Tuesday, July 29, 2014

State of Software Amateurism

OSuseage2014During the winter months, I was wrapped up in more than a couple discussions with kids who consider themselves to be computer experts (by profession, at the least) who believe that if you aren’t using the latest OS, you are a hillbilly. As of March 2014, the above chart reflects US computer OS use, per a pretty large sample survey.

The statistic that most interests me is “Other,” the 1.99% of users whose technology was, apparently, unimportant to the surveyors. On a recent trip to New Mexico, I met a surprising number of people who run their businesses on old versions of Windows: all the way back to a law office using Windows for Workgroups 3.11, a graphic artist using windows 98, a collection of small business owners who network and advertise their group on the web using tools from Windows 95, and several people still on Vista. While we were camped at Elephant Butte State Park, I met a 60’s rock star and I listened to his music recorded on a 1970’s TASCAM 80-8 1/2” reel-to-reel in a camper trailer. He gave me a copy of the soon-to-be-released CD bounced down to MP3 on a free version of studio editing software long-ago-absorbed by Adobe.

The OS-users’ pie chart chart sort of reflects my own experience, although a bit optimistically. Microsoft has been working overtime to convince WinXP users to evacuate the building since the company has ceased “support” of XP. Of course, real computer IT and user types know Microsoft is bullshitting us. Support for business XP users will continue for a while and you can tag on to that gravy train easily. Less obvious is the fact that hackers write hacks for the biggest bang for the buck. The real reason Apple’s OS X is fairly “safe” from identity thieves is that a scant 6-7% of computer users are Apple computer owners. If you really want to be hack-free, Windows for Workgroups 3.11 might be your best bet. Running MSDOS might be the closest thing to total security possible.

Soon, it won’t matter much what sort of PC computer OS you run because the majority of computer users will be tablet and phone nerds. The industry expects tablet sales to almost double desk and laptop PC sales by 2017. Mobile phones are already selling at 5X the PC rate and will approach 10X PC sales in 2017. The smart hacker is already up into your phones’ butt right now and heading for the digestive system.

The kids who run computer companies, especially the technologically inbred CEO/CFO/COO types, could care less about security, since they are in no way obligated by law for the incredible financial losses their companies are responsible for creating. While you have to marvel at the royal way these blessed-by-corruption organizations are treated, as a consumer we need to be more than a little bit suspicious of anything they tell us. The fact is, I believe, the only reason for owning any sort of computer is practical. These instruments are nearly useless as educational devices, incredibly limited as news distribution sources, and as inclined to continue the dumbing-down of our degraded and degenerating species as television. So, worrying about whether we are using the latest version of some half-baked, user-hostile bullshit software or hardware is self-destructive.

It is valuable (and economical) to constantly remind yourself that a whole lot more great art was created on considerably less sophisticated technology that whatever you’re working with right now than you are likely to produce in seven lifetimes. If you can accomplish whatever work you need to be doing with whatever tool you have in your office, closet, classroom, or business, you are sufficiently up-to-date. Do work and forget about the color-of-the-designer-magazine-week bullshit.

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Wirebender Audio Rants

Over the dozen years I taught audio engineering at Musictech College and McNally Smith College of Music, I accumulated a lot of material that might be useful to all sorts of budding audio techs and musicians. This site will include comments and questions about professional audio standards, practices, and equipment. I will add occasional product reviews with as many objective and irrational opinions as possible.