On home servers and extreme personal PCs
John Robb writes about the next generation of PCs and such:
Here is how I think the battle will evolve in the next five to ten years:...This sums up much of what I've been anticipating and have found myself building.
1) A home server. This PC is always on and lives in a closet. It serves multiple users that connect to it using mobile wireless screens and keyboards. ...
2) An extremely mobile PC ala OQO. This PC will be attached to a single individual. ...
In the case of the home server, I have two of them actually.
One is a headless Linux box behind a cable modem that has accumulated all sorts of autonomous functions: it gathers my mail from various accounts into an IMAP server that I access from everywhere; before I was using Radio UserLand, it used to host all of my news aggregation hacks; it controls and monitors all the X10 devices in my apartment (though these are dwindling away); and until my radio reception got bad when I moved, it used to record radio shows for me using a D-Link USB FM radio. I actually have a Mac at work that does that does that for me, and dumps the sound files to my server at home periodically.
The other "home server" is a PC running Win2K with an ATI Radeon All-in-Wonder card. This machine is my PVR, recording to VCD the few TV shows I actually want to keep up with. That ends up being about 12 VCDs a week, counting all the episodes of Buffy that I capture. (Guilty pleasures.) I keep dumping more and more hard drive space into this machine, and use it as a general apartment-wide file server, as well as a dumping ground for stuff from remote when I'm out yet have net access. Occasionally I play Windows-based cames on the PC, but it mostly just sits there and does things.
I would like to combine these boxes into one big Linux box connected wirelessly to my cable modem, sitting in my closet in my apartment, or if I had a house, across the basement from the water heater. I want this home server to be in the same class of appliances as the furnace, washing machine, and water heater. The only thing keeping me from dumping the Win2K PC is the PVR functionality I haven't bothered to try under Linux yet.
In the case of my extremely mobile PC...
Well, I'm still in search of this, and the OQO looks very very attractive. Lately, my mobile PC has been my iBook. In most of my usual haunts (home, work, coffee shop), my iBook is present and tends to have net access. I have scripts which auto launch some SSH tunnels back to my Linux server and mount shares on my Win2K box when I switch networks. It usually works. I have all my current developing projects on the thing, and I do news aggregation with Radio UserLand. Occasionally at home, the iBook is what I have with me in the living room, so with the A/V cable I use the iBook to play internet radio on my living room stereo, or I stream movies over my LAN from Win2K PC in the other room.
But, what I really want is the Global from Earth: Final Conflict. I can't find a link or direct info on the thing as used in the series, but it's an amazing fictional device. Palm-sized with a pull-out screen, clips onto the belt. Has world-wide satellite video phone, global positioning, and seemingly endless PDA capabilities. I think I've even seen someone drop it into a cradle and pull up their work on a desktop PC. I've at least seen some general scenes like: "Hey, can you drop me a couple gig of that data onto my global so I can look at it later." Seems to have ubiquitous net access, even in low earth orbit. :)
But until someone makes that, I'm going to eye that OQO up for awhile and see what people think. $1000 seems like a sweet price if I can run *BSD or Linux on it. Funny thing is, so far, I haven't spent very much money at all on all these things I have. They've all been acquired used or on sale or for free. Most all of it was cobbled together from scraps.
Living in the future is fun. :)