Computer Crime Research Center

Upgrading PCs can be easier
(By Ted Como)

From the subject line of the e-mail message from Computerworld, I thought one of my ideas finally had been recognized for its sheer genius and was now in production. But "Removable hard-disk system to be unveiled at CES" referred to one of those little memory chips that go into digital cameras.

Certainly, we need smaller chips with greater capacity for portable devices. But when are manufacturers going to get their act together and design a desktop computer that makes replacing or upgrading hardware as simple as changing a light bulb - in fact, simpler?

The hardware technology exists. And with WindowsXP, so does the basic operating software.

What a computer ought to be is a box about half the size of present cases which are mostly filled with hot air. At the front of the box would be the on and reset switches, combination CD and DVD reader/burner, a bank of jacks for audio, USB, Firewire, etc., and - here's the genius part - two empty slots.

At the back of the box are the typical connections you see on any computer and along the side are two banks of four slots each.

What are those slots for? Your hard drive, for one thing. Also: your video card, memory modules, other CD ROMs and/or burners, audio device, etc. and etc. Whatever you want to replace or add to your computer, you slide into a slot - any slot. The device is automatically installed and configured. Want to add a second hard drive? Just slap that puppy in there and start writing to it. Want to change your video module? Yank out the old one and insert the replacement and you're good to go.

No more fiddling around with screws and catches to get the cover off the box. No more consulting an engineer to figure out how to offload your old video drivers. And no more of that language you learned in the military trying to get something to work.

Even with the latest operating systems for PC, Apple and especially Linux, users still have system problems and installing a new device or board inside the computer can be beyond frustrating.

It ought not be that way and it doesn't have to be that way.

But one of my schemes actually has taken root. Years ago I wondered why it was that no one had launched (let's call it) Kids Net, a protected network of user sites for children or teens and the only network or Web site that a computer set up in your child's bedroom can access. There would be no more concern about kids accessing porn sites or chat rooms outside the network.

I think the idea's worth a fortune: you charge a monthly access fee not only to client machines in homes, but to the Web sites which want to be represented. With two income streams and no product to manufacture or ship, you couldn't lose.

But you can't win unless you take the step and while I discussed this notion with a programmer three or four years ago, I never acted on it. I read recently that something along these lines is now in development - another million-dollar idea lost.

Here are some other ideas/ wishes/ predictions for the new year:

Desktop computers on broadband connections are "always on." We need to develop always-on connectivity and inter-communication capability for everything else: PDAs, pagers, cell phones, notebooks, etc., so that information tracks you down wherever you may be and in whatever form you can be accessed.

Speaking of all those remote devices, certainly before the end of next year we'll see a small, portable device that will be a combination PDA, pager, cell phone and notebook computer, and which will access the Internet, your telephone service provider and your home and/or office PC.

The next service pack for XP Home should return system backup. The utility is missing in Windows XP Home. You can install it from the XP CD but it won't do much good since the automatic restore function seen in Win98 is not supported in XP Home.

We'll see processor speeds reach 5GHz by year's end.

What's with portable MP3 players anyway - why don't they also receive FM and AM radio? For that matter, when are we going to see portable Internet radios?

Employers concerned about viruses, spam and lost productivity, will begin to filter e-mail.

Federal law blocks distribution of pornography across state lines by electronic means.

Stay tuned for a cyberterrorism event especially if we attack Iraq - which we will do within eight to 12 weeks.

The Linux operating system will continue to advance against Windows and by year's end, will have replaced Unix (let's also hope that the number of Linux distributions is reduced through consolidation.)

Wireless home networks will take off this year, allowing more folks to tap into their neighbor's wireless connection for free Internet access.

The peer-to-peer approach to fighting spam will effectively shut it down from home systems.

Before year's end, digital imaging will finally take the lead over cameras using film.

2002 holiday season results will demonstrate how rapidly Internet shopping is growing, forcing Internet sales tax laws to replace lost government revenue.

We won't see a terabyte hard drive (1,000 gigabytes) this year, but maybe in 2004.

The very best of a new year to you and your family.

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