I’m spending most of my time doing documentation these days, since I’m switching roles and it makes no sense to give me more ‘old style’ Ipstenu projects when I’m starting ‘new! shiny!’ things. Instead, I write. All day long. I don’t really mind it, but my mind starts to wander a little and I end up thinking up new ideas for computers.
Bring Back Floppies
No, I don’t me the old 3.5″ or, G-d forbid, the ancient 5.25″ ones that my brother was stunned to find out I’d used on old PCs. I mean the itty bitty memory cards we all use in our digital cameras. A Secure Digital card, or whatever version floats your boat. We’ve all see those multi-format card readers, so why not just put one in your computer? We’ve got the space, saved from the loss of the old floppy drive. Hell, on a Macintosh, just put the damn ‘card reader’ in the monitor!
I know, someone will say ‘we need a standard’, and I point back to 1984, when Macintosh said ‘We’re using 3.5″ floppies, get over it.’ Everyone jumped on that gravy train. So I say ‘Mac, why not pick a format and go for it.’ Of course, I have a Trio Jumpdrive from Lexmark, that reads about 6 formats, and I don’t see why a PC couldn’t do that. It wouldn’t read all, that’s for sure, but it would read enough to make people happy. Then make a mild official stance of one or the other (SD cards seem to be the flavor de jour), and you’re done.
I’d make a note about keydrives (thumbdrive, whatever) but frankly, if you have a Macintosh, your version thereof is likely to be an iPod. Mine is. I just don’t like to use the iPod at work. The card reader is less obsequious, and if it was built into my computer, yippee! I like having the Trio (as mentioned before) for the multiple formats it reads.
Wireless headphones that run off of human electricity
Ipstenit (yes, the Luddite) suggested this on the way home from Revenge of the Sith. We saw an iPod mini and I remarked how miniscule it is, compared to my iPod (I like to read stories on my iPod, though, so the size is worth it for me). She joked that they’d get smaller and smaller, until they were the size of earrings or a necklace. I pointed out the issue of headphones and how you’d want them to be wireless, only that would such the battery. Ipstenit followed up with a lengthy explanation about how the brain gives off electricity to send signals, and we could use excess brain power, since we’re only using about 10% of our brains.
I started to argue that sucking away any energy from the brain, would result in stupider people than we have now, and they might die. Which became a ‘And the downside is…?’ epiphany to us.
Mac to use Intel Chipset
Oh fine. You want to know what I think about the Intel noise? I chatted with a Francophile Friend of mine (henceforth, he is FF!) via email for a day about this. My first thought was a short one. Apple to use Intel. Well, I knew this was going to happen. I mean, the Red Sox won the world series. Bear in mind, I do think a lot of people said it better than I can, but my summary is as such: Speed, cost, supply/demand, dual-booting, cross-platform interoperability.
Intel chips are less expensive and there’s a larger supply, so by 2007, Mac prices will drop (maybe, computer pricing is not an exact science). Also, Intel chips run cooler (temperature-wise) and that will help make faster computers. Remember, the G5 has a fancy water cooling system and multiple fans. Why? Because the G5 chip is very hot. That’s also why there are no G5 laptops. No one wants to burn their balls/ovaries. BSD, which is the *NIX underlying kernel for OS X which Mac users know as Darwin, is already known to run on multiple chipsets, so we already know that won’t be a problem. Mac already wrote Rosetta, which will let a lot of apps run fine on the new chips (so long as they’re not G4/G5 dependant). And knowing that Mathematica (a huge, complex, and very useful app) took around 20 hours to convert means that this isn’t going to be hard.
Dual-booting means I can have Windows and Mac OS on my computer, and while I’d hate to do that, at least I could ‘work from home’ without VPN and RDC… no, wait, I still would do that. Right! It’d be easier to con my friends into Switching. FF noted that he’ll “end up in the same boat no matter who wins: running an emulated desktop OS under VMWare (or, hopefully, its competition)…” He’s so very right. Using Linux at home changes nothing for him. Though the possibility to run an OS X app on his Linux distro exists. After all, if Office is written for Mac on an Intel chipset, then how hard will it be for the DIY crowd to smack that over to something that isn’t BSD? Mac’s already embraced open source, so a lot of apps will be easy to play with. Except Office, since Microsoft fears Open Source.
What is the problem? Footholds. People think of Mac as being, well, different. It’s their own fault too. There used to be a commercial where a guy in an Intel Bunny Suit was on fire, and the commercial was saying ‘Mac chips are faster than Intel. Neener!’ They, interestingly enough, aired that commercial at the Apple Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) when then broke the Mintelac news (I like Mintelac better than Macintel, so thanks, Rob!).
There were a lot of people who bailed ship with the switch from 9 to X, because it involved getting new software. Now, most of my software was already half-way to X by the time I switched up, and I only had to buy a couple things as upgrades. A lot of Mac software offered half-price upgrades for X as well, and I hope they’ll do it again. I’m also hoping I don’t have to upgrade Photoshop and Office again for 3 years. It’s expensive! That said, Mac might gain more of a toehold with the Linux crowd. OS X is a fave among tech-heads for their laptops. Again to quote FF, “See where this is going? Instead of ‘Windows Desktop, Unix Server’ we could end up with ‘MacOS Desktop, Linux Server.'”
At this point we digressed into bickering about GUI and such. FF reminded me that there really isn’t a ‘Linux GUI’ because each distro of Linux has it’s own flavor, that changes at the drop of a hat. But desktop app support is non-existent. Vendors don’t want to hand over their source code to the DIY-ers (and FF and I can totally see why). But as I mentioned before, Mac’s been getting a lot of X mileage with handing over a lot of source code to ‘developers.’ And anyone (even me!) can join the developer crowd.
Eventually we agreed that a GUI is good for some things, but unless you have something like Veritas’ Volume Manager, with computer maintenance you’re going to want a command line. “[If] you code properly, you can create a GUI and command line tool that call the same backend code. That makes them functionally equivalent and suitable for both worlds.” Why don’t they? Lack of foresight or laziness. Just like Citibank being too lazy to encrypt the backup tape with data for 4 million customers, before sending it out via UPS and losing it. Whoops!
A second digression about fucking Citibank brought us back to me commenting that I use the Mac GUI for 90% of my work, but I still like Terminal to do certain things faster. Converting 50 files via a batch job is often faster to type ‘conv -mfs /*.oog’ than it is to open up each one in iTunes and re-save as an MP3. And no, that’s not the actually command line. Mac’s power is the UI, and I’d never fault that. Mac makes it easy to do things that should be easy. Connecting to the internet? Plug it in, open Internet Setup, six clicks and you’re done. To quote the old iMac commercial, “There is no step three!”
The downside are servers, where people think of a UI as, according to FF, “more a speed bump than a boost.”
That’s always been a “but…” sort of thought to me, and it cycles back to a properly coded GUI that does the exact same thing as your command line. Best Mac example? MacJanitor. My problem with command lines is that sometimes I forget what the syntax is, and not everyone uses the same verbiage. Once you get up to 100+ little apps to do something, you get a notebook with 10000+ notes on how to use them. A well written GUI that has reminders for dolts like me is nice.
The way most GUIs are written, it’s simply more convenient to use a command line to manage a high number of computers. I use a GUI to distribute software to multiple computers, but once I hit more than 20 at a time, weird things happen, the GUI slows down, and I could go out for a beer and a peep show before things happen. Same with our current Conflict Checking Database. The interface is so slow, I broke down and (once I had the tables clear in my head), whapped away at the keyboard and did the conversion by hand. All I was trying to do was change the listing for location from OLDSERVER to NEWSERVER for 1641 applications. The GUI should have had a search/replace function.
So what does it all mean? Not much. I’m for the switch. Maybe I’ll hand-build my machine next time, instead of ordering it from Apple! The possibilities for gear-heads, techs and DIY-ers are phenomenal. Yeah, it could turn out to suck, but Apple took a chance and I’m for it. This is good news.
Unless the Bears win the Super Bowl and someone decides to elect Bush to a third term. Then all bets are off.
I finally found the ass case for my iPod! Make me look like a dweeb when rollerblading, but there you are.