Sunday, November 29, 2009

The Win 7 Scam - Are we being taken for a ride?

In your average software life cycle you see minor upgrades and bug fixes and major revision releases. Customarily the minor releases are free and are chacterised by point releases. For instance 8.0 is the initial release, 6.0.1 is a minor update to fix a release bug and it will then go to 8.1, 8.2, 8.3 etc as further updates are released. All of these are free until the next major release when we go to 9.0 and existing users pay an upgrade to receive the new software. Now the upgrade price is usually a substantial discount to pay for the loyalty of customers. Differing software companies offer different pricing schemes. All of this is quite normal and offers loyal users bug fixes, minor upgrades and discounts on major releases.

When Microsoft released Vista there was a lot of hype created around this wonderful new product but the market was underwhelmed. Not since the Windows ME disaster has there been a more lukewarm response to a Microsoft OS. One would have thought that they would have learnt from Win ME. Be that as it may, The initial release of Vista had so many issues one has nightmares just thinking about it. But it is true that the updates did make it marginally more usable. It is interesting to not however that the actual revision number of Windows Vista is 6.0. Now here is the thing. Windows 7 is release 6.1. The reason that MS give for this only being an incremental number is that a change in major release will cause a lot of software to not run. I am not entirely convinced. I believe that in fact Windows 7 is simply a service pack on Vista with a minor GUI upgrade. Why do I say this? Let me explain.

If they changed the version from 6.x to 7.x then they could simply provide a check box in the program's properties to make it think it is Vista. After all, that is exactly what they did to XP programs that did not run under Vista, and there were precious few of those.

All Vista drivers work in Win 7, which means that the kernel driver sub-system was substantially unchanged. This has not been the case for any other OS upgrade. Vista required all new drivers because the driver subsystem was changed. Same drivers = same OS.

Win 7 was only what Vista should have been in the first place. To its dying day Vista was a retrograde step for 99% of people. There are I/O issues. There are memory issues. There are performance issues. None of which have been satisfactorily addressed despite all of the updates, until now that is.

I maintain that Win 7 is primarily a patch fix for Vista and should be free to all Vista users. MS however put in all the fixes for Vista and in order to sell it as a new OS release they gave it the synthetic "7" moniker, added some interface changes and marketed it as a brand new OS.

There were I believe several motivations for doing this. First they wanted to make money on it. The sales of Vista were way below expectation and MS lost a lot of market share as a result of the issues. The only way to recoup the loss in revenue was to make everybody pay all over again. Second to release Win 7 as a service pack for Vista would be admitting that Vista was in fact broken, at beta level on release and this would have been a loss of face. Third they wanted a clean break from the damaged Vista branding. Vista has acquired a stigma that MS wanted to break from and the only way to do this was to pretend that Win 7 was a new OS, rather than the patch upgrade that I contend it is. So for MS to regain their place as market leader in operating systems they believed it was necessary to present Win 7 as a mew OS and to try to cut the link to Vista.

I believe that MS should have released Win 7 as a service pack. This has been the principle in the past and I believe it would have worked here. Sure they would have not had as many sales but their sales of Vista would have taken off once people realised that the bugs were gone. Reviewers were universally negative on Vista, but the same reviewers were universally positive on Win 7. All MS needed to do was to engage in some subtle marketing and Vista's image would have turned around on the back of a substantial service pack. Remember XP in the pre-service pack days? It too was bug ridden and unstable, not as bad as Vista I will grant, but not the wunderkind that it became after the service packs. The XP service packs also added substantially to the features. As much as Win 7 did over Vista.

To release Win 7 as an upgrade comes down to one thing, greed. MS needs to keep the $ signs in their eyes rotating at great speed and to do this their revenue stream has to be maintained, and what better way than to package an OS upgrade and an entirely new OS and to charge accordingly.

Monday, April 13, 2009

How much would you pay for an iPhone dictionary?

After about six months of use I am at last sorting out the good, bad and ugly applications. Some apps are just brilliant and in daily use such as Oz Weather and Google Maps. Others are nice to use and yet others have been deleted never to return.

One app though seems to me to be extraordinary value for money and that is is an online dictionary that is up to the standard of a quality home dictionary without the nuisance of taking out several large volumes from the shelf. They have now added a fantastic application to the iPhone and all for the princely sum of nothing. Yes, that is correct, this app is free.

I have been comparing it with the dictionary I would prefer, the AU$40 Oxford dictionary and although the Oxford is somewhat better there is no way I can justify $40 when the is free. In many cases the entries in and the Oxford are all but identical.

Not only do you get the dictionary but you also get the pronunciation, the Thesaurus and a word of the day. The WOD does require online access but the dictionary and Thesaurus are both offline. The text entry also does a spell check and suggests similar words just in case, like me, your spelling is less than perfect. It also keeps a history of recent words. If you have a word in one of the three screens, Dictionary, Thesaurus WOD, selecting another screen will perform a look up in that screen.

As far as I am concerned this is going to be my standard "pocket" dictionary unless I can get the Oxford for a substantial discount.

See Whats On iPhone for another view.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

iPhone - DYI Charger

It has been a source of much frustration to me (and obviously many others) that many of the iPod accessories will not work with the iPhone. Not sure for all of the reasons for this but one of the more irritating is that a large proportion of iPod chargers will not charge the iPhone. The worst thing is that there is no indication whether that particular accessory will charge the iPhone (unless marked of course) until you purchase said accessory and plug it in. I recently bought several iPod car adaptors on sale for $20 each only to find that one charged the iPhone and the other did not.

In researching this I came across some interesting information on iPhone charging adaptors and more specifically using USB for supplying power to connected devices.

USB has four pins designated +, -, D+ and D-. + is 5 Volts regulated, - is 0V or ground, D+ and D- are the data pins, send and return if you will. The actual current that can be drawn from a USB port varies on wheter the port is on a powered device, a hub or a dedicated charger, and also what revision USB the port is. What this means for the iPod and iPhone is that the iPhone requires more current and therefore the charger for the iPhone is slightly different due to the higher current required.

This article and its links provide some good information on how to adapt your regular USB adaptor to make the iPhone know that it can use it for charging. In short all you need is to add two resistors to one of the D lines between the + and - lines to tell it to turn on charging. In other words apply about 2.5V to one of the data lines. Some of the circuits use four resistors and others 2 but the outcome seems similar.

Of course there are other resons why your avereage USB car adapter will not charge your iPhone but you really need some skills in electronics to sort it out if it does not work first up.

I will be trying this out when I get home to see if I can get my wife's phone charging in her car.