Tablets: Serious Computing Devices or Toys?

exopc slate

I ran across an article on Electronista in my news feed today that really got me thinking.  It seems a new survey conducted by Citigroup found that, of 1,800 people surveyed, 62% of those planning to purchase a tablet considered the purchase “a toy” (you can read a more in-depth analysis of the survey at that link).  After a few minutes of thought I realized that I feel, somewhat, the same way.  The majority of this survey likely encompasses average users.  Sure, I plug a keyboard into a tablet and work, but my family finds it pure entertainment.

With the addition of Google Docs and, now, Office Live 365, a tablet can be a work environment that’s easy to carry when you’re on the go.  Of course, you’ll need a real keyboard because nobody wants to type a long article or Word doc on the on-screen equivalent.  Throw in email as another productivity chore that can be tackled when using it as a computer, but again, if the response is in-depth, you may want that keyboard.  Meetings can be handled via Skype or Google+ Hangouts, so there is yet another productivity app that you have with you in an easy-to-carry device.  But, most I have named require a real keyboard, which adds to the bulk.  You may even want a mobile mouse if you’re really serious.  Oh, and you will need a stand to use it this way also.

My wife and kids and the majority of the computing public?  They want a tablet to play games, check social media, browse the web, read a book with the Kindle app, use a remote control app for the home theater, check sports scores, and on and on.  In short, it’s a toy for them.  They will never plug in a keyboard or mouse to it, they will never write a document on it, they just don’t see it that way.  To them, that’s what desktops and laptops are for.

For all of the talk about the PC being dead, I think the diagnosis may be a bit premature, or as Mark Twain put it “rumors of my demise have been greatly exaggerated.”  Even for business travelers the notebook is still the number one tool.  After all, who wants to carry, and hook-up, all of those accessories?

So, am I missing something here?  Do you feel differently?  Are tablets really ready for prime-time when it comes to real computing tasks and day-to-day work?  Let me know in the comments below.

An Infographic Look at the History of Computer Languages

It’s amazing and surprising how long some computer languages have actually been around.  Beginning way back in 1957 with Fortran, which is still in use at the National Weather Service and moving to Cobol in 1959, which is used by the united States Postal Service.

The graphic below is courtesy of Rack Space.  It cover the history of the most popular programming languages from the aforementioned Fortran and Cobol right up through Ruby on Rails.  It also give a very brief bit of information about each and some information about who has implemented them.  At the bottom, you will find a chart that illustrates the popularity of each language.  It’s a fascinating snapshot that I found a few surprises in.  Did you know Skype was written in Pascal?  Or, that C++ is the most popular programming language ever?  Or, that PHP (the backbone of many web 2.0 sites) has been around since 1995?  It’s all in the infographic below.

HP Workstation Timeline

HP has been around for quite awhile and they released a pretty interesting timeline recently. It shows off key innovations from the company, starting us off with the first documented “personal computer,” the 9100A. From there we move through the years until we reach present day and HP’s newest Z-series.

Clearly, you won’t find every PC ever put out by HP in this timeline –that would be a little too long– but, it is great look back at the history of this very successful company.

If you have fond memories of those ancient floppy discs and boring displays, or just want to see where it all began, take a few minutes and look through the timeline. As you will see, HP has come a long way over the past 40 years — thankfully.

 

Alan Turing

Today is the 98th anniversary of the birth Alan Turing, one of most brilliant minds of the 20th Century.  Born on was born on 23rd June 1912 in London, England, he is known as one of the fathers of modern computing, though his ideas for programmable computers were ahead of their time.

He is widely know for the test which bears his name – the Turing Test – which Alan Turing designed to test for machine intelligence. In the test, a person communicates in natural language via keyboard and screen with two hidden respondents, one human, one computer.  If the person cannot tell which of the respondents is the machine, the computer is said to have passed the Turing test.  So far no computer has consistently passed the test.

Turing is also famous for his work during the Second World War at Bletchley Park and the breaking of the German naval Enigma code.  In collaboration with Gordon Welchman, he designed an electromechanical machine called a “bombe” that eliminated unworkable Enigma settings, leaving only a few to be investigated by analysts.  He went on to make a several further contributions to the war effort in different areas.

Regrettably, in 1952, Turing was arrested, tried and convicted for homosexuality which at that time was a criminal offence.  As result, and despite his wartime record, his security clearance to work for the government was revoked.  Sadly, in 7 June 1954, he committed suicide, eating an apple laced with cyanide.

Happy Birthday, Alan.

Computer repair shops: the 21st Century’s car mechanic

One of the worst feelings a person can have is seeking the repair of a product that they have a limited knowledge of how it works. How do they know what they are being told is true? How much does it really cost to fix? How will I know if they really replaced anything and it was just a loose screw causing the problem?
 
I talk to home and small business computer users daily in the course of my job and the one thing I continue to see is how much they distrust any IT person they come in contact with.
 
I can’t blame them as they may have seen the same stories on the news about the big box computer stores and national computer repair companies and what their technicians have been caught doing to users and their computers.
 
The more disturbing thing I’m see is how mom and pop repair stores are selling these people bootleg copies of software and loading up corporate networks with “Free for personal use” software.
 
I had a client ask me how much it would cost to replace Vista on the machine she had bought a few months back. I told her is would be the cost of a copy of XP plus the install time, she turns to me and says, “My old IT guy was able to upgrade our four of our other machines from Windows 2000 for $35 each.”  At that point I looked at the machines and each one of them had the same CD-Key and an activation hack loaded.
 
I believe independent shops are hurting themselves and others in the field by devaluing the cost of their services and in the end leaving the customer in a bad situation as well as perpetuating the myth that IT people are arrogant and will sell them what ever snake oil tonic they have to make a quick buck.
 
The main thing I think people should look for when seeking computer repair outside the home is personal recommendations. Talk to your friends and family and see who they have used in the past. Nothing beats the one-on-one interaction with a repairman as well as how they talk to their customers and explain the problems and possible solutions. Also if they say they need to replace a part, ask for the old one back even you have no plan to keep it.
Thankfully I have never been in the situation where I have had to rely on a total stranger to fix a computer of mine that contains family photos, banking information, personal emails and whatever else passes through my computer on a daily basis.
 
What experiences have you or your friends and family had with these shops and what are your tips on finding a quality shop?
 
As always I can be reached at jparie (at) gmail (dot) com.

AMD and IBM Create Innovative High-Speed Computer Chip

Advanced Micro Devices (AMD) and International Business Machines (IBM) announced, today, their joint development of an innovative high-speed computer chip that will boost transistor speed by 24 percent, improving the performance and reducing the power consumption of chips used in many products.

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