Introducing Webian – Home Social Media Server

[Reposted from]

Hello, World! I'm Ben and I'd like to introduce you to the Webian project.

Desktop to Web

You may have noticed that there's a growing trend of web applications replacing desktop applications, a mass migration from the "desktop" to the "cloud". Web applications are great because you can access them from anywhere, on any web-enabled device and their networked nature means they can be more connected and social than their desktop counterparts.

Innovations in new devices like smartphones, tablets, netbooks and set-top boxes are providing us with exciting new ways of using the web, without needing to use a desktop PC.



A New Kind of Web

All of this innovation is building momentum around a new standard called HTML5 which is going to transform the web as we know it. Web applications of the future will be richer, more graphical, more interactive, will include high quality audio and video and may even work if you don't have an Internet connection. In other words, they'll have all the power of desktop applications but with all the benefits of the web.




Host Your Own Data

At home I have a collection of documents, images, audio and video measuring in the terabytes. No commercial service will currently host this amount of data online for me at a reasonable cost and even if it would, I'm not sure I'd want to use it. I like the idea of having full control over my own data and I can store it pretty cheaply myself. However, I would like to be able to access my data from anywhere on any device, and enjoy the kind of user experience provided by the new breed of HTML5 web applications.

The great thing about the web is that it's so open. You don't have to be a large corporation or pay a license fee to host a web server, anyone can do it themselves using free software and a domestic broadband connection. However, it does currently require quite a lot of technical know-how and there aren't a huge number of useful web applications you can install yourself that the average web user might want to use.

Let's Make the Home Server Awesome

I've been running a Linux-based web server from my home since 2003 to allow me to access all of my data online, but really it's little more than a glorified file server. I'm starting the Webian project to build an open source social media server for your home with a rich HTML5 web interface. I want Webian to make it easy to access all of your media online from a range of devices like phones, tablets, netbooks and your TV.

I can't do this on my own. I need your help to design the best solution to this problem, make a great job of building it and then promote it so that everyone can benefit. If you share my vision, or you're just interested in hosting your own data online, visit today to learn more about this project and find out how you can participate.

Announcing Angora Public Beta – Online Collaboration

For about the last 10 months I've been working on a new web-based collaboration platform from Rabbitsoft, codenamed Angora.

Angora provides online workspaces where you can collaborate with other people to create and share content, manage tasks and organise events.

Features include:

  • Wiki
  • Task management
  • Event management
  • File sharing & viewing
  • Microblogging
  • Search
  • Permissions
  • Commenting
  • Tagging
  • Versioning

With Angora you can create a workspace for a project or shared area of interest and invite people to join you online. You can then collaboritively author and track versions of online pages which you can publish to the web. You can assign tasks to people and invite them to events. You can keep up to date with your friends or colleagues by posting regular status updates and you can search entire workspaces including the contents of files. You also get a personal dashboard where you can keep track of all of your workspaces from one place, with a unified activity feed and a list of your upcoming events and tasks.

We've recently launched a public beta of the product at which I'd encourage you to try out. We'd love to hear your feedback and you can report any problems, comments or suggestions using a big blue "Feedback" button at the top of the screen.

Angora is an enterprise class web application built on J2EE, the Spring Framework and Jackrabbit content repository. We're committed to supporting open standards so that you can easily integrate it with your existing systems, we already support RSS, iCalendar and JSR-283.

I'd also personally love to know whether you're finding Angora useful so please, get in touch.

Google TV

At their annual I/O developers event last week, Google announced "Google TV", an open platform for TV-related devices based on their Android mobile OS and Chrome browser.

Many people have tried in the past to combine the web and TV experiences, but none have been hugely successful. Google claims that the reason Google TV will succeed is that unlike previous efforts, they are not trying to re-create the web for the TV, they want to bring the existing web to the TV. They're also working with an impressive array of partners including Sony, Intel, Logitech and Bestbuy.

Google TV consists of a hardware specification and a software platform. The hardware specification includes Wifi & Ethernet for broadband Internet access, HDMI to connect to an existing set-top box and an Infra-red transceiver for remote control. Also included is an Intel Atom processor, a dedicated DSP for high definition audio & surround sound and a GPU which can handle advanced 2D & 3D graphics. Input devices will all include a keyboard and pointing device to enable web page navigation and can use an IP-based remote control protocol to communicate with the Google TV device. Also mentioned was an IP protocol to communicate with cable/satellite/terrestrial set-top boxes for integrations such as retrieving TV listings and setting a recording schedule.

The first Google TV devices will include a TV from Sony and a set-top box from Logitech and will be available in the Autumn.

The software platform is based on Google's Android mobile OS with their Chrome web browser and Adobe Flash. Existing android apps should already run on Google TV as long as they don't rely on any missing hardware or software and a full SDK will be available in early 2011. As well as Android apps, the device will run HTML5 apps over the web. Any web application should work but guidelines have already been issued for optimising web apps for the TV form factor. Web APIs will be issued along with the Android SDK early next year and will probably include standard ways to control web apps from the Google TV input devices. You will be able to control the first Google TV devices from Android phones and install apps from another web-connected device.

Google hopes to open source all of the software through the Android and Chrome projects by summer 2011.

My initial impressions of Google TV are that on its own it isn't anything hugely innovative, similar things have been done before. But with a powerful hardware stack, a proven open software platform and some big brands behind it, Google TV could finally be the platform which successfully merges the web and TV and enables a new generation of innovative services. If HTML5 lives up to its promise then native Android apps one day be redundant as HTML5 matures and provides an equivalent user experience in a more open way.

With HTML5 support building on netbooks, smartphones, tablets and now TVs & set-top boxes I'm excited about the potential of future web applications on this new range of form factors. I think that in a couple of years time the web is going to be even more graphical, even more interactive and even more ubiquitous than ever before and the desktop PC will no longer be the primary means of accessing online content.

Are you ready for the web on your TV?