School of Computing. Dublin City University.
My big idea: Ancient Brain
Before the 1980s, computers were scarce and users would share large mainframe computers.
The PC revolution of the 1980s was about giving a computer to every user. This was a good idea because:
But the PC era is seen now as defined by the fact that networks were nonexistent or at least slow and unreliable.
As the network got faster and "always on", problems with PCs (or any user device) emerged:
The professional knows how the machine works, and has nothing else to do with his time except keep it running smoothly for his hundreds of users, upgrade software, etc.
The amateurs have no idea how it works, don't want to know, and are too busy doing their real jobs to have any time to learn. If they spend time fixing and maintaining the computer it is money down the drain, since they are not paid to do that. Billions of person-hours a year are lost by amateurs wrestling with incompatible software, upgrades, installation and system crashes, all because we bought into this PC idea in the 1980s.
Many PC users have grown tired of maintaining software, incompatible upgrades, missing libraries. They have other, real, work to do.
An attractive alternative is a login at some central operation with a paid professional at the other end of the line keeping it running for me, making backups, installing upgrades, etc. I want to be able to access my account no matter where I am in the world.
One issue of concern is privacy: PCs are more private. Would the NC company be able to read your files? This can be solved by an encryption-decryption layer between home and NC company, so the NC company cannot actually read your files.
As a historian I am interested in the long-term, something technologists often pay little attention to.
Consider where most human data is kept in electronic form. How does a business keep its long-term records (e.g. land ownership records) viable for 50, 70 or 100 years? How does a family store its digital photo album for 50 or 100 years?
You can't store it yourself on removable media, since these media get lost, stolen, decay over time, and anyway the formats will be incompatible and unreadable in a few decades time.
The only way to store long-term data is through an NC-type operation, a company that you pay to manage your data, copy it into new formats and new media, etc.
But what happens if you stop paying your subscription to the NC company? Perhaps the service is combined with libraries (who keep long-term data of all sorts) and banks (who do long-term storage of valuables for a fee). Perhaps if you stop paying your subscription, the data is not destroyed, it keeps on being re-copied and saved, but you have to pay the arrears to actually see it.
Packet readable by every machine it passes through, like a postcard.
Eavesdropping harder since messages travel different routes. Also messages broken into packets on different routes. Also (for non-government eavesdropping) where to eavesdrop? Most of route is along links you will not have access to.
Also packets mixed with other packets, binary data, etc. Also sheer volume. Manpower to eavesdrop expensive. Software not very powerful.
Still, only real privacy/security is encryption.
Email is all very well, but many people are drowning in email. It is simply too easy to send someone a message.
In an attempt to control the flood coming into their Inbox every morning, many people now make it difficult to email them. e.g. See Jakob Nielsen. Or indeed me:
It is often not recognised that email is a very inefficient method of communication (compared to telephone or meeting in person) because email is one-way. Someone asks you a question, but their message is garbled and semi-literate. You reply asking what do they mean. Sometime later, they reply clarifying their question. You reply to that. Then they reply and finally you come to a conclusion. The process takes days, whereas it could have been solved in minutes if you met face to face.
"Spam should be illegal" - else everyone will get 10,000 messages a day. No reason not to send them.
"No need to make it illegal" - Sysadmins can deal with this problem themselves, by forming networks, sharing info in automatic filters. No need for the law to get involved.
Until spam is made illegal in the advanced countries, and countries that allow spam are treated to international sanctions, this is the long-term future:
So, since most spammers are breaking the law already, making the actual spam illegal may change little. It will not stop the flood of spam generated by viruses.