Sunday, December 20, 2009

Comptuters: You Hate Them, But You Can't Live Without Them

Sea Level

I was meeting relatives for a few days’ stay at a California resort last week. I had a great time. On the way home out of the valley the terrain sloped upward as I headed east. After a half hour on the Interstate highway I encountered a sign, “Sea Level”. That was after I was somewhat above the place where I spent the last few days. I know that the nearby Salton Sea in southern California was formed during one of the floods that occur periodically. The area is generally below sea level, so it makes sense. The unexpected thing about it is that it was before the so-called “man made global warming”, I guess, “woman made global warming” may have been a factor, but then, there were not enough pseudo-scientists then to tout that, so we really don’t know. If we are indeed in a global warming phase, then we should expect that the sea level will rise a couple of inches over the next century, so the resort I visited may have to invest in some sandbags. I suppose the rent for a night’s stay will go up appropriately at that time.

Vexing Problems

I have been using an ancient laptop computer on the few occasions while away from home. It has been sufficient to keep up with my email and instant messaging with MW. On this last trip I ran into its limitations: ran out of swap space for virtual memory on the main drive. Even after doing some well-justified maintenance, the processor was still thrashing, so all activities were slow. In addition, a slow wireless connection and internet supplier made it a frustrating experience. I love a challenge, but this one had no solution. I concluded that I needed a more recently made laptop computer with larger hard drive, more RAM, built-in high speed wireless card, and larger display. I did some research on low-end laptops, and found some that would work as a replacement. Alas, none come with the choice of my operating system.

What There Is …

I am a Windows type user. I have used a MAC on and off, and I can tolerate it for specialties, such as graphics. However, for general use, I prefer Windows. In the last decade or so since Microsoft introduced Windows XP I have grown used to its quirks and foibles, and lived with it. Every few months the gigabytes of updates and security patches are added to its existing repertoire, and all is well for a while. It is not perfect, but unless one is into Unix and derivatives, there is no alternative. Sure, Vista was introduced with fanfare a scant few years ago. After reading the specifications, and comparing to XP, I realized that only the starry-eyed media fan would be impressed by it, so I dismissed it. Now, it appears that I was right. Microsoft supplanted Vista with still another improvement, this time over Vista as opposed to good old reliable XP: Windows 7. Here we go again.

I hoped that this time they had come up with real improvement. Alas, the only improvement so far is the “improvement over the improvement” introduced in the now essentially defunct Vista. That means, no real gain. The few gimmicks that they have introduced in this (essentially Beta version) are not worth the effort or expense to try to install it. Not only that, but you would likely need a more powerful machine to accommodate it. Then they have the 64-bit version option, which will just run up the bill without obvious benefit at this time when compared to a plain old 32-bit machine still running XP.

I would not be going to all this trouble to disparage Microsoft’s attempt to make a former OS obsolete so that they can cash in on the gullibility of the less informed buyer. But I have a problem. The new computers that I found for a reasonable price have either Vista or Windows 7 installed. I will definitely not buy one with Vista, because it is on its way out even before XP is abandoned. I don’t want Windows 7 at least in its current state of development, sometimes stupidly called, "state of the art". Since Microsoft relies on the gullible to buy it and report their problems and frustrations, it appears that they have a bunch of willing slaves to do their testing, no D/S reference intended. Applications long stable and designed to run on XP will have problems on Windows 7. Sure, there is an option of running an application in the “XP mode”. Being a realist I know that life is not that simple. For example, I use Norton 360 for a comprehensive security application on several computers under XP. I don’t see installing it and expecting it to do its job in the “XP mode” under Windows 7. If you believe that it will work just fine, I can sell you my ancient laptop: it too works just fine using XP, you will love it. Meanwhile, I may have to look for a reconditioned recent laptop computer that still has XP. You may call me a (realistic) Luddite, but at least what I have works.


little bitch said...

i encourage you to give a Mac a try. If you want something that "just works" and you don't want to fuss with, then it's worth the money.

You can find a used Macbook for a decent price and that would be plenty adequate. In my business we have Macs throughout with the exception of the two that are needed to run particular equipment.

The phrase i heard that stuck in my head was

"What is your time worth?"

When you look at that you can decided if it's worth the cost of ownership.

Besides being Mac person, i do follow MS and their OS's. From what I have heard and seen, Windows 7 is the best thing they have ever released. It seems stable, quick, and efficient.

Just my 2 cents.

Susan's Pet said...

If you were to loan me a MAC on my next trip I would be willing to try it.

I suppose I could also buy one if the price were right. We will just have to see. Thanks for the tip.

Milliscent said...

Ah my friend, you must leave the darkness of Microsoft and join the light of Apple.

Of course I live only a few miles from the Microsoft campus, so have many Microsoft friends despite the fact that my house is 100% Apple.

Last weekend I had a little get together which included two Microsoft programmers. They were chatting about how amazingly smart Microsoft employees were, and trashing Vista a bit.

Another friend, a fellow Mac Lover broke into their conversation and asked "If all you guys are so smart, how come your stuff all sucks?"

Luckily the party did not come to blows. ;-)

In any event, there are three Mac Book Pro's in daily use here, and they do very well with cellular internet provided by Verizon. The best combination I've found to date.

Susan's Pet said...

Miss Milliscent,

I love your humorous comment. As always, I value your opinion. Your support, along with that of “little bitch”, for the virtue of a MAC is compelling. I could switch to “all Macintosh” any time, and my wife would love it. If it were not for ties to existing relationships and software, I would do it.

I have not told everything in my post. I have done some investigation since then. I have also re-evaluated my plan for the near future. Compatibility is the real problem. I have several applications running under XP (financial, presentations, writing, net meeting, Unix interface, etc.). I have invested considerable resources in them. In addition, any data on my home computers, and what I carry on a laptop are encrypted. Given that, even Vista, and especially Windows 7, gets in the way sharing data among my computers. Security under Windows 7 and MAC is currently an unresolved issue. The Macintosh is as foreign to these applications as either of the other two.

Buying another computer is just part of the expense. With a different operating system I would have to acquire software to match what I already use on my other computers. Soon we are talking real money. With a laptop running XP none of these would be problems. Until my partners in crime switch to Macintosh, or even Windows 7, I may have to stay with XP. I will need to make a decision before the next planned trip this winter.

doll said...

You should have heard the bitching and moaning that issued from my son after he upgraded to windows 7. I am staying with my parents at the moment and they are running vista, it drives me crazy. I can't wait to get home to XP.

little bitch said...

a little humor

Is Windows a Virus?

No, Windows is not a virus. Here's what viruses do:
They replicate quickly - okay, Windows does that.
Viruses use up valuable system resources, slowing down the system as they do so - okay, Windows does that.
Viruses will, from time to time, trash your hard disk - okay, Windows does that too.
Viruses are usually carried, unknown to the user, along with valuable programs and systems. Sigh... Windows does that, too.
Viruses will occasionally make the user suspect their system is too slow (see 2) and the user will buy new hardware. Yup, that's with Windows, too.
Until now it seems Windows is a virus but there are fundamental differences:Viruses are well supported by their authors, are running on most systems, their program code is fast, compact and efficient and they tend to become more sophisticated as they mature.

So Windows is not a virus.

It's a bug.