Tablet PC Thoughts

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

January 2006 CTO Breakfast

There was a large group this morning at the CTO Breakfast arranged by Phil Windley . It was fun to see people from Novell (even some ex-Novell employees) and even a friend of mine from SCO. This was probably one of the largest groups of people that we have had at one of these breakfasts. A good sign of interest!

Phil kicked off the conversation with a reference to a proposal in North Dakota to float cell phone "towers" over the state using weather balloons. I brought up a conversation from the 2005 Gilder Telecosm Conference this year where Klein Gilhousen, Co-founder; Senior Vice President, Technology, of Qualcomm talked about the Katrina disaster in New Orleans which left lots of people with cell phones ... with no way to call out due to the towers being down. He talked about hanging cell towers from helicopters, and also implementing peer-to-peer mesh networking in cell phone handsets. Cool ... I just found that can hear the Klein Gilhousen Telecosm 2005 audio.

I then brought up the Pop!Tech podcast "Mind and Body" podcast from ITConversations about the coming man machine interfaces. The story of Jesse Sullivan is an amazing thing to listen to. It details how far we have progressed in using computer systems to monitor nerve activity for the operation of artificial limbs. The doctor presenting talked about how they can now move nerves from the upper arm, and split and "regrow" them into muscle in the side of the chest. These nerves can then be monitored ... and the computer tranlates the signals into control signals for the artificial limbs. Watch the videos in the link above and you'll see how amazing the research is. The coolest part of the conversation was when they discovered that the sensory nerves were also growing! So they can even add artificial senses to the artificial limbs!

We then got off talking about DVDs, and the growth of storage. When I mentioned that I had seen the 320GB SATA drives at Costco for ~$179.00, Eric Smith brought up the ~$700 Buffalo Technology TeraStation storage server that he bought. Ok ... that is a cool. I turn-key terabyte storage server for under $1000! Ok ... and where will we be in 5-10 years? When will a turn-key petabyte storage server fall below $1000?

Bruce Grant then moved into a conversation about psuedo-AI. He is implementing a version of the "application substrate" ideas that we developed when we were both at SCO. The core concept is to create a set of portable component services that can be replicated, migrated, and connected in various ways to provide composite services. He is now looking for ways to create emergent services ... or simple ways for the average person to define some sort of high-level goal, and have the services create paths of connectivity automatically to create solutions. He's working on some very cool stuff ...

The topic of "thin-client vs. thick-client" came up when someone asked if we are about to see the turn back to "thick clients", or to "thin clients". This got me thinking, and I suggested that what we are actually watching is the natural progression of our perception of a "thick client" until the substrate that it exists on evolves more capacity. At this point we perceive the client as "thin". e.g. when we didn't have much processing power, a browser would be thought of as "fat" ... now that we have so much processing power, AJAX is referred to as a "thin" client. When processing and memory evolves forward further, virtualization will continue to evolve where running multiple entire instances of operating systems will be thought of as "thin"! My three year old son is going to be laughing 10-15 years from now when we talk about the platform limitations that we are experiencing now. What we perceive as a fat client today, will be seen as a background task 10 years from now.

One of the guys from Novell brought up No Machine ... a VNC-like solution for remote desktop computing. Another person brought up what Microsoft has been working on with their UI technologies, and also the AJAX Dojo project ... all various directions that UI, remote UI, and AJAX are continuing to make distributed netowrked computing occur.

From mobile devices we got talking about child ren using them, the user interfaces, and the way that children quickly adapt to new experiences. We got onto the conversation about children and computers, and that children often are more interested in the games on DVDs then the movie content itself! They seem to be wanting the constant interaction and challenge. I joked that eventually children are going to want more and more interactive media that ultimately they will realize that the most amazing, realistic interactive media is life itself! They will realize that going out the front door of their house will immerse them in the richest multimedia experience possible! Phil Burns brought up a book called Natural Born Cyborgs where he said that this is one of the core topics of the book.

Hamachi was brought up as a solution for encrypted peer-to-peer communications. This looks pretty cool and appears to be yet another growing start-up on the Internet. I always question a solution like this when it's not Open Source code ... what am I really installing on my machine?

There are a lot more topics that were discussed ... as usual too much to write about. I have to admit that I like to see the continuing tech culture growing here in Utah. There are more and more events where you can find people who are in tune with what is going on in the world and the Internet.

Phil Windley ... thanks for creating this breakfast!


  • I wouldn't mind hearing more about Bruce Grant and the application substrate idea. Any links or pointers? I'm researching something myself that sounds very similar.

    Also, I question your comment at the end of the Hamachi paragraph: "I always question a solution like this when it's not Open Source code ... what am I really installing on my machine?" Not to get into an Open Source debate, but just because a project/product is doesn't make it any more secure. Would you actually read through their source code before installing it? Even if you downloaded the source archive, would you audit it before compiling and running?

    I understand the concept of the community having the ability to audit the code, but for smaller projects and businesses, I doubt anyone does. As another note, how many programs do you have installed on your tablet pc or other windows boxes that have source available? ;) What are you really installing!

    (I realize this last part of the comment came off a little harsher than I intended. I just meant to point out that aspect of the comment you made.)

    Have a nice day!

    By Anonymous Joshua Blake, at 11:01 PM  

  • I'll send Bruce a link to this comment and see if he can add anything. The "substrate" concept came of research that I was doing and then combined with Bruce as we were acquired by SCO.

    The basic idea was to create packaged components that included dependency manifests, and then a basic set of "bootstrapping" components that would provide loading and initialization. All of this was designed to be language independent, and rely on various open standards for communications protocols. I'll have to dig around also and see if there was anything that made it to the public Internet.

    As for the source code comments, I agree with you completely. I am not an "over the top" Open Source fanatic ... however when I see new, up and coming companies like this I keep wondering where their business model is. If they don't have one, then why not Open Source?

    I just spent some more time digging around on their site and found their "premium" pay business. So now I see what they are doing, and I still think that this ought to just be a free and open service. Basic peer-to-peer encrypted communications is something that I want, however I'm not willing to pay for.

    As for the issue of *me* personally reviewing the source code, I don't know that I would do it ... but if it's Open Source I know that *someone* out there is going to review the code. At that point I really do rely on the unknown community members to provide me with assurances.

    Your thoughts didn't come across as harsh at all ... I do agree with you in general. It's more when I see this type of project, it's such a low-level core service that I want to see a free version. :-)

    By Blogger Scott C. Lemon, at 2:12 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home