Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Web OS

There's been considerable buzz about a new Web Operating System in the last year. The prominence of the web is so strong in the usage that most of the users are doing on their daily tasks that a lot of people are thinking we should have some type of operating system. The idea is that when you start a computer you're in a web browser and a web environment where all happens around internet access and such.

I believe something like this makes sense. As a user I need something like a WebOS. The concept to me is mostly about being able to access my personalized desktop from any computer/device. The exact way it will come I'm not sure, but I think these are some interesting options:

1. Web Sites operating as OS. A good example is youOS
. I love this web site, they did capture what a user needs. It provides a virtual desktop and it remembers it unless you tell it to start a new session. I am a total freak with preserving my desktop status, so this is exactly what I was looking for. They definitely need a capital injection to improve the looks, provide more applications, allow a better scheme for third party developers to build YouOS applications. But, as a proof of concept of what could be done with a virtual web OS, they deliver.

2. Real operating systems in the traditional way could become the new standard with modifications to make them more web focused. A great candidate seems to be Ubuntu, one of linux flavors. I have a computer at the office dedicated to Ubuntu (mostly for the occasional visitor with browser needs ;). I love their marketing, simplicity, open source philosophy. I believe they will do a great advancement as more and more applications convert to web, but I don't see them taking over the rest of the OSs.

3. A thin client application running on top of each and all the rest of the current OSs could be the new WebOS. This thin client would allow you to login once and enter to your virtual desktop that would be stored in some server. The functionality is similar to the web site WebOS, except that it would not be limited to a web browser page and it could do a much better use of local resources. It would be easier to add online/offline functionality. If you think about it, a web browser today is a minimum expression of this WebOS, but of course it's far away from becoming an OS.

4. One last options is that it remains like it is now, but it becomes more and more integrated through improvements in browsers and sites. Firefox today has the capability to remember your session for instance, which to me is one of the ingredients of the WebOS. There are many signs that the web is going in this direction of integration and becoming a huge interconnected application in the users eyes. An example of such unique identification systems is openId.

Read/Write Web makes some interesting points on how this might happen and bets as Google being the main actor of the WebOS. I'm not so sure about that either ...

I personally would bet on 1. web server WebOS or 3. thin client WebOS on top of any OS. Of course if you want to compete with Microsoft like Apple, Google and Ubuntu do, then you probably would bet more on 2. a new real OS built to be the WebOS.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Memory and Reminders

Because I have what I consider to be a very bad memory, I am frequently thinking about some kind of reminder system.
The basic idea would be to have some type of capability to define reminders that can come back to the me when programmed to do so. I think it's time that we add some active component to our external memory (meaning all digital data outside my our brains) that so far was only being pulled from the net from an active user’s decision to a pop situation from the net is coming back to me and saying ‘hey you need to remember this’. I personally use outlook alerts, but it's only calendar driven and media limited as it only alerts in one environment and a unique contact way.

The way I see it a remainder would be an object of some type that needs to get to my attention given some triggering event and the alert would be communicated to me according to some settings:
Reminder: Object + Triggering event + Settings

An object could be some text, some contact info, a note of my notebook, an email I could be reading, a blog entry, a video/image, a page the user is browsing or a search that the user is launching, etc. Whatever is the content I need to be reminded of.

Triggering event would be for instance a particular datetime, a calendar event (public or private, such as Halloween, or when I next time I travel to Orlando), proximity to a GPS position, an agent triggered event (such as an agent that is searching for the lowest fare for me and when this agent that is a third party program comes up with a particular result).

Settings could be: priority (high, regular, low), notification method and device to send reminder (maybe cell phone sms, desktop alert, email alert, etc), type of reminder, etc.

Another way of seeing alerts would be rules:
Reminder: Do Action with Settings if Condition

Thursday, December 21, 2006

One robot in every home

This is the name of the Jan'07 Scientific American's cover article by Bill Gates. Also it was a prediction made public by the South Korea's prime minister on April of 2006 that by 2015/2020 every home in South Korea would have one.
I was actually thinking about this in the past week or so, it definitely is an industry to watch and we'll just see it grow fast, more so in Asian markets probably than in the West.

My view on this subject:
1. Software: Microsoft is betting hard into this area and software wise it looks like we the path is being cleared to go.
2. Hardware: robotic parts (servos and sensors basically) are slowly getting cheaper but it's still expensive to get them. Not getting to the "kids in the garage" level yet, except for the LEGO Mindstorms which is actually great and is probably giving us the next robot developers generation.
3. Challenges: when we try to create machines that have glimpses of the intelligence we humans have, we need to emulate the massive parallelism of the brain and this is the challenge both in the hardware and software level. Bill Gate's article explains a bit of this and how their software solution has come up with couple solutions to this : concurrency and coordination run-time (CCR), taking advantage of multicore and multiprocessors systems and also a technology they call decentralized software services (DSS) that is supposed to simplify the writing of distributed robotic applications.

The article mentions possible uses including helper robots for the elder or people with disabilities. He didn't mention the "robot avatar", being like an alter ego for people with disabilities, that Dan was mentioning in his comment to one of my posts couple weeks ago, but we sure will get there ;)

The field is becoming amazing as it always was interesting but now it looks like all the pieces are coming together to really make it happen in the next couple decades. Seems likely that Microsoft is indeed paving the road to "One robot in every home".

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

From my mobile

Just testing sending text/photos from my mobile to go@blogger.com.
Nicole and Ale.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Inspi(RED) and the long tail of philanthropy

I should have gone (RED) on Dec 1st ... but better late than never ...
This is a really great initiative, Bono summarizes it in a great way here.
The way I see it, like it or not, we are part of something bigger than ourselves, the interaction of all of us over Earth dancing on an energy field of "coincidences", makes us part of a huge body. With this perspective in mind, I try to get some distance and look at the planet and I can see a face in the total light act of admiring/criticizing itself on the mirror (America comes to mind). Then I look further and see a leg that is sick, cells dying here and there, chaos, hunger, poverty (Africa for instance). Look further and see other areas with a total need for peace, non-violence, education, freedom for women (Arab countries).
Some months ago I thought of how to really change this, and what came to mind is using technology to create a viral campaign where every person with a computer could become part of a network of support for all these different causes. At that time I thought about a plug-in to instant messaging applications that would turn you visibly somehow into a cell in the network (like somehow changing your avatar/text for instance). I thought of advertisement that would be benefiting one organization a day. One day funds would go to (RED), another day to Breast Cancer fight, etc.
It would be so powerful to be able to contribute globally to make this a better world, more just, healing this body one cell at a time ... I think such a project has two goals. One is to get each of us thinking about this, thinking that you can't be a silly face looking at a mirror thinking how good you look today while you're loosing your leg. The second is to actually find the long tail of beneficence, a way for each of us to do a super small contribution that because of being so massive it would still be enough to make a difference.
I would love to submit a project to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Any ideas/collaborators are welcome!!

Friday, December 01, 2006

Bionic eyes

Because of personal reasons, this is a subject I look at closely. Every now and then in the last 5 years there are news regarding retina implants that will contain electrodes that when stimulated they produce some kind of vision in the brain. Mostly for now it's about light/dark spots, but it really promises a lot. This kind of bionic eyes that will originally have as a first objective to bring back sight to blind or half blind people will become more and more interesting. That got me thinking ... thinking in a future day when they finally get a person to see directly in their brain with a retinal implant, obviously the retinal implant will be connected to a camera ... then next thing I imagine is why not a wireless camera? and what we get at that point starts becoming interesting. It could become common to have a retinal implant that connects to a remote camera, maybe multiple remote shared cameras ... this would be I think the first version of the distributed human being, where you can be seeing something as if you are in another place, you might rent these cameras and have a trip through some remote place while not leaving home (I guess we'd have to figure out how to switch to/from our attached eyes as well).
I guess one day when more senses are re-wired to wireless devices our whole person might become distributed, shared and this brings up the fact that the only irreplaceable part of ourselves is most probably the brain.
Got a little futuristic for a change, it reminds me of Bev (where are you Bev Evans? I totally lost track of you since Kansas '97), an old friend that once told me: "when your dreams come true, go get new ones!!". Once our old science fiction becomes closer and real let's go get new science fiction ;)

Couple interconnected tools

I recently seen stikkit and when I saw the demo it sounded very promising. It's basically a notes program, which I personally think is very useful to store information as little notes. The interface is really cool. They are monitoring the text continuously for particular text formats that are recognized as calendar, contacts, to-dos or bookmarks. It didn't work completely for me, but it looks like a nice little application interconnecting information.
In a more company oriented line, I tried Zimbra. It's basically an inbox application that has a server side and client side component. It has great linking capabilities between email, contacts, calendar, etc. It allows you to define your own links, such as when you have an eBay item number or an invoice number in an email you can define a link to your operational application automatically. This kind of application seems great to have workflow and regular email in one same inbox.
I'm glad to see more and more connectivity inside applications like these two.