Day: 11/27/2012

Resting – Almost Winter

Places to rest, benches and other, more final, spots ….

 

 

Coercion By Any Other Name: Technology, Stupidity and Windows 8

It’s Official: Windows 7 is “Out” and Windows 8 is “In”

Oh yeah? And who’s gonna make me?

I am very out of sorts about this. Windows 7 is a stable, highly functional operating system that lets me run my applications and use the Internet, moving from embedded applications to online publication without a hiccup. I understand Microsoft’s desire to have a stronger presence in the tablet/touchscreen market, but their ill-conceived attempt to eliminate the work space in which most of us have become comfortable is not going to win them any popularity contests. It isn’t going to sell more computers. If anything, I’m betting that many people will do the same thing I’m planning to do: avoid buying anything unless it comes with a Windows 7 downgrade or just work with our existing computer equipment until they come to their sense. Keep Windows 8 … and keep Windows 7. Let users decide what they want instead of telling us what we want.

I don’t know about you, but I really resent coercion, whether by corporation or government decree.

Pointy shoes hurt your feet

When I was a young woman, I refused to wear pointy shoes. They hurt my feet. It took some doing, but I found non-pointy shoes from Fred Braun,  Bass and Keds. I wore comfortable sandals, going so far as to have them made to fit my feet — simple, flat and strappy. I owned boots with square toes made in England or Australia. I thought mini skirts looked ridiculous on any anyone over 16, so for a brief unhappy interval, I made my own. That was less successful as people looked at me and said “Ah, you must have made that yourself.” I don’t think it was a compliment.

I still won’t wear clothing I don’t like. I won’t wear anything uncomfortable.  I didn’t care about fashion when I was 20 and I care a lot less at 65.

I am equally resistant to fads in technology. I’m geeky enough to understand what’s going on when the latest gizmos are introduced and savvy enough to determine if it would be useful to me.

My purchasing … all purchasing, but especially tech stuff … is driven by what I need rather than what’s new, trendy, cute, or sexy.  I don’t have an MP3 player because I’m not outside on the move often enough to need one. For the few times I’m not near a computer, I take my Kindle.

Being unfashionable has advantages. It saves you money. If you don’t need to have the latest thing, you won’t need to replace your wardrobe when whoever decrees what’s “In” and “Out” changes his/her/their mind. I have a pea coat — a real one, made for the U.S. Navy — that is as warm and attractive as it was 35 years ago.

My big Dell computers were bought with an eye toward running everything I have now plus anything that I might need in the forseeable future. I bought computers with as much memory as the operating system will support. I got the highest resolution HD monitors available. I bought huge, fast hard drives and two external drives to deal with data overflow and as insurance against losing a hard drive. I included the biggest baddest video cards the machines would support, Blue-ray reader/writer units, and sound cards that will support any system I feel inclined to hook up. These computers won’t be obsolete any time soon.

If we aren’t hit by a tornado, tsunami, or earthquake, as far as computers go, I’m set. I figure I’m good to go for 5, maybe 10 years or more. And, almost everything is upgradeable.

“The sky is falling,” cried Chicken Little. “PC sales have flattened out!”

I’m happily surrounded by desktop and laptop computers that run without a hiccup and on which everyone depends. ZDNet is simultaneously predicting the end of the home computer.  This deduction is worthy of Chicken Little or maybe, Turkey Lurky and is based entirely on computer sales having flattened out while mobile device sales remain brisk.

English: A pile of mobile devices including sm...

A pile of mobile devices: smart phones, tablets, laptops and e-book readers. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Armed with this pair of facts, the author concluded that from henceforth we shall all do everything on mobile devices because we no longer need hard drives or embedded applications. We can just pick up apps from the online app store and everything we need can be accomplished … on the telephone? iPad? Chromebook? Android tablet? Having made an earlier and even more baseless pronouncement that we don’t need dedicated GPS’s because you can use your telephone or iPad, I should not be surprised, but stupidity always surprises me. For some reason, I expect better of my peers.

Some other moron (maybe more than one moron) pointed out we don’t need cameras anymore. If you are a photographer, you’ve probably bumped into these people on forums. They don’t get the difference between photography and snap shots. “We can take pictures just as good on our phones,” they shout. Shall I take their advice? I will just throw away my cameras, lenses, filters …everything. I mean, Hell, I have a telephone. What more do I need?

They have declared anything I use for work or art obsolete. Before I try to edit a 12 X 16 photograph on my telephone, or for that matter, on my 7″ android tablet,  there are a few details that need ironing out by which I mean that there are people to whom an iron applied firmly to the side of the head would solve a few problems.

About iPads and Macs

I am not going to buy an iPad or ar any other Macintosh computer. An iPad would useless to me as would any kind of tablet. You can’t do real work on a tablet. You can display stuff, play games, diddle around, but you can’t edit a photograph or format a document. Despite the fact that I’m retired, I still write and I edit photographs. Now more than ever, actually. I am dependent on Photoshop and other heavy guns in the software department … none of which will run on a Chromebook, an android tablet, any kind of Mac or iPad. These require a real computer with a real — large — hard drive and a compatible operating systems spelled “Windows.” A high-end Mac could do the job, but there is no chance whatsoever that I am going to buy one because they are beyond my budget and my software wouldn’t run on it — which would add at least another thousand dollars to the cost of the computer. So please, my beloved friends, unless you are offering to buy me a the computer you think I should have plus all the software I need, do not tell me I should get a Mac. It’s just annoying … unless it’s an offer rather than a suggestion, in which case, hey, let’s talk.

How stupid are reviewers and what planet do they come from?

In what world do they live? Do they work for a living? Are any of them musicians, authors, or photographers? Book designers, engineers, developers? Accountants, financial advisors? Movie makers? Are they aware that most professionals rely on powerful installed applications like Photoshop, Acrobat, Framemaker and CAD?

Are they children who think playing games on their cell phone is the ultimate technological achievement?

People aren’t buying PCs because they have all the computers they need.

Sooner or later, everyone has enough and they don’t need another. There won’t be a buying surge for microwave ovens or refrigerators either. We have enough of them too. The inevitable has occurred. Everyone who wants a computer has one. Most of us have more. In this household, with 5 computer-using adults, we have 10 laptops and desktops. None is close to obsolete.

Like other families, we are short of funds. Bad economy; money is tight. We buy things, just not as much as we did. We can’t afford mistakes,  so we have to get it right the first time.

A few years ago, I bought Kindles for my husband, son, and me. Recently, I got the new HD Kindle Fire that plays audiobooks, music, videos, collect email, plays some games pretty well, has surprisingly good speakers, and hooks up with Facebook and Twitter. It’s not really a full service computer, but rather a good, portable, lightweight media center. A compact, versatile device I can use for all the various types of media I enjoy that didn’t break my piggy bank, has a long battery life and frees me from being tethered to my office computer, genuine freedom to roam.

My netbook was supposed to fill this niche, and to be fair, it tries. It does as much as it can, but I hear its labored breathing. Like “The Little Engine That Could” it mumbles “I know I can, I know I can.”  The new Kindle will do many of the things I do on my Netbook, plus everything I did on my original Kindle.

I took a long, hard look at Chromebooks, but the limitations kept flashing at me like neon signs. No hard drive. It would let me do everything I can do on the Kindle or Netbook except edit pictures and create real documents which I can do on the Netbook because it has a hard drive and software. It isn’t the most convenient way to work, but I’ve written on it, edited pictures and published, all from the Netbook. It’s not my first choice of tools, but it will work … and it forms a kind of bridge between a full-size laptop and my Kindle. The keyboard makes a huge difference. The netbook let’s me do 95% of my work without an internet connection. Offline! Imagine working without WiFi! It could revolutionize the computer world.

As far as I can figure it, a Chromebook can do what the Netbook does, but it boots  faster and doesn’t need virus software. It can be connected to an external hard drive … I think … but it doesn’t really have an operating system per se, so I’m not sure if my applications would work on it even if I try to run them from an external source. It can’t do everything the Netbook does because the Netbook’s 260 GB hard drive means I can use real software, not just “apps.” I have tried dozens of apps for photo editing and text editing. There isn’t any app for serious graphics design or photo editing. Finally, I already own a Netbook, so by definition it’s the cheapest solution. Saving 2 minutes of boot time is not a real issue in my life. I’m just not that pressed for time. When Chromebooks get a hard drive, we’ll talk. Meanwhile, between the Kindle, the Netbook, my laptop, and my desktop, I think I’m set. Push Windows 8 and all Microsoft will do is annoy me.

Lies! They are telling us lies!

The problem in figuring out what device was right for me was compounded by how corrupted my sources of information on new technology have become. ZDNet used to be a reliable source. Now they are toadies in thrall to their advertisers. No more real reviews. Instead, they serve up puff pieces, touting whatever Microsoft or Mac’s PR departments tells them to say. Maybe someone believes it, but based on the comments I saw, not many.

I search individual blogs for honest appraisals of new technology. I rely heavily on reviews by knowledgable users. I compare features against price. I try to evaluate if a technology is “ready” or if it’s still Beta.

Why should we believe them? We shouldn’t!

Not long ago, in an equally ill-informed article, ZDNet announced the death of dedicated devices, in particular, the GPS. The author (and I use that word advisedly) stated since we all own tablets and smartphones, we are now going to use these iPads, iPods, or smartphones for navigation. I found the idea of attaching a 10″ iPad to my windshield pretty funny. Having tried my phone as a GPS, no thanks.  The limitations of the phone mean you can’t see the map OR hear instructions over any kind of  background noise.

They have also repeatedly announced the death of personal computers along with the replacement of embedded software by mobile apps. They are serious, or appear to be. They think free apps will replace everything. Really? Have they actually tried to use these apps? I suspect they have not tried anything. They make assumptions and print them as facts.

We don’t need no stinkin’ facts! What’s research?

Instead of professionals producing thoughtful articles about technology, we have a bunch of stooges for big corporations. They are not working for their readers. They are trying to sell us on whatever their sponsors want them to push. The articles are nothing more than slightly reworded corporate PR releases. I would say they are badly researched, but I believe there was no research done at all.

They got a PR packet, picked some information out of it, did a little tweaking, and voilà, that’s the article. If I’m going to just take the manufacturer’s word for it, I don’t need them.

I doubt whoever wrote the last article saying that we were all going to do everything on our mobile toys has ever tried to do anything working people need to do. He certainly never tried to do it on one of the devices he was touting. He probably thinks his telephone is a fine precision camera and he is welcome to his opinion so as long as he doesn’t ask me look at his pictures.

Anything that can do everything doesn’t do anything well.

In the realm of small dedicated devices, from cameras and MP3 players, to telephones, DVD players and book readers, dedicated devices perform far better than equivalent “add ons” to general purpose devices. A modern computers is not a dedicated device: it’s a platform with power to drive a lot of different things, rather like a big empty room. It does many things, but it won’t do everything well. You can use it as a TV, but sitting in your living room, feet up on the recliner and watching a movie on your big-screen TV is a more satisfying experience.

You can use a computer as a GPS, but a small dashboard or window-mounted unit  is a lot easier and responds faster. Nothing takes pictures like a camera with a good lens. Nothing reproduces music better than a good sound system with high quality speakers. Book readers are better for reading text and if you want to make music, learn to play an instrument.

I don’t want to read on my computer or take pictures on my phone. I am a photographer and I use a camera. If you are positive your iPad is just as good as a camera, if you believe your cell phone or android tablet is good enough to fill your picture-taking needs, you’re probably right. Don’t show me your pictures. Please.

I own three cameras. I edit in Photoshop. I write books. I design books and I use Framemaker, the world’s most anti-intuitive software, but also the only software that does the job. In the ZDNet fantasy world, we are going to do everything on our telephones or tablets. Where do I fit into this portable society? The answer is simple: I don’t. Probably neither will you.

“There’s an app for that!” (No, not really.)

There is no app by anyone anywhere that can come close to the functionality of any version of Photoshop. There is no application other than Framemaker that will create indexes across chapters. For creating PDF books for reading online, you need Acrobat. What? You don’t need to do any of that? Well, I do. So do other people. People work with spread sheets and other office application. Before you declare the PC obsolete, you might want to try working … really working … on these little tiny devices you want to sell me. You’ll be shocked and amazed to discover a spread sheet is invisible on a telephone. You might be able to create a small one on a tablet, but if you are a serious number cruncher, you aren’t going to do it on an iPad or any other tablet. You may use a tablet to display the final result, but you won’t use it to do the work. If you are editing pictures, you’re not going to use a little screen on a pod, tablet, or telephone. You will want a big high-definition monitor.

Photo and video editing require a large monitors, lots of RAM and a huge hard drive. Despite the opinions of the young and clueless, there people who take their jobs and art seriously. These folks require serious tools with which to work. If you think games are the epitome of technological achievement, get a job.

How come people are still buying small mobile devices but not computers? Aw, c’mon. You know why not. They don’t need another computer, but they don’t have a tablet. Or, they have a cell phone, but the technology for telephones is changing … and telephones are subject to much more abuse than other devices. They get rained on, dropped, and sat on. Crumbs and coffee make the keys sticky and touchscreens become unresponsive. I’ve had the same phone for years, but I don’t use it much. When it dies, I’ll replace it. Till then, I’m fine.

People will not always buy a new phone twice a year. They’ll make sturdier ones, waterproof, dust-proof, and shock-proof. Eventually, everyone will have enough telephone, tablets, and other gadgets. No doubt there will be new gadgets, but to sell them, they’ll have to come up with new needs to fill. Otherwise, they will build them, but no one will buy. They will create a gadget so sexy, cute and trendy that manufacturers will be anticipating a veritable rush to buy them … but no one will care. They will be gadgeted out.

Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock.

The clock is ticking.

Computer sales are going to stay modest until the expensive high-powered laptops and desktops we recently bought break down or are obsolete. And I don’t think that’s going to happen all that quickly.

Are personal computers going the way of dinosaurs? Mine aren’t.

If Microsoft forces their OS on me, an operating system that shows all the signs of being out of touch with the needs of users, I might reconsider my choices and buy a Mac or a Linux box. I have a big investment in PC-based software so I’d rather not, but maybe I can get upgrades that run on other operating system.

No amount of salesmanship will convince me to buy stuff I don’t need or like. I don’t like anything I’ve heard about Windows 8. Like Vista, it sounds like a good reason to not buy a computer.

I like gadgets. I like cool devices. If someone gives me a toy, I will play with it. But I’m not going to spend a lot of money to get it. Free is my price on anything I don’t actually need.

How about some new software?

We need new software. With the enormous popularity of digital photography, we need more and better choices for people who don’t need al the functionality of a full Photoshop installation, but are beyond Photoshop Elements. We need more streamlined applications for book design and text handling.  Microsoft Office is bloated and overly automated. You can’t do half the things using the new versions of it that you could do 10 or 15 years ago.

Freeware is the way of the future, as well as cross-platform applications that will work on any operating system. Many households already use computers running various operating systems.

For years, software was way ahead of hardware. Now, the reverse is true. The software world has seen an explosion of creativity in games, but no equivalent development of business applications. Adobe, a company that was dedicated to providing professional software has been floating along without doing anything significant or unique in years. How about a trimmed down home-user version of Framemaker? That would give Word a run for its money.

It would be great if magazines and journals that supposedly provide information to the trades would consider really doing that. As a consumer, I resent being sold a bill of goods. The only reason to read trades is for non-partisan information on new technology. Now, I don’t trust anything they say so, which makes them useless to me.

As a writer, I deplore the poor quality of the articles and the authors’ lack of thought, analysis and research. It gives us all a bad name. As a consumer, I’m offended that you think I’m that stupid. At the very least, try the product before you tell me it’s great.

Let’s go back in time to when integrity and honesty could be used in the same sentence with journalist.  Bad enough that every sleazy politician is out there lying his/her ass off, but “et, tu brute?”

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