Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Creeping Change

Nah, not that kind of "change"! I'm talking about the creeping changes of the computing world. I got fascinated with computers at a very superficial level when I retired from the USAF. That was one of those long ago, galaxy far away sort of times. I wasn't sure what they could do or why anybody would ever need one. I could type reasonably well, so an electric typewriter was adequate. I could balance my checkbook, so a simple calculator or even a pencil and paper would do the job. My annual tax return could be done on two sheets of paper.

I didn't "do" DOS and used to ridicule the "C-colon-backslash" command line gibberish. I could deal with the graphic interface of a Mac and then got shamed into buying a PC because the "real world" was oriented around MS-DOS and not Apple stuff. There was much more software written for PC than Apple. Of course that was before iPhones and a billion "apps". There was Windows.

In those days Microsoft was an operating system company. Real businesses used Word Perfect for word processing and some still used WordStar. They used Lotus 1-2-3 for spreadsheets and databases were the esoteric world of dBase programmers. There were lots of hacker programs to do housekeeping tasks like organize, sort and search our files. There were simply little code bits that people traded over 300 baud modems or if you were daring you even wrote your own batch files.

But then came MS Word and the blue screen of Word Perfect began to look a bit long in the tooth. Excel offered a much friendlier interface so Lotus was slipping into history. Access let even political scientists into the magic of creating relational databases. Goodby dBase. The succeeding iterations of Windows incorporated all the goodies of the shareware and batch files and disappeared. MS Office ruled. They did it by building a better mousetrap and a considerable slug of buying up good ideas and out-marketing less aggressive companies.

The Internet went graphic with Mozilla and Netscape. They attracted the gaze of Tyrannosaurus Gates and with a snap of his jaws we got Internet Explorer. Netscape charged a fee and IE was a free browser. No brainer choice. Netscape hasn't been heard from in years. Then the reincarnation as Firefox.

A couple of weeks ago I griped that IE 8 was erratic for me and although I tried Firefox repeatedly I was frustrated by mysterious malfunctions on my system. I'd try Firefox for a while then a version update would come along and I'd have no choice but to uninstall and start over with a full download. Chunks of memory would never be relinquished by the voracious Fox. I hated them both.

Someone said, "come over to the dark side...embrace the Google. Go Chrome."

I've been using Chrome for about three weeks now. I love it! It is crisp, fast, uncluttered. It grabs your existing bookmarks and imports them effortlessly. Best of all, it gives you the option of syncing through gMail so that your bookmarks update on any computer you sync to the account. Find some great links on your laptop then you'll have them next time you sit at your desktop. All updated and current at your fingertips regardless of where you work. Automatically.

Looking for info? No need to go to Google Search. Simply enter keywords in the address bar and you get it immediately. Want to post something from a web page to your blog? There's an app for that! Looking for a YouTube viddie on something? There's an app for that. Passwords and form filling? Built-in. Just like Burger-King, have it your way.

I'm sold. It's a better product. It's change I can believe in. Is Google better across the board? Well, that depends on your style. I tend to search on Bing a bit more recently, but Google Search gives me better results. I prefer POP3 mail and Outlook to gMail, but will fall back to gMail when on the road. Google docs? I'm not quite comfortable with working in the cloud. I like to keep files close and not be dependent upon someone else's security systems. Google Maps? I'm watching the world and that's pretty cool.

For now, though, color my browser Chrome.


nzgarry said...

I confess to installing Chrome some months ago but returning to the comfort zone of IE.
No good reason, just the poor one of being to lazy to learn the new environment.

Like many, Google is my internet home base and for that reason Chrome makes sense. I will reinstall today and persist!

juvat said...

Call me paranoid, but I'm thinking Google is starting to control a little too much of my information. They know my search patterns, own my e-mail, store my blog comments. Additionally, through Google Voice, know my general location, who I'm talking to and, probably, what I'm saying. Include Google Documents and now Chrome, and they've pretty much got me pegged.
A couple of years ago, I read something that quoted one of Google's founders saying that their goal was to "own the world's information". Looks to me like they're well on their way.

Anonymous said...

I wish Mozilla would take care of that damn memory leak.

If it takes completely junking the Firefox browser and starting fresh...SO BE IT.

"Call me paranoid, but I'm thinking Google is starting to control a little too much of my information. "

You are right to be suspicious. Google is NOT friendly to your private information or info that you would like to be private. I'm not saying they are going to start selling your data to the highest builder, but they have no qualms about cooperating with authoritarian governments to the fullest extent.

Ed Rasimus said...

Google is not the singular villain. There are hundreds if not thousands of data mining operations. If you go outside your firewall, you accept risks. Period.