Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Cars v computers

I remember when my father bought his first new car. It had a timetable for "running in" which specified the maximum speeds and schedule of services that had to be followed during this period. The first 200 miles at no more than 30 miles per hour, then an oil change etc etc. It was like nurturing a baby. Only when he had completed 6,000 miles could he just simply get in the car and drive it at whatever speed it was capable of which actually wasn't very much.

Of course cars have progressed a lot since then. New cars don't require any specific running in and the first service (including oil change) is after one year. It's almost as if they've completed the 6,000 miles "running in" when you first buy them.

Of course you don't have to run computers in but you do need to treat them like babies. My first Windows PC ran Windows 95. Certain printers, modems and quite a lot of software just wouldn't play ball with it. I had to constantly back up my work for fear of loosing it when Windows crashed inexplicably or refused to boot up. I crossed my fingers every time I switched it on and felt relief when it started up correctly.

My current machine runs Windows Vista, Microsoft's latest incarnation of their operating system. You would think that in the twelve years since '95 that all the bugs and problems would have been sorted but no. Vista might have all the bells and whistles but still needs treating with kid gloves. An errant device driver or a piece of flaky software will bring it crashing to its knees just like my old Windows 95 machine. Just when I think it is sorted and running fine it will crash again. It hasn't happened often but I would argue it shouldn't happen at all. Of course, unlike my Windows 95 machine, this one will recover and sort itself out - until the next time.

So it seems that whilst cars have improved to the extent that you just get in and drive them, computers are still in need of TLC. Perhaps I should wait for Windows Perfecta - the system that never crashes, doesn't need rebuilding every six months and just lets you get on with what you want to do without constantly having to groom it. Or maybe I should go back to Mac OS or possibly move on to Linux but then I'd have to start on the steep learning curve all over again.

Service Pack 1 for Vista should be available early next year. That should sort things out until Service Pack 2!!

1 comment:

Pete said...

It's an interesting change in production techniques. I recently visited the Bentley factory in Crewe and was fascinated to learn that every engine - EVERY engine - that goes into every Bentley runs for twenty minutes before it even sees a car!

Moving on, you've used Macs before, and the basic principles are the same. They've certainly got their own set of issues, but the UI is slick as hell. It would take hours, not weeks, to move. Similarly, the orientation period for Linux really isn't long at all. You'll find it working very intuitively. The kicker with Linux is when something goes really wrong and rolling your sleeves up to fix it becomes tricky! If you've got a spare machine though, I'd recommend throwing Ubuntu on for a laugh just to say you've tried it. It's actually easier to install than Windows, and all the applications are there for you!