[ox-en] Time-sharing pcs? Phones as computers?
- From: Bob Hughes <bob dustormagic.net>
- Date: Mon, 8 Apr 2013 18:52:51 +0100
I'm curious about two possible subversive uses of consumer ICTs.
1. I'd like to know more about current efforts to use
Linux/Unix-based PCs (which is all PCs nowadays, I think) as
time-sharing servers? Aware that Unix was developed for time-shared
machines, it occurred to me that maybe there are communities trying
to get more use out of personal computers in this way. This is as far
as I've got (excerpt from the current draft of the book I'm working
As an additional irony, most modern personal computers can in
principle do time-sharing (and are of course many times faster than
the original DECs and Univacs of the 1970s). This is because more
and more of them use an operating system based on Unix, which was
originally created for time-shared setups. (That's why, when you buy
a new Apple Macintosh or a Linux machine, you have to create your
own 'Account' on it, in which to store your applications and files;
the operating system assumes there will be many users, each with
their own separate accounts). But no normal computer dealer will set
you up with this kind of system; you need to buy the ingredients and
assemble them yourself. The Linux Terminal Server Project (LTSP) is
one source; it claims thousands of installations worldwide.
Reasonably enough, most of these are currently in Greece, where the
financial collapse has made parsimony essential for survival,
followed by Nepal. There is also a system for Macintosh machines,
iRAP, produced by a small Hawaiian company called Code Rebel.
If you know anything more about this I'd be grateful. It occurs to me
that the Linux project (which I think is based in Troy, Michigan) may
have something to do with Fritjof Bergmann's 'high-tech
self-providing' initiatives, of which you may have heard.
2. I wonder whether anyone is using mobile phones as full-blown
computers. They have pretty good processors (several, in the case of
smartphones). I assume they merely lack a bus capable of connecting
to a vdu, keyboard etc. Is that right? I have heard that there is, or
was about ten years ago, an important sub-industry specialising in
'crippling' cpus - presumably to reduce power consumption, but also
perhaps to prevent them being used for other purposes.
All the best,
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