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[P]
The internet of the future

By hurstdog in News
Fri Jun 23, 2000 at 02:14:17 PM EST
Tags: Internet (all tags)
Internet

With all the latest hype about Microsoft .NET and Application Service Providers I've been thinking about the direction the internet is moving. I'm inclined to say that I would not want other people to be taking care of my files for me, I mean, they're my files, right? But then I can see the flip side of the argument in terms up easy software upgrades and cheap use costs. Click below for my thoughts on the matter, and to add yours.


From the arguments I've heard, people applauding the advent of ASPs and services like MS .NET state that with these technologies software will be more reliable and cheaper to use. I can see what they mean. When a company finds a bug in a product they are providing for use directly over the internet, upgrade that product at once place and immediatly thousands of people get the upgrade, and benefit. This is much more efficient than making all couple thousand people download a patch, install it, and to be there when they have trouble installing the patch (via tech support lines or whatever).

But from what I know of it this can also be a potentially dangerous situation. If some person gets the itch to crack into one of those central servers, by infecting just one of those servers with a trojan many people can be infected with little to no work. And with the advent of theses easy DDoS tools, this could be potentially devastating. Also, whoever breaks into those servers has access to the files of everyone that uses and stores their files on that server. Another quite scary thought. One possible way to prevent people from losing data would be to require encryption, on the server, and in the connections to the server. Thus noone can read your files on the server and they can't sniff out the data with a sniffer.

Lastly, there have been people saying this is just like going back to use dumb terminals. If all your data and programs are on some remote server, why do we need the newest proc and the most memory? An old Pentium would work fine wouldn't it?

So what do you think of this? Am I confused? Do you think the internet is going in a sort of circle and ASPs and .NET type programs are the wave of the future?

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The internet of the future | 31 comments (29 topical, 2 editorial, 0 hidden)
Wrong perspective (4.00 / 5) (#1)
by Skippy on Fri Jun 23, 2000 at 12:53:34 PM EST

You are looking at this from the wrong perspective to see where it is coming from. You are looking at it as a personal end-user. The forces driving this are corporate. Corporate computer sales account for WAY more revenue than personal computers. An ASP scheme makes a LOT of sense in a corporate environment. Benefits include:

  • Easier maintenance. Need to upgrade Word? You do it on ONE machine and all those people on thin clients use the new version the next time they log on.
  • Easier backup. ALL the data is in ONE place. No kludgy trying to backup end-user PC's over the network
  • Employees don't own the work they produce anyway so there "aren't any privacy concerns".
  • It makes it easier to monitor employees to see if they are writing their resume on company time.
  • You wanna re-arrange everyone in the building? Go ahead, they just sit down at whatever network appliance is on their desk, log in and have all their files. This makes network appliances (I can't bring myself to call them computers) more like a desk or chair. It's furniture and doesn't move with the person.

    You are right about some things. For instance, it does make it easier for crackers. Overall though, this sort of initiative is aimed at the corporate market, not you.
    # I am now finished talking out my ass about things that I am not qualified to discuss. #

  • Re: Wrong perspective (3.30 / 3) (#3)
    by bmetzler on Fri Jun 23, 2000 at 01:07:39 PM EST

    You are looking at this from the wrong perspective to see where it is coming from. You are looking at it as a personal end-user. The forces driving this are corporate. Corporate computer sales account for WAY more revenue than personal computers. An ASP scheme makes a LOT of sense in a corporate environment.

    I agree that ASP is perfect in a corporate environment. And Sun and Oracle's solution are focused on that market. But I don't think Microsoft is. They are always consumer-focused. This'll be Hotmail+.

    -Brent
    www.bmetzler.org - it's not just a personal weblog, it's so much more.
    [ Parent ]
    Re: Wrong perspective (2.00 / 1) (#9)
    by Skippy on Fri Jun 23, 2000 at 03:09:58 PM EST

    bmetzler said:
    They are always consumer-focused.
    No. They THINK they are consumer-focused and that is their problem. NT is NOT a consumer operating system (or wasn't meant to be). Microsoft SQL Server (I hate it when people pronounce this "sequel") is not a consumer database. Microsoft has always been targeted towards a corporate user and their consumer software is often their corporate software gutted. They only started with products AIMED at the consumer market a couple of years ago.
    # I am now finished talking out my ass about things that I am not qualified to discuss. #
    [ Parent ]
    Re: Wrong perspective (3.00 / 1) (#4)
    by fluffy grue on Fri Jun 23, 2000 at 01:09:37 PM EST

    Your counterargument does have some counter-counterarguments, since several companies are pushing for in-home network appliances (Be's IA, Microsoft's WebTV, etc.). However, those are definitely aimed at people who don't have any real need or desire for a real computer; people who want to play games will still get their own computer.

    One thing I've noticed is that there's a blossoming market for home network-appliance-type stuff using your own home computer as a terminal server, by the way. In CompUSA you can get terminal server hardware for Win'98 PCs. It's kinda cool. I rather like that sort of thing, though I use xterminals and Ethernet instead. :) (SPARC IPCs/IPXs are good and cheap if you can find them.) It's nice to have a web terminal everywhere. Of course, when I want to play Unreal Tournament or get any work done, I go back to my workstation.
    --
    "Is not a quine" is not a quine.
    I have a master's degree in science!

    [ Hug Your Trikuare ]
    [ Parent ]

    Re: Wrong perspective (none / 0) (#5)
    by b!X on Fri Jun 23, 2000 at 01:56:34 PM EST

    This isn't just driven by an effort on the part of M$ to serve the corporate market. It's M$ thinking that what works for the corporate market will work for consumers as well.

    This is one of M$'s problems. Control is commonplace and to some extent expected in a corporate environment. The same approach should not be taken when dealing with the market of everyday people.



    [ Parent ]
    Re: Wrong perspective (4.00 / 1) (#15)
    by Anonymous Hero on Fri Jun 23, 2000 at 04:21:22 PM EST

    I agree -- these client/server arrangements work best in the enterprise. Additionally, since the servers could be located on site (rather than at the ASP), security is less of a concern.

    One problem I foresee is that either (i) people will need to get use to two computing environments (home and work) or (ii) the environment will have to be useable at both home and work, and home may not have adequate bandwidth for a while. One advantage MS had against, for instance, UNIX workstations and even Macs, is that people wanted to use the same computer at work and at home, so that Wintel pluralities in both realms soon became predominance.

    Another issue is that I anticipate that useage of laptops as desktop replacements will increase significantly. In spite of their physical thinness, laptops need to be "thick" from a client/server perspective, because they need to be able to function apart from the network (until someone comes up with cheap 100 Mbps cellular phone modems).

    MS has several other issues that complicate its strategy:

    (i) MS efforts to move away from very thick clients costing up to $2000 or more will hurt computer OEM relationships (think of the old saying about computing power: "Intel giveth, MS taketh away." -- well, the Dells and Compaqs of the world love the "taketh away" part),

    (ii) if MS moves away from the Wintel platform or from a strategy that can only be implemented or paralleled by competitors on the Wintel platform, it merely becomes the biggest, richest ASP in the game rather than the controller of the platform, putting the likes of Sun, IBM, Oracle, OEMs, cable cos and telcos and the *nix crowd back in the game, and

    (iii) given the industry's envy/fear of what MS has accomplished, and the decent possibility that the government will break MS up or hobble it significantly, MS's "decommoditization of the protocols" (to steal a phrase from the Halloween Documents) may be more difficult and the non-MS industry titans may be more willing to work toward open protocols that allow all of them to have a piece of the action, rather than squabbling in a futile attempt at world domination and ending up allowing MS to continue its dominance in the Next Generation -- we'll see on that one.

    Not to sympathize with the devil, but I have got to imagine that it has got to be tough inside MS trying to position NGWS/.net in the wake of the anti-trust ruling. By the way, is MS's use of the ".net" within accepted norms for that suffix?

    [ Parent ]

    Re: Wrong perspective (4.00 / 1) (#17)
    by Anonymous Hero on Fri Jun 23, 2000 at 04:35:29 PM EST

    I agree -- these client/server arrangements work best in the enterprise. Additionally, since the servers could be located on site (rather than at the ASP), security is less of a concern.

    One problem I foresee is that either (i) people will need to get use to two computing environments (home and work) or (ii) the environment will have to be useable at both home and work, and home may not have adequate bandwidth for a while. One advantage MS had against, for instance, UNIX workstations and even Macs, is that people wanted to use the same computer at work and at home, so that Wintel pluralities in both realms soon became predominance.

    Another issue is that I anticipate that useage of laptops as desktop replacements will increase significantly. In spite of their physical thinness, laptops need to be "thick" from a client/server perspective, because they need to be able to function apart from the network (until someone comes up with cheap 100 Mbps cellular phone modems).

    MS has several other issues that complicate its strategy:

    (i) MS efforts to move away from very thick clients costing up to $2000 or more will hurt computer OEM relationships (think of the old saying about computing power: "Intel giveth, MS taketh away." -- well, the Dells and Compaqs of the world love the "taketh away" part),

    (ii) if MS moves away from the Wintel platform or from a strategy that can only be implemented or paralleled by competitors on the Wintel platform, it merely becomes the biggest, richest ASP in the game rather than the controller of the platform, putting the likes of Sun, IBM, Oracle, OEMs, cable cos and telcos and the *nix crowd back in the game, and

    (iii) given the industry's envy/fear of what MS has accomplished, and the decent possibility that the government will break MS up or hobble it significantly, MS's "decommoditization of the protocols" (to steal a phrase from the Halloween Documents) may be more difficult and the non-MS industry titans may be more willing to work toward open protocols that allow all of them to have a piece of the action, rather than squabbling in a futile attempt at world domination and ending up allowing MS to continue its dominance in the Next Generation -- we'll see on that one.

    Not to sympathize with the devil, but I have got to imagine that it has got to be tough inside MS trying to position NGWS/.net in the wake of the anti-trust ruling. By the way, is MS's use of the ".net" within accepted norms for that suffix?

    [ Parent ]

    Re: Wrong perspective (4.00 / 1) (#18)
    by Alhazred on Fri Jun 23, 2000 at 05:19:14 PM EST

    Remember, there are reasons why the PC conquered a business IT landscape once dominated by mainframes and dumb terminals.

    If you actually look at the specs, for a larger organization mainframes and super minicomputer class servers made, and could still make, a lot of sense. They are faster, more reliable, cheaper (total cost of ownership) etc.

    They had however certain problems. 1st they were expensive up front, 2nd they represented a single point of failure in an organization, 3rd (and most important) they were under the control of a central IT management.

    I think point 3 is the key one. Even in the corporate world users and group managers wanted more control of their IT infrastructure. It was easy for them to buy a few PC's cheaply and start using them, they slipped "under the radar" of IT managers. Once they were entrenched the users found them convenient, and the group managers found that they could take control of funds that formerly went to large central IT departments, and empire building like that is ALWAYS a big factor.

    The home market was irrelevant. That was a spinoff. As the Mac so well proved the corporate world is the "high ground" from which to dominate the home market (though the rules are probably changing now).

    The 2 questions are: Have corporations learned the lesson from the PC that centralized IT is more cost efficient, and can they actually bring things back to that model? Is the corporate IT market still the main driver, the high ground, from which you dominate the home market?

    It may be that the real war is going to be over providing services to PDA's and other smaller appliance type systems. In that case being able to serve people MS Office over the net is not important, but being able to save people's files for access from almost anywhere would be very key. I think nobody has it ALL figured out yet. Probably some totally new player will emerge with the real answers, someone nobody has heard of yet.
    That is not dead which may eternal lie And with strange aeons death itself may die.
    [ Parent ]
    Re: Wrong perspective (none / 0) (#25)
    by Paul Dunne on Sat Jun 24, 2000 at 03:32:11 AM EST

    Yeah, but... you've just described a LAN. What's new and exciting about that?
    http://dunne.home.dhs.org/
    [ Parent ]

    Can Microsoft hold on long enough? (3.50 / 2) (#7)
    by Anonymous 242 on Fri Jun 23, 2000 at 02:22:53 PM EST

    It seems to me that an initiative like .net is dependant on phat pipe services which are currently somewhat less than ubiquitous. I don't have a whole lot of problem using Yahoo Mail over a 56k line, but to do anything of complexity through a project like open desk takes forever and a day with a slow connection. Utterly useless for the vast, vast majority of users.

    ASP's can offer some real advantages to the consumer, but most are meaningless to the average consumer with phat pipes being scarce.

    And, I could be wrong, but considering Hotmail's track record on losing email, outages, cracks, forgetting to pay their domain name bill, etc., I don't think that many folks are ready to trust a microsoft product with their quicken files. Which would lead to my first question: if an ASP loses important data, can I sue? I can't envision any company feeling comfortable with taking liability for the data of all potential users on a public network, and I can't see the general public being willing to risk their data if its not guaranteed to be safe.



    The Future is *Smart* Terminals (4.00 / 2) (#8)
    by costas on Fri Jun 23, 2000 at 02:43:15 PM EST

    What we need isn't a dumb-terminal, it's a *smart* one. Which means, we need both the processing power, dependability and privacy/security afforded by a personal computer and the network services that a terminal gets.

    I think that's what MS is aiming for --and what makes sense for them given their position as the leading PC OS vendor. And you know what? they are right: there *should* be a mix of services between PCs and servers. And if you don't think that's what's happening now, you are just mistaken. I keep all my personal e-mail on a hosted IMAP server; I depend for my work on an Exchange server. I run Yahoo Companion on my browser. All these are services that depend on the network to at least *add value*. Think also: CDDB, streamed media, Napster, etc.

    As for security: the parallel here is money: back in the olden days, every bank could issue (and did) its own currency. Even further back, people kept gold in their homes. At some point, the decided to move these small but precious to them 'stores' (of money in this case, data in ours) to a centralized location --first a bank, then a Central Bank-- that controlled all currency. Those banks became big, fat targets, and you would think that they would be even more vulnerable. But now the banks can afford security measures beyond any mere mortal's reach. Are we marching towards electronic Fort Knoxes? yes we are. Is it a bad thing? no it's not.

    I doubt Microsoft is thinking of making Office a completely ASP-based application. Most probably, Office.net will have a local client/framework that will be similar to today's Word/Excel (they have a lot of components in common at any rate) which will be able to do most of the crunching locally. But that client will gain value from Office.net: Think version control for multi-user documents, collaboration, authentication, cross-reference. Think micropaying for components you'd love to have just once or twice, but you're never gonna use all the time --say creating a Microsofr Map for a presentation from an Excel spreadsheet, mailmerging an advertising campaign. Think having your presentation sent securely to Kinko's (MS Kinko's by then :-), color-proofed and printed from your own desk.

    It's a great vision, and Microsoft is the only company that can pull it off right now. I just wish it gets built on open standards and protocols, so other companies can also sell services and products on this network. Knowing MS, that's not very likely, but the DOJ might change that.



    memigo is a news weblog run by a robot. It ranks and recommends stories.
    how will ms make money? (4.50 / 2) (#10)
    by Anonymous 242 on Fri Jun 23, 2000 at 03:10:18 PM EST

    Think micropaying for components you'd love to have just once or twice, but you're never gonna use all the time --say creating a Microsofr Map for a presentation from an Excel spreadsheet, mailmerging an advertising campaign. Think having your presentation sent securely to Kinko's (MS Kinko's by then :-), color-proofed and printed from your own desk.

    On Debian GNU/Linux:
    1. apt-get install neat-nifty-new-component
    2. print to postscript
    3. send to my print service over the internet

    Cost: nothing.

    Renting apps doesn't make sense when software is free. Currently, MS does hold a few aces because there are not yet free alternatives for some packages. Then again, math papers are still easier to write with TeX.

    With some apps, putting them on the network makes a whole lot of sense. With other apps, it doesn't. It makes sense for me to go to taxcut.com and do my taxes over https, but you won't find me storing my code that I just took countless hours writing only on someone else's servers.

    On the other hand, the support tech position for .net will give a whole new meaning of BOFH.



    [ Parent ]
    Re: The Future is *Smart* Terminals (2.00 / 1) (#11)
    by Skippy on Fri Jun 23, 2000 at 03:22:20 PM EST

    Think having your presentation sent securely to Kinko's (MS Kinko's by then :-), color-proofed and printed from your own desk.
    Never gonna happen. Kinko's has their corporate heads too far up their asses to be able to arrange something like this. And Kinko's secure? BWAHAHAHAHAHA! I am a former Kinkoid and speak from experience. (In fairness, things may be better now, that was 2 years ago.)

    When you say color-proofed do you mean matching what's on your screen? Drawing on this experience I can also say that you can't guarantee color unless you own the whole means of production from monitor to final output. That stuff needs calibrated at LEAST daily and hourly is better and it will always be a manual process. You have to have output from the printer and then calibrate from that. Horrid process.
    # I am now finished talking out my ass about things that I am not qualified to discuss. #
    [ Parent ]

    And who watches the watchmen? (5.00 / 1) (#14)
    by Anonymous 242 on Fri Jun 23, 2000 at 04:03:31 PM EST

    As for security: the parallel here is money: back in the olden days, every bank could issue (and did) its own currency. Even further back, people kept gold in their homes. At some point, the decided to move these small but precious to them 'stores' (of money in this case, data in ours) to a centralized location --first a bank, then a Central Bank-- that controlled all currency. Those banks became big, fat targets, and you would think that they would be even more vulnerable. But now the banks can afford security measures beyond any mere mortal's reach. Are we marching towards electronic Fort Knoxes? yes we are. Is it a bad thing? no it's not.

    The only reasons banks are so strong and powerful in this day and age in the US is because there is an absolutely staggering number of federal and state regulations that govern what is and what is not appropriate behavior for a bank to engage in and because the federal government also happens to insure against losses. The great depression taught every man, woman and child in the US that banks will eventually fail and it was only the backing of deposits by the federal government that gave the average US citizen enough trust in banks to once again keep their money anywhere other than at home in a private vault.

    So yeah, it is incredibly convenient to have ubiquitous access to my money through an atm card and cheques and what not, but don't think for a second that I'd use those conveniences if there wasn't some sort of guarantee that my money would be there tomorrow and the next day and the next day.

    Now, does anyone trust the policies of the US government to protect data? Does anyone seriously not think that ye olde NSAKey will not still exist in whatever MS is using on the back end of .net? Does anyone think for a second that MS will allow (let alone encourage) the use of non-MS encryption on data stored on .net? Does anyone think that the federal government should regulate ASPs to the same extent that banks are regulated?



    [ Parent ]
    Re: And who watches the watchmen? (2.50 / 2) (#16)
    by costas on Fri Jun 23, 2000 at 04:34:25 PM EST

    You're assuming that: a) one company will own this future data-stores, and b) that these stores will not be encrypted.

    Let me start with (b): What if your data was stored in MS's data-vaults encrypted with your public key alone? With a decent Public Key Infrastructure the threat of a malicious data-warehouse practically goes away. The problem then becomes having secure and ubiquitious access to your private key. That one's a doozy :-)...

    (a) is easier: for one, I doubt that one single company (MS or Oracle, which would be the next contender in this space) will be the data-bank of the future. There will be multiple data-bankers, probably split along verticals, much like real bankers are today and they will be under heavy government protection and oversight, again much like real bankers.

    Banks are not a US phenomenon: they are powerful all over the world because the serve a fundamental purpose: controlling the flow of money. Something that will do the same for information is not far away. Let's pray it wont run on DOS.

    memigo is a news weblog run by a robot. It ranks and recommends stories.
    [ Parent ]
    Why, Aldrich Ames, of course. (none / 0) (#31)
    by error 404 on Mon Jun 26, 2000 at 11:46:21 AM EST

    Central data warehouses obviously can't use encryption that doesn't have law-enforcement escrow keys. Think of The Children!

    Now, I'm not too worried about legitimate law enforcement use of the information - I never do anything illegal. <suppresses snort, but not effectively> But remember that Aldrich Ames was a highly trusted elite type guy. The encryption keys would be held by people on more of a security-guard or local cop level. People a little more likely to need an extra buck or two, and who don't have to cope with the knowledge that selling the data will get their colleagues killed. Consider the (dark grey) market for the information: wanna buy some national security secrets? Didn't think so. The stupid novel that illiterate bastard who flamed you thinks he's writing, so you can laugh and maybe use bits in the next flame war? Hmmm. A few million email addresses? The other bids for that contract you want? Your client's budget?


    ..................................
    Electrical banana is bound to be the very next phase
    - Donovan

    [ Parent ]
    The best part is: it turns out to be vapor.... (4.00 / 2) (#12)
    by Anonymous 242 on Fri Jun 23, 2000 at 03:51:54 PM EST

    Infoword had a brief write up on this at http://www.infoworld.com/articles/hn/xml/00/06/22/000622hnngws.xml .

    the best part was a quote from billg:

    "There's a big difference today, though. The underlying technologies and the ability to make those things concrete is quite clear. Its quite clear because of industry progress, its quite clear because of investments in research we've made over the intervening years. This is quite concrete for us, even though it rolls out over a multiyear period."
    [emphasis mine]

    Does this single statement put the whole shebang into a completely different light to anyone besides me?



    Re: The best part is: it turns out to be vapor.... (1.00 / 1) (#28)
    by 3than on Sat Jun 24, 2000 at 01:08:54 PM EST

    Yeah, it does... And another thing...if they need high availability, what are the chances that it will(eventually)run on an MS operating system?*cough*hotmail*cough*

    [ Parent ]
    $$$$$$$ (1.50 / 6) (#13)
    by 3than on Fri Jun 23, 2000 at 04:03:07 PM EST

    1st impression:Oh-this is great. We'll finally be able to pay per use like MS always wanted! Others: "Ballmer: I spend a lot of my time talking to customers," Yes...and they're lots of normal people, just like me, who just happen to be ceo's of other companies. That must be very enlightening. "Ballmer: Today's Internet has a lot in common with the old mainframe computing model, where information was locked up in centralized servers and users relied on them for everything." Riiiiight...just like, really. I can't really think of any differences, can you? I'm going to go post on /. by punch card now. Overall reaction: Blow me.
    Yeah, MS, that's great. I'm not going to buy it though.
    And just in case you don't realize it,
    This is exactly what MS always does. It is recycling old ideas, most of which can be attained using only free software, and putting their uncustomizable, buggy UI on top of it.
    I don't think anybody is fooled. MS should go back to what they do best-ripping stuff off from Apple, not the unix world of client/server computing. Anyway, good job MS! Keep 'innovating!'

    (none / 0) (#19)
    by daninja on Fri Jun 23, 2000 at 08:55:33 PM EST

    Developers tell me ... that they're writing the same code over and over again just to do really basic things.
    As a developer, I can relate. That problem of writing the same code over and over again just to do really basic things - it happens to me ALL THE TIME! I don't know what to do about it. I've given it alot of thought and there doesn't seem to be any possible way to avoid it. I guess it just goes with the territory, that problem of writing the same code over and over again just to do really basic things. Thank god there's a new internet coming to fix it.
    every consumer will be able to store all their health information online and easily take control over who has access to them.
    Sure, with MS's sterling record of internet security, I'll trust them with my health records.
    Today's Internet has a lot in common with the old mainframe computing model, where information was locked up in centralized servers and users relied on them for everything.
    Today's Internet isn't centralized, and information isn't exactly locked up. And users don't rely on today's internet nearly to the extent they will this N.G. internet (you know, the place you keep your medical records).

    It's hard to believe this guy's the CEO of the biggest company in the world. In fact, it's kind of scary.

    Can't you see what you could do? (5.00 / 1) (#20)
    by freakazoid on Fri Jun 23, 2000 at 09:02:26 PM EST

    It seems to me that in the future "phat" pipes won't be so uncommon. You'll still need a fair amount of computing power at your desk (or in your lap) for a lot of the things we do, but even with storage dropping in price, the problem of synchronization becomes an issue. I, for one, would like to have access to the same files and applications wherever I am, whether it's at work, at home, at the airport, whatever. Ideally, I'd have at least limited access even if I were disconnected for a short time, i.e. on an aircraft.

    We already have coda, which handles disconnected operation and caching so that there's not a whole lot of network traffic. Some people complain about coda because you have to fetch the whole file to work with it, but that's the whole point: even if you get disconnected, you still have the file. So if I had something like coda running on my bluetooth-enabled PDA, laptop, desktop, even the payphone-cum-computer at the airport, I could access my files from anywhere, and as soon as I got in range of the network with my pda or laptop or whatever, the files would sync up.

    Now, personally, I'd be running the server at home. But I doubt everyone has a reliable, fast connection to their house. If encryption were used where even the server didn't have to have the key, then I could be at least secure that the ASP or whatever didn't have access to my files. And if I were concerned about backups, I could just backup the files off of any machine that had access to them. Or assuming I had my home machine set to "hoard" all of my files, then my home machine's cache would serve as a backup of the server at the ASP.

    Other possibilities involved the ability to "borrow" CPU cycles at random, so my little underpowered PDA could do more intersting things while I was within range of the network. I don't know how I feel about entire applications being hosted remotely, but I can think of certain applications that would fit well into such a framework. Email already seems to work fine, but we have IMAP for that. Definitely a money management app, though.

    --sean

    Access anywhere decentralized? (4.00 / 1) (#21)
    by fvw on Fri Jun 23, 2000 at 09:41:02 PM EST

    I personally love the 'work anywhere on your own computer' idea, but without the centralized server. Once you've got cable or anything else that pretends to be 24/7, it works perfectly from your own comp. Granted, it'll take a while before it's easy enough for suits, but I think this might be where this is going in the long run...

    some of it's here, some of what they want is comin (2.00 / 1) (#22)
    by error27 on Fri Jun 23, 2000 at 10:52:13 PM EST

    right now i have a fairly crappy connection to the internet (modem) but until a couple weeks ago i had a fairly decent one. and having a centralized server for all kinds of apps sounds a bit like the way i thought about debian.

    say like yesterday i needed mod_perl then i just type apt-get install mod_perl but that didn't work so i type apt-cache search mod_pearl and retype apt-get install libapache-mod-perl and it says i need some other files updated do i want to continue? and i say yes. and that's it. no untarring stuff, no messing around with anything... with a fast internet connection it would have installed in 3 or less minutes. (the king james bible takes 14 seconds to download). but with my modem it takes 10-20 minutes. there really isn't a whole lot of thought involved anyways...

    with my old internet connection i could just log onto anyone computer ftp to my computer and download any documents and print them out. i still don't own a printer because i always used the printers at which ever lab was nearest. in fact i actually spent a bit of time at the computer lab using xemacs in Xwin32 from my computer in my room because it was quiter in the lab. most people though don't have a good connection like that. and if they did they don't know how to set up an ftp server (in debian it's apt-get install wu-ftp). and also it's slightly awkward.

    if microsoft can make it easy to do what i was doing at school that would be a good thing. it's a lot of user interface more than anything really...

    the thing is that i pay for drive space on a number of computers, it would be nice if applications could treat all that space as one unit. say i type an paper for english and i go to save it. it would be nice if it had an option for "save on internet" then poped up a place for me to type my user name and password and that's it.

    one flaw i see in microsofts idea is that why would i want it saved on their server? if i already have a fast connection i very likely also have a perpetual connection aswell. so i could just run my own server for data and use the debian server for apps.

    i have read that one of the things that the guys at aezel are doing is making some net based/mozilla widgets for gnome.

    i read an article about this kernel module that created a filesystem over IP. this would alow you to run a userspace server on windows or solaris for example. then in linux you could type "cat /mnt/net/data.file" to access data from the windows server. i don't think you can access window from linux with nfs. the module probably won't get the attention it would have if it was for w2k and i doubt you'll see in it in the kernel proper anytime soon. but it's pretty cool and it subtly changes the way we think about networks...

    for me though no net based apps are very attractive right now.

    even at school with fast internet i don't think i would have liked using an imap server for email because i already cuss at how slow my email program is. In modem land it seems to take forever to download my emails from the pop server.



    Check out VNC (none / 0) (#29)
    by Boojum on Sat Jun 24, 2000 at 06:49:47 PM EST

    I too already do some of this stuff. I keep my data and my apps on my computer back in my room. If my PC is running Windows, I connect to it through VNC. It's a wonderfully nifty open source program. Voila, complete access to my Windows desktop with all of my apps there and ready to go. And the nice thing about the system is there's client software for many different platforms. It even has a built in HTTP server that serves up a Java client, which is rather useful for one-time access from a computer.

    If I want to graphical Linux apps on my computer by remote, I'll of course use an X-server if there is one handy. Of course, there's a VNC server for Linux too.

    My point is simply that the possibility for a lot of this already exist. Plus, some of this stuff, like VNC plays very nicely from a cross platform perspective. It's very cool to be able to graphically access a Mac, Windows, Linux or other Unix machine without worrying about the hardware on the local end. I don't see anything like that sort of cross-platform interoperabilty happening with Microsoft's scheme.

    Admittedly, VNC is not secure as its authors confess. But they also point out that you're free to run it on top of and encryption scheme you like and they offer some ideas about that.



    [ Parent ]
    The future is now (1.00 / 1) (#23)
    by Dacta on Sat Jun 24, 2000 at 12:08:34 AM EST

    We (I mean Open Source Developers) already do this all the time. Think of something like SourceForge - how different is that to what MS is proposing?

    Sure, we use our boxes at home to do most of the work, but (for me at least) that is more to do with the lack of bandwidth and the cost of connectivity rather than anything else.

    Re: The future is now (none / 0) (#26)
    by fross on Sat Jun 24, 2000 at 09:48:58 AM EST

    this is missing the issue i think - sourceforge is a shared development environment, more than anything else. i'd say it's closer to CVS or Microsoft's own SourceSafe, than to the .net envisioning.

    There is one major problem here that i can see with this system, that anyone who runs Windows applications over a network (including with WINE!) will know about - bandwidth. occasionally even on a 10BaseT connection to the next room, your apps can get laggy. consider that the entire application (and how big will Microsoft apps be in 2002? i shudder to think) has to get to the destination machine, and then talk to the server for anything. that's a lot of bandwidth. sure, we'll all be on vDSL or something by then, but even so, ISPs don't cater for high contention ratios by default, and that will be a problem.

    then there's the matter of security. who's to stop someone going into an internet cafe (or wherever houses a lot of these machines) and installing one of those keystroke-monitoring pieces of software, available from any w4r3z/hAx0r1ng website near you? maybe someone will make a propagational one, that spreads from machine to machine? the security implications are enormous, and lets face it, Microsoft is NOT known for the security and integrity of its systems.

    and what happens when their servers go down? someone could do a DOS attack, and effectively stop thousands of people from working.

    this could be the kick in the ass regular users need to switch away from Microsoft.

    fross

    [ Parent ]
    We're pretty close. (5.00 / 1) (#24)
    by Anonymous Hero on Sat Jun 24, 2000 at 01:10:54 AM EST

    I think we're pretty close to this "your computer anywhere" idea, but not the way MS envisions it. I'm thinking of the "Pocket EPC" system. If you don't know of it, it's a miniature computer(full-featured, with hard drive(up to 12Gig), processor(up to P-III 700), memory(up to 128M), and jacks for monitor-out, USB, keyboard and mouse. It's darned small, too. If everyone had one of those, and workstations were nothing more than simple docking stations(perhaps with Ethernet built in, or maybe the EPC could have Ethernet), then "your computer anywhere" would REALLY be "your computer", not someone else's. This would also solve lots of security concerns, and bandwidth issues. Sure, I still think there's a place for server-side application services, but I think it's a nice market, for people who want to try software to see if they'll buy it, or for software that you generally don't often use.

    Dave

    It's not that far out... (4.00 / 1) (#27)
    by Anonymous Hero on Sat Jun 24, 2000 at 10:52:15 AM EST

    but we need a few more things in place before I would trust such a scheme. #1) Encryption. Real, honest to god, encryption. I don't want the ASP to even have the possibility of seeing my data. If they want to provide cycles and applications, that's just fine.... but my data is *mine*, 100%. Escrow is not good enough. They must not have the ability, at all, to make sense of the data they hold. #2) Remote home computing. Let's face it.. even though the whole diskless workstation model is kind of in the gutter right now.. it still holds water. With the rise in wireless stuff.. and if we can get MS either playing the same game as the rest of us or out of the game, we would have one main machine (or a few perhaps) at home, and just some remote terminals to use them from.. be it our palm pilots or some heavy-duty multimedia webpads, or something you wear.. or all of the above, to interface with our 'personal' server. Computing power belongs in every single home.. not at some ASP. #3) Sort of #2 continued... why would people not want the power at home? I mean, we have this whole market built up around selling PCs to homes. The human race will benefit MUCH more by things like - everyone having lots of computing poiwer - everyone sharing it over the net, in a wonderous variety of tasks.

    Useful for Business (none / 0) (#30)
    by evand on Mon Jun 26, 2000 at 11:37:37 AM EST

    I've just started interning at a company that has quite a few computers (servers are NT, desktops mostly 9x with a few NT sprinkled about). Every time they need to upgrade some software, someone has to go around and manually work on each machine to upgrade it. On my second day, we went around to every computer in the building to

    • Check 1 check box
    • Make sure everyone had the latest virus update (which installs automatically in the startup script, but some people hadn't rebooted/re-logged-in)
    • Run a virus scan on all hard drives on the machine

    This took most of all day. Now, if we were running virus-scanning software (that knew it was supposed to be running off of a server to scan user machines) on one of our servers, we would only have to update that, and then all the other machines would be updated.

    Of course, if Windows GUI stuff could be scripted like UNIX, so we could just put /server/vupdate.sh && echo "Scanning local drives for viruses..." && virus_scan /local && echo "Scan complete." && echo "`/bin/hostname` is updated." >> /server/updated_users; in the global .profile...

    Oh, wait... that's right... hardly any viruses for Linux/UNIX anyway, and we could lock down the boxes so the users couldn't hurt things, and...

    ::takes a deep breath:: OK. I am calm. I am collected. I will resist the urge to go install some UNIX variant on all the NT servers...

    At any rate, I did have a point before I went off on that rant, and that was that ASPs could make it pretty easy for businesses to make sure that their computer systems are all running the same version of stuff, and are homogeneous as far as the hardware variations will allow. If everyone should be using ASPs is another matter entirely; I don't think I'd ever want to use one at home, what with all the security issues. I'd rather stick to a hand-compiled vi, if that's what it's going to take :)

    The internet of the future | 31 comments (29 topical, 2 editorial, 0 hidden)
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