Kill the userspace?

I earlier wrote about the future of web browsers. Today I was thinking about ideas for an OS project for a friend and I arrived at my earlier ideas starting from a different direction.

Well, from how the world have evolved since, we see that there is a lot of wind in the WebOS arena. Google Chrome Operating System has caused a lot of speculation about web-applications overshadowing desktop applications of today. I don’t know if forgetting the C programs and Java based desktop applications in favor of these webapps – built using the ever so vulnerable HTML and Javascript technology – is a good idea, and I will leave that argument for others to take forward. The point is, Google is coming out with a customized Linux kernel that is made to run only Chrome web browser, where every tab is a process, and within each tab, we run a webapp like GMail and Google Calendar. Simple as that!

I have been involved in this project called Glendix for a while now. One of the tasks that was done for the project was to get the Linux kernel to understand the Plan 9 executable format, the a.out (not ELF from Linux). Now I was thinking, would it not be wonderful if the kernel understood HTML straight away? I mean, whatever the browser understands, let the kernel understand it instead. What we are doing is, have a Google Crome like engine built into the OS, instead of having the X server and other userspace apps. We are already working on kernel implementations of /net and soon will move on to /dev/draw. What if we also included the module for the kernel to understand HTML and Javascript? Would it kill the userspace? Is this just a different way of looking at things, of have I really offered to cut a layer here? I sometimes find it hard to understand what I propose. Going by how I imagined it, we can then have things like Ubiquity to fetch data from the web installed as a OS add-on, and have history in form of a Mac Dock look-alike.

I have built this castle upon one prospective theory that you can have the kernel understand HTML and javascript the way browsers do and that it is in someway better than having a scaled-down Linux kernel and installing X Server on it, and then installing a Google Chrome (which is what everyone believe Google Chrome Operating System is currently). So here’s a toast, to the idea that will kill Google Chrome Operating System …. Haha!  :p

World of White?

So a friend of mine has recently got involved with a Unreal Tournament 3 Mod. It is called Project:White. They have some interesting additions, like 3rd person play and Cover & Peeking. They are building upon new game mode ideas like terrotorial and PUSH which are both centered around Dawn of War and Battlefield 1942 style capture of “control points”. Catch them on their Developer Site at Whitemod.

I think a good extension to this could be a “World of White”? Which is basically just a challenge mode. It would have a map of the world online. This can be just an integration of all the maps there is in the game. On the world map, you can show territories of the various teams. Now, enter Challenge mode. Once you have a hold on your map, you can challenge other clans holding other territories. Basically, you will select “infiltrate” and you can enter into a fight with them on their map. If they are AFK, you cannot challenge them. A clan holds an area for some limited time (like in number of days), and if they don’t fight anyone on that territory for that period, the territory gets defaulted over to whoever is the next challenger infiltrating that territory.

This mode can lead into more complex structures, where you can enter into a treaty with other clans. Form Alliances, and hold joint territories, by nominating members from the participating clans, to form an all star team.

I cant help but feel how close this idea is to the age old board game “Conquest” or its computer game equal, a turn-based strategy “Risk 2″. Still a good and achievable idea, in my opinion…

UPDATE: For those of you who do not understand what UT3 is all about, or dont know what Mod making is, here (please read the comentary at the bottom in this video!) and here are two very useful videos. Also, I have changed the Cover & Peeking video link above to a higher quality version. Enjoy!

2009 already? An Obama-term away from Dec 2012!

It seems weird that this is the last year I can write dates like 2-9-9. It was fun while it lasted, but it seems we are into the last single digit year of our life! It feels so much more close to 2012 – the year marked by many to mean various different significant things. Whether we really do witness the doomsday; or the return of a Planet X; or a global awakening to psychic connection aided by the return of Quetzalcoatl; or an opening to another dimention to a parallel earth; or an alien invasion, it remains to be seen. Amongst such vivid imaginations, there is another prediction made, that seems more real, which talks about America’s economic downfall. In this world of monopoly-seeking companies giving little heed to ethics, it is possible. This is the age of companies trying new and improved ways to shackle their customers. Even Airtel in India has bought into the completely dumb concept of credit history (see Q26 FAQ).

Thankfully it is the Indian Government and its BSNL making the rules in Indian telecom industry, but USA, today more than ever, needs Obama’s blue print for change, if they wish to make things right. A liberal like Obama has been long awaited. His for-the-people school of thought has made him prescribe Free and Open Source Software for many of his departments (see this and this). Looking forward to an opensource friendly and flourishing technology industry in the near future with no locks and privileges. The time for democracy is here!

Found my personality!

I took this test earlier (based upon Myers-Briggs/Jung typology), but did not really understand some of the questions correctly then. The result I got was vague. I took it again and check this out!

Well, its INTP, and very close to what I got last time, except the bars were more to the right last time, specially the thinking – feeling point. The result analysis was not me at all. This time it feels right. I am an introvert but almost an extrovert. I am insanely intuitive, so much so that I basically cant do things the methodical way. So my performances have been largely dispersed, but when I do well, it is wonderful, like magic! People are usually impressed by my off-beat methods. Only, what I need to do is increase the frequency of that happening. Read more about INTP here and here.

Incidentally I am a Leo, a dormant one (there are two types of Leo people, one who are ferocious, and the other who are extremely dormant). Maybe this explains why I am so lazy. I get so many ideas, and I have such a strong passion and will to execute it, but loose enthusiasm soon, and get distracted unless I have a partner working with me.

I also see that I am a complete right-brainer. See, this, this and this. The third link is a book I don’t have, and haven’t read, save for the few pages on Amazon. I would love to though, some day…

More about the world from the above perspectives coming up in subsequent posts.

P.S. My friends Anant Narayanan and Akshat Gupta got INTP and ESTJ respectively. My bars are very different from Anant’s though, and the difference also feels right.

Web browsers in 2012: Ubiquitous or Clandestine?

Web browsers are the first thing people think of when we mention the internet. It somehow reminds me of the days of Windows 3.1 on my first ever computer (a 1995 486DX2). The first thing that anyone did when the computer had boot was fire up the Program Manager! I might take this opportunity to debate the validity of this comparison as non-fiction, or… lets dream a dream that many brilliant minds have already dreamed.

Take a look at what the Mozilla World has envisioned for the next generation of the internet. I will not go into describing again what is already described there, but here is what I personally envision the future of internet to be like, after having been inspired from the recent happenings at Mozilla.

The internet today is capable of understanding various media types. Each of them them have some program on our desktop that understands how it renders. Instead of trying to embed Adobe Reader in Firefox, and using plugins to embed our default video player within the web pages a web browser renders, should we not be using these programs itself? There should be minimalistic application that renders the world wide web like it is today, with Javascript and HTML. We should do away with the web browser interface all together!

An outrageous and abstract claim? Not quite. Take a look at Quicksilver. Its a way to quickly execute whatever task we want the computer to perform without having to fire up the needed programs like iTunes or Thunderbird or your chat application. Enter Ubiquity – the quicksilver for the web!

The way I see it, ubiquity should be pulled out of Firefox and run on the desktop, something like a “Ubiquitous Quicksilver”. It should not matter where the content is physically located. Whether on local hard drive or on the internet. Imagine doing all the same “adding a map to your email” activity that the video shows, but instead, think of doing it in GMail on desktop! What if you wanted this map added to your presentation in “openoffice”, “keynote” or “powerpoint”? How about creating the envelopes for sending some invitation (yes, via snail-mail, dont say its all e-invites these days) to all the a contact addresses you have on GMail or in your LinkedIn or Plaxo account? When Aza adds the “Lunch with Atul at 1pm at Ellite Cafe” in the video, think about it adding to Google Calendar, only this time its an application on your desktop and not in the firefox browser! The location of the content will still be Google servers, but why should that be a problem? You can already do this using Prism.

The web will no longer be limited to HTML pages, you could have URLs pointing to a pdf or any other binary format document, and this could be the starting point of your website instead of index.html. (For those geeks who are laughing on my dream, I know Apache doesn’t allow that. Unfortunately my dream broke here, but I am working on it :p ). The point is, why should URL only be limited to HTML pages, when we know about the MIME Types? “Ubiquitous Quicksilver” is there to map content type to the program that can render it on the client. When a user does a login using http authentication, you could display welcome message as a video instead of taking the visitor to a web page!

I do believe the above can be achieved by simply allowing ubiquity to fire up programs on the local machine depending upon the MIME type it has received. Quicksilver can already do that! All we need is a marriage of Ubiquity and Quicksilver (or maybe a Gecko equivalent of quicksilver?).

Think about what you can do with such power!

November has come!

gmu-entrance

Change has come to America!

On Sunday last, history was made! Not because some election results were out, another 48 hours remained for that then! Its because I went to the first election campaign of my life! Its quite ironical that 22 years were spent in India, but the first happened in just 3 months here in the USA! That is because Hilary Clinton came to George Mason University to campaign for Obama and for change. Lots of music and excitement before the event, hell many waited there for almost 3 to 4 hours! I first thought it was a rock show on a Sunday evening! When I was returning home, they had blocked the path to the bus stop, and asked me to go round the dorms. When I asked, the nice policeman said “Hilary is here”. I was like, WOW! Seriously?!

hilaryatgmu1 hilaryatgmu21

So I skipped the plan of going home. Decided to take the last bus; wait and watch for the 1.5 hours that I had till then. My left-brain was screaming saying why do you care! Go home, and relax. Guess my right-brain prevailed here. Hilary came by helicopter, we saw it go past overhead. The democrats started their rants and promises. I had to leave before Hilary got started though. Two days later, Obama was president elect!

I was recently discussing the US elections and related problems on the North Virginia Linux User Group mailing list. America uses high-end Microsoft Windows systems at the polling booths. Their central server is on Windows too. They have touchscreen, for what purpose I do not know, because they still ask voters to mark their votes on paper. Different polling stations scan this vote into the system in a different way, some use OCRs. All the data at the computers are being recorded on a memory stick, not on the hard-drive! Then at the end of the day, the memory stick is sent to the counting station in the city or state. The above information is by no means authentic. This is what I have learned (and perhaps imagined some parts of it!), but at present I believe all of this is true. That means India is way ahead on this front! The Electronic Voting Machine is a work of a genius, as Einstein says, “Any fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius — and a lot of courage — to move in the opposite direction.”  Read more on this in my email to NOVALUG.

Obama for change, and change I hope he will bring. I have built a strong support for him over the last few days. Most of it is because of this. I like the idea of America’s first Chief Technology Officer! Obama also believes in transparency, and bringing blogs and web-cast into the government, and getting common man to be able to directly communicate with the people right at the top, including Obama himself! I love the fact that most of the funding for his campaign was brought in from small contributions from random people visiting his website! Its time someone did something about the monopoly in telephone and broadband services, and I see that Barack has that on his mind too! For once, a President is thinking about solving internal problems. For once, someone is not delusional with the false belief that USA is the only developed country in the world, and it needs to fix every other country that exists! Obama also believes in choice and free market philosophy. His all-out support for developing Math and Science in the country is truly astounding! He offers science as the only solution to most of America’s problems, including education, employment and trade! His reform of the patent system by opening it up for citizen review is simply brilliant! Finally companies like Microsoft have someone to check all the junk patents that they keep proposing. If I have interpreted what the coming of Obama really means to the world, and if he really is able to fulfill his promises, I am sure good times are coming!

P.S.: For all those Indians who are telling me Obama is bad for India because he is against the BPO industry, I have only one answer, I am against that industry too! Besides, contrary to popular belief, IT and the BPO is not what India really depends on, certainly not what is running our country. India is a nation ready to become a superpower, and the core industries and the human resource that India generates has much to do with it.