~e; the future of computing

From human being <human@electronetwork.org>
Date Tue, 26 Nov 2002 20:56:40 -0600

// a highly-recommended overview of the near-term future of computing:

Future of the notebook

By Gary H. Anthes and Bob Brewin
NOVEMBER 18, 2002
Content Type: Story
Source: Computerworld


// this is of special interest as a way to gauge
// where the design of computing devices may be
// heading, and also where it may not be heading.
// the part that is missing, it appears, is the
// organizational relation or tasking between the
// various systems, and how they might potentially
// work differently at different scales, which may
// or may not be an OS issue.

// one aspect that of the home computer 'server' in
// relation to today's computing systems such as wire-
// less PDAs, and tomorrow's tablet computers, where
// a central server could take the computing load of
// an untethered device, and like a dumb terminal,
// send whatever display information is needed to the
// remote screen. peripherals to a system could be
// attached to a main system, separate from the server,
// yet like a control station/box, via fiberoptics or
// wireless. modules might be added or subtracted from
// the control box which would be rendered on every
// screen as software, plug-and-play with various
// applications, and like a (KVM-switch, i think) an
// OS could be toggled from one state to another to
// dedicate processing power to a set desktop, one
// of many. this type of integrated computing environ-
// ment would require customizing computing and even
// furniture, in which a computer server might become
// more like the furnace or water-heater, and have a
// similar lifespan, while other peripherals (like a
// water tap, dishwasher, clothes washer and dryer)
// would be like the peripherals accessing the server.

// another aspect is in taking ISPs into account, which
// offer both dial-up access to the Internet, and also
// sometimes web-hosting accounts for people who want to
// design or build a website online. with the lag in the
// deployment of affordable broadband (in the US at least)
// the cost of getting broadband for dial-up and then also
// paying for web-hosting when most broadband may not be
// used, is a great loss of resources for all involved.
// add to this that most dial-up companies also host web-
// sites and the redundancies and paid-for but wasted
// resources is unsatisfactory. ISPs could largely be
// irrelevant if DSL and other broadband services came
// online for a certain sector of the computing populace.

// for instance, one way would be if remote storage servers
// would host content much as data is archived for media
// companies, on CD and DVD, that is accessible online. a
// person might burn their own DVD with static/evergreen
// content, and have a remote media-rich DVD server send
// this content over broadband to others, instead of using
// a decentralized and possibly bandwidth-constrained ISP
// network for both host and gain access to such content.

// another aspect is for the producers of content themselves,
// in that a home server with broadband access would enable
// a person with a Unix-based OS (as far as I know) to use
// the same server software such as Apache and PHP on their
// home system, developing content offline (which the new
// Mac OS X lets one do, except I can't get it to work here).
// why this is important is that with such capability, all
// that is needed is an actual home server (in this case,
// an Apple's Xserve, for instance) to go from one's own
// computer to an ISP/Web-Host website, and to serve this
// as online content. if one includes the costs, it may be
// limited by technological knowledge, up-front costs, and
// the current state of complexity and bugginess (and need
// for patching a server) and yet if this was streamlined
// in such a way that an intermediate-user could implement
// such features, the whole organizational logic (or parti)
// of the computing environment could change dramatically.

// what this could mean, if such an interrelated and task-
// oriented system were developed, is that one could use
// their personal computer to create a database that would
// simply be transferred to their home server and go 'live'
// online without having to hand-code PHP or mySQL databases,
// and further, having developed such a database, one could
// be outside of their particular home environment but with
// a PDA with a smaller version of their database running
// as one of many such software applications, which they
// could add or subtract information/data to, and when
// they dock/sync this PDA with the home peripherals, if
// setup in a certain configuration, the database content
// would go both to their internal and external computing
// environments, both online the internet and on their
// own home system. such applications and technologies
// and their relation would make things a lot easier and
// use computing power more effectively for the uses that
// are demanded but being ignored in the current industry.

// furthermore, the idea of a 'research computer' has been
// a longtime interest here, and relates to what would be
// needed to actually create DVD-media rich content and to
// deliver this via disks or online, including the tools
// and software that composes such a home computing system.
// an essay at a later time will hopefully develop these
// ideas further, along with mapping their relation to one
// another through a diagram (and to other ideas, such as
// community computing, educational computing, etc). yet,
// what is clear is that such computing systems could be
// possible, if demand increases and companies start to
// innovate in this regard, to bring media to the people,
// not just consumers, but as producers. one way this is
// happening is through video. but a intermediate-level
// sound digital input device is still non-existent (in
// comparison to DAT, and mini-disk or flash does not
// seem to be changing this). so too, with a potential
// future for more digital drawing devices (whether a
// Wacom LCD tablet, regular tablet, or tablet PC) also
// brings the visual realm of painting and drawing on
// a system closer, somewhat. to my great surprise, after
// hearing of MIDI first in the 1980s it seems, it is
// finally coming closer to the non-professional market,
// and a small keyboard unit for composing sound is now
// available (such as m-audio's Oxygen8 unit). this in-
// itself brings many dimensions of audio-visual media
// production that much closer for research computing.

// yet a research computer would be able to bring various
// audiovisual media together to create content, in which
// one does not need professional level hardware nor soft-
// ware, yet could still be used to produce professional
// quality content. for instance, a non-musician may use
// MIDI for sound design, to add the sound of helicopters
// to a track of their video, which is about some subject
// which they've written an essay for their website DVD.
// a core OS which focussed on across-the-OS coordination
// of audio-visual and database content would enable such
// "light-edition" softwares to work, including other basic
// programs in 3D and animation, to be included in a core-
// competency of computing/communication skills, which
// would be used not for entertainment nor media production
// work, alone, but instead could be used for educational
// and basic research and development- on ideas themselves.

// this is to say that, with today's basic technologies,
// including digital cameras and scanners, color printers,
// and external devices, that the general direction as
// that of factory production of media goods and factory
// consumption of media goods (buy-sell) may be transformed
// through an educational focus, using these same technolgies
// but with different demands, ones that focus on the needs
// of creative human beings, and not on computer processors
// and Powerpoint presentations of technological efficiency.

// ideally, one may even be able to go as far as consulting,
// as a researcher, with broadband to one's living quarters,
// and a research computing system and environment in which
// ideas unique to each individual could flourish in respect
// to their areas of interest, knowledge, and expertise. it
// could become normal for a firewire video-teleconferencing
// camera to become a unique node in a networked research
// environment, similar to a unique star in a constellation,
// where each person can say 'i am the internet' without fear
// of retribution for egotistical grandstanding- but that the
// power of computing becomes woven into online and offline
// spaces, places, times, melding online relationships with
// offline realities, and vice-versa, with various in-between
// states, as one begins blending digital and analog worlds,
// located somewhere between gasous, liquid, and solid states.
// this research computing environment would enable mailing
// list communities to communicate via videoconferences, and
// to include more of the diversity of views than can be had
// by analog travel alone, too, and could widen educational
// and intellectual explorations using computers more freely.

// another aspect that is beginning to change today, which is
// small in dimension but not in effect, is the onslaught of
// dead-media likely to arise through a shake-out period of
// computer storage, post floppy-disk. a contender finally
// seems to have arisen, apart from the 2.5" harddrive, and
// that is the compact flash card, or so it seems. having
// lost more than some data to the either, and a significant
// amount stuck in time on Syquest and other disks, it is a
// hard choice to archive on anything but ungainly data CDs.
// yet with the advent of keychain flash drives, running in
// the 16-128 megabytes ranges, something new seemed on the
// horizon. this phenomenon coming on during the same change
// with PDAs and competing storage options (say, Sony Memory-
// Sticks, versus SD cards, MMC cards, Compact Flash). when
// digital cameras and digicams (if this means digital-video
// cameras) added feature sets including photography, more
// and more competing digital storage solutions kept competing.
// for whatever a guess is worth, a sane solution seems to
// have arisen lately in that Compact Flash cards with USB-
// connectors built in, which enable one to connect them to
// a computer with a USB cord, and also a product possibly
// now being under patent review (by Simpletech, i think)
// which enables one to put a Compact Flash card into what
// is basically a sleeve with a USB adapter plug, and use
// it as a keychain device, but also being able to swap
// out (and store) cards just as floppies, miniaturizes,
// and makes data more cross-platform at least between
// personal computers, PDAs, cameras, and video cameras.
// such an advance may be minor, a detail, but in terms of
// long term storage and the stabilization and standard-
// ization of computing, it will only help to not have to
// choose, and possibly lose, in the format competition.

// in all, various aspects of educational research computing
// could become a focus which helps support the dreams and
// wishes and intentions of designers and thinkers, and does
// not constrain and try to program them to behave only in
// certain orthodox ways. to do this, others' ideas on how
// computing and computers might work, beyond the OS and
// into the organization logic and dynamics is direly needed
// and such research, and researchers, need to be supported
// by both corporations and communities. computing should
// be an open-development process, not a proprietary and
// esoteric discipline which is relegated to a priesthood
// of technocrats in whatever version of technocracy reigns.

// onto educational computing, research computing, ideas...

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