Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Why Vista is NOT your most urgent upgrade

All the recent noise about how bad is that Microsoft has pushed back Vista a few months is mostly missing a few important points:

- so far it seems that major and visible advantages will only be available for people running on rather recent configurations - I dare saying 512 MB RAM is required and 1GB is recommended, over 1-1.5 GHz Pentium M or Athlon64 or over 2 GHz P4, and for the new composition model and Aero interface most likely a video card with at least 128-256 MB video RAM and with certain features that I suspect will place the "entry level" quite high ... (but probably not higher than OSX does);

- some of the other "advantages" might be related to things like DRM content - which I suspect only few people are really missing - and new formats - like HD-DVD and Blu-ray - which just as I was predicting are not going to be so hot this year anyway...

- most people with an existing lower configuration will probably be much better with their current XP (or even 2000 in certain conditions); of course that the 95/98/ME should rather only be used for a machine that is never connected to the internet and that has such low resources that Windows2000 is not an option; Linux might also be an option but for a friendly GUI it might need more RAM than usually available on such old machines;

- the major drawback is if for some reason you want to buy a new computer during this year - obviously the first choice would be to wait until the next year and get a configuration with Vista preinstalled - but if you MUST get it before that you only have a few suboptimal solutions - like either getting a configuration with XP but with enough power for Vista and buy an upgrade at a later time OR ...

- just go with a low-cost configuration and use it like that for a number of years - XP is not going away anytime soon and with the correct configuration (including Firefox if you must browse unknown sites) you should be just fine for at least a few years - there is no major hurry to jump and pay another Microsoft tax just since the M$ commercials are telling you that!

- the fact that Apple is getting a new version of OSX every year only means that OSX was in a very pathetic state and that only around 10.3 became acceptable and with 10.4 is usable (but will still probably need another version to get to the same level of business usability as a correctly configured XP - which is just fine for the macfans since they just love throwing away money at Apple for the latest piece of eye-candy);

- so far there is one segment where the future of Vista is still in a very unclear state - and that is the thin-and-light notebooks - as far as I can say there is no ultra low voltage CoreDuo yet (and the low-voltage models are only very few and not so impressive) and what is worse - the Intel integrated video solutions used by 99% of those ultralight notebooks will NOT be able to use Aero ... so at least for that segment any delay is just welcome!

Monday, March 27, 2006

Dell buying Alienware might mean trouble for Apple

Dell buying Alienware makes very good business sense for both companies involved but it might also mean trouble for Apple since Alienware is targeting precisely the same market segment as Apple - and that is rich morons that mostly look at a computer as jewelry where the bling factor is by far the most important thing - and by bling factor I do not mean only the shiny looks (even if those are a part) but also things as the megahertz myth, multiple-video-cards-performance and so on ...

Dell was already killing Apple from the low-cost end but with Alienware (and the fact that the PowerPC myth was so clearly busted and the Macs are now on the same x86 CPU that was proven superior) Apple will now feel serious competition "from above" - meaning faster systems with more bling factor and matching price tags - and many people will go that way simply since it will make them feel more special than Apple could ...

The same "diminishing feel special factor" might also mean trouble for the Apple iPod monopoly - a few years ago having a twice more expensive MP3 player could make a teenager stand-out from his crowd but today in US the crowd does mostly have iPods and many people will discover that other models will make them feel different - and in some cases it will also bring FAR better features for a better price - like in the case of the "nano killer" :)

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Why the MacIdiots are pathetic ...

Guess what - my previous post was "debated" by some of the MacFans - and apparently the very first one decided that I was wrong since the 1000$ 12'' iBook is ONLY about TWICE more expensive than the 550 US$ Dell that I have mentioned - so first let's settle that:

- the 550 US$ Dell B120 is a 14'' notebook that is almost twice less expensive than the 12'' iBook and almost 3 times better priced than the 14'' iBook;

- while that very cheap Dell is not 5 times FASTER than the 2000 US$ PowerBook (as declared by SteveJobs) it is almost certainly at least 2-4 TIMES FASTER that those low-end iBooks - and in case you have trouble understanding that (as is often the case with Mac zealots) I will repeat - it is both TWICE CHEAPER and AT LEAST TWICE FASTER !!!

- the iBooks are most likely A DEAD END - so not only you pay DOUBLE for a TWICE SLOWER machine but you get an architecture that was already abandoned by Apple!!!

Also somehow the first poster believes that the fact that I do not like the one button mouse and the missing keys is only a result of lack of Apple experience - so let's settle that too - I own an Apple for some time and I am working on my first commercial programs for that platform and so I spend about 30-40% of my time on that and I am BY FAR more efficient than maybe 90% of the Apple users - yet each time when I work on that notebook I still find the missing button/keys a major problem!

Friday, March 24, 2006

A few reasons why a Mac is still a bad choice ...

There were a number of people trying to push the idea that somehow the recent Vista delay might be good news for Apple and that we might see a large increase in their sales - let's see why that is not quite so:

- the Apple notebooks are still extremely overpriced - while the typical born-rich macfan will pay almost any price Apple asks just to feel "special" most people will find that a 550 US$ Dell notebook is around 4-5 times less expensive yet will do just fine ... or even better in terms of backwards compatibility and support;

- for that HUGE price premium most people would expect to get a machine that has BOTH OSX and XP/Vista legally installed and supported!

- what is probably the MOST important show-stopper for any serious user - the 5-times-cheaper Dell notebook has 100% more mouse buttons and also around 100% more "control keys" - only really dumb people can believe that NOT having real PageUp/PageDn, Home/End, Delete/Insert keys is an advantage ...

- even if the Apple marketing machine will try to convince you that OSX is the most advanced operating system on earth that is simply "marketing bullsh*t" - some eye-candy might be appealing at first but in the end it will be just another distraction;

- and last but not least - it still is a TOTALLY CLOSED ARCHITECTURE !

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Short post about Cory and click fraud ...

In a post on boingboing Cory says that those Yahoo people are outrageous and somehow suggests that they would want to just block non-US visitors ... which is mostly bull**it :)

a) Yahoo people never mentioned your content and pages (which is as free as you want) - they would just need to stop their ADS, nothing else (just like in that contract, by the way);

b) the reason behind that is very simple - click targeting (and from some point on stopping the CLICK FRAUD);

c) Cory is either very stupid to not see that or more likely very fond of the vast amounts of money from that click fraud :(

UPDATE - the post apparantly was changed so that it no longer directly claims that Yahoo wants to block the pages of the blog but it still remains strange.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

The real reason behind the Vista delay

In a previous post I was the very first to say that Vista might be slipping a little from the original plan to ship in November - and now it seems that it will indeed be pushed to the start of 2007 ... but what is behind that delay ?

It is very simple after all - first Microsoft might have been a little concerned themselves (precisely for the reasons described in my own post) but FAR MORE IMPORTANT I suspect it was the pressure from the major PC builders (especially those with non-direct-sales) - having Vista just launched in November 2006 would mean that selling A LOT OF THE CURRENT MODELS would become very hard (close to impossible) to sell (since in no way those computers will be Vista-compatible) - so in the end Microsoft (unlike very often Apple) decided to let all those PC builders get their happy end-of-year sales, eventually even increase the free publicity for Vista with those sales (since the top-level expensive configurations will certainly have big "Vista-ready" stickers) and just have a home run at a slightly later moment ...

The moral of the story ? Just be very careful with any computer configuration that you buy this year :)

Small update - some other pages mention Jim Allchin and references to a strong connection with PC makers ! (even if somehow CNET thinks it might be bad for them - which is rather stupid since only around a minority of the current configurations are Vista-ready, just a few big and heavy notebooks and as far as I can tell absolutely no small and light notebooks !!!)

Saturday, March 11, 2006

The nano killer !

Well, just days after a small flop from Samsung we can now see a VERY interesting review of the SanDisk Sansa e270 (6GB) at CNET

Some very good news:
- bigger memory than the nano;
- better price;
- bigger screen;
- good user interface;
- voice recording function;
- good FM radio (and recording);
- Micro SD slot;
- better scratch resistance than the nano;
- EASY TO REPLACE BATTERY (most mp3 players might become useless after 1-2 years of heavy use if you can not do that)!
- JPG viewer;
- also video playback!
- both MTP and UMS (the standard USB Mass Storage) modes!!!
- much better battery life than the nano (20 hours)!

Basically the only advantage that remains for the nano is that it's thinner ... and the fact that it can play protected AAC - but if you were dumb enough to invest in a closed audio format kept hostage by the most monopolistic technology company then you probably deserve it :)

And in other news - it is now official that it will not be easy to install Windows on the new Mactel systems ... another proprietary/closed thing from Apple with the only purpose to hold customers hostage ...

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Samsung does not quite get it :(

The new Samsung YP-Z5 will be yet another flop ... (click on the picture to go to the full review site).

Here is why:

a) proprietary conector;
b) non-standard USB protocol (no USB Mass Storage = UMS);
c) no special feature worth mentioning (no video, the same memory size as the nano, price is not great and so on).
The only good thing about it is how scratch-resistant is (somebody learned from the nano embarrassment) - but it's too little, too late ... for that segment the only contender remains the Sandisk Sansa e200 ...

I can only hope that the YP-U2 will not go on the same route but since some Samsung managers seem to be incredibly dumb here are a few points:
- the standard USB stick features (the connector which needs no extra cables, the UMS feature and the slim form factor) are VERY IMPORTANT!!!
- capacity is VERY IMPORTANT - forget the 512MB version, 1 GB is minimum, 2 GB highly recommended, even 4 GB might be a hit!
- battery life is important; (but not more important than form factor, so it is OK to replace AAA with a very small internal Li-polymer battery);
- screen can be non-color but MUST be there;
- the neckstrap should be included;
- OGG and AAC formats should be also supported if it's only a metter of getting a better firmware!

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Finally an iPod that I might like ...

During the last days some new images have emerged on the net of something that might be the newest iPod video ... or maybe just another fake :)
Just in case it is the 'real thing' I have to go on record and say that based on those pictures it's the first iPod that I really like - here is a picture from engadget and you can click on it to see the corresponding article:

Now before people might start believing that I 'have seen the light and I was converted' there might still be MANY problems even if it is NOT a fake image:
a) screen coating (without it the screen will become messy or will be quickly scratched);
b) battery life (anything under 4 hours of video and 12 of audio is pretty useless);
c) capacity - anything under 40 GB will also be rather useless;
d) hardware and software interface - if it is not a an USB mass storage device the usability will be greatly reduced; and if you MUST use iTunes to add files on it then it's a dead end for most power users;
f) price - normally I would say 300$ is the top limit for the 40GB but since we speak about highly overpriced Apple products it will probably be over 400 US$, maybe over 500$ for the 60/80GB version, and at that price point I will certainly think twice :(

However the 'form factor' of the device from those pictures is IDEAL and I can only hope that some smart and decent company (and that excludes Apple :) ) will make something like that that covers all the points from above and also has:
a) a small pen and some PDA features - ideally a 'user-mode micro-Linux' - I don't think that it might be realistic to expect an open-source kernel in a DRM product but adding something 'user-mode' and that is easy to access without making the interface more complex for dumb users might keep everybody reasonably happy!
b) eventually a cell-phone module!!!

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Vista ... will it suck ... or not ?

As you might remember from this old post I was NOT impressed with the last year beta of Vista so I was quite curious on how things have evolved during those 2-3 months up to the recent build 5308 ... but to find my 'temporary rating' you will have to read on ...

The boot loader seems slightly better (there is a command-line tool called BCDEDIT.EXE and the older BOOTCFG.EXE that can be used with it) but it still does not 'play nice' with anything else - my normal stuff is on a SATA HDD and I test beta-like stuff (Vista, OSX) on a separate ATA HDD (with the SATA controller disabled 'just in case') - Vista refused to install itself on a non-active primary NTFS partition (the active partition was the old OSX 10.4.3) and some extra work was needed since after making that partition active and installing Vista I could no longer start OSX, then when I started OSX from the DVD and 'repaired' the partition table boot code (with OSX fdisk) I could no longer boot Vista and I needed that DVD and then the BCDEDIT utility ... in the end I got things working but the road to that was certainly not nice!!!

Apparently the 'eye-candy' part that I was suggesting in my previous post is now firmly going into the right direction - some new wallpapers were added and also some interesting screen savers - I wonder if they also fired somebody for that :)

The new "desktop composition model" is also working quite nice and a lot of things are now looking much better - but what surprised me a little was the very poor hardware support for video cards that I consider right now budget-level - like for instance the nVidia 6600 series - with that card the new Aero features were NOT activated by default !!!

Windows update is finally working - and a new nVidia driver was available - but that one was also not working as expected, so I had to download the beta 87.15 ForceWare driver - after installing that a BSOD was generated on the next restart but somehow after that things started to work and I FINALLY managed to see the new Aero interface - and it is indeed quite nice (even if still needs some extra fine-tuning and a lot of extra work on the drivers part!!!)

A part of Vista that might have an even bigger impact that the visual part is the new 'security model' - now it seems like most of the 'administrative rights' that a user might have are still present but no longer 'enabled by default' - and the operating system will ask when an application is trying to do something potentially dangerous - the overall result is that running things full time from an administrative account have been placed at least at the same security level as in OSX - but so far it might look quite annoying for the real administrators (that were only logging as such in order to do some specific tasks) to be constantly asked if they really, really mean that ... and as with OSX the potential danger is that the average user might become too used to 'approving' every single action so in the end the dangerous programs might still be able to infiltrate into Vista (eventually with a little social engineering).

The new stuff might also break a lot of programs (including some of my small favorite tools) ... but that still remains to be seen ... and here comes the major problem that I see with Vista - if MicroSoft would really like to launch Vista in 6 months or so and if they want to avoid embarrasing situations they might be quite a lot behind the ideal schedule - if MS wants to make Vista a major hit they should provide to all (ALL!!!) Windows developers a rather stable and mostly frozen build for at least 6 months in order to be certain that the vast majority of programs will work 'almost perfectly' - and build 5308 is obviously not stable nor feature-frozen, not to mention that is far from 'for all developers' :(

There are MANY other features inside but those might be eventually left for another post - the overall result so far is that things are starting to look promising and I am more tempted to give some credit to an over-optimistic article like
this rather than the pathetic one from here ! (don't even get me started on that last one - any so-called 'expert' that picks a Gateway with integrated video like that one and then complains about how software can't do miracles with his stupid choice simply deserves to be neglected).

There IS however one point where I am afraid that Vista might be a major disappointment - and that is for the rather advanced users - it is not a bad idea to be more user-friendly for the less experenced users but that can EASILY be done with a separate configuration for them - and that can even be the default one - but neglecting and upsetting power users by not providing an easy way to switch off some or all of the 'dumb mode enhancements' might be a very costly mistake for MicroSoft !

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Funny ... what if M$ was more like Apple :)

Apparently Woz believes that M$ should be more like Apple - so let's play a little 'what if' with that idea:
- first of all M$ would have to loose the vast majority of it's base and be reduced to a pathetic 2-3% of the market;
- they would also have to start screwing their customers as fast as they could - the current 'one Windows version every 2-5 years' should now become 'at least one new operating system every year and you will pay full price for it';
- Windows will ONLY work on a very, very limited hardware platform that should first be approved (for a huge fee) by M$; everybody that wants to sell that will pay a big per-CPU fee to M$;
- from time to time the hardware platform will be TOTALLY changed with basically minimal backwards compatibility so that the suckers will have to buy something new as often as possible; that will always be presented as a major step forward; and even if a few months before that new hardware was mocked as inferior, the moment it will be adopted by the company it will magically become the most powerful in the world :)
- all previous 3rd party programs will no longer work after 2-3 Windows versions or will work very poor;
- if anything of any real value is created by some other smaller software company the idea will be stolen and become a major selling point of the next Windows version;
- if by accident something interesting comes from inside the company it will under NO CIRCUMSTANCE be licensed to other companies but instead a monopoly around it will be created as soon as possible and customers will be locked into it with no escape !!!

Yep, I just can't wait for M$ to become more like Apple ... or not :))