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Man Maximum/Machine Minimum

Back in December 2007 when I’d seen the first press releases about what was to be called a netbook, I knew that would be one of those way-cool things that would become very popular. And this is going to be one of those things, too. Now I have no way of knowing if this exact brand would be popular, but it is going to be something like this that becomes popular. It is the next must-have consumer appliance. The price point that it will end up selling at will be about $129 or so.  Oh, and it’s power draw is only about 10 watts when running.  Someone is going to figure how to make a nice supercomputer from these things, by hooking them together, and it will run at a price point that we can’t imagine right now.

Here it is: http://www.qnap.com/pro_detail_feature.asp?p_id=171

Some thoughts on the blind adoption of technology:

Hat Tip: La Petite Claudine

Efficiency and interest

The most important point is that our devotion to technology blinds us to the issue of what education is for. In America, we improve the education of our youth by improving what are called “learning technologies.” At the moment, it is considered necessary to introduce computers to the classroom, as it once was thought necessary to bring closed-circuit television and film to the classroom. To the question, “Why should we do this?” the answer is: “To make learning more efficient and more interesting.” Such an answer is considered entirely adequate, since, to the technological fundamentalists, efficiency and interest need no justification. It is, therefore, usually not noticed that this answer does not address the question, “What is learning for?”

“Efficiency and interest” is a technical answer—an answer about means, not ends—and it offers no pathway to a consideration of educational philosophy. Indeed, it blocks the way to such a consideration by beginning with the question of how we should proceed rather than with the question of why. It is probably not necessary to say that, by definition, there can be no education philosophy that does not address what learning is for. Confucius, Plato, Quintilian, Cicero, Comenius, Erasmus, Locke, Rousseau, Jefferson, Russell, Montessori, Whitehead, Dewey—each believed that there was some transcendent political, spiritual, or social idea that must be advanced through education. Confucius advocated teaching “the Way” because in tradition he saw the best hope for social order. As our first systematic fascist, Plato wished education to produce philosopher kings. Cicero argued that education must free the student from the tyranny of the present. Jefferson thought the purpose of education is to teach the young how to protect their liberties. Rousseau wished education to free the young from the unnatural constraints of a wicked and arbitrary social order. And among John Dewey’s aims was to help the student function without certainty in a world of constant change and puzzling ambiguities.

What does technology have to do with finding a profound reason for educating the young?

Nothing.

http://www.ait.net/technos/tq_01/4postman.php

iPhone is down and Google Android is way up…but this was expected, really.  (see my previous post, Coolness leaves Apple)

http://mobile.slashdot.org/story/10/01/04/224259/Android-Phone-Demand-Up-250-iPhone-Down

“A ‘monstrous’ jump in demand for Android-equipped smartphones has turned the market upside down, according to a retail pollster. Of the people who told ChangeWave Research in a mid-December survey that they planned to buy a smartphone in the next 90 days, 21% said they expected to purchase an Android phone. That number represented a 250% increase over the 6% that pegged Android as their mobile OS of choice when ChangeWave last queried consumers’ plans in September. ‘That change rivals anything that we’ve seen in the last three years of the smartphone market,’ said Paul Carton, ChangeWave’s director of research, adding that the sudden surge in consumer interest in Android had ‘roiled’ the market. ‘This is an indication that Android has finally caught consumer interest,’ added Carton, who cited the recent advertising campaign for the Motorola Droid smartphone as the reason why interest in Android has skyrocketed. Android’s leap translated into good news for Motorola and HTC, the most prominent makers of Google-powered handsets, with the former reaping most of the benefit. Motorola’s share of smartphone purchases in the next 90 days shot up from 1% in September to 13% in December. Carton tagged the company’s Droid as the reason. ‘[It's] the first increase for Motorola we’ve seen in three years,’ Carton said.”

http://www.changewaveresearch.com/articles/2010/01/smart_phone_20100104.html

This means something.  A uber-cool netbook aimed at the overcompensated.  At it runs SuSE Linux.  As covered at the New York Times:

Dell Laptop Aims to Impress Impression Makers

By Ashlee Vance

Your pay grade is just that high. It says, “I’m better than this clunky laptop docking station. I’m better than sticking a power cord into my computer. And I’m better than waiting for Windows to check my e-mail.

The software fires up the moment you open the laptop and connects right to a wireless network without Windows.

(Under the hood, it’s Linux running on top of an ARM chip on a mini-motherboard that provides this quick access feature. You’re basically talking about most of the components needed to run an iPhone being hitched to a large battery. So, the computer can run in instant-on mode for days.)

Some users Dell surveyed spent 70 percent of their time working in the instant-on mode. Microsoft is sure to take note of that figure. Windows has turned into a clunky cup holder.

[Oh, and note MSWindows won't run on ARM chip architecture--there ain't no plan b, Linux (R) is plan a...]

Apparently Microsoft’s strategy to return to their former profitability after their last horrendous results will be–are you ready for this– to increase the price of computers. No, I really am not making this up!

But I shouldn’t really have been surprised by this turn of events, here’s what I said back on March 29 in my post about the Windows adverts:

“In anycase, Microsoft has been too clever by half, as the saying goes. This is same race to the bottom that ends with a $199 netbook running either linux, or a version of windows that is priced so low there’s not much profit there.” *

Steve Ballmer could have just read my blog, and not paid all of his marketing whiz kids anything.

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From Distrowatch, here is the announcement of a new version of ASP Linux.  This is one of the best and most polished distros around, with a very nice consistent feel to it, and especially good is the integration of multimedia codecs, and proprietary drivers.  Everything just works. I like the experience of installing, and popping in an encrypted DVDD and just seeing it all work with no messing around with downloading of additional codecs, etc., etc.  Unfortunately, the website is in Russian, but you can just download the .iso from the link, and the install can be in almost any language, even English.

Sooner or later one of the hardware manufacturers will realize that this is exactly what they need, an OS that just works, even better than MACS used to, and start using it in their offerings.  Anybody listening at Dell? probably not  How about at Lenovo? Maybe… How about at Imformatica Positivo? Now remember we are in a downturn, too:

ASPLinux, a Russian company developing Linux solution and providing a variety of Linux services, has announced the release of ASPLinux 14, code name “Cobalt”. The latest version of this Fedora-based distribution promises to expand the functionality of Linux as an operating system with new services, such as Linux telephony, support for webcams, full support for sleep and stand-by modes on laptops, automatic network setup, and easy configuration of GPRS, CDMA and VPN services. The product uses Linux kernel 2.6.26 and glibc 2.8, and ships with X.Org server 1.5, GNOME 2.22, KDE 4.1, OpenOffice.org 3.0, Firefox 3.0 and other popular open source applications. It also includes several non-free device drivers, including ATI and NVIDIA graphics drivers, and non-free software, such as Adobe Flash player and Opera. For further information please see the ASPLinux product page (in Russian). The installation DVD is available for download from here: ASPLinux-14-i386-DVD.iso (3,994MB, MD5, torrent).

Forwarded in an email, I am unsure of origin. But, the Mac requires 59 steps, the Lenovo takes 6 steps (I don’t count the last step, “Turn the computer right side up, and power it on.” Duh!)

Replacing the hard drive on an iBook G3 "clamshell":

http://www.sterpin.net/uk/clamshelluk.htm

Replacing the hard drive in a ThinkPad X20:

http://www-307.ibm.com/pc/support/site.wss/MIGR-4Q2KW6.html

As a follow-up to my post “The tipping Point” from 07 December 2007, it seems that several other sources have come to the same conclusion I had: that the eeePC represents a tipping point.

First, there is LinuxFormat magazine, from the U.K., in its edition no. 106 for May 2008. (Still not available in all US newstands. It also has an article that I am very interested in, about sustainable aspects of free software, which I’ll just have to wait for. Also note that back issues of Linuxformat are available as .pdfs here):

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Here’s an example of the internet making the older (even maybe the pre-industrial) work better. It’s a calculator that determines how walking friendly a neighborhood around any particular address is. The form of neighborhoods originated from basic ergonomic realities, so as we return to a more nature based urban structure (thanks to the sustainability imperative) it makes sense that measuring how human friendly these neighborhoods are, and making that measurement available, will accelerate demand for housing in these areas. Of course, these neighborhoods don’t really need that help-they are attractive for other reasons as well, as you can see on this website from my neighborhood.

Another example of the internet making older forms work better is here.

Oh, the website that measures how walk-able a neighborhood is is right here: http://www.walkscore.com/

To-do: correlate a location’s walkscore with it’s real estate value. Anybody know G.I.S. out there? It also fits in with the new topology of globalization, where the only necessary flows are expertise and information, with commodities becoming more difficult to move around the world and industrial goods becoming lighter and lighter, due to the cost of transporting them and the consequent ability for smart companies to intelligently re-localize the labor inputs so as to reap a decisive cost advantage vs. their competitors.

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