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  1. #1
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    Online computing

    What does everyone think about the idea of online computing? Having the actual OS, applications etc running from a server somewhere else online, and accessing them from your home PC like a terminal to these services?

    It is Google's idea for the future of home computing, and other companies are also interested in this approach. You can see why a developer becomes interested in this idea. They can have the current version of their OS and/or software installed and working on their servers at all times, controlling how it is setup and running, with no need to provide updates or downloads for their customers. They remain completely in control of everything. And with each user needing to subscribe to the service on a monthly basis, it ensures a much better monthly revenue stream than can ever be achieved from standalone packages sold to customers and installed on their home computer.

    Even games developers are looking into this idea, having the latest games running on powerful computers at the developers end, with players logging into the games from their home computers which won't (in theory) need powerful graphics cards or processors, as that will all be done at the server end before the end results are piped to the gamer, so the gamer's computer will just act as a terminal receiving the outputted graphics and sound from the game developer's server.

    I personally don't see that second gaming idea coming off. We just don't have the bandwidth on today's broadband connections, or the power on today's servers to deliver this idea. You would surely need a server per player at the moment to deliver the kind of processing and GPU power needed to deliver the quality and levels that the current wave of PC games deliver, and then there is the delay in getting the graphics and sound from that server to your PC over the network connection. I just don't see it happening. MMO style serverside games are one thing, but they still rely on the player's computer running the client side of the game, rendering the graphics and generating the sound. Overloading all of that hardware requirements from the gamer's system onto the server is in my view currently far from possible. Interesting idea, and maybe in the future it might be possible, but for now I just don't see it happening.

    As for OS and applications. That is a slightly different matter. It is fully possible to have a clientside OS that runs like a terminal and connects to the actual applications and utilities at the server end. However how restrictive would that be? Everything about the OS would be dictated by the developer. The OS version and its features would always be what the developer wishes, and the applications available would be only those the developer built or authorised to be available.

    The iPhone and its apps store is something Google and others have also taken note of. Seeing how Apple have been able to make money from this idea, selling each addon App to the end user. They see this as the future as they are orientated by money.

    For the non technical home computer user I can sadly see this all becoming reality. Having an OS they don't need to maintain and easy to obtain applications from an online store that bolt straight into the OS without the need for install discs or configuration. For novice users, or technophobes this might look ideal. Even if the developer is preying on them, selling them silly little Apps that do pointless things at 2 a pop.

    But for the real computer users this is quite frightening. I for one don't want someone else dictating what the OS I use should be like or how it should be configured. Or what programs I am allowed to install on it.

    Finally there is the concern about files. Music files, video files, text files, word documents, photos, images we create etc... all our personal stuff. Going further we have our rom collections, archives of manuals, scans, images etc... If Google and others get their own way these would also all be stored on their servers alongside the OS. Removing the need for the user to backup their data and therefore never have the danger of losing it all due to a harddrive failure.

    Personally I want to be in control of my own data and files. I don't want it all stored on someone else's servers for them to control. Who knows what would happen to them.

    The danger is that the market is dictated by the most common user, and this is the computer illiterate home user who has no clue about computers, how they work, or what to do when they go wrong. They are the people who think the iPhone is great and paying 2 for an app that makes your iPhone a spirit level is worth the money.

    It is these scary people who dictate the direction of the computer marketplace, and it is these people who will see serverside cluster storage and online OSs as the next great thing. Being able to access your OS, Apps and files from any internet enabled computer for them will be the perfect computing solution.

    OK, I can actually see an advantage to that last comment. If you were working on something, being able to access it from any computer location would have advantages. As a student for example, working on an essay, you could write some of it at college, then go home and continue, without needing to worry about saving the file to a usb pen, or emailing it to yourself. No need for the right software to open it etc. For office style work online OSs and computing might be worthwhile.

    But for everything else I want my computer to remain on my desk, installed and configured how I wish, with my files stored locally where I can access them and do what I like with them.

    I definitely don't want my MP3 collection stored on some server being scrutinised to see if every files is owned by me.

    And that is the rub. Why do these companies really want us all to move over to serverside storage and online OSs? Control of copyright and the end to piracy. If you can only access an OS from the developer's server, run applications you can purchased from their store, and listen to music you have purchased in their library, then they fully control all parts of that computing environment and can make sure every user is only using a purchased copy of the files they are using.

    Big brother and 1984 spring to mind.

    Your thoughts?

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  2. #2
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    OS and general software in the web leads to a not so powerfull computer at home. The industry of hardware i am sure will not like it... as people will not need fast computing machines. They would only need a terminal with a very fast modem/network/other comunication system.
    If the serve would calculate all data from an excel formula to database or anyother thing, you computer would only act as an interface between you and the server, it would not process anything special, it would be like a Mainframe concept...
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  3. #3
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    Exactly what they are trying to get back to, just like the old style Mainframe setups still sometimes seen in Universities and libraries. I do think such setups are good for certain computer use such as large buildings or group projects where central data needs to be shared, but I'm not so sure for anything else.

    If you haven't played a classic game in years, it's never too late to start!


  4. #4
    Amiga PT user VIP
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    I am sure that would also lead to another concept: CPU power/time cost:
    You would be able to buy 1 hour of CPU power at 10GHz to process your 3D project rendering, and the day after buy 1 hour of CPU power at 2GHz to process your word document... but you have to be carefull your kid would wake up in the middle of the light grab you access code and will request 15 GHZ of CPU power and other 5GB-Video RAM for 3D video to play that game he saw in a magazine...

    The pros:
    - You can have less and high power depending on what do you need
    - You only pay for the real time you are log on...

    The cons:
    - privacy...
    - the feel of open the case and setup new hardware :-)
    - DIY is fun, that concept would end...
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  5. #5
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    Harrison's sentence

    They remain completely in control of everything.
    sums it all up quite nicely.

    How about open source stuff? Linux etc. Since that is not driven by profit it would be less likely to end up with a situation such as what harrison describes.

  6. #6
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    Linux could be a driving force behind the server end of many such cluster storage and online OS solutions though. And don't forget that all mainframes tend to run UNIX, which is the forefather of Linux.

    If you haven't played a classic game in years, it's never too late to start!


  7. #7
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    The problem with online computing is online speeds. The speed of your computer will depend on where you live, what time of day it is not how good your hardware is. To me that sounds like total cock.
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  8. #8
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    Very true. In an ideal world we would all be connected at our broadband's maximum limit and remain at that speed. But we all know this is far from true, and recent studies showed a large proportion of UK broandband customers are actually receiving less than 2Mbits, and many only 512Kbits still. Far below a useful speed for such technologies that rely on a stable and fast connection to work. Gaming this way is completely out, and has anyone tried the Google apps on a slow broadband connection? Trying to open a spreadsheet in their software online even on a fairly fast connection is hopelessly slow, so I just don't see the technology or broadband infrastructure being anywhere close to the stage needed to deliver on these dreams.

    In 10+ years time maybe, but not at the moment.

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  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by Buleste View Post
    The problem with online computing is online speeds. The speed of your computer will depend on where you live, what time of day it is not how good your hardware is. To me that sounds like total cock.

    Yes, but if we think that 10 years ago the best you had was RDIS connections at 64k, and since 2006-07 you have 24+Mbit connections and now you're starting to have common fibre at 100Mbit and now 300Mbit services, we just see how much technology and services evolve in 10 years time.

    I wonder that in 2019 1Gbit connections could be the most common services for household internet. So what today could be an utopia, till the end of the next decade could be common standard.

    What Harrison says it's very true. With a system like that, piracy would be like 0% and I believe has soon the technology can sustain such kind of demands, all big (and small) software houses would jump without thinking twice.

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