1. The general idea
How is this accomplished? To put it as shortly as possible, the edge computing system works by having all computers in the system completely compatible with one another. Your documents and configuration are carried with you, in a piece of flash memory (compact flash, memory stick, whatever). When you insert your piece of memory into the computer (any computer) your configuration is automatically read and loaded, so that you are presented with the exact same desktop and files at any computer you go to (although some will run it faster than others, obviously).
Imagine the convenience of having everything you need with you at all times. You wouldn't have to worry about burning a presentation to a cd to take it to a prospective client, you could simply stick your card in their computer and present. For that matter, let's say that on the plane ride to your prospective client you notice that you are missing something from your presentation, a picture or table you forgot to download. Luckily for you hotels would be equipped with these computers, so that you could just plug into the computer at the hotel and use their internet access. Or, if you're staying in an old bed and breakfast that hasn't been retrofitted, you can stop at the local library and update your presentation (you wouldn't want to do it at your client's, that would look unprofessional).
That's the point of this entire system, to be able to work on your stuff everywhere, to never have to worry about anything being left behind, but mainly to increase convenience and productivity. There are a lot of questions that need to be answered though, because this does seem like a huge undertaking. It is.
The hardware part (the simplest one in my view) will be talked about in the next section. After that I'll talk about the software hurdles that must be leaped. After that comes the development issues (to give you a hint, I think the entire project can be ready to go in under a year, more on that later). Then I'll talk about how it will be tested, which I deemed deserved a different section than development since it is a rather novel way, then comes selling it, the hardest part. Lastly is the continuing development of the idea.
2. Hardware Issues
This entire idea started as a hardware issue. I have worked at a little computer repair shop for over a year and one of the things I noticed was that hard drives are failing constantly. In fact, they failed more than any other part of the computer (with power supplies coming in at a close second). Now, this is a serious problem! Many people neglect to back up their hard drives, banking on the fact that it will work as long as it is needed, however they were dismayed to find that their hard drives have other ideas, one of which is failing and taking months of work with them. I thought, what if there were some way to get rid of hard drives, or, if not get rid of them, to rely on them much less.
The answer is simple really. Divide the task of storing data into more than one area, a read only part for the OS and software (not on a hard drive), and a writable part for your documents (allowing the writeable part to be much smaller). The easiest way to make an OS read only is by putting it on a CD-ROM obviously, but there were several problems with that, such as noise, transfer speed, and size. The next step from a CD-ROM is a mini-DVD. A mini-DVD will hold 2.8 gigabytes of data, uncompressed, while a 700 megabyte CD-ROM will only hold 1.7 gigabytes of data compressed. This means that much more software can be bundled with the OS on the read only media. There will be several other advantages as well, such as increased data transfer speed (over a CD-ROM, not a hard drive), less vibration, and size. I'll go in depth about the mini-DVD reader in Appendix A.
The other part of the computer is the writable part for documents and configuration files. This would be a small piece of flash memory, as I stated in the previous section. Why flash memory instead of zip disks (or any other media for that reason)?
There are three parts to the answer. The first is size. A compact flash card, even in a protective carrier, is only about an inch and a quarter by an inch and three quarters by an eighth of an inch. The second is . . . size. A compact flash will carry anywhere from four megabytes to three gigabytes (although the cost increases exponentially). Obviously I'm also banking on the fact that compact flash cards will continue to increase in size and decrease in cost (which I believe is a fairly safe assumption). The final main factor was stability.
With this entire computer I've tried to keep the number of components with moving parts down to a minimum, because moving parts will fail as much as they want, where something without moving parts generally will not fail as easily. Compact flash has no moving parts, therefore it should be more stable. With a complete computer using this system the only components with moving parts are the cooling fans and the mini-DVD reader. You may have a back-up hard drive, but only to back-up your flash card, you shouldn't be relying on it.
Almost everything besides what I have already mentioned is just like a standard computer. One difference is that for this to run well I would suggest something like a gigabyte or two of RAM, allowing you to load the entire operating system into RAM. This would make the computer extremely fast, and if you don't have that huge of an amount of ram, there are other things which you can do, which I'll go into in the software section.
So with this model there are several different typed of computers which can be created. I'll go over the different classes and styles in Appendix B. For now, we'll just assume that the computer is a normal desktop model.