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Google Apps Deciphered 91

Posted by samzenpus
from the read-all-about-it dept.
Lorin Ricker writes "Computing in the Cloud — Free Apps — Outsource It! Yippee! Automation TCO nirvana at last! You can hear the non-technical managers and home-users unite in grateful song and dance! If we can just offload our office applications and data to the Cloud Known As Google, that apparently bottomless source of storage, search and now other useful capabilities, our office automation problems will be solved! Hooray! 'Well, just y'all hold up there a minit, lil' cowboy. Thar's a few thangs y'all oughta know 'bout afore ya go rushin' off...' If John Wayne didn't say exactly that, well, he should'a." Keep reading for the rest of Lorin's review.
Google Apps Deciphered -- Compute in the Cloud to Streamline Your Desktop
author Scott Granneman
pages 552
publisher Prentice Hall
rating 7
reviewer Lorin Ricker
ISBN 0-13-700470-2
summary A practical, comprehensive and useful guide to Google Apps
Scott Granneman's new book Google Apps Deciphered — Compute in the Cloud to Streamline Your Desktop is a very useful technical overview about deploying Google Apps. It promotes a contagiously positive "we're gonna be saved" view of Google's ambitious initiative to provide our user communities with the perfect environment to counterbalance the Microsoft-centric archipelago of computing workstations. Good on Google, and good for Mr. Granneman for providing this practical overview, a comprehensive how-to for deploying Google Apps in any workplace.

And yet, to dampen our somewhat overly enthusiastic spirits, along comes none other than RMS himself in the role of the cowboy philosopher, with words of warning regarding the collective wisdom of committing all our eggs to the Google/Cloud basket: "Hold on there, pilgrim." The present book review is not the place to engage in this particular debate (see Ben Rothke's illuminating review of Greg Conti's recent book, Googling Security) — suffice it to say that Google Apps Deciphered pays no attention whatsoever to the issues of data security, privacy, and ownership.

The business wisdom of committing proprietary information, trade secrets, sensitive data, competitive analysis, private reports, personal/identity and non-public customer data is not even acknowledged as Granneman launches enthusiastically, without reservation, into his topics. Readers seeking any guidance on the legal, statutory, ethical and practical issues regarding data security in the Cloud will come up empty-handed in Google Apps Deciphered — start with Conti's book instead. In fairness, however, the whole concept of Cloud data storage is in the formative stages of discussion and understanding by many of us; still, I find myself wishing that Granneman's book had at least given a nod to and perhaps delineated the issues at hand, rather than jumping uncritically into the presumed virtues of total Cloud commitment.

That said, it was my only real gripe about Google Apps Deciphered. Taking it at face value, this book is a sure-footed guide to deploying Google Apps at its current state of development and fitness for duty.

The author starts out with an Introductory chapter which lays out the benefits (but without the down-side) of Cloud computing, and extols the general virtues of Google Apps itself — that's the cheerleading part of the book. Where appropriate, several of the chapters are neatly tied off with a list of supporting references, nearly all of which are websites or online articles cited by title, author (where relevant and available), and full URL.

The meat of the book is a comprehensive how-to for Google Apps, in six parts of a few chapters each: Part I "Getting Started with Google Apps" covers the selection of the appropriate "edition" of Apps, and then goes on to discuss migration issues for existing user data (email, contacts and calendars), concluding with advice on managing Apps services.

Part II covers email — not from an individual 's "I've got a gmail account of my own" perspective, but from the corporate or organizational "let's convert from Exchange Server" ambition. Part III similarly covers Google Calendar.

Part IV addresses Google Docs, Google's answer to Microsoft's Office Suite. Part V is about Google Sites, while Part VI picks up various miscellanea, including Google Talk, the Start Page, Message Security and Recovery (no, not exactly about data security), and finally, Google Video.

Park VII consists of three Appendices, one addressing "Backing Up Google Apps" (sic! — but why? Doesn't adopting the Cloud forgive us of this responsibility?); the next covers "Dealing with Multiple Accounts" (apparently, the existence of certain pre-existing Google accounts can complicate a new deployment); and finally, an appendix which touts "Google Chrome: A Browser Built for Cloud Computing."

For the most part, each of the Parts is similarly constructed, with chapters covering "Setting Up...", "Things to Know About Using..." and "Integrating ... with Other Software and Services" for gmail, Calendar, Docs, Sites and the rest. And herein lies the strength of the book as a how-to deployment guide. Scott Granneman is a well-regarded author, educator and consultant to the free and open source software community, having previously written good books about Linux, Knoppix, Firefox and more. He brings this expertise and experience directly to bear on the practical problems of deployment and committing an organization's computing resources and users (or at least a part of them) to Google's Cloud resources.

These how-to chapters are comprehensive; they anticipate and resolve many of the practical problems one would encounter during deployment with directions and advice which is obviously hard-won, based on the real-world expertise of the author. He's clearly done the Apps deal himself, and writes from actual experience, not from the hypothetical.

As examples of these comprehensive deployment recipes, the chapter on gmail includes consideration of: folder structures and limitations; live cutover considerations; IMAP and POP; migration tools; issues special to Exchange Server; mbox and Maildir stores; techniques and tools for actually moving bulk messages (and having them land correctly); specific issues with Outlook, Hotmail, Thunderbird, Macs, web-based email, and more; and solving common problems. With this thoroughness, it's likely that most problems and issues of deployment are anticipated and covered — the rare thing that's not can probably be figured out by analogy with what Scott does address. And so on for the other Google Apps as well.

The author also comes clean about the various limits and restrictions imposed on Google Apps accounts and deployments, and delineates these according to the five Editions of Apps: Standard, Premiere, Team, Education, and Partner (free and paid modes). For example, Google Docs imposes strict limits on document file sizes, and "at most a limit of 5,000 documents and presentations and 5,000 images." (Really. Is this adequate for even the average office worker over the long-term? What about prolific Sally the tech-writer, or John "the tool" over in proposals? Are such limits practical for an enterprise?) There are more such things scattered throughout the book, as well as existing problems (such as the previously mentioned "multiple accounts" issue) which, honestly, only serve to bolster the common impression that many Google products are in a perpetual state of beta.

This book belongs in the hands of every technical staff who gets charged by their employer with the responsibility for a Google Apps deployment. If that's where your company is going, then Scott Granneman's book will no doubt save countless hours of experimentation, false starts and problem solving — it's a serious practical, technical leg up on what will be a non-trivial data and environment migration effort.

Given his target — the why/benefits of adopting the Google Apps/Cloud approach, and how to get it done — Google Apps Deciphered scores well for hitting its mark. I gave it slightly lower marks for its lack of coverage of the "should you even do this?" data security and privacy issues, and because it only hints at some of the pre-planning, project costing considerations that must be considered by any enterprise which is contemplating this commitment.

I opened this book thinking that I'd likely try or do some of the deployment exercises for myself — but I closed it with the conviction that, for me and my own SOHO business needs, Google Apps is not yet ready for my own prime time. Helping me come to that conclusion made the book very worthwhile; for others, your mileage will of course vary. I am convinced that, as awareness of the data security and privacy issues matures, and approaches to these evolve and improve, Cloud Computing will become ubiquitous to various degrees and needs — as if it's not already — and probably sooner than we suspect. In that event, Google Apps Deciphered and its future editions will be among the most useful of guides.

You can purchase Google Apps Deciphered -- Compute in the Cloud to Streamline Your Desktop from amazon.com. Slashdot welcomes readers' book reviews -- to see your own review here, read the book review guidelines, then visit the submission page.
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Google Apps Deciphered

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  • Summary (Score:3, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 25, 2009 @01:50PM (#27333403)

    "Yippee! Automation TCO nirvana at last! Hooray! 'Well, just y'all hold up there a minit, lil' cowboy. Thar's a few thangs y'all oughta know 'bout afore ya go rushin' off...' If John Wayne didn't say exactly that, well, he should'a."

    Shut the fuck up, Spongebob. Are you writing me a book review or trying to sell me a used car, asshole?

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      SIGNED. Two paragraphs in and my eyes started bleeding. I'm going to go chop off Lorins hands now, does anybody care to join me?
      • by Bou (630753)
        Seconded, I've read Markov chained texts that made more sense to me.
  • what? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 25, 2009 @01:53PM (#27333453)

    I dislike Google Apps as much as the next non-buzzword-compliant greyheard, but, Lorin Ricker, you just can't fucking write. For one thing, if you're going to write a quirky lead-in to an article, you have to be good at it, otherwise you sound like a blathering idiot. And you, my friend, aren't very good at it.

    Please, take some freshman writing classes at your local community college. You appear to have some good points, but you just don't know how to say it.

    • Re:what? (Score:5, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 25, 2009 @02:04PM (#27333605)

      Hez in ur intarweb, killing ur english.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I actually tried to make sense of the review. Rather than being about the book, it's actually about why he doesn't like Google Apps and why he's annoyed that a book on Google Apps doesn't spend its time agreeing with him.

      Again, he's right. But it's like reading Dwakins fanboys defend evolution - they may be right, but they're such bad debaters and orators that they make Fred Phelps sound like Aristotle.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by doom (14564)

        I actually tried to make sense of the review. Rather than being about the book, it's actually about why he doesn't like Google Apps and why he's annoyed that a book on Google Apps doesn't spend its time agreeing with him.

        Here, let me help you out by suggesting you read the third paragraph:

        That said, it was my only real gripe about Google Apps Deciphered. Taking it at face value, this book is a sure-footed guide to deploying Google Apps at its current state of development and fitness for duty.

        I guess i

    • Re:what? (Score:5, Funny)

      by Quothz (683368) on Wednesday March 25, 2009 @02:21PM (#27333847) Journal

      Please, take some freshman writing classes at your local community college. You appear to have some good points, but you just don't know how to say it.

      I'm going to have nightmares about being attacked by thousands of hyphens, each talking like a John Wayne impersonator on methamphetamines.

      • Re:what? (Score:4, Funny)

        by DragonWriter (970822) on Wednesday March 25, 2009 @04:11PM (#27335223)

        I'm going to have nightmares about being attacked by thousands of hyphens, each talking like a John Wayne impersonator on methamphetamines.

        Shouldn't that nightmare be about thousands of em-dashes rather than hyphens? There aren't any hyphens in the review, except those in the last paragraph (which, incidentally, should be either em-dashes set closed or en-dashes set open, not pairs of hyphens.)

        Also, anyone who sets em-dashes open, as is done in most of the review, shouldn't be allowed to use them at all.

        • by Quothz (683368)

          Shouldn't that nightmare be about thousands of em-dashes rather than hyphens?

          Hey, nightmares don't have to make sense.

          Okay, okay, I stand corrected.

    • No! No! You are missing the point! LR writes like the next Billy S. [wikipedia.org], but alas he useth Google Apps !

      Would that he had wooed beneath the Silverlight. Tis' Google that belies his trade. The thesaurus, grammar checker, and their link decayed doth kill his fire as the earthen blade!
    • by kklein (900361)

      Amen.

      If one of my writing students handed me this mess, I'd hand it right back. I don't waste my time reading garbage like this.

  • I've not seen a more disjointed collection of words for a long time.
    You're not quick, clever, witty, or even remotely talented at writing.

    If you don't have the knack, stick to the facts.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday March 25, 2009 @01:59PM (#27333549)

      I've not seen a more disjointed collection of words for a long time.

      Counting in nanoseconds, are we? This is slashdot.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by iluvcapra (782887)

      He thinks it sounds informal and conversational, but really he just didn't want to read his typing back to himself before hitting the submit button. Or proofread, or even start with an outline and think about what he was trying to convey.

      Typewriter syndrome; communication by words, when sentences are required.

    • by icepick72 (834363)
      Amen. I was afraid the entire book was written in cowboy language. Now I don't want to read it regardless. The publisher should sue submitter for defamation!
  • by al0ha (1262684)
    By Google Apps. Why would you use the cloud when there is little or no security (at least the security practices which keep each instance separated is unknown) and you don't own what you've put into the Google cloud; Google does.
  • by SOOPRcow (1279010) on Wednesday March 25, 2009 @02:20PM (#27333807)
    I was so distraught after reading that summary that my co-workers had to put me in a mental rehab facility. They now have me posting here to tell you this so I can overcome my fears and once again enter society as a normal person.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by troll8901 (1397145)

      mental rehab facility

      ... also known as a cubicle.

    • by TimeTraveler1884 (832874) on Wednesday March 25, 2009 @02:45PM (#27334175)
      You have to admit, there is something satisfying in reading a Slashdot summary, going "What the fuck was that?", then to read the comments and find you are not alone in your reaction.
      • I decided halfway through to just read the comments to get the salient points.
        Unfortunately, with everyone bitching, I still don't know what they were.
        • by Bozdune (68800)

          I made the same decision, gave up on the comments for the same reason, was about to make exactly your point.. and then I encountered your comment. Very strange sensation.

          • Incidentally, the bitching and the lack of salient points are the all the salient points. So mission accomplished I guess.
      • by oliderid (710055)
        It is also the only place where you can get flamed down/tortured to death before being dismembered and cut into little pieces because your summary wasn't really funny :-). (well after the 3rd paragraph it is getting interesting IMHO).
    • ...They now have me posting here to tell you this so I can overcome my fears and once again enter society as a normal person.

      First off, I've yet to actually meet a "normal person." Second, if I did I'm sure they would be in need of "-1, overrated" moderation. What would be so good about being normal? I'm certain they would be ill-equipped to handle reality. After all, it is full of people like us!

  • The present book review is not the place to engage in this particular debate (see Ben Rothke's illuminating review of Greg Conti's recent book, Googling Security) -- suffice it to say that Google Apps Deciphered pays no attention whatsoever to the issues of data security, privacy, and ownership.

    Really, then why are you doing it?

  • That was an extremely poorly written blurb. I had to come to the page to voice my hate before I realized it was some sort of review, which I don't plan to read since the blurb was such a turn-off

  • by DerekLyons (302214) <(moc.liamg) (ta) (retawriaf)> on Wednesday March 25, 2009 @02:58PM (#27334365) Homepage

    And yet, to dampen our somewhat overly enthusiastic spirits, along comes none other than RMS himself in the role of the cowboy philosopher, with words of warning regarding the collective wisdom of committing all our eggs to the Google/Cloud basket: "Hold on there, pilgrim." The present book review is not the place to engage in this particular debate

    Except - that's exactly what you do throughout your entire 'review'. Instead of actually review the book, you use continually use the contents of the books as springboard for expressing your point of view in that debate. Disingenuous at best. Dishonest at worst.

  • Anyone who's dumb enough to put their retirement money in stocks or thinks "the cloud" is a safe, secure, consistently available place to put their data gets exactly what they deserve. Really guys. A little paranoia is *healthy,* OK?
  • I still don't know what he was going to tell. I stopped reading after the 3rd sentence or so because it was just unbearable and hurt my eyes.

  • ...along comes none other than RMS himself in the role of the cowboy philosopher, with words of warning regarding the collective wisdom of committing all our eggs to the Google/Cloud basket: "Hold on there, pilgrim."

    I cannot, under any circumstances, imagine RMS saying: "Hold on there, pilgrim." You, Lorin Ricker, shall be visited this evening by the ghosts of beards past, present and future...

    • by wmbetts (1306001)
      Before it happened I couldn't imagine him dancing to a rap song at MIT.
      • Before it happened I couldn't imagine him dancing to a rap song at MIT.

        Thank you *so* much for that. Now, how am I suppose to sleep tonight? Time to call on an old friend: Oh Absolut [absolut.com], how I've missed you...

  • Google Apps and "the Cloud" (sounds like a seventies pop group) is where Google becomes the new Microsoft.

    The Great Unwashed will flock to move over to Google Apps and before they know it, they'll be locked in. They'll be beholden to Google.

    You mark my words...

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by CyDharttha (939997)

      Google Apps and "the Cloud" (sounds like a seventies pop group) is where Google becomes the new Microsoft.

      The Great Unwashed will flock to move over to Google Apps and before they know it, they'll be locked in. They'll be beholden to Google.

      You mark my words...

      Isn't it good that Google Docs saves documents to your desktop as ODF by default, can export PDF easily, and can read/export iCal format? Using open formats ensures that we can move to another platform if necessary.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Joe Tie. (567096)
        Exactly. Not only do they allow you to export, they almost always write a publicly available api with hooks in a number of different languages which let you automate the process.
  • Speaking of deciphering Google Apps, has anyone looked at their Javascript source code? The Google Docs JS file is 300kb with almost no white space. It might be interesting to deobfuscate it. So far using find-and-replace, I inserted line breaks after every semicolon and curly bracket. At the top there are a bunch of two-letter functions that look like C #define statements, for example:

    function na(a,b){ return a.filter=b }

    There are also a bunch of similarly named variables with common objects, li
  • Why should I read further. After reading that first paragraph, Lorin Ricker looks like an idiot.
  • IMHO cloud computing is impossible to secure. At best it is ALMOST safe. If you own the cloud, and the cloud is in a jar, and the jar is in a safe, and the safe is in a concrete room, and the room is in a lead building, and the lead building has a mote... If they are smart, Google will leave "beta" in its description forever.

    • by jc42 (318812)

      IMHO cloud computing is impossible to secure.

      To be more specific, the Google Cloud is impossible to secure against google.

      There are a number of precedents that encourage careful people to worry about this. Google may not (for now) be as evil as Microsoft or IBM, but you'd be a fool to trust the data about your company or organization to google's hands. And everything in their Cloud is accessible to them.

      • To be more specific, the Google Cloud is impossible to secure against google.

        Bloody oath, you put your finger on it. All we have is a mission statement to protect us.

    • by cheros (223479)

      I think you make a mistake here. It's NOT impossible to secure, for all you know Google could have done a good job, you don't know either way.

      What you CAN say is that it is impossible to TRUST Google. You have no solid contracts, the company gets up to all sorts of shenanigans with your data (which, btw, you agreed to, read the T&Cs you accepted) and ownership and use of the information you store with them is very much in doubt.

      I don't create a business dependency on companies I don't trust, even if I

  • Hey all, First off, a disclaimer, i work for Global Web Security Systems (gWebs).

    Our software grabs outgoing and incoming data at the transport layer as you use google products and tosses it through GnuPG.

    Our MailCloak product encrypts gmail, (Yahoo, and MSN, etc) in firefox and IE.

    DocCloak, in private beta, will do the same thing for Google Docs, and Zoho office.

    SaaSCloak, again in private beta, works with google sites, and we are adding several other cloud services.

    Check this stuff ou

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