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2001 New Year's Resolutions

January 3, 2001
by Zac Belado

I am not usually prone to indulging in the usual end-of-year introspection. This is mostly because I am all too aware of my own limitations and failings, and so I realise that there isn't much point in making resolutions that I know I have no chance of actually attaining -- like trying to finally get rid of that illegal panda farm (steaks, anyone?). That said, I will share a list of "resolutions" for the next year, which are more predictions and commentary than targets and goals for personal growth.

I will no longer play games on my PC

Not, mind you, that I will stop gaming, but only that the era of the PC as the premier gaming platform is at an end. The console gaming experience is the real future of gaming. Even Microsoft knows this: the company plans to spend close to $500 million marketing their X Box console. The reason for the demise of the PC as the premier gaming system is that PCs are just too much trouble to operate and maintain -- unless, of course, your idea of fun is trying to reconfigure your PC every time you buy a new piece of hardware. There are too many hardware configurations, too many untested driver configurations and too many hardware companies more interested in benchmarks than customer satisfaction for the PC to be used to play games. This year I spent more time trying to debug my hardware and driver configurations than I did playing the actual games. Downloading new drivers, testing configurations, downloading patches for the AGP chip on my motherboard...you get the idea.

Contrast this with my Dreamcast: I open the lid, insert the game, press the power button and enjoy the game. And with the addition of a keyboard, mice, and modem or broadband adapters for console systems we have reached a point where PCs offer no substantive advantage over the Dreamcast, PS2 or the upcoming X Box.

I will finally learn what the Unix command fold does

When OS X finally ships in February, I will be one of the first people to be loading it onto my computer. I'm already running the public beta on my G4 and PowerBook and am enthralled by the OS. Not only is it a joy to finally have an OS on my Mac that won't come to a grinding halt when Internet Explorer decides to hang when viewing a page, or because you started it up on an even numbered day at a time with an odd numbered hour, but OS X provides access to a wide range of Unix commands and utilities. This became quite important when I had to go through the audio files for a project (over 3500 of them) and remove all the files whose names ended with "_a". Not a very simple task on my Mac, but it took less than a second to accomplish in the terminal window under OS X.

What will actually make OS X more powerful than Linux (unless Nautilus takes off and fulfills the promise of its early versions) is that it is fully operable without having to use the CLI. If you don't want to learn how to pipe Unix commands together or suffer through learning vi or emacs, then you won't have to. Mac users will finally have access to a stable, crash-resistant OS that makes it easy for users to explore Unix.

And just in case you were curious about what fold actually does...

I will stop being surprised by the ignorance of the press

I spent most of the year being amazed by the total lack of understanding displayed by most members of the press when discussing the then-burgeoning "new economy". Reporters who could barely read out a URL without suffering from a debilitating case of cognitive dissonance were informing their readers and viewers that these companies -- many of which were run in a fashion that made you think that the CFOs couldn't spell the word "profit", let alone attain one -- were the future of commerce and business.

If that wasn't bad enough, those same reporters are now furrowing their brows, struggling to determine why companies worth billions at the beginning of the year could be bankrupt months later, and disclaiming those same companies (many of which are out of business) because of their lack of sound business practices. Could this have anything to do with ill-prepared investors being led into investing in unsound companies by members of the media whose idea of investigative business journalism is double-checking the fax number of the press release they read into a camera? No, I didn't think so.

The "new economy" seems to have appeared all that new only to people who didn't know anything about, say, the highly volatile nature of Dutch tulips. And the only truly shocking thing about this whole sordid affair (aside from the fact that there aren't any number of lawsuits being filed for fraud) is that most media outlets haven't been torched by irate viewers and bankrupt investors. It causes one to doubt the wisdom of Lincoln's famous aphorism.

I will stop upgrading my Windows software

If the idea of a hacker having access to Microsoft's source code wasn't enough to make you want to stop upgrading your Microsoft software, then the plan for Microsoft to sell their software via subscription certainly will.

The plan is that you will, supposedly, pay a lower initial price for the software, and then get free updates through the life of the subscription. But it doesn't take more financial acumen than that of the average five-year-old to realise that this is untenable for Microsoft. They make most of their money through software upgrade sales. In fact, the entire software development model that drives the company is based on building bigger and more inefficient software solely to justify the upgrade costs; so the idea that Microsoft is going to do away with that revenue stream is ridiculous. More likely, Microsoft will sell these subscriptions for a reduced cost until they have enough users in the program, at which point they will return to charging a significant amount of money for each upgrade. I believe the correct marketing term for this is "servicing the end user".

And if that isn't bad enough, imagine allowing Microsoft, the company that brought you hidden id tags in your Office documents, access to your hard drive in order to facilitate this process. This is nothing more than a way to try to ensure that Microsoft retains its valuable software upgrade revenues; it has nothing to do with ease of use or customer demand. I've already pulled out my copy of Apple Works and begun hoping that Sun can actually do something useful with Star Office.

As a valuable public service

And as a valuable public service to those of you who do prepare New Year's resolutions, I've taken the time to compile a list of resolutions that anyone will be able to attain.

  1. No more week-long drug orgies in Monaco with underwear models
  2. No buying floundering internet startup domain names on eBay
  3. No more midnight prank calls to Larry Ellison telling him I have compromising photos of Bill Gates and Alan Greenspan
  4. No more deals with George Soros to sell the Thai baht short in order to cover my baccarat losses
  5. Dismantle the giant laser on the moon and stop threatening to destroy the earth in an attempt to keep Sabrina the Teenage Witch on the WB network.
Zac Belado is a programmer, web developer and rehabilitated ex-designer based in Vancouver, British Columbia. He currently works as an Application Developer for a Vancouver software company. His primary focus is web applications built using ColdFusion. He has been involved in multimedia and web-based development, producing work for clients such as Levi Straus, Motorola and Adobe Systems. As well, he has written for the Macromedia Users Journal and been a featured speaker at the Macromedia Users Convention.

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