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Author Topic: Questions About Plug Computers  (Read 2363 times)
selym
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« on: February 19, 2011, 08:26:42 PM »

I've only started reading about plug computers/servers a day or two ago, but I still have many questions that I'm hoping someone will take the time to answer for me.

Besides the low power consumption and form factor for the sake of space, what exactly is the benefit for a non-programmer? I think the idea of a tiny computer is really cool, but how would somebody justify the purchase who already has a room full of desktops and servers at their disposal? I really want one, but I also don't want to buy another device that turns into nothing but a toy because it has no benefit over traditional machines other than the two things previously noted. I guess I'm just trying to understand how it works, what makes it special, different, etc.

I saw it say somewhere it can be used to manage internal devices. I have a Dell Studio Hybrid I got on sale for $299. It's hooked up to my TV and a 2TB external drive for storing/playing my media and also for backing up motion activated clips from a couple cameras on my home network. Is that the kind of stuff people mean when they say internal stuff? So the plug computer would be small and cheap just like my Studio Hybrid, except even smaller and cheaper?

I also saw others mention running websites from home with it or being to access data from anywhere? I run Uniform Server (WAMP) on an old Dell Dimension desktop by forwarding port 80 on its router. Would it be the same kind of thing on just a smaller scale? Would the software be installed on the plug server itself, and if so, do you need to know how to write code or is only certain applications supported? For example, if I wanted to run a Wordpress blog accessible to the world via a domain I own, would Apache, PHP, MySQL, and Wordpress all have to be installed on the Plug, or would it all be installed on an attached drive and mounted from the plug somehow?

I'm not too good with Linux. Can the version running the plug be patched regularly with whatever security patches come out?

And what about the possibility of what this could be used for. I'm having trouble coming up with new uses, probably because I'm aware that I am unable to code and turn something from idea into reality without spending some coin on hiring somebody. But what are some hypotheticals that plug computers could be used for? Could they be used to create a social network where your profile and pictures (like Facebook) are all stored locally, so when someone visits your profile/page, they visit your plug? Or having a photo sharing site like Flickr where your pictures are local? Having trouble coming up with others and would love to hear what you have thought of so far. 

Thanks for the patience and answers. I'm excited about the thought of plug computers, but I either don't have a firm grasp on how they can be effectively different, or I'm just creatively stifled by not understanding the full potential.


Selym
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sfzhi
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« Reply #1 on: February 20, 2011, 09:29:50 AM »

low power consumption and form factor for the sake of space
nothing but a toy because it has no benefit over traditional machines other than the two things previously noted
That's exactly it.

Plug computer is a computer - no more, no less. What other benefits can you think of?
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Lack of knowledge is not such a big problem, unwillingness to learn is.

radael
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« Reply #2 on: February 20, 2011, 01:25:26 PM »

IMO, the question about whether "plug computing" will take off in the mass market is still unanswered.  There are a few things that the individual can do -- file server, media server, home automation, telephony, as a few examples.

In most of these cases, it is the low power consumption that is the useful feature.  If one is serving music/video, it is inefficient to drive the desktop/laptop video as well (the space for such a machine is also a consideration).  For telephone, video collection and similar, there is the need to leave the machine on 24X7, so power consumption can be relavant.

In any case, the appeal of any of these functions does not seem to be enough to overcome the resistance by the average consumer.  A Plug will have to be much simpler to install and use before the average consumer will buy into the idea.

This situation seems very similar to Linux, about 10 -15 years back -- only the techies would dive into that pool.  So, we'll have to wait to see whether Plugs remain in the "environment" long enough for the use to be simplified, and for compelling applications to be created.

One possible future, might be a trend towards less-powerful desktops, which make use of a Plug for some functionality.  Those who use/need powerful graphics engines (gamers, for example) won't follow this path.  But, someone who mostly uses email and does some Internet browsing, may end up with their actual email on a Plug. . . . IF, Plugs can be made to be easy and reliable.  But, of course, existing paradigms are difficult to overcome, so there would be resistance.

The emerging ideas towards decentralization of services is an interesting trend that may strongly influence the direction of Plug computing.  Another user gave the link:  http://wiki.debian.org/FreedomBox.

Now, if society in general continues to grow repulsed from the corporations that use "free" services to track their activities ["spy"], the all sorts of distributed applications might develop, maybe encryption [as a standard] will give better security.


For now, I'd say a person needs some sort of idea of that he wants to do with the Plug, and the knowledge and determination to carry it through.  In the future, who knows?

Just some thoughts.
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birdman
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« Reply #3 on: February 20, 2011, 06:07:38 PM »

A Plug will have to be much simpler to install and use before the average consumer will buy into the idea.
The things most of are using here are development boxes, with no particular intent on them being used for end-user products,
I've always assumed that any end-user product would be based on the hardware, but a "just plug in and use" setup for a specific function.
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But, someone who mostly uses email and does some Internet browsing, may end up with their actual email on a Plug. . . .
More likely they'll end up with it on their 'phone - and that will be able to be dropped into a "connector" for a larger display.
It might backed up to a Plug - but how many non-tech people run backups?
Have a look at these two links (and the link to the Motorola Atrix in the first one).
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radael
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« Reply #4 on: February 20, 2011, 11:52:52 PM »

No question about "development box."

And, yes, the telephone/hand-held something is the likely outcome. . . . because people would rather pay $50 a month, with a "free" phone and 2-year contract, than having to figure out how to do anything themselves.  Plus, they can stay "connected" every conscious hour of the day -- Be without a telephone?!, How would we ever survive?  Wink

I try to use "if" and "may" enough, but sometimes that's just not enough (like when neglecting "the rest of the story").

On the other hand, FreedomBox may have some legs for a certain slice of the techie crowd.
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