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?