The Future of Portable Files.

Back when I was in college, I took a course called the "Senior Capstone Lab."

In the class, I gave a powerpoint presentation using an XP workstation, a plug-and-play projector, and a USB-key. I played the presentation directly from the key. USB keys had been out-and-about in the world for some time but my school was slow to adopt and I was one of the early adopters.

I predicted that in the near future we would see USB keys becoming a common pocket-toy for many engineers and anyone who needed mobile access to documents in a format that didn't scratch or dent, and could be thrown on a keychain and carried anywhere. The portability, reliability, and conevnience of having an entire briefcases resources in a package the size of a lighter was ideal for many day-to-day uses.

I projected that in the future we'd see USB keys expand to fill other needs. Electronic key systems (easy to implement electronic locks, complete with encryption schemes for the files storing pass-keys, would make it possible to carry a single 'key' for all of your locks, home, car, and office). And that eventually we might see most of the features of a computer offloaded to such a device. After all, with a docking port, input and monitor, you could theoretically compute from anywhere.

We're one step closer to that now, with Flashpoint Sharedrives, from Xmultiple. They're a relatively simple device, with some big implications. The device allows you to share data with other flashpoint drives without any computer on hand by direct-connection. In fact, you can even drawn data from someone else's drive using the "load" feature, even if it isn't a sharedrive.

The convenience of such a sharing might make the question of peer-to-peer obsolete. As drive sizes expand and we begin to see possible multi-gigabyte thumbdrives on the horizon, we could share movies, music, and pirated software without ever uploading a single bit or byte to the net, via the old sneakernet that we used in middleschool and high school to trade shareware games. Only now we don't have to carry the media with us. We just hit a button and keep the data on a permanent drive that we never have to give away or exchange.

It is an interesting concept. It is a facet of the future.

Of course, the counterpoint is that someone could steal all your portable files by hitting 'load' if they hacked their sharedrive to take everything from your key instead of just from the specified subfolder. How long before this sort of information becomes the premise for a new trick in the next Mission Impossible or James Bond film? It'll probably happen within two years.

I feel like Dr. Suess all of a sudden.

"We do tricks with bits and bytes,
we play games with sound and light!"

And coming soon:

"Fox on Socks downloads some rocks
uses rocks to break RIAA locks!"

Friday, July 08, 2005


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