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[ox-en] Time-sharing pcs? Phones as computers?


I'm curious about two possible subversive uses of consumer ICTs.

1. I'd like to know more about current efforts to use Linux/Unix-based PCs (which is all PCs nowadays, I think) as time-sharing servers? Aware that Unix was developed for time-shared machines, it occurred to me that maybe there are communities trying to get more use out of personal computers in this way. This is as far as I've got (excerpt from the current draft of the book I'm working on):

As an additional irony, most modern personal computers can in principle do time-sharing (and are of course many times faster than the original DECs and Univacs of the 1970s). This is because more and more of them use an operating system based on Unix, which was originally created for time-shared setups. (That's why, when you buy a new Apple Macintosh or a Linux machine, you have to create your own 'Account' on it, in which to store your applications and files; the operating system assumes there will be many users, each with their own separate accounts). But no normal computer dealer will set you up with this kind of system; you need to buy the ingredients and assemble them yourself. The Linux Terminal Server Project (LTSP) is one source; it claims thousands of installations worldwide. Reasonably enough, most of these are currently in Greece, where the financial collapse has made parsimony essential for survival, followed by Nepal. There is also a system for Macintosh machines, iRAP, produced by a small Hawaiian company called Code Rebel.

If you know anything more about this I'd be grateful. It occurs to me that the Linux project (which I think is based in Troy, Michigan) may have something to do with Fritjof Bergmann's 'high-tech self-providing' initiatives, of which you may have heard.

2. I wonder whether anyone is using mobile phones as full-blown computers. They have pretty good processors (several, in the case of smartphones). I assume they merely lack a bus capable of connecting to a vdu, keyboard etc. Is that right? I have heard that there is, or was about ten years ago, an important sub-industry specialising in 'crippling' cpus - presumably to reduce power consumption, but also perhaps to prevent them being used for other purposes.

All the best,

Bob Hughes

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