The rantings of a beautiful mind

On life, society, and computer technology.

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Location: Toronto, Ontario, Canada

I live in the Fortress of Solitude. I drive the Silver Beast. My obsession is justice. I used to be a Windows software developer. I retired in 2000 when my stock options helped me achieve financial security.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Vista Wars VI

Big improvement? Many reviewers (both professional and amateur) would disagree with you. Just look at reviews from CNET editors, from a Microsoft apologist at MIT Technology Review, from columnists at eWeek.

However, I shall concede that there are things to appreciate in Vista. The point I wish to make is that many of these things are already in OS X Tiger. Despite recent security vulnerabilities found in OS X, it is still a damn sight safer than Windows. It remains to be seen whether Vista will live up to its security claims. Hackers are now only beginning to attack Vista...

The Sidebar gadgets in Vista were copied from OS X’s Dashboard. The much-vaunted search function was modeled after OS X’s Spotlight. Gee, is there anything original in Vista?!

If you need 32-bit app compatibility, why not run them in Parallels Desktop on the Mac? You can dig up that old copy of Win2k lying around and save yourself hundreds of dollars in upgrade costs.

OS X Leopard will be coming out soon, with a raft of new features and bling-bling. What we have here is the classic game of leapfrog, with Windows and OS X trying to outdo each other with successive versions. If you think Vista is nice, why not wait a little longer and see what Leopard has to offer?


On 1/29/07 1:46 PM, "Ajith Shanmuganathan" wrote:

In general Vista is a big improvement over XP. I installed Vista Ultimate x64 in less than 1/2 an hour and it detected all my hardware flawlessly. My 3 year old Lexmark printer is the only thing that is waiting for drivers. The Aero interface is clean and efficient, the font is much easier to read than in XP. The rotating blue/green busy-cursor is really cool. I like the predefined gadgets for the weather, time, and RSS feed on the desktop.

Security is much better, it is now possible to run all the time in non-admin mode and just sudo into admin mode to do maintenance. The filesystem seems more locked down and IE seems more secure as well.

32 bit apps run fine, and I haven't seen any issues with compatibility.

Performance is much better than XP. Programs load almost instantaneously and feel far more responsive than XP. The base O/S uses about 600M of RAM, but upgrading 1G of RAM costs about $120.

Vista Wars V

Over the years, I’ve played with numerous desktop interfaces...Win 3.x, Win 9x, Win 2k, Win XP, OS/2 Warp, KDE, GNOME, Enlightenment, Fluxbox, Amiga, GEM, etc. I’ve found that once the novelty wears off, once you get used to the interface during the day-to-day grind of your job, you just don’t care about the interface anymore. They start to all look alike. The main thing for you is that the OS functions mostly as an application launcher, and everything else is just bells and whistles.

In time, you will be able to move between Vista and XP and KDE and GNOME and Aqua and not care about their differences. The fact is, today’s Operating Systems have much more in common than in distinction. None of them is revolutionary—they’re all just variations on a theme. For Paul Thurrott to call Vista “revolutionary” reflects the reality that he’s nothing more than a Microsoft shill.

Save your money. If you’re currently using XP, just stick with it. If you’re using Win 9x, you’re way behind the times and you’re vulnerable to all kinds of problems—this is your opportunity to make a giant leap, a paradigm shift. The only question is: Do you want to pay through the nose to upgrade to Vista, or do you want to jump ship to the Mac? The value proposition is clear, and Ajith will never be able to make a cogent argument in favour of Vista.


Vista Wars IV

That’s laughable. How much time do most consumers spend in the Operating System? They just want to run their favourite apps, like games, web browser, office suite, iTunes, and perhaps media viewer. The OS is largely an application switcher.

It doesn’t matter to most people what their GUI front-end is like. Aero Glass? Aqua? KDE? They couldn’t care less. They just want to avoid a steep learning curve and to get on with their work. You said it yourself...there are things in Vista that require acclimation, features that don’t work the way you like.

How do I know all this? I use my girlfriend’s family as a model of typical Windows users. She, and her son and daughter (both in university), make minimum use of the desktop interface. Because, to paraphrase someone, it’s the apps, Stupid!


On 1/29/07 1:46 PM, "Ajith Shanmuganathan" wrote:

I find it difficult to use XP on my laptop, now.

Vista Wars III

Some people need to upgrade their RAM and their video card, even on a one-year-old computer!

You mention $120 as if that’s no big deal. But if a consumer has already spent $1,500 on a new laptop one year ago, and then he has to spend another $180 for a Home Premium Upgrade, and then another $120 for the RAM upgrade, we’re already talking about tacking on another $300 to the original purchase price. And that’s before tax.

Ajith, it’s a big deal. Perhaps not for you because you’re floating in cash, but not many people are as fortunate as you are.


On 1/29/07 1:46 PM, "Ajith Shanmuganathan" wrote:

Performance is much better than XP. Programs load almost instantaneously and feel far more responsive than XP. The base O/S uses about 600M of RAM, but upgrading 1G of RAM costs about $120.

Vista Wars II

I have a big problem with WGA. If you need to replace your motherboard, hard drive, and power supply—as I did recently for my girlfriend's computer when it suffered a catastrophic meltdown—you then need to go to Microsoft with cap in hand, begging them to let you install Windows. Most of the time, they’ll be reasonable (you hope) and give you a new key. But that’s not guaranteed.

There are well-documented examples on the Internet of Windows users who have been locked out of their computer for no fault of their own. Chances are, you’ll get away with it, but the fact is, you’re taking a gamble with WGA.

Why should consumers have to put up with this nonsense?


On 1/29/07 1:46 PM, "Ajith Shanmuganathan" wrote:

I have no problem with WGA, if you don't authenticate the software it'll go into safe mode. If you have to re-install the software, your old key should work.

Vista Wars

And you don’t think Microsoft has the economic clout to resist the IP owners? C’mon.

I bet Apple won’t kiss their asses...

Now here’s the $64,000 question (literally):

How much are you spending to upgrade all your computers to Vista? Or are you leeching off your company (i.e., pirating)?

Assuming you’re upgrading to Home Premium, you’re spending $180 CDN per computer. Three computers, $616 (tax incl.).

If you’re upgrading to Ultimate, you’re spending $300 per computer. Ouch! Some people have more money than sense.


On 1/29/07 1:46 PM, "Ajith Shanmuganathan" wrote:

Many of Vista's DRM technologies exist not because Microsoft wanted them there, they were developed at the behest of high-powered intellectual property owners.

I have no problem with WGA, if you don't authenticate the software it'll go into safe mode. If you have to re-install the software, your old key should work.

In general Vista is a big improvement over XP. I installed Vista Ultimate x64 in less than 1/2 an hour and it detected all my hardware flawlessly. My 3 year old Lexmark printer is the only thing that is waiting for drivers. The Aero interface is clean and efficient, the font is much easier to read than in XP. The rotating blue/green busy-cursor is really cool. I like the predefined gadgets for the weather, time, and RSS feed on the desktop.

Security is much better, it is now possible to run all the time in non-admin mode and just sudo into admin mode to do maintenance. The filesystem seems more locked down and IE seems more secure as well.

32 bit apps run fine, and I haven't seen any issues with compatibility.

Performance is much better than XP. Programs load almost instantaneously and feel far more responsive than XP. The base O/S uses about 600M of RAM, but upgrading 1G of RAM costs about $120.

File & program navigation and searching is a bit clunky. I like the adaptive menus, but it is not initially obvious how to add menu items. The program menu expands down and not sideways, which I don't like.

I plan on upgrading my other computers to Vista in the next little while. I find it difficult to use XP on my laptop, now.

- Ajith

Sunday, January 28, 2007

CNET reviews Windows Vista

CNET review of Windows Vista

Perhaps we're spoiled, but after more than five years of development, there's a definite "Is that all?" feeling about Windows Vista. Like cramming an info-dump into a book report the night before it's due, there certainly are a lot of individual features within the operating system, but the real value lies in their execution--how the user experiences (or doesn't experience) these--and like the info-dump, we came away shaking our heads, disappointed. Compared with Mac OS X 10.4, Windows Vista feels clunky and not very intuitive, almost as though it's still based on DOS (or at least the internal logic that made up DOS). Despite the addition of a system-wide, built-in Search, and various efforts to break away from staidly old directory trees, you still need to drill down one level to even access Search. And there are far too many dependencies on Microsoft products; this is not a very objective operating system, as preference is always given to Microsoft products (of which there are many), from MSN Search to RSS feeds only from Internet Explorer. But is Windows Vista a bad operating system? No. It's just a disappointment for PC users who hoped that Microsoft would deliver something truly exciting to finally leapfrog ahead of Apple. They failed. But stick around; this is just Windows Vista 1.0. Windows Vista Service Pack 1 is due out sometime before the end of the year. Windows Vista SP1 promises to fix what's known to be wrong within Windows Vista and should offer a few concrete reasons to switch.

I concur. Vista is disappointing. After 5 years of development delays and $6 BILLION in R&D, this is the best they could come up with?! There is no compelling reason to upgrade from Windows XP. Period.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Vista Pricing, Part 2

In the United States, CompUSA offers Windows Vista, as well as other Operating Systems, at the following prices:

Vista Ultimate: $400
Vista Ultimate Upgrade: $260

Vista Home Premium: $240
Vista Home Premium Upgrade: $160

Now look at Mac OS X Tiger (which is most comparable to Vista Ultimate): $130

So Vista Ultimate = OS X and you pay 3X as much for Vista? Thanks, but no thanks.

Compare Vista with a variety of Linuxes:

Linspire: $60
Xandros Desktop: $70
openSUSE: free
Ubuntu: free

Even "OEM" versions of Vista (at half-price) are overpriced compared to OS X and Linux!

Anyone who pays retail for Vista should have the word "Sucker" emblazoned on his forehead...

Vista Pricing

Check out Futile Shop for prices on Windows Vista...

Vista Ultimate: $500

Vista Ultimate Upgrade: $300

Vista Home Premium: $300

Vista Home Premium Upgrade: $180

(“Upgrade” means that you MUST have a previous version of Windows installed! F*cking PITA. I’d NEVER buy an Upgrade version...)

These prices are very high. You’d have to be a mentally retarded consumer to spend this much money on an Operating System. Now let’s look at “OEM” prices...

At Greytech:

Vista Ultimate (OEM): $280

Vista Ultimate Upgrade: $289

Vista Home Premium (OEM): $170

Vista Home Premium Upgrade: $225

(Greytech doesn’t offer OEM versions of Upgrade edition.)

Still pretty damn high prices. Unless you’re buying a brand new computer with Vista (Home Premium) preloaded, it makes no f*cking sense whatsoever to buy Windows Vista!

Microsoft is gouging you. Compare their prices with, say, Mac OS X: $149 for the full version.

Or compare with Novell SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop: US$125 for a 3 Year Subscription. This is again the full OS, not some stripped down version like Vista Home Premium.

Or compare with Novell openSUSE, which is the SAME software but open source: FREE!

In what universe does it make sense to PAY for Microsoft’s products???

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

MIT Technology Review: Uninspiring Vista

"Playing with OS X Tiger in order to make accurate comparisons for this review, I had a personal epiphany: Windows is complicated. Macs are simple."

Here’s a terrific review of Windows Vista:

And my deepest-seated reasons for preferring Windows PCs--more computing power for the money and greater software availability--have evaporated in the last year. Apple's decision to use the same Intel chips found in Windows machines has changed everything. Users can now run OS X and Windows on the same computer; with third-party software such as Parallels Desktop, you don't even need to reboot to switch back and forth.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Siberian Tantalus

If you ever come across an avatar in Second Life named Siberian Tantalus, know that it’s me. He looks like a young clubgoer, with a big mop of black hair, and dressed in modern hip clothes.

The last name “Tantalus” was chosen because of its affiliation with Star Trek, the original series (the Tantalus Field used in “Mirror, Mirror”; the Tantalus penal colony in “Dagger of the Mind”).

The first name “Siberian” is my way of paying homage to the Amur (or Siberian) Tiger, an endangered species close to my heart. (A valuable print by Alan Hunt called “Siberian Gold” hangs in my dining room—it shows a pair of Siberian Tigers in the middle of winter.)

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Why Not to Buy Vista, Part 2

4 "Reasons" to Dump Linux

Okay, so I love Linux, but maybe when you think about switching from XP, you should consider Vista. Here are my top four reasons you should move to Vista instead of Linux.

Reason number one: Linux is boring. When I run Linux, I don't have the excitement of wondering whether an e-mail, IM, or Web page is going to give my system the latest worm or virus. Where's the fun in that? I know Microsoft promises Vista represents significant and noticeable changes to the operating system, locking it down in the interest of security . . . Oh, wait, I'm quoting from a 2003 story about XP SP2. Silly me.

I'm sure Microsoft will turn in a secure OS this time. Just look at Internet ­Explorer 7—it's much more secure! It took almost a whole day before the security company Secunia found that a hacker could trick IE7 into showing malicious content by spoofing a pop-up window opened on a trusted site.

I know some of you think that the only reason Windows gets all the neat malware is because it's so popular. Why would anyone attack Linux? Just because 60 percent of the world's 100 million Web sites run Linux, that's no reason to try to crack Linux. No, it's not that Windows has historically been as secure as a papier-mâché fortress; it must be because Linux just isn't very popular.

Reason number two: Linux is a pain to set up. With Linux, you need to put in a CD or DVD, hit the enter button, give your computer a name, and enter a password for the administrator account. Heck, you could break a nail that way! Almost all early customers of Vista will need to redeem their upgrade coupons and then replace their new PC's XP with Vista. That'll be loads of fun.

Reason number three: Linux is expensive. Linux is often free, but look at all that time you spend setting it up. Most people will end up buying new PCs with Vista preinstalled. Doesn't everyone and every business have the money to buy new systems? Why, just now I went over to Dell and priced out an OptiPlex 745 minitower with a 1.8-GHz Duo, a DVD±RW and 48X CD-ROM SATA drive, an 80GB SATA hard drive and 2GB of RAM, and a 256MB ATI Radeon X1300 Pro graphics card for an "enhanced Vista Experience." It'll run me only $1,375. Of course, I won't get a keyboard, mouse, or monitor at that price.

With Linux, unless I buy one of those less-than-$1,000 boxes with the OS preinstalled, I have to set it up myself! It took me at least half an hour to set up Linux on a 2.8-GHz Pentium IV PC with 512MB of RAM, a 60GB Ultra ATA/100 hard drive, and an nVidia GeForce4 MX 440 AGP graphics board with 64MB of DDR memory. That system cost me $499.

Reason number four: Linux doesn't have enough apps. Most Linux systems come only with secure Web browsers, like Firefox 2.0; e-mail clients, like Evolution 2.6 and Thunderbird 2.0; IM clients, like Gaim 1.5; office suites, like Open­ 2.0.4; and so on. By my count, my copy of SUSE Linux has only more than 100 apps. Microsoft gives you Internet Explorer and Outlook ­Express, the most popular Web browser and e-mail client around...even though they do have a few teeny-weeny security problems. Microsoft also has Office, which . . . oh, wait: You don't get that with Vista, do you?

Just because some apps such as the Juniper Networks' Odyssey wireless LAN client WLAN, Cisco Systems' VPN client, and Norton AntiVirus 10 don't work right with Vista is no reason to think many of your current apps either won't work or will need to be upgraded.

Still, as long as you want to run Microsoft programs at Microsoft prices, Windows is the OS for you! If you really think about it, you can find lots of reasons to run Vista instead of Linux. There just aren't any good ones.

- Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols, PC Magazine

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Why Not to Buy Vista

Windows Vista has better security, a flashy interface, an improved Windows Explorer, integrated search, and a Sidebar with gadgets. Sound exciting? I've been using all of those features for more than a year now, with Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger. As a PC Magazine analyst, I use several Windows PCs and Macs daily. But I do my most critical work on an iMac, because it's intuitive, smooth, and doesn't crash.

If you've been using a Mac, you can sense something tiresomely "me too" about Vista. Mac users famously don't worry all that much about viruses—yes, there are security flaws, but they're promptly patched and seldom attacked. We've got a Dashboard with widgets and the best darn search anywhere.

But even more than all that, Mac OS just works. I haven't installed a device driver since I got this machine, though I've plugged any number of devices into it. I don't get mysterious error messages when I boot up or open Entourage (the Mac version of Outlook). If I want to install a program, I just drag its folder into my Applications folder. If I want to uninstall it, I drag it to Trash. And if you've never used Apple's iLife suite, you're losing out big-time. The interface and inte­gration between iMovie, iPhoto, iTunes, and iDVD are an order of magnitude smoother than anything on the PC platform. Vista will drive new hardware purchases, which I guess is good for hardware manufacturers. Tiger runs on Macs from 2002, on modern Mac Minis that cost $600 new, and on that $9,000 workstation that we all secretly want. Supergeeks have even gotten it to run on home-brew PCs, but I've never done anything like that. Nope. Nuh-uh.

Linux lovers, meanwhile, are flocking to Mac because it delivers what Linux has promised for years: a Unix-based OS with full command line control, that has an interface your grandma could enjoy, thousands of apps, and decent technical support. I tried Linux for a while. It was more stable than Windows, but the apps had rough edges that 20 years of Mac development have polished away.

Vista may catch up to Tiger in a lot of ways, but Apple isn't standing still. This year, Apple will bring us Leopard, with its multiple virtual desktops, further ­improved search, and—something Tiger has now—the ability to run Windows and Mac OS legitimately on the same machine. I could dip into Windows if I absolutely needed to. For now, though, I don't see any reason to leave the easy, powerful, stable Mac OS.

Sascha Segan, PC Magazine

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

'Origami' Done Right

The iPhone is iPod-attractive and when announced, moved Apple’s stock price up sharply, showcasing the advantage of executing completely on a good idea and then presenting that idea in a way the market could get excited about.

When you realize that Apple only announced 2 major products at MacWorld, yet stole the thunder from all of CES with thousands of vendors and millions of products, you have to feel that there are a lot of humiliated people in and around the consumer technology market today.


In the 5 months before the iPhone comes out, these folks will analyze the Apple product and come up with something that could be even better and with a motivation to do so.

Perhaps. But I want to make two points: First, it’s the brilliant integration of iPod/cellphone/mobile computer through the revolutionary “multi-touch” interface that sets iPhone apart from the rest of the market, and other companies will not be able to replicate this kind of innovation anytime soon. Remember, it took Apple over two and a half years of intensive R&D to come up with this. What can Microsoft, Motorola, and Nokia achieve over the next 6 (or even 12) months? Do they have engineering and design talent that can match Apple’s? Microsoft has repeatedly demonstrated that they don’t.

Since Apple has patented the hell out of the iPhone, these other companies will have to come up with totally new and original innovations. Such developments cannot be made on demand. True genius only arises once in a blue moon.

Second, these companies will have to find worthy substitutes for iPod and OS X-based devices. To date, all smartphones have had really wimpy media players and PDA functionality. Again, we’re talking about user interfaces. From the perspective of the consumer, the user interface is the MP3 player, the user interface is the personal computer. This is the challenge for these companies.

Don't be sucked in by Vista's security promise

Microsoft Watch article

Vista’s most vaunted benefit for upgrading from XP is security. But as you can see, Vista’s security measures are a pain-in-the-ass. Usability suffers.

This proves that Microsoft does not know how to design good software. You can bet your life that Apple would handle security in a far less intrusive manner in OS X. You’ll see that when OS X becomes a real and practical security risk (perhaps in another couple of years)...

Enjoy OS X now...

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Mac OS X Shines In Comparison With Windows Vista

Here’s an excellent review of OS X from Information Week:

Information Week review article

At the UI level, the human level, Vista is different far more often than it is better. Even so, I think it must be said that Vista is indeed an improvement on Windows XP. Honestly, I think that's the only metric that really counts when you think about it: Is Vista better enough than XP to be worth the upgrade? I'll say yes. This may be more of a comment on how bad XP really is more than how good Vista is.

However, is it significantly, or even slightly better than Mac OS X? Maybe in a couple of low-level ways, like the randomizing memory address usage function, or being able to use USB memory sticks as additional RAM, but at the human level? Not even close.

I've yet to see anything in Vista that blows away the Mac OS, even a version of the Mac OS that's over a year old. Microsoft still can't manage to make something simple and easy to use. Vista reeks of committee and design by massive consensus, while OS X shines from an intense focus on doing things in a simple, clear fashion and design for the user, not the programmer.

Here’s a very insightful synopsis of Microsoft’s competence in the OS development field...

While Vista is indeed a major update to Windows, there's a lot of it that is, quite frankly, just Microsoft making up for lost time. The last non-server release of Windows was in 2001 with Windows XP, with only a single major interim update in service pack 2. In the same time, Apple has been steadily releasing updates to Mac OS X on what was a yearly schedule, now around every 18 months.

This means that while Mac OS X has been steadily evolving through 10.0, 10.1, 10.2, 10.3 and 10.4, and is now working towards 10.5, Microsoft was waiting on what would become Vista. When it was obvious the original Longhorn OS wasn't going to happen, they took the Windows Server 2003 code base and used that for the basis of Vista. They also chopped quite a few features out of Vista, most notably the WinFS object-based data storage and management system, which had been promised in various forms since the first blurbs about Cairo in the early 1990s.

So if OS X is already better than Vista, wait until “Leopard” comes out later this year!

101 Uses for a Dead iPhone

My favourite is #8:

You know how it is: you're away at the Mac developers' conference and the sight of all that hardware is getting the joystick twitching. Trouble is, your other half is 5,000 miles away. What's the plan?

Simple: give her the very latest in interactive iPhone pleasuring device, controlled by you via internet connection and featuring a state-of-the-art iWang™ offering thirteen speeds and gyro-controlled rotational capability. As an added bonus, you can view your efforts in real time as your partner's ecstatic movements are exactly reproduced by her Second Life avatar.

CES 2007: The Apple iPhone

[Sorry, that's "Macworld 2007: The Apple iPhone." I was momentarily confused.]

I just watched the keynote address where Jobs introduced the iPhone. It appears that all of the press coverage does not do it justice.

Jobs’ demonstration of the user interface blew me away! It truly is revolutionary! The interface is unbelievably elegant. It’s dead-easy to use and immensely powerful. I’m comparing it to my Samsung cellphone and Palm TX PDA.

I’m suffering from buyer’s remorse. I have the Palm TX and it’s nowhere near as fun and easy to surf the web as it is on the iPhone. Part of the reason is that the iPhone runs OS X and thus can run desktop-class applications! As a “mobile computer,” the iPhone is far superior to Pocket PC or even the clunky UMPC.

And it’s certainly superior to all other “smartphones” such as the Motorola Q, BlackBerry, and Treo. Windows Mobile is pathetic compared to OS X on this device.

I’m suffering from buyer’s remorse. I have the Samsung cellphone I bought several years ago and while it’s perfectly usable, it feels like a Stone Age tool compared to the iPhone. The random-access voicemail is especially nice.

This is probably the most brilliant example of Apple’s industrial design ever, surpassing the iPod (all flavours), MacBook Pro, Mac Pro, Mac mini, and iMac (G5/Intel)! The hardware is beautiful. The software is brilliant. The interface is sublime. The total package is resplendent.

Apple is really amazing when it comes to interfaces. In 1984, Apple brought the mouse to the masses. In 2001, Apple brought the Click Wheel to the masses. In 2007, Apple brings the “multi-touch” touchscreen (which is at the heart of the iPhone’s amazing interface) to the masses. The iPhone really is a revolutionary device.