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evolving computer use

2002-01-08 01:00:15+00 by Dan Lyke 13 comments

After the thread making fun of Apple's announcement which turned out to be a new iMac, I remembered my brief foray into looking at network appliances, and wondered why the new iMac[Wiki] seems lame to me. Here's why: I've gone beyond worrying about desk space; I now run applications on the servers and use them on the laptop. Thanks to the wonders of 802.11 and X windows, I have all the resources of beefed up multi-processor machines with a display and interface that follows me from room to room. There are still a few synchronization issues about using the laptop untethered from the home network, but it's the idea that the new iMac[Wiki] is a desktop machine at all that I find outmoded.

[ related topics: Apple Computer Wireless Microsoft broadband Invention and Design Macintosh ]

comments in ascending chronological order (reverse):

#Comment made: 2002-02-21 05:34:17+00 by: other_todd

Dan, at the risk of being the house Luddite: Not all of us can or will use laptops (I find the screens difficult, the keyboards uncomfortable, and the pointing devices nearly impossible to use).

Also, not all of us have high connectivity (Verizon keeps lying to us about DSL availability and I consider cable modems insufficiently secure, so I'm still on 56K from home at least).

And, frankly, some of us don't have access to that kind of server firepower. Okay, it's true that I do most of my working-from-home telnetted to my Unix box on my desk at work, and it's an Ultra 5 and more than adequate to my needs ... but my day job involves using primarily emacs, which I know some old Unix hands think of as a big pighog, but is not when compared to some beast like Word or Photoshop. I wouldn't be able to run Photoshop remotely. I have tried it several networked ways and there is ALWAYS a performance hit (although admittedly I haven't tried it in several years).

So I don't think the days of local apps on local machines are quite done yet, thanks.

That doesn't change the fact that I am a bit let down that all the Apple hype just turned out to be a new iMac case, with a tricky monitor mount that will not take up a substantially smaller desk footprint and will probably break fairly easily.

#Comment made: 2002-02-21 05:34:17+00 by: Dan Lyke

I'll give you all your points, except "I consider cable modems insufficiently secure". It's an IP connection, what makes one more or less secure than the other? Yep, you've gotta encrypt anything sensitive, but anyone can have a compromised machine with a packet sniffer on it.

TCP/IP is kinda like safe sex, if you're gonna be promiscuous you've gotta assume that everyone[Wiki] has something you don't want to catch.

#Comment made: 2002-02-21 05:34:18+00 by: Larry Burton

>> And, frankly, some of us don't have access to that kind of server firepower. <<

This is exactly why Microsoft's .NET initiative will be a success. Just about everyone actively involved in this community has the ability to do what .NET is suppose to do with their own equipment but this is a very elite community. I don't think a one of us appreciates how much magic all this is to the average Joe. And even then, for the technically proficient it is so much easier when someone else has done it for you and with easy monthly payments at that. Just $4 more a month out of my budget. How can I not take them up on it when it would be so much more costly this month to do it myself?

Oops, I guess I got a little off topic there but here is where I had that thought.

#Comment made: 2002-02-21 05:34:18+00 by: petronius

I read Time Magazine's breathless coverage of iMac last night, and had another yawn. another amazingly cool looking machine without room for any new boards or cd drives, no floppy slot and probably costing twice what a PC will. I sometimes think apple is trying to lock up a market niche of cool people who don't really do anything with their machines. For people who actually work with computers the difficulties of customizing make Macs a bit less attractive. It's like some of the more fanatical Linux people on zdnet.com; when you suggest somebody might actually want to do something with their computer instead of writing drivers they accuse you of being a Microsoft stooge.

#Comment made: 2002-02-21 05:34:18+00 by: TC

Todd B. get yourself a $40-$60 firewall router and order that cable modem. Friends don't let Friends do narrowband.(I'm gonna win that bet with Dan). I have some of the same complaints about Laptops although I have found the glide pad to be acceptable. Dan doesn't notice these things because well, he's pretty much a command line type a guy.

#Comment made: 2002-02-21 05:34:18+00 by: flushy

Larry, .NET is gonna suck our mortal souls. I for one hope it fails...

#Comment made: 2002-02-21 05:34:19+00 by: Larry Burton

Flushy, I'm not saying I like it, I'm just saying why I believe it will succeed.

#Comment made: 2002-02-21 05:34:19+00 by: Dan Lyke

A little mid-afternoon rambling: While I don't think that X is necessarily the protocol to use, with the rise of devices like the Turtle Beach Audiotron, and home networks, the market is almost[Wiki] ready for a two-piece computer. Something with a lot of disk that sits in the closet near the broadband connection, and some device to access that resource. What with OS X powering things, the new iMac could have been the first real player in that space, beating Microsoft by a few weeks. As it is Apple has simply reasserted their "core competencies in the fashion and design area".

On the .NET thing, .NET right now is FUD + C#. But yes, .NET is overdue, not so much as a way to provide more compute power, but as a way to provide centralized intelligent systems administration. Those of us who've grown up with computers, and see the administration bits as central to their use, miss just how much domain knowledge we apply keeping multiple apps coordinated. The direction .NET is evolving lets you lease that expertise.

#Comment made: 2002-02-21 05:34:19+00 by: flushy

speaking of peice computers, have you seen http://www.sgi.com/origin/3000/bricks.html?

#Comment made: 2002-02-21 05:34:19+00 by: ebradway

Anyone notice the headline of the article when you click on the picture of Steve Jobs at Time?

I've been working of getting an SGI Indy up to snuff. I'm touroughly impressed by the capabilities of this circa 1993 machine. Does almost everything the new iMac does. Video capture, video editting, etc. Runs Irix (Unix plus a friendly GUI not unlike OS-X). Indy's are selling on Ebay for $150 with a 20" monitor.

Oh yeah, the Indy will automatically mount a Mac HFS formatted SCSI drive plugged into the back.

#Comment made: 2002-02-21 05:34:20+00 by: Mike Gunderloy

.NET is lots of things. I think the best analogy from Microsoft history is ActiveX. When ActiveX was announced as the rebranding of COM (at Tech Ed in, um, 97?), *everything* was called ActiveX for a while, including a bunch of unrelated technologies. After a while it shook down to just controls and containers, which everyone called COM anyhow. Similarly, right now *everything* is being pushed under the .NET moniker: the new development framework and CLR, the new Visual Studio, the new Office (which won't have any .NET language capabilities), the new Windows servers (what was once Whistler and then Win XP Server), the new Windows CE (originally Windows CE 4.0)....it goes on. You can't sum up .NET as a simple sentence, because it's just the Microsoft brand du jour.

So, while I can see Dan's point about .NET being FUD + C#, I think that's just a blind-man-and-elephant experience of one piece of .NET.

As for Apple's sexy-but-uninspiring hardware: perhaps they have a future, if they really can reach that niche of cool people who don't actually use their machines. After all, for that market you probably don't have to waste manufacturing money to put in things like a CPU or RAM...

#Comment made: 2002-02-21 05:34:21+00 by: other_todd

Didn't they go back to COM after a while? Or maybe my chronology is messed up. I had basically stopped programming for Windows by then anyway.

Todd, I am probably going to take that advice one day. What I don't know about cable modems would fill a book, but I have savvy people to help me out - I do work in MIT I/S after all .... The factor so far has been, again, that I haven't NEEDED more than 56K; I don't surf big nasty webpages if I can avoid it (I am a text person, not a picture person) and my telnet window is not, shall we say, a big bandwidth consumer. So I am not in a hurry. But it gets a little harder to get by on 56K every year ....

I'm watching .NET reasonably closely. Like Dan I fear it. I believe it could be a great power for good, but the problem is that a group of people I trust very little are its apparent custodians.

#Comment made: 2002-02-21 05:34:21+00 by: Dan Lyke

My impression is that Active* was initially "our name for all Microsoft services", much in the same way that .NET currently encompasses everything, even that stuff which predates, bute Active* eventually settled back on being the portions of their technology that fit in browser capable controls.

Similar things will happen with .NET, once what the real advancements are start to seep out to the developer population and people start saying "wait, this bit here is just IIS with a new name". Had an interesting discussion today on the .NET thing with Microsoft[Wiki] folks, it was amazing the level of "this is the abstraction we're talking about right now" that went on. Admittedly on both sides, but it was more a "we've thought about this, have you yet?" sort of thing.

Love it or hate it, it will be a part of our ecosystem shortly.