Wednesday, May 12, 2010

GTOW (Geek tip of the week)

This week - Be a cloud master (or cheap bastard). 

How many people do you know that spend many thousands on new computers every year or two because the old one starts to, well, suck.  Then there are the geeks that always seem to have whatever they need but never seem to spend much on anything but the coolest new cell phone and faster broadband.

Here's how to work the system like a true geek.  Shh this is top secret. 

First of all - it's not the hardware that's the problem. Start fresh with a new install of Windows and it will run just like it did when you brought it home last xmas.  The bad news - that new computer with windows 7 on it - will suck in a year too. 

The problem with Windows based computers is the design of the operating system.  Windows is modular.  This means that every time you add a program to do something it's sticking stuff into your operating system. Like when the kid next door stuck stuff on your oh-so-cool Lego space ship. Most of the time even if you "uninstall" programs they leave the modifications and settings in place - in case you change your mind and re-install in the future.  This is why windows always wants you to re-boot for every little change. 

This has worked out pretty well for Microsoft, Intel, AMD, Nvida and the host of other manufacturers that talk you into buying new every year or two.

So how do I "fix" my slow ol clunker?  You do one of two things.  You either start over by re-installing windows every year or so - or you switch to an operating system with a different design. That's it. 

Macs and Linux based systems run on what is called a monolithic kernel.  The OS loads as one big chunk - unmodified, the same every time.  Kinda like a big Tonka truck instead of a Lego creation.  Software loaded on the system must be self contained.  Mostly (it is possible to hose up things like graphics libraries etc).  However the system itself will generally be much more resistant to that overall slow-down-suck prevalent in windows based systems.

So do I re-load or switch?  Up to you.  If you have programs that you rely on, that are only available on windows.  Well, you are stuck.  I don't mean generic stuff like word processors or web browsers.  Things like software to program your GPS, remote control, or run specific hardware necessary to your business.  In this case pony up for a copy of windows 7. That's still pretty cheap compared to a whole new computer.  Of course you will need to re-install the programs that you need.  But STOP THERE!  Don't waste money on new versions of Office or any of that.  See the section below about the cloud...

If you are like 2/3 of computer users and only use your computer for the occasional letter.  To browse the web.  Do some email. Maybe listen to some music - my advise is to switch to Linux.  You will have everything you need in a simple to use system that won't suck for many years.  Plus it won't cost you anything more than the time it takes to load the new OS and learn a few new tricks.  In spite of what the folks that make their money from hacking or directly selling windows will tell you - Windows, Linux, and Mac all accomplish the same thing.  They are different in about as much as a yellow legal pad is different from a Big Chief notebook is different than a Moleskin.

Before the Mac crowd attacks - I like them too, but the objective here is to avoid buying new hardware.

Now to the cloud part:  On your system, don't worry if your hard drive seems small compared to the shiny new systems at Best Buy.  These days all you need is a good, fast broadband connection.  A Dropbox account and a Google login so that you can use Google Docs.  Truthfully a $200 netbook with a couple gigs of SSD and a broadband connection gets you all the computing power and apps that 95% of users will ever want.

In summary:  Take that "old" box - install something like Ubuntu 10.04 (that comes with the Dropbox like Ubuntu One service) sign up for Gmail (gives you access to Google docs) and never look back at those expensive systems again.

Posted via email from ninjahippie's (pre) posterous

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