Windows is on its way out

The Swithch to Apple
The computer I use for most of my work at home is about to break down. Basically it’s a windows box that I have built by using leftovers from my various media center projects.

So, it’s time to upgrade.

A little bit of history
My first computer was a Commodore 64. Entering my life back in 1982 or 83. Before that I played around with my father’s portable Kaypro II. The Commodore 64 took me all the way from playing games, programming Basic and eventually hacking around in assembly language.

In 1984 I also started playing around with my father’s new toy, a brand new Macintosh 128K. The C64 was later on replaced with a C128 and the legendary Amiga 500. I ended my Commodore adventure with an Amiga 4000. After that I was entirely on Apple Macintosh. Both at home and at work.

In 1998 I accepted a position as a consultant with Accenture and figured it was time to learn some Windows stuff as well. Doing it the hard way by building a computer from scratch and installing Windows NT. Took me about three months to get everything working. Three months that practically made me a windows expert. After that I have been using different Windows and Mac computers. Mostly Windows. All the way from NT to 2000 and now Windows XP and Media Center Edition.

How important is the operating system?
It used to be pretty important. Hardware was closely tied to the operating system. Most of the work was done in applications installed on top of the particular operating system you had decided to use. Networks, disks and file formats was alone on their different platforms. Once you were locked into an operating system it was hard to switch to another.

During the last couple of years the operating system itself isn’t that important anymore. I do 90% of my work in the browser. A computer running Firefox alone will be able to solve most of my daily work.

Outlook was entirely replaced with Gmail several months ago. Microsoft Word and the simple work i do in Excel have been replaced by Google Docs and Spreadsheets. I do my publishing directly in WordPress. Calculations are done with CalCooLate. I administrate and get my news through Google Reader.

All of this can be done fluently on Windows, MacOS or Linux. The operating system is loosing its importance.

So what’s left?
Why bother? If Firefox is the only thing you need why don’t you simply switch to the free and user friendly Ubuntu? Actually, I have considered it. But I still rely on some applications that are installed on my computer:

1. Image handling
I use Adobe Photoshop Elements to administrate and edit my images.

2. Video and audio editing
I currently use Sony Vegas Video to edit media.

3. Presentation work
This is actually a field where I don’t have a proper tool today. I use PowerPoint, but it is absolutely horrible. And the web based tools like Thumbstacks isn’t there yet.

In addition to this I use huge amounts of small more or less important helper applications to handle various tasks. You find some of my favourites here. And yes, after I wrote that article I have replaced ZoomPlayer with VLC and added Democracy Player to the list of important tools.

What’s important?
Some of the most important stuff that the operating system has to do is to run stable, be clean, uncluttered and fast and take care of some basic safety. I am quite happy with the work that Windows carries out on my boxes, but it is getting increasingly cluttered.

And my experiments with Vista has not been very convincing. They try to add security by restricting the user from doing anything. On one of the Vista boxes I use I am waiting for a security alert that would say something like: “Are you sure you want to type the letter “E”?. It could be dangerous”. I answer “yes”. The next box would say “Are you really really sure? Was it you that just typed the letter E? This is a security question to verify that your computer is safe”. So, when I try to type the rest of my name, “Are you sure you want to type the letter “i”? etc…

This, in addition to the sheer joy of some variation leads me to the temptation of some alternatives. And, it seems like Thomas Hawk has been pretty happy lately.

All of the tasks that I do in addition to what’s in the browser can be solved in Ubuntu, but I am afraid it’s not that user friendly yet, and that I wouldn’t find a video editing suite and image archive that would fill my needs. Please let me know if you have some recommendations. I know that The Gimp would probaly solve my image editing needs, but I also need a system to handle my 32 000 images with tagging and browsing.

So, I am considering to do the switch to Apple. For this house that would be to replace two old windows boxes with two brand new iMacs. And I would also keep my promise and replace my good old Thinkpad X31 with a MacBook Pro when the IBM laptop needs to be upgraded. The Media Center will stay for a while. The only real alternative there would be to install MythTV. Apple have no proper DVR software yet.

My old windows box is still running, but good advice is welcome in the comments! It seems like a 17″ iMac will be the happy and hard working box that will replace the one I am using right now. 17″ because there isn’t room for anything bigger.

Windows is on its way out

The future of publishing

Wired Cover

Wired Editor in Chief Chris Anderson has two great articles on how Wired is transforming its web site.

THEN: Bookmarks and habit drive traffic to the home page; site architecture and editorial hierarchy determines where readers goes next. Portals rule.

NOW: Search and blog links drive readers to individual stories; they leave as quickly as they come. “De-portalization” rules.

THEN: Media as Lecture: we create content, you read it.

NOW: Media as Conversation: a total blur between traditional journalism, blogging and user comment/contributions.

THEN: Readers read HTML in a standard web browser window. If you want to be really fancy, design a whole new Flash interface that people will have to learn to get to your content. Charge for “premium content”? Sure!

NOW: More and more people read via RSS, where content is divorced from context. Media is atomized and microchunked. Even if readers do come to your site, the expectation is that the presentation will be a mix of HTML, AJAX, Flash multimedia and embedded third-party apps. Screens range from high-resolution wide displays to handhelds. Whatever you do, don’t let your design interfere with web conventions–everything must be Google-crawlable and blogger permalinkable. Oh, and everything must be open and free.

THEN: We control the site. Editors are gatekeepers.

NOW: We share control with readers. Editors catalyze and curate conversations that happen as much “out there” as on our own site.

Read the two stories over at the long tail:
What would radical transparency mean for Wired? (Part 1)
What would radical transparency mean for Wired? (Part 2)

The future of publishing

iPods – now simply with “memory”

iPod nano ad

Just a quick update on the story about the not-so-important-typo in an ad for the iPod Nano. In their latest ad Lefdal simply state the amount of memory for all iPods. No harddrive or flash memory. Only memory. A good idea. After all, the average customer won’t care about the type of memory. They care about how many songs they’ll be able to store.

Here’s the update on the original story. And, I don’t know if they changed the text because of my insignificant rant…

iPods – now simply with “memory”

DRM is a stupid idea

DRM Defeating Kit for iTunes
My article on music and marketing sparked a little debate about digital rights management (DRM). I am in the opinion that DRM is in general a bad idea. It doesn’t work. It’s not user friendly. And the only people it serves are the owners of the DRM systems that can lock people into their particular playback devices.

Like Oyvind point out in the comments here it’s not the end of the world. It’s not global warming or bird flu. But it’s annoying and limiting for the development of good distribution platforms and user friendly systems on digital media.

And because there are people out there that’s way smarter than me I’ll point you to three resources that goes a bit more into detail about why DRM is a bad idea and why it hopefully will disappear:

Gerd Leonhard
The end of DRM is near

Yes, indeed, we are just about there: DRM is on its way out, and I needed to tell you about it, in this podcast. The Music Industry’s equivalent of the Berlin Wall is indeed coming down…. soon.

Cory Doctorow
DRM doesn’t work, it’s bad for society, business and the artists

It used to be illegal to plug anything that didn’t come from AT&T into your phone-jack. They claimed that this was for the safety of the network, but really it was about propping up this little penny-ante racket that AT&T had in charging you a rental fee for your phone until you’d paid for it a thousand times over.

When that ban was struck down, it created the market for third-party phone equipment, from talking novelty phones to answering machines to cordless handsets to headsets — billions of dollars of economic activity that had been supressed by the closed interface. Note that AT&T was one of the big beneficiaries of this: they also got into the business of making phone-kit.

DRM is the software equivalent of these closed hardware interfaces.

A Copyfighter’s Musings
Microsoft’s Zune Won’t Play Protected Windows Media

May this be a lesson to those who mistakenly laud certain DRM as “open” and offering customers “freedom of choice” simply because it is widely-licensed. With DRM under the DMCA, nothing truly plays for sure, regardless of whether you’re purchasing from Apple, Microsoft, or anyone else.

DRM is a stupid idea

Preview removed …and a recommended plugin

My experiment with Snap Preview lasted for four days. I agree with the comments back on the original post. This is functionallity that belongs to the browser. And on recommendation from Onno I have installed Cooliris. A plugin for Firefox, Safari and Explorer that I now can recommend as well. It gives you a quick preview for links in a popup window. If you like what you see you can quickly transfer that page to a new tab.

You get a small blue square besides the links. When you mouse over the square a popup will show the page. I have made a quick screen recording to show how it works.

Link to video.

The screen recording was made with the free and open source tool called CamStudio. Currently windows only, but if you’re on Mac or Linux you can find different tools for screen recording in this list in Wikipedia.

Preview removed …and a recommended plugin