Nerddom in a post-PC world

Hey, nerds! Everyone has gone post-PC! People even do their email on a smudged glarey-glossy tablet! Your data is “in the cloud”, not in your home!

How do we keep our nerddom in this crazy, dumbed-down world? Tablets and smartphones are pretty hermetically closed compared to the PC. If you want to tinker with them, you will probably have to flash a new OS onto one, and most manufacturers don’t want you to do that. Even if you do, you only reclaim some of the freedom we’ve had on general-purpose PCs for decades.

So where to train your geek skills? RaspberryPi, OLinuXino and other SoC-based mini-PCs? Yeah, that’s fun. But if we get all our fun from the fact that we need to get stuff working on a different CPU architecture than we’re used to, with cross-compiling added to the toolchain as extra stumbling block, with a boot process that differs from system to system and buses that make Linus angry, what have we achieved?

We’re only repeating history on a miniaturized scale and with the accumulated wisdom of battling x86 for decades. Despite ARMs relative openness, we now get to spend a few years reimplementing things we’ve been taking for granted in the x86 world and so we’re stuck in a hamster wheel.

By the time we’re done, the average person will be able to run an OS of choice easily on their ARM-based home automation system, they might be flashing an updated version of a phone OS onto a device the manufacturer has long abandoned. People might be curious about getting their data back into their own hands, and how to share it between devices, and we’ll have the software for that. We’ll have to continue to be ten years ahead of the market, not just for proper geek credibility but because it’s important for society.

We will have done the homework that the industry refuses to do because it’s uncomfortable or unprofitable or unglamorous. Hey, that’s creepy. Doesn’t it feel like we’ve done that before?

2 thoughts on “Nerddom in a post-PC world”

  1. > Everyone has gone post-PC! People even do their email on a smudged glarey-glossy tablet!
    >Your data is “in the cloud”, not in your home!

    That’s a problem you’re describing, not a mere state of things.
    I don’t see why we should take this for granted at all.’

    “Everyone” has not gone post-PC. Who’s everyone, anyway? Apparently your definition does not include me.

    I would not be found dead using a tiny virtual keyboard painstakingly entering text with one hand, the other occupied holding a device, and some braindead algorithm ‘guessing’ what I’m going to type. And my data, the part that I have any say in, is not in “the clown”, and never will be. I don’t see why I would ever want to use hardware that I don’t have full control over, (and that has a full-sized keyboard, or storage that I don’t own.) I stopped using even stupid cellphones, back in 2005. And I will not be using one until I have full control over it, hardware/software, it uses a communications tech that does not break down my cell’s DNA, does not screw up my blood-brain-barrier, does not deeply disturb my hormonal balance, and does not track my position all the time.

    Instead of bending over to big data and “manufacturers” and asking ourselves “what will we do in such and such a world”, we should take the fight to them, evolve our Geek hardware/software skills and make our own devices, using sane tech. Either everyone else realises ours retain freedom, and everyone switches, or they don’t and Geek remain the only free citizens of the world.

    There’s FPGA’s, and I hear they’re fun. Communicate with light instead of microwaves, mesh it all, encrypt everything. Peer-to-peer everything. Decentralize. There are no authorities. There are no patents. We Are Geek. We do whatever we like. These are not problems, these are challenges.


  2. I’m also not part of that everyone and glad you aren’t, either! 🙂

    I sometimes get a strange feeling in the pit of my stomach when I read the mainstream press talk about “post-PC” and “tablets are the only thing that counts and sells”, etc. And there are some symtpoms of this also in people I know. “I don’t have a computer anymore, I do everything ony my tablet” is something I actually heard from real live people. How long until this turns into “lol u still have a pc lol? u must be a gamer lol!!!”?

    I completely agree with you that people have the choice of either controlling their hardware or taking any manufacturer’s creative output blindly up the arse. It’s a bit saddening that this leaves them only with the choice to “go geek” or not.

    But I like the positive twist. We’ve been doing this for longer than the PC market even existed, elite hackers like Bob Metcalfe prepared the playing field for this sort of thing even in the 60s and 70s.

    If we make sure that we can always provide a transparent alternative to the intransparent machinations of the industry, we’ll have a home for any non-nerds to return to when they realize they might have given away too much control over their lives to random entities.

    I was lured into the fairyland of web-based services by Google and the like myself, it took some effort to escape but now I’m removing the last few blemishes and it feels pretty good! I can only recommend that 🙂


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