Friday, November 23, 2012


Is the number of cynics increasing? Do more and more people think an upgrade is just a ploy to make money without providing much or anything?

That conclusion could be why upgrades like the new Microsoft Windows 8 is not getting very much enthusiasm. But it could be a lot of other ideas, concerns and people do get tired of old habits. I remember during my youth each fall the big thing was to visit all the car dealers to kick the tires on all the new auto models. It was an expected unofficial holiday and almost every auto brand complied with new models every year and always in the fall. But these days trading in a year old car for a new one when the leaves turned color is a forgotten habit half the current population never knew. Now it is the realm of high-tech products. Currently the more fashionable thing to show off is your new laptop computer, it just lacks the excitement of everything chrome with finned rear fenders. And sadly the office crowd is blase about almost everything, thanks to IT managers who like nothing better than saying no, or was it the politicians that took over that world.

Anyway, upgrades maybe don’t deserve cynicism. The computer operating systems are just trying to keep up with the kids and their newest gizmos. Smart phones and tablets also have operating systems, so it has made practical business sense to incorporate the new device systems with what runs a personal computer. The short side of that is these new operating system upgrades do not run all the older software or have support for older hardware accessories like film scanners. Oh yes, there are workarounds, but a lot of computer users are just sitting tight and running their old system like Windows XP; and that includes many corporations. In fact Apple OS10.6.8 is becoming much like Windows XP in the hearts of users. But then you can’t buy new hardware like the latest Apple Mac or PC laptop and have it delivered with an older operating system, in many cases the new machinery will not run except with the latest software. More work-arounds, maybe and maybe not.

So has high technology created its own Catch 22 for itself? Yes if the companies like Apple, Adobe and Microsoft ignore the data indicating fewer and fewer people are choosing to upgrade. Of course some of the drag is just a kind of satisfaction in getting along with what one has, and a good part of that is that comfort comes with familiarity and there is an innate fear of having to learn new ways to do things - unless there is a very good reason to change. But as more and more computers have improved reliability, product failure is less of an incentive to invest in the newest system or to upgrade the operating software.

All this would be helped a lot if forced obsolescence was avoided in the process of upgrading. So why don’t companies that upgrade make a priority list of what helps not just them and their business, but what helps people. One solution is to make newer systems backwards compatible. This is built into CD/DVD disc design - my oldest music CD’s play well using almost any kind of disc drive in the newest devices. But of course Apple believes disc drives are no longer necessary, so it leaves them out of their newest computers - but fortunately you can add a disc drive externally connected to an Apple Mac. So as long as there is a readily accessible alternative you can hang onto the old, familiar and often essential ways to get things done.

I just wish this was taken all the way so all of your established tools and techniques can be preserved. For instance if you have an old Mac that is worn out you can get a new one and easily transfer all of the data on the old Mac onto the new one quite easily. Unfortunately if some of those goodies don’t work with the new one you are left hanging in an empty world. So why not also allow copying the old system too, and provide a way to run it virtually in the new one????? In a way this has been done by software companies like Parallels systems, which allows Microsoft Windows operating systems to run in virtual mode on an Apple Mac. But sadly neither Apple’s Boot Camp or Parallels allows running Apple’s 10.6 operating system virtually on a newer Mac that runs OS 10.7 or 10.8. 

This makes me reluctant and not inclined to buy a new Mac, because I have one relatively recent Mac mini with OS 10.7 and it won’t run all of my older scanners or the software I prefer to do my work. So this almost new Mac mini  gets used very little, and that pisses me off with Apple enough to not even think about buying a new toy. And that Apple has provided the joy in my life. I am not just into having things, but I get irritated when anyone gets in the way of my doing the work I most enjoy. So, Apple, Adobe, Microsoft et al when are you going to begin thinking more about the consequences of upgrades and that to some of us they are really downgrades!

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