Future of personal computing world

Just a lazy Saturday. I woke up late, had some food and am continuing with my explorations of glusterfs. Well maybe I’ll talk on it someday. But today’s story is regarding something else. Something which has been going on my mind for days now. Probably months. ( yeah it’s strange that we don’t think of the duration sometimes. We just have a thought and it keeps on building inside us.)

This thought or idea is how we might work with the digital world and content.

We as humans had long ago started relying on some computing device to enhance our capability to solve problems and usually these problems were some calculations. Counting the number of bushels of grain or even the acre of land somebody sold to someone. Be it finding the number of people being sent to jail or even the tax collector calculating the amount of tax to be levied on the castle of a certain lord.

We had realized that our fingers aren’t very good for calculating and keeping track of these calculations. ( Except ofcourse some individuals with a good memory to remember the numbers for computation. Though I’m happy to use the calculator in my phone for finding my budget and spending ). So we came up with the abacus and various other devices. Mechanical in nature as those were the times when we had a fascination with everything mechanical ( plus we haven’t yet found a way to harness or even know what electricity is ). We were so obsessed with the mechanics that we even envisaged our human body as a collection of mechanical sub parts each doing their pre-determined task ( not wrong actually, just crude ).

With every conflict, we humans jumped across that canyon like an electron escaping the forbidden energy gap and reaching a higher state. Conflicts have always been a catalyst for us to put our brains to work.

I guess we might have discovered fire burns the rival tribe’s village first and then that it cooks food. It has always been our way. Anyway, conflicts bring progress and the greatest conflicts ( to date ), the WW1, WW2 and the Cold War brought us the digital world.

Not just the computers per say, but the whole ecosystem of technology which would go on to revolutionize and boost the idea of globalization and the world as a global village ( well, not so small village now….shifting times I guess ).

This ecosystem enables me to type my idea into a laptop which I got from my organization which works in enabling other organizations with their solutions and who inturn indirectly fuel the growth so that someone might see the same blog post in their mobile phone. In the very minute level it’s just the sub atomic particles, but hey we work on a level of abstraction far removed from that.

So, back to my laptop. Now, this computing device is far far intelligent that it’s ancestor ( look, how we humanize these non-living devices…it’s nice that we can give life to anything ). This device I hold can let me work, create a code which would run in it, watch a video, read a book, surf the internet, write blog posts, file for tax returns, buy things online, play games ( ok! gaming in nix isn’t that great! That is still a sore point. sadly. sigh). So in a way, I can do what my ancestors would have seen as magic!

Now, all computing systems like laptops, personal computing stations and mobile phones, all have local storage. This local storage not just contains the files and your work ( and other stuff) but also the very brain which enables that device to act intelligently. The operating system ( well technically the kernel along with a shiny piece of software around that that enables you to work as a sane human ).

These devices though are still prone to some shortcomings. My previous systems have crashed. And I’ve lost data. Loosing a project data or even important documents is frustrating. Well you might say, backup but come on, I cannot do that mechanical task again and again. Well, back-up software have gotten more intelligent. They will periodically backup your data.

Some tools would even periodically check for delta to upload the difference ( cool!). But I still am constrained by this system. Even now, if the system fails, I’d have to wait for sometime before I can restore my system to it’s backup. Also, the proverbial issue of versioning.

I have a system which uses a processor, has RAM and an operating system. All of which can become outdated. A new processor comes into the market. Applications start consuming more RAM ( I’m looking at you Chrome!!) and the operating system keeps on upgrading ( and sometimes the blue screen of death treats you in between. Though after using nix systems that isn’t an issue anymore.)

So basically, we have to change every device we have now and then because things change. The underlying hardware also changes. Now comes the issue wherein I might not be using my laptop for gaming 24X7 ( personal laptop, not the one my company gave me…), so I just gave more money for something which I use rarely ( sigh ). Plus, I keep on hearing my roommate complaining about his operating system crashing ( WINDOWS!!) because they keep on pushing updates even if they might not be compatible with the underlying hardware.

So, in a way we are forced to be constrained by what is in front of us. Also, I hate it when my system hangs. Now, I do like to run a gazillion things at a time, chrome, firefox, terminal session, google chat, youtube music, maybe one more chrome session, etc etc. And there reaches a point when you want the command you typed in your terminal to work, but….it doesn’t or maybe it’s just that there’s too many processes running at the same time. Your RAM is full. Even the swap memory is full. No more space to start a new process.

Now, the solution which I had adopted for years now had been to get a new system with increased RAM. But, there comes a time when we are bound to overshoot it. We would!

The solution isn’t increased RAM, or even buying a new system.

Let’s talk about cloud for sometime. Not the condensed water floating over our heads. This is just somebody else’s system ( Yeah….).

So, just like us individuals, even organizations faced this issue when dealing with their systems. Organizations need peta bytes of storage, computing and other features to run their solutions and softwares. Now, they can either focus on the solution or create a separate team focused on maintaining and working on just this infrastructure. ( That is exactly what they did for sometime. Some even do….I wonder when they’d come out of their caves…)

Someone came up with the realization as to why not somebody else take it upon themselves to handle all the boring stuff or the stuff which isn’t their main motto. Just for example, Netflix doesn’t have their own servers and storage ( Well, they used to), they use AWS ( Amazon Web Services). This was Netflix can focus on what is important for them. Content. Not handling the servers, hooking up more cables or finding rack-space for increasing RAM.

Now, this would have felt scary for the organizations at the beginning, as who would trust another organization with their data. But, eventually it felt a sane decisions and today most of the enterprises use cloud to host their services and leave it upon the cloud platforms to manage the infrastruture.

Some organizations even went a step ahead and started providing platforms and software as a solution along with just storage and environment to run software. This means, now, you can also use the software stacks like Azure IoT, or even AWS lambda, or any other service ( Just go do a search….) to build their solution.

One can imagine this as you being an architect who wants to build a new building. But you don’t have the land and even the required raw materials. You just know how to build. There comes this guy who tells you that for a monthly fee or a pay as you use mechanism, he’ll not only give you land ( small, medium, big, forest, marsh land, mountain, whatever just go wild ) and also the raw materials. Sometimes, even taking care of certain tasks which you don’t want to take up while building ( maybe getting a permit or something of that sort.). Some even take an extra step and provide you a rough blueprint and tell you to use it, and go nuts over it, just run your imaginations.

Sounds liberating. ( Money apart. They can rob you. I would. Hey! I just enabled you. Kidding. They don’t. The invisible hands keep them in line…for now at least).

But this is restricted just to the enterprises.

Now starts my imagination….

How about, we just start our system. It is connected to internet ( High speed). I have a screen in front of me. I use my applications and yeah…the usual. Let’s make it a tad interesting. I open Five Matlab sessions, three chrome browser windows with twenty tabs each and maybe just five android sessions ( Just for fun ). Why not just start some other intensive task too…You get the picture right?

So, basically I am trying to crash my system but it doesn’t. Because…I am actually accessing my system which runs in a server farm. Wherein it has the ability to have an increased amount of RAM consumption ( I took the unlimited package ). So, I am not constrained with the resources.

The system or the hardware in front of my eyes is just for connecting to that cloud hosted session and using it. This local system doesn’t have to do any computation or even have an increased amount of RAM or memory. It won’t crash ( well it would, but not that frequently). Even if I upgrade my operating system, it won’t be dependent upon my current hardware.

I can add extra graphic and video cards to my hosted system. Basically, I can go gaga over the options. Liberating right? ( except ofcourse we took an assumption of a good internet connection.)

Now, lets take it a notch up. I don’t need all the softwares and I usually won’t be using all of them. So, why do I pay for it all. I can just use whatever I want. Just whenever I want. So, a subscription model. I just pay for what I use, not for what some guy thought I would use.

Do we have the technology necessary for this?

YES. we do. We are just toying around with lame solutions for sometime now. Now not everyone can debug issues with their system. I do, because well, I am someone who works with these stupid machines. But someone who’s not that comfortable with the system or maybe he is just using the system to write a novel, and watch movies. If that person’s system crashes, he has to take it to a computer repair shop ( who would ofcourse tell him to change his bla..bla bla…, basically something he would just nod his head for and pay for). Now, that person doesn’t even need a system which would have developer options or even allow the person to mistakenly crash his system.

This is where Windows started off as a guarding the user from the tasks he doesn’t need to be concerned about ( or just trying to guard their software…or whatever the monstrosity they run under the hood). But I don’t see the liberation.

If I had been an author, I wouldn’t want to care about an anti virus, or even system upgrades or even the command prompt. I would want an easy access to some textual softwares ( not the right term, but you get the idea ) and internet to search or do some research. That’s it. Why should I concern myself with choosing over a processor or RAM when buying a laptop or system?

Why should I concern over something which is not my primary concern ? Shouldn’t my primary concern be the plot and the lame jokes I am thing about including here and there.

Think in the same way and extend it over other professions. A personalized solution but not like today wherein it’s just pseudo-personalization.

When we reach a stage wherein we start using something as if it’s just enabling us, that becomes a mature solution. Imagine a pencil. I don’t actually fret over the mechanism of how pencil works, or the color or brand. I just use it for writing or sometimes way back I used it to create some art ( cough…cough..). So, the actual utility of our computing devices is not the computing devices itself, it is it’s ability to enhance our ability to work, or entertain us, etc. That is the utility. It doesn’t matter if the applications run in my system or somebody else’s. I just am concerned with the solution.

Taking a step ahead. If we don’t need the devices in a concrete form, why don’t we just have a virtual device. Well, we do have VR and it has been used for gaming and other purposes. Why not throw your system. Don a VR glass, which is connected to the internet. Using the VR, you access your system hosted in some cloud solution. Work. To control the system, you also have a virtual mouse and keyboard.

There. We eliminated the need for a system itself. Now, you can just buy a VR and some haptic gloves and that’s it ( and internet).

Sounds liberating from the hassle of caring for the system. Dusting it. Putting it in charge. managing the update. Or even fretting over the constraint over the memory and processing speed. And most importantly, loss of data whenever the system crashes. Now, I can just do what I actually want to.

Of-course those who want to work with the actual systems could do so, but for those who just want the utility, this is true liberation….

Anyone out there who wants this liberation?

Let me know, if you are also frustrated. The idea might seem like a sci-fi, but come on. Jules Verne wrote about things which are commonplace now. ( Most of the things are ).

It is our ability to dream and imagine which has got us this far….why not go further….

Originally published at http://nulliusinverba1.wordpress.com on July 11, 2020.

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