Money and Computers

What do the geeky types do the day after Christmas?  Why we head to the local computer store to see what deals there are.  In my case, it was a drive down Walker Road to Future Shop. 

The place wasn’t exactly empty!  They had brought in all kinds of extra help but there was still a bit of room to walk around and the sales people were there to help.  I was looking for the $50 computer or some other incredible deal.  As per usual, I got immersed in all of the glitter and shiny things.  They had so many products on display.  If I was there without having previewed things on the website, I could get lost quite easily.

Of real interest was the opportunity to experiment with Windows 8.  Virtually every computer had Windows 8 running on them with the exception of one in the corner that had Windows 7.  So I clicked on a few keyboards to get a sense and then hit a machine with a touch screen.  It was kind of interesting and I could see the background to some of the Windows 8 reviews that I’d previously read. 

Interestingly, if I turned 180 degrees, I was looking at the Apple offerings.   The display was different – you weren’t invited to play with the display; instead they had presentations running on the machines showing off all that the machines could do.  At this point, they were MacBook Pros and MacBook Airs.  None of them had touch screens – for that, you had to work your way to the iPads. 

It was an interesting comparison of the computer types.  I don’t think that there was a bad choice to be had in the store; you’re really limited by what you want a "computer" to do and your budget.  You have powerful operating systems and with some knowledge and understanding, you can make them do just what you want. 

If you’re a reader of this blog, you know that my interest doesn’t stop right there. 

My recent readings shared this article.  "Identical laptop, Ubuntu-preinstalled, proprietary OS-preinstalled, difference $40"

The reading, from iloveubuntu.net reported on a computer offering from Dell.  In this case, it was for their Vostro 2420 laptop.  If you read the article, the author has previewed two offerings.  They have the exact same components and features – the difference is that one product comes with Windows 8 and the other with Ubuntu.  A couple of years ago, I had come across a similar offer and purchased a Mini10v that came with Ubuntu instead of any other OS.  It was a great decision.  The unit is solid, so is the operating system, and the price saved me some money.

So, back to the store where I looked around and there were just the two operating system offerings.

Aside from the tonnes of limited editions of software that come packaged on new machines, I think about what the typical home user does.  Why, they go online and download enough great free and/or open source software that they can to meet their needs.  I’m thinking titles like VLC, LibreOffice, Firefox, Google Chrome, …  For the rest, these days, you’re looking at spectacular web resources.  In fact, you could nicely outfit your new computer for free.

As I step back and look at the titles above, they’re all available for Windows (hopefully compatible with Windows 8), OSX, and Ubuntu.  In fact, put them side by side and you wouldn’t know that you’re on a different machine unless you take a close look at the box.  The only other place you would know the difference is likely to be your sales receipt.

There was a time when your choice of operating system was a significant one.  You’d make your choice based upon the programs that you intended to run and then customized it to no end.  Now, I would argue, not so much.  Particularly in schools where you’d be lucky to even see a latest version of Windows or Macintosh OS.  With all that’s done to lock them down for security purposes (the subject of another blog post), the operating system essentially becomes a launcher of applications and that’s all that the end user gets to experience.  The more that you take your efforts to the web, the less important that becomes.  Everything is done inside the browser.

Again, once the browser is open, the fact that it’s Macintosh, Windows, or Linux becomes irrelevant.  It’s the browser that does the work.

Back to the original point then – are you prepared to continue to pay that $40 or, as in a school system, X * $40 for every machine?  I just wish that more vendors would offer the choices that Dell has with this offering.  That $40 could be spent on other things.

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2 thoughts on “Money and Computers”

  1. I hope I never get to the point in my life where the OS doesn’t matter. Why? Because in all likely hood it will mean that I have gotten to the point where a) I am no longer creating my own applications and b) my use of the computer is as basic as. well, call them normal people. For the sake of the industry I hope it never happens for everyone. Why? Because I fear that we already have too little innovation in OSes. Right now we pretty much only have two – Windows and different flavors of UNIX. Mac OS and Linux are both UNIX derivatives. At least in phones we have three – Windows Phone, Android and iOS. They have different models for many things and that is something I think is a good thing.

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  2. Interesting comment, Alfred. Thanks. Wasn’t Java supposed to be the big equalizer? Is it time that we consider that programming for the web is a real destination for people?

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