TECH Corner – A year’s valedictory

TECH Corner – A year’s valedictory

It was the year of the death of the year 2008. Every single month reeked a valedictory. An American president finally weared of himself, dusting off his coattails for the long walk, and one last smirky wave at the press corps. An Austrian far-rightist fell headlong out of the closet, dead.

Arthur C. ClarkeOn a sadder note Arthur C. Clarke, science-fiction god and visionary writer passed into a higher dimension at the blessed milestone of ninety of our earth years. The future was his, and always will be, leaving us in a tealeaf doldrum, devining our lot from the babysteps of technology. What’s new? What’s next? Renewal, of course, comes at a cost. Entropy. Creative destruction. Whatever you name it, the leaves must discolor, and fall they will. Out with the old.

In tech land an overwhelming, nay, tectonic death rattle could be heard emanating from the putrid cadaver called Windows Vista. Battered to a pulp by Apple’s marketing juggernaut and, let’s face it, the product’s unsurpassed crapitude, Microsoft finally picked up the phone and dialed 555 Kevorkian. You’re in a better place… No wait, it’s us who are better off now. Bye bye! What else is new in 2008? What was good, bad, or plain ugly? What seedlings stand to sprout the magnificent shrubberies of 2009? An overview… In the past year solid state memory finally broke through, or rather; snuck in, shock-resistant, and unperturbed amidst the shattered anguish of rickety spinning hard-drives, making them look like Flinstone cars, choking and stammering on photo albums, music collections, movie projects, and business data. Lost forever because you were too lazy to back that shit up. Solid state drives don’t crash. They’re still a tad beyond everyman’s wallet, but certainly within reach of those who appreciates the difference between long-term investment and simply wasting time, money, and some eleven year-old Congolese Coltan-miner’s health. Shop smart. Buy a computer that last a minimum five years.

Netbooks are the new black. Let’s face it, you don’t need 320 gigabytes of cargo space to update your Facebook status twice a day. When is the last time you burned anything to a DVD? You want a portable computer. Look see, they just made those things a hell of a lot more portable. More than sufficient real-estate for email, Skype, surfing the web and managing a modest photo collection. Mum, if you’re reading this, Amazon sells an Asus Eee PC 900A for 239 Euros including VAT. Thank you capitalism! That buys 8 gigabytes of (unbreakable – see previous paragraph) storage, and a solid, Microsoft-free environment to boot. And by boot, I mean boot fast.

Do yourself a favor. Go on. How to buy a digital photo frame? Don’t. They come in all shapes and sizes, and only a single price category; too high. In plain English, and let’s hope this settles the debate once and for all; you don’t need a digital photo frame. Care to reminisce? Watch a slide show on your laptop or TV. Care to share? Someone is browsing through your Facebookery as we speak. You can print and frame the half a dozen or so pictures that are actually a worthwhile contribution to your living room décor for a pittance the. Your attic-borne great-grandchildren will be forever grateful. Paying over a hundred Euros to add another dongle and hideous cable-clutter is plain stupid, and will remain so for the foreseeable future.

And last but not least, there’s no need to add an eleventh toe to your carbon foot print. Some people still bought mini-DVD camcorders in 2008, can you believe that? An action, to my humble opinion, the stupidity of which can only be likened to having unprotected intercourse with a steamroller. I’m not even going into it. I’m not. Okay, I am, if you insist. Just a little. Overpriced hardware, overpriced media, coupled with underwhelming quality and cumbersome editing. Need I say more? The bastards are on their way out though, and not a moment too soon. Hard-drive based camcorders, then? Mm, not bad. Flash-based is even better, but you’re still paying for the novelty storage, not image quality. Prosumers and enthusiasts might want to stick to mini-DV tapes until prices come down and, more importantly, until the format forest thins to one, or only a handful of compatible standards. In 2009 buyers will still have little choice but to study up or risk ending up with a dud. It is a fine mess out there in camcorder land.

For shutterbugs: In 2009 you buy a Canon Powershot G10 or bust. It’s the closest you’ll get to that SLR you know would look good on you but don’t really need. 14 megapixels should pretty much do the trick unless you’re quitting the day job. Cameraphones? Excellent for documenting that fender-bender for the insurance company or videotape your mates beating up a homeless person. Phone-wise the astounding, appalling feat of 2008 must be tech journalists’ unremitting, compulsive bashing of iPhone or iPod headsets. They’re fine! What are you, a dog? Just because some audiophile couldn’t pick up low-gamma ultrasound transmissions from the Pleiade star cluster, doesn’t make you an expert on headphones. Shut up.

In other news, smartphones are tha shit. The iPhone rocks. Accessing web-based mail like Yahoo or Google couldn’t be easier but fancier emailage still requires a degree in advanced astrophysics. I tried Blackberry, and frankly failed to fall in love with the 1995 user interface. Oh, and Dad, you’re getting a Nokia 1200 for Christmas (I know you won’t use it anyway, so why waste money on features?)

GPS. You don’t need one. Those fuzzy dice dangling behind the windshield will do just fine. You’re not going anywhere, and you’re going there way too fast if you ask me. Chill out on the throttle.

In the next Tech Corner; – The future of 2009, no wait…, well, you know what I mean – A spectacular reversal of opinion on GPS’s, and the future of the motorcar – Some grammatical errors and typos corrected in the current Tech Corner – I don’t really have a mohikan – And much more…

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