Friday, May 01, 2009

where is the open computer?

I repeat because it becomes clearer to me and if you see what I see there might be a full court press. Besides, it's kind of fun to change the game once in a while.

I would like to see a laptop base unit with a full-size keyboard on top (arrow keys and number keypad on the side). The floor brick power supply is handy and the battery pack would be optional. The LCD display, mounted in the traditional clamshell lid is not only detachable but is optional, so you can buy it without a display and use a display mounted on a desk pedestal or on the wall. In other words you can choose wither this machine is a laptop or a desktop machine. On the insides, the system ROM which contains the BIOS, has the boot loader built-in. All operating systems (including MS) are redesigned to use this boot loader (points to the boot file and boots it). The claim to fame for this computer is that it will run any OS. This is in a nutshell, my view of an open computer.

I really think the ATX case has gone away for most PC users replaced by laptops. Businesses like the ATX case because you can't walk out the door with it. The laptop base could be secured to the keyboard tray or to the desktop itself if need be. It takes up less space on the desk and in the IT room usually stacked with worn out ATX cased PC's. Then there is less PC to recycle, or less PC sitting there looking out of date and tired. What about upgrading? How many people really upgrade their computers after the initial purchase? Laptops usually contain all that people want and if they want more they can buy a laptop with more. At the most they might get a memory upgrade, maybe a faster processor, the other components are usually small cards that don't require PCI slots or are USB plug-ins. There might be a few laptops that have upgradeable graphics cards. If adequate graphics hardware is built-in from the onset, it is not an issue. Obviously a PCs for gaming and high-end graphics require more than PCs for office work and web browsing. So, cutting a wide swath across computer users for whom portability is not a big need but would like the same functionality in a smaller and lower powered package, this hybrid design is pretty close to the best of both worlds. And looking at the laptop display and hinge arrangement, it would be a snap to add a short video cable and a detachable hinge. Now mind you, I would only do this for the larger full featured units leaning toward the desktop, let the regular laptops stress portability.

I had 512 MB of memory, now 1024 MB or 1 gig. What did I gain? Elbow room. When in a room full of folks, shoulder to shoulder at a table, all trying to eat, you can not finesse your fork or pass the peas without saying "excuse me". So I am not seeing a huge performance increase, but a little ease here and there. Yeah, the feel is more relaxed, things work just better enough to notice. Of course it helps not to complain or be picky, the dark side of the force, you know.

I have had this HP desktop machine since 2005, but it seems the upgrade thirst has subsided. For a long while computer makers were all racing to update features and upgrade speeds. I think we have reached a plateau to where the speed of the machine doesn't increase the speed of the software any appreciable amount. I am talking about regular computer use. I tried to install a flight simulator game and it still requires more beef than what I have, even after these many years of hardware improvements. If I could roll out my wish list, perhaps a better graphics card, another 1 gig of memory, and a USB hard drive.

I would like to experiment with so-called entertainment systems. That MythTV setup has haunted me since I first saw it. The idea is that the pictures and videos stored on your computer, and internet accessed pictures, radio and video, also broadcast radio and TV through tuner cards can all be accessed, recorded, played back through one machine, it's mind numbing.

Then I would like to get into multiple displays as a design element in interior design. Yeah, the digital picture frame is just the appetizer.

My local library just got a new Linux book. "Linux In Easy Steps" by Mike McGrath. Some enlightened soul at my public library has blessed us with a book that brings you into Linux without deep techno speak. A little intro, a little history, a lot of practical instruction. If Linux were explained to me this way from the get-go, I'd be a guru today. At $15.00 US, I'd put this book on my desk and the big Ubuntu Bible on the reference shelf for when I get into deep inquiry mode. I'd tip my penguin beak to the library except still no GIMP books. Open source software is as free as the public library itself and yet libraries insist on stocking only or mostly books on popular and pricey software. And you ask why there is a "digital gap"!! An inspiring young person wanting to get into computer graphics sees only Photoshop books. They beg, barrow or steal sacrificing their integrity to aquire Photoshop. They could have been using GIMP honing their skills while saving their coin to buy a legal copy of Photoshop. Their integrity and skills transferable, they can acquire the pro-ware without having been trained to look over their shoulder.

Then if I see one more Photoshop book centered on cameras or photo editing I am stagging a camera demolition in protest. Computers were used in art long before digital cameras became practical, not just for scanning and printing art, but as the very instrument to produce art. I have been a computer aided drafter for over 20 years. In many colleges computer science has pushed the use of digital graphics in many fields including the fine arts. The computer as an artist's tool is not new. Today computers can be used to hand draw and hand paint in many fine art techniques and styles, including 3-d and photo-real effects. And with the progress in printers, computer art should be booming. And concerning art, there is a lot that a camera can not do except photograph something hand drawn.

So here is something every computer group, arts group can do. Take donations, put them in a fund, then purchase open source computer books and donate them to the public library for the enrichment of us all. If anyone ask why, tell'em that Linuxville guide guy sent you.

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