Tuesday May 12, 2009

Wi-Fi, Gadgets and Applications

I recently started using a new gadget that has made mobile information access much easier.  However it took some tinkering to get it all working seamlessly. MP3 and iPod music players are almost as common as wrist watches today.  My kids and I have acquired a collection of them over the years.  The latest edition for me is the iTouch which is the newest iPod that enables you to not only listen to music, but watch movies, photos, connect to the internet via w-ifi and install applications.  Basically the iTouch is everything the iPhone offers except the phone service (which you get from a mobile carrier network such as AT&T, Vodafone, etc.).

The internet connection via wi-fi is what really sets this appliance apart from competitors.  At home I can connect to my fully encrypted network.   What astonished me was my ability to connect to unsecured networks in many different localities.  For example while sitting in a medical building waiting for an appointment with my physician, I connected to my opthamologist's office on the other side of the building.  No encryption key required.  I have been able to connect to wide open wireless networks at banks, schools, hospitals, shopping malls, restaurants, and other people's home networks!  While this is rather convenient for me, it is scary at the same time.  I've also been impressed with establishments such as a world renown teaching hospital in Boston that offers guest wi-fi services once you accept terms and conditions.  The same applies to airports around the world where airlines may offer password based complementary or pay per use w-ifi access.

Now let's get to the applications which is the best part of the iTouch.  As is the case with the iPhone you can use a rich set of both complimentary and purchasable applications.  The iTouch comes with a base set of applications such as Calendar, YouTube, Email, Safari, Clock and Stock tracker.  You can also add applications such as Google Earth, Yahoo, USA Today, The Weather Channel, Yahoo, Google Maps, Currency converters, etc.  I loaded a complementary app called Nambu which allows you to post to all of your social networks at once via services such as Twitter, FriendFeed, Linkedin, Facebook, Ping.fm and pic.im.  Posting photos, links, micro blogs, product info, etc. is all seamlessly integrated. With Ping.fm you can post via a browser, SMS or through a 3rd party client such as Nambu. 

Now if we can only get all of those institutions and folks to secure their non-public networks!

Blog is available also at: http://bobporras.wordpress.com/

Tuesday Jun 10, 2008

OpenStorage blather... maybe not

There has been much talk about open source storage software in the past several months.  It seems that it is generating more interest than open source software in general.  The debates have aligned around 2 basic camps of nonsense and practicality.  One observation is starting to become clear.  It speaks relevance to certain folks.  Usually if something is mere hype people will ignore it.  I've watched something that was previously irrelevant become a lightening rod as of late.  Just as we are aligning for a presidential election here in the U.S. we have alignment around proprietary versus open sourced storage software.  More than mere startups are interested and able to design, build and offer a solution using software that is built from software that is open sourced. Heck you can even build your product on an open sourced code base and charge for it too.  It goes against the traditional grain of what is considered the norm for storage.  There is lots of proprietary storage software out there that comes from open sourced code-- e.g. embedded controllers.   Systems companies who have the knowledge of software, integration, sheer collaboration and understanding their customers are capable of creating a similar picture to the above.  It does go beyond DIY.

In fact if you have the expertise to lead in design trends you may be able to do better.  Take the so called blather around SSDs.  Some argue replacing a spinning drive with a FLASH drive using the traditional disk I/O interface is not worth it.  Maybe they are right.  However if your software was designed to use that SSD as a tertiary cache between the disk and the computational engine that would be different.  Yes maybe even altering as was the case when very large memories (VLM) were introduced in the mid-90s.  VLMs enabled the killer application database because working sets became much bigger.  The semiconductor folks do something similar and refer to the concept as pipelining.  Yes old concepts that get reapplied with newer technologies producing significant results.

So it is merely not just a do it yourself thing.  Click on the picture above an scroll through what the product offers.  An offering from a company who leads rather than follows.  It is probably true too if your company has all the capability of using open source software, hardware design and system integration.  Big companies too... not only startups.  Interesting times...

Thursday Sep 13, 2007

10 year old twins programming?

This past summer I had the dreaded conversation that software developer parents have with their 13 year old children.  No not about the birds and the beesIt was the programmer conversation...  My 13 year old is a runescape gamer-- part of a community that is 5 million users strong for a single on-line game!  It bothers me that he spends time on a game when he could be playing outside.  Granted he is active in sports, the combination of Web, Playstation and media content dejour causes me to constantly say things \*are\* different today.  The discussion started with me telling him that runescape is a Java app. "What's that?" he replied.  So I downloaded NetBeans onto his computer.  Then I showed him how to build a simple Java app and then run it in the JVM on his PC.  His first exposure to programming at 13... I was 18 when I was exposed to FORTRAN IV on punch cards.

I'm waiting to see if my son picks up from being "on" the code as a user and embraces being "in" the code as developer. He is pretty savvy already.  He has taken full advantage of Google Pack (always free - no trail versions or spyware). I asked him what tools in Google Pack are most applicable to his school work.  Hands down he uses the office productivity suite called StarOffice the most.  My son is getting along nicely with his PC and the free software he uses on a daily basis.  I'm waiting to have the virtulization discussion with him next, but let's wait and see if he wants to be "in" rather than "on."

Not to be left out my twin 10 year old daughters wanted to be "in" on something that they do not understand.  There is a great research project called SCRATCH being driven out of MIT that enables elementary school children to create games, interactive media and animated stories via drag and drop programming. With a little investigation I discovered the engine behind this tool is an open sourced LAMP stack.  My twins are now programming away using this fabulous tool to expose young children to programming.  I suggested my son experiment with SCRATCH as a precursor to NetBeans.

So in a weekend I was able to expose all 3 of my children to programming via free and open source software.  That made me think why wouldn't the same apply to novice adults and businesses. Free and open source software enables one to experiment with no entry barriers other than a person's time.  A computer is a barrier but pubic access to  computers at libraries and university locations is widespread. I did a search on the web to see what free and open source stack  I could find related to storage.  I was able to find a product called FreeNAS. Granted this product has some limitations, but I'm sure someone will enable a commercial viable product around an open sourced os using commodity hardware.  In fact, FreeNAS won an Info World Bossie Award along with some other recipients...

My son teaches me every day that things are different than when I was a youth.  Land line phones no, Wireless Web-based devices yes.

He is right... things are changing.



The blog of Bob Porras - Vice President, Data, Availability, Scalability & HPC for Sun Microsystems, Inc.


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