Become a fan of Slashdot on Facebook


Forgot your password?
DEAL: For $25 - Add A Second Phone Number To Your Smartphone for life! Use promo code SLASHDOT25. Also, Slashdot's Facebook page has a chat bot now. Message it for stories and more. Check out the new SourceForge HTML5 Internet speed test! ×
User Journal

Journal Journal: Do Plants have lower entropy than animals?

Well do they? the fact that I can burn wood would seem to indicate to me that trees are at a lower entropy state - they have stored energy that can be released by oxidisation (burning).

Why do I care? I am intrigued by the notion if plants evolved before animals (which they did) then animals could be an entropic inevitability. The universe is working towards a higher entropy state, the out-pouring of energy from the sun being perhaps the most visible local example of this. If plants collect and store usable energy then they are lowering the universe's entropy a little - some of the sun's energy is locked-up and therfore not available to heat the rest of the universe.

Therefore the universe needed a way of unlocking this energy, and the faster the better, therefore animals evolved to break down the plants. If this is the case then there are some far reaching consequences.

It affects our place in the scheme of things, we may be top of the food chain, but that makes us bottom of the entropy chain. Plants are not here to provide for us, we are here to digest plants.

It also suggests that our current voraceous appetite for burning carbon is somehow our destiny. Entropy will not be satisfied until we destroy all plant life on the planet...

User Journal

Journal Journal: Business in a Box - OSS Integration Exercise

I've been using Open Source Software to help start-ups and small businesses for a few years now and about a month ago I came up with the "Business in a Box" concept.

The idea is to have a box (well actually a range of "boxes" or options) which contain all the server-side apps a start-up or small business is likly to need. By Small Business/Start-up I have in mind anything from 1 to 30 people performing activities such as ordering, invoicing, stock control, operating a small call-centre for sales and support, maintaining a website, sending out mail-shots (electronic or paper).

The big idea is to be able to deploy a standardised set up and have a business up and running in a few days, so that it is answering the phones, knows who its customers are, knows what they are buying, what stock they have, all the things that a business needs to function effectively.

The range of "boxes" runs from a hosted service through to a rack containing a couple of servers (for fail-over), UPS, Firewall, Network Switch and an Asterisk phone switch. The applications would include VoIP telephony (may be from Skype or another provider for the hosted service), accounts, CRM, Email, Content/Document management, File/Print server. (I am specifically avoiding Payroll as the tax rules in different countries make it difficult to provide a standard application, also most small businesses outsource this activity at relatively low cost).

The "box" would run a standardised set of aplications so that support could be provided by a range of suppliers, avoiding a business becoming tied to a particular support organsiation. Also there would be a standardised set up process, and a well defined migration path from the hosted service (aimed at 1-5 person organisations) to the multi-server rack unit for 20-30 people.

Business-in-a-Box is client agnostic i.e. Clients can be Windows, Linux, Mac, BSD ... anything. This is important because bsuiness may have particular client needs, may already have skills is certain client-side applications etc.

All of the necessary sever-side applications exist as OSS, here's my list:

Server OS, Firewall
File server (non Linux Clients)
Mail server
VoIP/Phone Switch
CRM - Customer Relationship Management
Xinco or Contineo
Document Management - haven't investigated these packages in any detail

What is needed here is INTEGRATION. By picking a standard set of applications and bringing them together it allows the OSS Community to Integrate them. We need the Phone switch integrated to the CRM; the CRM integrated with the Accounts; sales and purchasing integrated with the stock control and CRM; website integrated with CRM, stock control and sales. On top of this we need management reporting and it needs to be robust and secure.

The concept can then be deployed and supported by small, local IT/Computer/Software Shops (themselves small businesses using this system) who can contribute code back to the project. The concept would then be backed by a global network with some knind of standardisation comittee accepting fixes and enhancements an making regular releases of upgrades and new functionality.

So what am I doing about this? I really believe in this idea and if I had the time I would be doing the integration, not publishing here! But since I don't have the time I'm putting the idea here in the vain hope that the community will rally round and start gluing a bunch of disparate applications together. There are TWO KEY THINGS that would make this work

  • Picking a set of applications (like the list above) and sticking to it
  • Ensuring robustness and standardisation

So lets get going :-) My Site

User Journal

Journal Journal: The Computerless Office 1

Here's an idea I've been peddling for a few years and it meets with a range of comments from "what a load of bollocks" to "the future" so I thought I'd give it an airing here (as if anyone is going to read my Slashdot Journal...)

The name "computerless office" is a reaction to all those people who push the idea of a paperless office - it has never happened and it never will. Paper is easy to transport, easy to modify, works with no power - it JUST WORKS!

By Computerless office, I don't mean an office with no computers, but an office where you cannot see the computers, where there is no "apparent" hardware on the desktop. One of the fundamental problems of the current desktop technology is that it is a multi-function tool. One machine is expected to be everything from word processing to games to printing to DVD burning - most of that functionality is not used most of the time. It is a general truth that multifunction tools are never as good as one dedicated to a single purpose (why has the Swiss Army Knife not replaced all the tools in your tool box?).

The "computers" in the computerless office are wireless connected devices that are similar to sheets of paper (i.e. are very thin/lightweight and there are many of them). Theses devices can be modified with a pen or pen type device and the paper transmits the mods back to a persistent store. The paper retains it state for as long as the user needs, when finished with it is cleared and re-used.

This means that all your current working documents would be in a pile on your desk, you can work on several at once, scribble numbers on a piece of scrap and have them add up. All the functionality is there (Word-processing, Email, Spreadsheet, Bespoke Apps), the interface has just changed from a key board and screen to something like a piece of paper.

chris hunter

Slashdot Top Deals

COMPASS [for the CDC-6000 series] is the sort of assembler one expects from a corporation whose president codes in octal. -- J.N. Gray