APRIL, 2008

Dear members,

Your next meeting of the PC Club of Costa Rica will be this Saturday, Apr. 19th, at 9am at the Pan American School in Belen.  Come at 8:30am if you want to chat with members and enjoy the donuts and coffee beforehand. Interchange is encouraged. And we are all such friendly people.

Item 1: Microsoft to make small version of Windows for the eeepc.
"In what could be a first Microsoft is working to
create a special build of Windows, just because Windows doesn't run very well on a certain computer. ASUS' runaway success Eee PC is now 'officially' available with Windows XP, but (according to APC magazine) is not exactly a great experience. There are none of the nice pre-loaded apps that come with the Linux version, for example. And XP has some real problems coping with the screen size and limited system specs of the unit. As a result, ASUS says it is going back to Microsoft and working on a special XP build that will be lightweight and more suited to UMPCs."

Item 2: The bandwidth conundrum

In today's world, bandwidth demand is similar to what processing demand was 20 years ago. You just can't get enough speed, no matter how hard you try. Even when you have enough speed on your own end, some other bottleneck is killing you. This comes to mind as, over the past few months, I've noticed how many YouTube videos essentially come to a grinding halt halfway through playback and display that little spinning timer. Why don't they just put the word "buffering" on the screen? All too often, it's not the speed of my connection that's at issue--it's the speed of the connection at the other end. It may not even be the connection speed itself; it may simply be the site's ability to deliver content at full speed under heavy demand.


Item 3: "Don't take my XP"
No matter how hard Microsoft works to persuade people to embrace Vista, some just can't be wowed. They complain about Vista's hefty hardware requirements, its less-than-peppy performance, occasional incompatibility with other programs and devices and frequent, irritating security pop-up windows.
HYPERLINK "http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20080414/ap_on_hi_te/microsoft_save_xp;_ylt=Ao0kp93RqGCQiCVdWFUilg0jtBAF" http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20080414/ap_on_hi_te/microsoft_save_xp;_ylt=Ao0kp93RqGCQiCVdWFUilg0jtBAF

Item 4: Get you Mac cheaper than if you buy from Apple

mytrip writes to tell us that Psystar has announced a new line of Intel-based computers that promise to run an HYPERLINK "http://www.macobserver.com/article/2008/04/14.4.shtml" unmodified version of Mac OS X "Leopard". Unfortunately almost immediately after the launch, their website went down and as of this writing the story remains inaccessible. "Astute readers may well hear this news and ask themselves if it doesn't sound like a Mac clone, something whose time came -- during Gil Amelio's tenure at Apple -- and went shortly after current CEO Steve Jobs assumed the helm at the company. [...] It definitely defies the EULA for Mac OS X, which specifies that the purchaser of a legal copy of Leopard is entitled to install the operating system on an Apple-branded computer. If you buy the $399 OpenMac, you can check the EULA yourself if you also buy the pre-install option, as the company includes a retail copy of Leopard with your purchase."
HYPERLINK "http://apple.slashdot.org/apple/08/04/14/1919237.shtml" http://apple.slashdot.org/apple/08/04/14/1919237.shtml

Item 5: The latest Linux Ubuntu - Hardy Heron (and what they say about it)
If there is a single complaint that is laid at the feet of Linux time and time again, it's that the operating system is too complicated and arcane for casual computer users to tolerate. You can't ask newbies to install device drivers or recompile the kernel, naysayers argue.
Of course, many of those criticisms date back to the bad old days, but HYPERLINK "http://www.ubuntu.com/" \t "new" Ubuntu, the user-friendly distribution sponsored by HYPERLINK "http://www.computerworld.com/action/inform.do?command=search&searchTerms=Mark+Shuttleworth" Mark Shuttleworth's Canonical Ltd., has made a mission out of dispelling such complaints entirely. You can now HYPERLINK "http://www.ubuntu.com/testing/hardy/beta" \t "new" download a beta of HYPERLINK "http://www.computerworld.com/action/inform.do?command=search&searchTerms=Ubuntu" Ubuntu's 8.04 release, more commonly and affectionately known as Hardy Heron (the follow-up to Gutsy Gibbon and Feisty Fawn). HYPERLINK "http://www.computerworld.com/action/article.do?command=viewArticleBasic&articleId=9074438" Final release is set for April 24.



Item 6: Microsoft bloat

What Intel giveth, Microsoft taketh away. Such has been the conventional wisdom surrounding the Windows/Intel (aka Wintel) duopoly since the early days of Windows 95. In practical terms, it means that performance advancements on the hardware side are quickly consumed by the ever-increasing complexity of the Windows/Office code base. Case in point: Microsoft Office 2007, which, when deployed on Windows Vista, consumes more than 12 times as much memory and nearly three times as much processing power as the version that graced PCs just seven short years ago, Office 2000.


Let's start with the memory footprint. The average combined working set for Word, Excel, and PowerPoint 2007 when running the OfficeBench test script is 109MB. By contrast, Office 2000 consumed a paltry 9MB, which translates into a 12-fold increase in memory consumption (170 percent per year since 2000!). To be fair, previous builds of Office benefited from a peculiar behavior common to all pre-Office 12 versions: When minimized to the task bar, each Office application would release much of its noncritical working set memory. This resulted in a much smaller memory footprint, as measured by the Windows performance counters (which are employed by the DMS Clarity Tracker Agent used in my tests).  


Microsoft has discontinued this practice with Office 2007, resulting in much higher average working set results. However, even factoring in this behavioral change, the working set for Office 2007 is truly massive. Combined with an average boot-time image of more than 500MB for even the minimal Windows Vista code base, it seems clear that any system configuration that specifies less than 1GB of RAM is a nonstarter with this version. And none of the above explains the significantly higher CPU demands of Office 2007, which are nearly double that of Office 2003 (peak utilization of 73 percent versus 39 percent). Likewise, the number of execution threads spawned by Office 2007 (32) is up, as is the total thread count for the entire software stack, which is nearly double the previous version (615 versus 370).



Item 7: The best computer info in the whole country

See you at the meeting on Saturday.