Ethernet card that is every PC I/O device


It would be nice to see (perhaps it already exists) an ethernet card for a PC that also looked, in hardware, like all the other standard PC hardware. In particular like a basic standard SVGA video card, like a soundblaster, like a keyboard and like a mouse.

But in fact, all writes to these devices would be sent out over the ethernet. Writes to the video memory, sounds send to the sound card and so on.

This would be very handy with the server crowd, no need for consoles, kvm switches or having to physically go to a server to do work on it. There are tools to provide virtual services after machines have booted (and of course unix/linux machines have always been completely remote controllable after boot, and even during boot via serial console.) And indeed, with this card you would throw in smarter virtual drivers for devices after the operating system had booted that made more efficient use of the ethernet, or supported different resolutions.

Include jumpers to read all motherboard LEDs while at it. If you wanted to get really cute, put a tiny microphone on the card fed into the sound-card portion, so you can listen to noises the drives make etc.

The card could of course do wake-on-lan to the motherboard and have the ability to power off the machine as well. A physical visit to a machine would never be needed except to physically change hardware.

Eventually this would all go onto a standard I/O chip and, like all these peripherals are today, come standard with the ethernet that's on every server motherboard already. Virtual USB systems already exist if you want that, and might be a simpler solution for keyboard, mouse and sound in any event since new motherboards and their BIOSes are now used to seing those things on USB.


That's all fine-and-dandy, except that hardware architecture/configuration/standards/drivers/operating systems change/obsolete/upgrade so often that it's impossible to keep up with, much less build something that fits inside them all.

This is a noble idea that may be better suited for appliances, cars, or houses. I'd love to be able to log into my house and unlock the door.

What's so magical about "Ethernet"? (I assume you're referring to 10 BaseTX, but you may intend Fast Ethernet, Gigabit Ethernet, 10 Gig LAN PHY, 10 Gig WAN PHY, or perhaps even 10 Base 2 which I'm sure you remember well. "Ethernet", as Metcalfe acknowledges, is a very resilient and flexible term.)

Why not start with all i/o looking like a file system access? Then you could (re-)direct those file system accesses to wherever you needed them: remote devices or local; physical or logical. Ethernet would be one of several possible destinations.

Servers and hosts would be nearly identical, and network computing should be about as easy as setting up the networking rules. Standard chipsets would be ready to tap the i/o (file access) stream for standard devices (e.g. serial, parallel, USB, video, optical or hard drive, LAN), from either direction (as configured).

Applications might of course need to be aware that certain (local) actions would offer better performance than other (remote) actions, so configuration rules would specify what is allowed and what is not.

"I'd love to be able to log into my house and unlock the door."

That's easy enough to do: use a magnetic door lock or strike kit (make sure the one you choose defaults to locked on power failures), linked to a computer. (Google & choose a few) If you'd like, you can also attach a proximity or mag swipe card reader, or numberpad. Standard systems are built for industrial / commercial applications, and focus on keyless access, but would do the job for a residence even if you 'normally' use a physical key to unlock the door.

You can also add one or more cameras or outlet controls ( is popular). Then you can monitor your house, and turn on or off lamps (etc) when you log in.

Hook up your doorbell & intercom and nobody has to know you're not even home. (Want a new application for VoIP technology?)

Then, networking the computer is easy enough; securing it is significantly tougher.

Oh, and the frequency with which device drivers etc go out of date would suggest that improved modularity and a better abstraction layer may be a good thing.
I think this may be close to to what you want
and then there's

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