Last day of the year. Want to jot down my quick thoughts on various IT things I learned this year.
- Adding RAM to your desktop PC. It’s time to upgrade to 8GB or 16GB of RAM. It is not expensive. But 4GB is no longer enough. If you use your computer like how you use your iPhone/iPad, you will have lots of apps running that the same time. The difference in how iOS and PC manage memory and how some desktop apps now easily use gigabytes of memory (Chrome can easily use 500Mb to over 1GB of RAM alone) means you need more RAM than before. 8GB is my minimum requirement now and I am using 16GB in some of my machines. 16GB will cost you around USD 70 (RMB 400).
- If you want to take advantage of the additional RAM, you will need to upgrade to 64-bit Windows. Don’t waste time with the 3GB RAM limit with 32-bit version. Microsoft didn’t make it simple for users to migrate to 64-bit like what Apple did with MacOS seamless upgrade. Over 50% of Windows users now run on 64-bit version. Side note: Funny is that we know iOS will probably have the seamless update to 64-bit in the future, whilst other systems like Android or Windows Mobile will probably not.
- SSD (Solid State Disk), think of it as using memory chips to store data rather than spinning hard disks, it is quite a bit more expensive, but it is much faster than spinning hard disk. Again, your iOS Device have all memory chips and no spinning disk, so if you want something as fast and slick, you will need to match that on your desktop. SSD has already came down in price this year, a 256GB will set you back about USD 166 (RMB 1000) and 256GB is good enough for most people as a startup disk and have a spinning terabyte hard disk for bigger (slower) storage.
- Smart cables. Stop getting hung up about changing of the 30-pin dock connector on iOS devices. The new Lightning cable is a huge improvement. Not having to worry about which side to plug the cable in is the type of little enhancements in life that keeps 250 million users away from the Android platform. And the new cable, being a smart cable with microprocessors inside the cable, is probably USB 3 ready for super fast connection, we will just have to wait for Apple to announce such feature one day.
- Talking about USB 3, faster I/O is so important now that terabytes of storage is common. USB 2 is just too slow to transfer gigabytes or terabytes of data. USB 3 is about 10 times faster than USB 2 which means it can make full use of the speed of your SATA hard disk. Previously, when you have an external USB 2 hard disk, you are mostly limited by the speed of the USB connection of 480Mbps. USB 3.0, goes up to 5Gbps; SATA/eSATA is running at 3Gbps (6Gbps version is not widely available yet). Of course, like many things, Apple/Intel have their own high speed I/O too, Thunderbolt. Using smart cable again, Thunderbolt is much faster at 10Gbps. You can use it to run your external monitor as well as your external hard disk at the same time. I have been doing a lot of system migration and upgrade this year and I will start getting rid of all my USB 2 storage and move towards all USB 3, eSATA and Thunderbolt only. (Thunderbolt is great for Macs as newer ones have it built in, I have not tried that on PC yet.)
- Retina Display. Apple only so far. It’s always hard to justify spending more money than needed. The truth is, you don’t need retina, you want it. That’s why Apple is winning.
- Cloud. I can only recommend iCloud, SkyDrive and Box.com. I can’t recommend Google and Dropbox because they are blocked in China (mainly because I am based here). It is so not about politics, just business. It is also good to point out that in 2012, Google started charging for Google Apps for all business users, no more free signups for small teams. At 50 dollars per user per year, it is not that cheap if you plan this out as an annual cost for multiple years. I guess it is important to recognise that there is no free lunch, not during the dotcom bubble, not now with the social/local/mobile/cloud era. We also moved away from github this year to use bitbucket for our cloud based source code management. The reason was github was charging 10x more than bitbucket but providing essentially the same service, we have been using github for a while, but they have not improved their services and keep charging the same money. In IT, we expect price to drop for the same service, kind of like economy of scale but with a time factor to it. If they wanted to keep charging the same price, they need to keep innovating and improve their services.
- iPhone and Android, maybe Windows Mobile, but not the new Blackberry. iPhone 5 is great, the build quality amazes me still. I have used other Android devices, and they are nice too. Not only Samsung ones, but HTC, Sony, Motorola or even some Chinese makers are coming up with good Android phones. Android is still a bit slower on the UI/UX side and the performance is less consistent. The same app can have very different performance on different devices. The upgrade cycle is also shocking. The majority of users are still using pre-4.0 Android system, that’s after a full year since its release. Whilst Apple can generally achieve 50%+ within weeks of release to available devices. Security remain my biggest concern of the Android platform, once you have rooted your device, anything can happen without your permission. That was a major reason why Linux (the free OS which Android is based on) didn’t catch on in the corporate world (outside of the IT sector) because it lacks the security model which kind of contradicts the open source idea. I am hopeful that Microsoft will keep trying and gain market share with all the device makers who already have good hardware running Android. But for Blackberry or even Nokia, I don’t think they will recover well. Nokia should be okay with the blessing from Microsoft, but Blackberry might not be able to sustain much longer as a handset maker, just like what happened with Ericsson. Once you have lost the “cool”, it is hard to get it back. It is no longer something that you are proud of to say to anyone that you own a Nokia or Blackberry. You don’t show off to your friend and recommend them to get one. Very much the same as what happened with Sony, when you stopped thinking that walkman, discman or mini-disc is cool. Somehow Apple is managing to keep their brand fresh. Side note: LG suing Samsung over display technologies used in their phones is kind of interesting. When everyone keeps thinking that it is iOS vs Android, they are forgetting that the Android camp is far from being truly united.
Anyway. Been a busy year. Wish you all a great new year ahead!