Kindle Vs. Books

Amazon Kindle

In the article “Kindle Vs. Books: The Dead Trees Society” by Sara Barbour, the author expresses her reluctance to switch to an e-reader, even when one was offered to her as a gift, free of charge. The reason for this is not due to usability issues, or lack of features; in fact she mentions she’s never even tried one. It seems to be a romantic resistance to a world where books are more readily available in a digital format, rather than the tried and true “dead tree” medium.

Temptation

On the other hand, she goes on to opine that she just “doesn’t want to be tempted” with the prospect of carrying around several books at a time on the airplane or at the coffee shop. To me, this idea makes no sense; to deprive yourself of something because you might find it more convenient than the alternative seems a bit crazy.

She goes on to explain that paper books have a personality; they can be signedOld Book by an author, and develop signs of wear and tear as they are opened and enjoyed time and time again. This is absolutely true, and I don’t disagree as I have my own vast collection of titles with dog-eared pages and well-worked spines. And like the author, I’m also concerned about the environment, and have many titles on my shelf that I’ve read only once and never picked up again. How many trees could have been spared if I had read that text in a digital format?

The Best of Both Worlds

To my mind, this is not a matter of choosing one or the other.

Traditional books will be a part of our culture for many years to come. Some people will always prefer to read off of paper, and many authors find the relationship with their pen or typewriter provides a different kind of connection than when they sit down at their keyboard. Personally, I think the two mediums compliment each other; I will often scribble ideas in my classic Moleskine notebook as the inspiration hits me, annotating and doodling as I go along. Eventually, these ideas will become documents, blog posts, or entire websites.

Oliver Twist

If anything, in a dystopian future where the traditional book is rare, the value of quality binding and typesetting should be even more appreciated. For example, a single copy of a first-edition printing of Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens is currently available on Ebay for approximately $4,403 Canadian dollars. Serious book-collectors are a passionate bunch, and will clearly go to great lengths to keep the written word alive.

Conclusion

Just as I can now carry dozens of full-length music albums in my pocket (on my iPod), I look forward to having hundreds of books at my immediate disposal. The printed word has indeed changed the course of human history, and it will continue to do so for many years to come.

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Mac Vs. PC

Most of my life, I’ve been a PC guy. As a kid, I learned how to read floppy disks to find my favourite games from the command prompt.

After the days of DOS were over, I moved to Windows 3.1 and all the good things that came with it – like Solitaire and Minesweeper. Once I knew the ins and outs of the operating system, I started to learn about the system itself.

Hard Wear

One of the arguments often lobbed at PCs by Mac users is that they’re too complicated. A Mac, they say, “just works” inside an attractively designed case. I would argue that one can learn an awful lot about how computers (Mac or PC) work by opening up the case and poking around a bit. Hard drives, CPUs, chips and switches are essential no matter what software you’re running on top of them.

I can proudly say that on several occasions, I’ve been able to cobble together a collection of spare parts and actually build a Frankenstein PC out of them.

Here are the basic ingredients you need to construct a working computer:

  • Hard Drive
  • Motherboard
  • CPU
  • RAM (Memory)
  • Operating System (Usually a bootable Windows CD)
  • Display (a screen of some kind)

These zombie boxes almost never started on the first try; I’d have to open it back up again and troubleshoot it to figure out what went wrong. But the satisfaction I got when I actually saw something on the screen was incredible; and little did I know I was gaining valuable experience in Desktop Support, a field I would end up working in for several years.

The Times, They Are A-Changin

The late, great Steve Jobs may end up having more of an impact on computing than his friend and competitor, Bill Gates. Gates made billions getting Windows into homes, schools, and workplaces. Apple Computer, for a time, looked like it was going to be left behind. Then Jobs came along and redesigned the company to be hip and portable.

The first MP3 player I ever had was called an iRiver. A 32 megabyte hard drive was considered decent at the time, 64 being ideal but significantly more expensive. Then iPods came along and blew the iRiver, along with Creative’s Zen and Microsoft’s Zune right out of the water. Sleek design and a simple interface your grandma could learn made people completely reconsider their expectations of computers and peripherals.

My Phone? iPhone.

Those early models of iPod eventually became iPod Touches, which quickly evolved into iPhones and iPads. I’ve owned a variety of different cell phones; a Nokia, two Motorolas, and a Sony-Ericsson. All of these phones eventually suffered from stuck buttons or unreliable software.

Just last week I finally caved and got an iPhone 4 – A few buttons on the outside, and everything else is touchscreen. Simple, elegant, but also efficient and versatile. The blank canvas provided by the high-resolution touch screen means that application developers can place buttons wherever they want.

Conclusion

In closing, I learned a heck of a lot about computers from building them from the ground up. It was cheaper and more fun than just buying something off the shelf. However, after several years working in Desktop Support and recently switching to an iPhone, I have to admit – I’m a fan any device that “just works.”