The Network is the ComputerI don't know what was originally meant by this slogan, but I take it to be about distributed computing, rather than the client-server model. Note that this concept is not just about thin clients or mounting users' home directories over NFS. That is multi-user Unix, or client-server computing, and has existed for as long as Unix has. The "Network is the Computer" is something else entirely.
Dude, Where's My Stuff?Distributed computing in this sense means that some of your apps and data are on the computer you happen to be interacting with at the moment, some are on some server somewhere (possibly belonging to a company or other organisation that you have some affiliation to; and possibly behind significant security barriers) and some are on (possibly many) other servers. Think of it like this:
- The Unix way: everything is a file
- The GNOME way: the Unix way, plus every file is on the network (everything is a "Network Object")
My Stuff Follows Me AroundMany people interact with more than one computer, and many people spend significant time using that computer as an interface to the Internet. I suppose the largest number of people who do this use a computer at work or school and another at home. This leads to duplication of effort, and worse, duplication of data (and revisions of data), meaning that data synchronisation becomes important.
The "network is the computer" is all about (insofar as is technically possible) device-independent access to my stuff. If you can run the GNOME on a device, it should (screen and input device limitations aside) look and act the same as on any other device. The same data and apps should (device limitations aside) be available. Google apps on mobile phones show some ways in which this can happen.
The GNOME Online DesktopThere are a number of GNOME or Freedesktop.org projects underway that go some way to addressing the issues faced by the type of user described above. They inclu
- Conduit: file sychronisation and conversion
- Telepathy: abstract interface for messaging (not just IM)
- Mugshot: Keeping up to date with what your contacts are doing on the network. Also application usage statistics (and "Click to install" functionality of apps, across distributions)
- Galago: presence of people on the network
- Big Board (in its current version) and/or Gimmie (in future versions?): GNOME GUI to the above functionality
The FutureWhere to from here? It seems to me that if the projects listed above reach maturity and are fully integrated with one another, then we be much closer to true "Network is the Computer" functionality and could probably call the resulting version of GNOME 3.0 (or ToPaZ?).
What are your thoughts? In particular, are any of the pieces of the GOD missing? In particular, if you are a developer involved with one of the projects discussed above (or one that I've missed) would you be interested in participating in an interview (or helping write an article) about all this stuff for The GNOME Journal?