Operating systems of the future

Operating systems of the future
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First Published: Tue, Jun 07 2011. 09 40 PM IST

Iron Man: Imagine asking your computer to open your photo album, and seeing pictures materialize out of thin air.
Iron Man: Imagine asking your computer to open your photo album, and seeing pictures materialize out of thin air.
Updated: Tue, Jun 07 2011. 09 40 PM IST
Although it might look a bit distant, the possibility of every computer being booted over the cloud does not seem improbable by any means. A few months ago when the Chrome CR-48 notebook was given away by Google for testing, quite a few loved the way everything was saved on the cloud and Android devices could be used to fetch the same content.
With speedy developments in communication technologies and the availability of these services spreading rapidly, it might soon be possible for all of us to boot our machines over a cloud hosted by our Internet service providers (ISPs).
Cloud boots
Iron Man: Imagine asking your computer to open your photo album, and seeing pictures materialize out of thin air.
With Apple featuring operating system (OS) installation over Wi-Fi on its Macbook Air and Mac Mini product lines (http://bit.ly/DairOS), it’s not difficult to imagine a scenario where your netbook will be able to boot into its (at least, a secondary) OS using your ISP’s data connection.
A patent filed by Apple titled “Method and Apparatus for Administering the Operating System of a Net-booted Environment” talks about a network computer system comprising a server and various clients. Different clients can receive their “operating systems” from the server with the help of one of the clients.
Is this the beginning of an era? Maybe. Apple has said the OS “may also be downloaded as a computer program product, wherein the program may be transferred from a remote computer (e.g., a server) to a requesting computer (e.g., a client) by way of data signals embodied in a carrier wave or other propagation medium via a communication link (e.g., a modem or network connection)”.
With this patent, it seems the war for controlling the user’s PC is going to intensify, and the day is not far when you might receive your OS over a network connection.
Two in one
The world today means “RAM” when it talks “memory” and means “disks” when it talks “storage”. Well, that might change quite a byte (that’s eight times a “bit”) in the future.
Let’s consider a few facts about graphics processing units (GPUs). Graphics cards have as many as 1,024 processors within them. On certain operations, they can beat CPUs by more than a scale of 20. Many algorithms (for example, encryption algorithms) can run much faster on graphics processors than a CPU. In 10 or 15 years, we might have our own weather forecaster, health assistant and complete social planner on our machines, powered by the OS itself. By which we mean the “graphics card”, thanks to parallel kernels.
Memristor
Hewlett-Packard (HP) has been successful at creating the first prototype of a working “memristor”, which allows memory chips to retain information. A memristor changes its resistance depending on how much current passes through it. Since it can remember how much current passed through it, information storage is possible.
So as soon as circuits making use of the new technology are in the mainstream market, software makers are expected to make a run for it. The very high-density storage capacities of chips made with a memristor indicate that RAM may soon become obsolete, for memristor chips allow greater data density, and access speeds similar to DRAM, or dynamic RAM. This will ring in some pleasant changes in the OS, with huge storage capacities that can act as both RAM and HDDs. Since you could have both the HDD and RAM in one unit, booting time will be unimaginably short—we’re talking 0.35 seconds. Hibernation and sleep would be almost instant and you may never need to shut down your computer.
HP has been successful at making storage chips which can have some (real) high-storage capacities at 100 gigabits per cm sq. and about 1 petabit per cm cu. This technology will bridge the gap between volatile (memory that is lost when the computer is shut down) and non-volatile storage (memory that is permanently stored in the computer).
Semantic desktop
Of late OSes have become significantly better at searching the Net too. But in the future we’re likely to have a semantic desktop, which will be able to understand the meaning and importance of files stored on the system. It will understand the needs and behaviour of its user, and the system will adapt accordingly. So if you open your calendar to find your best friend’s birthday is today and click an icon with his image, you will come to know when you last interacted with him via email or a social network. You can send him a picture slide-show video with a customized music background. You will click the “create slide show” button and all the images of both of you that are tagged across all your social networking accounts will be fetched and displayed. You would then be presented with a media editing program for the slide show.
To do all that, the OSes will be able to use the files’ data as metadata for search and interlink the files with various other objects on the system. They will be able to analyse the behaviour of the user and predict his needs based on it. All this would be tightly integrated into the social and semantic Web.
Displaying 3D in air
This concept in the way OSes of the future will look could really strain your imagination (though it might be simpler if you’ve seen Iron Man). We’re talking about drawing objects in the air. Windows 7 has transparency and flipping, Compiz too had a bit of 3D behaviour built in. Now imagine you’re sitting at your chair asking your computer to open your photo album, and you are shown pictures right in the air, no display attached!
In this technology, laser-produced plasma technology is used to produce flashpoints in the air. Optimizing the laser beams, the brightness, contrast and production distance of such flashpoints can be adjusted. This technology is capable of producing 3D images in a space where there is nothing but “air”. One of the first successful project in its field is on at the National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology (AIST), Japan.
We know you want to see better images. That day may not be too far. With a lot of research being done in this field, it might just be the next big thing about computing. Just head to the link below:
Quick links: http://goo.gl/46INU
Illustration by Raajan/Mint
Write to us at businessoflife@livemint.com
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First Published: Tue, Jun 07 2011. 09 40 PM IST
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