Published on February 21st, 2014 | by Sunit Nandi7
Unmasked: Afreed Islam, Prodigy behind ReVoBook and ReVo IX OS
Being an avid web surfer and a facebook user (read ‘addict’), it’s hard to not come across the news about Afreed Islam. If you’ve been keeping track of tech news in India, you surely have heard his name from one of the many many magazines or newspapers that have featured him. The 16 year old prodigy who will be appearing for his board exams from March 3rd this year is said to have invented a new kind of microchip that has no moving parts and can be used to replace a typical hard disk drive as the primary storage unit. He is also said to have launched a hardware prototype of his invention, which is an ultrabook dubbed as the ‘ReVoBook.’ Further, his ReVoBook comes packed in with a new independently written operating system called ‘Revo IX’.
But of course, we’ve all heard that story. We won’t be repeating it here to become just another article describing his success. If you missed his interview, you can always check it out here:
Instead, we’ll have a critical look at this new invention. Scouring through the comments in pages like Digit and sites like The Hindu, we believe that this issue needs to be looked into a bit more critically.
Invention and Claims
Firstly, without looking into too deep, let’s state out this invention properly from the press release. This invention seems to have two components to it:
- The Microchip: A chip said to replace the hard disk drive, which is claimed to be 4x faster than a normal hard disk. It’s advantages are said to be that it has no moving parts and can store data upto 100-200 years.
- The Revo IX Operating System: An independently written operating system which powers the ReVoBook prototype. It is said to be able to run Windows, Mac and Linux applications together. And also claims to have the features of many operating systems put together in one.
A Critical View of the Microchip
Let’s start with the microchip. We think anyone who has kept up with technology can criticize this one. The answer is Solid State Drives or SSDs. We believe that an ‘invention’ should typically be unique, novel and strive to improve what already exists. However, we fail to actually see this as an invention. The claims of the microchip having no moving parts is nothing new either. SSDs were made to have no moving parts either. And they replace hard disks as well. Not to mention they are way faster. So, it’s actually hard to call this an ‘invention’.
Personally, we won’t call it an invention. Forget SSDs, we’ve all seen Pen Drives. It has no moving parts, it’s silent and it can store data. One can just as well install a Linux distro such as Debian or Mint to a pen drive and use it.
A Critical View of the Operating System
Anyway, moving on to the second point: The Revo IX Operating System. The amount of information released about this OS in the press release is extremely minimal. The facts we know for sure from media alone: The OS can run both Linux and Windows applications and it claims to be independently written.
As far as running both Linux and Windows applications go, we can make use of software such as Wine (for Linux-based OS) and andLinux (for Windows). Although not all applications will run this way, it can be used fairly well upto a certain degree. But of course, one can always argue that his OS may not be running Wine and maybe he came out with something new. Well, perhaps. Or, perhaps not. Read on.
Coming down to the topic of the OS being written independently, we have big doubts on this one. These doubts have already been confirmed by a different team but we’ll get on that one soon. First, let’s analyze what we have from the press release. We know from the release that it is independently written. But it’s actually extremely hard to believe. We sincerely doubt if a 16 year old can come up with an independently written OS in such a short time. It would involve writing everything from the bootloader to start-up scripts to filesystems to drivers to kernel and what not. Independently-written OS is a HUGE claim.
Well of course, one can counter argue that maybe he REALLY is a genius who actually did that. And yes, that’s a fairly valid and well-placed argument. We honestly don’t have a comeback against that.
But someone else does. The team at wowmoron has actually gone pretty deep with their research regarding this incident (and even made a very detailed and sarcastic post about it) and have presented us with this photo of prodigy Afreed Islam and his ReVoBook published in The Hindu.
If you observe closely, you can see that the ReVoBook is actually running a Plasma Desktop from KDE. The search bar and icon tooltips are obvious giveaways. The button at the right top corner is actually a menu that is used to customize the appearance of the Plasma Desktop. It’s KDE any way you look at it.
So, what does this mean? Well, firstly his RevoBook uses KDE. This means he didn’t code all the components of his ‘independently written OS’. KDE is obviously not written by him, let’s not even argue here. But this also means that he must be using one of the known kernels, namely, Linux, Unix or BSD. Again, let’s not kid ourselves by calling him the creator of those kernels because he is not. So, this photo confirms that he didn’t write the graphical interface of his OS by himself and also more importantly, it confirms that his OS uses a kernel already made by someone else before.
If that is the case, this also means that he must be using Wine (or something similar) to run the Windows packages. If all these components are not written by him, we think it’s plain wrong to claim the OS to be independently-written.
A link to the actual article by wowmoron has been posted at the end of the post. The inspiration to actually write this post comes up from wowmoron as well. Their findings also include numerous inconsistencies in the patent document and a photo comment thread on the actual inventor’s profile which goes ahead to reveal a lot of details about this invention as well as the inventor’s knowledge (or lack thereof) and of course, more inconsistencies. They have also revealed how the patent has actually not been filed for examination so far. Makes us a little more than just suspicious.
No surprises here. Feed them some leftover bread and they’ll brag about it as pizza.
The moment this news hit the local channels, it has literally exploded. It propagated through local news channels to newspapers to even Digit and EFY Times. And this has again been pointed out by the wowmoron post. Surprisingly, none of these reputed and established media houses tried to verify these facts. It’s just the same press release being passed from one to another.
Even Digit took it from The Hindu. No questions were asked, no facts were verified. It’s understandable that regular journalists may not have the adequate resources and expertise to verify these reports but that excuse does not hold true for Digit and EFY. These are supposed to be in the business of bringing people technology news and happenings. They have a staff. They can atleast look a bit into the matter, maybe even send a few emails to the inventor in question.
We’ve seen the comments in Digit’s page about that post. Even the readers of Digit are smart enough to know what’s going on. They’ve stated everything on Digit’s page starting from Wine to SSDs. This is what’s wrong with media today. Trying to serve news that is fueled by emotions, and not backed up by proper facts. Wowmoron is right when they say that the media has been so focused on sensationalizing the fact that he is a 16 year old Indian kid that they have forsaken on trying to verify the story.
But what has happened is in the past. For what’s coming up, we would like to kindly request Digit, EFY and any other magazines or media houses publishing such news and stories to factually verify claims and features before releasing it to the public. News shouldn’t be just baseless stories taken from your neighbor’s newspaper.
To conclude, we have to say that we are a bit disappointed as to how things have turned out. Most of the members of TechnoFAQ are actually from the same city as Afreed Islam and it would have been a thing of great pride and joy if everything turned out right. However, from wowmoron’s report and our personal analysis, it doesn’t seem to be the case. With the harsh arguments backed up with an actual comment thread involving this prodigy, Afreed is going to have a hard time making a comeback.
As promised, you can read the report by the wowmoron team here.
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