Open Source Comes to HP's "Cooltown"
- By John K. Waters
Hewlett-Packard (HP) Corp. has announced that it is making its Coolbase infrastructure and technologies freely available on the Web. Coolbase is part of HP's ongoing Cooltown development effort, which the company describes as "...our vision of a technology future ...where e-services meet the physical world, where humans are mobile, devices and services are federated and context-aware, and everything has a Web presence."
The Cooltown initiative has been underway at HP Labs for a number of years. According to representatives at HP, the Coolbase Open Source Project provides the initial set of building blocks for the development of Cooltown services and environments. The company also hopes to inspire the participation of "a community of like-minded experts."
HP is releasing the Cooltown components under the GNU General Public License (GPL). The GPL is a free software distribution license, often referred to as an open-source license. GPL, defined by Richard Stallman of the Free Software Foundation, was created to provide a protected means of distributing free software and to ensure that derivative works also remain free. The GPL also governs Linux.
The Coolbase platform comprises a number of "subprojects" that combine to form a framework for building a Cooltown service or application, including software and some supporting hardware. Specifically, the platform includes:
- The Coolbase Appliance Server and "coolkit," which implement an object-oriented Web app server designed specifically for embedded systems.
- Esquirt, which provides an API and implementations that enable a personal device such as a mobile phone or PDA to become a universal remote control for e-services delivered through other Web devices.
- The Web Presence Manager (WPM), which implements a directory of relationships, a dynamic parser and a template-based engine to present views of an entity (people, places and things) and its contextual relationships.
- Cooltown beacons, small hardware devices whose function is to broadcast references (e.g., URLs) wirelessly in specific locations. For example, a beacon next to a painting might broadcast the URL for a museum's Web site. Specs, board layout and firmware are provided for a battery-powered beacon that transmits using infrared (IR-Ultra). The Cooltown Esquirt software implements the receiving function for beacons.
- Cooltown Taggy, a small personal device the size of a key fob. A taggy acquires beacons and "squirts" them back out. The UI consists of a few buttons and LEDs. It serves as an illustration of an extremely simple client that can be useful in a Cooltown application environment.
- BaseBoard, a small-footprint single board computer that implements a reference platform for Web appliances; the software configuration is built on Version 2.4 of Linux.
- The Secure Web Tunnel (SWT), a service that supports transparent secure access to Web resources existing behind a firewall.
- The Internet Radio, a sample application HP provides as an illustration of how to create a prototype Web appliance. The radio uses the Spiderman HW/SW platform, the HP Chai server stack and Esquirt to implement a device that can be controlled from a Web browser or PDA.
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John K. Waters is a freelance writer based in Silicon Valley. He can be reached