Connecting the clouds
By Ian GRAYSON
With many businesses now comfortable with cloud-based IT services, some are facing an increasing challenge when it comes to getting multiple clouds to work together.
A typical mid-sized business might use one cloud provider for salesforce automation, another for accounting and a third for HR management. While each works well on its own, getting the different systems to play nicely together can be something else entirely.
One of the big promises of cloud computing is that it will reduce IT complexity and improve productivity. Yet juggling multiple clouds can actually work against these lofty goals.
Enter a new player in the IT landscape: the cloud broker. I expect we are going to see the rise of a new type of IT business adviser who can work with a business to manage all their cloud-based services. Rather than a company liaising with multiple providers, they will have a single relationship with a broker who will pull all the elements together and ensure they operate as a well-oiled whole.
Such cloud brokers could come in the form of existing IT partners, such as a systems integration company or a telco provider. Once on board, they'll become the "single throat to choke" if and when things don't work as they should.
Expect to see cloud brokers emerge in coming months as more businesses adopt multiple cloud services and need an effective way to make them work together to meet day-to-day requirements.
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Netflix in Australia - your mileage may vary
By Adam TURNER
Combining Netflix with Unblock-US is likely to disappoint unless you tweak the video quality.
Accessing Netflix from Australia isn't that hard, although it can be a little fiddly and time-consuming to get it up and running. DNS-based geo-dodging services such as Unblock-US try to make the process as smooth as possible on a range of devices, but it's disappointing to go to all that trouble only to discover the picture quality isn't worth the effort.
Tested in a desktop browser, on the Apple TV and on the PlayStation 3, the combination of Netflix and Unblock-US can be very disappointing at first. It's particularly frustrating when you've seen the picture quality these devices can offer when hooked up to local services. Feedback from other users suggests that the results of combining Netflix and Unblock-US can be hit and miss. Some say the picture is excellent, others say it's temperamental. That's pretty disappointing considering you're actually paying for the privilege and there are free options which would offer better results.
In theory a DNS-based geo-dodging service such as Unblock-US shouldn't be the cause of poor picture quality. Unblock-US shouldn't face the bandwidth restrictions you can encounter with Virtual Private Networks. Switching to a fast and reliable VPN-based service such a WiTopia doesn't see an improvement in the Netflix picture quality.
What does improve the picture quality is dipping into the Netflix video settings, via the website. Netflix introduced the option to "manage video quality" last year, designed to assist users with slow data speeds and low monthly usage limits. Three options are available; Good, Better and Best. Netflix doesn't bring this to your attention, instead it chooses one for you.
When you go to the menu the first time no video quality option seems to be selected, but it's clear that Netflix doesn't automatically default to Best. Even if your download speeds are fast enough to get decent SD or even HD performance via Apple's movie rental service, you might find that Netflix has knobbled your video quality. Dipping into the settings and forcing Netflix to run at Best can dramatically improve the picture quality, although the playback isn't always completely smooth. To be honest, even at Best settings Netflix doesn't look quite as good as what you'll get from Apple.
The combination of Netflix and Unblock-US might be the holy grail of online entertainment for some people but, as with most things on the internet, your mileage may vary.
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Mountain Lion edges nearer
By Stephen WITHERS
It looks like Apple will live up to its promise of July delivery for OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion. Once the company last month refined the due date from (northern) summer to July, there wasn't much risk that it would be late.
This week has seen the release to developers of a golden master version of Mountain Lion, so unless any showstopping bugs are discovered, we'll see the new incarnation of OS X in the next few weeks.
Will 10.8.0 be bug free, even to the extent that bug-free software exists at all? No. 10.8.1 will be with us soon enough, but in the meantime let's keep our fingers crossed that any shortcomings that do actually affect early adopters aren't significant issues.
At this stage, I'm planning a reasonably prompt upgrade to Mountain Lion - certainly more prompt than my repeatedly delayed move from Snow Leopard. Here's hoping I don't regret it.
If you're hot to trot, make sure you've got around 4.5GB of your monthly Internet quota to devote to the download, as there's no indication that Apple will sell copies on thumb drives as it eventually did with Lion, though I'd be surprised if that option doesn't materialise.
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True Shocking Smartphone Confessions
By Alex KIDMAN
I have a shameful confession to make regarding smartphones.
A really, really shameful one. You see, the fate of most smartphones is sealed, and I'm not just talking batteries here. They end up down the toilet, or dropped under taxis, or left on train station seats, or simply just dropped on the ground. They shatter, they die, and they're replaced, although that's often when people realise that the phone they've got on a $59 or more "contract" isn't exactly "free" when they want a second one.
Still, that's the fate of most mobile phones. Phones don't kill phones -- people do.
Except that this seems to be something I'm notably deficient in.
Over my entire history of owning mobile phones, I've lost precisely one -- and that was during a hyper-stressful time when my daughter was born and spent six weeks in hospital, so I wasn't exactly thinking straight at the time. That aside, I've dropped one phone (it survived) and tested a few hardcore cases meant to protect phones -- and they worked. I've used mobile muster and similar schemes to get rid of the really old models, repurposed a few into devices for my kids… and even they haven't killed the iPhone 3G I gave them as an effective "iPod", so possibly this is a genetic defect.
Meanwhile, I know scores of people (not just tech journalists) who have lost, smashed, scratched, drowned, shorted out, had stolen and otherwise made their way through scores of phones.
What's wrong with me?
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So you want to write a movie script?
By David HAGUE
One thing that I haven’t touched on very much in the process of filmmaking production is the art and practice of putting together a script.
I personally use a product called Final Draft to create scripts as this is especially designed for the purpose of scriptwriting (www.finaldraft.com) and this also the world’s highest selling scripting product, but at USD$249 its not cheap.
Other options available include Celtix (http://studio.celtix.com, Fivesporockets, BPC Screenplay, Movie Magic and Trelby. Some of these are free or at best with nominal fees associated, but wait a minute, if you have Microsoft Word, why not spend a little time to learn about the Outlining and Styles functionality and “roll your own”?
If you need to figure out how scriptwriting software works, a good way is to download the demo version of Final Draft and get a feel for it. As a bonus they’ll also send you a bunch of case studies on scriptwriting.
Everyone seems to have a story to tell, so why not give it a go?
And then of course shoot it!
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