Author Archives: Thomas Purves

Things to be afraid of: like Canada’s upcoming copyright bill

hiena

Canada hasn’t updated the copyright act in many years. Not for lack of trying. But it so happens that various amendments of varying quality by various governments have died on the order books in the course of various elections. In fact Canada has not yet acted on the US-led WIPO anti-piracy treaty (complete with DRM protection measures) we technically signed on to back in 1998.

In this long gap of “lawlessness” in Canadian copyright a few important things have not happened. Canadian film, tv, music, game and art creators have not closed up shop or fled the country en masse. Canadian artists have not stopped churning out prodigious volumes of fantastic indie music, literature and all kinds of screen-based entertainment. The Canadian economy and Canada geographically has not cracked in half, imploded and fallen into the ocean. In fact Canada has done pretty well.

We’ll see what happens next week. From the Post via Michael Geist:

All signals suggest Heritage Minister James Moore has triumphed over the objections of Industry Minister Tony Clement, setting up Canada to march in excessively protected lockstep with a United States that boasts the toughest laws against pirated music or movies on the planet.

It may well be a legal constraint that’s impossible to enforce, but the rumble out of the PMO suggests the new law will ignore the extensive public consultations that advocated a go-easy take on copying of CDs and DVDs in favour of robust anti-consumer limits on transferring or sharing content. If this comes to pass, the federal government will be headed for a very bad week when the House of Commons reconvenes on Tuesday.

The timing is conspicuous. One wonders if Harper is selling out Canadians to the US on digital rights to gain political capital going in to next month’s G20. We shall see.

Will Tablet Computers Save Us From Vampires?

vampires

I don’t know what to say about the state of publishing anymore except to tell you that Penguin sent me (I’m on their blogger list) a list of 10 of their hottest titles for summer 2010. 40% of which concern Vampires.

Blood Oath (Christopher Farnsworth, May 2010, HC): The ultimate secret. The ultimate agent. The President’s vampire. Zach Barrows is an ambitious young White House staffer whose career takes an unexpected turn when he’s partnered with Nathaniel Cade, a secret agent sworn to protect the President. But Cade is no ordinary civil servant. Bound by a special blood oath, he is a vampire.

I can’t make this stuff up. Though if I had, it sounds like I might have landed a sweet advance out of Penguin.

So of 40% vampires. I don’t know what’s worse. the thought that A) packing the shelves with bodice-rippers and vampire tales is what’s what’s left to keep the major publishing houses afloat. or B) while we still live in a world of mostly-print distribution, that publishers remain the last of the gatekeepers between us and the multitudes of apparently less publishable works that we know flood the industry’s slushpile every year.

So the perennial question is will tablets and ebooks save the publishing industry? or save us from the publishing industry depending on your point of view?

Ebook readers have yet to set the world on fire. I think it has something to do with static, unconnected, essentially-lifeless pdf-type electronic books read from expensive, low-contrast screens, that need charging… are not quite enough of a delta from the regular printed word to bring that much value.

But the iPad experience starts to change that, From Xeni’s review:

Remember The Periodic Table of Elements series of books we featured here at Boing Boing? There’s an iPad version ($13.99 in the app store, screenshots here), and it’s dazzling — it makes science feel like magic in your hands. I called the guy behind The Elements, Theo Gray, and asked him to put into words the UI magic that iPad makes possible for creators of books, games, news, and productivity tools.

“The Elements on iPad is not a game, not an app, not a TV show. It’s a book. But it’s Harry Potter’s book. This is the version you check out from the Hogwarts library. Everything in it is alive in some way.”

Indeed, the elements in this periodic table seem very much alive. The obvious way to examine static objects — say, a lump of gold (number 79) or an ingot of cast antimony (number 51) is to rotate them, to spin the specimen with your fingertips. And that’s exactly what you do here.

Book reading as a passtime has been under ruthless assault in recent decades by all manner of shiny distractions of the digital age. So any new mass-adopted gadgets that also has the possibility to re-invent books has got to be helpful, and a sign of hope for bibliophiles.

And I like this idea that books have the opportunity to evolve into a whole new medium. This animated, live updating, “harry potter-esque” magicification books would be great for all kinds of categories like: reference books, cookbooks, travel books…

But not so much fiction or literature. I don’t know yet if the iPad will save us from Vampires.

Eye-control headphones clearly the best invention of Mobile World Congress

Docomo's crazy eye control headphones

Leave it to the Japanese. I’ve speculated before about what kind of creative sensors you could load in to a mobile device. How about headphones that pick up the tiny electrical impulses emitted by your facial muscles when you move your eyes?

Here is a live demo of a Docomo volunteer controlling a cell phone music player with “eye gestures”. Look right twice to fast forward, roll your eyes clockwise to increase volume. Perhaps inadvertently totally shuffle your music collection if two unusually pretty girls/boys happen to walk by in opposite directions…

Above this man’s left shoulder you can see a line showing the live eye-tracking direction as well as a few of the gestures.

So perhaps you yourself will not want to ever look [literally] this ridiculous in public. Nonetheless it appears that creativity is well alive in new mobile interaction possibilities.

Why and how to ditch your slow-ass hard drive for an SSD

The setup:

SSD upgrade

Putting it to the test:

The Results:

boot time

SSD are the single best upgrade you can give your computer. This one a Runcore device is even compatible with older 1.8″ PATA drive systems found in common ultra portables like my Dell D430 or the Macbook Air. Remember when Apple was trying to sell SSD upgrades for $900? This particular 64GB model is faster than Apple’s fist-gen Samsung SSDs and cost only $250 on ebay at time of writing. Took about 20min to physically install (the SSD even came with a USB adapter, external case and software to mirror your existing drive, easy!).

Boot times are 54% faster and everything about the computer is much much snappier. Waking up and hibernating the computer just takes seconds. Plus there’s now no fragile spinning disks to break down and steal all my data.

SSDs are the future. Recommended.

Why it’s Google that needs a Twitter too, more than twitterers need some new g-twitteroo

ear head

So what’s the deal with this new Google buzz thing.

Google’s core premise is the googlerank, that uncanny linking metric that derives all its notions of web page authority from what other pages and links of authority link to such pages. But, these days, with 90% at best of pages and links on the world wild web being churned out by spammers and search engine scammers, google needs more sources of organic and authentic web sharing behaviour. It’s getting harder and harder to hear the signal through the noise.

By not owning a twitter, Google is missing out on having visibility or being able to track and index a huge part of modern web. That huge part is the so-called “real-time web”, formerly knows as social presence. Basically all those status updates and link sharing that twitter has become the killer app for.

Google must be craving their own twitter just to be able to see and track all the links that real actual humans are sharing with each other and what real humans are talking about and finding interesting. They need this badly for their search results and their ad targeting. And even better to have such a source whose data they don’t have to share with Microsoft.

Thats google’s eminent reason anyway. What’s the rest-of-our’s reason for using buzz over twitter or fb? Who knows yet.

Aside: perhaps first thing twitter could do to defend against buzz? Publish a twitter interface that resolves and thumbnails web links, pics and videos inline with the twitter stream. Or maybe that would be sacrilege.

Forget the SuperBowl, the America’s Cup is on

bmo new 540
alinghi

Tonight, right now is the eve of the 33rd America’s Cup. Now two years late, this race is a culmination of 2 years of legal battles between Larry Ellison and Ernesto Bertarelli over the rules, venue, boats and every other aspect you can imagine. What it’s resulted in however is something spectacular for sailing and engineering nerds. What should have been a long contest between 20 countries match racing by elimination in 20 boats, is instead only a two boat race, 3 races only with the only rules becoming a sailing boat, 90 feet long, no limit on budget.

And what we have are two monsters BMW Oracle‘s solid wing sail trimaran, and Alighi‘s giant wave piercing catamaran. These boats were built at a cost of 500 million dollars to race for one week.

No one’s ever match raced boats this huge and fast before. These boats may go 40 knots downwind. No one knows what’s going to happen, all the ordinary match racing tactics go out the window. The boats are different enough that it could be a blow-out or a blow-up, gear failure is not unlikely.

There is no television coverage of the Americas Cup in North America, but there are plenty of places to watch the coverage online.

Throughout the week, also have an eye on the epic sailing blog Sailing Anarchy

Either way, first gun is at 10am Valencia time or 4am EST (ouch) on Monday, race two is on Wednesday, race three on Friday. We’re going to be brewing strong coffee and putting up the race on the big screen right at 4am, you know if you’re in the neighbourhood.

Got your ticket yet for PowerPoint Karaoke? [updated]

pptkto2

This Friday, my good friend Jay Goldman and I are organizing Toronto’s first PowerPoint Karaoke event. It’s going to be awesome. From the official description:

The Stage is Yours, the Slides Aren’t

PowerPoint Karaoke brings presentations from the conference room to the karaoke stage in an entertaining and competitive event. In PowerPoint Karaoke, contestants deliver PowerPoint presentations in a karaoke-styled venue. But there’s a twist: Presenters see the randomly chosen slides for the first time when they’re presenting. Presentations are on the clock and off the cuff.

PowerPoint Karaoke was invented in 2005 when a group of German artists combined Schadenfreude with Stagenfrighte to create an underground sensation that has since swept the world.

For your entertainment, 8 fearless speakers will be pitting their wits against decks of diabolically out of context slideware to tell you about important topics of our times. Presentations are 5 min each. We’ll have two heats of 4 presentations with the winners facing off for a final showdown. There may be fabulous prizes like a free beer (they’ll need it) or an ironic trophy. At least that is the plan so far.

This event is happening as culmination of the Toronto’s Participation in World Socical Media Week. We’ll also be pooling revenues from this event with the (sold out) CaseCamp Toronto this week for donation to Sick Kids Hospital (details).

After the tweets were out the bag last week, PowerPoint Karaoke is now almost sold-out as well. But I just put up another block of free tickets, well “free” with a $25 or more donation to sick kids.

LINK:Get your tickets for PowerPoint Karaoke Toronto here

UPDATE 1
PowerPoint Karaoke is SOLD OUT. And so far, you have raised $800 for the CaseCamp Sick Kids CCU Project – you guys rock!

UPDATE 2

Thanks to the awesome folks at Microsoft Office Canada ( @MSOfficeCanada on twitter) and to Crumpler.ca for donating the grand prizes for tonight’s event.

Here is the presenter lineup. Doors open at 8, presentations at 8:30pm sharp:

Heat 1	
Bretton	MacLean
Rachael	Segal
Satish	Kanwar
Alain	Lepofsky 
	
Heat 2	
Liz	Radzick
Misha 	Glouberman
JonathanLaba
Saul 	Colt

Finals:
?? vs ??

In Which Tom attempts to bond two DSL lines into single home internet pipe of great power like Voltron

voltron diagram

It really only did take about nine minutes to actually set up. Two DSL lines, one internet connection. Not counting a few later hours of mild swearing and voodoo rituals to get it to work right on all the computers in the house. And not counting the few days it took for the Bell tech to setup the extra line, and the indefinite project to figure out how to tidy up all those boxes and wires. But it works! and it’s not that hard.

The goal was this, how to turn two regular off-brand 5MBit down/0.8MBit up DSL connections into one single 10/1.6MB super-pipe using a trick called multi-linkPPP (MLPPP).

There are a few side-effects of using MLPPP, the one being that Bell (who provides the last mile for all indie-ISPs) cannot, for some obscure technical reason, throttle, inspect, cap, “traffic shape” or otherwise abuse packets sent over MLPPP.

Monthly bandwidth caps are another tool the major ISP’s use to manage the dangerous risk of network congestion competition with their other digital services or lines of business. With dual Teksavvy connections I’ve discovered I now have silly-high (400GB) monthly bandwith cap. Not sure even what to do with that, but maybe I’ll think of something entertaining.

One last relevant side effect to mention is that with this setup your monthly bill gets doubled too. Combined with the requirement for two phone lines, two DSL lines and a customized router, you might think hey, that’s a pretty crazy way to try and keep up with Moore’s law. You’d right. By some accounts, Teksavvy is the only “major” ISP on the planet to offer MLPPP. It’s also a sad story to go through such trouble for a 10MB connection when Bell/Rogers are technically capable of easily providing a much faster connection through a single account. And lets ignore that 10MB is only 10% of the speed of the every day and generally dirt-cheap broadband you’d find places like Sweden, Japan or Korea.

The jury is very much out on whether, for practical purposes, a 10Mbit Voltron connection from Teksavvy is really better than a 16 or 20 MBit “ultra” offering from Bell or Rogers. It’s certainly no cheaper (each Teksavvy line is about $37/month). But pay no attention to creeping thoughts of rationality, the important thing is, it’s twice as fast as what you had before!

Besides, if you want the fastest pipe you can get from a friendly indie ISP, whether for practical or philosophical reasons, you just have to buy more than one. Crude and amazingly inefficient as that may be. But also kinda fun.

Because it’s hard to find elsewhere on the web, here are all the step-by-step instructions.

1. Call Teksavvy, tell them you want to order not one but two DSL lines and ask them to enable something called “MLPPP” on one of the lines. They will know what you are talking about. It doesn’t matter which line has MLPPP enabled, but it will charge you an extra $4/month on that line.

2. While waiting for your DSL to be set up, head to the store to pick worlds most hackable router, the venerable Linksys WRT54GL. You will have to flash the router’s bios. For those unfamiliar, this is a lot easier than it sounds, it is literally a one click procedure to effectively replace the routers operating system with this much better one that also supports MLPPP. If only upgrading the OS on regular computers were so easy. Or if this still terrifies you, you can buy a pre-configured WRT54GL straight from Teksavvy.

3. When the Bell tech comes to your house to provision your DSL, beg, bribe or if necessary pay ($100 is the official rate) the tech to replace one of your regular jacks with a two-line phone jack, if you don’t have such a thing already (and so you can plug in your two DSL routers conveniently side by side). Or if you are particularly handy, do the wiring yourself in advance.

4. Watch guspaz’s awesome youtube video on how to setup up bonded multilink (MLPP) DSL connection in 9 minutes or less:

5. If anything doesn’t work straight away, I can recommend gradual elevating levels of swearing and pejorative gesticulations. Of course while doing this, you might also quietly double-check that all the cables are actually plugged in, and securely plugged in, to where you think are plugged in. (a combination of these two approaches seemed to work for me)

Alternate setups:

Another ISP Acanac claims to be supporting MLPPP soon. If that qualified for their excellent $18/mo for 1 year plan, that would make dual connections pretty affordable.

Here is another asus router they say works if you want to try it.

Alternative energy thought of the day

energy

Deep thought of the day: Say you were feeling green. Or lets say you’re just stuck with an unwieldy hydro bill every year and having exhausted any easy options for saving energy, you’re looking for other ways to offset what you draw from the grid. Why go to the trouble of putting solar panels on your roof if you were able to invest a comparable amount in some distant large-scale (and lets assume more efficient) alternative energy project, and use those dividends to subsidize your own electricity bill?

Who wants to start a fundable or CommunityLend social lending platform for such projects? Does that exist? or what would be the practical, regulatory or taxation considerations required to make that make sense?

Some jurisdictions (like Ontario) have promised some massive long term subsidies on feed-in rates for alternative energy. While there are a lot of projects underway, my friends in the industry tell me that, unlike in Europe, it is still challenging to find institutional financing in North America despite the revenue-side guarantees. A lot of home or condo owners might well enjoy both the income and warm&fuzzies of “owning” their own personal solar/wind/etc. project but don’t have the ability, roofspace, or ability to do it on their own.

img source: weekly vector/Shepard Fairey

The new economics of music publishing

nobodies

My good friend Graeme recently started a new band with a bunch of his more musically talented friends called the Nobodies. Caught them live last night and they’re pretty awesome. The nobodies just had their first CD professionally produced and mixed.

The great thing, Graeme tells me, about starting a band with seven people in it, is that it’s a lot better deal to produce and put out an album. You can split the whole cost of it seven ways.

Things you can learn from Google on how to redesign your industry for the web

Have you ever heard Google’s [VP of Product Design] Marissa Mayer talk about product design? Great stuff. From a recent interview with Michael Arrington at this year’s Le Web. Pay attention to this question (about 12min in) about google news and redesigning journalism.

If we invented news today as a delivery channel for journalism, through the web from scratch, what would that look like? and we like to ask questions like that, what would [ a product google wave, google news] look like if you invented it from scratch for the web. I think it would look very different.

Of course this the right question to be asking. Asking this question is how google manages to disruptively up-end industry after industry on the web with products that are actually pretty simple but work just-right for the web. But so often we don’t.

In the real world it’s not what I hear often enough from companies or industries looking to make the jump to the web, or to social media, to mobile or [insert disruptive new channel of moment here].

What I hear most often is, how can we take all our existing business model and dump ourselves unceremoniously on this channel. Or, lets think of how we keep on doing what were doing but sprinkle some of that magic web/mobile/social pixie dust on things and call it a day.

Which is fine, I suppose, if you want a quick win you can sell your boss today, and if you don’t mind if google/amzon/apple/netflix/some startup/file sharing/the-web-in-general might completely blows up your whole industry sometime tomorrow afternoon.

But if you don’t want to get steamrolled, what Marissa is asking you to think about, and really think hard about is this:

Ask not how your business fits on the web, ask instead, if your business were really made for the web, what business would you be in?

And a moment later gem:

I basically think whenever a media changes over to a new delivery vehicle, it puts pressure on the atomic unit of consumption. It happened with iTunes with the album moving to the song. It happened with YouTube with long-form standards of video to short-form. Now it’s happening with news. People can come in and read one story from the source and then move on. That’s the atomic unit.

When music went to a web there was much consternation that people would buy singles instead of albums. When newspapers go to the web editors are shocked that surfers want to read articles, not sections, not whole bundles of sections.

But this is a great insight. When the medium changes so does the atomic unit of consumption. There are certain economies of scope and scale when bundling a whole bunch of more/less unrelated newspaper sections into one printed package, delivered with one swing of the arm of the paper boy. And from a demand perspective, there’s effective cross correlation of demand, someone in the household will buy the weekend paper for the sports, someone else for the style section. In the totally personalized digital world, that kind of paper-world content-bundling doesn’t make any sense.

When it comes to a new medium you can either let these behaviour changes surprise you, or think of how to take advantage.

For example, atomicity can work both ways. I could see a shift of atomic unit (book) to a bundle (this book and others by this same author) being a win for e-book publishing. When you don’t have to print it, and when shelf space isn’t limited why not generate all sorts of bundle offers. Chances are if I want to read an author, I might want to read all of that author’s books. In the digital space, a publisher that does this really well is Valve the video game publisher. Their orange box being a famous and spectacularly successful example of bundling a hot current title for, just a little bit more, a whole pile of new and old content from the archives. When it’s all digital, it can be just as easy carry home an armload as a single item from the store.

Tom’s End of 2009 indie music mix

Nuit Blanche

Just under the wire for 2009, I bring you my last of my 2009 music mixes. As always, this is a sort of autobiographical best-of mix featuring the songs that made the biggest rotation in my itunes since the last 6 months or so when I last published a mix. Some great tunes on here. But not only that, this mix also features redoubtably one the best lyrics of the year “back up – because the laser beam gets so hot”. Who hasn’t always wanted to say that?

Pictured here Air Heart performing at the Gladstone Nuit Blanche 2009. One MC, one DJ and one PS2 voice-amp controller.

Track listing:

1 Port Royal the photoshopped prince
2 You Say Party! We Say Die! Glory
3 Airheart Mr. Lonely
4 fun. All The Pretty Girls
5 The xx Crystalised
6 The Dutchess And The Duke Hands
7 Fresh Espresso The Lazer Beams
8 Washed Out New Theory
9 Hooray for Earth Comfortable, Comparable
10 Memory Tapes Bicycle
11 Headless Heroes North Wind Blew South
12 Taken By Trees To Lose Someone
13 ZAZA Sooner or Later
14 The xx Islands
15 fun. Be Calm
16 Lightning Dust Never Seen
17 You Say Party! We Say Die! Heart of Gold

 
Note, I downmixed these mp3s slightly to save on file/bandwidth size. If you like em, you should go support the artists by buying the originals in their full glory from itunes/emusic/band-website etc.

but meanwhile, enjoy!

DOWNLOAD as one big-ass zip file of individual files
DOWNLOAD as one single 84 minute mixed-together-fancy mp3 file

This post made possible by: itunes, winamp, emusic, last.fm, mixmeister fusion, cool edit, textpad, notepad, google spreadsheets, filezilla, photoshop, firefox and microsoft windows7

Fax machines, and PDFs, kicking off the deadmedia watch for 2010

fax-smash

The fax machine was obsolete 15 years ago. When someone says “fax it to me,” I always feel like I’m being punk’d. A fax machine is nothing more than a printer, scanner and an obsolete analog mode that work together to waste time, money, paper and electricity. Documents that are faxed usually start out in digital format. So, to send a digital document digitally, it must be converted into a paper format. You insert the document, and the fax machine scans it back into a digital format. It then uses an analog modem from 1993 to convert the digital image into sounds!

LINK: Mike Elgan: 10 obsolete technologies to kill in 2010 – Make the world a better place. Just say no to dumb tech.

When an old media that fade away, sometimes we miss it’s old flavours, it’s eccentricities. Sometimes we don’t. I’m not going to miss fax machines. Frustrating, stupid machines from day one I’d argue. And if there’s (slightly) newer media that fax machines most remind me of it’s gotta be PDF. Damn PDFs are annoying. Take a perfectly good digital document, convert it into a clumsy, uneditable, super-slow to render and a painful to read on a digital screen format just so it can look like a printed page. PDFs are a great way to take all the disadvantages of a printed page (like arbitrary page sizes and header and footer margins between every page of content), almost none of the advantages (like the adequate visible resolution for reading the damn thing) and perpetuating them forever in the digital age. Worst of all, you can’t even take a PDF out back and cathartically beat it down office-space style in the back alley if it’s really getting you down.

Damn you adobe.

photocredits: “analog_chainsaw” on flickr

It’s back! the 2009 Indie-punk-ass Christmas Mix

nancy-and-T

Long time readers will know what time of year it is. It’s indie-punk-ass music mix time of the year on thomaspurves.com!

Here you go kids, this year’s 2009 compilation. Enjoy =)

01 Stars Fairytale Of New York
02 Barenaked Ladies God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen
03 Sufjan Stevens Get Behind Me, Santa!
04 Ramones Merry Christmas
05 No doubt Oi to the World
06 sex pistols 12 days of christmas punk
07 the vandals A gun for christmas
08 Eels everything s gonna be cool this christmas
09 Twisted Sister Oh Come All Ye Faithful
10 The Raveonettes The Christmas Song
11 the knife Reindeer
12 bright eyes little drummer boy
13 Saturday Looks Good To Me Christmas Blues
14 Rufus Wainwright Spotlight on Christmas
15 Casiotone for the painfully alone cold white christmas
16 Sufjan Stevens O Holy Night
17 Aimee Mann God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen
18 The pippettes white christmas
19 the go team the ice storm
20 The Bicycles It’s A Magic Christmas new for 2009
21 Bob Dylan It must be Santa new for 2009
22 Pogues Fairytale Of New York
23 Yeah yeah yeahs all i want for christmas
24 Tom Waits (bonus track) Silent Night A Christmas Card from a hooker in St Paul

Link: Tom’s 2009 Christmas mix (105MB)

Instructions, unpack the zip file to a directory where you keep your music and load up the .m3u playlist file to your media player of choice.

Of course, the Christmas video of the year has to go to the year’s creepiest santa Bob Dylan:

Honorable mention for new tracks year goes to “Do they know it’s Christmas Time” by just about everyone in indie rock. Not include here because you are supposed to buy it for charityand because I’m not entirely sure it’s a good song but you can judge for yourself.

Come discuss AR with me @ York Mobile Media Lab

e-flyer_Purves550

Date: Monday Dec 7, 2009
Time: 3:00-5:00 pm
Where: Mobile Media Lab, York University
Technology Enhanced Learning Building
88 the Pond Road, Room Tel 2001
Link: Thomas Purves talk at Mobile Media Lab

Who knew that since I gave my first Augmented Reality talk back in April of this year that AR would become such a trending topic amongst marketers, geeks and many many app designers.

This new talk will be follow up to that one, checking in on how AR is evolving and thinking about the economic and societal implications of an always-connected society. I am less interested in the current fad of augmented reality in narrow sense of computer imagery projected or overlaid on our field of vision. For me it’s more interesting to talk about the deeper implications of the pervasive and inexorable cloud seeping into and “augmenting” our daily reality in the broadest sense, for our individual benefit – or otherwise.

Nonetheless, for today, I bring you the visual AR gimmick of the week: AR on a moving canvas (including clever use of infrared marker LEDs for tracking a reference surface as if by magic) via @pdinnen. enjoy.

Twelve reasons to respect Windows7 or not

Im-a-pc

Let us not underestimate the monumental importance of a Microsoft Windows release.

We doyen of the internet are so often inclined to scoff, so blissfully ensconced we sometimes are in this perfect brushed metal and candy-coated RDF of a certain cult-ish maker of glowing fruit-themed technology. Macs are the opiate of the geekerati. The rest of the world overwhelming runs Windows. But, with great marketshare comes great responsibility. When 90% of the world’s PCs run Windows, if Microsoft stumbles, if Microsoft stalls or fails to innovate, the whole world’s IT infrastructure is held back.

With Vista, Microsoft stalled and stumbled. Win7 is Microsoft’s mea culpa. I myself have been playing with it long enough now to form some impressions. The following are 12 points from my own personal experience with 7. Your mileage may vary.

  1. The startmenu commandline / searchable program list is a killer feature. Once familiar with it, you will find it painful to switch back to Windows XP. Also salvaged from Vista, volume levels by application is a nice feature even OSX can’t match.
  2. The new icons-only-with-no-labels task bar makes for a horrible mess of trying to get anything done across multiple windows. By default, Win7 hides the names of all your open windows. For a long time this infuriated me and it’s a good thing I didn’t write this post earlier. If there’s one most significant reason I finally warmed up to Win7, it is because I belatedly learned that it’s actually fairly easy to turn this feature off. [There’s a PROTIP in here somewhere]
  3. Microsoft will tell you that Win7 is flush with drivers and runs with a bazzion devices. This is a lie. Upgraders be warned, a lot of OEMs or makers of any number of little integrated hardware features have not bothered to support, or make it easy to upgrade (they’d be happy for you to buy a brand new Win7-loaded machine instead). Case in point: The Win7 demo thinkpad leant to me by microsoft themselves had the following non-functional devices: fingerprint reader, touchpad scrolling, lcd brightness and webcam. I have a otherwise perfectly good laser printer that HP assures me will never support win7. The driver situation getting better since the launch though. For one, my Rogers rocket sticks now supports 7 which had been a showstopper for upgrading my primary notebook computer.
  4. Win7 is the first OS to natively, properly support SSDs. Also, SSDs are awesome.
  5. Win7 has DX11 may well be good for gaming (for various reasons, DX10 was kinfof a bust). I see signals that PC gaming is enjoying a cyclical resurgence as the PC upgrade cycle continues unabated while the current gen of consoles are hitting midlife.
  6. Win7 gets rid of Vista’s infuriating wifi connection tool, which means many fewer clicks to connect to a wifi network.
  7. Win7 has mobile-broadband drivers and connectivity built right in. So long as they don’t conflict with your device’s own drivers, this is great.
  8. MS clearly put a lot of work into the rich, heavy media-center feature stuffed into Win7. Which, as far as I can tell, was entirely pointless. A basic file browser, and double click to open w/ VLC player being a far smoother, faster, and more reliable way to launch any media file in our household.
  9. Are you old enough to remember when the brand new Windows 95 was actually considered cool? Bad news: Win7 will not make you cool. But you knew that already. What’s worse, most every recent marketing attempt (not to mention gnaw-your-own-eys-out-cringeworthness Win7 Launch-party videos) digs poor Windows users further in the hole. You’re just going to have to deal with that.
  10. Vista felt like it was designed by committee of sadistic IT managers, intent on driving down support costs by actively impeding users from doing anything useful with their machines whenever possible. Win7 isn’t perfect, but it does manage to stay out of your way a lot more often. Now that I think about it, working right and, staying the hell out of my way as much as possible, is pretty much all I ask for in an OS.
  11. WinXP is old now, long past it’s best-by date. Meanwhile Win7 is tangibly less annoying than Vista. For my money, Win7 is the only Microsoft OS worth running. You just may have to buy a new printer.
  12. I have this theory we are approaching an age of operating system irrelevance. Who cares what the platform is that runs locally, so long as it connects efficiently you to the cloud. In that regard, Win7 has good networking,works well with next-gen hardware, and therefore gets you quick enough into Firefox. Which is really all that matters right?