fond of taping over the webcam unless you need to use it regularly – in which case a purse or pocket provides a lovely view of lint, should someone try to sneak a peek. That doesn’t help with microphones, of course, which is why it makes sense to store your mobile devices where they’re less likely to overhear private conversations.

I also strongly recommend to my fellow parents – get the computers and camera-equipped game consoles out of your kids’ bedrooms, NOW. There are some scary new statistics about the increase in predatory sexploitation which will make you want to take a hammer to every camera in the house.

Here are some articles about webcam security you might find interesting:

What are your concerns about webcam and microphone security? Share in the comments!

Image courtesy of renjith krishnan / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

Hybrid Devices: You Got Smart Phone In My Tablet!

I recently had the opportunity to test-drive the Samsung Galaxy Note II, a hybrid device that lies somewhere between a smart phone and a tablet. Are these hybrid devices just a fad or will they stick around?

From the review I wrote for The Northwest Herald:

The Galaxy Note is a hybrid Android device. At approximately 3.17-by-5.95-by-0.3 inches and weighing 6.44 ounces, it’s large enough that it may feel awkward while making calls. But the 5.5-inch HD Super AMOLED display (1,280 x 720) is so gorgeous that you might not notice. (read more)

These hybrid devices are called by a variety of names, including phablet which I personally think sounds phabulous. They can be powerful devices. The Galaxy Note I tested has enough oomph to run some seriously resource-intensive apps. Hybrids also have larger screens but are still portable enough to fit in a pocket.

I can understand the attraction of a device like the Galaxy Note. There are a lot of things I would do with my smart phone if it were big enough for me to see what I’m doing, and it would be nice not having to schlep a full-sized tablet around.

I’ve seen a lot of tech gadgets flash then fizzle. I remember when everyone and their brother had a Palm Pilot, and I recall Microsoft’s original attempt at a tablet. But the technology’s gotten to the point where the things we wanted to do with those devices is both possible and affordable, like handwriting recognition and the ability to watch video or play games.

So I think phone/tablet hybrids or phablets or whatever you want to call them will stick with us a while. They may not be for everyone but there is a segment of the market that wants a single device to replace the cumbersome smart-phone-plus-tablet combo.

As I reiterated in the column, you need to secure your mobile devices as well. Here are some previous Tech Tips articles on mobile security and more:

Disclaimer: Galaxy Note II provided by Verizon; my opinions remain my own.

Have you tried a hybrid device? Which mobile devices do you prefer? Share in the comments and don’t forget to  subscribe to Tech Tips by email and follow on Facebook. You can also follow @trionaguidry on Twitter.

Apple & Amazon Customer Service Hacked: Can The Cloud Be Trusted?

Once your data is in the cloud you lose all control of it. A journalist’s online persona was recently hijacked through hackers’ clever and scary manipulation of Apple and Amazon’s tech support. This could happen to any of us, at any time.

A description of the incident from the journalist, Mat Honan, who works for Wired:

In the space of one hour, my entire digital life was destroyed. First my Google account was taken over, then deleted. Next my Twitter account was compromised, and used as a platform to broadcast racist and homophobic messages. And worst of all, my AppleID account was broken into, and my hackers used it to remotely erase all of the data on my iPhone, iPad, and MacBook.

The Price Of Cloud Computing?
This, folks, is the kind of thing that terrifies me. Years ago I wrote a post called Cloud Computing For Consumers Makes Me Cringe, in which I expressed my concerns over the proliferation of consumer tech based on the cloud. I’m far from the only one; the tech industry has been at each others’ throats for years. Some see the cloud as too vulnerable, while others say it’s a vital (and inevitable) resource.

It seems our fears have been realized. Like everyone else I want the fun new features of today’s devices, but I don’t trust the cloud, especially when I hear about incidents like the Apple+Amazon debacle.

I’ve been in tech support far too long to be fooled. I know other incidents are happening that we aren’t hearing about. I know my data is residing in places I don’t intend. I know that in some ways I’m helpless to stop that, but I can also choose which technology to embrace and which to reject. And I reject the idea that I need a distant datacenter for even the most minute of daily tasks.

Is It Too Late?
Of course that’s a largely symbolic statement. In reality, I’m already using the cloud in ways I don’t like, but was forced to. We all are. What scares me is that most people don’t know how cloud-dependent the world is becoming. They think they’re not using the cloud even when they are.

Apple leads the pack with iCloud. You can’t sneeze on an Apple device without it asking if you want to use iCloud. Soon you’ll have to use Apple’s cloud service even if all you want is to sync the basics like calendar and contacts. But once transferred, our data is not necessarily protected, as our poor Wired journalist learned. From an article about the incident:

On Aug. 3, an “epic hack” compromised technology journalist Mat Honan’s Twitter account. Along the way, the attacker–known as “Phobia”–also managed to remotely erase Honan’s Apple laptop, iPhone, and iPad. Furthermore, Phobia did it by socially engineering–as in, tricking–customer service representatives at Amazon and Apple, allowing him to gain sufficient information to first access Honan’s iCloud and Gmail accounts.

Manufacturers Need To Step Up Security
Granted, Honan did a few things that aided the criminal. He linked accounts together (notably Twitter), he didn’t activate all the security available on his devices, and he didn’t have good backups. But, in my opinion, that’s as much the fault of the manufacturers as it is the consumer.

We’re encouraged to link accounts. We’re encouraged to take advantage of all the shiny new features. There is never any fine print that says, “oh, by the way, if a hacker makes it this far, enabling this feature means you’re screwed.” And it’s not always clear that “turn this feature on” means “your data will be transmitted”.

I also lay blame at the manufacturers’ feet for their EpicFail on internal security practices that would have prevented the criminal from gaming the system to gain the information needed to break in.

The journalist was technically savvy and this still happened. Imagine how much harder for the average person! I know because I’ve spent most of my career helping small businesses and consumers with just this sort of problem, and there are few good solutions.

It’s not just Apple and Amazon. This is an industry-wide problem that the industry hasn’t addressed. Vendors are quick to point out new features: more speed, more memory, bigger, better, faster… but the consequences are not always recognized until after the technology has been embraced by the public.

How You Can Protect Yourself
Which means you, dear consumer, are on your own in deciding which technology is safe or unsafe. This is harder than it sounds. Like everything else in our advertising-driven world, some of the information you’ll read is sponsored by the people who sell the products. You have to sift, filter, and decide for yourself. (This blog, for the record, is sponsored solely by me.)

Personally I think it’s absolutely stupid that my modern iPad can’t do what my creaky old PalmPilot still can: sync data via a physical cable. Tech manufacturers need to GIVE US AN OFFLINE OPTION instead of forcing us to use the cloud because they obviously can’t secure the cloud.

I’m also looking at you, video game manufacturers. I chose not to play Diablo III specifically because it requires an always-on connection to the servers. Gee, now Blizzard is telling the Diablo and World of Warcraft players that those servers were hacked and their personal info was stolen. I like a good fantasy RPG as much as the next geek but not at that cost.

The industry is throwing us at the cloud because cloud computing makes it easier for them to write the programs and provide support for them. If everything’s in the cloud they don’t have to deal with multiple computer configurations, multiple devices, and tons of tech support headaches. “Hi, I’ve got a Palm V connecting via serial to a Pentium II running Windows 98, and somehow it won’t also connect to my new Windows 7 laptop…”

It’s my firm belief that every device should have a setup wizard that walks you through securing that device. This might not stop people gaming the system but it makes it a lot harder for them to get very far with your data, even if they do manage to break into your accounts.

The cloud may be easier for vendors, but not always so for consumers. My advice is to use it at your own risk.

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net