Living in the cloud is dangerous, just ask a Sidekick owner | webOS Nation
 
 

Living in the cloud is dangerous, just ask a Sidekick owner 53

by Derek Kessler Sat, 10 Oct 2009 9:24 pm EDT

The Sidekick and living in the cloud So while it is rather cool and all that all of the data on your webOS phone is also stored on some remote server somewhere that’ll keep it safe in the event of your phone’s untimely demise, it turns out there’s a dark side to that coolness. Recently owners of T-Mobile Sidekicks have experienced that dark side first hand, and quite brutally. Starting late last week Sidekick owners were faced with a server breakdown that greatly inhibited their ability to do just about anything with their phones. The Sidekick line is surprisingly cloud-centric, with your contacts, tasks, web browsing and just about everything else handled through Danger’s (the OS builder, now owned by Microsoft) servers. The server broke, and took down Sidekicks nationwide with it.

As if not being able to manage basic tasks like looking up contacts was injury enough, today T-Mobile added the insult on top of it: the server meltdown was enough that it seems that all server-side data has been irretrievably lost:

“Regrettably, based on Microsoft/Danger's latest recovery assessment of their systems, we must now inform you that personal information stored on your device - such as contacts, calendar entries, to-do lists or photos - that is no longer on your Sidekick almost certainly has been lost as a result of a server failure at Microsoft/Danger. That said, our teams continue to work around-the-clock in hopes of discovering some way to recover this information. However, the likelihood of a successful outcome is extremely low.”

Ouch. And the servers are still down, more than a week after the initial failure. T-Mobile is advising all Sidekick owners to avoid resetting their phones at all costs, including removing the battery or letting it drain completely. It turns out that personal data like your contacts is never actually saved on the phone, and if is reset the phone has to download it again when back online. Except with no server to download the lost data from, you can’t get it back. It’s a dark day for the cloud.

Sidekick owners aren’t alone in their cloud woes, as some Palm Pre owners can attest. During the webOS 1.2 update, Palm’s servers were slammed something fierce and went down hard, taking Updates, the App Catalog, and Backup offline. While all the data on your phone stays on your phone, strangely when Backup phoned home to perform its nightly backup and found that the server was down, it for some reason assumed that the Palm Profile it was running (i.e. your data) was invalid and performed a factory reset on itself. What fun it is to awaken to a wiped clean Pre. Thankfully for most, their data was recovered and restored once the servers came back online, but it’s a frightening thought to realize just how dependent our phones can be on a computer that is wholly out of our control.

The situation that Sidekick owners are facing, however, is highly unlikely for webOS users. Assuming that Palm manages to fix the backup disconnect failure, an activated Pre should work just fine without a Palm server to contact - items are downloaded on Synergy conduit creation and then synced, but always saved on the device. With the exception of services backed up to Palm, such as Memos, and Palm Profile-categorized task entries, contacts, and calendar events, everything else is saved and synced with the servers owner by different companies - for most of us that’s the generally reliable Google, whose data centers are fairly decentralized to avoid a Sidekick-sized failure.

Additionally, even if the entire internet system were to go down, your contacts and calendars and everything else (with the exception of Google Maps) is all saved on the Pre. Unlike a Sidekick, webOS does not have to phone home to do some more basic things, even still we’re faced with a disheartening reliance on the cloud. While we don’t have to like it, right now there are few options outside of simply dealing with it. So long as Palm and Google and everybody else we rely on to store our data remains diligent about server stability and backups, we should be alright. It can be scary living in the cloud, but that silver lining of data mobility and access is just so darned shiny.

53 Comments

Just a side note, that you can also keep your own backup of Google contacts/calendar by exporting the data to your own PC (not a bad idea). I always recommend new Pre owners immediately set up a Google account and make it their default (unless they need Exchange) for just that reason (whereas the Palm Profile has no export capability). And, I have to say I feel pretty comfortable having my data on Google servers.

Agree.

ditto

Yah seriously, I use my own server for my primary email, but I have a gmail account too. Still I keep backups of everything in Thunderbird and I've used the TB backup to transfer my email, contacts and etc from one server to another.

Yup was going to write that.

Yes, a server can go down, but so can your HDD...its up to the end user to properly back up any and all important information.

How is it than anyone feels comfortable with Google having any of their data? Google are admitted spyware -- gmail reads your email!!!

This is why I root into my pre to copy the datascripts to my pc. Unlike sidekicks, webos gives you other places to put the data.

one more reason palm should get exchange working better. Let me worry about my own data!! Still find it strange one what a poor job palm is doing in this regard. Iphone is coming to bell if I hadn't hace had this pre for so long and got used to having multi tasking I would switch the minute it came. Come on palm don't make me switch get this working. Pc biggest enemy in world does!

one more reason palm should get exchange working better. Let me worry about my own data!! Still find it strange on what a poor job palm is doing in this regard. Iphone is coming to bell if I hadn't had this pre for so long and got used to having multi tasking I would switch the minute it came. Come on palm don't make me switch get this working. Pc biggest enemy in world does!

It works great already.

Seriously, what are you talking about? Exchange works great on the Pre (since 1.2.1 fixed all the problems that were introduced in 1.2). I would argue it works better than most any other phone out there (name all the phones that supports multiple Exchange servers:
1. Pre
2. That's it (if I'm not mistaken)
).

ouch somegirl i kno has a sidekick i needa save her life and tell her y this happned!

Good grief. When will it become obvious to Palm:

Desktop sync!! Desktop sync!! Desktop sync!!
Desktop sync!! Desktop sync!! Desktop sync!!
Desktop sync!! Desktop sync!! Desktop sync!!
Desktop sync!! Desktop sync!! Desktop sync!!
Desktop sync!! Desktop sync!! Desktop sync!!
Desktop sync!! Desktop sync!! Desktop sync!!

---- and then

WE can back it up!! WE can back it up!! WE can back it up!!
WE can back it up!! WE can back it up!! WE can back it up!!
WE can back it up!! WE can back it up!! WE can back it up!!
WE can back it up!! WE can back it up!! WE can back it up!!

Yes, this! Please -- we loved the old Desktop sync. What harm does it do for us to have such a thing?

And when we had desktop sync people clamored for a network backup. I've been burned often enough that I don't rely on any one source for my information. When I had a Palm Pilot I was dead set against syncing my contacts with Outlook (Exchange in my case) as I firmly believed that personal and business information should remain separate. When I had to get a blackberry for work I had to get over that issue as with BB there is no such thing as local contacts when you're connected to a BES server. Now, all my contacts are in Exchange and I have EAS for that. Our exchange servers are backed up, quite often actually, so I'm not worried about losing that data. On the off chance that I actually get fired, laid off, or simply quit, I have an OST file for my contacts only that is copied to a personal USB drive on a daily basis.

So what you're saying is that you expect to get fired any day now?

There's one in every crowd.

You are aware that you can sync Google to your desktop, thereby accomplishing the same thing, right?

Sorry, but I totally disagree. Desktop sync is far inferior to Synergy and cloud sync IMHO. But I believe you can do this if you're intent on it (just costs a little extra). I think Palm's only real mistake here is having Palm Profile as the default (or maybe even having it at all).

I think it's vice versa. the cloud it the problem. and the pre, as palm is not giving any alternative to the cloud.

btw... do I need a palm profile just for the registration or do I have to use this profile even after registration to get the pre working?

George Carlin: "Behind every silver lining there's a dark cloud"

Amen to that brother.

So, if we get a terminal running and copy files over, where do the Palm profile: contacts, calendar, tasks, etc, live on it's Linux file system, and what file/database type are they open-able with so that the data can be retrieved/converted?

Check the WebOS Internals web site, under the "Tools" heading there's an article on the PalmDatabase.db3 file. That's only Contacts but should get you started. Not for technically challenged 8^).

Wow! This is a black-eye for Microsoft. You'd think when they took over Danger's servers they would have evaluated their disaster recovery plan. Wondering if the servers are *nix-based and Microsoft was clueless. Doubt it since they work hard to understand their competition.

This is where Synergy becomes more important. Saving information on multiple servers means if Google goes down, I still have access to my exchange information. It is essentially decentralizing your personal information. Synergy helps to centralize the information again to your single device. And because of Synergy can merge names, duplicating information becomes a lot easier.

The only problem I have with Pre is the fact that I have to have Sprint service and a Palm profile to do anything with the phone. With an unlocked Pre coming, the carrier dependence is gone, but if Palm goes down (let's imagine the worst that Apple bought Palm and took down Palm supports), then my phone cannot be reset. Of course, the hope is that someone would come up a solution at that time, but I think I would like see a solution sooner. I think Palm should allow people to use Pre without a Palm profile. Of course, the cost is that the user would not get automatic backup unless they get some 3rd party solutions.

And desktop sync is a good way to decentralize information more. However, if you rely on backing up everything with desktop sync, then if your PC dies or your house is burned down, you still can potentially lose everything. Sure as end user we would have more control on our data, we can always do more to lower such risks, but the cost is more time on our end to manage our own data.

My feeling is that Synergy doesn't mesh the data. Data lost in one part of the cloud will remove it from your Pre, even if you'd prefer it stay. The best example of this is when someone deletes their Facebook profile or un-friends you. All the data in their profile generated from Facebook is lost from your device.

If the data meshed it would keep a secondary copy of all the data in a centralized location, like at Google or Palm.

I think you are right. That's why I don't really view Facebook as my primary contact source. It is a nice place to find some old friends or meet new friends, but really it is not setup for contacts. Just think about the people who have 200+ contacts in Facebook, how many are real friends that you want want to get a phone call from?

One way Pre could make things easier is to allow easy copy from one source to the other. So in the case you were talking about, the user should copy any Facebook contact info to Google or any other accounts pulled in by Synergy. Again, duplication to decentralize your data. And Synergy shines at not clutter your view on your phone, you still have the person's information together and not worry about maintaining duplicates on your phone.

I am so tired of hearing winers. Who here doesn't think that we're looking at all of Apple's apps? Are we looking for a WebOS system that's easy to copy Apple's apps but make them better? There is an app for that.

I don't understand this comment... but I do like wine. So I guess that makes me a "winer." :)

No, that would be, "wino."

I am so lucky!!! I traded in my new sidekick LX 2009 in August for my pre, and havent looked back yet! Have been thinking about the Hero, but think I will stay with the pre!

Hi five to you! you are a true Pre owner like me.
My phone is a Preeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee.

Palm lost all of my contacts. The issue has been elevated to level 3 support and after more than 2 weeks i am still waiting. (the engineers are working on it, im told).

Hence, i have now backed up most contacts using google.

Palm informs me it is a "known issue" that palm is losing info in the clouds.

This is all completely true and i would be happy to chat further or provide proof (although im not sure how the latter would be accomplished)

Didn't older PalmOS devices have a similar problem, that if they lost all their power they'd also lose their info?

I can't believe Sidekick's still have that vulnerability. How hard would it have been to store a back up on the deivice? That is so basic a security feature it'd be like not having a door.

I'm confident in the Palm/Pre solution: On device, Palm Profile, Synergy with Google -- allowing downloads to my computer(s). I'm covered if the device is lost. I'm covered if my house burns down. And I'm covered if the sky falls. In fact, even if any two of those things happen I still have all my data.

@ mgabel_pi: Don't hold your breath. Desktop sync ain't coming from Palm. Just like PalmOS emulation, it will/has come from third parties ... and it'll cost ya.

@Colonel Kernel

My Treo 600 would do that, that's why it always scared me to death when I see the battery meter in the red and I was no where near a place to charge it. That being said, there were multiple ways that you can easily backup a Palm OS device, you can do desktop sync, or you can even do a direct backup to SD cards with some 3rd party programs. So if my Treo misbehave or whatever, I just restore it from backup, all it takes is probably like 5 mins or so and pretty painless.

I know as early as the 700, the data was in flash. My old Visor would wipe if you let it drain beyond the resever. Dont recall it being an issue with the T2, as that was made with much of the same hardware as Treo's. Damn, how hot would the Pre be with imbedded desktop synch? More control for the user. Use or not, you decide. I know it doesn't take much code to accomplish.

Wow, I had not heard of this... It certainly explains why I've lost some contacts. I thought I was going crazy when I could't find a contact I had used the day before. Fortunately, the name and number were saved in my history.
I'm almost afraid to look and see what else is missing... I hope they get this sorted out!

I guess the people at Danger have never heard of backing things up and/or off site backups so when your servers die you don't loose TB of your customers data.

I seem to remember something about always using "multiple redundant backups" of important server info. Guess someone forgot??? =)

I feel really bad for all those people though. This is downright negligent.

I bet that since the whole Microsoft/Danger deal has been a non-starter, and recent rumors portray the morale within the project as absolutely abyssmal, that this could very well be sabotage from someone within the project who was highly motivated to make it go away.

Before this moment, I wasn't worried about the annoying lack of desktop synch; it failed spectacularly at one point in my Treo 650's life cycle. But I'm worried now. When I first loaded data onto my Pre, I labeled contacts as "Palm Profile." By the time I switched my default to Google, I had over 100 Palm Profile labeled contacts. With no way to switch them to Google, l'm mildly anxious that I could be struck by lightening. Unless someone knows of a way to switch contacts from the Palm Profile category to Google, I suppose I'll be stuck reentering a few contacts each day into Google until I have all of them switched.

Hey, this sounds like a great idea for a tweak! An option for synch in the edit page of contacts would be wonderful.

I never had a desktop synch failure, but could imagine one dataset becoming corrupt on the handheld or PC, and then synch adopting the bad set and rendering both sets bad. But, I'd synch my Treo to 4 different secured PC's and once a month, I'd pull out my T2 and synch that too.

On a road trip, my Treo did meltdown. I hard reset it, and restored it with my laptop knowing I still had four other backups out there if things didn't work out. I slept pretty easy set up like this.

My daughter has a sidekick and lost ringtones and everything. Now I need to call T-Mobile and get a credit. She drove me crazy when she couldn't log in for almost a week. AIM is critical for these kids!!!

Sidekicks are poorly designed from a software perspective...if you pull the battery then the devices looses all its pim info....its kinda silly to be talking about a sidekick on precentral...its the same as comparing computers and oranges

i think the reason were talking about it on Pre Central is the Pre is a cloud based phone also. Obviously not as cloud based as the sidekick.

I use google to store all my contacts

Boy, that's ridiculous. Um, redundancies? Backups? Anything?

Heh, it's always proven time and time again that you can recover just about anything from a computer, unless it's info that you need... :/

Danger! Great name for the product/service.

lol, that's funny! Who the hell was responsible for this little fiasco? Either way, I

"It turns out that personal data like your contacts is never actually saved on the phone, and if is reset the phone has to download it again when back online."

This is not true. I've reset my Sidekick LE 2008 a half-dozen times before the outage, and had it drain completely once (all before they made public the warning). It didn't lose any of the locally-stored information. A reset CAN cause data loss, and if your Sidekick doesn't have enough memory to store everything locally it WILL cause some data loss. But the complete wipe that some very unfortunate people have suffered is more of a fluke than a certainty.

There's always issues and dangers in keeping your data "safe". This example doesn't show that the "cloud" concept is bad, only that the T-Mobile/Sidekick/Danger implementation was flawed. It all depends on how important the data is and to what lengths you're willing to go. Anyone who blindly trusts T-Mobile (or Palm or Google or anyone) with *really* important data is asking for trouble.

safe to say that backing up info is important

This exact issue just happened to me on my pre. I'm in the middle of nowhere and my pre decided it wanted to keep installing 1.2.1 on my phone. Restored using webos doctor... Only 5 of the most recent contacts I added got restored. I've used the doc before and everything worked out fine. This time my luck ran out. I'm fed up with the piss poor support palm and sprint have to offer since this is my second pre and have had nothing but issues. Neither company wants to take an innitiative in helping me, which is sad because I was within the 30 day period when I first contacted sprint about my issues. Since no sprint store is within 150 miles of me right now, I'm pretty screwed.


***Update***
Support was not able to fix my issue and my case has been transferred to a specialist. They cannot help me now, and will supposedly keep in contact with me. So it looks like I have had a Cloud issue just like the Sidekick Owners. I'm going start a google account now.

I cannot understand why is this so bad. Where are you doing with this.
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