zondag 7 augustus 2011

Save by using old hard- and software Blog 2. Extending hardware life-cycle

The world is changing so fast and technology even faster, you just need new hardware to keep up. Look at how smart modern kids are! Well, have I got news for you.
Any biologist can tell you that people, humans in general, aren't any smarter than 1.000 or even 10.000 years ago. The way in which we transfer (store, multiply and distribute) information is much more efficient, but that is cultural change, not the fabric we are made of.

Even though our machine, computers in particular, is much more advanced than just a few years ago, we do not think, draw or type any faster. A blog like this one will take several hours or days to write, just as in the days of the CP/M or Ms-dos computers. That's 30 years ago! Now consider this.

A personal digital assistant or PDA of, let us say, five years ago had the processing power of an IBM XT (1983). The fastest mobile devices of today rival the low-end netbook or tablet. Not in screen resolution, but they are not designed for that. And they start reaching the price of the IBM XT keyboard! But can it do more? Well, that depends very much on your usage.

In the old days, up to 2000, most people with computers (hardware) used the word processor (software). Its primary speed and complexity is limited by how fast you type. Nowadays most, even the professional, users do not use a word processor but work directly in an email system (or a blog or a social network system ...). Here also the speed of typing is the limit. Why then would you need a faster system? Word processing is mostly about creating chapters, correcting spelling mistakes and rewriting.

Newer versions or updates of your software are either superfluous because they add nothing you missed before, or they correct mistakes that shouldn't have been there in the first place. But both do bloat your application like a floating dead cow. That and that only makes the software slower and slower, bigger and bigger. And that slows down the whole system. Up to a point that it is unworkable. So you decide to buy new hardware to speed up the software.

Unfortunately the software is not the old one but also new. That is bigger but not better, superfluous because they add nothing you missed before, or they correct mistakes that shouldn't have been there in the first place. It is not the hardware that slows down but the software. The solution should be to exchange the software for something faster, not the hardware.

Say you have a five year old computer (dinosaur-age). Too slow to work with but furthermore healthy. Wouldn't it be nice if you could revive the old bastard by just replacing the software? A faster office suite, a new operating system, a different browser?

Well, it works. I did just that with two of my laptops, after I got enraged by the stupid increase of software size, sheer volume. Both systems, over five years old, have been given a hardware upgrade which did not help: extending the size of the internal memory (to 2 GB). But it did help the next step: replacing the operating system and everything connected to it: word processor, browser, mail, photo application, music and video system and so on.

And all of it legally for free, downloads from the internet. Installation took little time, no registration, a non-IT person can do it. Really. It also recognized all my devices (GPS, Bluetooth, WiFi, printer, scanner, camera's, network). Right now I am blogging on one of these with my telephone as my internet connection (dongle or tether). I am smart nor fast, neither is my laptop.

It just does not have to be the latest and the fastest.

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