Walking Dead Tech Giants

Why are HP, Cisco, EMC, IBM and others the walking dead? See also Dell’s purchase of EMC, of great local interest due to EMC being based in Massachusetts and my knowing people who work there.

You can’t stop innovation and change. You can sometimes come close if you wield government force (regulation, barriers to entry…) on your behalf, but even that might merely be a delaying tactic.

When Amazon Dies

Food for thought regarding digital “purchases.” I was completely unaware that you could download the movie you purchased digitally from Amazon, rather than merely streaming it on demand.

The thing about this is perhaps it’s not so different. Vinyl was the thing for decades and seemed like forever. Notwithstanding its current comeback, you really only “owned” the music on vinyl as long as nothing happened to it – unless you had “backed it up” on tape and could still play that – and as long as a record player was available. And, assuming you weren’t using a wind-up record player and associated sound quality, electricity was available. And replacement parts.

Your VHS tapes were forever. Awesome! Owning a movie! Except if VHS became obsolete, if an individual tape died, if a played could no longer be obtained or fixed, if electricity remained available.

A CD degrades (especially one you have burned). A cassette tape degrades. My box of 8-track tapes sure does me no good without a player, assuming they would even work after decades of sitting around.

What is the actual life of a DVD? Will a player be available in 50 years? For a price you can afford?

So yeah, it’s a good question, but when it comes to intellectual property you license more than own, one could consider it a technological house of cards. I am attached to my Kindle because I can read all kinds of excellent books being published at an acceptable price. Nothing beats a book, though. Long-lasting, if not forever, depending how it’s made and conditions it’s kept in. Sure, if Amazon goes away, any books I have in digital form that have downloaded will still be there… as long as the device they downloaded to exists or they can be extracted from it to other devices and perhaps formats.

If enough of a CME happens, how long are we without any of that stuff? It’s not likely the laws of physics will change to preclude electricity, but hey, that too.

I’ve thought about this often enough, but mostly decided not to worry about it.

Exascale Computing

The first time I’ve heard that term is in The First Exascale Computer. Cool goal, though I question whether the government has any reason to spearhead such a thing, as opposed to it coming along organically. The analogy of car speeds really brings home the distinction in speeds versus what is current. While they mention trying to match human neural processing, I was picturing simulations on almost Matrix-like scales.

Computer Adventure

I don’t always have much to blog about here (oh, does it show?) short of keeping an eye out for appropriate links and actually remembering to blog them. I really don’t do work on computers on the side any more, and that tends to be same old anyway. I recently experimented with Ghost but forgot to post about it. I have a graveyard of computer carcasses and parts to go through Real Soon Now, making my room look like I’m a hoarder (if the shoe fits…), but until I actually mess with those, no news or entertainment on that front. I have needed to replace my last good computer, which died I believe 4-5 years ago, since then, and have relied on first one, then another hand-me-down laptop.

However, I just bought a refurbished laptop to use specifically for business. There’s room for the business expense against revenue, my personal machine is getting gummed up with working files, and my personal machine provides distractions I will avoid on a new machine. I figure I will get around to building a fresh desktop machine Real Soon Now, ideally before the personal laptop can fail, and be back where I belong. The personal laptop can be spare, maybe used in part by kids as they need one for school. We’ll see. I really want that physical separation, though, so the business machine is clearly for business, which has become blogging and web site editing/updates. I’m calling it all “publishing.” But I digress.

A laptop gives me portability if I need it. I can take it wherever to work, especially if it’s just writing. It also was what I could afford offhand, at only $220 for something not as much newer as what I have now that I had thought, but with much better specs. I noticed a lot of the refurbs have tiny hard drives, like 60 GB. I didn’t want to have to replace the drive right out of the gate, so I found one with 750 GB. The machine originally had Vista, which is what my dead desktop had. It now had Windows 7 Professional 64 bit. Being 7 or higher, that gets me a free upgrade to 10 if I want it. That’s the plan, though I want to get it configured and broken in some first.

Making a short story long, I have a ton of e-mail accounts coming to Outlook Express. I’ve used it forever, with one brief break of sorts, and find it comfortable. Aha! I had forgotten that when I got Vista, there was no Outlook Express. There was Windows Mail. That was close enough, but frustrated me terribly by being unable to port mail from Outlook Express.

Then Microsoft eliminated that, which I also had known and forgotten. Web web web. No! Web mail is a pain to use. Convenient. Good for low volume, single account users. But a pain.

Turns out it didn’t stay gone. So I tried installing it from Microsoft, which resulted in a big package of other stuff installing. Net result? No mail client. In the Windows Mail folder the only thing is Windows Address Book.

I have dowloaded three free clients. I had heard of none of them before, and they apparently didn’t exist several years ago when last I ran into this. Heck, that was probably 8 years ago. I’ll test and try to report on them here.

Then there will be the matter of making the machine usable. I have no actual room on the desk yet for it, and things will have to be changed a lot for dual machines to work. I look forward to forcing myself to focus by that being for work and this being for personal/fun use. However, the new machine will need an external monitor, keyboard and mouse. It will need a USB hub even more than this one did, since it had but one USB port. This machine sits on the desk as a clamshell. It doesn’t matter that the keyboard has issues. It doesn’t matter that the touchpad can’t be used to do certain things. It doesn matter that the screen is uncomfortably small – scary, since it’s far bigger than the new one, though at least that bodes well for portability. I can use Photoshop with the mouse and not be frustrated. I can really see web site pictures. Well, I need that for the business machine, but I don’t want to give it up for the personal machine (the monitor is a hand-me-down my father no longer needed, or I might never have bought one). So I have to buy at least four more hardware items for the new machine.

This is a good place to grumble as I go. Plus, hey, this is part of the writing for which the new machine exists. And updating, since there are some seriously outdated installs and themes. Stay tuned.

Then There’s This

NSA spying goes so far as to intercept packages to plant backdoors or other monitoring methods. It’s not enough to be offline, or to be on darknet, or to be on an alternative to the Internet. All unconstitutional, depending on how judges rule, which for all we know could depend on what they have on the judges in question, shades of the speculation regarding the Roberrts contortions on ObamaCare. And that speculation preceded the NSA revelations, and even the IRS scandal. But I digress into the non-technical, non-geek realm, if not into one that should concern us all.

What gets me is trying to picture how they do the physical interception. You order from, say, Dell, who ships it, say, UPS, then somewhere in transit to you the package is intercepted? Whatever is going to done to it happens, then it is inserted back into transit? Without the shipper knowing? Hard to imagine.


I have hundreds of them, and was completely unaware in the mid-nineties that they were, if such was indeed true, already on their way out. I wasn’t seeing signs of that until at least 2000, but when it snowballed, it was over fast. But then, my first PC (as in IBM-compatible) had a 5 1/4″ floppy drive. Have a lot of those around still, too, if nothing like the several hundred – perhaps over a thousand – 3.5″ ones I accumulated. Some have nothing on them, but I bought them a hundred at a time at computer shows in the nineties when I found them at a good price.

All of this was brought to mind by this LudditeCare article, regarding not only the technical problems with ObamaCare, but the roots of the problem: The federal government being slow and creaky at adopting newer technology (NSA being an apparent exception). This is an old story. I’d thought there’d been improvement, but if so, perhaps it hasn’t been enough. Certainly development of the ACA site went more like a traditional technology purchase, rather than more nimbly. For an agency still to use floppies does not surprise me in the least. The biggest problems with them are increasing obsolescence of equipment that can read them, and their size limits. Text files, doc files, even more modest PDF files or graphics might still be viable on floppies in small numbers, but people have forgotten about being efficient with their electrons and magnetized bits.

A Look Back At OS/2

This ends up being a look back at the entire history of the PC, to do it justice and give it context. Via Bill Quick, who used OS/2 more than I did: Half an operating system.

In my case, I had a friend who ran a BBS that gave me my first online experience, and he was an OS/2 fanatic and Microsoft detractor. One of the newsgroups he carried (or maybe it was a Fidonet group) was Team OS/2, for fans and users of the OS. This was int he lead up to the release of OS/2 Warp 3.0, which I went out and bought. That was just before Windows 95 released, after I’d been doing Microsoft Word support for nearly a year. After fifteen months in Word support, I moved to Visual Basic support, but not until I’d received pre-release training on Windows 95. I was blown away by 95, especially given the quality training and a degree of relatively inside insight into the OS.

I gleefully bought Warp and installed it on a 386 I was able to spare for the purpose. In retrospect, I was not sure this was entirely fair, as I installed 95 on a 486. I thought OS/2 was cool, and it installed without real issue, apart from duration. Thing is, it crashed readily. I was shocked it was so unstable, given the hype among the fanatics. By comparison, 95 was a rock. It took almost no time for me to abandon even playing around with OS/2, but I always felt that they could keep trying and it would be great to have the competition.

Some of the details in the article are news to me. Some are not. The heavy hand of the mainframe division of the company was always a factor in the PC division, and even more deadly when it came to OS/2. What a shame. I hadn’t realized, or at least hadn’t remembered, that there was ever any connection between Microsoft’s NT effort and OS/2, apart from competing. I know Microsoft spent what was a staggering sum at the time on developing NT from scratch, which paid off brilliantly.

Finally, it’s easy to look back more dispassionately on Microsoft, now that they remain big and powerful but are no long scarily “monopolistic” in the post-PC era.