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Amazon's Cloud Drive is a neat product. Aside from the notable lack of iOS support, it does basically everything I want it to do, even if part of my setup is clunky. Let me elaborate for a few minutes, though...

For the unaware, this product is basically a user friendly frontend bolted on top of their S3 storage service with a few additional restrictions. They give you a system that lets you host music files (of a few formats) and then play them back from wherever you are. Additionally, they give you the ability to download your files as many times as you want, in case you want to make local copies, sync them to a device, or similar.

The major restriction on the service is that they do not expose the normal S3 APIs. You can't access your Cloud Drive through anything other than the Flash based frontend they have built. It works in all modern browsers, though, on all major operating systems. Desktop compatibility is not a problem. They even have a snazzy upload client that lets you easily get music into the system so you don't have to dig around and upload files one by one.

I've been playing around with it for a bit now in three configurations. Here's my take...

Laptop, Mac, Chrome. This is the ideal configuration. The interface they have built is pretty easy to use and lets me do everything I've wanted to do (so far). Building a playlist is pretty easy, finding songs/albums/artists, and playing music all work as you'd expect. Downloading files is easily available -- you can even download multiple at once and it uses the Amazon MP3 Downloader they use for the store. Nice.

Mobile, Android phone. Using the Amazon MP3 application (free), accessing your Cloud Drive is a piece of cake (not the type that is a lie). You can access content you've uploaded from your computer and then play it -- playlists, albums, artists, etc. They recommend WiFi and of course you are responsible for any over-the-air charges, but in my testing it worked pretty well. I had one song that started skipping, but I expect a carrier (Sprint) issue as I was driving through the hills along 280.

Server, Ubuntu Linux. This was the hardest part to set up. I have a server that sits in my living room that handles media for me. I don't have a monitor on it as I prefer to do everything through the console. Unfortunately, a Flash based system means you can't do that. It took about an hour of fiddling with things to get Gnome, X, and a VNC server installed. Once that was done, I was able to use Chicken of the VNC on my Mac to log in and run Firefox. The experience was then the same as on my laptop.

Overall, Amazon has a solid service here, as we've come to expect from their cloud offerings. Using this service costs you nothing (for the first 5GB) and there is no lock in. You can easily try it out, see if it works for you, and then abandon it later if you want.

One more neat thing worth mentioning: when you buy music on the Amazon MP3 Store, you are given the option to just upload the music to your Cloud Drive directly. If you do this, those songs never count against your quota. Theoretically, if you only ever buy music from Amazon, you can count it as a free online storage and playing system that lets you download your music later, as many times as you want. That's a pretty good deal, and a compelling argument for buying from Amazon.


zorkian: Icon full of binary ones and zeros in no pattern. (Default)
Mark Smith

April 2017

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