This entire article is written as a proposal to a coprporation for a new, very unique computing system. Please offer criticism and suggestions to improve the system, and tell me whether you think it could work. What exactly is the “Edge Computing System” And more importantly, why would I want to go to the trouble of developing it? The Edge Computing System is just that, an entire system, not just a new type of computer or new software suite. The Edge is the means by which you can have your personal computer with you at all times.
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.
The software part of this is kind of a strange dichotomy, in that most of the work is already done, so it should be easy, but getting all the software to integrate and be one hundred percent stable and efficient will be a huge task.
First of all, the operating system used will be Linux, and more specifically, Linux running under the KDE or GNOME desktop environment. I believe that KDE and GNOME are developing much faster than the other window managers, are getting much more press in the Linux (then, say, Window Maker or Enlightenment 17, what I considered as the main two other choices) and the eye candy is there. Some Linux hardcore fanatics will say eye candy isn’t important, give them the command prompt, etc. Obviously this is not the best idea, just ask Microsoft. Many of the people who are going to use this OS could care less about security, or the open source model, or anything else, but they will care about whether it looks pretty and whether they have to think about using it at all.
Second of all, tons and tons of software (which should be mainly open source) will be included with the OS, which is possible because we have 2.8 gigabytes of space to work with (even more if need be, since we can still use compression). To explain how the software needs to work, I’ll go through the boot up sequence from power on to having a usable desktop.
The first step is obviously switching on the power. The hardware goes through the usual POST, and when it’s done with that looks for a boot image on the mini-DVD player. It finds it, and you are presented with a welcome screen (which gives you the option of passing messages to the kernel, just in case, but times out after three seconds) which quickly is replaced by the hardware detection screen. This would simply be something with a progress bar and a frame saying what the computer is currently doing (for instance “auto-detecting video card” and “installing Radeon 9000 drivers”). After auto-detecting all the hardware (including printers) the computer goes has a chance to download and install security updates over an ethernet card (which is activated and does a DHCP broadcast). Obviously this means that you must have high speed internet to download the updates, and that is mainly because people with dial up simply aren’t attacked by hackers very often. Next comes the X-windows startup. X-windows and GNOME are started and you are shown a default GNOME desktop (or KDE, I still haven’t decided what I want the default to be, though GNOME loads faster, which is why I chose it here), one in which all the configuration files are read from the mini-DVD. At this point the default programs are loaded into RAM already (such as OpenOffice.org and galeon web browser, etc.). Obviously some people will not use some of the features that are loaded by default (although if you have enough RAM besically everything can be loaded) but we’ll talk about that problem later.
From this desktop you can browse the internet or work on files, anything you could normally do, except that it is all erased on the next restart because it is simply being saved in RAM. Now we’re going to pretend that this is your first time ever using this computer and you wish to create a compact flash with all of your stuff on it. You see a button labeled “Create Wallet” on the desktop (“Wallet” is the catch-phrase I decided on for the compact flash card, since it kind of implies having everything there for you) and you click on it. Up comes a wizard which first asks you to insert a blank compact flash card, explaining that you can insert one that isn’t blank, but it will be erased in the process of creating your wallet.
Now, the first step to creating your wallet is the partitioning part. In my view the wallet will eventually be integrated with basically everything (MP3 players, digital cameras, PDAs, etc.), so the first question it asks is whether you wish to use your wallet with MP3s (we’re assuming you have a sizable compact flash card, like one gigabyte, anything less than five twelve and this step will be skipped). If you answer yes then a 128 megabyte partition is created with the proper file system to be readable by most MP3 players. The applicable software is activated as well (I’ll explain activation later). Next it asks if you wish to use the wallet with digital cameras as well. If the answer is yes another 128 megabyte partition is created with the proper file system, and the software is once again activated. A question is not asked about PDAs at this point, because compatible PDAs will be able to read the file system natively.
Now, with the separate file systems you are only given 128 megabyte of MP3 room, but that doesn’t mean that that’s all you can have. In the software included you will have basically a library of MP3s, but only 128 megabytes can be on the “Device play list” at any one time. That way you can have several play lists, and when you decide on one to listen to you just make it the active play list, which copies it over to the partition. With pictures it simply automatically downloads the pictures you have taken to a folder labeled “Unsorted” in the picture library on your root partition every time you insert your card into a computer, leaving the picture partition clean.
As more things become available and the size increases of compact flash cards you will be able to integrate more things, but these two give you an idea of the potential for integration.
After asking the questions and determining the number of partitions and size the program will format the compact flash. Next it builds on it the skeleton directory system, in other words, the basis for which everything else will be built on. This consists of two folders on the root of the device, one labeled “Docs” and the other labeled “System.” The “Docs” folder will have several sub folders with labels like “Music Library” and “Picture Library” but other than that I think it’s fairly self explanatory.
The “System” folder will contain the configuration script (similar to knoppix.sh) and all the configuration files in one place. If a person downloads window decorations or themes these will be installed to a sub folder in this one.
A form is presented next for the basic information about whoever is using this card. This will include stuff like name, birthdate, address, and other things, but the biggest part is the security question. Security is quite in depth, so I won’t go over it right now. A brief outline is in Appendix C, but any seggestions would be appreciate it.
The next step is what I call “Activating Software.” This is probably the most tedious part of the setup. You are presented with a few simple yes or no questions at first, such as: “Will you be using this computer for office related tasks (such as word processing)” or “Will you be using this computer keeping track of finances?” After answering these questions you will be given choices between software, where applicable. For instance, in the area for email clients it may look like this:
Which email client do you want to use (if you’re not sure, you can choose more than one, then choose one later)?
* Mozilla Mail
* I don’t need this capability
When choosing there will be a frame giving details of choices as you roll over them with your mouse. This screen can be found again in the “Configure” menu under “Application Management.” The only difference is that instead of being asked one by one which appliacation you wish to use for which purpose you are given several screens with related applications. After you are done deciding which programs you want to use for which tasks comes the asthetic part of the setup.
This is basically the same as the KDE First Time Wizard, with a few extras. You decide your window decorations, background, screen saver, position of the panel, icon set, widget style, window behavior, and a few other miscelaneous things.
The final step is only if the OS detects a hard drive. If it does it asks if this is the computer you wish to back up to. If you say yes it adds a partition to the hard drive the size of your card (as long as there is free space) and records the mac adress of the network card. This is so your card can identify and back up to this machine, since you are quite unlikely to come across another card with the same mac address. If you wish to change this setting later you can, utilizing the configure menu.
The next thing you see is simply the “Congratulations!” screen, saying that all they need to do is hit OK and their personal settings will be loaded, or they can choose to hit the quit button, which will exit the wizard so that it doesn’t load their settings, but instead returns to the default desktop. In either case, their card is finalized and ready to be used.
Now whenever the card is inserted in the computer it is auto-mounted and scanned for a configuration file. If one is found X is restarted with the configuration file on the card loaded.
There is one other thing that needs to be adressed. That is the RAM requirements. For most new computers they should just come with a lot of RAM, but if an old one is retro-fitted you may not be able to add a lot of RAM. The answer to this is that as a person uses programs a list is made of the most commonly used programs. It is according to this list that programs are assigned priority, and are consequently either loaded into RAM on boot, or have to wait until they are executed to be loaded into RAM from the mini-DVD. This means that the first few times the wallet is used things will generally be slower than later.
That is basically how the computer works. How this will all come to pass is talked about in the next section.
4. Developing It
As I said earlier, developing this idea is going to be both difficult and easy, but I think that it is by no means an impossible task. All it will take is modifying hundreds of programs so that they work together to perfection.
That was a little bit of humor there, by the way. OK, so here is how it will work. The development would take place in three phases, data gathering, programming, and testing.
The first part of the development would be a data gathering time period. I think that this part could be handled in anywhere from one to three months (although three months is definitely preferable to one month). This would consist basically of a multitude of surveys covering many things, the most important two, however, are:
What do you want in an operating system?
What tasks do you perform with your PC most?
Another part of the data gathering stage would be a group of linux enthusiasts who would compile a huge list of open source software with details such as purpose, ease of use, features, size, and other data. Then all the software would be tested by a completely different panel of people who would look at it from the point of view of someone migrating from different operating systems and choose at least three pieces of software for each task (if three can be found). The premise behind this is that you would have what I call Apple, MS or Linux programs. That is to say, easy to use but not too customizable, fairly easy to use and fairly customizable, and difficult to use but extremely customizable (respectively). Then the software would be prioritized and shaved down until the entire software/OS package will fit on 2.8 gigabytes of space.
The next step is programing, which I have fit into two categories, asthetic and functional.
The first part of the programming should take another three months (with a fairly hefty group of programmers). This would merely be to go through every program, one by one, and change the look so that it fits with the entire operating system (meaning that icons are similar, colors are customizable with the rest of KDE or GNOME, etc). This would involving working with the dreaded theming engines, so it might be a little tall of an order to ask for all the software to look unified, but as much as possible.
The next part of programming would be functional, making sure that programs don’t conflict with each other, making sure that programs are stable, and that things like copy and paste work between programs. For this period another three months would be used.
It may seem like I’m not alloting much time for each section of programming, but it’s not as little as it might first appear. You first have to accept the fact that the software is already created and that the goals being pursued in the development of this OS has already, in a broad sense, been pursued by the individual programers themselves.
There are two special considerations which must be taken in when doing the development. The first is that, during the six month period of programming (and into the following three month period I will talk about in a minute) several programs will be produced from scratch where I view deficiencies. The first is a media player (to be integrated with the file manager) and the second is a good financial management program, to take over the “Apple” role in that section (we already have gnucash as either an MS or Linux version). The second factor which must be taken into consideration is that quite a few different companies must be contacted and offered the chance to make their product a part of the OS natively. The first ones that come to mind are Real Player, Shockwave, and Flash.
The final three month period is a code audit, going from line one to line ten million. This will definitely be the hardest part, and will most likely extend into the testing phase. All programs will be audited, by different people then origionally worked on the programs.
5. Testing It
The testing process is one of the most important, since it will bring out (hopefully) the vast majority of the flaws in the system. The testing will be seperated into two distinct parts. The first is a security section, attempting (in a very novel way I might add) to bring out even the most engenious hacker strategies and fix them. The second is a pilot city. I will talk about the security issues first.
But before that I’m going to talk about the general attitude that must permeate everything that has to do with this operating system. That is the fact that it must be viewed not as a comercial venture, but as a genuine attempt to make the lives of those who would buy this better. The open source model must be maintained. I will say that again because it is very, very important. THE OPEN SOURCE MODEL MUST BE MAINTAINED. That means that if someone wants to view the source code of any part of the operating system it should be readily available to them. Why? Because we need the cooperation of the open source community and we need the trust of governments and people. This should be viewed as a community effort. I will go more in to how this entire thing will work in the continuing it section, but you must understand that without the cooperation of basically everyone this will not succeed.
The way that security leaks will be brought into the open will be through a contest. One computer will have one file on it. This file will be the object of the contest. If someone can hack into the computer and retrieve the file (which is protected by our operating system hidden by a server version of the operating system with a firewall) they get a prize. To be more specific, if the can print up a copy of the file, and mail it to the company, they get something like a hundred dollars. For every time they do it (the file will be changed after every successful breach). This may seem like it could get expensive, but if you consider the fact that it’s cheaper than paying someone to look for flaws (especially since they would most likely miss quite a few), and that it will serve as advertising, proving to the masses that the customer really is coming first, then it isn’t that expensive after all.
The second test method was the pilot town. This is a simple idea really. Just pick a likely town and offer it dirt cheap computers, retro-fit-kits and free tech support, and see what happens.
I am very specific when I say likely town though. It must be relatively small (say, less than 25 000 people) but not too small (say, over 15 000). The next requirement is a high school with a population of at least 1 000, a college with a population of at least 2 000, a fairly large library, and several middle and elementary schools. One cool bonus would be a small cofee shop, which could be outfitted as a cyber-cafe.
This town is modeled after my own home town quite a bit, because it seems like it would provide an excellent base for an expirament, without being so big as to overwhelm people.
One suggestion to begin the process would be to outfit the high school, college and library for free, which would hopefully get the rest of the town interested, and would only take about thirty computers.
Why would a town want to do this? You simply point out to the people that by doing this, not only will they get computer stuff for amazingly cheap, but it will put there town on the map through magazine and newspaper articles about this “pilot town.”
6. Selling It
In this part of my proposal I hd a detailed outline of an advertising campaign, but I really am kind of embarrased by it, so I’ll just go into the rest of the selling it section.
The other main point for selling the OS is the cost. The OS and bundled software should come at a price of less than just the operating system for the other guys (we’ll say it should be a little less than $100). That is for a full version. Now, there will be two types of upgrades, as I will explain.
Version numbers for the OS wll dictate how much is paid to upgrade. Decimal number advances will imply small software and security enhancements (which is why a new version will probably be coming out once a month or so). The point behind this should be that, if it’s working, don’t fix it. You don’t need to upgrade from 3.04 to 3.05 because it probably addresses an issue which you haven’t had. These upgrades will be extremely cheap, simply trade in your old disc, pay ten dollars, and walk out of the store with a new upgraded OS, as long as the two are within a tenth of each other (that means that you can upgrade from 3.10 to 3.20 for ten dollars, and your old disc). For anything within one whole number it would be twenty dollars (for instance, you could go from 3.01 to 3.99 for twenty dollars, and your old disc). For big upgrades, with large changes in the OS itself and many programs, you would go to a new whole number. This would cost fifty dollars (for for fifty dollars you could go from 3.53 to 4.0, and your old disc). For anything outside of one whole number difference you would just have to buy a completely new OS.
One exception to this would be version 1.0, which would be the cost of an upgrade for a full version for the first six months, to make it easier to switch. Licencing to companies like Dell and Compaq would be different as well. Instead of a price per user basis you would simply sell one gold copy of the mini-DVD and allow them to make as many copies as they want as long as it is bundled with a computer. That way the computer retailers would be encouraged to switch as well, and they could do your advertising for you.
Of course you could also download ISO images, but I personally think it would be easier just to pay ten bucks a month and stay up to date.
7. Continuing It
Now I will explain why open source is so important. It is mainly because if we maintain open source we can expect the cooperation of most open source developers. If someone has a program they think would go well with the rest of the OS then they can contribute it. In time I think developers would program with our OS as the standard, attempting to make their programs compatible with it. We would not have to spend money on continuing developtment, but instead simply work on integrating what they create into the operating system. As this becomes even more popular more and more programs will be made using the open source model.
Another idea to take care of some deficiencies in programming would be to denote money or computers to a college with the understanding that they would program one piece of software as a class project.
The main point behind this is that the cooperation of the open source community will provide a huge and free labor pool, and with little encouragement except for recognition you can use their programs and be viewed as a flexible collaborator instead of an inflexible dictator attempting to grab as much money as possible from the end user. And that is the main point, that this system is made not with making money as the major goal (although I believe that it will be a nice side effect) but as making the consumers life better.
Appendix A: Mini-DVD Reader
The mini-DVD reader is one of the most crucial parts of this entire system. It allows an entire OS to be stored where it can’t be hurt. It has two definite advantage, the first is that it’s virus proof, since they can’t infect something they can’t write to. Your flash card could be infected, however, but even if that happened it would only mess up your personal files and not bring the entire computer down. The other advantage is that the computer would be (what I refer to as) “Grandma” proof. What I mean by that (and I’m not trying to insult grandmas, because I have several excellent one’s myself) is that someone who maybe doesn’t know a huge amount about computers and might normally mess up the operating system accidentally, can’t. This is because if things get really messed up all you have to do is restart the computer, and it’s like you have a fresh load. Being Grandma Proof is very closely related to being “Computer Expert” proof and “Oh yeah, just delete it, it’ll be fine” proof.
Anyway, enough about the advantages, let’s talk about how this is actually going to be done.
The first difference would be that the mini-DVD of this reader has eight small (perhaps a half millimeter in diameter) holes drilled in the plastic part which correspong to eight small “posts” which stick out of the spindle which the mini-DVD sits on. The “posts” go through the holes and into a stabalizer, which is hinged on the first mini-DVD reader housing. I’ll go into the two housings later on.
What you have is a mini-DVD resting on a flat (approximately two centimeter) piece of material with eight “posts” sticking through it and into another two centimeter wide circular stabalizer, which rides on a double set of ball bearings. The motor spinning the mini-DVD spins at around 10 000 rpms (I read that that was the fastest sustainable speed for a small electric motor currently). The eye tracks like a usual cd/dvd-rom eye (I toyed with the thought of having the eye spinning in the opposite direction, to inscrease speed, but that would increase vibration, decrease accuracy, and add moving parts). The entire apparatus rests within an open topped box, which is inside another slightly larger box with a hinged lid. The inside box is attached to the outer box by rubber pads, so that, again, vibration is reduced. Cables supplying power and
One note is that the mini-DVD must be loaded vertically, then have the stabalizer put down on it, then have the airtight lid of the second box shut. One cosmetic thing is that it would be cool to have a plexiglass, or clear plastic lid, with a gasket on the box and not the glass, so that it looks all neat and clean.
The final note is that it would use serial ATA, not necessarily because it could use the extra bandwidth, but mainly becaue of the size factor.
Appendix B: Computer Styles
There are, in this computing system, four basic computer designs (five if you include servers). I will go over them, starting with the simplest and working my way up.
The first computer type is what I call an “ultra-thin.” This computer would consist of the motherboard (with everything built on), and the mini-DVD reader. This allows only Internet browsing or word processing, etc, without the possibility of saving to a wallet (although you could conceivably load things to an FTP server if the need arose). The computer I envision in this class would be an LCD screen with everything attached to the back. It’s thickness would probably be around two inches, and it would have around a two gigahertz processor, two gigabytes of ram, built in sound and speakers, and wireless ethernet, keyboard and mouse (with rechargeable batteries). This computer would not be that common, but might be seen in libraries, cyber-cafe’s, schools, and prisons.
One interesting thing about this computer is that you could have just the “core” (processor, motherboard and reader) as a small box, which could be screwed to walls or under desks, and then just hook up a USB compact flash reader. This way it could be integrated with desks and other furniture.
The next type of computer is called “thin.” This is a computer just like the previous, except with the addition of one or two compact flash readers. You might need two to transfer files between two wallets. In this case the first one inserted would be “dominant,” which is to say, it’s configuration would be loaded, while the second one would be “subservient.” I believe that this computer would be the most common, since is would be fairly inexpensive and yet still have full functionality.
“Normal” is the simple name of this type. It comes with everything the previous two had, except it could have a CD bruner/DVD-rom and a backup hard drive as well. This type, however, I don’t think would be that common, because my goal would be to have several “thin” stations dispersed in a SOHO environment or home, and just have one server to back up all the wallets to.
The last type is a “power user” computer. This would have everything the previous model has, except for it would also have a beefed up graphics card and a cartridge mini-DVD player. What I mean by that is, for the gamers the computer would basically become a console, with a console emulator and a mini-DVD encased in a cartridge (quite similar to Sony’s mini-disc). This would also help prevent piracy (although a way will always be found to get around any measures).
The server also has several special purposes. It would be a gateway, firewall, DHCP and print server, while also backing up memory cards. It would also have a few other uses which are not so common. The one would be that it automatically downloads updates for the computers to install and the next reboot, and with very expensive proprietary software (Dentrix is the first example which comes to mind), it would house the program, which would be loaded up into the computers when it was wanted, and that would also handle licensing, by having only x number of people signed on at any time.
There would also be several sub types, of course, such as a media computer, for those who are addicted to MP3s (or ogg vorbis). But generally the computers would fit into one of the following categories.
Appendix C: Security
Security is a pretty big risk with this system. Imagine getting mugged for your computer wallet. It could potentially be more damaging than having your actual physical wallet taken. That is why there are some drastic security measures which must be taken.
The first is, of course, encoding. The difficulty of the algorithm to break would depend on what you set as your security level. This could require anything from an eight character password to a twenty character password, but there is no perfect encryptian.
That is why we have a second level of security. This is that, once a card is put in a computer, you have thirty seconds to input the password or the entire card is erased. This, obviously, would really only work if the card was put in a machine running the OS which it was designed for.
There are several obstacles to mount, but the measures I stated will deter most criminals. There are a few other ideas which I’ve had, but I would want to talk them over with an expert before going and embarrasing myself.
Appendix D: The Franchise System
My franchise system takes it’s cue from the fast food industry, which is obviously full of franchises. The way it works is that for every x number of people (say, 50 000) in an area we place a shop, with it’s own name, but a little sign saying “Official Edge Shop” or something like that. These stores are given excellent deals on hardware and software, and they keep all the profits. In return, they must deal with all the service inside their area (although after warranty is out they can charge whatever they want, within reason). The way a person would get a shop is by simply paying a one time fee at the opening.
There is a catch, however, and that is that they are subject to periodic reviews by “roving reviewers,” who may stay in town for several days or a week and check on all the shops (although they don’t have to tell them they are reviewing them, they can just show up and ask for service, to see responses to various problems). Also, there would be a form you could fill out on our website reviewing the shop which you go to for service, which would hopefully keep the shops honest. If a shop was found lacking we would simply pull our name and deals from them.
The obvious benefit from this is that people get a personal touch, someone they can go to with a problem who will help them. This reflects well on the company as a whole, plus there could be a form on everyone’s wallet in the system folder with details of visits, so that if a person is out of town they can still stop in at a shop and have their history known.
The disadvantages are that it makes a middle man, who would inflate prices, but they could choose to buy direct and just have to settle for phone service. The hope, however, is that with this system service will rarely be needed.
About the Author:
Joshua Boyles is 18 years old, but has quite some computer experience and he lives in Oregon, USA.