Education and the Cloud

August 21, 2009

A bit off topic but worth mentioning…

There is so many great things happening today with how we all use the Internet, computing devices, software that its just hard to keep up.

Lately I’ve had to look more into several things, some known for a while some just stumbled on.

The group producing TurnKey Linux applications has always been interesting in their approach to applications deployment.    Their collection to Open-Source applications has been growing steadily.   Take a look and try one out.   In just a few minutes you can have a top server/service application up and running.

An interesting product I also bought to play with was the Marvell electronics SheevaPlug Development kit… about $120 … I still wonder about all the things you could do with this technology.   Marvell is a leading custom silicon manufacturer and their Plug Computer technology is way cool to work with.    I got several and one was configured in 20 minutes as a Samba server for my house.  I’d connected a 250Gig mini usb hard drive to it with all my music and let the really tiny Plug computer serve music to all the devices in my house.

So my future plan involves a 6 Port USB 2.0 self powered hub connecting 3 – 500 Gig mini-USB drives to 3 PowerPlugs computers.

The 1Gig E port on each of the PowerPlug Computers connected to my hub on the back of my Wireless N router.

For my fooling,  this will basically become 1.5Tbytes storage with 3 – 1.2 GHZ ARM processors each with their respective 512Meg FLASH,  512Meg DDR memory.    Adding 16GB or 32GB USB Flash RAM  to each Plug Computer will give them plenty of intermediate speed memory and since Ubuntu Linux is preinstalled it can take advantage of it all.

Sort of like a poor-man’s mini data center. $100 ea for the PowerPlug Computers, $100 ea for the USB mini-drives, $40 ea for the 16GB Flash, $35 for the 6 port USB hub

TOTAL: around $700.00

OH… and for the GREEN of you…

Each Sheeva Plug Computer uses less than 5 Watts and since USB 2.0 offers 2.5W @ 5V to each connected device (in our case 3 USB mini-hard drives)…

Our $700 Mini-Data Center runs on less power than a 30 Watt Light Bulb !!

Imagine the kinds of things you could do with that kind of setup running this shoe-box size mini-server farm — say an Apache WWW server, Email Server, low-end SQL.    You might run for a brewski when the idea hits you but all that technology really did fit in a shoe-box… I only had to cut a hole in the side for the power & ethernet cables.    Think about that for a second.     I forgot to mention that included my Open-Mesh wireless G connectivity (described in a bit).

I’ll try to post a picture later.

Yes and for the neh-sayers…

  • Yeah the mini-USB 2.0 drives only provide thruput of SCSI or eSATA,
  • and the ARM processors don’t have arithmetic coprocessing capability
  • the DRAM is just 512M and additional currently has to be via slower FLASH memory

But less than 5 years ago you’d have paid thousands for these same capability and it would have taken a Rack to hold it all.

Again, I can’t begin to think of all the things you could do with this kind of stuff.

Check it out what a GlobalScale’s GuruPlug Server provides for $130.    GlobalScale uses the Marvell chipsets.

Whats in the GuruPlug Server Package

eSata, USB, Gigabit EthernetMarvell has released new chipsets/boards that are even adding Wireless LAN and BlueTooth.

GuruPlug Server System

Next on my piqued interest list was when I found Open-Mesh’s Open-Mesh“mesh” wireless technology products.

Open Mesh wireless router

Almost incredibly easy to setup (5 minutes tops) and based on Open Source and standards.     Thee devices are really inexpensive ($29-$59) but the Open-Mesh Wireless networking technology is another really cool idea that I think will have people inventing ways to utilize it more besides coffee shops where  you drink your hot Java and work or check Facebook and Linked-In.

What blew me away was how great their free wireless management system was.    Its Open-Mesh’s Wireless Dashboard … make sure you take a look and think about what you are seeing for a bit.

Open Mesh Wireless - Dashboard

It was great to set it all up then see a Google Map on my PC showing all the Open-Mesh nodes overlaid on the map as icons.

Open-Mesh provides a free administration, alerting and mapping system called the “dashboard”.  It allows you to configure the SSIDs, splash page, passwords, and user bandwith for your network.

Click on a red/yellow/green icon and get details of the Node’s status, traffic etc.   These Open-Mesh devices support only Wireless G now but I understand N is in the works.   Heck, hard to pass up at $29-$59 each considering the wireless capabilities & more importantly free wireless mgmt you are getting with the Mesh Wireless Routing.

But lets get back to my over all theme…

Maybe the mini-datacenter  will get wedded to the Open-Mesh wireless boxes and produce smarter kids by adding  computing capabilities to schools more inexpensively !!!

Maybe … get it ??    With this economy – Help your community and help your schools… it helps kids and as the old saying goes

Kids may only be 30% of the population BUT GUARANTEED they are 100% of tomorrow. !




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