China’s Linux Initiative

The Register writes about China’s efforts to create a home-grown Windows-like OS:

Called Yangfan Linux, which means “raise the sail” in Chinese, the open source operating system is being pieced together by the Beijing Software Industry Productivity Center, a group established by the government to organize Linux development in China. Now six months in the making, Yangfan has been installed on 2,800 government computers, replacing Windows and in some cases early versions of Linux already running inside the government, The source code for Yangfan was made available last week under the GNU General Public License.

The Beijing Software Industry Productivity Center said it is aiming to duplicate about 70 per cent of the functionality of Microsoft’s Windows 2000 operating system. It is also working to add various hardware device drivers to the operating system.

Yangfan is based on two distributions of the Linux operating system. One is the distribution developed by Chinese Linux vendor Red Flag Software. The second is a version of the operating system called Cosix Linux, developed by China Computer Software Corp.

In addition to an operating system, the Beijing Software Industry Productivity Center is developing office applications and other Linux-based software to sit on top of Yangfan. The group’s goal is to develop an entire desktop environment with open source technology for the government (this will be the MS Office equivalent functionality referred to in the original report, so it would appear we’re talking about file formats rather than a clone).

This initiative can bring down the cost of software, but what about the cost of hardware? That is where we need to think of using Thin Clients and Server-based Computing. In countries like India and China, software is anyway considered “free” (rampant piracy). It is important to reduce the cost of both hardware and software.

Technology as Silver Lining

Dan Gillmor writes about the change technology is bringing and captures the essence of the change that’s taking place:

Processing power grows and accelerates. Storage capacity does the same, and so — while much more sluggishly — does the speed of network connections.

Those trends mean we’re adding intelligence and memory to just about everything, then connecting it all where connections make sense. In this process we’re giving ourselves ever-more-powerful tools to solve problems. The implications — for learning, business efficiency and conservation of natural resources, among many other benefits — are staggering.

Everyday people are starting to realize that they are not just “consumers” but customers — that is, they are becoming serious participants in the marketplace of goods and services. This is a crucial distinction.

A consumer’s role is limited to ordering what’s on the menu and paying for it. A customer wonders what’s not on the menu, asks for something he or she actually wants and then negotiates the terms.

This awakening takes many forms, but a common one is the customer’s empowerment. Technology is the catalyst.

Prospective customers ignore press releases and product pitches. Instead, they are heading to Web sites where they can research the reality and see what current customers have to say.

Journalism organizations watch, mostly dumbfounded, as weblogs and other multidirectional media bring new voices to the conversation. They offer new choices to what I call the “former audience,” the people who are now becoming part of the journalism process itself — to the ultimate benefit of everyone.

Newsweek on Blogs

Writes Steven Levy in Living in the Blog-osphere:

The bigger story is whats happening on the 490,000-plus Weblogs that few people see: they make up the vast dark matter of the Blog-osphere, and portend a future where blogs behave like such previous breakthroughs as desktop publishing, presentation software and instant messaging, and become a nonremarkable part of our lives.

Blogging is a social phenomenon, and the Blog-osphere self-organizes into clusters of the like-minded. Within one of those clusters, the small-scale drama of a life, the incisiveness of one’s film criticism or the knowledge one imparts about esoteric telcom regulations can foment a weird kind of microcelebrity. “In the future, everyone will be famous to 15 people on the Web,” says David Weinberger, author of “Small Pieces Loosely Joined,” an incisive book about the Net.

Tomorrow’s Notebooks

Writes News.com: “Fuel cells and battery enhancements, which will let notebooks run three to 10 times longer without a recharge, will begin to appear by late 2004. Smaller hard drives and screens will also likely lead to some changes in the classic notepad shape for some models. Multiband wireless communications, in which notebooks drift from cellular to Wi-Fi to back, will be common.”

TECH TALK: Tech’s 10X Tsunamis: Blogs and RSS (Part 2)

The Information Refinery

The Information Refinery can be thought of as consisting the following entities:

Miners: Just likes ores need to be extracted from mines, RSS miners collect the RSS feeds from different sources. Miners listen to sources which send the raw, unstructured information to them, or extract information through bots. They then take the information and send them to specialized adaptors for RSS extraction.

Adaptors: These are the interfaces to the outside world. A 1-way Input Adaptor takes events and RSS-ifies them for use by the refinery. A 1-way Output Adaptor takes an RSS feed and converts it into events suitable for use by an external application. A 2-way adaptor does both. In other words, from the point of view of the refinery, an Input Adaptor is read-only and an Output Adaptor is write-only. The 2-way adaptor is read-write. For example, there are Blog 1-way adaptors which will take RSS feeds from weblogs (or create RSS feeds if one does not exist). We can think of News Adaptors which take a URL for the site, and make an RSS feed comprising the headlines. A Mail Adaptor can read from an email message and convert to RSS. A File adaptor can take information about the file and create an RSS feed about it (extracting perhaps the first few sentences from the file as the description). We can think of a Tally (or Quicken) 1-way adaptor which extracts information from the application and creates RSS events (using financial reporting standards) which can be fed into the information refinery.

RSS Spoolers: They take the RSS feed from the adaptors. They take subscription requests for the feeds through Agents. An agent is instantiated for every subscription request. Agents have rules to decide what to do. For example, Rams agent can decide that he wants the News.com and WSJ.com RSS feeds in full, while he wants all other entries with the keyword XML in them. The agents look at each of the incoming feeds and take the appropriate action. They route the RSS feeds/entries to other RSS spoolers or RSS Aggregators.

RSS Aggregators: There is one RSS Aggregator per subscriber/entity which is the end consumer of RSS feeds. Think of these as comprising one set of end points (the other being the information sources). RSS Aggregators have an RSS Store (database), for archiving older entries. They can publish the aggregate feed to an RSS Viewer. Or, then can send the RSS entries to Processors.

Processors: They embed business logic/ rules as to what action needs to be taken with RSS feeds. For example, they can send events to an Alerts engine to notify the user via email/IM/SMS, or create other RSS events. As such, processors can thus also be considered as information sources which put out RSS feeds for re-distribution. Processors can also work on the RSS store to create specialised applications.

RSS Viewer: This shows all the RSS entries organized by source or time to a user, who can then decide if he wants to either delete the entry or publish it to a blog. An RSS Viewer should be capable of having multiple pages to support categorisation of the incoming entries.

Blogging Platform: This is a weblog tool like MovableType or Radio which enables management of the blog. A blog should be capable of having multiple categories (with sub-levels). The user can decide on the access rights for the categories (public, private, group). It should also be able to publish RSS feeds for specific categories.

Digital Dashboard: This is a browser with three tabs: one for viewing the RSS Aggregator feed, one for writing and one for viewing the users own blog. It is the unified read-write interface.

Tomorrow: Blogs and RSS (continued)