Archive for the ‘cloud os’ Category

Rackspace Does Windows

August 10th, 2010 Comments off

Rackspace has announced the availability of Windows Cloud Servers. They are offering Windows Server 2008 is 32 bit and 64 bit versions for 2008 SP2, 2008 R2 and 2008 R2 SP2. You can grab various CPU and memory combinations and the cost/hour is very competitive.

RAM Disk Network Throughput Hourly Charge
1,024 MB 40 GB 30 Mbps $0.08
2,048 MB 80 GB 40 Mbps $0.16
4,096 MB 160 GB 50 Mbps $0.32
8,192 MB 320 GB 60 Mbps $0.58
15,872 MB 620 GB 70 Mbps $1.08

You’ll pay a bit more for Windows than you do for Linux but that’s pretty standard as MS charges licensing fees to the provider.  The cost per hour is actually cheaper on Rackspace than it is on Amazon EC2 but the box you get at Rackspace is not as beefy. As an example, a small server at amazon (0.12/hour) is 1.7GB Ram and 160GB disk (on a 32 bit CPU). with Rackspace, the small windows box (0.08/hour) is 1GB Ram on a 40GB disk (but you can run 32 or 64 bit for your money).

You access your windows server via remote desktop like any other cloud provided windows server.

If you’re looking to spin up a quick windows server, Rackspace is definitely worth a look. I generally run on EC2 but I like having options and Rackspace is now competing is pretty much every category that I need.

They are selling this as a small to medium business solution and I agree with that. It’s also an excellent tool for consultants. You don’t always need beefy to do demos and sell product. Plus you get all of the other Rackspace (and Cloud in general) stuff like dynamically adding resources. You’ll also get Rackspace’s SLAs.

At this price point, you can run a small server (thinking web server here) for less than $60/month. You have to add in data costs in and out of the data center but still that is an excellent starter kit.


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Mobile PDFs – 4 Ways to Read PDFs on your BlackBerry – Page 3

March 11th, 2009 1 comment

From the Cloud Computing Blog.

If you haven’t already, you should read page 1 and page 2 first.


The free MobiPocket ebook reader used to be produced by a German company but they are now an Amazon subsidiary. The Mobi format is what the Kindle uses as the default format for all of those ebooks. That means that for a Kindle, if you want to view PDFs, you need to convert them to Mobi format. Fortunately, Mobi provides that functionality.

I have been using mobi on my blackberry for a long time now. I mainly used it to read free science fiction books the Baen Free Library. Mobi has upgraded the viewer over the years and has a viewer for almost any platform, including most phones and desktops.

Mobi-loading Mobi-about

In addition to the reader, Mobi also offers a free Mobi Creator software. I have used the creator to create my own mobi docs in the past but for the most part, if you drag a PDF to the desktop reader, it will automatically convert it to Mobi format.


Regardless of how you create it, it looks good but does not maintain fidelity with the PDF. That means that you will end up with a different number of pages and the fonts will change but you will still have the basic order of the file and you will still have your graphics.


If you have the desktop reader open when connecting your blackberry, mobi will recognize the device and load it for you. Very easy.


Once you get the mobi file to your BlackBerry, reading it is much like viewing a PDF in one of the PDF viewers. You use a file explorer to load documents (call My Library). If your PDF has a table of contents, you will notice the lack of fidelity right away.

mobi-toc mobi-code-formatting

The internal links on the TOC still work, they are just formatted funky. You can see how the formatting was lost in the sample XML document. For me, in most instances, this is a very minor issue. Everything else in mobi works the way I need it to. You can navigate with a goto page menu:

mobi-menu mobi-navigate-menu

Viewing your documents is an excellent experience. Mobi is very readable and the pages load pretty much instantaneously on my Bold.

mobi-digram mobi-normal-font

mobi-larger-font mobi-larger-font2

Search also works well and is fairly fast.

mobi-search mobi-search-progress


Considering that the viewer and the ability to convert PDFs to mobi format are both free, you really can’t beat this product. Even if you do need document fidelity, this software is a keeper. Buy a PDF viewer and use mobi for those documents that you want to read, not reference. I’m in the process of converting all of my PDFs.


ShortCovers is not a PDF viewer or converter. It is a social network, ebook reader and a catalog of ebooks that you can purchase. The only reason I am including it here is that for the less technically inclined, it may be an easier way to go. Basically, you read books and talk about them. You can read on blackBerry, iPhone or online and the software remembers where you were so that you can pick back up in the same place later.

I have browsed around and read some of the excepts but I have not purchased any full novels.


shortcovers-popular shortcovers-book-overview


For PDF viewing, I found that BeamReader has some shortcomings. While the cheapest of the the three readers, it doesn’t meet my needs. PDF To Go, as the most expensive (by a lot), has excellent performance and plenty of features. Repligo Reader, though at not much more than BeamReader, has all of those features and more. The performance is impressive. For my PDF needs, when I really need the fidelity that PDF provides, I have decided to purchase Repligo Reader. I think it will be a good purchase.

For those times when readability is more important than fidelity (such as novels or extended reading of reference material), I use, and will continue to use, MobiPocket reader for BlackBerry. It’s free and can convert PDFs (and other formats such as Word and TXT) to the Mobi format. MobiPocket reader is my first choice for reading on the BlackBerry, followed by Repligo.

I mention ShortCovers for its social networking features but everything it offers is also offered by MobiPocket. MobiPocket also has an online store for ebooks.

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Mobile PDFs – 4 Ways to Read PDFs on your BlackBerry – Page 2

March 11th, 2009 2 comments

From the Cloud Computing Blog.

If you haven’t already, you should read page 1 first.


BeamReader, formerly BeamBerry, is produced by SLG Mobile. BeamReader was originally created BeamBerry as a hosted service. It would translate the PDF on a server and stream the output to your device. SLG still offers a service like this (for PDFs and many other document types) and even offers a print service. The newer BeamReader provides a native PDF renderer and they claim to be “the first full fidelity native PDF reader for BlackBerry”.


Unfortunately, I had some major problems with BeamReader while trying to do this review. I admit that I was using a very large file, 3MB – 374 pages. I have several PDFs that are over 20MB. The other tools I used did not have the problems that I ran into with BeamReader.

BeamReader was incredibly slow when compared to PDF To Go and to Repligo. It was really unusable. I loaded the file and then left my blackberry sitting while I did other things to give it time to load the first page. When it finally rendered a page, it would either be unreadable or blank.

beamreader-bad-render beam-reader-unreadable

BeamReader does support bookmarks (which I think is an important feature). Oddly enough, even though it took a while to display, BeamReader was able to produce the bookmarks for my large document.

beamreader_loading_bookmarks beam-reader-bookmarks

I decided to try with a smaller file and had more success. It performed better and produced readable documents.

beamreader-small-file beamreader-file-info

BeamReader, like the other readers, supports various levels of zoom. BeamReader supports fewer though and I had a harder time finding a zoom level that I could read and that would fit the entire page on the screen. It seemed like the higher zoom levels would degrade the fidelity of the document.

beamreader-normall beamreader-50-pct

Operationally, BeamReader works like most other software of this type. It comes with a file explorer. Pick the file from a list and it launches. The file manager of this tool (unlike others) will allow you to perform file manipulation such as renaming, deleting and even creating new files. You can also attach files to emails (with OS 4.5+).


BeamReader offers a 10 day trial and costs $17.99 per user. With the ability to create new files, you can create a new.doc file and open with the standard version of Documents To Go for editing. If you need to create new word documents on your BlackBerry, this can save you some money.

SLG claims that BeamReader is the fastest PDF viewing solution for BlackBerries. They may have some kind of benchmarks to make such a claim but that is not my experience.

Repligo Reader

Repligo Reader is produced by Cerience who also sell Repligo Professional and Repligo Server. Repligo Reader is very similar to PDF To Go in performance but offers several additional features.

repligo-reader repligo-trial-license

repligo-warning repligo-startuup

Repligo rendered pages quickly and in general performed very well. It follows the same standard interface with the file manager and load screen.

repligo-file-list repligo-loading

Repligo supports bookmarks and multiple levels of zoom.

repliggo-bookmarks repligo-zoom-menu

The rendering was fantastic. Full fidelity and it looked very crisp and clean.

repligo-page-width repligo-33-pct

repligo-40-pct repligo-50-pct

I did run into some issues with rendering in what is called Reading View. For some reason, the graphics rendered OK but the text was mangled. Some pages were partially readable but others were completely unreadable.

repligo-reading-view Repligo-bad-render

A couple of final screen shots of the menu and the file properties screen.

repligo-menu repligo-file-properties

Repligo reader supports search and email attachment support. It costs $19.95 which is significantly less that Docs To Go Premium and only slightly more than BeamReader. It offers features that are missing in BeamReader and PDF To Go and great performance.

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Mobile PDFs – 4 Ways to Read PDFs on your BlackBerry

March 10th, 2009 5 comments

From the Cloud Computing Blog.

Today’s post is a little bit different than my normal fare. In my quest for mobile productivity, I have been looking for a way to carry my technical library with me where ever I go. While I can upload my PDFs to various Cloud OSes, and I do, I still have a need to access my documentation while disconnected. Plus, I still have to view those documents when I may not have a computer available (although with my EEE PC 1000h, that is rare these days). That leaves me with my phone.

I recently upgraded to a blackberry bold. I’m running the BB OS I also have it fitted with an 8GB SDHC card. The bold allows me wifi access if available and 3g access when it’s not. The CPU in the bold is decent but doesn’t compete with a netbook. Whatever solution I choose needs to be usable from a reader’s perspective (as in flipping from page to page) as well as actually readable.

In this post, I am going to be reviewing 3 native PDF viewers for the BlackBerry: PDF to Go, Repligo Reader and BeamReader. I am also going to add the MobiPocket mobile ebook reader. While it doesn’t do PDF, it does convert from PDF to its native format. Finally, I am going to throw in ShortCovers. While not exactly in the same class as MobiPocket or a PDF reader, it is a way to read ebooks and it runs on a blackberry.

NOTE: The images in this post are actually smaller than what is displayed on the blackberry. To see the original resolution, click on the image. The BlackBerry Bold as a resolution of 480×320.

pdf2go-about Repligo-about

beamreader-about Mobi-loading


PDF To Go by DataViz is the current market leader for native PDF viewing on Blackberries. The more recent versions of BlackBerry come with the standard version of Documents To Go, a native MS Office compatible toolset that let’s you view and edit MS Word, Excel and PowerPoint files on your device.

pdf-to-go-icon pdf2go-trial-license

pdf2go-menu pdf3go-competitor-warning

If you upgrade to the premium version, you get the ability to create new documents in those office tools and you get a native PDF viewer, PDF To Go. The upgrade is not cheap. $49.99 for a 1 year license or $69.99 for a perpetual license.

PDF To Go has a decent interface. It’s a pretty standard interface for a BB; pick a file from a file manager, load it up, render the page.

pdf2go-file-manager pdf2go-rendering

PDF To Go renders faster than any of the other tools I tried. It is followed very closely by Repligo but just edged it out. I was loading a very large document. On smaller documents, there was no noticeable difference between Repligo and PDF to Go. Render time is important when reading. As you navigate from page to page, you don’t want a long wait. Even though PDF To Go was the fastest, it was still a slow process going from page to page. When going back to a previous page, it had to re-render it (as if it is not caching the rendered pages).

Once the page is rendered, it is very small. That is because the PDF is maintaining fidelity and is meant for a much larger screen. All of the tools allow you to zoom in and out. PDF To Go has the ability to zoom to various predefined levels.

pdf2go-toc pdf2go-zoom-menu


The main purpose of a PDF is to maintain the fidelity of layout and graphics. A PDF view MUST be able to view documents as meant by an author. PDF To Go does a very good job of this, even at various zoom levels. The final image below is also a special mode called Word Wrap. In word wrap mode, you will lose fidelity and graphics but it is easier to read the text.

pdf2go-25-pct pdf-to-go-width

pdf2go-50-pct pdf2go-word-wrap-mode

PDF To Go has some basic help. Select help from the menu and you can view key shortcuts as well as some simple documentation on using the reader.

On the downside to PDF To Go, besides how expensive it is, is the fact that it does not support book marks, nor does it support a Go To Page feature. For small documents, that might not be much of an issue but for larger documents one or the other is a must. I don’t want to (slowly) render through a couple of hundred pages to get to what ever it is that I am interested in. PDF To Go does save your last location so that when you reopen a PDF, you will return to the same page where you left it.

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Defining Cloud Computing – Part 5: Desktops as a Service

February 20th, 2009 Comments off

Desktops as a Service

Falling some somewhere between software and a platform are Cloud Desktops (also called a Cloud OS). These desktops run inside a browser and are accessible from any desktop with an internet connection.

A cloud desktop offers word processing, spreadsheets, development tools, networking tools and more. While relatively immature at this time, we can expect this market to grow significantly in the coming years, especially as more and more smart phones and ultraportables hit the real world.

Microsoft LiveMesh offers free storage, machine synchronization and a cloud based desktop. iCloud and both offer complete, robust desktops (including browsers, applications and storage) completely in the cloud. The greatest benefit to a cloud desktop is that all of your applications and data is accessible from any computer. The downside is that with no internet access, you have access to none of your data or applications.

EyeOS is a completely open source cloud OS that you can download and install in your own data center. It offers all of the expected functionality and installs as a simple PHP application on your Apache web server.

The nice part about these platforms at the moment is that most are completely free. Sign up, login and you have a virtual desktop off in the clouds. The business model of most of these (such as iCloud or are subscriptions for enhanced services and extra capabilities (such as bandwidth or disk space).

The other significant aspect of these cloud desktops is the ability to run desktop quality applications, such as word processors and spreadsheets, from a phone. Business at internet speeds and internet availability.

It remains to be seen whether cloud desktop catch on but SaaS in general is here to stay. It’s easy to use, cheap and covers just about any category of software that you might use.

Throw in a pair of virtual world gloves and goggles and it’s almost like science fiction.


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