State-of-the-Cloud

Hello, and welcome to our latest State of the Cloud, Cloudwards.net’s regular column where we go over the pertinent and interesting news of the month that has been, yet name the article after the month that’s coming because that’s just how we roll. 

In this edition, we have a few short pieces of interesting news from the cloud storage and accounting arenas, as well as coverage of the battle legislators face in regulating the Big Four. On top of that, we’ll go into how the not-quite war between the U.S. and Iran is being fought digitally rather than with bombs (for now, at least).

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We would’ve liked for this to be the first State of the Cloud where we don’t mention Facebook, but, alas, it was not to be. The social media giant has decided to launch its own currency, an idea that’s so terrifyingly bad we just had to devote a few paragraphs to it. That’s later, though. First, let’s take a look at what’s cooking in our own neck of the woods.

Of Drives and Money

OneDrive pricing

The biggest industry-related news is that Microsoft OneDrive revamped its pricing structure to allow up to 2TB of storage and offer a slew of improved security features, including a special high-security folder. That’s cool but nothing the competition doesn’t offer, so it won’t make our OneDrive review rise much higher among the best cloud storage ranking.

What makes a bigger impact is the acquisition of Wave by H&R Block, the accounting franchise you can find in a strip mall near you. Wave is best known for being free despite offering a full suite of functions, but the buyout could mean cash-strapped freelancers may have to look elsewhere to keep track of invoices. Keep an eye on our Wave review for updates.

Gaming a New System

More exciting news comes from the entertainment arena, where two stories will most likely be spicing up our best cloud gaming overview. Microsoft has been talking up xCloud, which may or may not be purely accessible through a special console, while also letting use your Xbox One as a small server, so you could stream your games from there to your phone or tablet. 

If that’s not cool enough for you, Bethesda has been hard at work creating a platform that’ll speed up game streaming. Called Orion, it could well be the breakthrough we’ve been waiting for to make cloud gaming viable. If so, you’ll hear it from us first.

Tipping the Scales: Libra

If it wasn’t for the announcement of its own cryptocurrency, to be dubbed Libra, we might have given Facebook a break this month, despite its superduper creepy new data collection scheme called Study. That’s not because it’s not worth mentioning, but simply because it’s nice to take a break after covering the madness since April last year.

That said, Libra is just too big a story to ignore. Marketed as the greatest innovation ever, it’s supposed to ease international money transfers and make it easier to pay for stuff on the go because it’ll (more or less) be available to all Facebook users. Its secret is that it’ll be pegged to the U.S. dollar, so the exchange rate from Libra to the greenback will always be the same.

As this fantastic but paywalled article by the Financial Times points out, though, the blockchain that protects the Zuck Buck (a nice bit of FT editorial flair that we’re shamelessly stealing) isn’t a blockchain at all, which throws the “crypto” part of Libra out the window. That means the people in charge of floating it in the first place, Zuck and his cronies, are the ones in control of it.

Now, as we have explained more than once, Facebook and the people who run it aren’t to be trusted with the details of when your sweet 16 party is taking place, let alone a currency that’ll presumably be used by millions or even billions of people. The company doesn’t care one jot about its customers, or its staff for that matter.

It’s not just a few axe-grinding hacks saying that, either. Several central banks have asked poignant questions about the Libra and what Facebook is planning. There’s speculation that it’ll reduce the power of central banks, but we doubt that even all of Zuckerberg’s forces of darkness will be able to pull that off. At least, we hope so.

Making Like Warren G

The backdrop to the unveiling of the Libra is also interesting, coming as it does at a time when governments the world over are looking to curb the power of tech’s Big Four(Facebook, Apple, Amazon and Google parent Alphabet). Though trust busting is pretty much a European hobby, the push is surprising because even U.S. lawmakers are looking at it, and seriously, too.

That’s not the worst idea ever, if we’re honest. Those large companies are doing a lot of good, but they hold so much data that breaking them up like Microsoft was in the 90s, might be a good way to decentralize their power and keep the market healthy. 

Add to that a more-or-less agreement by the G20 countries to close some of Big Tech’s tax loopholes and one could say those corporate giants are under siege. No wonder a small group of Alphabet shareholders suggested breaking up the company before the government does it for them.

Iran Some Code

If you’ve been following the news, you’ll have noticed that things are heating up in the Persian Gulf, with ships blowing up and drones and aircraft jockeying for position in the skies over and near Iran. That said, amid the bellowing coming from Tehran and Washington, the battle is being fought online, giving us a taste of the brave new world we’re building.

This article by Gizmodo lays out in brief what’s been happening, but what it boils down to is for every aborted threat in the real world, several blows have been struck in cyberspace. That changes not just this fracas but all conflict. The West is used to waging asymmetrical warfare against weaker opponents. Thanks to the internet, a country like Iran gets a level playing field.

So far, Iran has used that to influence elections, especially in the U.S., by spreading misinformation over Twitter (the company closed about 5,000 accounts last month) and has had hacker outfits attacking infrastructure and telecommunications. Though some may claim that war never changes, we’re living in times that prove the opposite.

Smaller Stories

Our favorite FCC chairman, Ajit Pai of net neutrality fame, is in hot water once again because it turns out he’s been hiding things from his commissioners concerning the unauthorized sale of Americans’ geolocation data. We wonder how he’ll wiggle his way out of this one, but wiggle he will, of that be assured.

In a reversal of fortune, bitcoin is back up, hitting the $15,000 mark once again in late June, but by the time this article goes to press it may well be down again or over $25,000. Seriously, you never know, and we’ve stopped making predictions.

The fate of Julian Assange is set to be as feared. With him locked up on now dropped Swedish charges, Britain is getting the paperwork ready to send him to the U.S. to stand trial for the crime of being a journalist. Thus, freedom dies a little more, with a whimper.

We’ll finish on a happy note. The promised British porn pass is off the table, most likely forever. Having realized that the UK porn ID was a terrible idea, and that the government has its hands full dealing with Brexit, residents of England, Scotland and Wales can breathe a sigh of relief knowing that they’ll be allowed to watch porn without having to prove they’re over 18.

Final Thoughts

June 2019 wasn’t mankind’s best month, what with tension between the U.S. and Iran and Assange being extradited and a major corporation planning to introduce its own currency to bypass those controlled by democratic governments. Still, there are silver linings, so let’s hope that trend continues in July.

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What do you think were the most important stories in June? Did we miss any? What does July have in store for us? Let us know in the comments below and, as always, thank you for reading.

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