More promiscuous data exchanges with strangers

Bluepods, Personal Servers, and instant radio

Technology doesn't change society, Linus Torvalds once said - society changes technology.

A great example of this is illustrated by a fine piece at Wired which brings us news of another Bluepod research project. About a year ago we speculated how interesting things could get if the iPod added Bluetooth and Rendezvous, allowing total strangers to exchange music. This was very popular with you, particularly the concept of a "What Am I Listening To?" menu option. Social hardware could allow you to tune into half a dozen short-range radio stations on the bus, beamed to you from BluePod-toting passengers. With device discovery, and short range radio, such things are possible.

At the time we noted that Apple was already a step ahead of the pack, as it had marketed a sophisticated portable media player and had both the marketing and technological know how (having a good Bluetooth stack and having shepherded ZeroConf, aka Rendezvous, through the standards committees). But it's not the only game in town, and Wired points to an interesting research project at MIT Lab Europe. [Warning to readers: some recursion may occur at the end of this article.] tunA is an ad hoc radio Walkman with some interesting user interface concepts.

We're naturally a bit coy about taking any credit for an idea lots of people have had already, although if Esther Dyson can command $25,000 for an after-dinner speech to listen to her outer space warblings about wireless, we're only too happy to pass ours along for free. (Esther, it's called 'disintermediation').

The Personal Server

So it's with some relief that we turn to the gentleman who's heading Intel's research project on such devices, Roy Want. Intel's Personal Server project is a year away from completion, but it was demonstrated at IDF this fall, as we reported here.

The Intel Personal Server is part of a wider set of research projects called Ubiquity computing, which gets into some really interesting stuff. For example, traditional file systems (such as the kind that Microsoft patented but helpfully licensed yesterday) aren't really appropriate for this kind of infrastructure. But we'll pursue that another day, soon.

Roy himself worked on the Active Badge project at AT&T's Cambridge Lab, and brought up a few potential uses for the PS which may have been overlooked. It isn't just a pocket Napster.

By decoupling the storage from the display you have essentially turned the wireless connection into the graphics bus. "Aha!" I remember thinking when Bluetooth was first explained to me: we'll have the phone on the key fob and a whole new market in ladies compact mirrors.

Well, part of the Personal Server project is about putting your "My Documents" folder onto that key fob, and it's not as trivial as it first appears.

"The challenge is about how you establish the connections, and making it easy for the user to access that data," says Want.

"You want it to be able to access Windows XP, but don't modify it so much that XP clients can't use it. We've tried to stitch together the best of what's available."

The team has demonstrated XP recognizing the Personal Server and the device's data popping up as a web view, or a folder.

Want agrees all the ingredients for technology are in place: the devices use both Bluetooth and 802.11 and in some cases, UPnP for discovery (they ruled out Jini on account of size).


"Mobile computing is a bit like the Internet before the web," says Want. "All the servers were out there at universities, and some businesses, but you had to go to a command line prompt and know how to use ftp. It needed another level of simplicity and binding, and that's what the Web brought. It was a small conceptual addition but that made it all available to a lot of people around the world."

"We have the basic connectivity - but we need the basic icing that makes it easy to use."

The Personal Server will have uses both domestic and social. Intel is investing in TV R&D projects, and it isn't hard to imagine walking up to a TV and having it display your family photos, or show your MP3 playlists. The team has also experimented with hooking up to cheap 'public displays'. For example, suppose a bar has a couple of PDAs. In you walk with your BluePod, and you can simply start using whichever one is free.

But the Personal Server isn't necessarily a rival to the phone. It might equally be a software platform inside a phone, says Roy. Phones will be able to host 1GB memory cards early next year, 4GB the following year, and the fate for the iPod well may that it will become subsumed into a Nokia or Sony Ericsson handset. While Intel hopes it will be in a handset with Intel Inside, of course.

It's a sensitive project because the demand for exchanging media is so great (and ancient) that focus groups for such devices will be pretty redundant: people simply want to share a bit of culture. However, the copyright holders have already ensured that such a device will probably be illegal on arrival. The entertainment industries have succeeded in convincing the lawmakers that a 'pay now' model is preferable to a 'pay later' model, such as flat-fee compulsory licensing. And the 'pay now' model entails DRM, which greatly restricts people's ability to share media. Roy said he didn't have an opinion either way, but hoped the climate would improve.

As we all do. Call it "BluePod", "Personal Server" or "Social Hardware" - it could be as revolutionary as the PC was first time round. ®

Related Link

Apple's 'BluePod' - promiscuous exchanges with strangers
Goodbye, PC; hello, PS (Personal Server)
Social Hardware' nears with Bluetooth iPod

Similar topics

Broader topics

Other stories you might like

  • Screencastify fixes bug that would have let rogue websites spy on webcams
    School-friendly tool still not fully protected, privacy guru warns

    Screencastify, a popular Chrome extension for capturing and sharing videos from websites, was recently found to be vulnerable to a cross-site scripting (XSS) flaw that allowed arbitrary websites to dupe people into unknowingly activating their webcams.

    A miscreant taking advantage of this flaw could then download the resulting video from the victim's Google Drive account.

    Software developer Wladimir Palant, co-founder of ad amelioration biz Eyeo, published a blog post about his findings on Monday. He said he reported the XSS bug in February, and Screencastify's developers fixed it within a day.

    Continue reading
  • FTC urged to protect data privacy of women visiting abortion clinics
    As Supreme Court set to overturn Roe v Wade, safeguards on location info now more vital than ever

    Democrat senators have urged America's Federal Trade Commission to do something to protect the privacy of women after it emerged details of visits to abortion clinics were being sold by data brokers.

    Women's healthcare is an especially thorny issue right now after the Supreme Court voted in a leaked draft majority opinion to overturn Roe v Wade, a landmark ruling that declared women's rights to have an abortion are protected by the Fourteenth Amendment of the US Constitution.

    If the nation's top judges indeed vote to strike down that 1973 decision, individual states, at least, can set their own laws governing women's reproductive rights. Thirteen states already have so-called "trigger laws" in place prohibiting abortions – mostly with exceptions in certain conditions, such as if the pregnancy or childbirth endangers the mother's life – that will go into effect if Roe v Wade is torn up. People living in those states would, in theory, have to travel to another state where abortion is legal to carry out the procedure lawfully, although laws are also planned to ban that.

    Continue reading
  • Zuckerberg sued for alleged role in Cambridge Analytica data-slurp scandal
    I can prove CEO was 'personally involved in Facebook’s failure to protect privacy', DC AG insists

    Cambridge Analytica is back to haunt Mark Zuckerberg: Washington DC's Attorney General filed a lawsuit today directly accusing the Meta CEO of personal involvement in the abuses that led to the data-slurping scandal. 

    DC AG Karl Racine filed [PDF] the civil suit on Monday morning, saying his office's investigations found ample evidence Zuck could be held responsible for that 2018 cluster-fsck. For those who've put it out of mind, UK-based Cambridge Analytica harvested tens of millions of people's info via a third-party Facebook app, revealing a – at best – somewhat slipshod handling of netizens' privacy by the US tech giant.

    That year, Racine sued Facebook, claiming the social network was well aware of the analytics firm's antics yet failed to do anything meaningful until the data harvesting was covered by mainstream media. Facebook repeatedly stymied document production attempts, Racine claimed, and the paperwork it eventually handed over painted a trail he said led directly to Zuck. 

    Continue reading
  • Florida's content-moderation law kept on ice, likely unconstitutional, court says
    So cool you're into free speech because that includes taking down misinformation

    While the US Supreme Court considers an emergency petition to reinstate a preliminary injunction against Texas' social media law HB 20, the US Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals on Monday partially upheld a similar injunction against Florida's social media law, SB 7072.

    Both Florida and Texas last year passed laws that impose content moderation restrictions, editorial disclosure obligations, and user-data access requirements on large online social networks. The Republican governors of both states justified the laws by claiming that social media sites have been trying to censor conservative voices, an allegation that has not been supported by evidence.

    Multiple studies addressing this issue say right-wing folk aren't being censored. They have found that social media sites try to take down or block misinformation, which researchers say is more common from right-leaning sources.

    Continue reading
  • US-APAC trade deal leaves out Taiwan, military defense not ruled out
    All fun and games until the chip factories are in the crosshairs

    US President Joe Biden has heralded an Indo-Pacific trade deal signed by several nations that do not include Taiwan. At the same time, Biden warned China that America would help defend Taiwan from attack; it is home to a critical slice of the global chip industry, after all. 

    The agreement, known as the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF), is still in its infancy, with today's announcement enabling the United States and the other 12 participating countries to begin negotiating "rules of the road that ensure [US businesses] can compete in the Indo-Pacific," the White House said. 

    Along with America, other IPEF signatories are Australia, Brunei, India, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, New Zealand, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. Combined, the White House said, the 13 countries participating in the IPEF make up 40 percent of the global economy. 

    Continue reading
  • 381,000-plus Kubernetes API servers 'exposed to internet'
    Firewall isn't a made-up word from the Hackers movie, people

    A large number of servers running the Kubernetes API have been left exposed to the internet, which is not great: they're potentially vulnerable to abuse.

    Nonprofit security organization The Shadowserver Foundation recently scanned 454,729 systems hosting the popular open-source platform for managing and orchestrating containers, finding that more than 381,645 – or about 84 percent – are accessible via the internet to varying degrees thus providing a cracked door into a corporate network.

    "While this does not mean that these instances are fully open or vulnerable to an attack, it is likely that this level of access was not intended and these instances are an unnecessarily exposed attack surface," Shadowserver's team stressed in a write-up. "They also allow for information leakage on version and build."

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022