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A smattering of IT-related thoughts


Samsung makes netbooks with both Windows XP and Linux. The return rate of their Linux netbooks is 40% because "people find the Linux experience so difficult". This should be a cautionary tale for anyone at non-nerd level considering a Linux PC. You don't buy a computer for the operating system - the OS should be the thing you see in between turning the machine on and starting the program you want to use.

Rest behind the cut:

The BBC breaking the law to prove a point

In an effort to show how easy it is to cripple a company's website, someone at the BBC thought it would be a good idea to buy a 22,000 PC botnet, stage a mock denial of service attack and send out thousands of spam messages to specially created accounts before alerting the owners of the infected PCs by changing their wallpaper. As you can imagine, this isn't very legal. And is funding the makers of dodgy botnets what license fee money should be used for?

Viruses and browsers

Mikko Hypponen, chief research officer of anti-virus gurus F-Secure says that most virus attacks now target Firefox and older versions of IE and advises users to avoid those browsers. The times of using Firefox because it was safer seem to have gone. Personally I've never really liked Firefox. I use Opera as my browser of choice and IE7 when I need something more compatible. Now I have a reason not to use Firefox which seems clunky compared to Opera and no more compatible than IE7. Still, I'd rather use Firefox than the appalling IE6, which is what we're forced to use at JOLF.

Digital divide

BT has identified 29 towns that will be upgraded to its new fibre-to-the-cabinet service by 2010, offering download speeds of up to 40Mbits/sec. Every single one of the 29 towns already has Virgin cable available, offering speeds of up to 50mbits/sec.

Microsoft / Apple

Microsoft's current advertising campaign in the US is no longer about showing what 4 year olds can do with Windows and how PCs have been "made into a stereotype". Now the message is basically "Macs are too expensive for you". It's hard not to disagree with this argument. I have a magazine in front of me with some reviews of Macs and PCs. The Apple Mac Pro is reviewed on page 37. On page 36 is a review of a PC which in performance terms trounces the Mac in almost every benchmark. In high end 3D games, it is almost 5 times as fast. Yet the PC costs £869 and the Mac costs £1,899. It's a nice case, but is it worth spending more than a grand extra for something that'll sit under the desk anyway?

It's the same with laptops. The MacBook Pro 17in looks nice and has a very good screen, but then so does the equivalent Dell XPS and it doesn't cost anywhere near £1,949 (and it is faster, has a bigger hard disk and blu-ray). The non-pro Macbook is much more competitively-priced at £719 and on pure performance terms at least keeps pace with similarly-priced PCs, but the display is poor and the build quality "flimsy".

Apple is doing all right at the moment, but I wonder how much of that is down to the iPhone and the iPod. The only reason to buy a Mac now would seem to be those people wedded to MacOS, and like I said earlier, who buys a computer for the operating system?

Save icon

When was the last time you saved anything to floppy disk? Did you save something to hard disk more recently? Or USB stick? Or CD-R? Or DVD-R? So why is the default icon for saving things in Windows applications a 3.5" floppy? There are probably Windows users out there who have never even seen one.

Banning facebook at work

Plymouth City Council's chief executive has banned the use of facebook on council computers. This affects me indirectly because it means that the staff of Tamar Education Business Partnership (who work in a council office) can't update the You're Hired! facebook group even though this is their job, and yours truly has to do it in his spare time. This ruling has also stopped elected councillors from using facebook (and also Twitter) from keeping in touch with their constituents. So an unelected bureaucrat is telling elected representatives how to communicate with constituents. Even bunn, who is the daughter of a former chief executive of a council not that far away from Plymouth, thinks this is wrong.

Video files

Why are there so many damn file formats and codecs for video files? In fact, why do I even need to know the word 'codec'? (Someone else on LJ commented on this recently - I forget who.) I borrowed a cute little handheld camcorder from work recently to record some extra footage of the You're Hired! final. It's very easy to use except for one thing - it records to .mov (Apple Quicktime) format, and finding free or cheap software capable of editing .mov files is impossible (or at least I couldn't find any). In the end I had to convert to .avi using a free utility, but that's hardly an ideal solution. I assume that Apple computers have software capable of editing .mov files, so perhaps that's another reason to buy a Mac. I decided to buy some inexpensive video Editing software (Sony Vegas Movie Studio 9) rather than try to learn how to use a freeware thing or Windows Movie maker.


( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
Jun. 28th, 2009 10:20 pm (UTC)
Re: the expensive Apple bit.

I once went into the Apple shop on Oxford High Street when I was 1st thinking of buying a computer.

The attitude of the staff in the shop was, "If you're not waving around a corporate platinum credit card and wish to be sold whichever 10-100 unit system we advise you to buy we couldn't care less."

This is the reason I've never even thought twice about buying an Apple.
Jun. 29th, 2009 09:59 am (UTC)
Re video files and codecs : I suspect this will diminish as an issue over time, but the technology is too new at the moment. You always get that competing formats thing with newish technologies before they go truly mass market. That thing was designed to tape and upload, I think once you start to want to edit, you are moving outside where the mass market currently is...

When we started playing with VoIP there was a lot of messing with codecs required, but nowadays you just setup Skype and it all just works. The codecs are still there but there is more of a technology standard which works for most people so you don't need to know about them.

Image formatting used to be like that, and it still is to some extent: vector format graphics are a royal arse-pain. But for your mass market picture editing stuff, everything is pretty much now all jpg and you can more or less get away without understanding encoding formats for day to day use.
Jul. 8th, 2009 07:15 am (UTC)
I came for the Linux statistic, but stayed for the Facebook thing.

I am at the moment trying to get my IT department to see how much it would cost to do the exploratory work on enabling selected council staff to use social networking sites. I expect by the time I can actuall see what the local Archaeological society has put on Flickr, the technology will have moved - twice - to something I still can't see.
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )