Archive for the ‘Technology’ Category

Three months on – review of the Kindle 2

January 5, 2010

As a gadget enthusiast and wannabe bookworm, I jumped onto the bandwagon right away when Amazon released their Kindle 2 with international support. It arrived promptly via UPS after three days, and I’ve now had it for more than three months. This is a revised version of the review I wrote after using it for about a week, written for calcuttagutta.com.

26.10.2009

During my time with the device, I’ve read 5 books:
– The Children of Men (PD James)
– Knife of Dreams (Robert Jordan)
– The Gathering Storm (Robert Jordan, Brandon Sanderson)
– The Road (Cormac McCarthy)
– The Lost Symbol (Dan Brown)

When I unpacked the device originally, I was on a half-hour tram ride. It provided the perfect opportunity to give it a go. As I hoped, the battery charge was sufficient for immediate use. After switching it on, I could go online without needing to configure anything – marvellous. I searched up “The Children of Men”, bought it, had it on the device in less than two minutes and started reading. By the end of the ride I was well into the third chapter and having a good time.

The Kindle 2 is the right size. It doesn’t feel that solid, but it is pretty light-weight, which is more important. I’ll eventually get some sort of hardcover plastic protection for it, but so far it’s been getting along well with alongside my laptop in my backpack, protected by a cartboard folder.

The e-ink screen works well – the more light you have available, the better. It can’t compete with paper for constrast, but it reaches the crucial “good enough” milestone. View angles are great. I love the ability to adjust font size – being nearsighted, I turned it up a notch at once, and this makes it easier for me to have a comfortable reading position when using the Kindle as compared to normal books. The fact that the device is board-shaped means it is practical to read when holding it with one hand, and having the “Next”-button there on both sides means you can alternate hands. I’m really appreciating this – it means I can stand, eat and read simultaneously. The board-ey nature of the device also means it can be put down on a table and stay there without support while you’re reading – unlike, say, a pocketbook.

The device’s buttons themselves didn’t feel great after initial use, but after reading a few books on the device I don’t think about them anymore.

Navigating menus and surfing Wikipedia or the Kindle store is slow, but usable. The reading support (by an artificial voice) is surprisingly good, though not something you’d use unless you were desparate to read the book but unable to use your own eyes. I haven’t used the MP3 support yet. It is obvious that this is a dedicated reading device – and to me, that’s definitely a good thing. It translates to a good reading experience and long battery life – I have charged mine three times since getting it, read six books on it (my brother borrowed it to read one), and it is still at 50%. A book is supposed to be a book, not everything else a electronic device with a screen could possibly be, and I like that the Kindle is dedicated to being good book.

I’ve used the open-source caliber support application to convert PDFs and transfer stuff to the Kindle – works like a charm. As a result, I now have quite the mini-library with me wherever I go. And if you don’t have it on the device, the Kindle store is only a few clicks away. The books are a bit expensive, but not completely unreasonable – they cost about the same as a pocket book would cost from the bookstore.

I’d say the principal negative of the Kindle 2 is the lack of support for lending books to others when you buy books in the Kindle store. I really enjoy lending books, and I think many avid readers feel the same way – now I can only give a warm recommendation, unless I want to part with my Kindle for an extended period of time. And unless the book is in an open format, of course.

Two events really made the Kindle’s appeal dawn on me – first when I considered continuing “The Time Traveler’s Wife”, but opted for a book on my Kindle instead, and second, when I was reading a paperback I got for Christmas and quickly got fed up with how heavy and cumbersome it was to use while lying in bed. My arms got tired, I had to switch positions fairly frequently. That doesn’t happen with the Kindle. As long as you have enough natural light and a reading position less than 110% perfect it is easily my preferred reading instrument.

To sum it up – this is a nice device which works well as a e-book reader. I like it, and it makes me read more. It is easy to use, and at 2200 NOK taxes and freight included not that expensive. If you can handle not being able to lend books to friends (perhaps swapping Kindles is a substitute..?) I’d say the Kindle 2 is a good deal. Make sure you consider the Nook too, though the colour touch screen is a turn-off for me – makes it look less bookey and more like a tablet computer.

On a final note – I am disappointed that the publishers are trying to wrap DRM around e-books. You would think that after hopelessly trying to protect movies from piracy (1 movie = 700 mb) the publishing industry would realise the idiocy in trying to copy-protect books (one book = 2 mb, maximum). Getting bestsellers from the internet is easy if you want to, and there are compilations of books available – say 50-100 books in a package of 300 megabyte. Considering how easy piracy is, there is not much to lose by getting rid of DRM, and as usual, DRM harms the legitimate user more than the pirate – if I spend money on a book, I cannot lend it to others – if I pirate it, I can do with it as I please.

The lesson of the music industry is that you have to make solutions that are friendly to the consumer – with luck the book publishers won’t need 10 years to achieve the same insight. (For the record, I’m a very, very happy Spotify user.)

The Amazon Kindle 2 – a review from Norway

October 26, 2009

As a gadget enthusiast and wannabe bookworm, I jumped onto the bandwagon right away when Amazon released their Kindle 2 with international support. It arrived promptly via UPS after three days.

26.10.2009

I’ve just finished reading “The Children of Men” by PD James – the time is ripe for a short review of this practical little device.

I had a rather busy day when receiving it – so a half-hour tram ride provided the perfect opportunity to give it a go. As I hoped, the battery charge was sufficient for immediate use. After switching it on, I could go online without needing to configure anything – marvellous. I searched up the book, bought it, had it on the device in less than two minutes and started reading. By the end of the ride I was well into the third chapter and having a good time.

The Kindle 2 is the right size. It doesn’t feel that solid, but it is pretty light-weight, which is more important. I’m definitely getting some sort of hardcover plastic protection for it, as I doubt it’ll survive tumbling around in my backpack on its own.

The e-ink screen works well – the more light you have available, the better. It can’t compete with paper for constrast, but it reaches the crucial “good enough” milestone. View angles are great. I love the ability to adjust font size – being nearsighted, I turned it up a notch at once, and this makes it easier for me to have a comfortable reading position when using the Kindle as compared to normal books. The fact that the device is board-shaped means it is practical to read when holding it with one hand, and having the “Next”-button there on both sides means you can alternate hands. I’m really appreciating this – it means I can stand, eat and read simultaneously. The board-ey nature of the device also means it can be put down on a table and stay there without support while you’re reading – unlike, say, a pocketbook.

The device’s buttons themselves aren’t that great – they make a low, clicking sound, which I’d prefer it was without, it is mildly annoying until you get used to it. I can see it potentially unnerving my partner.

Navigating menus and surfing Wikipedia or the Kindle store is slow, but usable. I haven’t used the reading support or MP3 support yet. It is obvious that this is a dedicated reading device – and to me, that’s definitely a good thing. It translates to a good reading experience and long battery life – I have charged mine once since getting it, read one book, and it is still at 80%. A book is supposed to be a book, not everything else a electronic device with a screen could possibly be, and I like that the Kindle is dedicated to being good book.

I’ve used the open-source caliber support application to convert PDFs and transfer stuff to the Kindle – works like a charm. As a result, I now have quite the mini-library with me wherever I go. And if you don’t have it on the device, the Kindle store is only a few clicks away. The books are a bit expensive, but not completely unreasonable – they cost about the same as a pocket book would cost from the bookstore.

I’d say the principal negative of the Kindle 2 is the lack of support for lending books to others when you buy books in the Kindle store. I really enjoy lending books, and I think many avid readers feel the same way – now I can only give a warm recommendation, unless I want to part with my Kindle for an extended period of time. And unless the book is in an open format, of course.

To sum it up – this is a nice device which works well as a e-book reader. I like it, and it makes me read more (of course I can’t promise there’s no novelty factor involved there – we’ll see). It is easy to use, and at 2200 NOK taxes and freight included not that expensive. If you can handle not being able to lend books to friends (perhaps swapping Kindles is a substitute..?) I’d say the Kindle 2 is a good deal. Make sure you consider the Nook too, though the colour touch screen is a turn-off for me – makes it look less bookey and more like a tablet computer.

The lovely low-fi Philips AZ382 CD/radio speaker syste

August 18, 2009

Yeah, I’m usually more into expensive gadgets, like high-end phones. However, now and then I come across a cheap, low-tech piece of electronic equipment that merits a little attention.

Behold the Philps AZ382!

The Philips AX383

The Philips AZ382

Yes, this is the kind of device no one bothers to give a fancy name – like “iPod Nano” or “HTC Magic”. No worries – at least you know very few of the 500 NOK (80 USD) you pay go into branding the unit!

What’s so great about this sound system?

* It has a decent-quality FM radio and a large, reliable-looking antenna to go with it.
* There is a CD player there.
* You can put MP3 and WMA files on a memory stick and play them through the USB port in the front.
* It is small, and thus easy to place.
* It can run on batteries.
* Those speakers produce sound of mediocre quality, but they play pretty loud.
* And, best of all, there is a 3,5 mm mini-jack audio input port on the side! This means you can use those speakers to play from pretty much any audio source you have.

You get all this stuff for a very low price. Currently, this little utilitarian pebble of a low-fi system is playing news over FM in the mornings and podcasts and The Economist from my mobile phone when I’m working in the kitchen. The USB port works, but I haven’t had any use for it, as I prefer the user interface on my phone. Navigating thousands of MP3s through a numerical display is not ideal, but if you populate a memory stick with good stuff and set the player to shuffle, you’re good to go.

Apart from the less than fantastic MP3 user experience (which is really excusable when you consider the price), my only criticism is that the FM tuning dial is a bit too sensitive. In an area with lots of FM transmitters, finding the right one can be a bit tricky. Since the 3,5 mm jack is there, I’ve even sometimes just tuned my Nokia into the desired FM station and hooked that one up instead.

Overall, two thumbs up for the AZ382, my new everyday hero among sound systems and a fabulous example of a device achieving versatility through the use of standards!

A day in the life of my Nokia N82 – and the beginning of the end of the laptop

April 14, 2009

Some days I’m so thrilled with what my smartphone can do that I can’t help writing about it. Perhaps this short blog brag will show you a few new uses for your modern Symbian device. And for how much longer will you and I need a dedicated laptop?

06:55: I’m half-way awake from the radio on the Wake-up Light (nice invention, by the way), the N82 sounds the proper alarm, and I get out of bed – instinctively checking my Gmail account. Their Java ME client is speedy, slim and has all the right keypad shortcuts (the new Nokia Messaging client is very nice, but not tuned for Gmail use patterns and thus not fast enough).

07:10: I make breakfast while listening to news on FM radio. I hooked up a pair of Koss Portapros and put the N82 on the kitchen table – thanks to its relatively powerful speakers, I don’t have to walk around with the Portapros on (or get a stand-alone radio).

The Economist in my pocket

The Economist in my pocket

07:25: Walking down to the metro, which doesn’t have FM coverage, I switch to listening to The Economist in MP3 format, which I downloaded over WiFi yesterday. Halfway there I check the real-time metro information on the built in web/WAP browser. WAP may be ugly, but it sure is fast!

latitude

07:30: Standing on the metro, I use Latitude on Google Maps to see if my colleagues have left for work yet. (They haven’t – I’m early :) )

I also pull up my RSS feeds on Opera Mini to catch up on today’s news. This is something I do periodically throughout the day.

09:00: Having settled in at work, I decide I don’t want to listen to any of the on-board MP3s, so I hook the N82 up to the local WiFi network. It is protected by a proxy, but Web is treated like any computer and lets me log into the proxy server. I then use Mobbler – a Last.fm client for Symbian – to listen to my friends’ Last.fm stations. Here’s my Last.fm profile, by the way.

Now and then the phone buzzes, without lighting up – this indicates that GMail (which is running in the background) has received an e-mail.

11:00: I make a few photographs of the screen on the Citrix client. It is a bit cumbersome to get printscreens out of there, and the N82’s  5 mpx and autofocus will do nicely for this – just illustration photos for a sildeshow. I also make sure to catch the herd of office chairs – they have mysteriously assembled in our wing of the office over the weekend. Hmmm.

12:00: I set the alarm for 14:44 – I have to phone someone then and am likely to forget unless I set an alarm. I also check Calendar, to make sure I’m free at that time.

13:00: I tell my 5800 XpressMusic-owning buddy about SymTorrent (which does what you might expect).

I also showed him Qik – a program for streaming video live to the web from the phone.  I give him a Qik demo, starting off by telling him to check my public feed – where he could see himself from a 90 degree angle :) Take a look at my Qik page for an example.

14:43: The person I was going to call beats me to it – we’re both busy, so we arrange a new time.

16:50: I head home, continuing to listen to The Economist where I left off. En route to the store I use Opera Mini to find recipies for pancakes.

17:20: Leaving the store, I read on AllAboutSymbian‘s RSS feed that Nokia Beta Labs’ Photo Browser is now available for S60v3 devices – meaning I can give it a go. When I get home, I quickly download it via Web and WiFi and check it out. It spends quite a while indexing my photos, which makes it seem slower than it is, but the transitions are pretty nice and for an early beta product this is not bad at all. Hopefully it will be way more mature when the N97 arrives.

Sports Tracker route summary

17:30: After dumping the food in the fridge, I find my running shoes and start SportsTracker. This is a GPS-enabled exercise logger. As I run around the neighbourhood, I upload my route to SportsTracker – take a look. The photo I take during the jog is automatically included in the mashup on the SportsTracker site.

20:30: I start writing this post and transfer a aforementioned photo to my Flickr account from Gallery via the local WiFi.

Conclusion

So – I manage to go through quite an array of features and applications in a day. I love the sense of having so much computational power and so many sensors with me all the time. Of course – there are privacy and security (and sanity?) concerns when using so many services so intimately and constantly bathing in a sea of information and entertainment – but I think we’ll be OK as long as we are aware of that and just leave the phone at home once in a while.

Interestingly – I did pretty much all of this, except writing this blog post, without using a PC. Creating content will probably always be more comfortable on a big keyboard and big screen, but I still believe the N97 will make a noticable difference in my mobile e-mail/blogging usage patterns.

Also – a N82, considering all of its sensors and connectivity features, is in many ways more powerful than my vastly more expensive Macbook. Hopefully CPU, memory and I/O capabilities will develop rapidly – letting me write a new post in 2-3 years time with a full keyboard and 20″ screen hooked up to my ph… mobile computer.

Or, if I’m out and about, I’ll use the phone inserted into a laptop shell consisting of a 13″ touchscreen and full keyboard. That’ll be the end of the dedicated laptop –  unless you need to do heavy number-crunching or 3D gaming.

My three complaints with the Macbook Aluminium

January 25, 2009
The cat appreciated the Macbook just as much as I did.

The cat appreciated the Macbook just as much as I did.

One of the Macbook Aluminium’s strong points is its cat compatability, as evidenced from the image above. And overall it is a fantastic laptop. In fact, it is easier to point out its flaws than its strong points.

I’ve had my Mac for about three months now, and these are my complaints:

  • The laptop easily slides around when placed on a smooth surface, such as a table. The rubber “knobs” on the bottom – which elevate the laptop from the surface it’s standing on and are meant to keep it steady – do not provide enough friction.When opened, the forward edge of the main chassis, where you will rest your palms when typing, is pretty sharp. Enough to be somewhat annoying to me, depending on what position I’m sitting in.
  • There are only two USB ports, and it seems only one of them is fully functional when running Windows – my external USB 2,5″ drive won’t spin when plugged into the other. Given the real estate on the left side of the laptop, Apple should have been to put in one more USB port and made all of them 100% functional.
  • And it does have its rough edges in Windows – the trackpad is a bit finicky – the drivers need some tweaking, and there is no right click-button on the keyboard.

You probably realise, given that these are my main objections to the Macbook Alu design, that I am pretty happy with it. In fact, I consider it the best computer I’ve ever owned.

Great keyboard, nice screen, splendid design (and quite robust), huge trackpad, decent graphics card and powerful specs, backlit keyboard, decent battery life. And you can run both Windows XP and OS X on it.

I use mostly Windows XP – it is faster, I can play games and it is less dependant on a pointing device (I am a keyboard enthusiast). However, it is nice to have OS X as a virus-proof backup, and I use Garageband and iMovie from time to time.

Macbook Aluminium makes funny clicking sound while apparently not charging

November 8, 2008

The title really says it all. My Macbook Alu had run out of battery and died; when I plugged it in, the light on the power plug did not ignite, and I thought nothing was happening until I noticed a steady low ticking sound emanting from the top left of the keyboard. I tried to google it, but didn’t find anything interesting (I have to admit I didn’t spend too much time researching, as it was via Opera Mini on my N82….).

After listening to the steady ticking for a few minutes, I unplugged and reconnected the power plug, which promptly lit up like it usually does, and I’m typing this on my Macbook. Funny.

I wonder if perhaps the ticking is the Macbook’s way of saying it is doing some low-level charging of the battery?

Nokia N82 appreciation usecase #3: The Economist in my pocket

November 5, 2008
The Economist in my pocket

The Economist in my pocket

As a subscriber to The Economist, I get the newspaper in my mailbox every Saturday (UK subscribers get it on Fridays, I believe, but up north we are not so fortunate…). However, I can usually download the MP3 edition on Thursdays. Of course, I copy it onto my N82 right away.

Most often, I listen to The Economist while walking or commuting to work, using my Koss Portapro headphones, but sometimes my ears tire from the headset, or the headset cable gets in the way as I move about tidying the house (right..).

Thanks to the N82’s pretty powerful stereo speakers, I can put the phone in my pocket and have it play The Economist for me as I walk around the house. They aren’t powerful enough for this to work well outdoors, and the sound quality doesn’t cut it for listening to music – but for radio, podcasts or audio editions of newspapers, they work fine.

My next phone will need to have at least as powerful speakers as the N82 – judging by reviews, it seems the Nokia 5800 XpressMusic is well equipped; hopefully upcoming Nseries touchscreen phones (and Android handsets) are as fortunate.

Nokia N82 appreciation usecase #2: On a whim, shooting the rooftop concert

October 9, 2008

I do have a digital video camera – a good old Sony DCR 115, which cost me about $3000 (!!) back in 2002. However, it isn’t exactly pocket-sized, and it uses DV tapes, which feel hopelessly analogue considering they store bits.  I hardly ever use it – though the picture quality is great and the 10x zoom very handy, it is just too big, and handling the amount of data it produces too cumbersome.

Enter my N82. It has VGA-resolution 640×480 video capture at 30 frames per second – I’d call it VHS quality, Nokia calls it “TV quality”. The sound quality is decent. And, of course, I always bring it with me. So when the company has brought a great musician to the summer party, it’s just a matter of deciding which parts of the concert to enjoy fully and which parts to “store” on my N82 (which could save all of it on its 8 gigabyte memory card, if I wanted it to).

Looking back at all the moments I’ve captured with my N82 over the last year, there is no way I’m getting a new phone with at least as good video capabilities.

Here’s one example: Molde on New Year’s day

Brief review of the Nokia N82 and comparison with the iPhone

December 25, 2007

DSC_7349
About three weeks ago, I received the Nokia N82 in the mail, as a replacement for the Nokia 6300 I had been using. These are the main reasons I went for the N82:

  • Symbian OS combined with plenty of RAM (128 MB) – the amount of RAM was one of the main problems with the previous Symbian phone I used (the E50)
  • Decent 5 megapixlel camera with autofocus and flash
  • Great video camera, 640×480
  • Wifi, 3G and HSDPA
  • Acceptable size for its functionality

To most readers with some knowledge of the iPhone’s specs, it’s probably easy to see why I went with the N82 instead of the iPhone. As I see it, these are the main differentiators between the N82 and the iPhone:

Camera: The N82, with its 5 megapixels, VGA video recording and flash can act as a compact camera when my SLR is out of reach. You can’t do that with 2 megapixels, no autofocus and no flash or camera light.

Wireless connection options: The N82 supports 3G and HSDPA, meaning you can get a theoretical 3 megabits of bandwidth to the phone. The iPhone maxes out at 230 kbits. Also, the iPhone doesn’t support wireless stereo headsets over Bluetooth A2DP.

Openness: On the N82, you can install any Symbian or Java ME application you want to. Personally, I am a big fan of Opera Mini and Google’s mail application.

Media playback: The iPhone synchs easily with your computer (iTunes, that is), and has a huge screen, great for video playback. Getting video onto your N82 is cumbersome in my experience. It is always nice to be able to connect the phone as a USB mass storage device and drag and drop content on it, but that doesn’t take care of video conversion for you. The tools Nokia provide for that purpose are not really a match for iTunes at this point.

User experience: You can do pretty much anything with the N82, but the interface isn’t very impressive. For instance, some screens can be rotated and seen in landscape mode, some cannot (i.e. the Video Centre and the main screen). Also, the traditional phone keypad is no match for the touch screen of the iPhone. In my opinion, the combination of OS X software and the touch screen makes for an unbeatable user experience (or it would, if Apple added a few more real buttons for things like taking a photograph).

Radio: The N82’s got one. I can see no reason why my phone shouldn’t be able to play FM radio, and I enjoy having the option to tap into fresh, unbuffered content whenever I like.

GPS: Having GPS on your phone is just plain neat. Over the last three weeks, I have used it for finding parties twice – not bad, and it is also OK for in-car navigation. I believe the route finder/navigation is only free for the first 90 days, though – not so good. Still – you will be able to use the GPS with third-party apps such as Google Maps.

N82 weaknesses and conclusion
DSC_7343
The N82 is a computer, a camera, a radio, a MP3 player, a GPS, an internet device – stuffed with functionality. On the other hand, the iPhone is very slick phone + media player. It is also good as an internet device, but to me, Mobile Safari is useless outside of WiFi zones – it is too slow and too expensive, whereas using Opera Mini on a N82 results in the web nicely formatted for a small screen and compressed to size that’s healthy for my phonebill.

The N82 does have a few weaknesses.

Transferring media to the phone is slow if you use the Nokia micro-USB cable. It feels more like USB 1.1 than USB 2.0 – I’d estimate that moving over 60 megabytes takes about a minute. Still, as long as I am not transferring huge amounts, I don’t bother with a SD card reader. (I sometimes use Bluetooth to move an album or two of MP3s across – it is perfectly doable if you have the time to spare.)

While we are on media transfers – I would like it to sync with iTunes as well as any iPod can. It seems Nokia is working on this, at least on the Mac platform. I haven’t taken the time to check out their offering yet, but something good is cooking.

The battery life is barely acceptable. If you use it like I do – music and the web en route to work, calling and music while at work interspersed with radio, the occasional photograph on some days and a barrage of video and photography at parties, some wifi while I am at home, you will need to charge it every night.

I expected the phone to work with 8 GB microSDHC cards, but I can’t find confirmation that it works with anything bigger than 4 GB, which is a shame. Update April 2009: My N82 works fine with a Sandisk 8gb MicroSDHC.

The design is inferior to that of the iPhone, although it is not bad. The same goes for the user interface, which is actually quite responsive for a smartphone. I would have liked it to have dedicated buttons for play/pause, next/previous, in addition to buttons for volume up/down, gallery and shutter.

Finally, I have found it to be less stable than it should be. I estimate that I have experienced 2-3 total freezes or soft reboots per week while I have been using this phone. Now, I am probably a pretty extreme user – freezes are most common when I use the GPS as well as the music player while running Opera or the NetFront browser and more in the background, but still – the phone should handle those usage scenarios. (Caveat – I don’t think I have the latest firmware for the phone – haven’t been able to upgrade yet.) Update April 2009: With the latest firmware, my phone is quite stable – on average it crashes once a month, and keep in mind that I’m a heavy user.

If you need (or want ;) ) all the functionality the N82 can offer – it is definitely worth getting. If what you need is a phone and a media player, the iPhone will probably make you a happier person. But I can tell you – when surfing the web, reading the mail, checking out the great, flash-enabled party photos, navigating with GPS and listening to music, all at the same time, using the N82 elevates me to geek nirvana and makes me feel like this is at least May 2008. And that is awesome.

Why I am dumping Windows Vista in favour of Windows XP on my gaming PC

May 24, 2007
novista

(Just to get that out of the way – the only reason I use Windows on my gaming PC is that most of the games I play are only fully compatible with Windows.)

In January, I installed Windows Vista Business Edition on my AMD64 3200+ PC with 2 gigs of RAM, an Abit KN8-SLI motherboard and a Nvidia 7950 graphics card. Yesterday, I deleted it and installed XP instead. Why?

– XP is faster. In general operation, I sometimes found Vista to be sluggish. Not so with XP.

XP uses less system resources for itself. Meaning that games are faster on it.

– XP is more stable. I have experienced 5-10 bluescreens over the last months – before installing Vista, I hadn’t seen a bluescreen in a long time. Also, explorer.exe has been using 100% CPU from time to time, requiring me to kill it. Of course, the reason for this could be immature drivers, and not inherent flaws of Vista. That doesn’t make a difference to me, however.

– The interface feels less cluttered. I haven’t exactly been counting GUI elements – this is obviously a matter of opinion. I think the new control panel is a mess, I don’t like the Windows implementation of widgets, and I’m not very impressed by the search functionality. Having used Google Desktop Search on my Mac for a while, I’m inclined to believe that using that on XP will be just as effective.

– There’s no need to turn off as much annoying security, since there’s less of it in the first place. This might be less of an issue for Grandma, who might like the extra security, but then Grandma should run Linux or OS X, and not XP or Vista.

– Also, as mentioned in a previous post, I had issues making BF2 work under Vista. There could be a different explaination for this, for instance that I made some weird mistake during the patching process, but I doubt it. BF2 is even helpful enough to state in the installation that the game has only been tested on Win XP/32bit.

If you’re getting a new computer, I would seriously consider sticking with XP. Have a look at the new interface in Vista, and see if there are things there you cannot live without (I doubt it – and there are plenty of equivalent third-party addons, like Konfabulator and Google Desktop Search). If the main thing you do is gaming, and you have a DX10 compatible graphics card you want to fully exploit, Microsoft is forcing us to upgrade; there’s not much to do about that. I have a DX9 card, however, and that makes XP a superior choice for gaming.

And if you aren’t using your PC for gaming, you should try Linux or OS X instead of Windows. There are really no good reasons to stick with XP over OS X for everyday tasks, perhaps save one – if you are using your OS for computing-intensive tasks, like numbers crunching, and the software you need is not available on the Mac. You can easily run Windows software through virtualization solutions like Parallels, but the overhead might make it too painful if you really need every ounce of performance.

In conclusion, I feel Windows XP service pack 2 is the pinnacle of the Microsoft OS. It is pretty fast, stable, overall quite useable and secure if the user is really careful (which, of course, means that it is pretty unsafe ;) ). The shinier gloss Vista is introducing does not outweigh the negatives for me, especially when OS X Tiger is so much better-looking, more enjoyable to use and more stable.