A recurrent theme seen here in comments and on the web is that the trends in IT are towards less general purpose computing and more specialization. e.g. tablets replacing PCs, cloud services replacing local applications, thin clients versus thick clients, and locked-down systems replacing run-anything hardware.
oldman (one of our long-time commentators) is contemptuous of any PC that is not a fire-breathing monster with tons of RAM, drives and no-expense-spared software.
I recommend the least expensive hardware and software that will do the job and I love a thin client connected to a powerful server. You have to have worked with a modern server to understand that they are amazing computers in performance but they have no place in proximity to humans. One of their least favourite characteristics is to run a mess of fans at 5000 rpm on boot to shake the dust off… Humans should not have fire-breathing dragons in their workspaces. Humans need quiet to think and to create.
Others see a threat to all that’s Holy in unknown software running on a remote server, as if that matters. If I have the right to run software of my choosing on my PC so does the operator of a server. That’s right and proper, not a threat of any kind. I trust humanity to make the right choices when they load up a server with software. It’s their choice. I can still choose operators of servers/providers of services whose model of business is acceptable, just as I choose hardware or software in my operations. That’s not a threatening situation, just more of the same choices we have been making for decades.
The fact that some, like M$, would limit our choices for their enrichment is no more/less a threat than the lack of retail shelf space given to FLOSS in some places. We, the end users have to choose services that work for us, not the monopolist. That’s why I choose Googele over M$ for everything. Google uses FLOSS widely and openly, contributes to FLOSS, gives great service at a great price and has been doing so for a decade. I trust them. I don’t trust M$ which has shown the opposite characteristics for decades.
Using FLOSS on local machines and services from trusted organizations/individuals on the web is a bit more risky but a lot more efficient and should be embraced as an improvement in future IT. Having maintained servers, I know specialists can do a better job of it in many cases, especially in utilities like e-mail. With FLOSS, we have choices of software we can run on local PCs and servers and we have no less choice than anyone else with whom we deal over the network. We don’t know 100% that Joe Brockmeier is a good guy but we can still read his stuff and think about it. We do know that M$ is out to get us and that Google is out to get our business and competes on price/performance.
To view the future evolution of IT as a threat because more computing is non-local is do deny the obvious good the web has done over the last decades. FLOSS, itself, never really flourished until the web gave us ftp/web servers and global distros and repositories of FLOSS. The cloud is just another step in the same direction, better IT using networks. These tools can be used for good or evil. They are not a threat but some of the wielders are. We should be vigilant but still revel in the advancement of IT they represent.
General purpose computing is not going away, either. It’s just becoming a niche in an ever more diverse world of IT. The challenge is to use IT wisely, not to shun it. The vast majority of ordinary users of IT have rather limited needs that can be met by cloud services better than they could ever take care of their own IT. That cloud computing will replace a huge chunk of M$’s monopoly with FLOSS and increased choice is a blessing, not a curse.
A wise woman once told me that I should “judge a tree by its fruit”. We should look at price/performance, in particular. Clouds and smart thingies running FLOSS beat the ____ out of M$’s “general purpose computing” when it comes to price/performance, freedom, and all kinds of things that matter to the world. What’s most important likely, is that M$ has no monopoly on the web and ordinary people can choose what works best for them and know they have a choice. With a lot of “general purpose” computing today, they have little choice but to buy a PC running M$’s OS and they don’t even know how much it costs. Cloud computing costs 1/10 as much as local computing which is probably the most relevant factor for change/wide adoption.
Why should people pay an order of magnitude too much for IT? Paying less for more is not a threat but an opportunity. The only ones this situation should threaten are monopolists. FLOSSies should thrive in the cloud.