After bowing to pressure from consumer demand and the EU, Microsoft has agreed to extend the lifecycle of Windows XP.
Is this really any surprise? Windows XP is more stable, more compatible, less resource-hungry, more secure, and generally a better OS (although of course it doesn’t have a patch on Linux or OS X).
Computer users are finally seeing the light in the fact that Vista is a completely botched operating system compared to the Longhorn vision that appeared… well… it seems like aeons ago now. And all we have now is a slow, clunky, and generally dreadful OS.
Is this all Microsoft could come up with? It’s no wonder people are staying with XP.
Another point that irks me about Vista is that, instead of getting on with it, Microsoft seemed to try to juggle that with trying to introduce tit-for-tat competition for every product Apple and Google pumped out, desperate to remain the market leader.
The Zune. Windows Live Search. Windows Desktop Search. Windows Live Maps. Windows Onecare. Internet Explorer 7.
Even Vista’s start button looks suspiciously like it was pinched from Aqua, OS X’s interface.
It’s even released a few (practically useless) open-source tools. Why are they useless, you may ask? Not just because of rubbish, clunky functionality, but because of the fact that they need Microsoft’s proprietary code to run!
The only decent software Microsoft has turned out lately is Office 2007, and that works magnificently on XP. So there. All the more reason to dump Vista into its own recycle bin.
(Incidentally, I hear that Vista DVDs make a great light show when microwaved.)
According to this Slashdot story, Apple is planning to turn iPhones that have been unlocked from AT&T Wireless into very expensive and elaborate paperweights.
Now, I personally believe this is wrong. A person has the right to use their mobile phone as a client on whichever network they would like.
However, I am finding it difficult to place the blame on anyone in particular.
On the one hand, Apple could be blamed for wanting a commission from each iPhone call, and therefore resorting to locking the iPhone into only one carrier.
Alternatively, AT&T could be blamed for the fact that they’re generally such a rubbish mobile provider, and that they also earn a huge commission off the iPhone (probably bigger than Apple’s, as you’re tied into a rolling contract, feeding AT&T with $59.99 a month).
In the end, I can’t really point the blame at anyone for this situation. However, I do have a suggestion to Apple for the next version of the iPhone.
Instead of tying iPhone users to a single provider, why not program the iPhone to charge x proportion in addition to the call price from either your credit/debit card or SIM card and credit that to Apple? That means that it could be SIM-independent, the iPhone could work with whichever carrier you want, and everyone’s happy. (Except AT&T, but they deserve it.)
For all the advances in speech recognition, mice, touch-displays and graphics tablets, most of our input to our computers comes from the humble old keyboard. Yes, that rectangle in front of you with strategically-arranged buttons on it. And it looks to stay that way.
Because you use your keyboard so much, it becomes a pain to use even if there are just minor niggles with the design. So it’s important that you pick the right one – the one that your computer comes with might not necessarily suit you.
Of course, if you’re in a setting where a computer will be used by more than one person, you have to compomise. But in the event that a computer will be used mainly by you, then it’s very helpful to get the right type of keyboard. There’s no shortage of them, so you’re sure to find your perfect match out there somewhere.Tactile feedback
You may find buttons a pain to press, and therefore opt for a modern, laser-projected, hi-tech keyboard. However, most people prefer some kind of tactile feedback when they press the keys, so they’ll probably want a real keyboard.Buttons
There are many different kinds of buttons you can have on your keyboard – multimedia hotkeys, shortcuts to applications, trackballs and so on. Work out what you’ll be using the keyboard for and then think, “What task would become so much easier for me if there was a key for it?”
Most ‘multimedia’ keyboards are programmable. That is, you can assign x button to open y program. Easy peasy, with most keyboards.That Irritating Key
This is my current keyboard. I don’t like it.
The reason I detest it so much lies in the key in the top-left hand corner, marked with a big “F”.
This is the F-lock key, which switches the F1-F12 keys between their normal functions, and sending programmed sequences to the computer (eg alt-f-o for F3, which is marked ‘open’).
This is a real pain outside of office applications, and is quite annoying inside them too as I’m more likely to use Control+O.So ideally you’d want a keyboard with or without this feature, according to your needs.Extra Buttons
One thing I do like about my keyboard is the set of media controls in the corner, so I can mute iTunes when a phone call comes in, skip past a track I don’t like etc. It also has a Power Off and Standby button.
Now, these are common on today’s keyboards, so if you want one make sure you get one with this ability.The Normal Buttons
If you’re used to typing on a QWERTY keyboard, then there’s no point getting a Dvorak keyboard. Simple as. Choose your keyboard layout wisely.
Also decide if you want your function keys across the top or down the side, your shift key in the centre or bottom of each side of the keyboard, and what shape you want the Return key to be.
Also, a word on the modifier keys – these differ between PCs and Macs. On PCs, the Control key is used to access shortcuts, the Meta or Windows key is used to access OS features, and the Alt key is used to pull down the menus.
On Macs, the Control (or ^) key is fully reserved for its original purpose – entering control characters in the terminal. The Meta key is replaced by the Command key (with the ⌘ symbol) and this functions like Control does on a PC. The Alt (or Option) key is used to enter diatrics and alternative characters, much like the AltGr key on PCs. Note that menus must be pulled down using the mouse on Mac OS.A Word on Compatibility
A PC will normally have a PS/2 port into which the line from the keyboard will go.
It may also go into a USB port, and you can get USB to PS/2 (and vice versa) adapters to allow your keyboard to talk to the computer.
All post-1997 Macs use USB ports only for their keyboards. The included keyboards will normally work fine, and so do most other keyboards. You can use a PS/2 to USB adapter for Macs.
Keeping with this theme, Apple’s own keyboards tend to be hit-and-miss when connected to PCs. Sometime’s it’s recognised in a flash and works fine, other times you have to coax it into working. This very informative article provides some more info on getting it to work should it not do so by itself.