Computer Mania

Over the past few weeks I've been going to garage sales and finding some good deals in computers and parts including some $10 computers and even some $2 boxes (computer w/o peripherals). It appears that people are feeling their computers are getting old or out of style and so they need to get new ones. The flat panel monitors are nice and advancements in technology are a good thing for business and heavy duty users but the computers I've been picking up are very adequate for running the software that is installed on them.

Home computers sold today are incredibly over-sold. Rarely do home users need the memory or processing power that are now being installed in new systems and the pushing of dual-core systems is almost laughable. Poorly written software and bloated operating systems are leading forces in driving manufacturers to build higher-power systems while software developers are constantly chasing operating system features. One could develop a conspiracy theory for all of this.

Then there is the actual mismanagement of computers where users are throwing caution to the wind to make things easier. ... One of the things I've seen lately on computers that people are selling in their garages for $10 is a system slowed down by viruses and spyware.

Upgrade options. Most users don't understand the modularity of modern computers. They think for example that they need to buy a new computer in order to get a flat-panel monitor. Or they don't know that their mouse keyboard and printer will work on a new computer. A few may opt for some more memory but forget about trying to sell just a new motherboard/CPU to them.

Commercially the problem is similar. The field of Information Technology both in the retail sector and internally within organizations is hardware-driven. Computer consultants would rather sell a million dollar upgrade than configure the system they have for a fraction of the price. IT departments are also installation-oriented. Instead of developing solutions they would rather buy new systems lease some turn-key software and spend weeks training staff on how to get around in the caves of options to get to the few that they will actually use.

Just last week I developed an Access database that the department has been trying to get for two. It took about 2-3 weeks while I was also working as a press operator in the print shop. I'm not too sure that IT professionals understand the concepts of things like a SQL Server database. That Access database used some information copied from the SQL Server and it will have to be manually updated when the SQL Server information changes. A simple link to the main database would make that automatic.

Much of business is based on "big talk" and this is no more true than in the field of Information Technology. Instead of addressing an accumulation of software issues or upgrading a component people would rather just buy a new system and trash the old one or plan a system-wide upgrade. Other than motherboards and CPUs there's not that much improving change from year to year yet I suspect there are many companies that plan to get new computers every 2-3 years whether they need them or not giving meaning to the term landfill. The IT techs will sell it with the idea that the old systems don't have this or that giving credence to the need for the latest.

I wouldn't call it a backlash but there is some hope. Individuals often without pay are constantly bringing out software solutions that will meet many users needs and that run on systems 5-10 years old and I suspect faster than a similar application written in something like .NET on a new Vista box. That's just one aspect of the road that Microsoft is traveling. That's not to say Microsoft hasn't done some good things but then that's not the theme of this entry.

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