The Predictable Windows V MacOS X Comparison Article?

Every so often, editors of PC and Mac magazines seem to feel the need to do a comparison article, where they compare Windows XP with MacOS X. To some extent this tends to be a fairly pointless exercise, and entirely predictable – the PC magazines always put Windows on top, the Mac magazines always ensure that MacOS X wins.

The article in the July 2006 issue of PC Pro is no exception. The cover splashes with ‘Vista vs Apple – The essential guide to choosing your next operating system’, before spending ten pages going through all the aspects of the two systems proving that Windows is the best choice, indeed they put Vista ahead in every category.

However some interesting observations about the comparison. Firstly, the playing field is not exactly level as they compare Windows Vista – the next generation Windows that is still in beta – with the current generation of MacOS X. Now to be a fair comparison, either they need to compare Vista with Leopard, the version of MacOS X that is expected to come out about the same time as Vista, or compare current Windows XP with Tiger. They also are slightly odd over iLife. They heavily down-mark the Mac for not including iLife – which is true if you are buying a boxed copy of Tiger for an existing Mac – however all new Macs include iLife for free. If you are a PC owner, the only way you’re going to get MacOS X, is to buy a Mac. Indeed the article even concedes later on that a lot of PC owners will need to buy a new PC to run Vista anyway.

What is more interesting though is some of the comments in the text. Firstly, they highlight at one point in the article that, as with most magazines, the whole article has been written and put together on a Mac. In the conclusion, despite the scores at the bottom, there is a fairly startling admission for a PC magazine, that there is little to separate the next generation Windows from the current MacOS X, and more than that that 80% of users will find that Tiger meets all of their needs. The article even dares to suggest that with the current prices of Macs, and the industry standard software that is available on the platform that a Mac would make a good choice for a business machine, and it is largely down to the fact that Windows is the de-facto standard that most business purchasers would go for a Windows machine. Indeed even the editor seems to be falling for the Mac somewhat by highlighting that they have yet to find a PC manufacturer who can compete with the Mac Mini. Strange times indeed…

Fog Light Cabbie Gets Jail

As some of you may know, one of my bugbears on the roads, is people who drive with their front fog lights on when there isn’t any fog. Whenever I mention it, it usually transpires that quite a lot of people don’t seem to realise that it’s illegal, basically because you regularly pass loads of people who use them incorrectly. However it is an offence, due to the danger of other road users being dazzled by the high intensity lights – as indeed I have been on occasions. As such it is subject to a £30 fixed penalty notice if you get caught – although as the number of people who do it shows, it’s not very high up on the list of Police priorities – hence why when Police do issue a notice, it makes the regional news.

There have been two examples recently. An unfortunate cabbie in Portsmouth made the national press with his story. He was pulled over (apparently not for the first time according to local reports), and served with a £30 fixed penalty notice. Rather than pay it, he refused, and was jailed for five days for non-payment of fines. This of course has led to all the ‘Cabbie Jailed for Leaving Fog Lights On‘ type headlines, indeed he even turned up on our local TV news complaining that it was unfair that he got fined but others were let off with a warning. He’s not alone – take a look at this video item from January – a motorist in the Midlands with forty years of trouble free motoring got ticketed for the same offence – he’s just at the point of considering not paying…

Perhaps the most amusing part of both TV items is that for the benefit of the cameras, both drivers drove up and down the road repeating the offence for the BBC. I’m sure there is something in the BBC charter about inciting people to commit a crime. 😀

eBible

I don’t know about you, but I’m never massively impressed with the technical quality of Christian web sites. Whilst there are a growing number of nicely designed sites, the majority still don’t impress. This is precisely the problem that the GodBit project has set out to address, and as such I have been keeping an eye on the project web site.

However today, a Christian site was actually picked up by TechCrunch, a well known site that looks at the cutting edge of web applications. The site in question was eBible, who are currently beta testing a web 2.0 implementation of a multi-version Bible search engine. The feature set looks pretty impressive, allowing a keyword search against any of the versions of the Bible they have, and then the ability to switch between the different versions of a selcted passage. In addition to that it also cross references the passage with a selection of other online resources, and includes relevant commentary for the passage.

Currently it is in invite only beta testing, however the web site does allow you to request an invite – and there is also a blog that allows you some insight into how the development process is going. Certainly it is a site to keep an eye on in the future.

Rise of the Cybermen

After two storming episodes of Doctor Who I was expecting great things of the episode tonight, but to some extent they weren’t really met.

Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t think Rise of the Cybermen was dreadful, it’s just that the last few episodes have raised the bar rather, and it didn’t quite make it.

The episode kicked off with a pretty spectacular explosion in the TARDIS that sent it into the parallel universe, leaving the Doctor and his companions potentially stranded. Oddly enough for such a catastrophic explosion, the solution was found pretty quickly, with a window of 24 hours for the TARDIS to recharge giving an opportunity for Rose to go and meet her parents in this universe, leading to the encounter with the Cybermen.

This leads me on to one point about the show that has bothered me somewhat – unless we find out something to the contrary in next weeks episode, and I know this is me being really picky – these aren’t the Cybermen. In the parallel universe they are ‘upgraded’ humans created by a wheelchair bound genius who is sick and looking to extend his life, whereas in the original universe although they are again upgraded humanoid, they are not from Earth, but instead come from Mondas, as detailed in their first encounter with the Doctor in the Tenth Planet. Having said that, I could be jumping ahead, and in next weeks episode we find out that in this universe Lumic has salvaged Cybermen technology from the destruction of Mondas in 1986. Interestingly a similar example of things being different could have been used to provide a more interesting way to get back from this parallel universe by having the TARDIS unable to be repaired save for parts from a parallel version of itself stranded on Earth, although it’s been used before, for example in the book Blood Heat where similarly the seventh Doctor finds himself trapped in a parallel universe where his third incarnation had been killed during his battle with the Silurians. Without going in to too much detail, he can’t use his own TARDIS to leave, so instead departs in the parallel TARDIS left by the death of his parallel self – incidentally he does eventually regain his own TARDIS in a subsequent book.

This discussion of similar plot-lines does highlight one thing that struck me, which is the number of derivative plot elements that turned up in the episode tonight. Wheelchair bound nut-case looking to extend his life, and that of his race by augmenting them as emotionless creatures – remind you of Davros? Certainly the whole mind control thing has been done to death as well, for example in The Invasion where having allied themselves with a wealthy industrialist, the Cybermen install mind control equipment in electrical appliances. True it was given a bit of a more modern spin tonight, but it wasn’t really new.

The new Cybermen looked good, especially when they smashed their way into the house at the climax of the episode, however why show teases of them all the way through the episode when the episode title – Rise of the Cybermen – gives away who they are from the start. Teases like that only really work when, like in Earthshock for example where the Cybermen make a surprise appearance at the cliff-hanger ending.

Having said all of that, I still quite enjoyed the episode – and it will be interesting to see how it goes next week.

Filling You With Confidence

You may have spotted on the news at the weekend that Shell have suspended the use of Chip and Pin following discovery of a £1,000,000 fraud where money was being syphoned out of customer accounts. Of course, the report is pretty non-specific as to what the problem was, with only a statement from a spokeswoman at APACS, who are behind Chip and Pin, about how the pin pads are supposed to be tamper resistant.

However, today the BBC News site posted an item containing advice from Frank Abagnale, whose exploits were immortalised in the film Catch Me If You Can, on how to avoid ID theft. Alongside his advice to not use cheques – they have all the information on them that an ID thief needs, he also laughs at Chip and Pin, highlighting that the fraudsters at Shell got their information from the un-protected magnetic strip on the back of the card. As I mentioned way back in January last year, whilst APACS will tell you how wonderfully secure the chip is, they always skip over the fact that in order to remain compatible with older terminals and cash points, all the relevant information is still in the magnetic strip on the back. I’m just surprised that it’s taken someone this long to pull off a big scam in that way.

The Abagnale article also highlights some other security loopholes with the new system. Take those snazzy wireless terminals that you often see in restaurants, those helpfully decode the information off your card, and then send it over an unencrypted radio connection back to base. Not surprisingly he has little confidence in the governments supposed foolproof ID card system – he gives it six months before someone replicates it perfectly, and with that, everything you need to pretend to be someone else is in the one place. Fills you with confidence really.

Thoughts from, and the lives of a Canadian and a Brit living in Southern England.