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 Post subject: Stand-alone workstations
PostPosted: Tue Oct 21, 2014 3:48 am 
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As funny as it sounds, I think computers that are not connected to the Internet could be more important in the future than what they are today. Having an open connection to the Internet is a huge inconvenience for computer systems. It is one reason for a thing called "endless updating/patching/upgrading loop". If a workstation were not connected to the Internet, it would simply make things a lot easier. Once configured, they could run without problems for a long time. That is the reason why I still want to see operating systems and applications that do not require Internet access in any way. A stand-alone workstation could be used for writing books, editing videos, composing music, programming, etc. You could keep that very clean and overall security/privacy would be good.

I simplified this issue. What do you think? Is Cloud Computing the only way?

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 Post subject: Re: Stand-alone workstations
PostPosted: Tue Oct 21, 2014 4:56 am 
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We have lived for many years without "the cloud", so it would not be an necessity.

One of my problems with the cloud is that you hand over the full control of data and services to a party other than your own. You can't check how it works, if that party does what it says, and you have no control exercised over which parties end up reading that data. Everything that is run locally is also immediately available for your own scrutiny. Besides, the current fragility of internet connections means that you don't have a guaranteed access to the internet, and unfortunately not every piece of software is capable of handling such a situation - and this situation is becoming more common.

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 Post subject: Re: Stand-alone workstations
PostPosted: Tue Oct 21, 2014 5:03 am 
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"Cloud" is just a bullshit marketing word. They all act like a cluster of servers is a new invention..

I like the idea of having the possibility to share data on such a system. I hate the idea of having games or other software running not on my computer, but somewhere on a fancy supercomputer that I must connect to. Sucks imho

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 Post subject: Re: Stand-alone workstations
PostPosted: Tue Oct 21, 2014 6:41 am 
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This is not a simple issue because sharing data and resources is a good thing per se. Local area networks work well and provide security/privacy.

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 Post subject: Re: Stand-alone workstations
PostPosted: Tue Oct 21, 2014 8:12 am 
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Shared data may be nice if you actually want to share data with someone. It is nonsense if you want to keep your data private - and so is this whole idea of "moving everything into the cloud". I prefer clarity over clouds - and so I keep everything local on my computer that is not intended to be used by anyone else but me.

Regarding stand-alone workstations, I think it depends on what kind of work they are supposed to do. For example, my everyday work involves reading articles, getting some information from the internet, communicating with other people etc. - not all the time, in fact only a few times per day, but it would be less convenient if I had to do this from a different computer.

Having a stable set of tools which are set up once and for all is certainly a possible philosophy. Another philosophy is to always have the latest tools, and to be able to use new features / get rid of known bugs as soon as an update appears. I usually prefer the second variant, although both certainly have their advantages.

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 Post subject: Re: Stand-alone workstations
PostPosted: Fri Feb 20, 2015 1:30 am 
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As a general up-to-date note, since I started from scratch again few months ago, I have written all code for my latest OS on a stand-alone workstation. It may sound inconvenient, and it surely is sometimes, but I have been quite productive. Few hours spent on a stand-alone workstation is like a day spent on a workstation connected to the Internet. Is is easier to fully concentrate on the work itself. Of course, this is not a universal fact but it works for me.

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 Post subject: Re: Stand-alone workstations
PostPosted: Fri Feb 20, 2015 3:05 am 
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When it is important, you can always get either a dedicated unconnected PC or a dedicated Internet PC. :)


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 Post subject: Re: Stand-alone workstations
PostPosted: Fri Feb 20, 2015 4:07 am 
Antti wrote:
If a workstation were not connected to the Internet, it would simply make things a lot easier.

It's about control over what your PC is doing. Traditional OSes give us too little of the control we need. But any new OS can implement some form of internet access policies and add to it an easy to use GUI, so there will be no need to unplug a cable, but the same effect can be achieved just by some configuration means. The only question is - how to implement such a feature for it to be more convenient than "unplugging a cable" variant. And an important part of the solution is about the same level of control, that is available for us with the plug/unplug variant. If we unplug a cable, then we are sure there is no communication possible (if wi-fi and bluetooth are also disabled) and it's really easy to exercise such control, also it gives us a really deep confidence about the situation. But no OS can guarantee anything alike by using configuration options only because we are not sure if some virus is not able to reconfigure the system back to the dangerous state.

Essentially, it is about our inability to trust a software, that isn't made by ourself. Can we create a software, that provides enough information for us to be sure that such software can be trusted?


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 Post subject: Re: Stand-alone workstations
PostPosted: Fri Feb 20, 2015 4:36 am 
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embryo wrote:
Essentially, it is about our inability to trust a software, that isn't made by ourself. Can we create a software, that provides enough information for us to be sure that such software can be trusted?


I don't think it's possible. On one hand, the average user won't be able to make much sense of detailed technical info. So, they would depend on someone else, which shifts the trust to trust to people. And ultimately it's the people with whom we have trust issues in the first place. It's people who violate other people's trust either directly or using technology. The concept of trust doesn't exist in inanimate world. It's when you add people (or animals) to the world of things, things (pun intended) become less trustworthy than they would without people.

Also, there's a chance that the hardware can communicate without the user knowing about it. Again, does the user have to trust the entire chain of the people involved in design, manufacturing and delivery of the computer and its software or some expert who can examine the assembled system and tell whether or not it's bugged?

On the other hand, if we can't solve even the halting problem (except for very trivial and practically rather uninteresting cases) and the AI is still something like ~50 years ahead of us (just as it seemed 50 years ago), what can we expect of software being able to reason about itself and the hardware it's running on?

The best you can do is cover the basics and get some kind of heuristic. Which still leaves a chance for error and a room for exploitation. Better than nothing, but not perfect. And very bad if something very important and/or expensive is at stake.

Perhaps, you should consider a completely different question here... What do we do to address the causes of people stealing from other people?


Last edited by alexfru on Fri Feb 20, 2015 5:22 am, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Stand-alone workstations
PostPosted: Fri Feb 20, 2015 5:20 am 
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alexfru wrote:
When it is important, you can always get either a dedicated unconnected PC or a dedicated Internet PC.


Exactly. It is hard to beat privacy/security advantages this may provide. Being more productive is an important side effect. When it comes to the latter one, maybe it is like a "work first, then fun" situation that I try to solve.

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 Post subject: Re: Stand-alone workstations
PostPosted: Sat Feb 21, 2015 5:26 am 
alexfru wrote:
What do we do to address the causes of people stealing from other people?

We do invent a system of justice. It's a complex and not an ideal system, but it manages to decrease crime level to some very seldom cases, if we speak about one person experience. And in the world of software it is almost guaranteed that a person will experience a security threat if connected to the internet. So, the great difference here makes me believe that it is possible to create an internet justice, that can be close to it's offline cousin in terms of efficiency of criminality reduction. But the problem is in the missing demand for such justice. Rich people hire consultants and poor people just reinstall their Windows or Android periodically.

So, we have to invent some software only solution to prevent stealing in the software world.


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 Post subject: Re: Stand-alone workstations
PostPosted: Sat Feb 21, 2015 5:33 am 
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Alright, I'll use an analogy to show my response to this whole situation:

I walk into a mall and shout to everyone, "HEY! LOOK AT THIS AWESOME AND EXPENSIVE DEVICE I HAVE!". Then, I put the device on the floor, and walk out of the mall. I come back a few weeks later and it's (of course) gone.

The second you put anything on the internet, it's public domain. If you don't want it stolen, keep it to yourself. You can't expect to punish someone for taking something you practically put in their hands.


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 Post subject: Re: Stand-alone workstations
PostPosted: Sat Feb 21, 2015 6:09 am 
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embryo wrote:
alexfru wrote:
What do we do to address the causes of people stealing from other people?

We do invent a system of justice. It's a complex and not an ideal system, but it manages to decrease crime level to some very seldom cases, if we speak about one person experience. And in the world of software it is almost guaranteed that a person will experience a security threat if connected to the internet. So, the great difference here makes me believe that it is possible to create an internet justice, that can be close to it's offline cousin in terms of efficiency of criminality reduction. But the problem is in the missing demand for such justice. Rich people hire consultants and poor people just reinstall their Windows or Android periodically.

So, we have to invent some software only solution to prevent stealing in the software world.


That's addressing the effect, not the cause.


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 Post subject: Re: Stand-alone workstations
PostPosted: Sat Feb 21, 2015 6:12 am 
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SoulofDeity wrote:
If you don't want it stolen, keep it to yourself. You can't expect to punish someone for taking something you practically put in their hands.


I tend to think similarly of patents gone wrong. If you want to keep something secret and benefit from it, do so.


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 Post subject: Re: Stand-alone workstations
PostPosted: Sat Feb 21, 2015 6:13 am 
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That's a very sad view of society.

I'd say the situation is more akin to a public library being able to lend books in the expectation that they will be returned.


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