Supercomputer, personal computer, laptop, rabsberry Pi, tablet and smartphones in the GGSG?

Article status: First version 08.19.2014 - Will be edited with additional information.

The dynabook, the tablet and the smartphone

I remember a four hour seminar with Kristen Nygaard in the mid 1990's. During the seminar, he told us about a dream he and his colleagues had of a dynabook. A dynabook was like a dynamic library that you could have in your pocket with all the information you needed for your day to day life. Today, a smartphone with apps and internet connection is as close as you can come to this concept of a dynamic book or dynamic library.

The limitation and the final state of a computer

Today, 19th august 2014, my Pc with 32 Gb memory, a 3 Tb hard drive and 350 Gb system flash disk (SSD drive) is light years ahead of the 1984 IBM AT I used at work then. Later I bought my first personal computer an IBM PS/II model 70-A21. Today a smartphone (esentially a computer) with seamless communication functionality has a much lager hard drive and more memory than my first computers. My personal computer is not far from as powerful as the IBM mainframe that we used at work was in the 1970's. But my personal computer is still very slow for some tasks. When I load Gb of video clips and files from my hard drive to an external disk for backup it takes hours. And in a sense even a super computer will always be slow for some tasks. Since a computer has final state, that is the problem for some very big data projects. Think of a telescope in outer space that takes millions of images of a distant galaxe every (nanao)second in order to uncover some of the many hidden secrets of the universe. When will you have enough computing power? When will you have enough storage? When will you have good enough tools to analyse the massive data that is recorded?

The limitation of a browser

When an authoritative Magazine like PCMag writes a story about the best browser in the world, I assume that they know more about browser features than the average Joe. For years I have used in alphabetical order, FireFox, Internet Explorer and Opera. I have used Google Chrome since it was introduced to the world.

Microsoft Internet Explorer excels at graphics hardware acceleration, as you'll see in the benchmark results in the reviews linked below. It's also the only 64-bit program of the lot, and the only one that includes powerful Tracking Protection against site code that tracks your browsing activity.

Finally, and perhaps most extra-jammed of all, is the least-known of our browser candidates—Maxthon. A slew of tools like media download, screen capture, and integrated cloud services are just of few of this China-made browser's goodies. And it includes both Internet Explorer's and Webkit's page-rendering engines for extra compatibility. On top of all that it gets top grades of the number HTML5 features supported and does very respectably on speed tests.

Opera now is largely an interface built on top of Chrome, using all of Chrome's underlying rendering-engine code. Opera still offers several goodies beyond just basic browsing. These include its Off-Road Mode, Discover, Stash, Speed Dial. And if this new version turns you off, you can still download version 12, which the company continues to maintain.

I use the last 64 bit version of Internet Explorer on the Windows 8.1 OS when I write this article. I am not visually impaired, but I remember a long discussion at a Norwegian forum about the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). Try to understand the first video in the thread. It may seem like a joke about the guidelines. The guidelines are of course important, but my (kgun) point is that new technology will solve a lot of the problems. It is very easy for visually impaired people to change the font size if they use the version of the Opera browser that I use. It is (in august 2014) much easier than on the drupal driven site of the Norwegian govenrmene about WCAG. Drag the bullet in the lower right corner of the browser window to the right or left. You will not fully understand the feature before you install the browser and try it yourself. In a smartphone or a tablet you zoom in and out with your fingers. I can even do that on the 21 1/2 inch screen of my Dell TP713 personal computer. In a few years that may be the standard. In addition, with a wireless touchpad, I can surf like I do on a mobile phone or a tablet with a sim card. The difference is the size of the screen where I see the actions of my fingers on the touchpad. So I have three options when I surft the web:

  • The traditional way of surfing across pages and sites with the mouse and the keyboard.
  • Using the touchpad.
  • Or by touching the large screen and surf like it were a smartphone.

Visually impaired people now have additional options in addition to using the Opera web browser, they can zoom in and out on a big screen. Opera now is largely an interface built on top of Chrome. Do I care? If it is true, do the company care if they continue to grow and expect to outperform the market? You find more news about Opera in the authorative newspaper's Opera category. It is also interesting that windows phones will use Oprea Mini as the default browser.

A good smartphone has an inbuild screen reader for blind people. Will the next version of some browsers have that too?

Integrated cloud services? Isn't it fast to use DropBox for the general public and iCloud for iPhone, iPad and Mac users? My default storage for word documents that I write in Word 2013 is Microsofts OneDrive where I have 15 Gb free storage. Today that is enough for me. If I buy office 365, the "complete" Office in the cloud, I will get 1 Tb storage. Office 365 has the applications you know, always up to date and accessible from virtually anywhere. In the OneDrive cloud n persons can comment and edit the document like in extreme programming.

Automated information collection

But my first personal computer, the old IBM PS/II can be used to collect, structure and present information much faster than me even if I browse the internet on a fast connection with a supercomputer. When you type a keyword into the search box of a search engine, it searches informaiotn like you do when you look up the index in a book for a keyword. It is exceedingly fast. But is the result good enough? For some people good enough is best, but not for everyone.

Seeking the future of Microsoft

The future of search engines are getting smarter. Microsoft has now singled out Norway as a capital in search technology. Researchers at the University of Oslo, University of Tromsø and Simula will help the software giant to win the match of the search-throne.

They claim to solve some of the toughest challenges of the data age.

You may have meta data (data about data), structured, semi structured and unstructured data.

Big data

is a big subject and increasing in importance. Even if my next computer may be this Dell PowerEdge R815 2U Rack Server I will not have enough power to compete with a search engine on unstructured data. What about meta, semi and structured data? Today you can buy super computing power like you buy electricity, but there are remote areas with no electricity, no internet connection and no personal computer.

Under the heading "Biggest in the world on health data" researchers at the University of Oslo have developed a system for collecting health data in developing countries in Africa and Asia.

The system may among other things be used where there is no PC or internet. Instead, simple and cheap mobile phones that the health workers already have are used. At the core of the project is the system DHI (District Health Information Software) developed at the University of Oslo.
The message is that big means different things in different contexts. Optimal size and performance is sometimes a better word. Minimalism and efficiency may be enough. Albert Einsteins once said. Make it simple, as simple as possible, but no simpler.

Internet2, Web 2.0, WWW2, GGG2 or GGSG?

Buzz words trends. Winners stay and loosers pay, especially when bubbles burst. Tim Berners-Lee invented the World Wide Web (WWW). Internet2 is among other things about the ability to collaborate with anybody, anywhere without constraint is just around the corner. Look at the video and read some of the articles on the site and you will get an idea of future visions and ideas and perhaps what is possible today. Lee thought that the Giant Global Graph (GGG) was a better word than the the World Wide Web.

So The Graph word has been creeping in. BradFitz talks of the Social Graph as does Alex Iskold, who discusses social graphs and network theory in general, points out that users want to own their own social graphs. He alo points out that examples of graphs are the Internet and the Web. So what's with the Graph word?
As global collaberation and sharing becomse more and more important in day to day life, may be we should change the word to GGSG, that is The Giant Global Social Graph?

Above, I have mentioned how it is possible to edit and a simple word document in the Microsoft cloud. I design my websites in Dreamweaver CS6. Adobes Creative Cloud brings together all-new desktop and mobile apps and more connected ways of creating and sharing. In the next article you can read about how mobile and other applications revolutionizes our lives on the internet and on the go. There are soon applications for everything. The term Web 2.0 is related to AJAX and web applications that I have also written about in the second article below.

Oh, I forgot to write about the credit-card sized computer that plugs into your TV and a keyboard, Rabsberry Pi that is mentioned in the heading. You can read about that mini computer at the Rabsberry Pi home page.

Web applications, mobile applications or both?

The app revolution

An app is no more secure than the skills of the programmer that made the app. A health app, can compromise your privacy. A good health app respect your privacy and don't ask for more information than absolutely necessary. This is utmost important, since your doctor may in the future prescribe an app in stead of medicine. A serious app don't ask for acess to your contact list. It is minimalistic and it don't have any hidden agenda and you can identify and control its data sources etc. There are health apps and other apps for everything and it seems to increase exponentially. In july 2014 there are more than 40 000 health related apps on Apples app store. Many of these are native apps that only function on an iPhone or an iPad. Apple is known for having a rather strict quality control of the apps that they accept. But that is not enough, especially regarding health (related) apps.

In the USA, health apps are controlled and accepted by FDA, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and EU has recently launced a similar web site my health apps. Apps can definitely save lives and in Norway you call 113 if you need urgent health assistance. There is a related helicopter service that have launced an 113 app. When you call 113 from your smart phone, you automatically get the GPS coordinates of your position. That is an exact position, much more precise than an address.

Redningsselskapet has developed a similar app that you can use in your boat when you need assistance and they will send a rescue ship to your position. Other countries have developed apps (applications) designed for use by the fire service. Some of these apps function without internet connection. In remote and scatterly populated areas, there may be no mobile coverage or access. Your digital map may still function, but if you fall into the water or the battery is discharged the smartphone don't function, so you need manual backup, e.g. at least a plastic hardcovered normal map and a compass so you know where you are and can navigate to the nearest location for help.

The advantage of an app

An app or an application is a dataprogram stored on your mobile platform (or laptop). You don't need internet access to play your favourite (app) game. You don't need internet access to get a list of places to visit in Norway if there is an app for that. You may find most of them in your old paper travel guide, but that guide takes place in your back pack, so it is better to have it on your smart phone. An app is fast and you don't need to pay for internet access or heavy data traffic. A web site may be over loaded, the link may be temporatily broken or the connection to the internet lost. A native app may be faster than a hybrid app that functions on every mobile platform. An application that runs on your mobile phone, uses the phone's operationg system, iOS, Windows8 Phone, Android etc. An application that runs on your tablet uses the iOS, Windows 8, Android / Nexus OS etc.

The advantage of a web application

A web application or a (reponsive) website functions on your mobile platform as well as on your laptop, personal computer or work station. Content can be loaded conditionally and there may be a seemless mobile version of a bigger site. The site can have manual or automatic live update. The site can be powered by bots that crawl the internet for (fresh) information 24 hours a day seven days a week.

A web application is run in your browser. It has long been speculated that Google would refine its browser, chrome to an operating system. Opera was the first company to make a good browser for mobile phones. It is the best browser for people with visual impairments since you can regulate the size of the text by dragging the bullet in the lower right corner of the browser window. And in my opionion Opera have had the most secure browser. A smart phone is not so very smart when it comes to security. Security aspects can be imortant and in my opinion it is better to log into your bank account from a personal computer on a wired network than from your wireless smart phone. If you have an option, log in from your personal computer with a reliable web browser.

Now there is a new man in town, the FireFox OS that claims to transform the future. As a web master, FireFox has always been among my preferred development tools with all its plugins.

Firefox changed browsing forever by putting users first and offering a new level of choice and innovation online. Now we’re doing it all over again with Firefox OS, while bringing the same superior browsing experience to your smartphone. So you can take control of your life online and get the best the Web has to offer no matter where you go.

Will this os evolve into a "web os" and transform the future of web applications? In other words, is there a better way to run web applications than via a web browser?

Web applications got a formal name with James Garret's 2005 article Ajax: A New Approach to Web Applications (see the next section below). The link to that article is broken, so I had to locate it on cached pages. Now with all the JavaScript libraries:

These libraries provide many functions, whether the matter is related to events or effects or AJAX. And if one of these libraries can’t do the job, a plug-in probably exists that can.
it is very easy to implement AJAX functionality and even make an application based on your web site by using PhoneGap. As the first link in the list below indicate, you can even transform your Wordpress Powered site into an application. We have also listed links to some articles, YouTube videos and valuable tools:

If you look at the jQuery mobile gallery, you will note that the web sites look very much like a native application.

jQuery Mobile is a touch-optimized HTML5 UI framework designed to make responsive web sites and apps that are accessible on all smartphone, tablet and desktop devices.
If you wan't to comment to this article, I have posted a thread on WebProworld.com: AJAX the sunken Atlantis. Will it rise to the surface?

Ajax: A New Approach to Web Applications - The broken link

If there is a distinction between static pages and pages that more and more get the features of deskop applications, Jesse James Garret's article, Ajax: A New Approach to Web Applications. Ajax: A New Approach to Web Applications is a good candidate to mark a new web regime. That article is no longer on the internet, but you can find it in the web cache where I found it. Even if the technologies, Asynchronous JAvascript and Xml (AJAX) is not new, that article showed a new way to combine these tehcnologies. Below we have collected links to pages and sites that are related to this and other technologies that we categorize under the above heading. If you read Norwegian, you may note that there is a app revolution.

Web2Logistics: Historical and other links