Computer souls and reincarnation

August 11th, 2005

IBM researchers have prototyped SoulPad, which uses an auto-configuring operating system along with a hibernated virtual machine on a USB disk to enable a user to suspend one’s personal computing state on one PC and resume it on another. The USB disk essentially carries the soul of the user’s PC while the host PCs provide environments where the soul can come alive. For more information, see this paper, which receive the best paper award at the 3rd International Conference on Mobile Systems, Applications, and Services:

Reincarnating PCs with Portable SoulPads, Ramon Caceres, Casey Carter, Chandra Narayanaswami, M. T. Raghunath, Proc of ACM/USENIX MobiSys 2005, pp. 65-78.

The ability to walk up to any computer, personalize it, and use it as one’s own has long been a goal of mobile computing research. We present SoulPad, a new approach based on carrying an auto-configuring operating system along with a suspended virtual machine on a small portable device. With this approach, the computer boots from the device and resumes the virtual machine, thus giving the user access to his personal environment, including previously running computations. SoulPad has minimal infrastructure requirements and is therefore applicable to a wide range of conditions, particularly in developing countries. We report our experience implementing SoulPad and using it on a variety of hardware configurations. We address challenges common to systems similar to SoulPad, and show that the SoulPad model has significant potential as a mobility solution.