Generation Shift

Been doing some computer tinkering with my remaining bits of summer vacation. (I don’t expect to get the kind of substantial chunk of free time that some of this stuff takes again for a while.) It’s been a while since I’ve been through this kind of process, and I’ve been struck by how a few things have changed in the last few years.

  • A number of consumer broadband providers are now openly advertising fiber to the home. I myself can’t get it, but it is cheering to see it finally being rolled out.
  • Although I still deeply love the technology itself, computer stores are becoming increasingly unpleasant places to shop. I suppose the downside of the commoditization of computer and network technologies is that a lot of this stuff is now sold like other commodities. Or perhaps the tech sector seems to be experiencing in some ways the opposite of the trend I associate with my typical retail experience, which has been getting generally better over the last few years.
  • My DSL provider now bundles a wireless router with the DSL modem. In fact, it’s a kickass 802.11g router, with a beautiful web administration interface and what looks like a well-designed set of firewall features. (Network-attached, web-administered devices are doing well in general. I’m starting to see what look like realistic network-attached storage boxes for the unsophisticated home user.)
  • The Windows 95/98/Me line has basically become unusuable tech. It’s not just that the alternatives have better resistance to malware in the first place. It’s also that once you have a problem of any sort with your system, it’s a lot easier to start fixing things from the Archimedean fixed point that more industrial-strength operating systems provide.
  • Some of the deals out there are just shocking. Aislinn thinks that it’s a sign that the vendors are trying to unload inventory before the bottom drops out of particular hardware categories. That makes sense for some of the wireless tech (see above), but I thought that hard drive prices were already cutting into the bone. Apparently not.
  • These low prices are dangerous. Stop me before I splurge again.
  • Computers got really easy to open up and fiddle with right about the time when the various high-speed local bus and network technologies started providing good noninvasive options for most common tasks.
  • Screen tech is amazing. Drool. I’m holding off buying a new monitor for as long as possible, because the price and size trends have both been relentless.
  • I went the fancy-pants phone route. Stay tuned for new entries in my ongoing series of photos of buggy LED signs on public transportation.