03 February 2013

On computers and cameras as containers

In a traditional cold-season home activity, I've spent a while recently setting up a "new" server system on my home network. I'm quoting "new" because it's a repurposed desktop PC that's about a decade old, retrofitted with Linux and more disk capacity than its designers probably ever envisioned as being connected to its SATA ports.  It's working well for now, though. It's entirely possible that its aging power supply may die or that its motherboard may fail. Power supplies aren't hard to replace, but finding appropriately sized and cabled motherboards might be harder.  The important thing, though, is my data; if the surrounding hardware fails, I can remove the new disks, read them elsewhere, or build them into a new system.  The computer isn't a destination in itself; rather, its purpose in my IT life is to act as a means to get data on and off of disks.  The "peripheral" disk device is the central component, and the "central" CPU is present and running in order to support it.  Similarly, the purpose of a digital camera is to translate views into bits that can be stored on a memory card and processed, and that become independent of the camera that collected them. A closed camera whose images couldn't be exported or viewed except through its own screen wouldn't be nearly as interesting or useful. The cheap and ever-more-capacious storage modules can be read and written elsewhere; their information is what matters, not the surrounding systems that load the information into them.