Saturday, April 16, 2011

Odd Trends in Computing

When I brought a netbook it was mainly due to it's weight.

But there seems to be a disturbing trend in computing. We are getting more powerful, power efficient, cooler processors. And what are we doing with all of that extra power?

Google are coming out with Chrome OS - which, if you don't Internet access on it, is next to useless.

Microsoft have Windows 7, which I am constantly hearing complaints of it being somewhat slow.

Ubuntu had their Netbook launcher - more to do with screen size than anything else, and are now moving to Unity. I have yet to come across someone who actually likes Unity but that's a slightly different matter.

So with more power and compact devices various software vendors (I'm including Google in here) are trying to convince us that our devices aren't powerful enough to do what you do on your computer and that we have to accept various arbitrary limitations.

I get it with Google - they're all about online services. Heaven forbid that you want to edit your files on a machine before uploading it to the Internet.

What interest can Microsoft possibly have in limiting the netbooks? Surely this is just opening up the market for Linux on these devices. I gave someone a copy of the Manaiakalani image for their netbook and that image has apparently found its way onto 2 other netbooks. This is where Windows 7 was previously installed.

But then, Asus tried to do much the same thing with their original eee's. Admittedly these machines didn't really have the advantage of the processors we have today and the screen size was even worse but their horribly cut down feeling version of Linux left users wanting something more - in this case, Windows.

So the motivation? Has it been realised that the more users can be kept on line, the more advertising users will be exposed to?

For a couple of weeks now my gmail account has been showing "Coming soon: Better ads in Gmail". I can't for the life of me figure out why they would think I care. What if I was allowed to use my email without ads?

I've had the opportunity to have a look at a Cr-48 - a prototype laptop from Google. I'm not terribly impressed to be honest. I know it's only intended for developers but the finish felt a little cheap to me.

The track pad is essentially a Mac track pad - with a single click. When I commented on this, the other people in the room said something along the lines of "it does have a right click! It'll be just like a Mac - you just have to press Control".

Mac people - a control click is not a right click. The problem is in the fact that it takes two fingers to do something that can be done with one finger and is intuitive and has only been omitted on a Mac out of sheer stubbornness.

It's incredibly disappointing that Google have, in their infinite wisdom, decided this is the right route for them.

The other thing I didn't like about the track pad was the fact that the touch pad goes right over the button. So when clicking, you get some strange movement in the cursor. When I noted this, it was pointed out that when you've used a Mac for long enough, you learn to use track pad tapping. This is something that I was asked to disable in the Manaiakalani build as this leads to accidental clicks. Not having the choice is just kind of bollocky.

So I'm not all that impressed by the hardware and I find it horribly troubling that this is the direction we seem to be going. It disturbs me that people are getting excited by this. I didn't actually get to have a play with the OS. The bits I did see were pretty and showy. I was having problems with the network. On Windows, Linux or Mac OS X I would have been able to get to a terminal to diagnose the problem rather than leaving me wondering what the computer was doing.

I can imagine what the environment is likely to be though - the same sort of start page as Chrome browser. Nothing installed on the machine and no real option to do so rather being stuck with whatever can be gotten on line. The surprisingly powerful Intel Atom N450 being told it's an ugly stupid child that should just go sit in the corner.

Should we as consumers settle for these limitations knowing we can get a whole lot more out of our computers? This reminds me of those good ol' sales men who would spot someone looking at a computer and go up to them telling them exactly what they want without ever finding out what the customer needed.

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