It’s a good time to be a computer junkie, the little stuff

Since my last blog post, I’ve received both my iPhone XS Max (I will ALWAYS hate the name) and my Apple Watch Series 4.  The iPhone is a great upgrade from the 7, and the watch is very interesting.  But, that’s not what I am going to write about today, lol.

I mentioned in my last post that it was a great time to be a computer junkie, and I talked about all the big stuff, the phones, the tablets, the computers, the development.  One thing I didn’t mention was the ‘little things’.

What are the ‘little things’?  These are the things that make the everything ‘just work’.  Things aren’t perfect, but the improvements are astounding.

First thing is the hardware that is totally awesome… The current Apple Magic Mouse and the Apple wireless keyboard with the number pad.  I use both of these extensively, and they are great.  Both are rechargeable, so there’s no buying of batteries, and the charges seem to last forever.  I was worried about the keyboard, as there are times when you need to get to the computer without Bluetooth, but it turns out that the charging cable can be plugged into the computer, and it functions as a regular USB keyboard.  The Magic Mouse just works.  A friend of mine has a Bluetooth mouse, and it drops the connection like crazy, and it’s new!

For the software, setting up a new device with Apple is as easy as holding the two devices near each other.  New phone?  Hold them near each other, then choose the backup to restore from, you’re basically done!  It’s those types of details that the new software is getting much better at.

The little things really help!

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It’s a good time to be in computers (Apple and Microsoft are finally building what *I* want!)

I’ve been working with computers for more than 30 years (I started *very* young!) and the computer eco system has never, ever been better.  Up until recently, I truly thought the best, most fun years where when I was young, hacking away at a Commodore 64, and understanding every little bit of what it could do, and still always being blown away with what other people were doing (I’m still amazed at the computer game Elite on the Commodore 64)

But, with the recent releases by Apple and Microsoft, I can’t think of a better time to be a computer junkie.  Both companies are finally building the things that I’ve always wanted…

Let’s start with Apple

With the release of the latest iPhones and Apple Watch, the wireless hardware side of Apple is hard to imagine getting better.  The iPhone is amazing.  From what I’ve read, the camera is top notch.  A friend of mine recently let me use her DSLR, and the photos were amazing.  My iPhone 7’s camera all of a sudden felt like crap.  The iPhone XS seems to have fixed that situation.  From what I’ve read of the initial reviews of the XS, the camera improvements bring the photography to another level.  I’m hoping that my photos get better with the new phone, lol.  The Apple watch finally seems to be useful, with the LTE from the 3rd generation plus the bigger screen and 64-bit of the 4 finally making it something more than a novelty.  I’ve ordered both the iPhone and the Watch, and look forward to using them extensively.  Another aspect of the wireless side of Apple that has been impressive is the AirPods.  I cannot imagine living without them.  Finally, the iPad is my defacto computer.  I use my iPad for everything except programming and mixing, and it does actually help me with mixing 🙂  I’m really looking forward to the rumored new iPads, but even the current one is more than I really need.

The computer side of Apple is doing very well, too.  The latest MacBook Pro, with 6 cores, is exactly what I would want.  The biggest drawback to any notebook is expandability, and with Thunderbolt 3, Apple has really solved that problem.  Apple also invested big in getting external graphics cards to work the way one would want in macOS Mojave.  Having the eGPUs work is huge, as the iMac and the notebooks aren’t as ‘hardware limited’ as they used to be.  The current iMac has some of the best screens out there, and rumored iMac update will have the 6 core processors.  The iMac Pro is exactly what I would want from a computer.  I’m really looking forward to the Mac Mini and Mac Pro updates, but they no longer are what I would ‘have to have’, like I did with the original Mac Pro.

For Microsoft, things are good, too.

Microsoft’s software has grown in leaps and bounds in the last several years.  Steve Ballmer leaving Microsoft was one of the best things to ever happen to the company, at least from a developer’s point of view.  Microsoft embracing cross platform with Linux, Git, and .NET Core has been amazing.  Buying Xamarin, and incorporating it into Visual Studio has enabled easier cross platform development.  Windows 10 is a great operating system.

It’s a good time to be a computer junkie…

Wow… talk about some surprises from Microsoft

Well… Build 2016 certainly started out with a bang…  For some reason Microsoft is having a complete love affair with Linux.  Between buying Xamarin, SQL Server for Linux, and today’s announcement that bash will be native in Windows 10.  Oh, let’s not forget that .NET for Linux/Mac and ASP.NET for Linux/Mac are real things, too, and fairly close to shipping.

“Wow, this is great!”, you say.  On the initial announcement, yeah, this seems like a great idea, something developers have been clamoring for for YEARS.  No more Cygwin, no more crazy emulators, native everything Linux on a Windows box!

But, as Charles Dickens wrote in the tale of two cities, ‘It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”

After getting over my initial giddiness of these VERY cool announcements, the question that came to mind is ‘WHY!?!?’  Why is Microsoft doing this?  This isn’t just a ‘hey, lets do some cool experiments to get developers back’.  These are very serious investments that are not being done on a lark.

First off, the Linux love affair seems to have started with Satya Nadella.  I think under Steve Balmer, the words Linux, Unix, and OS X (and iOS) were banned.  Microsoft had not successfully done cross platform software since the early days of Excel for the Mac, and porting it to Windows.  Windows for Alpha, and Windows for Itanium never took off.  Office for Mac was a red-headed step child.  Heck, even getting Windows Mobile to run on the phones proved to be a huge challenge.

Since Mr. Nadella took charge, Linux has not only been unbanned, but it has completely been embraced.  It started with the Mac and either Silverlight or Office.  Since OS X is based upon BSD Unix, Microsoft had to come up with tools to allow them to develop for the Mac.  Microsoft started out slow, but lately, they have been able to bring a pretty good parity to Office for the Mac.  In doing so, they have build up some better understanding of developing for Unix, and are now applying that to Linux.

The one thing that worries me is that Microsoft seems to be developing somewhat of an inferiority complex.  Microsoft under Bill Gates and Steve Balmer would have always been ‘we think ours is better, deal with it’.  They would be almost as arrogant as Steve Jobs.  The new Microsoft is almost apologetic.  ‘Hey, we want to be where the cool stuff is, and we realize our stuff isn’t cool’.  Which is sad, considering that the latest Visual Studio is awesome, Powershell is cool, and Windows 10 is probably the best OS they’ve ever done.

Am I excited by what Microsoft is producing?  Sure!  I love the fact that my skill set will start to be more cross-platform.  I just want to know ‘why’.  Yes, I understand this will help Azure, and that is where the future of Microsoft probably is.  But, this seems like a LOT of resources are being poured into this Linux initiative, and there doesn’t seem like a way that Microsoft will make money.  Microsoft is not Google, where they only play with cool.

 

Thoughts on Microsoft…

I’m an Apple fanboi.  I love how I have very little trouble with my hardware and software integration.  But… I make my living as a .NET (C# & VB) developer.  So, I like to at least TRY to keep up with Microsoft…  And there’s a LOT to keep up with, and lately, they have been very good!

Over the summer Microsoft launched both Visual Studio 2015 and Windows 10.  To the tech industry, these have both been very bold steps.  Windows 10 has been build one the concept of ‘update often’.  Microsoft is seeding updates to Windows 10 to the testing community almost every other week.  And yes, it needs it, but that’s because Microsoft is trying something very different.  They are actually listening to their customers and trying to address concerns as quickly as possible.  It is refreshing.  Windows 10 does have some issues, but they seem to be getting better with each iteration.  As an end user, I’ve been VERY thrilled at how Window 10 is doing, and it makes me happy to be a .NET developer.  The Visual Studio IDE is awesome, and having a OS that helps rather than hinders is great.

Microsoft ALSO had a hardware announcement recently.  From all appearances, Microsoft is finally tired of waiting for a partner to step up and create interesting, innovative hardware.  Microsoft has finally decided to follow Apple in creating both the hardware and the software.  The latest Windows Phones, Surface Pro 4, and the new Surface Book are all great products that I hope do well.  Yes, they are much higher on the cost scale than most ‘normal’ Windows boxes, but, in my opinion, I think that they NEED to be.  We, as consumers, want everything to be free or cheap.  Unfortunately, if a company does not make money, there’s no way to provide a product and/or support.  That’s one of the things with cheap hardware is that there’s usually no one to support it.  I love the fact that Microsoft IS charging more.  I’d gladly recommend a Surface Pro to someone needing a Windows tablet.  Heck, I may even pick one up for myself!

I think Microsoft is definitely on the right track, after floundering for the last 7 or 8 years.  Hopefully, they will continue to improve!