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Monday, August 31, 2015

Future of personal computing

   The old phase of "What is old is now new again!"  is a phrase that repeats itself if you stay around long enough to witness it.  

    When I first started out at college PC's were just starting to come on the market.  Mostly used by
geeks who liked to tinker with soldering irons and ohm-meters they made their way into regular homes through the IBM-PC, Apple-II or Commodore-64 (my personal first computer).    Before this only people with degrees in computer-science could touch one and they were "time-shared" either through handing in a deck of punch-cards or through "dumb terminals".   No one really liked the time-share process.   You were at the mercy of the computer operator and you had better make good friends with him if you wanted your work to go through in a timely manner.

     But with the advent of the PC came the issues of you being your own computer operator.  You were now responsible for
  • Software updates
  • OS updates
  • Disk backups
  • Anti-hacking software
  • Hardware upgrades
  • Network management
  • Password protection
  • Disk defragmenting and performance issue fixing
  • and more...
    The more PC's you added to your home the more time and money you seemed to spend on these
issues (when my kids were still in the house I felt like a 24/7 IT professional).   If the issues were beyond your pay-grade you were at the mercy of either a friend or family member who did understand the problem or you spent 100's of dollars at places like Geek Squad to do the work for you.   You may have also been forced to spend 100's of dollars on a yearly basis for other "automated" Internet support through companies like PC-matic or Carbonite to take care of laborious activities like disk management and performance management.   But these solutions are only piece-meal and are by far from automatic.

     Maybe this whole PC revolution needs to take another look at the idea of time-sharing again as its solution to these problems.   But unlike the days of "dumb terminals" which did only text based data (no graphics or sound), these would utilize "smart-terminals" similar to Netbooks which have very little computer/storage power but can connect in with larger servers running Virtual PC's which are nothing more than simulated PC run by higher speed processors.   The PC can now be whatever you want it to be.   A company hosting these Virtual-PC's would sell you time on your computer and charge you for the amount of time and space your system consumes

   Need more disk space?                                             No problem.   Request it.
   Need more processing speed?                                  No problem.   Request it.
   Need a different OS version?                                   No problem.   Request it.
   Need a new version (or old version) of software?   No problem.   Request it.

    The hosting company (most likely a cable-company provider) would manage your disk space (encrypted).  Provide you with more disk space simply by carving up a bigger partition for you.  They could also do auto-backups and even do auto-compression of files not accessed very often.   They could provide auto-scans of files to insure you are virus free.   They could also line you up with certified software suppliers who are proven to be the real McCoy and not some look-a-like company from Russia so your software is protected.  They could also allow you to try out new software or even new operating systems for a period of time to see if you like it or not.   You don't like it?  It simply disappears or you go back to the old version.

   Another benefit is they could give you a choice when you log in if you want a brand-new-out-of-the-box system or one of your last 10 log-in-exits so you can pick up where you left off at.   More complex users (businesses) could keep their projects separated by this method as well so there is no possibility of one project dirtying another project.   These capabilities would allow users to keep their sensitive data from being tampered with.  Take for example you just want to log in and do some on-line shopping.   You would choose the brand-new session that has no access to the project data at all (because it doesn't exist in that Virtual-PC) and therefore no nefarious hacker could possibly delete it or download it while you are shopping at "".  

   Such a system would allow you to access your system wherever a high-speed internet connection can be found.   Your smart-TV could now become your smart-Virtual-PC with the addition of a wireless keyboard and mouse.  Your phone or 4 year-old laptop could also be your smart-terminal as well if you don't want to purchase a low cost netbook computer.

   This brings another nice feature of this system.  Hardware familiarity.   If you look at most people looking to buy a new computer they spend a good amount of time trying out one thing: the keyboard.  Why?  Because no one likes to learn a new keyboard layout.  It's frustrating to re-learn where the delete key is or the backspace key.  It's also frustrating learning the feel of the new keys and how hard or light you can press them.   Many people choose their new laptop solely based on how it feels.   With the Virtual-PC your keyboard can stay the same (as well as the monitor etc) and all the changes are the insides where you don't see them.

   Lastly this system also saves on power and weight.   With most of the "real components" being simulated on the high-end server, your physical system can be made as light and low power as necessary.   With no need to have a physical hard-drive or a high-speed processor requiring a heat-sink your system can be extremely light and with a very long battery life to boot. 

   For most computer users today this system is a dream come true as it would have:
  1. An almost infinite disk space  
  2. An almost infinite memory space
  3. A Simple way to migrate to new OS's
  4. An Automatic backup and data encryption
  5. A Protection from hackers and viruses
  6. A Secure software installation
  7. A Low power and Low weight
  8. Ability to access to system anytime and anywhere
 Who won't like this system?  

  Laptop and PC manufactures