ENTRIES TAGGED "hardware"
Web technologies have become the default, and are spreading
A few years ago, venture capitalist Marc Andreessen wrote that “software is eating the world”:
Six decades into the computer revolution, four decades since the invention of the microprocessor, and two decades into the rise of the modern Internet, all of the technology required to transform industries through software finally works and can be widely delivered at global scale.
That may be true, but Andreessen seems to have left out some of his earlier, more Web-centric visions (though perhaps he considers them complete).
Software may be eating the world, but the Web has been “eating software” in a similar sense for as long as the Web has been visible.
On the front end, the browser has grown from being a strange dumb terminal of documents and forms to a full partner. The browser not only provides a window into the world of classic websites, but helps us deal with devices that we can reach over a network. Their interfaces may be invisible or basic on the physical device, but offer much more when accessed through a browser. Web apps, though frequently not as capable as their desktop competition, long ago passed the point where their collaborative possibilities were more valuable than the details they lack.
A multitude of signals points to the convergence of software and the physical world.
Our new Solid conference is about the “intersection of software and hardware.” But what does the intersection of software and hardware mean? We’re putting on a conference because we see something distinctly new happening.
Roughly a year ago, we sat around a table in Sebastopol to survey some interesting trends in technology. There were many: robotics, sensor networks, the Internet of Things, the Industrial Internet, the professionalization of the Maker movement, hardware-oriented startups. It was a confusing picture, until we realized that these weren’t separate trends. They’re all more alike than different—they are all the visible result of the same underlying forces. Startups like FitBit and Withings were taking familiar old devices, like pedometers and bathroom scales, and making them intelligent by adding computer power and network connections. At the other end of the industrial scale, GE was doing the same thing to jet engines and locomotives. Our homes are increasingly the domain of smart robots, including Roombas and 3D printers, and we’ve started looking forward to self-driving cars and personal autonomous drones. Every interesting new product has a network connection—be it WiFi, Bluetooth, Zigbee, or even a basic form of piggybacking through a USB connection to a PC. Everything has a sensor, and devices as dissimilar as an iPhone and a Kinect are stuffed with them. We spent 30 or more years moving from atoms to bits; now it feels like we’re pushing the bits back into the atoms. And we realized that the intersection of these trends—the conjunction of hardware, software, networking, data, and intelligence—was the real “news,” far more important than any individual trend.
Can it really be simplified?
Even as we all scramble to use the programming tools we have today, developers look ahead hopefully, dreaming of better tools. What shape should those tools take? Who should they be for?
A few months ago, I had the privilege of talking about programming’s future with three great and very different programmers:
- Chris Granger of Light Table, who combines expansive visions of programming capabilities with an interest in making it approachable.
- Greg Borenstein, author of Making Things See, who explores the intersections of software and hardware.
- Scott Murray, author of Interactive Data Visualization for the Web, Assistant Professor of Design at USF, and a contributor to Processing.
I’d encourage you to listen to the whole conversation, but to get started, you might explore these highlights.
Unlocking Scientific Data with Python
Most people working on complex software systems have had That Moment, when you throw up your hands and say “If only we could start from scratch!” Generally, it’s not possible. But every now and then, the chance comes along to build a really exciting project from the ground up.
In 2011, I had the chance to participate in just such a project: the acquisition, archiving and database systems which power a brand-new hypervelocity dust accelerator at the University of Colorado.
Tips on Getting Started with Simon Monk
Simon Monk @simonmonk2 is a full-time author who focuses his writing talents on open source hardware topics. He is currently writing the Raspberry Pi Cookbook which will be available in early release in July and in final release in the fall. Recently, I had the opportunity to sit down with Simon and we talked about one of the coolest things in open source hardware today, the Raspberry Pi.
Key highlights include:
- Invest in a Raspberry Pi starter kit [Discussed at 0:29]
- Python is probably the best bet for beginners [Discussed at 1:25]
- Raspberry Pi and Arduino are both great but really excel in different ways [Discussed at 3:54]
- How about when Raspberry Pi and Arduino are used together? [Discussed at 5:14]
- Save time and avoid common mistakes like hardware compatibility issues [Discussed at 7:23]
- Overclocking helps performance [Discussed at 8:47]
You can view the full interview here:
If you're located in the Bay Area, take a bit of time out this weekend to help the community and the environment. On Saturday, March 1st, the Alameda County Computer Resource Center together with Untangle, are hosting an installfest in 4 locations: San Francisco, Berkeley, San Mateo, and Novato. They'll be installing Ubuntu, Firefox, Open Office, and more on recycled…