Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Just A Few Late Night Thoughts

I've had a lot happen in my plans lately for getting older computers active again and getting them online; some of it good, some bad, all thought provoking.
First were my hopes of Android x86 as a way to salvage older laptops. It runs great on the minimum specs computers (as long as it is run Pentium II or equivalent and up), but is too immature right now. On my test machine (an IBM ThinkPad T23), it had to boot in VESA mode and then seemed to be unable to find any peripheral attached to it. Of course, this was "out-of-box", so to speak. It also is clearly designed for mobile devices and lacks basic applications normally associated with more modern computer operating systems. Otherwise, it is lovely. In short, it has promise but still has a long way to go. This leaves Linux as our best hope.
This brings me to another thought; am I being so driven by my innate desire to steer clear of proprietary operating systems as to be potentially ignoring the bigger issue, that being getting struggling families set up with usable computers and then onto the Internet? There is nothing wrong with Windows, Macintosh or Windows CE, for that matter. My one concern is that this tends to influence future choices. But a tool is a tool is a tool, and in the end, I really should be sure of my own motivations. I still believe that open source is the best way to go, but I shouldn't let this preference blind me.
Finally, I find myself thinking about how far personal computing has come in just the past 25 years, let alone since 1976, when two buddies started a computer company that changed the world. One thing that has puzzled, and indeed troubled, me is the lack of programming software bundled in the large commercial operating systems today. Both Windows and Macintosh no longer have compilers or run-time environments as a feature. When Microsoft and IBM were peddling their earlier DOS versions, they included BASIC, and for a while one could get HyperCard whenever you bought a Macintosh. These seem to have ended. The Apple II line had BASIC built in, and the famous Tandy 100/200/600 line had it as well as some basic applications built into the ROM. Linux and most open source software have compilers built in, but these are not for the beginner or casual user. Having these languages built in allowed the user to fashion their own applications and truly own the experience. Why are they no longer included? What has driven that? I have my own ideas, but really can't be certain.
I do know, however, that it's late and I need to turn in. These problems, these thoughts, will have to wait another day.

No comments: