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CITI Technical Report 91-5

Taking a LITTLE WORK Along

Peter Honeyman
[email protected]


The continuing micro-miniaturization of components has moved high-powered, microprocessor-based machines from the desktop, to the laptop, to notebook-sized, and now to palmtop computers. These machines are distinguished in their hardware technology, but supporting software has not kept pace: the predominant operating system on such machines is MS-DOS, absent integrated support for distributed computing. With the LITTLE WORK project, I propose to close this gap in the information technology environment.

The LITTLE WORK prototype will be a notebook computer well-endowed with memory and local disk. It will run the Mach operating system and an AFS cache manager, operating predominantly in a dataless mode. The network interface will be the serial port, attached to a fixed or cellular phone attached to a high-speed modem.

To economize on limited network bandwidth and substantial cellular phone charges, AFS will be engineered to support compressed headers and to operate in a disconnected mode. Other technical challenges abound, such as congestion avoidance and control for AFS, application-level support for network reconfiguration, dynamic IP address assignment, X windows over VGA, operating system support for battery power management, etc .

The underlying thesis of the LITTLE WORK project is that mobile computers are capable of supporting the kind of distributed computing environments common in academia and industry. The LITTLE WORK prototype will make a powerful statement in what is achievable today. Furthermore, it positions CITI and its partners to take advantage of further enhancements in computing technology: faster notebook computers, better screens, denser memory and disks, digital cellular communications, etc.

August 28, 1991