March 2006 – Stay N Alive

Microsoft, Eat Your Heart Out

A month or two ago, we started hearing rumors that Google is seriously looking into a desktop OS of their own. I snickered at it, with the looming thought in the back of my mind that yes, some day Google will rule the world.

Up until now, I never really thought Google had any chance at an OS of their own. Everyone keeps talking about them incorporating their gmail client, maps, calendering, and even rumors of an office app into an OS, but I could never see how they could do it.

Well, my mind has been cleared. Recently I’ve been reading Manning’s AJAX In Action and well, it has inspired me of an entirely new revolution in web development. Boys and Girls, the web has finally moved to the desktop.

Concepts of AJAX teach that a web application is initially loaded to the desktop, and then all of the application logic for that application occurs on the Desktop itself, rather than the server handling it all. Javascript sends and receives XML back and forth to and from the server, resulting in less data being transferred, and more control over the UI. Essentially, it has become the equivalent of Swing or Gtk for the web.

Now, here’s my vision, and I bet you $100 that Google will adopt this: Imagine a simple, open-source, easily extendible OS such as Ubuntu running on your computer. Now, replace Gnome (or KDE for you Kubuntu fans out there) with a nice, AJAX front-end to control all your apps. Essentially, the desktop and the browser will be one in the future. You just won’t know you’re using a browser – you will come to miss “the good old days” of the browser eventually.

These guys have the right idea, but I’m imagining a more integrated system with the OS. Because this type of desktop management system is very easily extendible, it supports the OSS model much better than the closed-source models. Microsoft had better take note, because if they haven’t already started on this, they’ll be stuck to writing XBox Games and Entertainment Centers. But then again, Google could rule that too.

YAOL – Yet Another Open Source License?

As I sit here waiting for my version of the Fedora Core 5 DVD (3 Gb – wow) to download via bittorrent, I can’t help but admire what one man has done for the community. Through a protocol called Bittorrent, one man has single-handedly brought the community of downloaders together, forcing them to each play their part.

Bittorrent works like this: Let’s say I want the latest Fedora ISO (completely free, and completely legal), usually a 1-3 Gb download total if you get the DVD or all the CDs. Normally if I were to download this via the web it could take days to a) wait for someone else to finish downloading it from the server, and b) wait for me to finish downloading it from the server when it’s my turn. What Bittorrent has done, is allow you to download the file in pieces, looking for “bits” someone else has already downloaded (while their download may even still be in progress), and download those instead of waiting for an entire file to finish. In the meantime, while you are downloading those “bits” someone else is downloading the “bits” you have already downloaded. This speeds up the download time tremendously.

Here’s where it gets really cool. Not only is your download time sped up, but you also get priority to the better streams if you also allow people to upload from you at higher speeds. So in essence, it “rewards” you for sharing the wealth.

Now, lately there has been a lot of talk about GPL3. This license is supposedly even more OSS friendly than GPL2, but very unfriendly to businesses. Businesses and money I feel strongly are what drive the current GPL2 and has made applications using it so popular. But, even the GPL2 has it’s limitations.

Here’s where Bittorrent comes in. What if we were to write a license that rather than only trusting people to give back to the community as they use others’ software, rewarded them for what they give back, similar to what Bittorrent does when one allows others to download from them? The license could allow greater usage priviledges, maybe even free support privilidges if they take the software and extend it for the community, or even write their own and distribute it under this license.

I am all for socialism in the pure way that Marx put it (I don’t agree with the current philosophies however), but frankly, I don’t think man is capable at the moment of just freely giving as they receive. We are currently seeing that most usage of the GPL are for monetary reasons. Why not take advantage of this, and push open source the capitalistic way? “The more you give, the more you get!” I think this is what will drive people the most into freely giving of their own will.

Any lawyers in the audience?