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Thursday, August 06, 2009

Windows 7

It seems to me that Microsoft were the original language developers for microcomputers way back when. In fact I bought the Bascom Compiler from Microsoft when it was just Bill Gates and about 10 staff - all developers of the language that would become QuickBasic and eventually VB (Visual Basic).

Microsoft were early wizards in the computer language game. But they were outdone by Borland. Turbo Pascal and Turbo C took the computer languages crown from Microsoft but then Microsoft bought QDos and entered into a deal with IBM to make PCDOS and MSDOS was born. Windows followed years after MSDOS has developed advanced memory management and we programmers were implementing windows and multitasking in code.

The days of text computing on PCs were pretty much over as soon as Windows 3.0 started to shift. It felt like Microsoft had been very innovative but it was research at Rank Xerox labs in Palo Alto that famously created the graphic/icon based way of working. It was adopted by Apple on its new Mac and Lisa computers.

That was thirty years ago and we are still using a version of Mac and Windows. Not the same creature at all, but wearing similar spots. Evolution yes. Change, no.

Meantime the Unix world was reinvented by Linus Torvalds. Like most truly important events, nobody really cared at first. Now look at it.

On the eve of Windows 7 release we stand again at the point where we all will start to learn to adapt to a new machine. The trouble remains that XP is a hard act to follow. And if many of the new tricks are already there in Linux, many of the old tricks are still not. Windows dominates not just because of MS Office, but of the computer gaming platform that Microsoft hopes will go to the XBox and out of the office.

When a computer operating system attempts social control, usually that is a bad sign. If Windows 7 does not attract the gamers like XP where will the hardware upgrade impetus come from? Perhaps PCs as we know them (the case, the Motherboard, slots) is going to become irrelevant as the need for souped up computers to play games is brushed aside for the cheaper level playing field the XBox affords.

Where does that leave Linux? Pretty much as the Internet operating system. Is the world excited about Windows 7? Well...

Monday, March 16, 2009

Review Windows Media Player 11 vs iTunes (Windows) Part ii

Apple's iTunes

Apple manifests as absolute genius when it comes to user interfaces. Being used to the paradigm of WinAmp and often put off by the need to intervene - music is not management of things. The update install failures over years gradually accumulate and you start to think - this software is not going anywhere. My friend with a Mac - well he managed a huge music library with iTunes. He found doing fiddly things too annoying. What did iTunes have that made it easy. It seemed very confusing to me, the way it organised itself.

So I installed iTunes on Windows and promptly forgot about it. Except that Apple had mastered auto updates when WinAmp hadn't and it was yet another WinAmp update that did nothing except made it work badly in terms of being able to find and listen to one's CD collection it was just hopelessly administrative overload.

That day I started to load my CDs into iTunes library. And then I started to listen and was shocked at the sound difference. I was so used to the AM radio signal of WinAmp's comparatively flat use of the sound card and all its dimensional glory to this - a sound as hi fi as you could ever want. Now I understood the Apple way - great software written so well you love it.

And now I only use iTunes as a media player on Windows. So when Microsoft told me to upgrade its barely adequate media player to version 11, I thought in my usual curiosity driven way - OK.

How does it compare to iTunes? Or that other work of media genuis: MIRO ?

See the next post...

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Sunday, March 15, 2009

Review Windows Media Player 11 vs iTunes (Windows)

I went to microsoft seeking information about a product registration for an old product that i had not used for a while and to my horror I could not find the product registration page. First of all I was distracted by the Media 11 download - and I thought - why not?

So I downloaded Windows Media Player 11. I had Media player 10. What the hell is this latest monstrosity? Well it installed very smoothly if perhaps the way in which it makes you agree to a 30 page document and encourages you to go for the no digital privacy mode as the "Typical install". So I recommend ALWAYS choose the custom install if there are hidden extras like host logging of your musical tastes you probably do not want. If you do want to be part of an insane world then go for the Typical one but expect to be given recommendations by email to load up your Zune with these 3 tracks for only 3 bucks or something. I suspect Donny Osmond would be on offer. Never mind, there is only one test of a media centre - you listen to it.

I played a live acoustic performance by an extremely talented singer with virtuoso musicians in a fairly acoustic environment. On Windows 11 I thought the singer's technician was taking the mickey - on this performance. That did not make sense. I had just seen this artist live and this was not her treatment. I listened to the same track in iTunes and the clarity brought tears to my eyes (like the original). The Windows version sounds pumped up with bass. Excessive reverberation distorted the piano on this track. Obviously there is a patch to come.

But it is not just that.

Before we complete the dissection, first I must compare with Apple and its iTunes platform on Windows. Here we have a musical library software stack written in a Linux environment being ported to Windows - so how does it perform?

If you are interested in answer, it will be in the next posting (so bookmark this page).


Monday, December 22, 2008

PC or Mac

The Linux/Windows debate was overtaken by the PC or Mac madness. Frankly it is the same argument, but a machine is more visual than an OS, which being the product of thought is completely invisible. Making the argument as to which is better - PC or Mac based entirely on what the user is considered to be (i.e: a cool person vs a stunted person) is simply examination of the wrong thing. Is it like this:

My Laud! This man is guilty for these dirty crimes. Just look at what he is wearing!

Furthermore, look no further than history to provide examples of the same dichotomy. Sherlock Holmes is given a simple magnifying glass, he is a visual detective who is going to be able to see things in detail. Dr Waton has a stethoscope - required to investigate the causes of strange glitches. Okay, that was not history, but literature but it illustrated the example. Yes, Dr Watson is a PC guy (you need to be a doctor to diagnose the complex beast of many parts) but Sherlock Holmes is a Mac guy? The single, simple no moving parts and relying upon gut instinct is the key. Homes is a Mac guy because he wants a shiny product (it also helps him find fingerprints with his glass). In his case it has less to do with his costume.

Real history, now let's see. Johnson and Johnson - there is a famous partnership, which it is hard to know which one is which. Hewlett-Packard - it seems PC-Mac but in some ways Windows-Linux is a clearer definition.

Less famous partnerships like Kernighan/Richie are harder to define with facile labels. They were the original Unix guys and both Linux and Windows are eternally in their debt. Where would Linux or Windows be without the original C book?

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Microsoft Withdraws Offer for Yahoo

Posted this comment on the New York Times 26 minutes after news broke that Microsoft was withdrawing its bid for Yahoo, Inc.

#21.May 3rd,2008
9:40 pm

It seemed an attractive aquisition until they, at Microsoft, realised they were purchasing a company that represents what they compete with, namely Open Source initiatives that demonstrate a business dependence on Windows is naught but smoke and mirrors?

When did this deal ever make sense?

— Posted by Nicholas Alexander

Reader reaction is immediate and they range from cheers for Steve Ballmer to scowls at Jerry Yang for refusing a good offer, which was 5 billion up on the opener. Maybe the biggest bluff in history, trying to get MS to bid another 5 billion. But it does appear that Steve Balmer has withdrawn even from a hostile takeover if Yahoo would respond by outsourcing to Google.

I perceive the problem was more that if Microsoft absorbed the Yahoo workforce, it would saddle them with a software culture divide that would be difficult to heal. and Javascript already compete, if you see what I mean.

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