Archive for November, 2009

The best is yet to come? Maybe…

Thursday, November 12th, 2009

Recently I got into a debate about interfaces. I know this isn’t the most common conversation. Actually, it was spawned by a conversation about my last blog post on Windows 7. Critiques (even if they are not heavy handed) will usually cause someone from a group that loves the item to lash out at you without fully thinking about the review. Zealotry of anything will cause you to be blind to some extent. The zealotry that is the core of most computer fights isn’t what most people think it is. Most people find themselves in three basic camps: Mac, Windows, or Linux/Unix.

Analyzing the problem further you will find that the real difference between all of these is the interface. The interface is how you interact with the computer. Mac people learned when their computers turned from Motorola processors to Intel that the guts became the same as everybody elses. They learned even earlier when Mac went to OSX that the core became Unix. Briefly returning to the aforementioned debate, the other person disagreed with my assessment of Windows 7 because the interface was easier to use for him. Joe Average User will never flip his lid over the look of Windows 7. Linux users have learned this the hard way. The major Linux interfaces are Gnome and KDE. Both of these have added all kinds of crazy effects, transitions, shading, etc. to better the eye candy in Mac and Windows. In actuality it can look much better than what either of the others can do. At that point they realized, “It’s not how pretty it looks. It’s usability. How easy it is to use.”

Usability is an area that Mac excels at. A Mac is a pretty easy piece of equipment to learn to use for the most part. With that said, it does however have the reputation of not being useful for higher level work or tweakers. Just creative types and people just typing papers and getting on the Internet. These areas seem to be some of the commonly said weaknesses of Linux. My friend’s believe in Windows 7 being easier to use goes even deeper than usability though. It strikes at the heart of my own zealotry. Input devices.

The monitor, mouse and keyboard have changed very little for the last 30+ years. We love these devices. They are near and dear to us. Have we reached the end of the interface road though? If you ever saw the move “Minority Report” you will be aware of Tom Cruise moving items in the air on a two dimensional projection in the sky. Many companies have come out with prototypes of this technology after Microsoft released video of it’s “Microsoft Surface” technology to come out to the public soon. Is this the next step? Even though keyboard changes like the Dvorak (no connection to publication famous John C. Dvorak) style keyboard were introduced in 1936, before the computer even came out, it has not been adopted because we don’t like massive changes in our inputs and interfaces.

So, all that to say the big question: “Have we reached the end of what we can get out of what we are using?” I really can’t picture how much more can be done that will totally blow the mind until virtual reality and 3D projection come but the future always holds some new surprises.

An angry stampede of turtles and Windows 7

Tuesday, November 3rd, 2009

turtlestampede.jpg

I have received quite a few calls, emails and such lately about Windows 7. “Should I buy it now?” is the common jist of the conversation. Being the kind of person that I am, I never like to make uninformed opinions on things. So, of course I have to be one of the early adopters of most new things related to computers or the Internet because sooner or later someone will ask me about it. First, let me give you a little bit of background so you see where I’m coming from.

Computers are to make your life productive, comfortable and easier. Stick with that in mind whenever you’re making a purchase. My job as the tech guy is to tweak your choices to suit your life better. Now, think back. Microsoft gave you Microsoft Office 2007 and what did you get that you already didn’t have in Office 2003? Very little if anything at all. Apple people just saw this with the new version of Mac OSX Snow Leopard. All the fanfare and when I got it on a laptop it hearkened back to the great old Wendy’s commercial slogan from the 80’s. “Where’s the beef?”

Upgrades for the most part now days are like selling new cars. How much different is this car from the other one? Well… other than the different shell. A turtle with a new shell is still a turtle. He’s just shiny now. Software vendors have learned something from auto companies. Toyota wanted to market to a higher class audience so they made up the company Lexus and use the same engines but put on a nicer shell. Honda, Ford and a few others have done the same. Windows Vista got a well deserved bad wrap from consumers so what do they do? Throw a new shell on it and call it a different name.

With all that said, I am liking Windows 7 for the most part only because it’s an upgrade from Vista. Nothing like standing next to the unattractive person to make yourself look just a little bit better. It boots up a little faster but still slower than Mac and Linux. Gaming isn’t fully working but I am still using the pre-release version. I can’t say that I’ve experienced too many problems with networking either but things working faster than Vista is still a major selling point. Now here’s the clincher and listen to me good. If you have Windows XP running I don’t see any reason to change. Windows 7 will actually take away features in XP like remote desktop so they can sell it to you in the higher end version for $100 more.

This is why I relate this new upgrade to an angry stampede of turtles. Usually a stampede would have the ferocity of wild elephants with dust, vicious tusks and chaos. You see it coming in the distance and it’s unavoidable. In this case, the stampede is coming in the distance. Those new shells are menacing. Those turtles look pretty angry. Let’s keep it real though people. Those are still just dressed up turtles. Stand still and let this upgrade stampede pass you by. You won’t even get dust on your shoes.

P.S.: I get all the features of Windows 7 and more with Linux or free software on XP and Yes, I know that it’s a tortoise with legs and a turtle with fins but turtle sounds so much better.