Although I’d seen recommendations of Live Mesh, I’ve avoided it because, well, I didn’t think I’d like it. In the end, a week or so ago, I did try it and I was wrong – it’s actually quite good.
Live Mesh is a simple concept – you can convert any of your folders into Live Mesh folders that are then instantly synched onto your online account (where they can be accessed), known as your desktop, or any other computer that you’ve set up. In my case I have it on my home PC and Netbook.
Now, I don’t use it for more permanent stuff, but it’s useful if I want to move a file from one to another – the other day, for instance, I needed to put my CV onto my Netbook. I simply dropped it into a Live Mesh folder on my PC and it was transferred across.
Yesterday I downloaded two software releases. And was left underwhelmed.
First up was the official launch of Internet Explorer 8. Nothing much appears to have changed since the Beta versions and I continue to be left disappointed.
People are turning towards Firefox, not because it shows web pages better, but because it’s more customisable – plugins, themes, etc. Microsoft has never really got this. Yes, Windows has themes and IE has addons, but there are few available and they’re hard to develop and implement. Instead we have Web Slices and Accelerators, requiring web developers to change their code and are deeply, deeply dull.
Next up, the people behind Xandros Linux launched Presto, which is intended to be used as a fast startup alternative to Windows. I’ve tried it on both my home PC and my Netbook and, yes, it works. It installs easily and configures Windows automatically to dual boot. Unfortunately, on both PCs I had different BIOS errors during the Presto boot and, yes, it’s still in Beta but it’s only a few weeks before the final version is released. Yet it lacks the basic ability to change languages and keyboards. So I’m stuck with a US keyboard layout.
By default it books with Firefox, Pidgin and Skype and you can add (some free, some you must pay for) extra applications via their website.
The final version is going to cost about $20, but that’s as much as they’re giving away right now. Personally, I’m going to wait for the final version as, at the moment, it’s seriously lacking that “oomph” that would get me excited.
The latest version of IE8 is “release candidate 1″. But what exactly is a “release candidate”? I’ve been working as a professional IT developer for nearly 20 years and have only recently become aware of it.
A quick Google shows Microsoft using it for Windows XP Service Pack 2, but I’m struggling to find anything before then.
Wikipedia defines a Release Candidate as “a version with potential to be a final product, ready to release unless fatal bugs emerge.” This all seems a bit woolly to me, as it sounds like a final release. There are clear definitions of Alpha and Beta releases, but this doesn’t seem to fit properly. A Beta is clearly a release that you allow customers to try to get rid of any problems before a final release. So where does a Release Candidate fit into this?
Microsoft itself defines it as “at a stage in the development process where it is ready to be evaluated by users while it undergoes final testing.” Evaluted by users? Final testing? Surely that makes it a Beta.
Personally I never really became aware of RC’s (as I’ll now call it, to save all that typing) until Microsoft started using them. I’m not saying they invented the term but I certainly think they’ve made it fashionable. But, dare I suggest, they’re using it to package Betas as something different. Imagine if IE8 was released as a third or fourth Beta. It wouldn’t sound too good that it’s taken 3 or 4 releases to get rid of the bugs in their software. But name it as an RC and you can maybe get away with it.
For Vista, Microsoft even referred to early Beta releases as “Community Technology Previews” (CTPs). A ponsy name for masking what was, however you name it, a Beta release. Others called then “pre-Betas” (if they were, they were Alpha releases, which should have been internal testing). That meant that they only had to release 2 Betas, even though a number of CTPs had been released prior to this. Sounding familiar? Not surprisingly, the two Vista Betas were followed up by two Release Candidates.
Microsoft is fooling no-one. Personally, I’d like then to call them Betas, which is what they are. Somehow, though, I can’t imagine it happening.
Obviously, no one would want anything other than for him to get better soon.
However, the outpouring of sentiments and statements, mainly from the US, is bizarre. Many feel that Apple won’t be able to cope without him and the share price has plummeted as a result. Many seem his a guru, genius, even a God-like figure.
But let’s rewind a bit…. Steve Jobs, as we know, helped created Apple. During this time, under his command, both the Apple III and the Apple Lisa were commercial failures and he had resigned by the mid 80′s. In both cases the computers looked good, were advanced but were expensive and riddled with problems.
After leaving, he moved onto form NeXT, where he created a technologically advanced workstation that sold badly due to its high price. They moved into software but after just 11 years the company failed and, ironically, was bought by Apple. This positioned Jobs back onto the board and after a top-level coup, he became CEO. Under his lead Apple went onto great success with the iMac, iPod and iPhone and the rest, as we know, is history.
But I don’t own a single Apple product. And for a good reason. What Steve Jobs has been able to do is to tap into the current “bling” market, where style is the most important factor. What the iMac/iPod/iPhone have in common is that they look great. But in many cases, the latter two in particular, it’s style over substance. But Jobs hasn’t been some genius in doing this – he’s been doing it all along. Even in the 80′s when he created NeXt he created an exotic, amazing looking office with floating staircases, $10,000 sofas and designer prints. He was doing it when the Apple III would overheart as it had no cooling fan or air vent (as suggested by Steve Jobs for quieter performance).
What all of these iProducts have in common is Apple locking the products to their hardware and their software. The iPod, for instance, has a non-replaceable battery. Indeed, if you can get the case off to replace it yourself, they often solder it in place to make sure you won’t get it out (although I’m sure they use a different excuse). It won’t be surprising to hear that Apple have a poor environmental record.
The iMac is known for its difficulty in being upgraded. The iMac’s graphics chip is soldered to the motherboard and many models make it virtually impossible for you to change the hard disk or optical drive.
The iPhone, like the iPod, has a non-replaceable battery and the operating system is designed to only run software that is approved by Apple (and downloadable from Apple’s “App Store”). Once a developer has submitted an application to the App Store, Apple holds firm control over its distribution so, if they want, they can halt the distribution of applications it deems inappropriate. For example, they have a habit of banning third party applications that enable a functionality that Apple doesn’t want the iPhone to have. Last year, for example, Apple banned Podcaster, which allowed iPhone users to download podcasts directly to the iPhone, bypassing iTunes.
The iPod is also locked to iTunes – a terrible piece of software in my opinion.
This level of “lock in” would get Microsoft pushed into court. Apple, however, seem to remain immune. Microsoft have been forced, particularly in Europe, to remove software such as their Media Player2 because it can affect sales of third party products, yet the iMac comes pre-loaded with a whole host of applications. Again, they seem to remain immune to prosecution.
But then again this is the company that agreed with Apple Corps (the Beatles music company) that to keep its name it wouldn’t do anything music related.
Let’s get one thing straight, these are not totally bad products. The iPhone has a fantastic interface. However, it also has no way to change or improve its battery, no SMS facility, a locked and restricted, application store, no video capability, a poor 2MP camera… I could go on. But it sells like gold dust because it’s trendy and looks good. The same with the iPod which is sold by a terrible set of earphones, but people don’t seem to mind. Indeed, so trendy is it to be seen with a pair of white iPod earphones on, that many people don’t upgrade them for just this reason.
The way I see it is that Jobs has struck lucky by being the kind of person who helps design products that are perfect for a throw-away, fashion-obsessed culture. Some kind of genius? No.
Now I can look forward to lots of hate-mail from obsessive Apple fans.
although strangely shrouding this in further secrecy by declaring it as “a hormone imbalance” [↩]
It’s taken me a year but I’ve done it. The only thing missing – that elusive 9% – is a CDN. But I’m not going to have that so I now have the highest rating I can achieve.
Once this site is at its new host, I’ll start looking at the same thing (restrictions on the .htaccess file, amongst other things, prevents me at the moment).
To put this in perspective, Amazon.co.uk and Apple.com both have a score of 63%, Microsoft.com a score of 94% and PC Pro a score of 52%. Google, not surprisingly, scores 99%. What is surprising, though, is that Yahoo – the people who originated this scoring system – gets 82%.