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Posts Tagged ‘computer’

COMPUTER PRINTERS

Posted by Tim Bryce on November 23, 2009

In my 30+ years in the systems industry, I have seen a lot of computer printers; everything from high speed line printers that print 132 characters per line to the early laser printers and plotters, to today’s consumer dot-matrix printers. I even have some of the original print wheels from the first high speed printer for the UNIVAC I. They’re over 50 years old and I’m sure they’re worth something, but I digress.

What bugs me though are today’s consumer printers which can be unusually inexpensive, so much so, the ink cartridges for them are almost as expensive as the whole printer, which turns the printers into disposable commodities. It’s no small wonder that our garbage dumps are filling up with printers as people change printers more frequently than years ago. This implies the real money is not in the printers themselves, but in the ink cartridges which bears a hefty price tag for replacements, be it new or recycled, which, to me, seems odd as ink should be relatively cheap. Then again, I suspect the manufacturers of such products probably have a better grasp of marketing than I do. As a consumer though, I object to paying $25 – $35 for a lousy little black ink cartridge which lasts no more than a month, and much more for color.

I generally don’t have much of a problem installing printers, then again, I have a bit more experience than most people. To the novice consumer though, installing a printer can be a very traumatic experience, primarily because the software is designed by programmer geeks who haven’t got a clue what “user friendly” means. Some of the common mistakes I’ve seen include:

  • Installing a cartridge without first removing the tiny plastic strip under it.
  • Trying to insert the cartridge backwards or upside-down.
  • Inserting the black cartridge into the color cartridge position, and vice versa.
  • Plugging the printer cables into the wrong sockets.
  • For Wi-Fi printers, trying to get them to communicate with your network. Better yet, if something crashes, reestablishing the connection can be a painful experience, even for me.
  • My personal favorite though is fighting with the printer to get the cartridges to reveal themselves in order to change them. You know, watching the cartridges as they zip from side-to-side in the printer thereby keeping them out of the person’s reach, kind of like a game of Tag.

Then there are the printers that talk to you, such as “Printing started” and “Printing complete.” Then it begins to get insolent with you when something goes awry, “Please fill paper in the auto sheet feeder” or “Your ink is low, time to replace the cartridge.” These statements are all based on small sound bites that are assembled and broadcast as required. Interestingly, one of my computers suffered a crash which distorted the sequence of the sound bites. Now I get things like, “Problem started” and “Please fill your ink in the auto sheet feeder and replace the cartridge with paper.” Frankly, if I’m going to be insulted in this manner, they could at least do it with a sexy voice.

The geeks may think this is funny. The rest of us do not.

Such is my Pet Peeve of the Week.

Keep the Faith!

Note: All trademarks both marked and unmarked belong to their respective companies.

Tim Bryce is the Managing Director of M. Bryce & Associates (MBA) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at timb001@phmainstreet.com

For Tim’s columns, see:
http://www.phmainstreet.com/timbryce.htm

Tune into Tim’s new podcast, “The Voice of Palm Harbor,” at:

http://www.phmainstreet.com/voiceph.htm

Copyright © 2009 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

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SOFTWARE VERSIONS AND RELEASES

Posted by Tim Bryce on September 8, 2009

One of the little quirks in the computer software field that bothers me is when people start talking about “versions” and “releases” as if they were interchangeable. They’re not, and it just rubs me the wrong way. They most definitely are not synonymous.

When it comes to software, a “version” refers to an adaptation to suit a particular computer environment, for example; a single program that works on MS Windows and another version that works on Linux, another on the MAC OS, etc. (distinctly separate operating systems). Each operating system has its own unique nuances that prohibits a program written for one operating system from operating on another. Perhaps the best way to think of this is from the old videotape wars, whereby a movie was distributed in “VHS” or “Beta,” one did not work in place of the other.

“Versions” have always been a headache for software vendors. Inevitably, when a program is first written it is done so for a specific platform, normally one that dominates the industry. It is then converted to other platforms and incorporates their peculiarities. This of course means there will always be one version released ahead of another. To get an idea of how pervasive this problem is, see the Adobe Reader download web page.

“Versions” would be an obsolete concept had everyone adopted the Java programming language years ago whereby a single program could be executed on any operating platform, but this never happened as the software industry tends to buck any attempt of standardization. Plus it would make the operating system a triviality, something the people in Redmond simply wouldn’t sit still for. Oh well.

In contrast, a “release” is just that; an issuance of software to their customers. Although, it could be numbered sequentially as 1, 2, 3, etc., most software vendors long ago adopted a three positioned numbering convention, such as “9.02.05”. Under this scenario, the first position refers to a major release of the software, usually with some significant changes to the file layouts; the second position represents modifications/improvements added to the major release, and; the third position represents corrections to defects. This numbering convention served the computer field well for a number of years until, unfortunately, it was bastardized by vendors who would increment the initial number as a marketing ploy to indicate they were ahead of their competitors thereby making it meaningless. Believe me, comparing the numbering conventions of different vendors is like mixing apples with oranges. It is simply nonsense.

Then along comes our old friend Bill Gates who decides to break with tradition and release his company’s products based on a given year; e.g., Windows 95, 98, 2000, 2003, 2007. MS Office followed suit, as did many other vendors hanging on Microsoft’s coattails. The only problem with associating a year with software is it has a tendency to put pressure on vendors to produce a new major release every year, as in the automotive industry. Unlike the automotive manufacturers though, software vendors tend to miss delivery dates and, as such, it is not realistic to expect a major new release every year. Bottom-line, the whole concept of naming releases after specific years is retarded and should be dropped. Interestingly, it appears Microsoft has done just that as it prepares to release the next generation of their operating system, “Windows 7.”

A software release should denote nothing more than a distinctly separate issuance of a product, nothing more, nothing less. It should definitely not be labeled for marketing or competitive purposes. More importantly, stop using the words “version” and “release” interchangeably. It simply doesn’t make sense. Then again, common sense is not very common when it comes to computing.

One last note, do yourself a favor and never experiment with “beta” release software (experimental). You can get burned and it is simply not worth it.

Such is my Pet Peeve of the Week.

Keep the Faith!

Note: All trademarks both marked and unmarked belong to their respective companies.

Tim Bryce is the Managing Director of M. Bryce & Associates (MBA) of Palm Harbor, Florida and has over 30 years of experience in the management consulting field. He can be reached at timb001@phmainstreet.com

For a listing of Tim’s Pet Peeves, click HERE.

Download Tim’s new eBook (PDF), “Bryce’s Pet Peeve Anthology – Volume I” (free) DOWNLOAD).

Copyright © 2009 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.

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