What’s Next?

Looking back on 27 years of experience at the keyboard, I thought it might be time to reflect a bit on where we’ve been, where we are, and where we might be going.

Back in the day – circa 1983 the personal computer was little more than a replacement for the typewriter, calculator, and the file cabinet. You were a power user if you had 640k of ram and 2 320k floppy drives. Word processing and spreadsheets were the hot applications, and if you were a real geek, you knew what to do with a database. The focus was always on what you were able to
accomplish with an individual PC. The only way to make any money with a PC was to write or customize specific applications targeted at individual tasks. If you could automate a repetitive task that took place in a business environment, you could make a few bucks which of course always just went to buying new hardware or software. As things moved along, the focus was always on more speed from the hardware and what was the next killer app. The more things change the more they stay the same. We all got our 300 baud modems so that we could connect to local bulletin boards and download/upload files for sharing with other users. Then came Compuserve and the WWW which changed everything. 

So even now, most users that I help with their computing problems, bring me their boxes to clean up and fix the broken software or clean out the spyware. Most users are still focused on the single box that everyone in the home uses. That will change dramatically in the next few years. Everyone will be asking their geek/guru friends to help them with their home networks. It’s starting now, but it will explode over the next few years as everyone starts to realize the potential of the home network as the way to unify all communication and entertainment.

Most power users have demystified the complexities of Win XP, Vista, and Win 7. Most of us have no qualms about tearing open any box and upgrading or adding new hardware. The next hurdle for the power user is the network and the Server. I’ve spent the last year playing with Windows Home Server and MS Server 2008 R2. It’s a reasonably steep learning curve for the most users, but not insumountable. The reality to note however is that this isn’t for the average consumer that has spyware loaded on their home PC. Anyone who has proficiency with network setup/admin, and server setup will be ahead of the curve.

What’s going to bring it all into focus and create demand? Entertainment. Large flat screens are now common in the family room. Once people begin to realize that it’s possible to use a home network to record and pipe everything to any screen in the home, demand will follow.

I am currently setting up our home network to record/rip all media to the Home Server so that it’s available everywhere. I am also waiting for the new Ceton card which will let you setup an HTPC to record or view up to 4 channels from your cable connection. Once the content is saved it will be available on any PC connected to your network. Way cool. Once we get that setup, the next hurdle will be to access and stream the stored content over the net when your away from home. I’m hoping that with a 35/35Mbs Fios connection that I can actually get it to work quite well.

In my next post I’ll review my experience with Windows Home Server and outline some of the pitfalls we encountered.

Comments are closed.

Computer Limbo