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Sunday, June 29, 2008

Dyson Vacuums vs. *NIX Operating Systems

After seeing a commercial for a Dyson-brand vacuum cleaner, my mind was kicked into gear as to why the uptake in *NIX operating systems on the desktop (specifically, all flavors of Linux and Apple's OS X) has been so slow when compared to Microsoft Windows.

In some ways, *NIX currently stands as the Dyson vacuums of the computer world.  Currently, the only mainstream desktop *NIX system is Mac OS X.  Apple only sells OS X bundled with a new PC, effectively making the hardware a giant dongle key for an otherwise awesome operating system.  Linux is another great *NIX system, but fails at the mainstream because it simply requires too much effort for the average computer user, and this failure is its higher cost.

I feel the need to pause and define what I mean as the average computer user.  This is the person who gets their technology news from mainstream media.  This is the person who doesn't realize that Internet Explorer is just a web browser, or even what a web browser is.  It's just “the Internet” to them.  This is the person who thinks that if they get a Mac, the computer will be near-worthless.  This is the person who, rather than upgrading hardware or software, just goes out and buys a whole new computer.

With the idea of the average computer user defined, I can continue.  Since Windows has a critical mass of both software and hardware support, it stands as a de facto standard, but not in the standards-compliant sense.  It is the most easily available thing, and therefore many will opt to purchase it, despite its flaws. *NIX systems fix these flaws, but do so in a way that leaves it incompatible with existing Windows software.  This ultimately means that the user must decide between a system with a higher cost and less compatibility and a system with high compatibility and low cost.

This is where the parallel to Dyson comes in.  Dyson, especially the new "Ball" model, fixes perceived design flaws in existing vacuum cleaners.  However, you're then stuck in a mess where the only manufacturer of equipment for the vacuum is Dyson, and the only way you can be serviced is via Dyson.  Additionally, the vacuum is more expensive than other manufacturers' models. 

Just like with computers, the design flaws get fixed, but only with a higher cost.  For *NIX to get greater traction on the desktop, the cost has to be alleviated.

One interesting aside I'd like to address in a future blog post is the challenges Microsoft faces in getting away from their previous errors.  Another is that I've written this blog post on a new MacBook system, and I'm impressed with the features found in the basic OS X text editor, which include fonts, decent page layout, spell checking, and even kerning.

Monday, June 23, 2008


I've been reading more frequently lately due to the 2 1/2 or so hours I have commuting, so I decided to check out Goodreads to get ideas for books to read. Seems like it's pretty good stuff so far. I've written one review, for A Scanner Darkly, the last book I finished. I'm currently at the beginning of Cormac McCarthy's The Road. Here's my review: A Scanner Darkly A Scanner Darkly by Philip K. Dick

My review

rating: 4 of 5 stars "A Scanner Darkly" is a mind-bending alarmist tale about America in the 1960s. The story is vaguely auto-biographical, based loosely off Philip K. Dick's own experiences in the turbulent decade. The story documents the life of Bob Arctor, an undercover narcotics agent in the future-1990s. At work, Arctor responds to "Hank" as "Fred," an endlessly shifting coagulation of thousands of people. Through his drug use with housemates Jim Barris and Ernie Luckman, he rapidly devolves into just a borderline junkie. Fred, however, is tasked with monitoring the house, as the police believe that it is at the center of a drug-running operation. Specifically, Fred must focus on Arctor and his relationship with Donna Hawthorne, who is Arctor's main provider of Substance D, nicknamed "Substance Death" or "Slow Death." While in the course of monitoring Arctor, Fred becomes disjointed through heavy use of S.D., and is eventually removed from the case. Donna steps out of her role as "Hank" to bring Arctor/Fred to a New Path clinic, where he is to receive treatment for his fractured mind. At the very close of the book, however, Fred/Arctor discovers a series of small blue flowers, and his instincts kick in to deliver one of these flowers to Donna at the next yearly visit. The flowers are the source of Substance D, and New Path is the creator of the horrid drug they claim to rehabilitate from. The twists at the end create a unique literary view, especially as the "crosstalk" between Arctor/Fred takes stronger and stronger hold. In mid-sentence, German and Latin quotations will appear suddenly in the text, and the total confusion of character as Arctor/Fred rapidly degenerates, and finally is renamed "Bruce" by New Path, puts the reader in the position of having to struggle along with Arctor/Fred as to who he really is. As complex as the book is, it is not Dick's most complicated work. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep is a far more complex novel, and explores less the human psyche and more the very definition of humanity and empathy. View all my reviews.

Monday, June 16, 2008

The Fratellis in Concert

Ahh, another concert. First one I've been to since December, when I caught Cake at Terminal 5. As always, going to a show and seeing the band live on stage, with the energy of the crowd washing over you, is a completely different experience than simply listening to music on your own.

The opener, Airborne Toxic Event, were great too. Their sound wasn't too far-off from the typical trendy indie-rock group, but they just seemed on when they played.

Have some pictures up on PicasaWeb, but some interesting ones are below.