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Right. This page is unreadable due to the numerous threads going on here. First, interjecting in the middle of someone's comment with a mini-conversation is rude to the author and difficult for the reader. Second, we can probably reduce a lot of this stuff if we were happy to strip signatures. I had to kill one of Dave's comments about cell phones and drivers because I didn't feel comfortable changing what Cliff had signed to reflect it, and the comment would go no where else.

Recommended action: heavy refactoring. Fair warning... -- SunirShah

PervasiveComputing is having a computer in your wall, in your watch, in your light bulb, in your shirt, in your sandwich, ..., in you.

PervasiveComputing is likely to be the downfall of desktop computer systems (and their massive operating systems), at least in the broad application base they are used now. Seeing people no longer slaved to a machine to do any work, but computers slaved to how people work seems like an admirable goal (cf. TheSingularity).


See also DoorGames, now that HandHelds are swamping the market, the future of gaming is in the past.


See the iPic matchhead size web server that fits in less than 12kbits (1532 octets).


Certainly, PervasiveComputing will to some extent be a reality, just as web business has to an extent created some aspects of a PaperlessOffice?. However, the truth is that the introduction of computers into the business environment has lead to an explosion of paper use, not the reverse.

Similarly, there have been attempts to create IntelligentAgents, but I have found it better to work with StupidAgents, as it might take a number of interactions before my IntelligentAgent knows I like DaveBarry, but I can tell a StupidAgent right off that I want it to check for changes of DaveBarry's website with a one-line change of a configuration script. But IntelligentAgents are not part of PervasiveComputing, as I understand it.

I have started to try working with X10, which is one attempt to create the effect of PervasiveComputing. Or maybe it isn't, as the catagories shift. I am unsure of some of the concepts involved. When talking about HandHelds or PalmTops, part of the reason Newton failed while Palm succeeded was that Newton used real handwriting recognition while Palm uses fake HandwritingRecognition, which is less messy. Any HumanComputerInterface? person would be aghast at the thought of people adapting themselves to computers and not the other way around, but the typewriter keyboard interface of most computers pretty much adapting to the machine, to the point of adapting against yourself (RepetitiveStress? and CarpalTunnel? problems). Adapting to machine-understood handwriting doesn't seem too much a problem with me, except when something that is machine-clear but human-ambiguous, like much of Graffiti, enters into a person's for-human-consumption handwriting. That VoiceRecognition might follow HandwritingRecognition in forcing us to talk a certain way to the computer seems like a problem to me, but is saying Lights on and getting it part of pervasive computing?

I could be confusing cause and effect here. Or more to the point, control and result. Being able to turn off the lights and turn on the stereo without having to hit the switch on the wall or the button on the console would have more to do with HomeAutomation than PervasiveComputing, I believe, so let us look at result. From the IBM website, it seems that their view of PervasiveComputing is to connect all sorts of information-bearing appliances into a grand thing. I can see the reasoning behind that, as the most important time-sensative data I can think of, time, is startlingly disconnected within my house, and probably yours, too. Check your alarm clock, watch, PDA, desktop and car stereo, and I'm sure you'll find at least a 5-minute difference between two of them. If you're unlucky, 10. The first thing I'd want to do with PervasiveComputing is to align them.

The one thing I've always heard of as a candidate for InformationPresentation? in a scheme such as this is an interface on your fridge. (That always seemed like a loser to me.) The other is the WebTV? set-top box. I've not heard of them having an ethernet interface so it is part of your network, not their service. Ah, well.

But certainly, we should look further than having computers smaller than a matchbox around the house. Unless I can control them, and I can see the results, they are not useful. --DaveJacoby

I agree that user interface designers today are mistakingly obsessed with molding HumanComputerInterface?s to existing human behaviour. However, never in the history of the world has that ever happened, nor should it. Just look at your car; the original interface were horse and buggy reins, not the steering wheel. In every case, the human has had to adapt to the interface as much as the computer.

Really, you shouldn't want anything less. I'm not really sure what we do naturally. We can't even swim well naturally, nor is it true that social skills are natural (you learn them). I can believe easier interfaces are better, as long as you still make them powerful. (Just look at the WikiSyntax, which is 100 times easier than HTML.) -- SunirShah

I write HTML with vi and perl, thankyouverymuch, and I am more than willing to continue. I do accept that the simple interface to Wiki encourages conversation, since you don't have to keep grabbing for you Koala book. --DaveJacoby

By the way, if all the clocks in the world were synchronized, don't you think our perception of time would change? Do you think it would switch from being this quasi-sense we were aware of to being an absolute, quantified Platonic form? In a way, digital watches did this to us--indeed, when I ask the time from people, I usually get it read back to the minute nowadays, which is a big change from "quarter past seven." I think with a universal absolute time, things will get worse as we will all have a fixed standard to measure against. "I'll be there in five minutes," might become, "I'll be there at 12:43pm." Moreover, meetings at "2pm" will really be at "2pm." The plus or minus five minute error will disappear. And probably the small talk that goes with it. -- SunirShah

The more work, family and recreation are distributed across the world (of which I'm a prime example, with my family in Minnesota and Nevada and usenet and Wiki acquaintances around the world), the less focused time will be with the relative position of the Sun to the current locality and the more with something agreed upon. Consider it WorldTime?. I think it'll have to happen, and I think SwatchTime? is an interesting first attempt at it, although it hasn't and likely won't break through into the mainstream. I have my watch set with a second time on Zulu time, and I have found it useful. --DaveJacoby

See also the discussion about TimeZones, and TheThirdWave.

To me, the "pervasive" part of PervasiveComputing is the idea that one doesn't have to go to a certain place to use a computer (like your desktop PC), but naturally uses the computer wherever one is at the moment. To some people, a PDA is sufficient (and it certainly works well in the BigBlueRoom). Within more controlled environments like one's home, one can imagine many more possible interactions with computers, and PervasiveComputing often blurs into HomeAutomation. (Some simple HomeAutomation systems are only controllable by a single PC at a single location, making them non-pervasive.) --CliffordAdams

I think you're mixing with WearableComputing. Not that I wouldn't like my own wearable, but I think PervasiveComputing applies more to having computers in everything - and being able to access them. --ErikDeBill

A good example of a recently-pervasive technology is the cellphone. To many people, location is just about irrelevant for making and receiving phone calls. The anti-cellphone backlash in some public places (and while driving) may also be of interest to PervasiveComputing proponents. An earlier pervasive technology is the clock--many people have a clock in every room of their house, and the calculator-watch could be considered a predecessor of the PDA. :-)

Many people disagree on which technologies are most important for PervasiveComputing. These technologies include IntelligentAgents, networking improvements (like BlueTooth? or IPv6), and new input/output methods (like natural speech recognition and voice responses). Often the researchers in a particular field are certain that their improvement is the one which will revolutionize computing.

Personally, I tend to think that most devices should be relatively dumb, but have a standard interface controllable by a smarter element. The "tiny web server" idea is an attractive one, especially if IPv6 takes off. HTTP is a dirt-simple protocol that is easy to write tools for. One big problem with the current Internet Protocol (IPv4) is the lack of addresses. IPv6 can give every person on Earth more addresses than the entire current Internet. (Your toaster could even run its own internal network. ;-)

Finally, I'm lucky if all my clocks are in the same timezone. My watch (rarely used) and my car clock are still on DaylightSavingsTime?. I think millions of people would be thrilled if they could just get rid of the flashing 12:00 on their VCRs. --CliffordAdams (old enough to remember thinking calculator-watches were nifty)

Vanity, Vanity. All is vanity. Especially if you're courting venture capital. So, of course My Invention will fix everything and make toast while doing it. I know everyone is gung-ho about IPVersionSix?, I'm less so. Most of the benefit I'd get from it, I get from NetworkAddressTranslation? and DHCP, plus firewalling, too. Can you think of a single reason why your toaster needs an IP address? BlueTooth? seems fun, and nice and low-power, and the applications seem nice, but I'm still not on board. I'm recommending WirelessEthernet instead for our PalmTop connectivity solution because of roaming and range issues. -- DaveJacoby

Cell phones certainly bring up some of the limitations - places where they don't work (especially in cities with a lot of hills), lack of etiquette wrt where their use is acceptable, short battery life, tiny screens, etc.

They also underscore the 2 biggest hurdles for wearable/pervasive computing. UI and powersupply. Buttons need real estate. Displays need space. Batteries are clunky. (Sometimes I wish I lived somewhere cold enough to wear a coat regularly - I could carry spare batteries and such. Not much place for a cell phone, much less a pda when wearing shorts and a tshirt).

Perhaps men will begin wearing clothing especially to carry their electronics? Women carry purses. Laptop bags and briefcases are socially acceptable, but clunky. Something likea bandolier or equipment vest? A trenchcoat with inside pockets works quiet well. --ErikDeBill

I've heard that part of the reason people started wearing cargo pants was because the increased cargo of CellPhones, PalmTops, batteries and dongles. I know if I could wear 'em at my workplace, I'd wear 'em more, but BusinessCasual? is less casual than that around here. -- DaveJacoby

I've known several people who said "when I saw these pockets just the right size for my phone I had to buy the pants, whatever the cost". Personally I prefer jeans. Levi's 560's are loose enough that I can carry my phone in the front pocket. --ErikDeBill

You'll be happy to know that if your cellphone rings during class or in a meeting or a movie theatre in England, you will be beat to death. Etiquette there is settling down, considering that almost everyone there has a cell by now.

As for carrying the devices... Last night I was trying to juggle my pocket contents, which have increased significantly in size and price with the addition of the PalmPilot. I settled on stuffing my Palm in my jacket, a wholly inadequate solution come June. Belt clips don't work either. On the other hand, there was recently a jacket released with an MP3 player and a cell phone embedded in the fabric. This, I think, is utter stupidity.

What is probably most likely to happen is the continuing convergance of cells and Palms. One device is better than two, usually. -- SunirShah

A Palm which could actually be carried on the belt would be OK. What we have now is too big, due to user interface constraints (the electronics could go in a matchbox). Oh well, maybe I should wear one like the giant belt buckles some people where around here :-)

The Motorola Startac belt clips work quite well. I've given up on using a belt clip with my Nokia 6160 - broke 4 of them getting in and out of the car. I still like the bandolier idea. If only people wouldn't look at me like I was psycho. --ed

Speak for yourself. Walking around with a mini-computer on my belt, or even a cell phone, is not cool. I do have an image to protect, no matter how meagre it is. I'm kind of embarassed by my digital watch as it stands. I plan to buy a nice analog watch shortly, even if I can't read it. -- SunirShah

Exactly why I don't. I wore a cell and a pager on belt clips for a while - had to have both for my job, and you can't beat the belt clips for easy access (very important when you get paged 100 times a day). However, I wish it was acceptable to carry a bunch of stuff. It is, to a reasonable extent here in Austin. But only on belt clips (no more than 2-3, and some people will think you're a geek - but there are 25,000 millionaires under 27 in Austin, so that can be a good thing :-) Why would you be embarassed by a digital watch? I begin to think that perceptions of these things are a bit different up there in the far north. I've got a friend who wears one of the "Geek" caps from ThinkGeek - and gets complimented all the time. --ErikDeBill

VisorPhone?. There's also another solution, PDq. The problem has been the combined requirements of the CellPhone (dialing buttons, speaker, mic, antenna, battery) and the requirements of a PDA (2x2 screen plus writing area) have made these things way too bricklike. The Visor has an internal mic and the phone software uses screen space to display buttons, but when I get one, I'm going to have to keep a good supply of ScreenCondom?s to avoid greasing up the screen too badly.--DJ

Palms always seemed like they were quite limited in the UI sense. Of course, that's because I'm an outsider looking in - never had one. --ErikDeBill

The PalmOS UI is pretty good, I find (especially in colour). It's really difficult to control that much functionality in such a small space with such an impoverished input system. I don't have much to compare it against in the ways of HandHelds, but I find it quite intuitive. The applications that come with it are pretty crappy, on the other hand, especially the calculator. I do not need or want ugly fake rubber buttons. --ss

I have had a Palm III and a Handspring Deluxe Visor, and I have to say that I like the PalmOS UserInterface, too. It is limited, but they were trying to make something useful in a limited environment, and the things that would've made it better in a ComputerScience sense (MultiTasking?, or one) would've been a problem in the portable environment. There are kludges, like a folding keyboard, but the idea is to make the thing work via handwriting and poking. "ugly fake rubber buttons"? --DJ

Interleaving conversations are what made usenet and mailing lists great. But I can understand that it might not be good in a less ephemeral discussion environments. --DaveJacoby

Refactoring is part of wiki. We should expect that anything we write will eventually be refactored. Nothing is sacred. Removing a signature from something if the refactoring requires substantive changes seems reasonable. --ErikDeBill

The comment, as I remember it, was that, assuming HandsFree? operation of the telephone, driving and talking on the cellphone should be no more or less dangerous than driving and holding a conversation with a passenger.

And "ugly fake rubber buttons". I get it. I hate that calc, too. I've seen better PalmOS calculators (perens), but all things told, I have a TI-85 that I use if I need calculation, and I tend to not need calculation much, having passed all my math requirements and graduated.

But that has little to do with PervasiveComputing (Lets drop a definition in [1]), unless we either jigger the definitions of pervasive or computing. PervasiveComputing became real in one sense during the 1970s and 1980s when pocket calculators (and watch calculators) permitted anyone to add, subtract, multiply and divide 8 digit numbers anywhere that they were. Certainly that is computation, for small values of computation. It doesn't bring in connectivity, data storage or much of what people think about when they consider computing.


To avoid refactoring, I suggest that further talk about what to wear to carry your cellphone be in CarryingGadgets, even though how technology is carried is part of PervasiveComputing. --DaveJacoby

Correction. How technology is made universally accessible is part of PervasiveComputing. This could be done by having numerous stationary terminals - not just by using a portable device. Both tactics are quite viable, and appropriate for different applications. Spreading a network of terminals around an area (e.g. my apartment) can be quite easy to do, and they avoid problems with batteries, special clothing, limited bandwidth (100Mbps full duplex, anyone?), rf interference and small screens. Obviously this fails for the general case - but nevertheless bears discussion.

In my home, I have a current grand total of 5 working, networked computers. To make this work, I had to drill all sorts of holes in floors and walls and pull cable and crawl around in the crawlspace. Not everyone is willing to do this sort of thing. Secure, inexpensive and fast wireless connectivity, either in the form of 802.11b (the current best WirelessEthernet standard) or something else would make everything work fairly well for those who don't want to fill their walls with faceplates and holes. (100Bps is better than 11, though.) I guess that is a description of failing in the general case.

I think I beat you by 1, plus a serial terminal:-) But 1 of those is 802.11b wireless, and most of the others are in 1 room. Unfortunately, the wireless fails the "secure, inexpensive" part of your statement - I know cards which encrypt the traffic exist, but I haven't seen them for sale. My airport has a strong enough transmitter to work anywhere in my apartment building, as well as most places within 50 yards of it (I've tried it out...). 802.11b also works in the 2.4GHz range, which is unregulated. I've known several people to set themselves up and discover that it conflicts with other devices around the house. What I actually meant by failing in the general case, though, was access quite literally anywhere. Being able to run cable doesn't help if I want to check my email at the local bar. They'll not want me putting a terminal there, and I'll not want to sacrifice a keyboard somewhere drunks will spill their beer. For that I need something truly portable and wireless. But I'm happy in my apartment right now, though (and perhaps my new Visor will help on the general solution bit).

802.11b is getting cheaper ($300US for an AirPort? isn't $1200 for an AeroNet?, but in some ways you're getting what you're paying for, or not getting what you're not paying for, and in some some ways, you're just getting a Cisco badge instead of an Apple badge on it), and for most needs, the spread-spectrum aspects of WirelessEthernet should do fine, and if you're using SSH from your laptop, you should be secure enough, but right now, speed is of interest to me. We're talking 11MBs, which was fine for 10baseT but doesn't quite cut it in the age of gigahertz. I'm sure that'll change, too.

We looked at many different base stations before choosing the Lucent WaveLAN? one to "wireless" the office. Every one we looked at, though had the 11Mbps wireless rate, and a 10baseT interface for the copper. You can only get 11Mbps going wireless to wireless. Bottom line is that you don't want to do large software installs or the like via wireless. It's still wonderful for email, scheduling and saving documents to a file server, though. More particularly, there really isn't any problem with using it to connect to an online community - unless that community needs >T1 bandwidth for it's UI.

Geek envy

After reading the discussions about portable gadgets I was wondering if I'm the only person here without a cellphone or PDA. I don't even usually wear a watch. I was beginning to wonder if I could really be a "non-geek". Then I remembered the SecurID? token on my keychain (a crypto-based one-time password system). Definitely geek. :-) --CliffordAdams

PalmTops have not become ubiquitous yet, but among some circles, they're common enough. I've heard of some people maybe signing up for basic phone service with no long-distance or much of anything, then getting a CellPhone and their primary phone. Of course, in a university environment, there's always a number of computer labs, so you don't need to be far from a computer long, but public phones are rare and in demand, usually.


Cell phone as primary is getting quite common here (probably still <10%, but hey...). This is hampered by different cell providers - some are quite unreliable (Sprint) while others are more expensive (AT&T). PDA's are common at work, not so common at play. --ErikDeBill

At work, my boss and a networking guy have PDAs, beyond myself. Amongs the friends I used to work and school with and now just hang with on occasion, PalmOS HandHelds are nearly ubiquitous. I guess I hang with EarlyAdopter?s


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