Open(Anything) – The way of future products?

So I was reading Digg the other day and I came across a link to a story about OpenCola. This lead me to read the Wikipedia page on OpenCola and got me thinking beyond OpenSource software. Laird Brown, the senior strategist for the company which created OpenCola, attributed the success of OpenCola (over 150,000 cans sold) to the vast public mistrust of big corporations. This is understandable, since many of the processes used to create what we consume or use on a daily basis are not even public knowledge. At the very least, the knowledge is not easily accessible.

Take for example proprietary software. I can give many historical examples of how proprietary software (and hardware) has failed (think IBM, Sun, etc), but probably the best and most commonly used example of closed-source software would be Microsoft. They are an example of closed-source software which succeeded, not failed. So why did it succeed? I believe Microsoft's success can be attributed to two things: the computer illiterate nature of users who became the first generation of humans to start using computers on a daily basis (who didn't even know another option existed and therefore passed on their MS-knowledge to the next generation), and the lazy nature of humans who would rather put up with a broken, works-good-enough, product rather than learn something new.

As long as money is the driving force behind a product, whether it's software or food, there will always be consumers who doubt the quality and genuineness of the product. There will always be a person, or a group of people, who can be blamed when something goes wrong. Having an openly created product not only moves responsibility to "the people", but also allows the masses to agree on a single idea and solution. This helps remove not only public doubt but also helps to create a feeling of confidence and security. If something is created and we're left entirely in the dark about the specifics of how it was created, then we will always be relying on others to do their work with honesty and goodwill -- something I'm sure we are all aware is a rare combination in this world driven by greed.

Will any science fiction remain fiction forever?

I came across a news article talking about how scientists are finding ways to cloak objects by using metamaterials to cause light to "flow" around objects, like water flows around a stick placed in a moving stream. It's amazing how much science fiction becomes science fact.

Growing up, I watched StarTrek and StarWars and fully believed things like teleportation and cloaking devices would forever remain pure fiction. Within the past few years I have heard of several research projects and studies which have proven both are possible. We may not have the processing power or the full knowledge of everything required to make an entire spaceship disappear, but scientifically it's possible. And hell, when it's finally possible it will probably look exactly as it does in StarTrek!

Even 50 years ago, cell phones were science fiction. The communicator used in StarTrek inspired Dr. Martin Cooper to invent the cell phone. Science Fiction became Science Fact. A quick glance at a crowd of people will show you just how popular the cell phone has become in the past 25 years alone.

What science fiction object of today will become the next widely used necessity of tomorrow?

Why technology hasn't killed the newspaper

News today is not much different than news 100 years ago, however the methods and speed at which news is published has changed dramatically. Today, news is almost instant. When the tsunami hit South Eastern Asia in 2004, killing 200,000+ people, cell phone users were sending text message warnings to people in other countries that the tsunami had not reached yet. They were even texting people inland informing them to run because the water is coming. Pictures and videos taken by people with their cell phones and camcorders started hitting the Internet within hours; even before any of the big news stations had anything to report. I saw videos and pictures on the Internet that were "breaking news" the following day on CNN.

Technology has given us the ability to publish news almost instantly, allowing us to read up-to-the-minute news online. However the newspaper will be around for a long time. Why? Because people don't have easy-to-read access to news when they're in the train, on the subway, on a plane, and for some, when they're at home. I see the same newspaper get passed around amongst half a dozen people on the train. People leave it on the seat to give the next passenger something to read; and to curb boredom, satisfy their curiosity, or just catch up on recent news, people will pick up the paper and browse through it; even if it's a day or two old.

Sure, people can read the news on their cell phones, but how many people actually do that? The screens are too small, network connectivity isn't perfect (especially when traveling), and its just easier to pick up a paper or magazine. Until the technology exists to create very readable, large, light weight, roll up screens that are built into cell phones, people will continue reading the newspaper and glancing through magazines. Am I saying this a bad thing? No, it's just an observation I made today on the train into work. So I grabbed my laptop and wrote this post! 🙂

Where's the future? Oh, that's where…

I was sitting outside in my backyard yesterday and I saw some nice cloud formations, so I grabbed my camera and snapped a few shots.

A good memory is something you can teach yourself to have. Just as you learn a language or new skill, you can learn to better manage your memory. Being an organized person like myself has really helped me remember things easier. I found a good article with tips on how you can improve your memory.

This came in handy today:

gnome-session-remove gnome-panel
gconftool-2 --recursive-unset /apps/panel
gnome-panel &

I really like the GMail user interface, but I'm weary about storing all of my email on Google's servers. I've never liked the idea of putting important stuff in the hands of someone providing a free service. You never know what they will do with the data, or whether or not they will suddenly shut down. I've hosted my email on my own rented server and use an IMAP client to connect to the server. The popular webmail interfaces provided by hosting companies are usually SquirrelMail or Horde. Both are decent webmail clients (I prefer SquirrelMail over Horde), however they lack the instant response that an AJAX mail client such as GMail provides. Today I did a quick Google search to see if I could find an opensource AJAX webmail client that I could install on my web server. Sure enough, two exist: Zimbra and RoundCube. The latter is exactly what I was looking for. Zimbra is a much bigger project, however it also feels bloated. There are too many features and it felt slow. RoundCube is more or less run by one guy, but it's still under active development. Check out the demo's on both sites and make your own conclusions. When I get a chance, I'm going to integrate RoundCube with my CPanel hosting software. This would give all my hosting customers access to this nice AJAX web mail client.

Another really cool site I'd like to mention is It's basically a web based operating system. How cool is that? You can have your own desktop, applications, and files, and be able to access it from anywhere with nothing but a web browser! I believe the idea behind this web based operating system holds a key to what the future of computing and technology have in store. There will come a time when computers are so wide spread that everyone will have access to one, whether it be a public computer (and I'm sure there will be many), or your own private computer. Having a web based operating system, or an operating system that needs nothing but an Internet connection to access, would solve many issues faced by home computer users today. Data would be centrally located, so backup wouldn't be an issue. Of course, when data is centrally located security becomes a huge issue. Big corporations might have their own centrally located server which all the company computers use to access the "office" operating system.

Even now, technology is only in its infancy. The next couple hundred years will see the true technology revolution. When you're in a box, you can't tell how big the box holding your box really is. The same way, we tend to see the past 50 years as the "technology revolution" because we're only comparing it to where technology was before that. A hundred, or two hundred, years from now people will look back and see the bigger picture that encompasses the real technology revolution. Things such as wireless technology and camera's on our cell phones may seem like new and exciting technologies, but that's because we've never had anything even remotely similar to compare them to. If you get a new camera phone with a 10 megapixel camera built-in, you might not be very excited about it, even though the technology required to create a 10 megapixel camera phone is extremely amazing, even to current technology standards. You already know camera phone's exist, so any improvement on such a thing will not strike you as particularly amazing or futuristic.

The present is yesterday's future, and today's future is tomorrow's present. With that in mind, how could we ever live in the present and feel the effects of futuristic changes? I'd say the only way to feel the effects of the future would be to not evolve with the present; to isolate yourself entirely from the world. Or we could find a planet with another, more advanced civilization. I'd choose the latter. 🙂