Intel Personal Server

I’m am incrementalist which means I’m A-OK when change occurs a little here and a little there. I’m OK with it because the world is a big place and there is a lot to pay attention to. If I was a completionist, I would like my change with a bit more finality, but I’m not. So I don’t.

This article is a solid reminder of why we desperately need Completionists. My Incrementalist strategy for living on my three different Macs has been a combination of saving some stuff to a Firewire drive, saving some other stuff on a server, and writing down a list of stuff I need to change on a virgin Mac OS X installation. Elegant, no?

Yes, I want a doo-hickey around my neck which has everything I ever write/said/received/sent/thought/yelled/ALLCAPPED. No, I don’t want it sitting on a server somewhere because I still don’t trust that my network connection is going to be there. I barely trust the wiring between my hard drive and my processor. Yes, I am willing to carry this with me all the time, but it better be small… ID badge-like. No, not everyone is going to get this, but I will and I’ll tell all my Incrementalist friends and they’ll jump up and down a lot.

16 Responses

  1. Avios 21 years ago

    I wonder what would happen if you accidentally lost that and it fell into the wrong hands…

    t rands On March 12, 1992 you said: “Lick my balls”. Any comment?

  2. Not entirely keen on basing the file access on WebDAV. I mean, sure, it’s probably fairly universal and all, but then so is Windows and look where that’s gotten us. I think even using SMB or CIFS would be a better choice on the grounds that at least they’re using protocols intended for file operations, rather than a half-assed protocol with layers of half-assery grafted on top to make up for the incomplete ass of the basic protocol.

  3. Ryvar 21 years ago

    If you (as in ‘anyone’) can get me this with a level of security reminiscent of OpenBSD then, and only then, consider me as sharing your view.

    It has to be so secure I can’t reasonably see a method of picking the lock – something with WebDAV is pretty much automatically disqualified here. That qualm aside, I’d kill for one of these.

  4. There’s security, and then there’s security. For the vast majority of my personal files, I don’t give a toss whether someone else reads them. The remaining files should be encrypted so that if anyone does get at them, they still can’t see the contents. (My passwords file, for example, which is encrypted by the Password Safe:

    The security this device gives you is insurance against something stupid happening to your original files–like your house burning down, a freak power surge, or a burglar with a taste for computer equipment.

    Even if someone did get at my passwords, there’s only so much damage they can do before credit card and other banking insurance kicks. If they mess up my on-line reputation by posting as me in all the places I hang out, well, that’s reparable. But most of my email, photos, writings, and other stuff is *completely irreplaceable*.

    Not everyone is that attached to their files. Some people might not consider the loss of all their old emails a big deal. It’s a risk assessment everyone has to do for themselves.

    Having suffered a catastrophic hard disk crash last year is certainly colouring my perceptions. It focussed my mind on exactly what data is important to me, and how much it matters when it’s threatened. It matters LOTS. Sign me up for one of these personal server puppies as soon as they hit the market.

    Cringely wrote about this last year (, but a 128MB USB memory stick doesn’t quite cut it for me, with the number of graphics files I have. Once they reach 30GB, we’ll talk.

    (Oh, hang on…iPod!)

  5. xfrosch 21 years ago

    okay. so let’s say we’re five years down the road, and you’re in an airport with your pocket-size file server. Several neighborhood kids (or foreign tourists, or possibly Kent Paul Dolan, Ace Lightning, Paminifarm, and Kevin McAuley) are monopolizing all the public-access thin clients, playing Spin the Bottle on Yahoo! Games, or using the Google gateway to post cascades to Usenet. What now?

    What problem does this solve, exactly, other than creating a market for Intel’s XScale production culls? Do you really think that someone’s going to build kiosks to plug these things into?

    There’s no scarcity of portable CPUs and displays. What there is a scarcity of is system software that makes intelligent use of the available resources.

    I don’t know anyone who really needs 30GB of portable read/write storage. We all carry it around because the vendors haven’t bothered to figure out how to give us reasonable storage management at the personal level.

  6. Here’s an interview with Roy Want, the guy who wrote the article. He gets a chance to talk about some of the aspects and implications of the device in more detail.

  7. Still thinking about this. As far as I can tell, there are three classes of data that I care about:

    #1) Memory. I define these as smallish data files which tell applications to behave (preferences), how to configure themselves (bookmarks), and what to remember (think the NetNewsWire preference file which states which feeds are read or not).

    #2) Documents. Everything else. Photos, music, documents, logs, mail.

    #3) Binaries. Applications and Operating Systems.

    The biggest difference between #2/#3 and #1 is that Documents and Binaries are numerous and large. This makes the process of moving them around laborious and unreliable. Memory files are small, they should always fit nicely on a USB memory stick.


  8. Years ago, well before these little portable USB drives started showing up, I decided that what I really wanted was a storage device that fit on my keyring. Something that feels safe and solid, moreso than a creditcard-style device; I wouldn’t want to put something important in my wallet, since I sit on it every day. Something that would be stupidly simple for anybody who’s ever unlocked a door to use. To heck with wireless, just let me walk up to a computer, stick my keydrive in, and have access to the data.

    The current crop of USB-keyring devices are a step in the right direction, but they lack the solidity they need for people to feel safe about using them. They also lack a decent plug-type, since USB was really designed for cables and not for dongle-like things hanging directly off the system; they have no retension mechanism to keep the drive in place while you’re working.

    Such a thing would also need some kind of hardware-level security built into the specification. Since biometrics aren’t here yet (and won’t be for a long time), some sort of integrated encryption with a keyphrase would probably be good enough. Base it on E4M or one of its descendents.

    Anyway. This is the sort of thing that -I- want. Everybody’s going to have different tastes, but personally I think the idea of people walking around with their personal data on their keychains is a sensible concept.

  9. james 21 years ago

    and if you lose your keychain…? has a couple of biometric security devices, but unless you could slot a fingerprint scanner on the back of a keychain type thing(not taking into consideration the fragility of these scanner-pads) then i don’t think i trust myself with all my personal info on my person.

    you could get mugged, then the next day have all the contents of your private writings, images, etc etc splashed across god-knows-where.

    i guess it’s all about a balance between convienence and security and then deciding what is comfortable for the individual.

  10. I wouldn’t want the personal server/keychain thing to hold the only (or even the primary) version of my data. I’d still want to keep that on my PC on my desk. I’d use it as a portable backup that I could carry anywhere. If I made updates while I was on the road, I’d want to sync it back with the original when I got home.

    Never, *ever* rely on just one copy of critical data….

  11. Klaatu 21 years ago

    Take my word for it, We have one of those fingerprint security scanners at work and the dang thing breaks down all the time. Using one of those safety devices makes me think of squirrels that spend all their time burying their nuts during the Fall, only to forget where they buried them. I would like the keyring device that I could upload via wireless or USB cable at night, though.

  12. Orion 21 years ago

    Would anyone go for such a device as Rands has described if it were, for example, subdural?

    Assume for the moment that there is a safe and reliable way of getting the data out to you, that is. Direct to optic nerve or to the part of the brain that controls sight.

    Or have I been reading too much goddamned Gibson again?

  13. actmodern 21 years ago

    Orion, I’m not sticking a usb device into my head. I’ll happily connect it to a SCSI cable though.

  14. xfrosch 21 years ago

    ok, I skimmed the want interview.

    it sounds more practical now. it could work really well over X11 or VNC.

    Microsoft would never give away the client software though, so the premise of “any PC” is bullshit. What the man really means is “any PC running WINDOZE XP# PROFESSIONAL.NET OF LUV 2038+++”, or whatever Microsoft is calling their un-crippled desktop product by then.

    Worse yet, they’d probably make you buy a server license for the little blue box.

  15. Ryan Steele 21 years ago

    I’m not convinced we need this. Internet access these days is becoming so widespread that just about any computer you sit down at is connected. If there’s something that I need on my computer I log in with VNC and look it up.

    What I would like, however, is a method of authentication that is not vulnerable to keystroke logging. Perhaps a USB keychain would be good for this…

  16. James, note the “some sort of integrated encryption with a keyphrase” bit? Integrate some level of security into the actual hardware spec, so you don’t have to worry about somebody’s system not having the right kind of software to read your encrypted stuff.

    And you’d always want backups, of course. Automated backup software for your keyring-drive is the sort of “value-added” stuff that implementors could use to make extra profits and differenciate their products from others.

    Of course, this sort of technology isn’t terribly useful unless it’s already ubiquitous, which makes getting it into common use a bit problematic. Oh well. Nice pipe dream, anyway.