Tuesday Bag o’ Clouds (Updated)

cloud bagI guess I’m going to have to learn about the cloud. I know, in general, about cloud computing, which is related to the cloud but not exactly the same thing. With cloud computing, instead of paying for and installing software on your own PC you can access similar software online, often for free, and prepare documents and spreadsheets in virtual space.

As for the cloud, up to now I’d thought of it as virtual storage space, presumably in an account with your name on it, retrievable only by you. When I first heard of the cloud, I thought it might be a dandy place to store backup files.

Caution prevailed, though. I bought my own software and installed it on my PC. I prepare documents on the PC and back them up to an external hard drive. I never took advantage of cloud computing, never tried to access the cloud. I’m a caveman, alright?

I’m starting to think my concept of the cloud is oversimplified and naive. In any case, I’m feeling the need to learn more. What’s prompting me is the recent leak of nude celebrity photos from private cloud accounts. Someone was able to hack into the iCloud accounts of Hollywood actresses and upload copies of intimate iPhone photos to websites like 4chan and Reddit. Surely you’ve heard about this; it’s pretty much taken over the internet.

I’m going to bet the actresses probably didn’t know copies of their iPhone photos are stored in iCloud accounts. I use an iMac, an iPad, and an iPhone. I know there’s something about the cloud in the setup menu of all three devices, but I didn’t look at it until today. It turns out I have a iCloud account. Apple created it for me the moment I bought my first Apple product and registered a user name and password. No doubt there’s something about it in all those terms of service contracts I agreed to without reading.

I looked at the iCloud menu on my iMac just now. These must be default settings, because I don’t remember ever using this menu before: my contacts, calendars, reminders, Safari bookmarks, keychain (whatever the hell that is), photos, documents & data, and a thing called “find my Mac” are stored in my iCloud account, presumably updated whenever I change anything. There are similar iCloud settings menus on my other Apple devices.

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I don’t know how to access the iCloud to see what’s actually there; I’m fairly certain a lot of my important stuff isn’t, and I’m glad I have everything backed up on that external hard drive. Without getting too nuts & boltsy, I’ve noticed that documents I prepare on Apple software just kind of appear when I go looking for them; they’re not in the traditional PC-style hard drive file folders I’m used to. Same thing with photos I’ve taken with the iPad and iPhone. These documents and photos, I believe, are the ones automatically backed up to the iCloud account.

When I use MS Office for Mac software, I save documents and spreadsheets I create the way I did in the MS-DOS days: to labeled file folders on the hard drive. Ditto photos I take with digital cameras and later copy to the iMac: in file folders labeled by year and date. I could be wrong, but I do not think these documents and photos are in the cloud.

Not that I have any intimate photos, but I do want to find out whether or not I’m right about what’s stored in the cloud and what isn’t. Now I just have to figure out how to access my own iCloud account. That’s what I’ll be doing, most likely for the rest of the day. Whee!

Update (30 minutes later): Well, that was surprisingly easy. I signed into my iCloud account using my Apple ID and password. My contacts and calendars are there, but no documents or data. Looking closer, I see that only documents I prepare with Apple’s Textedit program go into the cloud; the few times I’ve used Textedit I never saved anything with it. My MS Office for Windows documents are not in the cloud, as I suspected. Oddly, I couldn’t find any photos at all in my iCloud account, even though the setup menus on my iMac and iPhone say I’m sharing photos with the cloud. Which I guess is good, even though I don’t have any nude selfies (I accept your profuse thanks for that).

Update II (several hours later): Photos remain a mystery. When I call up my iCloud account there are no photos, not even a folder for them. I changed my iPhotos preferences to automatically upload to the iCloud account, but it ain’t happening. Here I am actively trying to upload personal photos to my iCloud account and I’m not getting anywhere. If it’s this hard to do (which seems very un-Apple-like), how did those actresses do it? If they had to negotiate all these wickets in order to do it, then it could hardly have been an accident their intimate photos were in the cloud. That’s how it looks to me at this point.

See, I was right when I said I’d be at this all day!

© 2014, Paul Woodford. All rights reserved.

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