Tuesday, July 11, 2006


I've been meaning to post on technology since I started this blog. I'm still trying to find a purpose to this blog and I'm thinking this blog may end up being along the lines of a politics/technology blog. I'll try posting reviews of technology as they come up, but also cover other topics related to technology.

As the name of my blog indicates, I'm a geek. Specifically, I'm a computer geek and am an almost a total stereotype of the term. I've been working with computers for about 20 years (since I was 12) now. I've worked with them, worked on them, played with them, learned with them, programmed them, and many other things. I'm by no means an expert and I will readily admit there are others who know more about technology than I do. That being said, I do believe I have the educational credentials and experience to form more than just an "average Joe" opinion regarding technology.

I should start by saying that I'm not interested in the various holy wars in technology. I checked out of the Mac vs. PC war a long time ago. I'm too young to have been really involved in the big vs. little endian wars. I've used both vi and emacs and really only prefer vi because if I need a more heavy duty editing environemnt, I'll use Eclipse, Dreamweaver, or some other IDE. In my opinion each user should use the best tool for the job. My one exception is Microsoft.

In terms of what systems I use, the following systems are under my direct care:

My notebook (Elrond)
15" PowerBook G4
1.5 GB RAM
MacOS X (10.4 "Tiger")
20 GB 2nd Gen iPod
Palm IIIc PDA (provided by work)

My main desktop (Aragorn)
1.1 GHz AMD Athalon
512 MB RAM
Windows XP Pro (SP2)
Dual display (17" and 15" LCD displays)
Flatbed Scanner

My wife's notebook (Legolas)
12" iBook G4
1.0 GB RAM
MacOS X (10.4 "Tiger")
60 GB iPod Photo

I have several other systems including my wife's notebook (as yet not renamed) that needs a lot of work before it will go back into circulation. I also have a system that will end up as a file server that runs Slackware Linux 10.

My system at work is also a PC. At this time, my biggest complaint with PCs are their fairly steep maintenance requirements.

I'm a big fan of open source software and I advocate its use whenever appropriate. I'm not a fan of Microsoft software and only use it as a last resort or when software decisions are out of my hands. It isn't that Windows is bad per se, its that since Microsoft is a marketing firm rather than a software development firm they've painted themselves into a corner when it comes to innovation. Take IE 7 as a prime example. While it is still at the beta stage, I've looked at it and played around with it on my work system (I don't trust IE on my home systems at all, way too insecure). There is nothing I've seen in IE 7 that hasn't been in Firefox or Opera for a long time. IE 7 is still a long ways from being standards compliant in any meaningful fashion. IE 7 only supports the CSS 1.0 specification even though CSS 2.0 has been out almost since IE 6 was released. My first look at IE 7 calls into question Microsoft's ability to innovate and provide new functionality to any of its software. You see this kind of "second place" innovation at the heart of just about every Microsoft product. Windows GUI? I'll be nice and say borrowed significant ideas from early versions of MacOS (which themselves were copied from Xerox). IE? Depending on who you believe, Microsoft either bought it or they stole the technology and have been feebly attempting to patch it ever since. .Net? Again, borrowed heavily from Java in general and later CORBA to create an infrastructure that violates some of the core tenants of the internet, portability and user choice.

Due to the security issues I mentioned above, I don't use IE in any real capacity except acceptence testing for the web pages I build. My primary browser (regardless of OS) is Firefox, but I also recommend Opera (just to get people off IE). I don't care for the ads on Opera, but other than that, I don't have any problems with Opera.

I will give Microsoft some credit, Office is still head and shoulders above its primary competition (notably OpenOffice and StarOffice). Should Apple develop a spreadsheet application to join its iWork suite, Mac users will have no good reason to use any Microsoft products. In any case, Office is a very strong productivity suite and is the one shining item in Microsoft's mediocre catalog. That being said, the next version of Office is really going to throw people for a loop. I've seen demonstrations of mostly functional versions of Office 12. The interface has changed drastically and I think it may cause Microsoft problems when it comes to adoption since its not what people are used to. I actually like the concepts behind the new version as it will more closely match the development apps I'm used to working with. As with any version of Office, you need to get rid of Outlook at your earliest opportunity. Outlook is without a doubt the best malware distribution software available today. I always encourage people to switch to Thunderbird. It looks like Outlook, behaves like Outlook, but doesn't spread problems like Outlook.

While I advocate the use of open source, there are still some serious problems with open source software for the average user. One of the things I love about my Mac is that the system just works. I plug in a jump drive or some other USB or Firewire device and the drive just mounts or the system reacts the way I'd expect it to. The open source community should take a cue from Microsoft and Apple and factor usability into their products a little better. Firefox and Thunderbird are two exceptions to this. However, the usability found in Firefox and Thunderbird is acheived through borrowing heavily from interfaces people are used to seeing. KDE for Linux attempts this and is successful to varying degrees. However, installation remains a problem for many open source apps that require configuration as part of the install process. In moving from simply being tools for enthusiasts who have an understanding of the technology already the volunteers for these massive projects need to understand that most people don't want to think about the technology they use. They just want to use it.

I'll post more on technology as this blog evolves. If my wife is still reading this, thanks for the effort.


At 10:33 PM, Blogger wysewife said...

Yes... I scanned to the end. I can't say I read every word, and I certainly didn't understand every word. I guess technology is not sexually transmitted. Bummer. I love you, and I love that you love technology, but not as much as me you see, but you still love technology, always and forever.

Love you bunches. :)


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