January 2007

One Expensive Dog?

By Goodwin Ginger

Some of you may have read todays Globe coverage of Microsoft’s launch of their new operating system Vista. Apparently sales are but a trickle. The Globe cites increasing competition from Linux and online programs along with the ability to purchase Vista online as the main reasons for its poor showing in stores. These factors may all be true but we think there are other reasons why Vista is finding few early adopters.


First, the main benefit of switching to Vista at this stage in the game are the new visual effects: eye candy. Interestingly, both Mac and Linux users will have been using most of the visual enhancements contained in Vista for some time now. Microsoft may be a victim of its own success: i.e., the dummying down of user expectations when it comes to the aesthetics of their desktop environment. Indeed, windows users are, by now, so use to the general aesthetic malaise of both their vanilla PC boxes and their desktop environment that those who have higher aesthetic standards will already be a Mac owner or the owner of a custom Linux PC.


Yet there are other reasons outside of aesthetics that we can expect that Vista will only be adopted slowly. The onerous hardware requirements needed to take advantage of all the visual and functional improvements in Vista mean that for most consumers Vista will have to wait until their next PC purchase when they will most likely receive a copy of Vista included in their bundle.


Moreover, there is a confusing array of choices when it comes to Vista with 4 different versions (8 if you include upgrade and full versions) all presenting the consumer with a different level functionality and features. Indeed, the entry level version of the operating system (OS) does not come with any of the visual enhancements; none of the system and data recovery features; none of the home entertainment integration; nor the capacity to make and burn DVDs. In short, all the features one would be looking to improve upon from their XP home and Pro operating systems. In fact, a quick review of the different versions of Vista reveals that it is only the Business and Ultimate editions that contain the features that most consumers would be looking to most improve upon from their XP OS experience. With the Premium Edition Upgrade running at $299.00 cdn this is a fair chunk of change for a couple of new features and some eye candy (note, some of these features can be had for free e.g. Google Desktop search and others from third party vendors).


The other draw back to this OS is that between Microsoft’s paranoia around ensuring only valid copies of their products are in use combined with the new digital rights management regime (DRM), to which MS has whole heartedly supported by deeply embedding (DRM) in its OS, Vista is a virtual lock-down of your hardware and content. To be sure if you are not pirating software and HD content this will be less of a problem but it is not just nefarious users who will be inconvenienced (indeed they get work-arounds in pretty short order). Backing up a copy of your children’s favorite DVD is going to be a big pain the arse, not to mention the absurdity of having to fight with MS should you decide in the future to upgrade key hardware components of your PC. In short, it is the law abiding consumers (albeit abiding by absurd laws many of which are untested in the courts) who are going to be most inconvenienced by all this intellectual property rights enforcement masquerading as “security.”


Lastly, the main reason perhaps sales of Vista are bombing on its debut is that early adopters tend to be tech savvy consumers looking for real performance enhancements, and visuals aside, Vista is a lazy dog compared to XP Pro. If you do not believe us just check out these performance comparison charts over at Toms hardware guide. Why would you pay more for an OS that actually slows down the performance of you PC?


For all these reasons I am going to stay with windows 2000 pro on my server and XP on my laptop both of which are already running Linux OSs to boot. Indeed, if Open Office can polish-up their word processing package just a little the days of an MS OS on my PC are limited.


By Goodwin Ginger

As many of you may know, Kevin Evans left the CBC to head up the Retail Council of Canada. To get an idea of just how right wing, anti-union and anti employee rights the major sectoral industry associations are check out this web page LabourWatch. And who do you think is the VP over at this little union busting consortium? Yep Kevin Evans.


But beyond the curiosity of the trajectory of Evans’ career–from the CBC to the Pinkertons– there is the actual content of Labour Watch’s web site. This site is dedicated to the scuttling of union drives and the decertification of existing unions. Moreover it appears it is even dedicated to undermining unorganized workers attempts to take their employer to the Labour Board for unfair practices.  The site says that it is advancing employee rights.  How you might ask?  By telling workers how to decertify; by telling wokers that the union only wants them for their dues etc etc; and by informing employees of how Unions engage in unfair labour practices and are anti-democratic.


Notice that when you click on the members link almost every major sectoral association is listed along with a stable of employee harassing law firms . I Know of no equivalent single desk resource on the web for workers who either want a union or want to take their employer to the Labour Board for unfair labour practices. Maybe this is a project for the CLC. Organized labour needs to start thinking outside of the box. Heavens knows capital is.

We have all had that dream where we are suddenly in some public location only to discover that we have no clothes on and are desperate to just find something to cover the bare essentials. The man who lost money selling oil is widely expected to announce 20,000 more troops and 1 billion more dollars for that fantasy turned disaster in Babylon. The FT reports that the strategy is thus:


“Increased troop concentrations mean more patrols to disrupt insurgent activity, more observation points to monitor areas where guerrillas might gather, more checkpoints at which fugitives might be caught, and other benefits.”


Let us re-write that sentence so it has a modicum of reality to it, it should read: “Increased troop concentrations mean more patrols for insurgents to snipe at, more observation points for insurgents to blow up, more check-points for guerrillas to harass, and other sundry targets of opportunity.”


Some pundit on the CBC this morning argued that the Americans must succeed because the free world hangs in the balance. We could not agree more and that is why they have to fail. American failure is the only hope freedom has these days. And fail they will.


In reality Iraq was lost a long time ago. The Americans will leave, the question is when not if. What of Iraq? Iraq is lost for at least the next two generations. The invasion destroyed at least fifty years worth of development and twisted the honest desire of Iraqis for a more pluralistic society into what is by now a deep urning for security. Such conditions suggest that we are likely to see a strong man who will dually promise and perhaps provide security at the expense of pluralistic openness. In short a decidedly less secular version of Saddam. Nice work.


And to think the Cons would have had Canada underwrite this crime against international law and common sense.