Announcement

Collapse

Welcome to Moorcock's Miscellany

Dear reader,

Many people have given their valuable time to create a website for the pleasure of posing questions to Michael Moorcock, meeting people from around the world, and mining the site for information. Please follow one of the links above to learn more about the site.

Thank you,
Reinart der Fuchs
See more
See less

Computer Compatibility Debate

Collapse
X
 
  • Filter
  • Time
  • Show
Clear All
new posts

  • Computer Compatibility Debate

    To avoid cluttering the thread on Linda's help I've started this discussion here

    Adler
    >What I talk about in regard to Gates is summed up in the >following: Back in the 80s you had home computers like the >Commodore 64, Amiga, and Atari and these units had software >that ran programs much like what we have today, only very, >very primitive. The problem was that the none of the software >was standardized and so it could not be used in different >machines.
    >If you owned a Commodore 64, as I did, then you could not use >Amiga software, and even more heinous, when Commodore >came out with a new machine you could not use the Commodore >64 software in it. So, that meant that you were forced to >purchase the company’s new machine if you wanted to have the >new programs.
    >That’s sinister capitalism at it’s, I suppose, most sinister!

    I am not so sure it is a case of 'built in obsolescence' as technological progress!

    As the Amiga had 8 times the memory, and about 8 times as much processor power, it became possible to create programs that were simply impossible to write on the Commodore 64.

    The same continues to be true today - we can store hours of audio and video on our computers, while a mobile phone contains far more computing power than an Amiga.

    I also remember that new software was made for the Commodore 64 for many years after the Amiga came out, because there were still millions of older machines.

    What is true is that if you bought the new machine, you could no longer use your existing programs. That is what the PC changed. You should still be able to use a 1982 PC program on a PC today.

    >Today we see an echo of this past in relation to Mac versus PC >market. From what I understand Mac has some program or >device that allows PC software to function on their machine. That >means to me that there is a fine line between how both >machines operate. It’s a meaningless difference, I’m sure.

    In layman's terms, prior to 2005, Apple used chips that spoke a different language. They now use the same Intel chips used by Microsoft's Windows software, most versions of Linux, and some other less known operating systems.

    From one point of view this is a good thing - it means owners of Apple machines, at least, can run almost all available software.

    From another point of view, it is a bad thing. It is a bit like the world settling on English as the dominant language - there is a gain in everyone being able to understand each other, but something important is also lost.

    We have already reached the day when there is no meaningful difference in hardware; the day when there is no meaningful difference in software will be a victory for the Lords Of Law.

    (Developments in China may change this. China is very determined to develop it's own high-tech infrastructure that is not tied to US standards).

    As to whether the difference between Mac and PC is meaningful, this is a hard question to answer. In terms of the hardware, the two platforms are now identical. People have proven that the Mac operating system will run on non-Apple machines.

    However, the difference between Windows, Linux and the Mac (OS X) is meaningful. When I started programming back in the 80s, most software developers would write everything from the ground up, using the 'machine language' of the computer itself. That was the only way to make programs fast enough. About the only part of the built-in software most programs used was to load the tape, and you needed a good understanding of the physical hardware.

    The second generation of home machines, like the Atari, Amiga and Mac, had the desktop, mouse, windows, as we are now used to. You could have more than one program open (if not running).
    If you wanted to write an application that would work inside a window, you needed to build on top of the code that came with the machine.

    The advantage of this was that you didn't need to write your own code to draw a line, display a letter, or scroll around - you could stand on the shoulders of geeks. However, if you did that, you tied your program to a particular machine.

    Over the years, these layers have grown increasingly advanced, allowing developers to write at higher and higher levels.

    The same remains true today - a program written on top of Linux will not run on Windows or OS X automatically. It will use features that may not exist, or work in a different way. Although the underlying language is the same, the terminology and dialect are different. What is easy to express in one, is hard to do in another - equally they are driven in different ways by their communities.

    As for how the Mac or Linux machines can run Windows - there are three ways :
    1) Start up the machine and run Windows instead. This is because they now all share the same hardware.
    2) Through 'virtualisation'. Than means I start up my machine, then I open a window, and inside that window is another 'virtual machine' which I can use to run Windows on (and then run a Windows program).
    3) 'Crossover'/WINE. The Windows system is now so old, that people have been able to write a system that understands the language it speaks and behaves the same way. It can translate applications that 'speak Windows' into Linux or OS X. It's only about 90% effective, and when the next version of Windows comes out, it will take several years to catch up.

    Google the following : CoverFlow, Delicious Library, OmniGraffle, Keynote 3, and GarageBand. Compare OmniGraffle and Keynote with Visio and Powerpoint. While it is possible to develop equivalent programs on Windows, this gives an idea of what is easy to develop. To provide some balance, compare the games available on the Mac with the PC.

    >Right, so now it's really just about marketing.

    Hopefully the above may have shed some light, but it is actually about all the stuff that comes in between the actual hardware and the programs you actually run.

    Back to the history lesson :

    While the machines like the Amiga were very popular in the home, the IBM PC was more successful in business. However, rather than build their own operating system for the machine, IBM licensed one from Microsoft (MS-DOS). After having seen Apple's Mac, and only after trying to licence the software from Apple, Microsoft created Windows, that would run on the same machines that ran MS-DOS.

    >So, it is my point of view that Gates helped to clean this up quite >a bit by somehow forcing the makers of machines to not create >software only for their units

    Well, the makers of machines were rarely the people who made the software. What he did was quite simple. As IBM did not own the operating system code, he did the same deal with other manufacturers. Whatever the name on the outside, the inside was an Intel chip running Microsoft software, to a hardware standard determined by IBM.

    In the late 80s, IBM realised their strategic error and set about building a better version of Windows (OS/2. Known as Os Os in Spanish). I think this is what Mike was talking about when he said about their system being easier to program and more sophisticated, rather than their large mainframe machines.

    However, being IBM, they were still very focused on the corporate world, where the main problem is developing applications used by hundreds of users at the same time. Microsoft put their bet on small businesses, and courted the manufacturers of computers rather than corporations, and software developers who had grown up programming home computers.

    By 1995, with Windows 3, they finally caught up with the state of the art for Atari, Apple, and Amiga in 1987! That is the main reason I dislike them - they set the evolution of home computers back 10 years, and continue to hold it back by moving forward at a very slow pace.

    The plus side for Windows users is that their 1982 software still works.

  • #2
    Originally posted by Jules
    The plus side for Windows users is that their 1982 software still works.
    Surely it only work if you've got an old version of the OS to run it on? I can't see early versions of Word running on XP. Also, isn't there in issue with early DOS software and AMD chipsets?

    Comment


    • #3
      John, although Windows XP doesn't have a DOS mode any more - the 'Command Prompt' window is merely an emulator - it does has a 'Compatibility mode that allows you run DOS program under WinXP.

      I've used this mostly for playing old DOS games like Betrayal at Krondor, but I don't see why it shouldn't work with old versions of Word. (I've got a copy of Word 2 lying around I could try I suppose.) You may have to tweak some memory settings on the shortcut to get them to work properly but it saves on having to use Bootdisks with DOS 6.x loaded on them.
      _"For an eternity Allard was alone in an icy limbo where all the colours were bright and sharp and comfortless.
      _For another eternity Allard swam through seas without end, all green and cool and deep, where distorted creatures drifted, sometimes attacking him.
      _And then, at last, he had reached the real world – the world he had created, where he was God and could create or destroy whatever he wished.
      _He was supremely powerful. He told planets to destroy themselves, and they did. He created suns. Beautiful women flocked to be his. Of all men, he was the mightiest. Of all gods, he was the greatest."

      Comment


      • #4
        David,


        how is that Betrayal at Krondor? I wanted to play that when it came out, but did not have a computer at the time. hehe

        I guess I might be disapointed in it now though after playing recent games.


        cool, I will use that info so I can play some old games too, haha. :)

        "With a deep, not-unhappy sigh, Elric prepared to do battle with an army." (Red Pearls)
        - Michael Moorcock

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by johneffay
          Surely it only work if you've got an old version of the OS to run it on? I can't see early versions of Word running on XP. Also, isn't there in issue with early DOS software and AMD chipsets?
          John : No, you should not need an earlier version of the OS. The single biggest aim of Microsoft has been maintaining backward compatibility, even at the cost of new features. There is a remarkable amount of code in Windows that is purely dedicated to keeping specific old programs working.
          There is definitely a compatibility layer for running DOS programs in XP. While it is not 100%, it is near as.

          If you want that early version of Word :

          http://www.downloadsquad.com/2005/11/25/free-file/

          Issue with AMD : I steered clear of mentioning Intel-compatible chipsets as I wanted to try and keep it at a layman's level. I think the problem you are referring to is with 64-Bit AMD chips. The issue is that the oldest DOS applications are 16-Bit; 32-bit processors have a mode that allows them to run old 16-bit apps, while AMD's 64-bit chips only have a mode that allows them to run old 32-bit apps. Given the increase in power it is possible to work around this by running a simulation of older hardware (you would also need an older version of the OS).

          In fact, going back to the original comments about the Commodore 64, it is now possible to run early 80s computer software on any modern computer, because it is a trivial task to run a complete simulation of those machines inside a window. (Someone has even written a Commodore 64 simulator that uses the Flash player inside the web browser).

          Trivia point : Word for DOS was written in 1983. The first version of Word for the Mac was 1985. The first version of Word for Windows was not until 1989.

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by lemec
            David,


            how is that Betrayal at Krondor? I wanted to play that when it came out, but did not have a computer at the time. hehe

            I guess I might be disapointed in it now though after playing recent games.
            The good news is that Sierra eventually made BAK freeware, so you can now download completely free and gratius.

            http://www.alt-tab.net/games/betraya...ndor/download/

            While BAK has been superceded graphics-wise by lots of games like Baldur's Gate, gameplay-wise it still holds up incredibly well imo.

            The game actually utilises a flight simulator game engine to map the game world, which means you can effectively go 'off game' to explore parts of the world that aren't part of the main quests. Like lots of these games, there are dozens of sub-quests that you don't need to complete but which obviously give you a more in-depth feel for the world.

            I first played BAK not knowing anything about Raymond Feist's Riftwar novels but that wasn't really a disadvantage.

            Definitely recommended despite the dated FMV, especially since it doesn't cost anything. :D (Really think lots more games publishers should make their old, obsolete games free for download.)
            Last edited by David Mosley; 07-02-2006, 05:28 AM.
            _"For an eternity Allard was alone in an icy limbo where all the colours were bright and sharp and comfortless.
            _For another eternity Allard swam through seas without end, all green and cool and deep, where distorted creatures drifted, sometimes attacking him.
            _And then, at last, he had reached the real world – the world he had created, where he was God and could create or destroy whatever he wished.
            _He was supremely powerful. He told planets to destroy themselves, and they did. He created suns. Beautiful women flocked to be his. Of all men, he was the mightiest. Of all gods, he was the greatest."

            Comment


            • #7
              One thing to remember about the backwards compatability of WinXP, is that in order to utilize this you have to be a member of the Local Administrators or Power Users Groups. The two groups are the only ones that, by default, have permissions to run legacy software. Of course, I'm certain that you can find a tweak to give Users rights to do so by altering Local Computer Policy.
              "In omnibus requiem quaesivi, et nusquam inveni nisi in angulo cum libro"
              --Thomas a Kempis

              Comment


              • #8
                I don't know, i'm a "barbarian" in technology above all in computers, but...
                I've always used Mac since my first computer in 93 ( OK I had a Spectrum ZX in the far 86 but it was only for playing ) and I'm proud ( and happy ) tu use Mac, because for my use, it's simple, power and nice...
                It works everyday, no trobles, no restart, no bugs, no virus...
                unfortunately Steve Jobs's pc are expensive... too much expensive...
                Hieronymus

                - Dalmatius -

                "I'm forbidden to reign, but I'll never yield before the facts: I am the Cat"

                Comment


                • #9
                  My comments have little to do with compatability, but are tangentially related to the conversation...

                  I'm a Mac guy, too. I use a PowerBook at Work and an iMac at home. One reason for this is that I like OS X better than any operating system I've ever used. However I also think Macs are simply better machines.

                  (For what its worth, Berry got me started on looking into this.) Macs have better quality control that most other machines, especially in hardware compatability. Apple makes sure that its components preform well together. According to a few stories the local paper ran (AMD is headquartered here), when Apple was looking into changing its chips, they experimented with both AMD and Intel chips. The AMD chips were generally better, as they ran cooler and a little quicker. Choosing AMD would have sat better with some of the maverick types at Apple who saw Intel as the establishment. However, overall performance was better with Intel chips, so they went with them.

                  On the compatibility aspect, most ordinary files have always crossed Windows/Mac platforms pretty easily, especially word processing and spreadsheets.

                  I also agree that Microsoft is a lumbering dinosaur, more concerned with market share and loyalty than being anywhere near state of the art.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Doc
                    However I also think Macs are simply better machines.

                    (For what its worth, Berry got me started on looking into this.) Macs have better quality control that most other machines, especially in hardware compatability.
                    This is one of those myths that Apple like to see their fanbase spread around

                    The truth is that Macs have better quality control than machines that are cheaper than they are. However, buy a similarly specced PC for the same price as a Mac, and you won't find much difference in terms of build quality and reliability.

                    I'm not anti-Mac; in fact I have one sitting next to me at the minute, but a lot of the claims made for the company and products are simply hype. My favourite is the one about Steve Jobs somehow being a much nicer guy than Bill Gates...

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Doc - my main machine is a Mac Mini, and I'd agree with your assessment of OS X. It combines everything Hieronymus likes, with a lot that a more technically minded person would love.

                      As to whether their machines are simply better - there are PC vendors that have a similar attitude towards component sourcing as Apple. I was very happy with my Evesham machine, but I have been unimpressed with machines from more 'mainstream' brands (Acer, Dell, e-machines). If I went back to a PC I would definitely stick with a small 'boutique' vendor with a good reputation.

                      You have also touched on a very important point : to my point of view, file compatibility and freedom is far more important than being able to run the same program.

                      I don't think that in 20 years I will want to run any of the programs I am using today, but I will certainly want to access some files (photos, etc). This standardisation of files was already starting to happen naturally during the 80s, and if we had carried on with 4 or 5 different models of computer would almost certainly have been solved faster. Settling on one kind of computer didn't really solve the problem, it just buried it.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by johneffay
                        This is one of those myths that Apple like to see their fanbase spread around

                        The truth is that Macs have better quality control than machines that are cheaper than they are. However, buy a similarly specced PC for the same price as a Mac, and you won't find much difference in terms of build quality and reliability.
                        Of course you're right. However, that assurance of quality is something that keeps the average consumer (like me) from second-guessing his or her own decisions. I know if I buy a Mac that is 15% more expensive than some seemingly comparable PCs, I am satisfied that my 15% "markup" is well spent. I don't have similar assurances with other brands charging the same 15% "extra." Is that lazy brand loyalty on my part? Maybe...

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Jules
                          Doc - my main machine is a Mac Mini, and I'd agree with your assessment of OS X. It combines everything Hieronymus likes, with a lot that a more technically minded person would love.
                          I love everything it does. I also find it to be far more intuitive than any version of Windows I've used lately. I also understand that familiarity plays a part in this, but I have never had to work hard to figure out any part of my operating system.

                          Originally posted by Jules
                          You have also touched on a very important point : to my point of view, file compatibility and freedom is far more important than being able to run the same program.

                          I don't think that in 20 years I will want to run any of the programs I am using today, but I will certainly want to access some files (photos, etc). This standardisation of files was already starting to happen naturally during the 80s, and if we had carried on with 4 or 5 different models of computer would almost certainly have been solved faster. Settling on one kind of computer didn't really solve the problem, it just buried it.
                          Bingo. I will want some photos and word processing files in 20 years. As long as I can access those, I do not think I will care what kind of computer I am using to do so.

                          I wonder if flash memory using USB ports is somehow going to enter into this discussion, as they are beginning to show up on so much digital equipment. In other words, does being freed from the 3.5 inch floppy slot force many industries to do more with compatibility, as more industries are going to be interdependent?

                          Perhaps I shouldn't get overly optimistic.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            As a PC user working in the IT Support division for a software developer that uses PCs I'm happy to regard Macs like I regard Aston Martins or Bugattis: expensive bits of hardware that get you from A to B. :)

                            At work we primarily use Dell hardware for our servers and end-users running mostly Windows XP and Server 2000/2003 and for my money - ok, for my employer's money - its perfectly 'good enough' for business purposes. WinXP is a much more reliable and stable OS than WinNT or Win2k ever were and the amount of time I spend resolving BSODs has decreased dramatically. Hardware failures are pretty rare and when they do happen we either use Next Business Day support from Dell and get it fixed, or if the cost of repair isn't economically viable we buy a new machine. Since our average hardware cost per system is something like £250-£400 (depreciated over 3 years) it's not like we're spending £1500 per unit, which is what they used to do 6-7 years ago.
                            _"For an eternity Allard was alone in an icy limbo where all the colours were bright and sharp and comfortless.
                            _For another eternity Allard swam through seas without end, all green and cool and deep, where distorted creatures drifted, sometimes attacking him.
                            _And then, at last, he had reached the real world – the world he had created, where he was God and could create or destroy whatever he wished.
                            _He was supremely powerful. He told planets to destroy themselves, and they did. He created suns. Beautiful women flocked to be his. Of all men, he was the mightiest. Of all gods, he was the greatest."

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Doc
                              I love everything [Mac OS] does. I also find it to be far more intuitive than any version of Windows I've used lately. I also understand that familiarity plays a part in this, but I have never had to work hard to figure out any part of my operating system.
                              I'm convinced this is a mind-set thing. I've seen and occassionally had to use Mac PCs and the GUI was almost completely alien to what I was used to with Windows. Where was the 'right-mouse click button' feature for 's sake? Likewise, I've had Mac users who couldn't navigate around a Windows GUI either. It does all depend on what you're used to and possibly what you first used when you got into computing.

                              There are people who swear that a pure DOS-like interface is infinitely better than these new-fangled GUIs.

                              My favourite Apple story is how they tried to sue Microsoft for Windows' 'infringement' of the Mac OS only for the case to be thrown out because Apple had blatently ripped-off Rank Xerox PARC's experimental GUI from the '60s.
                              _"For an eternity Allard was alone in an icy limbo where all the colours were bright and sharp and comfortless.
                              _For another eternity Allard swam through seas without end, all green and cool and deep, where distorted creatures drifted, sometimes attacking him.
                              _And then, at last, he had reached the real world – the world he had created, where he was God and could create or destroy whatever he wished.
                              _He was supremely powerful. He told planets to destroy themselves, and they did. He created suns. Beautiful women flocked to be his. Of all men, he was the mightiest. Of all gods, he was the greatest."

                              Comment

                              Working...
                              X