Monday, 30 June 2008

Bill of Gates

It's... strange. Starting tomorrow, Bill Gates will "transition out" of his role at Microsoft, allegedly to work more actively at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. That's their charity thingy, mind you, if you didn't know.

Having been born in the glorious year 1982, I grew up with the knowledge that Gates is "the richest man in the world", even if he's now just the 3rd richest, poor thing. And I pretty much 'transitioned' myself from thinking he was the bee's knees, during the '80s, when all that was new and shiny, to evil incarnate, knowing that the world around me constantly found more and more reasons to hate the guy.

The reason for the latter seems to be, in my book, that Windows pretty much suck. On many levels, but mostly 'underneath', the way the whole OS works. And the reason for that is evident, and goes waaay back, with the deal that had him buy MS DOS, some random OS from some random company, to give to IBM, since, as we all know, he had an agreement with them to do so, without having an OS.

And, yes, it seems to me that he spent all his life after that, until now, using his business sense to cover that mistake with the icing needed to make his 'vision' work, pretty much, on a sucky base. And, I must say, quite a glorious vision that was: "a personal computer on every desk and in every home". I can't count the times I've quoted that, in different contexts, too. And it's defined the present, on many levels, to a great degree. Glorious.

Yes, he's probably the only dork I know of who is so dorky yet still has such business acumen. 'S true. And business acumen was so hot during the '80s, yes it was. I still think Windows suck, mind you. But I can't help feeling that it's the end of an era, and that Gates is an... OK guy. Or, at least, that he's not worth all the hate he gets, not personally, as a person, personifying the object of all our hate.

At least he's trying to make up for it now. And we've reached the point where we pretty much have a PC everywhere, even if the kids in developing countries were given, quite charitably, a bunch of laptops with an open source OS. Much to Gates' disdain, too, because his business sense obviously overrides his charity sense. Which is 'normal', since it even overrides his common sense, thus branding him a dork.

But I'm the kind of person who's learned to overlook a dork's negative, or annoying, qualities, going for the good qualities that they always keep hidden underneath. And, yes, I'll miss Bill Gates. There, I said it.

Wednesday, 18 June 2008

On Types Of Geekdom

After my previous "times change" rant, I have an announcement to make, ladies and gentlemen: I don't play games. PC games, that is. No. Not the way I used to.

Far from that - I only installed Yahtzee's Trilby recently, and I haven't even finished it. And I do play the occasional wii game with my brother (I must say, I trashed his friend Hector in wii sports' bowling the other day), or with whoever has a wii around me lately, or the occasional Spider Solitaire on my PC when I'm dead bored (which happens pretty rarely lately), and I do plan to play Fallout 3 when it comes out (although I know it'll be like a post-apocalyptic Oblivion, but who's to say that's all bad?)...

This is just to make an 'official announcement' somewhere. That, plus I was talking to my friend Nick (or Apophis, call him what you will), and we decided - once he told me all enthusiastic, for the third time, that he now has a second monitor, which he can watch series' episodes on while he plays games (after which Christine and I told him off for not having watched Arrested Development. Again.) - and, alkthough we are all happy for him, like, we are also weirded out by the fact that he's now "the gaming type" so much more than he is "the watching type".

It's true that today's geeks, the type that has a pretty fast DSL connection (or cable, or what-have-you) as a norm, and downloads stuff from "the uncle in the States" ever so often, tend to go one way in spite of all others. Once, there were just "geeks". "Us geeks", we used to say, and feel a certain solidarity. We knew where we stood, and all that.

But now, oh, now. Now we've had to decide, with the limiting reagent where our 'real' interests are concerned being time - and, as I recently realized, "that feeling of absolute boredom" being something I haven't felt for a while - making us have to decide what we love the most out of all our interests, what the real "geek subject" which we belong to is. Even if that feels like the "who do you love more, mommy or daddy? question.

For some, the answer to this has been games. For others, it's been news, or reading stuff online, here and there, on websites and the works, or graphics, creating them and sharing them, or music, in all its forms. Or even - gods forbid - analogue stuff, that slow, boring "real life" some still rant about. Well, for me, it's watching stuff. Movies, or series, or web-based shows, or just your basic YouTube vid. Even just a song's video clip. Moving pictures, if you will.

And what I realized, having once been a kid that spent hours upon end reading at least one book each day, is that what I really love, what I actually crave and chase, is stories. Even the games I've loved back-in-the-day, I've loved them because of their story, because of the 'other world' they took me to, and what happened there. From Monkey Island, say, to Pinball, they all make sense to me somehow, they all 'tell me something' and 'take me somewhere'.

And that's why I really don't mind, as my brother recently discovered while playing Splinter Cell (yes, the wii is old-school in what it can provide graphics-wise, but it has awesomazing new ways to interact, which rule - I must say, I'm the one who awoke my brother to the way to 'jump' in the game, since there's no button there that does that - and I'd obviously missed the game the first time around - that is, when it came out for the PC), if I'm not the one actually playing, and I merely watch as someone else does, as, with games, the tedious part, for me, is actually interacting, in that 'interactive storytelling' do.

And, oh yes, I'm with the "video geek" crowd. Thassme. Not everyone chooses, really, but some of us have to, especially from a certain point onwards. And I did. And, although I may, for old times' sake or for sheer curiosity, touch upon other "geek realms", I know that this is my one. Mine, mine, mine. And here I'll stay. Unless something else shines temptingly on the other side, of course.

Generation Meh

I was trying to fix the PC this morning, as my brother came back from school, where he had to write his one-exam-before-last. And he came in while I had the tower open and, once he'd finished with all his stupid jokes about "why these cables (the IDEs) are lots-of-cables-connected-as-one and they don't sell them as separate cables", I offered to give him a quick once-over about the basic components in a PC, i.e. which is the motherboard, what basic cards there are on it, what the RAM modules are and what they do, what the hard drives are, without planning to mention anything about jumpers etc. Just for him to know the basics, you know?

His reply, much to my shock, was "why on earth?". And when I just stared at him with wide eyes, not having the faintest idea what to say, he just went on: "I'd rather give 50 € to a guy for him to fix the PC for me, than fill my brain with this useless info, taking up space which I can fill with other, more useful things". And I used to wonder why he wants to be a Civil Engineer instead of an Electronic one, when they're both in the same Universities...

The whole incident, poor recently-repatriated-girl (me), made me wonder how this is possible, for a boy born and, therefore, raised, a mere 8 years (and 9 days) after myself. But, you see, once I thought about it a bit harder (>_<), I decided that it's an OK way to go about it, these days. Back in "my day", there wasn't "a personal computer on (pretty much) every desk and in (pretty much) every home", and you had to know about computers in order to own one. At least the basics. And you had to have a few pals that "knew more than you" if you wanted to get along knowing "the basics". Today, in the glorious year 2008 ("the future", as some grew up viewing it), one really doesn't need to know much to own a computer and work on it. My brother has an ECDL diploma, which pretty much goes to say that he's able to do what the John Hodgman PC does in those Mac-Vs-PC ads, namely use spreadsheets and the works. C' est à dire, all is well for my p'tit frère.

And this all made me think of all the other things that I had as constants, as ideologies which I took for granted, but have actually changed as time went by. Things like my stance in the aforementioned Mac Vs PC debate, which all went haywire once it had been established that, with Intel inside, you could have both the Mac OSX and the Windows of your choice (call me XP, 'till the new win come out at least) to do stuff which you can only do there (i.e. to play games, pretty much). I mean, just name another reason why you won't go Mac now, other than "the X being on the wrong side" (read: the forces of habit).

Or, again, being a person who was once a gamer, I grew up believing that you'd be stupid to get a laptop as your "main computer", since it would call for a "no upgrades, just buying a new PC" policy. But no, that was pretty much true before the glorious days of USB. Now, you're able to connect pretty much anything that matters - from a monitor, to a HDD, to a graphics card - on your lappie via USB, if you so want. Plus, the thing you might need an upgrade of while the warantee is valid is your memory, and most laptops come with a memory upgrade capability (that is to say, most mobos used in laptops can take extra memory modules). You just need to take it back to the shop where you bought them, if youwant to waste that space in your brain for "other, more useful things". Which is, as I tried to express, fair enough.

It's just that I feel so old. And, not having followed the "specialist" path in my life, I also feel that I've wasted a good portion of my brain, and of the time in my life. I mean, come on, what's a geek girl to do, when I no longer even wear my geek-tag? And what am I to tell my nieces and nephews, once I get myself some, if their own father doesn't know, and doesn't even want to know or need to know, about this crap?

Still, all this makes me think of the "younger generation" thoughts that I used to have "back in the day". You see, I was convinced that the "new generation" would evolve being able to know all that it needs to know, about science, computers, or even just plain day-to-day logical thinking, but wouldn't need to care much about anything. And, yes, I now find myself in the melting pot of all this knowledge-of-today, feeling that I'm trying to remain afloat in the sea of knowledge, while wearing my semi-literacy armbands, smattering along with a stupid smile of ignorance re. most important things, while the "new generation" just swims idly by me and floats happily like there's no tomorrow.

I know there are much more stupid people out there. Heck, Than is convinced - and is currently researching the matter, and confirming his beliefs, making me wonder what sort of people he now hangs out with - that most youngsters don't even know what stars are, astronomically - you know, the kind we see in the sky... I'm certain that I'm not "too stupid to be alive", then, sure. But I'm not one of the most knowledgeable people, like I thought I was as a kid, either. Nuh-oh. Which only makes the then-me right, even if it makes the now-me bitter-as-coffee.

"One day", you see, the new generation should be able to look through my huge Google Reader list of the past 5 days' worth of RSS crap (1000+ posts, as it says), and decide in an instant what's important and what to ignore. And, when people in Wired magazine, I think it was (unless it was New Scientist, or something else populist-scientific like all the other magazines I now read), wine that people should start learning more of the basics in primary school, gaining a way of thought which is necessary for a scientifically literate society, I'm kinda optimistic where the new generation is concerned. In the long run, at least. But I can't stop looking at myself with one eyebrow raised now (if only I could raise just one eyebrow) for my current state of un-intelligence. Meh.