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Monday, October 04, 2004digital disruptions quite recently. Here we are seeing this in action (Via Cringley) sign Of things to come in broadband technology Cringley writes,Andrew Greig put a WiFi access point in his house so he could share his broadband Internet connection. But like hardly any of us, Andrew uses his WiFi network for Internet, television, and telephone. He cancelled his telephone line and cable TV service. Then his neighbors dropped-by, saw what Andrew had done, and they cancelled their telephone and cable TV services, too, many of them without having a wired broadband connection of their own. They get their service from Andrew, who added an inline amplifier and put a better antenna in his attic. Now most of Andrew's neighborhood is watching digital TV with full PVR capability, making unmetered VoIP telephone calls, and downloading data at prodigious rates thanks to shared bandwidth. Is this the future of home communications and entertainment? It could be, five years from now, if Andrew Greig has anything to say about it.Somewhere in Andrew's house is a hefty Linux server running many applications, including an Asterisk Open Source VoIP software PBX. There is no desktop PC in Andrew's house. Instead, he runs a Linux thin client on a Sharp Zaurus SL-6000 Linux PDA. Sitting in its cradle on Andrew's desk at home, the Zaurus (running a special copy of Debian Linux, NOT as shipped by Sharp) connects to a full-size keyboard and VGA display, and runs applications on the server. Another cradle, monitor and keyboard are at Andrew's office, where he also doesn't have a PC. Walking around in his house, the Zaurus (equipped with a tri-mode communications card) is a WiFi VoIP phone running through the Asterisk PBX and connecting to the Vonage VoIP network. Walking out of his house, the Zaurus automatically converts to the local mobile phone carrier, though with a data connection that still runs back through Vonage. At Starbucks, it's a Wifi Vonage phone. At Andrew's office, it is a WiFi extension to the office Asterisk PBX AND to Andrew's home PBX. That's one PDA doing the job of two desktop PCs, a notebook PC, and three telephones. Andrew's server runs Myth TV, an Open Source digital video recorder application, storing on disk in MPEG-4 format (1.5-2 megabits-per-second) more than 30,000 TV episodes, movies and MP3 music files. "As each new user comes online, I add another TV card to the system so they can watch live TV," says Andrew, "but since there are only so many episodes of SpongeBob SquarePants, nearly everything that isn't news or sports is typically served from disk with full ability to jump forward or back at will. We've reached the point now where the PVR has so much in storage already that it is set to simply record anything that isn't already on disk." The lesson here, is that Open Source software is leading to digital devices being used in large volumes in ways their designers never envisioned. This takes control of the network out of the hands of the providers and into the hands of the users. Whole new business models will appear to take advantage of the fact that all types of communications and all types of content will be able to reach all parts of the market with almost no friction.
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