Computer Rambles

I used to listen to my dad talk about cars. I never knew much about what he was talking about but I liked to listen anyway. This post is similar except it is about computers. If you aren’t interested in computers, I won’t be offended if you stop reading now. If you are interested or you just like to read what I write, read on.

I used to own a twenty seven inch iMac. It was a Cadillac of computers. It had a nice big screen and it was a joy to use. And then two years ago, it failed catastrophically. It had been having problems for several months before that but that last failure was absolute.

I had just spent a good bit of money on new iPads for me and my wife as well as paying for new iPhones for us both. The budget for high tech gadgets was well and truly spent. My wife graciously allowed me to use her laptop to do my daily online computing, blog posts, reading email, etc. This went on for a little over a year.

At that point, she was beginning to resent my using her computer all the time. It was starting to get long in the tooth. She lost some files and the backup software had not been working properly. She was understandably angry at me.

I figured out how to meet my computing needs in the least expensive way possible. I was able to take an Amazon gift card that I  had received an buy a refurbished computer with it. It wasn’t a Mac but I loaded Linux on it and it was better than nothing. I almost forgot, I tried to make do with a Raspberry Pi 3 but I quickly learned that it wasn’t up to the kind of daily use that I give a computer.

It has almost been another year. Pam is getting a new computer. I am getting a new computer. I am going to get a Mac mini. She is probably going to get a new MacBook Pro or whatever it is they announce this next week. She is excited. I intend to recommend that she back her files up to Apple’s online backup service as well as a local backup disk.

I intend to set up my computer so that I can switch my monitor and keyboard between multiple computers. I’m not sure exactly how I will do that but I will figure it out. There used to be a device called a KVM switch. KVM stands for Keyboard, Video, Mouse. The problem is, the technology for keyboards, mice, and video monitors has changed. I’m not sure how the same thing is best accomplished these days. I suppose I will learn.

I seem to have drifted off topic a bit. I wanted to talk about how good it felt to use the iMac when it was new and working properly and how I hadn’t had a computer since then that gives me the feeling of having the best tool for the job. My computer is adequate but not outstanding.

As I think about it, I come to the realization that it may not be that my computer is less capable than the iMac that it replaced but rather that my expectations have grown. Our ever expanding expectations of computers are growing beyond the capacity of any one machine.

I have been reading up on the way that large computing operations are approaching delivery of their software these days. For a while they did it with server farms that had load balancing schemes that directed clients to the next available machine to service their request.

This progressed until they were running virtual machines that allowed multiple “servers” to run on any given hardware computer. This allowed them to tailor the capability of each server to the needs of the software without having to replace the hardware that it was running on.

This progressed to the idea of containers. Containers allow software to have custom environments with shared operating system services. They are even more efficient than virtual machines.

These developments equate to on demand computing capability. You still need a certain basic capability on your desk top but beyond that basic service, you can get the rest on demand.

One of my Computer Scientist heroes, Danny Hillis, postulated that we would have computing capability as a utility. It seems that his prediction has come to pass. I’ll have to think about how I’m going to integrate that approach into my daily computing.

Sweet dreams, don’t forget to tell the ones you love that you love them, and most important of all, be kind.