People ask me how long they should expect their new computer to last. Two years? Five years?
Over time I have found the answer to that question can be broken down into two parts.
This is simple; a computer will last as long as the software needs of the user don’t exceed the capabilities of the computer.
If you purchased a PC to run Microsoft Office 2000 in 2001 and that is all you will ever do with that computer than all you really have to worry about is the hard-drive crashing or some other catastrophic disaster (which is Part Two).
The problem is you may be forced to use software that exceeds the capabilities of a perfectly functioning computer.
Let’s say you own a business and when you bought that computer you installed QuickBooks Pro 2000, but you now need to upgrade to QuickBooks Pro 2011.
Don’t even think about loading QuickBooks Pro 2010 on that computer.
That computer you bought in ’01 won’t run QuickBooks Pro 2010. Your software needs now exceed the capabilities of that trusty computer.
Or take for instance anti-virus security software. If you run out and buy McAfee Antivirus or Norton Antivirus you will discover neither will install on Windows 98. Not that there isn’t antivirus software available for Windows 98, but you can’t load McAfee or Norton.
You see Microsoft stopped supporting Windows 98 on July 11, 2006. Due to Microsoft’s decision to stop supporting Windows 98 most commercial software developers stopped building software that will install and run on Windows 98.
That might not seem fair, but that’s the reality.
As long as you only need to run software that was built to run on your computer that computer will not become obsolete, it will last nearly forever.
Unfortunately the odds are extremely great that at some point you will be forced to buy new software and the useful lifespan of your computer will come to an abrupt halt.
A computer is a machine and how long it will ‘last’ depends on the parts of the computer.
If you back up all your data (and we all should) any competent computer repair person can build you a machine with which to load your operating system and restore your data.
If you are interested, or if you have a need, you can check out eBay and look at all the old computers, and old computer parts, for sale. Many online auction sites sell old computers and old computer parts; it is possible to keep an old computer running for the foreseeable future.
The bottom line
It is not a good idea to keep a computer for more than 5 years. Between Microsoft, Apple, whatever strain of Linux or BSD that you embrace, there are just to many changes over a five year time frame that push computer hardware past it’s pleasant usefulness. While it may be possible to keep a computer running for 10 or 20 years I wouldn’t recommend going that direction.
Some people have unlimited financial resources, most of us don’t. The longer you own a computer the more expensive and frustrating you will find it is to have it repaired as the machine approaches antiquity. Computer technicians come into the field and move on, finding a computer technician in 2011 who knows what to do with Mac OS 7.1.2 or DOS 6.22 and Windows 3.1 not easy.
So my advice is to save $200 to $300 a year for a new computer you will buy every five years and stay on top of the technology.
A $1000 dollar computer is a pretty sweet machine, and your friends won’t make fun of that TRS-80 when they visit.
The shop on my father’s ranch hasn’t changed a whole lot over the years. There is a vise still used that likely came to Wyoming in a wagon.
And there is the anvil.
When I was very small I remember investigating the shop. There were many things on the floor. Little solid metal balls. Long circular ribbons of sharp metal. Blueish globs of metal that had cooled in the dirt.
These things I found interesting without easy explanation. These amazing things that lay on the floor of the shop whose origin and purpose I couldn’t fathom.
These tantalizing questions left by the anvil.
Man reaches for knowledge in greedy curiosity. All he has are unanswered questions and the tumidity to seek the truth. To take things apart to see how they work.
Could man do more to affirm his existence then to find out how the universe works?
Look at these on the floor of the shop. Under the vise, next to the anvil, through the telescope. What are these things?
Man’s place in the universe is simple. That of a curious child who just wants to know everything. Isn’t that just great?
It’s the day after Christmas and my phone has rang a couple of times with family friends who have computer questions. One person asked me a question I haven’t heard in a while, a question so basic I thought it merited a little more attention.
What is a web browser?
The short answer
My short answer to the question ‘What is a web browser’ is that a web browser is a application we use to view web documents. You use Microsoft Word to view Microsoft Word documents, you use a web browser to view web documents.
There are many different web browsers you can install on your computer. Microsoft makes Internet Explorer. Mozilla makes a great web browser you can download and install that is absolutely free called Firefox. Google has a really nice free web browser called Chrome that a lot of people like. What web browser you want to use is up to you.
More short answers
Just in case you would like to know more I have jotted down some answers to some of the more common internet questions.
Q: How does Internet Explorer know it should open?
A: Don’t worry, your web browser will know what documents it should open. Let me explain. If you create a document in Microsoft Word about cats and name it ‘felines are fun’ it would be saved to your computer as ‘felines are fun.doc‘. The file name extension ‘doc‘ is important, it lets your computer know what application to use to open that document.
Most web documents have an extension of ‘html‘ and if double click a document with a ‘html‘ extension then Internet Explorer, or whatever web browser you have loaded, will open to let you read it.
There are many types of web document extensions. In addition to ‘html‘ there are documents with a shorter ‘htm‘ extension. Other web document extensions include ‘php‘, ‘asp‘, ‘jsp‘, and more.
Q: What is the Internet?
A: Years ago people figured out ways to let computers communicate using phone lines. The internet is what we call all these computers talking back and forth to each other. When you sit down and start looking at things on the internet your computer becomes a part of the internet.
Q: How do you write a web document?
A: All that you need to have to create a document people could read with a web browser is a copy of notepad and a reasonable understanding of a markup language called the Hypertext.
The next question opens up a huge can of worms and the answer is pretty long. If you have some time read, I hope it helps.
How did all of this happen?
This is the big question. It helps to understand why web browsers were needed and the logic of how they function if you have a little background.
So lets go back in time, back to the 1980s. The decade when, for the first time ever, computers would became something a small business would own.
Just as they do today businesses produce a lot of letters. The king of letter production before the PC and the word processor was the IBM Selectric typewriter paired with a typist who could type at around 50 words per minute.
If you wanted two or more copies of the same letter people used stuff called carbon paper, and with carbon paper it was possible to produce two copies of the same letter at the same time. Maybe more, but as you can imagine this was quite a bottleneck. If you wanted a lot of copies of anything you had to take your problem to a printer or buy a xerox copy machine, which was expensive. The ghost of carbon paper is still with us, when you send an email you have the option of carbon copying (cc) people.
Enter the personal computer, the word processor and the dot matrix printer. Bang, it was just as easy to create a hundred copies of a letter as one. You could type a letter one time and save it to disk for use later. The bottom line was that a personal computer with a word processor paid for itself and then some, they were a good investment.
These first word processors were not easy to use. Everyone had to learn how each of these early word processors wanted things done. For the most part these were the days of the command prompt, no graphical user interface and a mouse.
A Tandy TRS-80 or a IBM PC didn’t come with a What You See is What You Get (WYSWYG) word processor like the Macintosh. These computers came with word processors like LeScript, Word Star or Word Perfect 5.1 for MS-DOS.
Word processors like LeScript and Word Star required users to memorize key combinations and or special tags.
The special tags deserve special attention. Say you want to develop your own word processor and one of the things we want to do if give people the ability to print italicized letters.
Now days printers receive information sent to them from the printer driver installed on the computer. Printers understand this information only if it is written in a language the printer understands, such as Post Script (PS).
Word Processor -> Printer Driver -> Printer
Back in the 80’s it was simpler, a word processor essentially talked directly to the printer device.
Word Processor -> Printer
Knowing this all we need do is find out what the printer needs and write our word processor so that the data being sent to the printer turns on italics when we want italics and turns off italics when we’re done. We need a simple way to do this.
How about surrounding whatever we want italicized with some special characters? What if we use the special character set <i> to denote when we what to begin italicizing and the special character set </i> to denote when we what to stop italicizing? These special character sets would be used like this to print the word cat italicized: <i>cat</i>
Those sets of specialized characters are our tags. We would build special tags to also bold words or align words to the left or to the right. We would define tags to do whatever we would want. Our tags would mark the text in special ways and would constitute our ‘markup language‘.
Our word processor would recognize these tags and modify the information going to the printer to give us the results we wanted.
This is how many of the old word processors worked.
Back in the days of LeScript or Word Star if you wanted to print out a word that was underlined you had to precede the word with a special character or type a special key combination that told the printer to ‘start underlining’. When you wanted to end the underlining you again had to know a special character or type a special key combination. It was all about knowing what special gibberish did what.
No two word processors did anything the same way. If you were interviewing for a job it really mattered if you were familiar with the word processor the company used because it took a lot of time to train people to use them.
A funny thing happened in 1984 though. Apple released the Macintosh computer. A 1984 Macintosh looked a lot like the computer systems common today. The Macintosh came with a Graphical User Interface (GUI) Operating System (OS) complete with a mouse.
The Macintosh also offered a word processor called MacWrite, users enjoyed a WYSWYG world. If a word was in bold print on the monitor it printed out bold on the printer.
Unfortunately the Macintosh had the reputation of being expensive and the vast majority of us were stuck in a world without mice until the 90’s. But this better way of doing things was inevitable and eventually the difficult to understand word processors with their byzantine key combinations and specialized tags were put out to pasture.
The ease of use problem seen with early personal computers and word processors was solved. The next problem was sharing the documents. You still see this problem. A person shows up with the all important contract on a thumb drive or emails it to you as an attachment and you can’t open it on your Mac because they created it on a Dell running Windows XP using Word Perfect 12.
Damn. Somebody should come up with a way for people to create documents that everyone could use so that the documents always look like they should and everyone can read them.
Good news. This document sharing problem was recognized pretty early on by scientific researchers.
As I said at the beginning of this article a web browser is a application we use to view documents. Remember those early word processors, such as LeScript, and those special tags? Web browsers read documents written in the Hypertext Markup Language (HTML), and if you look on the internet you will see that Hypertext is a markup language that is made up of many tags.
In fact the <i>cat</i> example see earlier is the actual tag used in HTML to italicize letters.
So you see the way old word processors worked and the way web browsers worked are very similar. In the 1980 tags were used to command word processors to make things come out on a printer in a certain way and today tags are used to make things come out on a web browser in a certain way.
In the 1980s information was presented to people on paper coming out of a printer, and today information is presented through a web browser.
If you want to learn more about creating documents in Hypertext Markup Language that anyone in the world can read using a web browser I suggest you visit the W3 Schools Website and learn more.
It’s actually pretty easy and most importantly . . .
For over 30 years Universities have taught students that the world has been victimized by the United States.
This indoctrination has produced a generation of liberal leadership which is morally guided by a perverse strain of social justice which argues that enemies of the US are really only guilty of defending themselves from the evils of American Imperialism.
There is a perspective within the administration, and government as a whole, which really feels that 9/11 was a justifiable and predictable response to over a century of culturally insensitive capitalistic exploitation of the 3rd world.
As the good Reverend Jeremiah Wright said, “American’s chickens have come home to roost.” Victims families? Bah! Who are the real victims?
The Obama Administration does not confine its definition of victim to those who died during the Khobar Towers attack or 9/11 alone because in the liberal mind the US is guilty of far far worse.
The (mostly) unspoken liberal argument is that people who attack the United States certainly have a degree of justification in their hatred of this nation.
The least the Obama Administration can do is extend this nation’s laws to the people who seek to destroy it.
The Cold and Flu Season. Normally this time of year is considered an annoyance by most people, perhaps a cash cow by the over the counter pharmaceutical industry.
This year is a little different. Yesterday, October 24th, President Obama declared swine flu a national emergency.
Nobody is immune from catching a cold or the flu, and this is true in a political sense as well. The decline in Barack Obama’s popularity since July has been the steepest of any president at the same stage of his first term for more than 50 years.
Does the Obama Administration have the political equivalent of a fever? What better place to take the temperature of the Obama Administration that the White House web site.
Deciding to look at President Barack Obama’s White House web site I launched my trusty web browser and pointed it to www.whitehouse.gov to see what may be ailing the Administration and what they’re doing to, in a manner of speaking, get ‘well’.
Nothing about the Iraq War or the Afghan War.
Nothing about bipartisan answers to the problems facing the United States, which was a theme of the Obama Presidential Campaign.
Nothing about addressing the Culture of Corruption in Washington, DC.
The impression that President Obama isn’t focused on the two wars, or fulfilling his moderate campaign promises, is killing him in the polls. The White House communication gurus don’t realize they have huge gaping political confidence holes on the President’s web site.
What are the issues the White House is working on a cure for?
First and foremost is ‘Health Insurance Reform’. This beast has a different name almost every week. Not so long ago ‘it’ went by the name of ‘Health Care Reform’. However, that was a week or so back and focus group research must have led to a rethinking of what to label a takeover of 1/6th of the U.S. economy.
To the left on the page is a column, or series, of ‘blog’ entries. These entries are fed out via RSS to any site or person that would care to receive them. No doubt this is an example of the Obama Administration’s fine tuned understanding of the New Media
Going through the blog entries from top to bottom one sees a story about President Obama signing a National Emergency Declaration concerning the H1N1 virus. Okay, here’s the ugly truth, the U.S. Government failed to manufacture enough vaccine, “The federal government had expected that 120 million doses of the H1N1 vaccine would be readily available by October end but the CDC will only have 27.7 million doses of the vaccine by the month’s end.”
So remember the same U.S. Government who came up 100 MILLION doses short of H1N1 vaccine this year still intends to take over the entire U.S. Health Care System.
Next up is a video, the President’s Weekly Address: Working with Small Business to Drive Recovery. The video as served from the Whitehouse.gov is unwatchable, coughs and gags, incredibly slow. Searching YouTube I found the Working with Small Business to Drive Recovery video and was able to view it without difficulty. The gist of President Obama’s Working with Small Business to Drive Recovery video address is that banks aren’t loaning money and that’s why the .
Next is a political damage control story directly related to the President’s Weekly Address. On Thursday, October 22nd, Christina Romer (Chair of the Council of Economic Advisers in the Obama administration) testified before Congress’ Joint Economic Committee that the 780 Billion dollar Economic Stimulus Package is a bust. In her piece Mrs. Romer uses a misfiring automobile metaphor to explain what she was really trying to say before Congress.
Following the apology by Christina Romer is blog cocktail by Brian Bond, President Obama’s Deputy Director of Public Liaison and point person to the LGBT community. Mr. Bond was the leader of the Victory Fund, The Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund is an American political action committee dedicated to increasing the number of openly LGBT public officials in US political life.
In brief, Mr. Bond writes about a series of efforts by the White House to placate the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender (LGBT) Community. If you aren’t aware the LGBT forces are unhappy with President Obama, specifically because President Obama hasn’t overturned the Military’s ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ policy. To remind the LGBT Community that President Obama is on their side Brian Bond writes about the steps the White House is taking to support the LGBT Community. This apparently includes tax payer subsidized housing and a Community Center for aging Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual and Transgender senior citizens. We are in the middle of the ‘worst economic downturn since the great depression’ but there is enough money to throw towards niche political groups?
There were two more ‘blog’ entries, one about clean energy and one more about the H1N1.
To the left of the blogs column was a column labeled Featured Legislation, there is no RSS feed for this content. It’s getting late in the day and I only scanned the Legislation.
One piece of Legislation immediately caught my eye, a Omnibus Public Lands Management Act was signed Monday, March 30, 2009. Having a background in ranching, oil and gas, as well as a short stint with the local Conservation District I was quite interested in the details of this legislation.
The article is written by a Jesse Lee. Who is Mr. Jesse Lee? Well, Jesse Lee is the Online Programs Director for President Barack Obama. My guess is that among many hats he wears he is the webmaster for Whitehouse.gov. And what are Jesse Lee’s qualifications? “Lee launched his political career as the author of a one-page anti-Iraq war leaflet distributed in cafeterias, coffee shops and libraries across the country. Lee got his start in politics running a popular Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) blog in 2003. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-Calif.) snatched him up in 2006 to run The Gavel, the representative’s YouTube generation-friendly blog. In the months leading up to the 2008 presidential campaign, he ran the Democratic National Committee’s (DNC) rapid-response team“.
Interestingly enough the Omnibus Public Lands Management Act also included funding for the Christopher and Dana Reeve’s Paralysis Act, which boosts research and rehabilitation for paralysis. I don’t believe Jesse should have included the apostrophe, a Google search indicated as such. Possession of?
However I was more interested in reading the bill itself, so I clicked on the link to the legislation itself.
And received a 404 Page Not Found error.
Yup, the webmaster for Whitehouse.gov got the link wrong. Now that’s funny. Or sad. You be the judge.
Enough for one night. It’s time to ask what is known now that wasn’t known before the exploration was begun.
First, the Obama Administration is negligent in communicating with the American People on Iraq and Afghanistan goals.
Second, those things that are on the website seem to telegraph a state of short sighted damage control. Be it the economy, energy or pandering to a niche political group I certainly didn’t come away with a feeling that the White House really believes the choices made to ‘fix’ the economy are working or will work.
Third, the White House web master (Online Programs Director for President Barack Obama) is mediocre and likely in over his head.
Being no doctor I do know that to get well you have to correctly diagnose the problem.
The Obama Administration promised transparency and has reneged on that promise. There is no shortage of smoke and mirrors, but the Administration has fallen woefully short on results.
Cold and flu season has taken hold of the United States, and from the looks of things it will be some time before the Obama Administration starts feeling better about itself or anything else.
The only question left is asking the Obama Administration is suffering from the political equivalent of the flu, or something much worse.