ramblings of an aimless mind

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The web at home.

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My first broadband was delivered via cable and was one of those where we could connect only one device to the cable modem. Subsequent ISPs however went down the wireless modem route, allowing me to connect multiple device to the net using ethernet as well as WiFi and the presence of a home network allowed me to do some interesting things which I decided to talk about.

I currently have a home network consisting of a laptop running windows XP professional, a desktop running Ubuntu 7.10 and a Sony Ericsson P990i smartphone running…well…symbian. The phone hasn’t really caught up with the others yet, but the two computers are dancing away like professional ballerinas. Things between them are so smooth and precise that it would not be outrageous to say they have literally become one computer, with desktops shared between the two, drives accessible and audio and video streaming all over the network. The fact that I could do all this so easily and with such a minimal cost made me think of the plethora of opportunities this brings up for the average home user.

As my computers are setup to share desktops remotely, I routinely work on my laptop in front of my TV running programs and accessing files on my desktop sitting in a completely different room. Gone are the days of having to decide between watching that great movie or doing those urgent computer repairs, now I can just do both. This also makes me think that maybe I don’t need a second monitor and input devices for the desktop once the OS is installed. I can just use my laptop and remotely control the desktop.

Sharing the drives of one computer on another means that there is no need to maintain two copies of everything because “someday” I may need to work on these files from the other pc. This not only save storage space (though that is not really in short supply nowadays) but I also don’t have to worry about synchronising the changes I made to one file with the copy on the other computer.

So what are the ramifications of this software and networking ability? To understand this, let us sit back and imagine a home of the future.

This futuristic abode will have a “home server”, which would quite simply be a desktop computer with lots of storage, a fast network connection(such as a wired connection straight to the router) and good(need not be phenomenal) processing power. This server will be the central storage and will store the family’s movie collection in digital format, the entire music and photo collection and all the important files that the family needs. It will also have a legitimate copy of Microsoft windows and office to avoid rude surprises when the nosey anti-piracy brigade come over. The server is also connected to the family’s TV set using the provided VGA connector and to the music system with the standard audio output cable.

The members of the family will have a multitude of mobile devices which will be Wifi enabled(duhhhh!!!) and be able to access the central storage on the server without breaking a sweat. The mobile devices do not have to be the bleeding edge of technology and even older laptops and desktops with not-so-great specs will work wonderfully. A second advantage is that all these devices can run open source software to keep the family on the right side of the law and some money in their wallets. Music can then be played on the music system directly or on any one of the mobile devices by streaming it. If there are enough mobile devices then each member of the family can watch a separate movie sitting in the same room at the same time, though the person with the TV will have a much better movie experience. Alternatively, one person can get some work done while the others simultaneously watch movies or listen to music, the enabling potential of the network is simply phenomenal!!!

Since the central computer does the job of so many devices rolled into one, plenty of room in the house can be freed for better uses. Why do we need a stack of DVDs/CDs if all the movies and music are stored digitally on a hard drive? While we are at it, we can chuck out the DVD player too. Who knows, with a large enough DVD collection, all this space could mean an extra room in the house 😛

All that I have mentioned above can be done today and it won’t cost a bomb. Computing power and storage are dirt cheap and mobile devices are becoming so pervasive that it is hard to imagine life without them. The only major hurdle is the legal one, which may prevent copying of DVDs to hard disk and ripping of music etc etc. But they will come down and I already see signs of that happening in Apples iTunes store and some companies offering movie downloads as well as DVD rentals.

“The network is the computer” was the truly pioneering statement by the founding fathers of Sun Microsystems, made long before broadband came around. From the world as I know it today, I can only revere the foresight behind this statement and look forward to the exciting times ahead as more and more devices become network enabled and we start to approach the “everything connects to everything” world.

But for now, let me get the phone dancing with the others…


Written by clueso

February 26, 2008 at 1:25 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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