Squawk: Big Noises From Small Things

I'm fond of saying that computing is getting more transparent. Your mental image of the "computer center", a big brick building with the mainframe and some high speed line printers, is a Currier & Ives view of how people interact with computing devices. We're all socialized to the idea of small, portable, personal devices with rich computing platforms, but we haven't really tested the limits of rich, interactive computing on a small scale. I won't count the dozens of microprocessors in my car as a "rich" environment, because I can't (and really don't want to) code to them.

Enter Squawk, the micro embedded Java virtual machine and development environment from Sun Labs. In the latest Innovating@Sun podcast, principal investigator Eric Arsenau and I get really small and talk about embedded programming from a technical, financial and cultural perspective. SunSPOTS, the sensors based on the Squawk technology, have a vibrant user community already: my favorite application so far is the UhlerBot because it is a viable robotics platform built out of hobby store parts.

The cross-disciplinary possibilities for small devices encompass social sciences, environmental sciences and the arts; by open sourcing the platform and the hardware specifications we hope to see creative new applications driven by the transparency of the technology and its consumption.

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Hal Stern's thoughts on software, services, cloud computing, security, privacy, and data management

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