Some OS Developments I'd Like To See Become More Ubiquitous
So I loaded into my Debian system. The power management in KDE is pretty good. Admittedly KDE's standby and hibernate stink, but the CPU throttling is a godsend. So I start watching my DVD and about 40 minutes later, as my battery is forcing out its last gasps, I think to myself, "why do I need a fully featured OS running to watch a DVD?"
I've been thinking about this question and it is more puzzling than it seems. Why can't my computer act as a DVD player as well as a computer without having to do both? My idea was that a computer that set to boot from the CD drive first (as most are) would check to see what the disk is. If it was a bootable disk (a la knoppix) it would boot. If it was an audio CD, it would play the audio. If it was a DVD, it would start the DVD; both using some minimal multimedia player that doesn't even touch the hard drive.
Then I started thinking, why couldn't the music player that played the CD, also play mp3s from the hard drive? Ditto for playing avis or movs. Unfortunately that leads to the slippery slope; loading filesystem drivers, media codecs, spinning hard drives, and some sort of OS environment. Sounds strangely like a very light linux distro. (Like geexbox I suppose, though it would have to install rather than just be a live CD).
Macs already have something like this. They have a number of neato boot modes. The neatest is 'disk mode.' By holding "T" when the computer is turned on, the computer acts like an external drive. Connect it to other computers and they'll see an external drive (I think it'd be neat if you could do this without rebooting your mac, while in OSX, but for technical reasons, especially problesm with more than one machine mounting a single hard drive, that may not be possible). That kind of idea is what should go into this new boot mode.
A mini OS is an option, but the general public wants something that comes with their computer. Currently I have a triple boot, DSL (my media player that fits what I want closest), Debian and Windows XP. But why couldn't a bootup multimedia player be implemented in the BIOS? I started looking around and it seems my idea (as usual) is a little late.
This article came out today. It is a nice writeup on what both Toshiba and HP are doing with a few (as much as 80% in Toshibas case) of their laptops. You can get it now in the Toshiba Qosmio series, or the HP dv1000. These laptops will have a multimedia player that will start on boot without loading an entire desktop environment. The Toshiba Qosmio series is expensive (it has a lot of multimedia stuff packed in there) but the dv1000 is less than $1000.
Why is this a good idea? Other than the obvious power management reasons I see two major advantages to this setup. First load times will be negligable. Second the media player will be more stable. Have you ever had, in the middle of a DVD, a virus scan or something fire up? Something blue screen? Plus, if you killed your OS, at least you still have a functional DVD player!
All in all I was glad to see other people, far smarter than I am, implementing this. As long as this feature continues to expand, I know my next laptop will have it.