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a man slumped on his desk, from 'The Sleep of Reason Produces



video from “living on the edge”, opentech 2008

Here’s the Zapruder footage of my talk about the cloud and the edge. And, yes, I do appreciate the rich rich irony that I’m hosting this on a video-sharing site, and apologies if it makes you a bit travel sick. Be warned that it cuts out at about 24 minutes, just when I manage to get vaguely serious — the points I make after that are covered in just as rambling way in the original posts.

Not much blogging for the next 24 hours, as I’m about to disappear off to have a (non-scary) medical thing done, for which I will be pleasantly sedated. With a bit of luck, I’ll be deluded enough to blog while on fentanyl, and we can all have a laugh.

23 Responses to “video from “living on the edge”, opentech 2008”

  1. Paging Mr Driftwood » Edge Says:

    […] about what I think is an important and revolutionary idea for a while. This is an awfully shot video of him trying to explain it. Bear with it. Not only are there important social issues here but also […]

  2. Neil Says:

    Seems to cut out at the end?

  3. dannyobrien Says:

    Oh noes! It does cut out! How painful. I will try and upload it again.

  4. dannyobrien Says:

    Apparently, that’s when the video ran out. Unofficial crowdsourced samizdat video!

  5. Living on the Edge: Danny O’Brien’s talk about moving our personal info off Web 2.0 and onto our computers | MashTopic Says:

    […] Link, Link to slides […]

  6. Sam from OpenTech Says:

    the audio recording of this talk will be up on the OpenTech site as soon as the speakers have approved it. I’ll try and get round to asking them to today :)

  7. James Says:

    What about cost?

    I like the idea of running my website from my own house, however, that would mean:
    1) I’d have to leave my machine on all the time, and I turn it off overnight to save electricity and therefore money
    2) My ISP bandwidth limit might be reached and I’d have to pay more.
    – ironically my bandwidth cap is higher at night when my machine is off.

    But the point about RSS feeds and blog content is interesting….(thinking)….

  8. Ken Kennedy Says:

    Sam: outstanding, thanks! Great topic.

  9. dannyobrien Says:

    James –

    So my MacMini draws about 5W idle, 20W under normal use, allegedly. I vaguely remember using my Kill-A-Watt watt meter on my set-up, and getting an average of 16W.

    At current Californian rates of 13 cents a kW, that would cost me about $20 a year ((0.024*16)*0.13*365 = $18.22)). In the UK, according to stats ganked from Charlie Stross’s estimate of 11p per kW about wall warts, it would come to
    about fourteen quid a year (0.024*16*0.11*365 == 15.4176). Obviously, you’re already paying some of that by using the computer anyway, and a hosting service would cost you money.

    Unless you’re sharing very large files, in which case you’re better off distributing the load (through bittorrent or *shame* bouncing it to something like S3 nearer the center), you’re unlikely to hit any bandwidth caps. And as you say, distributed what you do download to overnight would help your cap overall.

    Sixteen watts is not much for a home PC (with a monitor, some desktop machines closer to 100-200W), but it’s certainly not as low as we can imagine this going. An EeePC draws about 10W, the OLPC draws 2W. Perhaps most realistically, a WiFi router draws about 3.25W. That’s really where you want to stick a home server — you’ll need it on anyway, its got an external IP, it’s designed to work 24/7, and there’s a fine tradition of running them with a full OS. A 5W server will run for a fiver a year.

  10. Sam Says:

    Danny’s session audio is now up –

    the rest will follow as soon as we sort out all the vetting.

  11. Vanessa Williams Says:

    Well, it sounds like a wonderful idea. We certainly thought it was. Started a company. Built a network. Made a demo app and everything. The problem was solved. We proved it worked… and nobody cared.

    Specifically, no one would give us any funding to take it further. VCs are all about the Cloud this and the Cloud that. And Facebook widgets, of course. They just couldn’t care less about something different.

    I guess the moral of the story is that bucking the trend might be a cool technical challenge and socially responsible and all that… but it’ll get you nowhere, business-wise. And then you’ll have to close your doors and kiss all your founder investment goodbye and start looking for work. Not that I’m bitter ;-)

    For the record, the company was called oponia networks. You can probably still download the demo app for a little while longer (, but we’re not maintaining it anymore so I won’t guarantee it will work (probably does–the infrastructure is still up and running.) It’s so easy even your grandma can use it (many of our beta testers were moms and dads who wanted to share photos with their families without uploading them to Yahoo!) You don’t need to know anything about port-forwarding or any of that nonsense. It just works.

    We’re in the process of selling the core network technology to a company that’s going to use it for remote device management. There was simply no consumer market there that we could take advantage of. Sad, really. We wanted to change the world, but the world doesn’t want to be changed right now.

  12. dannyobrien Says:

    Don’t be sad! I think that’s almost the mark of a good idea is that you can’t get those sort of people interested. If VC is interested, it’s got to be doomed. If you want to change the world, talk the venture capitalists afterwards. It’s amazing how quickly you can get them to go your way when they see the cars upside-down and on fire outside their lovely homes.

    I also admit that I thought that a simple-to-use share-with-your-friends folder syncing program would rule the world by now, and was certainly hand-waving for one a few years back. I think what happened is that no one protocol (and there are a lot of products in this area) got it right and got widespread enough. There’s lots of reasons to think that will change in the next few years though. If I was you (and I’m not, so you should ignore me), don’t sell it: open source the fucker, keep working on it while you’re doing soul-destroying contract work, and then let it boil in the world for a while.

  13. Liz Says:

    Hey Vanessa,
    Y’all could release your nifty “sharing on a stick” program open source and see what happens. Why not have a shot at changing the world without kissing ass on venture capital?

  14. Vanessa Williams Says:

    Thanks for your kind words. The problem is that we took it as far as we could without further funding. We had to run some managed infrastructure and hardware isn’t free. We needed people to help me administer the boxen and write code. We’d been working on it for 3 years solid, but there’s a limit to how much we could do all by ourselves and without any hope of getting paid. We all had to eat and just couldn’t go on without some more investment. As for open sourcing it… well, that still might happen. But even if it does, it will require people to be willing to run and manage infrastructure for the good of other people. Maybe that will happen too. I guess it isn’t over ’till it’s over.

    I guess the same comments apply. It may get open sourced. But we took money from friends and family and we need to take a shot at getting them back at least some of their money if we can. That’s why we’re selling it. Even if it does get open sourced, that won’t solve all the problems. Managed infrastructure is required, and people willing to provide it and administer it for the good of others. We’ll see…



  15. Rob Wissmann Says:

    What about

    It’s an online distributed file system that provides sharing and storage. You could, if you were so inclined, build a twitter/flickr/gmail/whatever on top of it since once it’s on it’s accessible like a regular drive.

  16. dannyobrien Says:

    Yep, there’s a few versions of distributed fs there: is where I keep a list of the free software implementations. As Vanessa says, the challenge if you want to do a closed source version is what happens if the money runs out for whoever is running that. It doesn’t necessarily mean the end of your use — people are still using WASTE after all. But I’m not sure you’d want to build other services on top of it. OTOH if it’s just exposed as a filesystem, you don’t need to worry about the implementation…

  17. laclasse Says:

    Was present at ukuug for this opentech talk, brillant presentation, lots of humour on controversial subjects. Let us know if a complete and possibly better quality video becomes available. 10/10, you made the day. Cheers.

  18. poindexter, who? » Pulling data back Says:

    […] Danny O’Brien has a good talk about this at OpenTech. […]

  19. mustakl » Blog Archive » Living on the edge… Says:

    […] a very shaky video or an audio feed to choose […]

  20. bitsenbloc » Blog Archive » Recuperant la llibertat, l’autonomia i la intimitat Says:

    […] Aquestes no són, ni de bon troç, idees noves. L’entorn dels Exploradors Electrònics les ha estat escrivint als seus blogs des de fa molt de temps. De totes maneres, Danny O’Bryan, les presenta força bé en aquesta conferència: […]

  21. » Blog Archive » You Put Your Data in Their Cloud Says:

    […] Here’s a video of Danny O’Brien convincing you not to put your data in cloud computing services, like 3rd party email, web document editors, photo hosting sites, social networking sites, and the like. He argues a) why would you give your own data, including your most personal data, to an anonymous corporate mediator to store in any case and b) we can probably get the same always-on effortless sharing and still store our data on our own boxes through the magic of technology. The video is terrible. But the idea seems awfully good. […]

  22. Danny O’Brien’s Oblomovka » Blog Archive » digging tahoe; wattage update; @fontface! Says:

    […] I mention more than one thing, for the love of the metadata. But these are really throwaway items: we discussed how much power a home server draws, and I pulled figures from beyond my arse, but I’ve just run Kill-A-Watt on my old MacMini […]

  23. Robot Monkeys :: Reverse FriendFeed Says:

    […] Danny O’Brien’s Living on the Edge [slides] [more] [even more] […]


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My employer has enough opinions of its own, without having to have mine too.