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ATPM 13.09
September 2007




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by Mark Tennent,

IT Pros Are Anything But

There is a company we have to work with quite extensively, which, to protect the innocent, we’ll call Company X. This organization is highly dependent on computerization and, like many British firms, seems wedded to browser-based solutions. The problem is, these are what is technically known as crap.

Even though we are friends with Company X, it makes it awfully difficult to work with the company. We have to send files (ranging in size from a few kilobytes to many hundreds of megabytes) to many different departments. Sometimes they are extremely urgent and have to meet strict deadlines. There is no alternative but to use Company X’s Web browser interfaces, although once or twice we’ve been able to e-mail small files directly to the intended recipient, usually because he is as frustrated by his company’s systems as we are.

What’s Wrong With FTP?

Company X has incredibly slow servers, which dribble out Web pages. The file transfer site is just as slow, basic, and rustic. Like us, the people sending files are all professionals and able to get their heads around such a simple piece of software such as an FTP client. Before the Web was running, we were transmitting files around the world with ZModem, so a free GUI FTP program is a cinch. Company X would only need to spend a tiny amount of time keeping its FTP presence up to date. In return, we would have a robust and reliable file transfer method that should even allow resumable transfers.

To make matters worse, the Web programmers for Company X wear those Microsoft tinted shades, which make them see only Windows and Internet Explorer. They make the Web interfaces, check them from Windows, and announce they are up and running. No matter that a vast number of non-Windows users are sending files to Company X’s publishing division from their publishing-industry-standard computers, which cannot see the Web pages correctly because the programmers used Windows-specific features or insist they must use a certain non-standard browser.

Then there are the spammers. As part of its Web presence, Company X has a blogging system open to the outside world to let staff and others exchange news and information and leave comments. Bloggers can find that their comments sections have an ever-increasing number of spams advertising the usual range of penis extenders, which girlie is bored this afternoon, and pharmacy paradises.

iDisk Amendments

Apple recently made some changes to, including giving ten times the storage space. We’ve now each got 20 GB of fast, two-way, high-quality file transfer space. Apple uses a browser-based interface as well as one that integrates tightly with Mac OS X. For older Microsoft operating systems, Apple provides a simple file transfer application. It does use WebDAV, but that doesn’t limit it to access via a Web browser, as many programs can manage the iDisk space. We get fed up with the time wasted using bad interfaces such as Company X’s, and my clients really appreciate being able to easily send files to our iDisk Public folders for us to collect.

We save work to our iDisks as if there were a disk connected over our LAN. They function exactly like a folder or disk on our desktops and integrate wonderfully with our other disk drives—we have about 4 TB across various disks, split into many partitions so that we can mirror them in different locations. A new off-site 20 GB each is a welcome addition, almost as cheap as a hard drive itself.

In addition to storage space, Apple’s servers operate its shopfront, magazines, information libraries, forums, developers’ sites, e-mail, Web hosting, streaming audio, and video. They are stylish, slick, and efficient, and open to all platforms.

Wishful Thinking

After trying British Telecom’s attempt to do the same and dealing with the feeble Web presence running for many major companies, Apple’s solution is so far ahead I cannot understand why it doesn’t sell its server space and skills to other businesses.

Apple has really missed a trick here.

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Reader Comments (1)

Mr. Peabody · September 21, 2007 - 18:26 EST #1
"The problem is, these are what is technically known as crap." Like you wouldn't believe. What was it, Windows 98 that tried to turn the entire pc experience into a browser centric one? Listen, browsers are great for browsing, but I loath them for much of anything else, why, because it's just a cheezy way to get out of having to make a real application with a real UI. Our company is on the verge of pushing this issue too far, even with lots of Macs being installed over the last three years. We want to solve every custom software issue with a Web app - yikes!

As for file sharing, of the myriad commercial, shareware, and free products out there for all platforms, I can't believe that there aren't secure ftp products.

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