Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Bandwidth as a competitor to Microsoft

Mike via Rajesh Jain

Interesting idea about how with the increasing bandwidth availability to the end user, one needn't have a desktop at all, but a remote terminal - either completely dumb peripheral, ie., just a screen, keyboard, mouse and network connectivity or all of that with a bit of local processing power and local storage - running an OS from a remote machine, running applications from remote machines and storing data either remotely or locally or in both the places.

I use Windows XP. Over the last week, I was affected by some virus despite XP service pack 2, Norton Anti-virus with uptodate patches, a firewall, Firefox & Thunderbird (and not IE and other dirty mail clients) etc. I had to completely reinstall everything and preserve my data. Cut & paste did not work, copy or move across folders did not work. Safe mode didn't work. Even if I had a CD writer in my laptop (which I do not have) it wouldn't have helped.

Linux came to my rescue. I could boot my machine with my Linux partition, mount the windows NTFS as a drive, transfer the data over the network to another machine with a DVD write, then recover my laptop. Atleast the IBM laptops come up with a one button factory recovery module. Thereafter, I had to upgrade the system from service patches, anti-virus updates, hundreds of utilities that I use (from Murasu Anjal Pro onwards) and what not. Then restore my mail folders.

I could do most of this in a single day. Very few can.

Mike's model could work very well for such folks.

I was also thinking about another model. The problem with the current Microsoft OS is that the OS kernel, the application programs and a darn thing called registry, along with user data resides in the same disk with complete read/write access. This is how virus spreads. Trojans galore.

Instead, if the OS and application along with startup parameters (aka registry) are stored in a read-only CD which is created in a carefully maintained machine and booting is always from this CD, viruses can be controlled considerably. Any user data affected by the viruses can at best only destroy the user data. It cannot affect the OS, the applications etc. It may quite be possible to manage the integrity of the user data. At least one can have multiple backups and cleanup will be possible.

This user data could be a in the form of proper hard drive or a flash memory (which are fast going towards 1 GB in a USB), or a CD/DVD RW. Then, I can walk around with just two CDs, or one CD-R (or DVD-R) and another CD-RW/DVD-RW and use anybody's computer (if the cybercafe' wallah allows me) and convert that into my desktop temporarily.

I will boot with my CD/DVD, get my desktop environment and my set of applications, my own data and do the necessary computing and move on.

The need for the above is because in a place like India, affordable, high bandwidth is still years away.


  1. Good thinking... I like the second idea rather than the first. The reason being the ability to carry my own data with me anywhere.

  2. IBM Think button restore was not working me twice properly. Just my personal experiece.

  3. On one button restore in IBM Thinkpad, I was told it may not work in older versions if you repartition the drive from their original configuration.

    In my case, I had to repartition and then re-install the system (through the Access IBM button) the day I bought it, or otherwise I couldn't have installed Linux on it.

    For me, one button install has worked twice. You could check with your vendor more on this.

  4. But I heard that this IBM restore utility occupies sufficient hard disk space. May be its worth it.


  5. Interesting thought Badri. Sometime before, one tech journalist at Wired, i forgot the post & his name, has actually said, Google as a OS.

    His idea is a sorta .NET kinda work. You have a basic machine and with bandwidth you actually boot with the Internet. There are no way you have the data in your machine. Your machine is just a dumb terminal for you to use. Your application, your OS (except for the minimal boot functionality), your files/folders and everything else is online and available via different servers.This way, bandwidth is all you require. Not even a CD-R/DVD Disk to carry.

    For example, today invariably, everyone uses Google as their de facto search site. It's not just a site, it is actually a web-based application. Similarly, you can think of some many other things if you are booting online. I believe Rajesh Jain is talking about "thin clients" & "thick server" functionality.

    FYI, i found these gems:

    I am sure this will be the future, if bandwidth actually flows like electricity (Wording Courtesy: Mukesh Ambani) ;-)