Technology Review 2012

I dared to make one of those predictive statements at the beginning of this year:

Tech Preview 2012

Some of my predictions came true partially (commodity 3D printers around $400).  Some are still a long way off (protein folding will become child’s play).

And of course some other things have happened that I had no clue about in the beginning (quad-core ARM boards at commodity prices).

I’m going to save my predictions for 2013 til January, so I have all of December to reflect, and read everyone else’s predictions.

Looking back though, things in tech certainly continue to be interesting.  One glaring example for me has been the rapid adoption of node.js as a serious contender as the basis for web based infrastructure pieces.  It’s kind of amazing when you think about it.  It’s only been a couple of years since it even got started, and already it’s rapidly replacing the likes of and apache.  The killer combination of nginx and node.js is something to behold.

Another thing that strikes me is that at least for web services, we’re kind of going retro.  When you look at the guts of nginx, or node, what you see is the raw network stack, openssl (for TLS support), zlib, and V8 (for computation).  That’s about it.  The rest is a bunch of community contributed modules that people have found to be of varying degress of usefulness.

What does this mean for Linux, or Windows, or whatever other “OS” is out there?   Hmmm, one can only speculate, and not until January.  What I do know is that the amount of stuff that I need to learn and rely on an OS for, is rapidly reducing.  The “OS” is looking more and more like a real Operating System, handling very basic hardware tasks like task creation, memory management, and network device access.  This isn’t very far removed from what I’m seeing on a microcontroller, or small router devices, or smaller ‘internet of things’ devices.

I think we’re very close to a tipping point where soft/hardware modules becomes highly purposed, and putting together systems is more about bringing those various hardware assets in rough proximity to each other so they can do whatever they do when they are grouped together.

Not making predictions, but looking at my own environment.  In this past year, I’ve realized that I don’t need a dedicated “PC” to store and serve up the files in my home.  I need a nice quiet zero maintenance piece of kit to do that.  It could be something like Windows 8 server on a headless machine, or a Synology NAS box, or what have you, but it’s not a USB connected hard drive on my desktop machine.

I recently traded up to a Windows 8 phone (nokia 920).  Holding the thing in my hand, and looking at it, it seems like a mini mini tablet more than it does a phone.  One thing that’s clearly shifted in this past year is that what I carry in my pocket is in fact a personal computer, that so happens to have phone call capabilities.  ‘The vast majority of time spent on the device is either email, or web page browsing, with picture taking being the third.  Placing actual phone calls on my “smart phone” is a distant 4th level operation that occurs every once in a while.  Even texting comes in before actual voice phone calling.

This is leading to an interesting set of observations for me.  Now that Skype is freely available on my “pc/phone”, I can easily make voice, video, and IM connections to lots of people I know, particularly if they also have Skype.  Did Microsoft just become my telecommunications ‘carrier’?  I know I have a billing relationship with AT&T, but really, given how wifi is becoming increasingly available for free, won’t I be ditching them sometime soon?  But, I’m not predicting as yet.

This year has had a lot of hardware innovations.  Software continues to lurch forward in baby steps.  New business models are emerging, and micro manufacturing is the meme of the day.  It’s been a very interesting good year, and I’m sure next year will evolve similarly, if not at an even more accelerated pace.



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