Processor core, that is. Which one would you prefer? I know that most, if not all of us, would definitely scream, “dual core”!!! [Read more…]
Jakob Nielsen has stated publicly that many sites have become personalised with various tools, the end result being sites that are “glossy but useless”. Mr Nielsen, a web usability expert, said that studies show web designers are better off getting the basics right – for both their design and the end user.
Web 2.0 has been described as “the latest fashion” – essentially extra functionality or features on the page. Nielsen argues that this must come absolutely secondary to the usability principles that have developed in the last ten years. I am inclined to agree with him.
These principles include good search tools, not using jargon, intuitive navigation, testing and a consideration of design and purpose well before the coding is approached. Much like and project, it must be thought out thoroughly before work begins.
Nielsen highlighted that the web is “a tool” for most people. They use it to access services. So, if a desired service offers superior functionality for instance but slow navigation, this breaking of a usability ‘golden rule’ would be enough to send a user elsewhere – highlighting the significance of the fundamentals.
Exploring another aspect of Web 2.0, the more complexity or layers, the greater likelihood for something going wrong. This may be differing experiences across browsers or even a frustrating user issue such as overly complex navigation.
Generally speaking, I’m in agreement with what Mr Nielsen has to say. As much as I like to see Ajax being used and impressive scripting, good, clean code tops things like widgets or an impressive menu system.
Of course, having usable sites benefits the end user most of all. The new user will have a pleasurable, understood experience. The experiences user will interact longer or gain the information wanted quicker. Ultimately, good design affects all of us and usability goes hand in glove with that.
If you’ve been using your computer for sometime now (what an understatement!), you might have heard at least one of the three big companies, Adobe, Microsoft, and Sun. Your first computer was probably a PC—a DOS- or Windows-based personal computer—so you’ve probably heard of Microsoft already. As for the other two, I’ve become aware of them about the same time, during high school:
Adobe specializes in graphics software, with Acrobat and Photoshop as its most familiar products. Sun, on the other hand, aside from being a notable hardware company, it is also behind Java, one of the most popular programming languages ever.
The RIA Battle
A few years ago it would be difficult to see how these three companies could ever compete side by side, but here were are in 2007, in the middle of a war for desktop, mobile, and the web supremacy, particularly in the rich internet applications (RIA) arena:
- Adobe, having acquired Macromedia to stengthen its online media arsenal, upgraded the ubiquitous Flash with Flex. (A similar program for the desktop is Apollo.)
- Microsoft swiftly answers with Silverlight, now touted the “Flash-killer”.
- Finally, Sun just announced JavaFX (during the annual JavaONE Conference held this week), also meant for creating and providing highly graphical and interactive media.
What Would You Choose?
All three companies seem to promise compatibility across platforms, mobile devices, AJAX and other web-related acronyms. More importantly, they each want to be the vessel that brings you the most advanced stuff on the internet.
To which company would you trust that (hopefully) mind-blowing experience? The company dedicated to programmers and system administrators? The company catering to graphic and web designers? Or the company that is the most ambitious in the world (next to Google, that is)? Chances are, if you’ve worked closely with either Adobe, Microsoft, or Sun products before, you might be unconsciously biased towards one of them, too.
This is a question that comes up in a variety of situations – from the novice computer user to the PC salesman. Storage and use; these are the two drivers behind any user space requirement.
In my old laptop I had a 30 gig hard drive. Today, there are multimedia players featuring double that. My new laptop has 100 gig, two-thirds more. The space is good, and my needs on the base system (and hard drive) have actually lessened due to purchasing a 200 gig external drive.
This, coupled with my laptop and Xbox 360 form not only a lot of tech but a decent home entertainment hub. Lets do a quick audit of drives here:
- Laptop: 100 gig
- Xbox 360: 30 gig
- External HDD: 200 gig
- Old laptop: 30 gig
- MP3 player: 1 gig
This is, lets face it, a lot of space. I.T. has my music, videos, games and writing – along with my study and other work. My digital life in fact. As long as I have enough space though I don’t really monitor it, barring on my laptop (I try to keep it reasonably clean for swap file usage etc).
Referring to the eponymous question, how much space do you need? Now there are phone with memory for data storage, pen drives (USB), external, internal, DVD, blu ray, HD and many more storage formats. All are being sold on their various and unique benefits. Do you have TiVO? Sky Plus? An Ipod?
This all makes me think that there are those missing out – on the tech, the wider picture and the pleasure of having their own on-demand entertainment. The revolution is now, and it’s happening in our generation. That being the case, pick up the external, stick it in to your media centre, power up your HD TV and enjoy!
Don’t you just love that Acer Ferrari laptop? While I personally prefer a smaller-sized laptop (14-inches or less), I think these larger, fancier ones (among the likes of the MacBook Pro) are the weapon of choice for users who are into high-end processing and gaming. The Acer Ferrari fits into this category. And you know what, I would say it’s one of the Acer devices that started to target the high-end market; most other offerings in the past had been for the budget-conscious.
I personally have steered clear of the Acer brand before because of this image. The first laptop I owned (back in the 1990’s) was actually an Acer and after just a few years of service the hinges got so brittle that the lid broke off. Acer has had this image in my mind for the longest time, and I can probably speak for other consumers. But now the company is moving away from being the “budget” choice towards being the “cool” choice.
Business Week has a handful of photos of new Acer hardware designed in conjunction with Ferrari.
Acer is pushing hard to shed its image as a second-tier player in the global personal computer industry. The Taiwanese company ranks No. 4 worldwide and predicts it will soon pass Lenovo, its rival from mainland China. While Acer relies largely on low prices and close relations with distributors to rack up market-share gains, the company also is emphasizing its design skills by collaborating with Ferrari. [A] partnership between Acer and the Italian automaker … has led to a series of laptops and monitors that combine innovative new materials with the Ferrari logo and racing colors.
And it seems the Acer Ferrari has gained acclaim in the industry as it was reportedly the laptop that Microsoft sent out to bloggers as sort of a “bribe” for writing about Vista! And apparently, Acer is also stepping up with enhancing its image not only in the laptops market, but also in LCD monitors, smartphones and even flat-screen TVs!
By the way, I’m glad to be back writing for Gadzooki! I remember this was among the first blogs I managed back in early 2006 when it was still tech.erati and back when I was pro-blogging for BlogMedia.
The BBC has reported on the One Laptop Per Child project as finally coming to a close – as in the fabled working laptop, able to produce documents, surf the net and show pictures is finally available. At least it will be next year. Customers will need to purchase two laptops when they are initially on sale however, as one is sent to to the developing world for each sale.
The machine itself has been developed as low cost, durable and as simple to use as possible. A number of countries have already signed up – proving that there is very much a demand for the technology in the global marketplace. Impressively, for the price it features wireless and video conferencing in the small yet durable package.
The next step is to develop some sort of supply chain and organisation, which will be performed by a philanthropic company or group. Interestingly, the speech by Mr Bletsas (chief connectivity officer for the project) at the CES highlighted a lack of ambition in the industry as he stated “they should look to connect the next five and a half billion [people]”.
Looking at this technology, it is not only important but vital that growing nations (particularly those termed ‘third world’) are brought into line with the other developing nations at least in terms of opportunities and access to technology. The longer we continue to race ahead with fancy TV sets and DVD recorders the further they fall behind. This includes of course entertainment technology but much more importantly, genuinely world changing technology such as access to the web.
Global economics has many challenges it must face, not least in the form of how we as humans interact with each other. The world is becoming a much smaller place. Let’s all be a little bit more philanthropic and help the world join in the technology revolution, to make it a better place for us all. One world, one global set of people and one laptop per child.
I’m not going to bore you with the specifics and history of the Internet here, but I will say that the web is now a ubiquitous part of modern technology. In a subtle irony it is at the centre of our digital universe, as well as BEING our digital universe. There is not an industry that continues today that has not been touched by this new part of the world (I was loathe to write tool given that it can be so much more) in the modern world at least. So how has it touched you?
I guess more than anything this is a personal history of how the Web has affected my life, given that my generation (twenty somethings now) are really the first to have grown up with it. I got my first computer on a sunny but cold day (I think I was about twelve), and not too long after that I was astounded when we got dialup Internet access. The wealth of information was incredible. So lets take a look at what I did.
I used the web at first as a communication tool. I sent emails, I went on IRC and I had some experience of Usenet groups. I was very young back then but I immediately realised the possibilities as well as the fun that could be had. Along with the mindless chatter that kids have on the net I was telling stories with others – we were, without realising, sitting around a virtual campfire.
Looking back, they were some pretty fun times. I’m sure there were ‘bad’ people out there, early adopters looking to take advantage of the technology and kids. Maybe it’s just the press, I don’t know, but it sure seems a much more fraught place now than it was. Anyway, even back then with the most basic of graphical interfaces, things worked and people had fun online together (long before WOW and Second Life).
I never did cheat, ever. I was always too moral for that, and I still am. On the other hand, using the net if you’re studying as a research tool should be completely encouraged. Whatever subject you are interested in (literally anything) someone, somewhere will know something about it. Whether it’s fly-fishing or Dominic Diamond, someone will have something to say about it. Of course, the one downside of using the net is that sometimes the author’s credentials can be brought into question. That’s really the only consideration on the net when researching, well there’s bias too but you get that in any media.
Playing games on the net was never really developed back in the early days, but it seemed to develop as I got older. I remember a good few games of Quake played over a slow connection and yet fun it still was. Of course, things have gone so much further these days, with ‘friends lists’ and whole virtual worlds to discover. This has also created new industries, as mining or playing games for people to give them a better Gamerscore. It’s all pretty heady stuff. It also makes no sense when you look at the history of where it came from, as I had the opportunity to do. Or maybe it does make sense, and its just part of the net growing up?
One of the great things about the web is that it can bring people together. Whether it is a collaborative project or an online game, friends can be made. Not only that, but even lovers. There’s more than a few stories doing the rounds of people getting married after playing in WOW, but expanding this to the net as a whole you have the Internet dating scene. This is the new bar for the busy folk who are wrapped up in work and… well… using the net I suppose!
So Where Are We Going?
I’m not sure if anyone can answer where the Web is going, what with Web 2.0, memes and various other buzz-phrases coming in and out of fashion quicker than anyone can blink. Newsnight on the BBC has touched on something interesting though, and that is the net is becoming almost like a religion. Bringing people together, putting them in touch with themselves and I guess the Internet acting as the Church or doorway to it all. For me though, one thing is sure. The net is going to continue apace as more get connected. I for one cannot wait to see what the new developments are going to be.
In the last two Computer Upgrade Guides that I have posted, I discussed the main processor, RAM, storage and graphics. This third part of the guide will now discuss the other important parts that need to be considered when upgrading – namely, the motherboard, the casing and power supply.
Motherboard – There is constant competition among motherboard manufacturers to insert more and more features on to their products as a way of enticing more customers. Asus has recently bumped up the level of competition by deciding to include 802.11g WiFi as well as transparent SATA Raid backup as new features on its top of the line motherboards. Other manufacturers are not intent on being left behind and are currently putting new features that will make it easier for overclockers to manipulate the individual settings of their CPUs and memory in order to extract more juice from these parts.
A year ago, Intel introduced its BTX form factor standard as the next evolution after the relatively old ATX standard. Surprisingly, the BTX standard has not yet reached the level of acceptance that Intel was hoping for it. But the new standard is still being supported though, especially by Dell and Gateway, which are still coming out with computers using BTX.
There are many form factors that are available to the consumer and it really depends on what they want to use their computers for. Currently, there is a trend towards using micro ATX motherboards among a growing number of computer buyers, especially those who are willing to forego some features that they think they will never need. The Micro ATX boards are becoming popular because of their compactness, a big come on for people who want to maximize space in their homes and offices. Micro ATX boards result in very compact systems that still doest not scrimp on expandability especially when compared to smaller machines. Of course, the level of expandability that is being discussed here can be no more than slots for extra hard drives as well as one or two vacant slots on the motherboard.
PC case and power supply – When you talk about heat generation inside a computer, the main culprit has always been the processor. With processors getting faster, the natural by product of this increased performance is more heat. Recently though processor companies have begun developing processors that are producing less heat and also require less power. Unfortunately, other PC parts have begun to generate more heat most specifically the graphics card and the storage devices. For example, a 7200 RPM hard drive will generate a very large amount of heat along with the graphics cards that are running some of the most demanding games today. Because of these issues, it is important that you buy a computer case that has the necessary airflow inside to help cool down the PC parts.
Buying a good power supply is also crucial because you need a steady load of electricity running through your computer peripherals. This is quite important because a power supply that delivers too high or too low a current can actually damage the PC’s different parts. When shopping around for a power supply try to look for ones that have a greater efficiency rating of at least 80 per cent.
Here is the continuation of my post last week on what to consider and look out for when upgrading your computer. It is very important to know these things especially at this point when a lot of established standards are being replaced by new ones.
Having already discussed processors and RAM, let us now focus our attention on storage and graphics:
Storage – With programs and different software eating more and more hard drive space and with most games needing faster access time to data and files in order to run smoothly, it is definitely important that faster and higher capacity drives are purchased. One of the more recent advancements in hard drive technology is perpendicular storage. For this year, Seagate was the first out of the gate by releasing their own perpendicular storage drive. This means that they have been able to ship a 750GB hard drive, which is the first in the market. At this point, hard drive manufacturers like Hitachi, Samsung and Western Digital have yet to release any perpendicular storage drives.
In terms of DVD recordable drives, purchasing one is now not a matter of budget as the prices of these drives have gone down drastically and this includes the price of DVD+/- RW dual layer writers. It was recently announced that companies like Pioneer and IO Data will be releasing Blu-ray burners for computers but at this point the technology is still at its infancy, which translates to exorbitant prices. A $1,000 drive is not really appealing unless you really have the money to burn.
The price of flash memory is also going down. It is now possible to get a 2GB or 4GB flash memory portable storage device for less than $100.
Graphics – There seems to be a holding pattern going on now in the graphics card market as the release of Windows Vista is being anticipated. For the time being, both ATI and Nvidia are just releasing the same products to the market, only that they are posting lower and lower prices for these graphic cards while at the same time bumping up the performance in all of the product lines. There is speculation that Nvidia is very near to launching its first DirectX 10 capable Graphics Processing Unit. The expected timeframe for when the product will hit the streets is likely by the end of the year. ATI, on the other hand, is lagging behind its rival when it comes to DirectX 10 enabled graphics cards. There is talk that ATI will only be able to release its own DirectX10 enabled GPU nearer the street date of the Windows Vista, which will most likely happen during the first half of 2007.
During the past year, a number of siginificant changes and technological evolutions happened that has changed the landscape of the PC world. These changes have created an environment wherein an upgrade on certain components or your whole PC system has become logical and, frankly, essential.
If you are the type who just use your computer for basic functions like word processing or spreadsheets and your PC is just a couple of years old then an upgrade can still be postponed to a later date. But if you use your PC for heavier tasks like home digital media applications or for PC gaming and your PC is two to three years old then the upgrade is inevitable.
The good thing about upgrading now is that prices are falling while capacities and performance are actually increasing, this means that you will be spending comparatively less for better performance.