Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Cloud cuckoo land?


During the course of my recent desktop meltdown, I spent a certain amount of time entertaining the notion of just buying a new rig, and one type that drew my eye was the so-called "netbook."

I ended up sticking with my beloved ShuttleX. I'm now running Puppy Linux on a 512Mb piece of disk territory, and storing some data on the larger OpenSuse installation which I feel no need to visit. Browsing with Seamonkey, a Mozilla fork that's about as good as Firefox for my purposes (except that I haven't found a Twitterfox equivalent for it yet). My current session is now into its fifth day. I can't remember going that long without a reboot. Ever.

Anyway, I came across an article on "netbooks" in the new issue of Wired, which explained them for me (I didn't think they sounded like a very good deal at first). Got me t'thinkin' ...

The basic premise that the "netbook" phenomenon relies on is that most of us who use the Internet do (or could do) most of the things we want to do online instead of inside those boxes on our desks (or laptops in our bags).

We don't really need a NASCARTM-grade CPU or eleventy terabytes of RAM. What we need is a screen, a keyboard/mouse, a browser, Java and Flash, and an Internet connection. And soundcard/speakers, of course, if we want MuzakTM accompaniment and such.

The era of "cloud computing" is, for all intents and purposes, already here. Especially for me. The only things I don't do online are a little text editing, calculating and graphics stuff ... and I could, and soon will, be doing them online now that I've noticed this whole "cloud computing" idea.

I'm using Puppy Linux because it's an incredibly light distribution which leaves most of my paltry 256Mb of RAM free to do the things I want to do instead of keeping the OS itself running. Far as I can tell, my ShuttleX now does the things I want to do faster than my kids' Vista laptop w/3Gb of RAM and faster CPU.

Even Puppy is really a much fatter OS than I need. If I can find an even slimmer OS that a) boots up, b) connects to the Internet, c) opens a browser (if I had my druthers, I'd probably still go Firefox rather than Seamonkey, but I'm not crying over the minor differences) and properly handles the sound, video, etc. generated from that browser's wanderings, I'm there.

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