Capturing the ghost in the machine

While ever more ways exist to replicate your favorite computer environment on any PC, researchers at International Business Machines Corp. are trying to take the concept further.

The aim is to capture the true ghost in the machine.

Since 2003, an IBM group has been developing a way for portable storage devices to transfer literally everything someone might do on one computer to another _ including programs that are in action.

IBM calls the project SoulPad, because it's as if the soul of the computer is frozen in the portable device, ready to be reconstituted in another machine's "body" at the user's will.

IBM has had to fiddle with some programs to make this possible, but many computer applications are already built to survive interruptions, such as when a Wi-Fi connection momentarily goes on the fritz.

For now, SoulPad remains a research project, as IBM fine-tunes the program. For instance, while SoulPad needs only 30 seconds to preserve a computing session, it takes more than two minutes to relaunch it on another machine.

It also soaks up about 10 gigabytes of memory _ though head researcher Chandra Narayanaswami points out that isn't much in a world of 60-gigabyte iPods and other vast _ and always growing _ portable data warehouses.

"One should not be overly concerned," he said, "about the storage space that's required for this model.", AP reported.

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