Time Travelling

I’ve just finished re-reading Thomas Hardy’s Far From the Madding Crowd, a book that I haven’t read since English Literature O-Level. Reading the book again, I was confronted by scribbled notes in margins, little insights which must have been pointed out by my English teacher (I can’t imagine having generated these nuggets myself); and I was transported back to those far off days of my youth…

I mentioned that I was reading this to some work colleagues and discovered that, whilst I have a very fond memory of the book (along with Charlotteb Bronte’s Jane Eyre), it would seem that I am in the minority. My sister and my wife*, for example, both hated their Eng. Lit. texts – Dickens in both cases – and consequently have a very low opinion of the classics.

I can therefore only conclude that it was my English teacher who made these books palatable to me, so here’s a big ‘thank you’ to Mrs. Hoyes, it would appear that you have made a positive difference to my life…

* my sister and my wife are of course different people – I didn’t grow up in Norfolk you know…

A different theatrical experience

Today we went to see York Theatre Royal‘s production of The Railway Children at the National Railway Museum.

It was fantastic! The staging was particularly novel, being centred around a length of railway track (the production was presented in one of the ‘sheds’ usually filled with locomotives); seating being arranged either side (‘Platform 1’ or ‘Platform 2’).

‘Wagons’ were used which bridged the track, and allowed for the scenes to be changed virtually seamlessly. A ‘proper’ steam loco also made an appearance in the production.

The wife and I found ourselves nearly weeping a quite a few points and, whilst it didn’t have the same effect on the kids, they were utterly rapt by the performance.

Anyway. I’d recommend that you see it 🙂

Computing Hardware: an argument that won’t go away

Why does the ‘Mac vs. PC’ argument still rumble on? Actually, given Apple’s change to x86 hardware, it’s more of a ‘OS X vs. Windows’ argument these days.

Criticisms of OS X/Mac always seem to be that the hardware is overpriced, and anyone who pays that much for their computing device must be a mactard; whereas Windows users always get the Windows is so susceptible to viruses, anyone who uses such a security-risk must be a wintard. Linux however is too complex for everyday use and because it’s Open Source, must have been coded by unskilled programmers – insisting on using it labels you as a freetard.

First things first: if all you can say about someone who uses a system that you don’t is to call them a “…tard”, then you’ve lost any argument you were hoping to make. The end.

Surely if a computer does what you want it to do, then what does it matter which OS you’re using? I suspect that most people use computers for:

  • Browsing the internet
  • Email
  • Managing photos
  • Entertainment (video/music/games)
  • Writing letters

Actually, I suspect that the last one of these is a very minor occupation these days and, whilst I would rather sit in my front room with my HiFi and TV (and Playstation), I know that many people don’t…

So, why does this argument rattle on? Being a user of all three systems, I find Windows to be too fragile and prone to inexplicable slowness (boot times in particular seem to lengthen with each passing day); Linux is just a bit raw (and some things still seem to require some ‘expert’ knowledge, even with things like Ubuntu Gutsy Gibbon – the last Linux I was using); OS X has some support issues still, and Apple’s closed hardware business model sometimes leaves me wishing I had more choice.

Should Apple allow OS X to run on standard ‘PC hardware’? I don’t think so – by using their own (limited) hardware choices they are able to improve usability and reliabilty; the innumerable combinations of PC hardware out there would need some serious testing. And anyway, it’s Apple’s software, they can licence it however they like. By restricting OS X to Apple hardware, they are potentially losing OS licence sales, but that’s their choice and it’s not currently harming them, perhaps it’s even helping their business – if you want to switch to OS X, then you need to buy a Mac.

Since Linux is free, then why aren’t more people using it? For my part, I see the Linux ‘community’ as far too fractured; there seems to be lots of petty infighting (cf. KDE vs. Gnome) which, if it were put aside and all parties pulled in the same direction, would make the OS much more coherent and hopefully usable (instead of writing yet another window manager, why not address real problems – such as boot times?).

Which would I use out of choice? I am still extremely happy with my MacBook (rev.1) with OS X 10.4. The hardware is solid, boot times are very quick, and it gets the job done. I have to use Windows (XP) at work, because it’s what our customers use (I’m a software developer by day). I am happy to have left Linux behind at my last job where I was using it as a desktop system for 15 months (very slow booting, clunkiness in general when compared to OS X although more stable than XP).

Just don’t call me a Mactard…