Monday, March 31, 2008

Could blogging and the web save the third world and maybe even the planet?

Computers are getting cheaper and cheaper.

Some people in the industry predict that we are on the Virge of significant cuts in computer prices.

This might be needed to continue to fuel computer consumerism.

When computer are cheap enough this might dramatically affect the lives of people in third world countries....

Computers are staying useful for longer. Indeed the computer that I am writing this on is already 8 years old (with a few upgrades). The result is obvious, people are not replacing their computer as often. To entice consumers value has to be created. The smart consumer already knows how much they will benefit from a new machine, but now they need a price incentive before they are prepared to throw away something thats still very functional and useful.

Whats that got to do with the third world? Lots.

Incidentally at this point I would like to add the although widely used, third world is not really a very appropriate term these days. Developing nations is generally considered better.

While its not currently incredibly viable economically to ship all our old computers to developing nations, as computers and screens get smaller, it is becoming more and more viable.

In the mean time an ever increasing amount of people in developing nations will be able to afford new computers simply due to lower prices. It's pretty obvious that as entry level price drops more customers in developing nations who previously couldn't afford a computer will be 'created'.

The amazing rise of Linux has also vastly contributed to the ability of such people to have access to capable technology. Ubuntu was designed for this purpose entirely. To bring a fantastic operating system to absolutely free to everyone who wants one.

The great thing about all this is how rapidly it will increase prospects for those in developing nations. The Internet is the one place were we are all together and we are all equal. Do you think America would be so quick to invade Iraq if corporate America employed large programming and web services from workers in that region? It may not be big in Iraq, but contract programming and web services available over the Internet are big business. Do you think that cool application you just found was made in you country just because it's in your language?

The one laptop per child (olpc) program was created to put a sub US$100 laptop in the hands of children in developing nations. At the moment the product they have created is a little bit more than their goal of US$100 but it wont be long before it surpasses that milestone and will only get cheaper.

When the developing nations can school up via the Internet and provide services to the rest of the world, money will start to flow in their direction. Even for those who won't want to learn programming or web design, there is no shortage of service opportunities provided by the Internet. There are an abundance of smart people who will provide us with cultural, intellectual insights and news via their blogs and earn revenues through advertising and affiliate marketing.

It's a great prospect. Very little is consumed during the process. When someone spends a day blogging, the only thing they consume is power and time. Not only are no trees cut down to make the product they sell, the income created may even mean they less people cutting down trees for farm land. Sure I admit power is still a big problem for this planet, but eco friendly power solutions are getting better while processors are continuing to use less juice.

Whichever way you look at it, I think its a positive thing. Technology will bring opportunities to those who don't have them and through this they will prosper.

Peace and quad cores to all.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Oh no, a MAC got hacked!

When I heard the Macbook Air had been hacked at CanSecWest (the security conference held in Vancouver, British Columbia.) I could also almost hear millions of devout PC users go “nya na na nya nya”.

For those concerned about security an Apple MAC is the platform of choice. I still use a PC and consider myself and Expert PC user. But even I'm note sure exactly how to be as safe as need be. So hearing someone hacked a Macintosh was scary! If the MAC is not impervious to attack what do we do? Were do we go for shelter?

But it's not at all that scary in reality. The hack was made through exploit code placed in a website which allowed Charlie Miller, Jake Honoroff, and Mark Daniel of Independent Security Evaluators to take over the Macbook Air and claim a prize. This hack would not have been possible if MAC users follow two two steps to protect themselves. Things that savvy PC users are already doing:

  1. Install Firefox and...

  2. Use it with the “no script” plugin which will stop malicious scripts from running without your knowledge.

Do those two things, and yes, (I'm sorry to burst the bubble of gloating PC users) the MAC is safe.

By now the security vulnerability will have been plugged.

Just to set the record straight (for both PC users and MAC users who aren't quite sure):

No. MACs do not need antivirus software.

I think anyone celebrating the MAC hack (other than the contest winners) should just get a life, you shouldn't wish ill of others for any reason, least of all because of the computer they use. That goes ditto for smug MAC owners. I personally wish no one had to worry about resource hogging security defenses not matter what type of device/operating system they have and look forward to the day when nobody wins the prize.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Kirsty Lee Cook, Apples new iDoll?

It 's hardly breaking news I know.

Apple recently joined the sponsors of American Idol.

I wonder if that means they'll rename it Apple iDoll?...

Perhaps one day we'll see Kirsty Lee Cook like this - click to view in higher resolution (yes it's a Photoshop job, just a bit of fun really).

Some possible similarities between Apple products and American Idols:
  • Nice to look at.
  • Constantly updated and outdated.
  • Easy to use.
  • Love em or hate, there is no gray area.
  • Work right out of the box (we'll some American idols do need a bit of 'tweaking')
  • Easily accessible to a wide audience.
  • High customer loyalty.
  • Driven by a great marketing engine.
Anyone think of any others?

Monday, March 17, 2008

The Apple Mac sites absolutley everyone should know about (even some PC users).

Some great MAC sites to help you make the most of your MAC.

So if you've got yourself a shiny new Apple iMAC or want to dust of that old MAC and bring it back to life for the kids, here they are:

Here is a collection great MAC sites enjoy!

Do you know all the keyboard shortcuts for you MAC operating system? Here are the shorcuts for MAC OS X:
Apple MAC OS X shortcut list on
Productivity boosting shortcuts on the MAC

I love open source, and found this great list of best free and open source MAC apps:
Open Source MAC. They are really good, and truly free. Here's a longer list I like of great MAC apps.

You can also download some amazing shareware for the MAC. For some reason Apple users always seem to make better programs, nice to look at, easier to use and intuitive with great functionality. I always found that the actually best place to get some great free programs was via Apple's downloads page.

Here are some great Apple news and magazine sites:
Apple Insider
Mac Rumours
And for the latest Apple propaganda from Apple itself:

If you want to keep you MAC apps up to date, macupdate it's also a pretty cool place to find new apps because the list has ratings, and you know that the latest apps will work with Leopard. Or you can use an app called Appfresh.

Here's one for MAC and PC users. Do you know its possible to install MAC OS X on a PC? Don't tell me that all hackers are bad, checkout these sites.
OSx86 project wiki
If you decide to try it, you might need to visit this forum for some help.

You screen real estate is not fully utilized, here are some cool thing to put in the unused menubar space: Super OS X menu bar items

Want to 'hack your MAC' and make it cooler? If your comfortable with OS X's terminal, then heres the top 50 cool hacks you can do with terminal.

To make you MAC prettier and easier to use, change folder icons to represent whats in them (or simply to look cool). I find all my best icons here.

Got kids, heres a great kids drawing program for MAC OSX.

Did you know that when you install modern programs on MAC OS X that the programs contain code for both the Intel MACs and the older Power MACs still running MAC OS X? Heres a hand application to slim down those programs and also eliminate unwanted language file etc to save hard disk space and increase performance: Xslimmer

You can never have too many MAC fonts right? If you want some cool script to help automate things, try these: Better living through MAC scripts.

For old abandonware for a variety of older MAC hardware: Macintosh Garden - Mac abandonware.

If you need to download torrent files, you probably already know about MAC torrent apps like:
xtorrent or Transmission (allot of people use this one) or Bitrocket.

Want an alternative to front row, thats designed more towards people who don't only download via iTunes? Take a look and see if Center Stage is for you.

Love all things MAC? including old macs and nostalgia? Try some of these old MAC ads!

Aren't some (if not all) of those MAC vs PC ads funny? Have you seen the ones from England? They use different actors and some different themes. If you've forgotten, the American Mac vs PC ads are here.

This skitch app looks nice, I might try it out.

--have I forgotten anything cool? make a comment!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

The future of computers is Solid, if only the consumer knew it.

For a long time the general public has been savvy, but not savvy enough.

While consumers may be driving the demand for faster computers they are not necessarily driving in the right direction.

You see most computer buyers now know the basics: More ram is better, a bigger hard drive and a faster processor. But thats not always the case, and hasn't been for quite some time.

You have been able to get dual processors since the 90's (probably the eighties actually). In fact it was interesting to me that you used to be able to buy two processors than ran at 75% of the speed of the top processor of the time, for the same price. The reason it wasn't widely adopted was two fold, firstly the motherboards were too expensive. This was a catch 22, the price would have gone down if more units were sold, but they weren't selling that fast because of the price. The second reason was that the public and even enterprise was focused on faster processors.

The only reason that we have duel core processors now, is that the processor manufacturers are having a more and more difficult job of making the processors faster. In order to satisfy the consumers need for something better, AMD and Intel finally started going towards more processor cores.

Fast forward to today and we have the same problem as in the 90's. The computer consumer has enough knowledge to drive the technology, but is interested in the wrong thing, or doesn't know which direction will truly benefit their computing experience.

Today for example we have massive hard disks capable of storing far more than we need (unless one needs to archive large amounts of data like servers, or Peer 2 Peer file sharers). But most people don't need all that and there is an alternative which is much faster than a conventional magnetic hard disk – solid state hard disks.

You can think of a solid state hard drive as more RAM which appears as a hard disk. The access time and loading time for data off solid state hard drive is very little because there are no moving parts. The catch? Solid state hard disks are expensive,... or are they?

Thanks to digital cameras and the mp3 player revolution flash memory prices have plummeted. There is now more than enough available solid state memory technology to have facilitated cheaper solid state hard drives. Yes, they are still more expensive, but the move to using term in our computers is a move that the consumer has to take.

The consumer needs to understand that if (hypothetically) the price for a 500gb conventional hard sick and the price of a 80gb solid state hard disk are about the same, we should all use solid state. This would increase the performance more than faster processors do. Also as with the 90's example, the price would soon plummet and before long a standard would be established.

So what would I buy?

I don't have a big budget and am looking for my next computer right now. The computer I would like to buy would be restricted by my budget. I would like to have one of the slower (a good speed rating at an economical price) processors available but with a fast bus speed and fast RAM (yes RAM comes in different speeds) and a fast(ish) graphics card (I play games). Lastly I as the one thing I would incorporate is a Solid State hard disk. I have other Hard disks I can use for storage, but I want my operating system and programs to be store on solid state.

Probably the first company to provide such computers will be Apple. Apple has been building desktop computers using components normally found in laptops (iMacs). They do this to mac the computer so small it fits stylishly into a single unit (that looks like just a monitor). They are even already offering solid state options with their mobile line, because solid state also offers one amazing advantage to conventional hard disk thats great for mobile computing. No moving parts mean vastly lower power consumption.

I don't think it will be long before Apple notices that solid state hard disks offer a noticeable performance increase and choose to take advantage of that to use as a marketing ploy.

Unfortunately for me, I will have to save my pennies, because if there is one thing Apple is not good at, it's making entry level machines for budget consumers (especially gamers). While other manufacturers lower the cost of their entry level machines, Apple just increases their entry level specification (and price), but thats another post....

So be educated, look out for solid state hard drives appearing in more and more new computers. Don't be easily tempted with a big hard drive when a solid state hard disk my give you the fastest computer on the block.