Be on the wave or under it
The News – 10/14/05
Why Do We Have Personal Computers?
I don’t know about you, but I couldn’t do without my personal computer, although I realize this is not a universal feeling. However, I know that if people like my technophobic wife can’t do without their computers, then there are a whole lot of folks out there who have come to rely on their PCs.
The reason I can’t do without my PC is because I make my living with computers. That makes me a power user, and power users have a warped view of the world. Take, for example, a CNet online forum contributor who recently commented on a story about how Microsoft is worried Google will create a service, delivered over a thin-client architecture, that will eliminate the need for an operating system:
Thin clients are yet another chunk of hype with no strong future. Why move everything off your system and use everything you did before on remote servers?
You will have to trust that your data is secure.
You have to deal with slower computing. If it makes you less productive, what is the point?
It will likely be more expensive. Why rent software? That makes as much sense as renting music or everyday clothes.
Gaming will not work on something like this.
Thin clients- hype with no substance
Where to begin in pointing out the flaws in this screed?
I’m the last guy to advocate the return to the mainframe-and-terminal, hierarchical, priesthood-dominated world prevalent up until the last decade or so. But given the extreme irritation of dealing with fat client MS Windows machines, I can definitely see the appeal of thin-client computing, at least for the non-power users among us.
Think about it. How many times have you installed a program, uninstalled a program, or just looked at your PC wrong and all of a sudden the stupid thing doesn’t work like it used to? Wouldn’t it be nice if you could always get your email, always browse the Web without problems (like viruses and popups), and always do your word processing without annoying hiccups, incompatibilities and other major annoyances?
Dealing with the mess that is your average Windows PC has forced me to reach a conclusion that is startling to those around me: I hate computers! If I could, I would take all seven of the little tyrants I own and purify them in the waters of Lake Minnetonka.
In comparison, thin-client computing promises such an idyllic world. All the software you use runs on a server, maintained and installed by somebody else. You may have some local storage for data, or you might have vast reserves to store your stuff on the server. Then, wherever you go, there you are – you log in, and, boom, your familiar desktop with all your applications and all your files is there. Marvelous!
Yes, as the raving power user says above, you will have to trust that your data is secure. But sometimes trusting such a thing to professionals is better than trusting it to yourself. When was the last time your Mom or Dad backed up their data? (Of course, I assume you are backing your stuff up regularly to CD or DVD!) Just ask the client of mine (who shall remain nameless) who deleted his Outlook data file because his drive was filling up, despite me pleading with him on the phone at the time, “No, no, no! Don’t do that! That’s your address book and all your messages!”
The second point our raver makes is that you will have to deal with slower computing. Well, most of the things that our light and medium users do aren’t exactly heavy breathing, computing-wise. Otherwise people wouldn’t be so fond of Web-based email services like Yahoo, Excite, and Gmail. Further, most folks don’t type at 100 words per minute, nor do they usually create huge word processing files that might take a while to save.
So big deal. It takes a little longer to open a document, a little longer to save. Let’s face it: Most tasks ordinary people do with their computers don’t really take much horsepower.
I know what the raver is saying, though: You won’t be able to play Battlefield Vietnam or other massively multiplayer shooter games on a thin client. He’s right. For that, you will want your own fat PC. Ditto if you’re a day trader, or any other user with high computing needs.
It’s just that most people aren’t like that.
The raver’s third point, that thin-client computing will be more expensive, is hard to determine. In some sense, you’re trading your own time and headaches for the ability to pay someone else to worry about it for you. Besides, this is an assertion, and, as I tell my sons, assertion is not proof. Once you factor in all the costs of owning and maintaining your own computing equipment, the premium for thin-client computing might not seem so large.
As far as the raver’s comment about renting music goes, you just wait. The recording industry is doing their best to make it so you can’t so much as play the music you bought in the car as well as the house without their permission.
As I mentioned, the raver is right on when he or she says that you won’t be able to do serious gaming on thin client. But you could play the odd game of Tetris, or Spider Solitaire, or any number of role-playing games on thin devices.
Now in the past, I have not been a fan of thin client appliances, especially back several years ago when they were all the rage. With full PCs now available at under $400, it’s going to be hard to find a price point where the appliance approach makes sense, at least as far as up-front investment is concerned. Unless the thin-client is built into something you already buy like, say, a new TV.
Sure, Microsoft’s WebTV (now known as MSN TV) has been a failure, if something with more than a million subscribers can be termed a failure, but that doesn’t mean the concept is totally wrong. People haven’t been signing up in droves for a $200 poorly-performing Web appliance with lame applications and a $10 a month surcharge that looks crappy on your old TV. But have you noticed that many of the new flat-panel TVs also double as PC monitors?
Or another possibility: The Tivo is already a pretty heavy duty computing appliance, and is available in some places for $100. What if it were bundled with a bunch of thin-client applications and marketed to the folks who are weary of dealing with the complexity of unreliable Windows PCs?
Ready to chuck the boat anchor into Lake Minnetonka yet? Next issue, we’ll take a look at some of the new technologies that will make thin-client applications work more and more like installed applications.
- Shameless Self-Promotion Dept.: The WiMAX Guys’ main business is new installs for people who want to set up wireless hotspots such as hotels, warehouses, apartment buildings, and office buildings or hotzones that cover cities. We also sell a knowledge-based Web portal called the MAX K-Base. Check out our main Website at www.TheWiMAXGuys.com.
My wife created a bit of a stir when her op-ed piece was published in the Minneapolis StarTribune newspaper after the election. Her article, “Two Nations, Handcuffed Together,” has been commented on or linked to by more than 85 Websites. She’s now created a Website to capitalize on her newfound pundit status. Check it out at www.debellsworth.com.
Many issues ago I debuted SNS Begware, an opportunity for you, gentle reader, to express your appreciation by tipping your server via PayPal. See the sidebar for more info. Total in the kitty so far: $91.48. Thanks Dave!
And now that I’m partnered with one of the largest advertisers on the planet, Google, that should be kicking in serious coin to the StratVantage coffers. Let’s see. The current total is: $12.20. Great. Read this issue on the Web and click on the ads to feed the kitty. You can also shop at Amazon, pay nothing additional, and send a spiff to me.
- The Raw File – SNS is dedicated to delivering the scoop on the latest and greatest. However, I collect lots of information that never makes it into the newsletter before it gets old. I’ve collected all this aging info into a page called The Raw File. This page is the raw information I gather for SNS articles. It’s not pretty, and some may be a little incoherent, but chances are there are still things in TRF that might be news to you. So therefore, use The Raw File at your own risk – it’s 45+ pages of the best stuff that didn’t make it into SNS.
The Raw File
- FISH Wraps Newspaper: My wife and I like to make up TLAs (Three Letter Acronyms) and FLAs (Four or Five Letter Acronyms) about annoying situations, things, or persons we come into contact with on a regular basis. Such abbreviations are our way of poking fun at the things that frustrate us, not an attempt to be cruel.
One of our earliest creations – from the ‘70s! – was the OMIAH (Old Man In A Hat), a type of slow, overly-cautious, clueless driver we used to encounter ahead of us on the highways. But as the fedora-wearing generation of men has gradually met its reward, thus decimating its ranks, we’ve had to come up with another FLA: BEOG (Big-Eared Old Guy), you know, the duffer in the tan Buick Century tooling along in the left lane at 5 miles under the limit.
Of course, when the current crop of twenty-somethings enters their dotage, I’m sure many of them will be COOTs (Cap On, Old Tatoos). And I certainly shouldn’t be throwing stones, given that I have an AARP card!
When talking with pretty much any phone service personnel, we are apt to exclaim EIEIO! (Expect Incompetence, Endure Idiot Operatives!) An operative is a service employee only barely acquainted with the rudiments of their job.
Some of our coinages are more recent than these time-honored sobriquets, however, such as MINIAC (Mostly Invisible Nana In A Car) – the little old ladies peering over the steering wheel like Kilroy. We kid, but we love.
So recently, my wife, while perusing the new makeover of the local newspaper, the StarTribune, used one of her newer creations to create a strange mental picture for me when she exclaimed, “They put a FISH in here!”
The StarTribune, like most metropolitan dailies, is very concerned that the twenty-somethings don’t read newspapers, preferring to get their news from the ever-reliable Internet. In an apparent attempt to be more relevant to Generations X and Y’s tastes and preferences, the newspaper reprinted a piece of FISH (Forwarded Internet Serial Humor) on their opinion page.
You’ve all gotten FISH, whether they are “humorous” lists on topics such as, “You know you’re old when . . .” or merely jokes of questionable taste and dubious humor. Such pieces tend to take on a life of their own, being forwarded from person to person, each typically appending their own sentiment, such as “Too true!”
The FISH the StarTribune printed was particularly lame: 10 Things Mom Taught Me. Because the new-look Strib doesn’t include their Short Cuts section their Website (yeah, that makes sense!), I found the list elsewhere, with slightly different wording and ranking, to share with you:
1. PRIORITIES - "If you're going to kill each other, do it outside. I just finished cleaning."
2. RELIGION - "You better pray that will come out of the carpet."
3. TIME TRAVEL - "If you don't straighten up, I'm going to knock you into the middle of next week!"
4. LOGIC - "Because I said so, that's why."
5. MORE LOGIC - "If you fall out of that swing and break your neck, you're not going to the store with me."
6. FORESIGHT - "Make sure you wear clean underwear, in case you're in an accident."
7. IRONY - "Keep crying, and I'll give you something to cry about."
8. OSMOSIS - "Shut your mouth and eat your supper."
9. CONTORTIONISM - "Will you look at that dirt on the back of your neck!"
10. STAMINA - "You'll sit there until all that spinach is gone."
Regular readers know what I think of Forward-It-To-Everyone-You-Know culture. Now the stinking newspapers are getting into the act.
Weekend Property and Construction News
The New-Look StarTribune with an annoying popup ad that doesn’t work well in Firefox browsers
- I’m Not Above FISHing: Lest you think we’re just all about derision here at StratVantage Central, I invite you to take the following cultural aptitude FISH I ran into somewhere on the Net, called You ain’t cultured yet ‘less you can… Note: No Googling allowed!
1. Tell, within a dozen, how many books P. G. Wodehouse wrote. Shoot, make it within thirty…
2. Name the song playing on the radio when Duke’s Samoan attorney threw the grapefruit into the bathtub.
3. Fill in the blank, “I love the smell of _____________ in the morning.”
4. Tell what machine Toad fell in love with after being thrown from his caravan.
5. Name the Who’s original drummer.
6. Describe the procedure for trapping a heffalump.
7. Name the Black Panther Party member who went from exile in Cuba to preaching at Wheaton Bible Church before designing and selling codpiece-equipped pants.
8. Name the artist who played harmonica on Keith Green’s 1980 “So You Wanna Go Back to Egypt” LP.
9. Tell who said, “The policeman isn’t there to create disorder. The policeman is there to preserve disorder.”
10. Name the movie: “Gentlemen, you can't fight in here! This is the War Room.”
11. Name the Beatle with the bare feet.
12. Name the now-dead newspaper columnist who often quoted his friend Slats Grobnik.
13. Tell what color and model car O.J. Simpson was being driven down the Santa Monica freeway in.
14. Name the Chicago Bears defensive tackle who scored a touchdown in Super Bowl XX.
15. Finish the sentence from "Cool Hand Luke": “What we have here is a failure to _____________ .”
16. Name the movie this line comes from: “It's just a flesh wound! Come back and I'll bite your kneecaps off!”
17. Name the song that ends with the drummer shouting, “I’ve got blisters on my fingers!”
18. Name the lead guitarist on the Beatles’ “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.”
19. Name the Tom Wolfe book originally serialized in Rolling Stone magazine.
20. Name the television series modeled on the work of a New Yorker cartoonist.
You get extra credit for finding the three errors in the questions. I got 14 right without Google; 20 right with.
- Mensa Brain Teasers: While we’re in a silly mood here, here’s a FISH featuring a fascinating game brought to my attention by Alert SNS Reader Bill Lehnertz. The Washington Post's Mensa Invitational apparently once again asked readers to take any word from the dictionary, alter it by adding, subtracting, or changing one letter, and supply a new definition.
Here are the 2005 winners:
1. Cashtration (n.): The act of buying a house, which renders the subject financially impotent for an indefinite period.
2. Intaxication: Euphoria at getting a tax refund, which lasts until you realize it was your money to start with.
3. Reintarnation: Coming back to life as a hillbilly.
4. Bozone (n.): The substance surrounding stupid people that stops bright ideas from penetrating. The bozone layer, unfortunately, shows little sign of breaking down in the near future.
5. Giraffiti: Vandalism spray-painted very, very high.
6. Sarchasm: The gulf between the author of sarcastic wit and the person who doesn't get it.
7. Inoculatte: To take coffee intravenously when you are running late.
8. Hipatitis: Terminal coolness.
9. Osteopornosis: A degenerate disease. (This one got extra credit.)
10. Karmageddon: It's like, when everybody is sending off all these really bad vibes, right? And then, like, the Earth explodes and it's like, a serious bummer.
11. Decafalon (n.): The grueling event of getting through the day consuming only things that are good for you.
12. Glibido: All talk and no action.
13. Dopeler effect: The tendency of stupid ideas to seem smarter when they come at you rapidly.
14. Arachnoleptic fit (n.): The frantic dance performed just after you've accidentally walked through a spider web.
15. Beelzebug (n.): Satan in the form of a mosquito, that gets into your bedroom at three in the morning and cannot be cast out.
16. Caterpallor (n.): The color you turn after finding half a worm in the fruit you're eating.
And “Mensa” Bill added his own:
Catsastrophy (n): What you hang on the wall after cat-hunting with a shotgun and you ruin its face.
Incidentally, a Web search and a search at washingtonpost.com turned up no mention of this contest, so perhaps it’s an urban legend. Still funny, though.
- Has Your Site Been Cloned? One of the problems of the Web is it is so doggone easy to vacuum up all the pages on a site, tweak them, and put them up as your own. I mentioned instance of this with song lyric sites and joke ads in previous SNS editions. The problem is much bigger if your content is something you’ve slaved over or is unique in any way.
Now there’s a service that will keep an eye out for people ripping off your content for just $10 a month. Copyscape has a great search engine that will analyze a page of your site and then scour the Web looking for pages whose content is a close match. I found a couple of sites I didn’t know about this way, including a site that had ripped off some content from one of my white papers.
I wish I could have used Cloudscape a couple of years ago, though, when a college student basically ripped off one of my white papers, turned it in for his class, and the professor posted it back on the Web, with the student attributed as author! The worst thing about this incident was that the professor wasn’t concerned about the plagiarism.
- If You’ve Made it This Far: Well, there still have been no more entries in our contest. As you may remember, Alert SNS Reader Ken Florian correctly identified the song containing the lyric “And I said yes sir brother sheriff, and that's your wife on the back of my horse.” You may recall that the song is indeed Gangster of Love, a song made popular by Stevie “Guitar” Miller and first appearing on his album Sailor. Miller did not, however, write the song, which was penned by Johnny “Guitar” Watson, who had a minor hit with it in 1957. My favorite other cover recording of the song is by Johnny Winter, on an obscure disk called Black Cat Bone.
You may further recall the contest was to email me the retort to the partial music lyric buried somewhere in the previous newsletter. The prize was one stick of totally obsolete PC memory. Since Mr. Florian neglected to also answer the tiebreaker, “Who is Hoops McCann?” twice, he is not the winner. Frankly, I thought the tiebreaker was pretty easy, especially if you use my favorite search engine, Google. Perhaps you should try Dumbfind, and put in the names of various categories of popular entertainment until you find the two answers.
So, to claim the memory, Alert SNS Readers must first answer that tiebreaker and then also tell me where I can buy the LP featuring songs containing the lyrics “nauseous gasser” and “merry-go-round” for less than $69. It’s only going to get harder unless someone can emerge victorious. Of course, buying me the LP would make one an instant winner, regardless of previous right answers!
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14, 1928 - July 5, 2003
Jane C. Ellsworth
20, 1928 - July 20, 2003