Tag Archives: Apple

Traditional Cable is Dead: Long Live The New Order

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The numbers are increasing: more and more are cutting the cord and getting away from cable / Fios.  As for me, it’s been several months that I’ve functioned without traditional cable television – and I wouldn’t want to go back.

When I first undertook this approach – dumping cable services – I did so with the intent to save money while ensuring a decent means of cheap entertainment we’ve come to expect from our TV set. Would my kids be able to enjoy the show(s) they like to watch? Would they miss out on new shows? Would I do likewise – enjoy the old, experience the new – and importantly, what potential could come of cutting the cord?

I’m happy to report that all of the above – and more – has been achieved.

First of all, my costs have dramatically dropped. I now pay half of what I was paying for earlier, and yet not only enjoy the shows that I usually indulge in, but now have even greater access to more shows that I didn’t before.

My kids also enjoy their regular shows, but now have access to new shows they weren’t aware of.

We can enjoy anything we like at any time regardless of scheduling as there is no schedule: it’s all on demand.

We now gain greater access to more educational shows, shows of interest and more importantly, tap into previously unexplored realms – such as YouTube – that previously were not readily noted.

So let’s talk about the details.

1. Costs

Traditional plans – whether you’re using cable or FIOS – cost anywhere from $90 to $170 per month, depending on what you’re using. What many folk do is get a ‘cheaper’ package in an effort to save money – limit the number of channels they can watch so as to lower monthly costs. But the providers are ready for that: I noted that whenever I shopped for traditional cable/Fios, the fees would shift about. Generally speaking and as an example, what the providers will do is charge you more fees – such as ‘set box’ monthly rental’ – whenever you try lowering your monthly costs. In my case, when I tried to negotiate for a lower monthly fee, I saved some $40 for monthly channel access, but wound up paying more – from $3 per month to $12 per month – for the set box rental! In fact, I was looking at paying $144 per year ($12 per month) for set box rental. Right,…

Also, ask for the lowest speed possible. You’d be surprised what you can do with 10/10 + upload/download speeds: don’t fall for the hype of faster being better (unless you’re a serious gamer addict and your life revolves are playing the latest and greatest online games).

And beware: sometimes what happens is the providers will play with you, offering you speeds but in the end, you can find that (by testing and logging your results over a period of time) that you’re either just reaching those speeds or are just hovering below them. In such instances, you consider keeping a log, doing regular speed tests and print out screen shots of your test results so as to bring these results to the attention of your provider and, if need be, filing a formal complaint with the FCC and the BBB (Better Business Bureau).

2. Platform

Congratulations, you’ve dumped traditional cable. So now what?

For some folk, it’s the Apple TV while for others, it’s Roku.

With Apple TV, you get access to a number of steaming services, but not nearly as varied or richly populated as Roku. Apple TV is great if you’re an Apple user (and if you are, I’d recommend it: the ability to readily link your iTunes and your MacBook / Desktop to your TV is rather cool) but Roku simply offers a whole lot more of freebies.

In that vein, it’s worthwhile to get Hulu and/or Netflix (which is available for both Apple TV and Roku). For $8 per month, Hulu is a bargain: there are literally hundreds of shows with their respective seasons that’ll entertain you and your family. Lots of choices and most of all, for the price, you simply can’t beat it. Consider comparing the cost of getting Hulu for $8 per month versus getting the same shows via traditional cable at $45 per month (just the cable / Fios service portion of your monthly bill) and do the math.

Also, you’ll find that this approach cuts back on ‘channel surfing’. No more hopping around looking for your show(s) on the multitude of channels. Log in, go to your show (you can set up Hulu to create your own programming of shows you like) and enjoy.

3. New Realms

YouTube is getting interesting. Try searching for movies or shows and chances are, they’re on YouTube. In addition, creators are getting wise to YouTube and increasingly, you can watch shows you’ll only find on YouTube (my personal favorite is “The Great War” where viewers can watch weekly updates about World War I as they happened on the week you’ve watching a hundred years ago. And this from a group of ‘amateurs’!).

It’s all changing,…

Let’s understand something: traditional channel viewing is geared to carry the shows you enjoy. Take the shows into a different medium – say, via ‘streaming’ services – and you’ll find there is little reason to remain with traditional cable / FIOS channel lineups. The providers know this. When asked as to why I was dropping my regular cable service, the cable rep asked me, “are you intending to stream?”

“Yes, I already do.”

Sigh. “Yeah, a lot of people are saying that.”

The results are getting interesting. Large entities (such as NFL and Disney to name two of the bigger ones) are already playing hard ball with such folk as Comcast. And rightfully so: for years, the providers held the upper hand, offering the only primary means of delivering quality entertainment to people’s homes and business, changing more to the studios / commercial entities and passing the costs on to you in the form of increased monthly bills while they pocketed the difference. Now that’s changing.

The fight over Internet ‘freedom’ that’s been taking place at the FCC is not so much about freedom per se, but it’s really about the providers’ bread and butter. Providers seek (among other things) to control access and charge people more money for Internet access and speed in an effort to recoup losses incurred from folk abandoning traditional channel delivery. But it’s too late: as much as they are pushing for this, the more the entertainment ‘houses – NFL and Disney to name a few – are pushing back, gradually cornering Comcast, Time/Warner, Verizon, etc. – into difficult negotiating positions. Simply put: aside from Internet access, what’s there for the providers to offer? And if they insist upon pressing home the need to limit and/or charge more for Internet access, the more they’re going to undermine themselves. After all, all it takes is one provider to buck the pack and offer more competitive fees for their customers leaving the others to scramble.

The writing’s on the wall; it’s a brave new world. The company valuation of provider’s companies are in flux and with that, unless they move fast and adjust to the changing market realities, cable / Fios TV providers going to find things challenging.

Change is good, especially if you’re the consumer. All it takes is a little research, planning and a willingness to save money to get better quality home entertainment.

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Bank Robbery as a Relative Notion

bremertonA long, long time ago in a place far, far away (called the 1980’s) a (infamous) series of collective /  anarchistic technofetishists known as “hackers” developed.

At the time, the home-based consumer computer (not to mention the telephone system with its BBS’s – Bulletin Boards!) was new and exciting: the (now old and removed POTS (Plain Old Telephone System) was THE game in town, with the intent of gathering information and the joy of learning new routines the primary goal. Various stratagems and means were utilized, inclusive of dumpster-diving (going through the telephone companies trash), ‘social engineering’ (a fancy word for sweet talking somebody into giving you restricted access) along with regular stops to nearest ‘Rat’ (Radio) Shack and ‘trade gatherings’ where others of ‘their’ kind would come together.

This is all mentioned in light of the recent news development regarding a group of hackers involved in a massive worldwide effort regarding banks to the (publicly reported and admitted) amount of $45 million.

As the so-called experts point out:

Hackers got into bank databases, eliminated withdrawal limits on pre-paid debit cards and created access codes. Others loaded that data onto any plastic card with a magnetic stripe — an old hotel key card or an expired credit card worked fine as long as it carried the account data and correct access codes.

A network of operatives than fanned out to rapidly withdraw money in multiple cities, authorities said. The cells would take a cut of the money, then launder it through expensive purchases or ship it wholesale to the global ringleaders. Lynch didn’t say where they were located.

Some things still haven’t changed; nothing new here.

The idea of using a plastic code with a pre-coded magnetic tape is as old as dirt itself: as to how this is done, much of this can be found through various sources.

As to accessing banking records to undertake such things (after all, the only way in which this job could be pulled is by matching the actual account information to the physical magnetic cards used for downloading cash), during the 1990’s Citibank’s interoffice telephone exchange was openly used by “hackers” for free conferencing calls, openly planning their next round of activities, exchanging chit-chat or teaching each other on the latest trends and routines – no different from any other major corporate personnel utilizing a corporate telephone network (its worth noting that, at the time, users had to be mindful of the (slight) distance delays differential owing to the then weird practice of Citibank having all its calls routed through it’s Paris, France office network).

Any system or service is only as secure as it’s people make it to be.

As for accessing bank records, why stop at digging in, when you can have the information come to you? Some years ago, there were a group of hackers who went one step further: actually setting up fake ATM’s in shopping malls and other public areas. The average user would go to withdraw money, only to be told that the machine was out of service; the information the user had entered was then stored and taken to be placed on a magnetic printer strip for later withdrawal (these were among a sub-grouping who, as part of their routine, would withdraw cash from ATM machines while wearing masks of  such individuals as Ronald Reagan,  zombies, Richard Nixon, or a host of others for the amusing benefit of bank security cameras).

During the 1990’s, banks had a situation wherein “hackers” (ah, that word again) would be accused of replacing security cameras with one of their own, ‘shoulder surfing’ over user’s to capture this account information (an insidious procedure which may sound perfectly suitable for nefarious purposes, but in fact can be a real pain to undertake). The smarter ones, however, would set up capture items in and around the keyboard such that users were not aware that their information was being captured,…

And then there were the legendary moves on the part of certain “hackers’ of the Russian Federation who captured inter-bank transfers, placing ‘blocks’ or ‘capture point / redirects’ on the ports where the data were being swapped (in simplistic terms, placing listening devices to the internet / telephone networks, decrypted the data being sent and then using that data to actually access the raw accounts being managed). The results of this effort? Estimates range widely, with bank losses estimated to reach at high as $50 million in just one such incident alone! Interestingly, the impacted banking houses sought to drop the charges (naturally they settled for financial restitution – but remarkably, settled for an amount far less than what many suspected was actually taken, suggesting that the action was deeply than anyone wished to admit and that the skill set involved insured that the money was untraceable – or, more likely the appropriate officials were sufficiently given ‘inducements’ top avoid any further prosecutorial action) in exchange for the “hackers” to be their security consultants so as to avoid any further public publicity over the matter, for if the public were to truly know the extent of the lack of security, banking confidence would plummet.

And can you blame them? I’d hate to be the one to tell my clients ‘gee, several millions of (insert your currency of choice here) was taken from your account, but you still want to do business with us – right?’

Which brings us to the other side of the coin, so to speak,…

As reported two months ago, HSBC was directly involved in what governmental officials stated was ‘money laundering’ (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-21840052) for major narco-criminal enterprises worldwide (which is interesting how this particularly publicized group of “hackers” targeted money reserves set aside for pre-paid cards, wisely avoiding other accounts,…).

The reality is that the only innocents involved in the entire arena are the average bank account holders (the ‘little people’), for many banks themselves are involved in criminal activities of their own, ranging from money laundering, to passing along sub-prime housing funds, or just simply overcharging people with various account charges just because, well, the banks can do this sort of thing (I deliberately fail to mention the investors as insurance will cover the costs of such losses; as to those who may object I merely point out that it’s all just business and to please check your company pride at the door,…).

Much of what is taking place in recent years regarding banking is increasingly a matter of degree and viewpoint. As banks become larger, they will utilize whatever resources they can to ensure their protection, which may include the hiring of those who penetrated their security, indulging in questionable investment practices and serving ‘interesting’ clientele.

It’s all part of doing “normal” business in the 21st century.

Similarly, as banks handle larger and larger amounts of “money” (and we won’t get into the discussion of ‘Bitcoin’ and the significance of that development as it relates to international banking and financial systems as after all, when you think about, what truly defines the financial value of any given currency?) banks are involved in realms and investment practices which they did not dream of doing but twenty (20) years ago  – witness the role of banks in the recent housing bubble and the sub-prime mess along with their various other financial / investment practices (we’re still awaiting the final report on the offshore accounts held in the Bahama involving high-ranking international governmental officials and other ‘outstanding’ members of society – $32 TRILLION and rising,…!).

Realize this: we’ve reached a point in our culture(s) and society(ies) where –  like the intrinsic value of money and the actual stability of our financial systems – the very notion of a bank robbery is now relative.

Here’s one brief overview of this incident: http://www2.macleans.ca/2013/05/10/sophisticated-network-of-global-thieves-drain-cash-machines-in-27-countries-of-45m/

Fun with Homebrew Networking

home-network-Switching gears for a moment,… I’ve been writing extensively on such large-scale mundane matters as AI (Artificial Intelligence), Neural networks, 3D printers, Singularities (think Skynet), quantum computers, hyperdrive / deep space exploration and, well, you get the idea.

Now let’s bring it all home.

No, I do not speak of buying a copy of IBM’s Watson or getting a neural network of your own, but there is a growing trend that shouldn’t be overlooked: home networks.

If you have a computer, a printer and a cable / FIOS modem, you have a home network – which is pretty describes a lot of U.S. domestic households (in point of fact, home broadband access has doubled in the past ten years, reaching now nearly 77% of the total US population); the same can also be said of many other international households.

Now add modern consumer technology.

In the past ten years (concurrent with a growing population utilizing home broadband services) we’ve seen the introduction of such things as:

* iPhone’s, Androids and Window smartphones;

* online music / movie / Television streaming services;

* remote storage and shared file services;

* explosive growth of tablet peripherals (iPad, HP’s, Samsung, etc.).

And increasing, all are being offered at rather inexpensive pricing; ten years ago the mere mention of several of these items for home use would’ve elicited a polite chuckle. Not any more.

It’s becoming increasingly obvious that it is to one’s advantage to both themselves – and their family – to seriously consider establishing a home based network.

To be honest, not everyone needs a cloud based service, but considering the growing diversity of technology and services, it’s not a bad idea to consider setting something up that’ll enable you and you family to take advantage of what’s out there.  And if you have a  home-based business or just do occasional work on the side, then you need to consider establishing a home based network.

Given the ever-decreasing cost of storage nowadays (you can buy an external 2 Terabit drive for $200 or under; two years ago the very idea of such storage at these low prices was considered absurd: not anymore! Now, one can literally set up a home network RAID -Redundant Array / hard drive systems – similar in scale to what the pro’s use for their operations).

Home networks can be as simple as simply connecting an external hard drive to your home cable / FIOS box router, or linking  to your Play Station / Apple TV – or even more, depending upon the size and scope you wish to undertake. And incidentally, if you have a small business, the size and scale of a home network can also be utilized to service a small business environment (albeit with different considerations, depending upon the nature, size and scope of the small business involved).

There are a number of help guides out there for review (personally, I think this is probably the best I’ve come across so far, but there are many more: http://www.howtogeek.com/67015/how-to-plan-organize-and-map-out-your-home-network/); regardless of how you go about it, here are several key considerations you need to think about:

1) Ecology – what environment are you going to exist within? Are you a Windows-based household? Are you big on Android / Play Station or you’re an Apple household? This is important as you will find one dirty industry secret is that not all equipment functions well on all systems. Some external hard drives don’t play as well with, say, Apple as they would with Window’s based environments.

2) Purpose – what is your specific purpose for undertaking this? Just because I’m writing about this doesn’t mean you should go out and get yourself a home based network: it’s just an idea for consideration  (albeit a rather good idea). Some things you can do rather well without the hassle – like backing up your files on Google docs (despite the fact that it was down the other day) or Dropbox (despite the fact that data stored can be accessed by some folk without your knowledge you can always encrypt your files) or Time Machine (which, BTW, can sometimes fail).

3) The Long Term – things change fast. Five years ago, the iPhone didn’t exist; now it’s everywhere – and with that, the introduction of ‘apps’ and the revolutionary change that’s brought to our world. Having a home based network – with some planning – can better enable you to deal with any new developments and take advantage of routines and services you never considered.

4) Ease. It’s gotten a whole lot easier to do these things on your own at home. What was something that required a CompSci degree / background some 15 years ago is now commonplace throughout a multitude of homes. Now, it’s relatively easy to take the next step and take control of your data on your terms and in your way.

There are other considerations worth checking out:

* DVD backups – at the risk of incurring the wrath of the RIAA and other associated members, one idea is to back up your various ‘items’ onto your home network (and mind, only for your own personal viewing!). In this manner, you could organize your ‘items’ into pre-specified folders and assign user rights / access. Want to keep the kids from watching your old Sam Peckinpah films? Here’s one way to do just that.

* True Multi-Media capability – your home network becomes your library, enabling you and your family / friends / colleagues to access files at will (within limits, if you so wish) at any time without imposing on anyone else. Your kids could have their own ‘homework folder’ – and you can have greater peace of mind knowing that their access to ‘questionable’ websites can be better controlled (insofar as you can do so) via the installation of various port access controls.

* VPN – With a home network, you now have the capability of a true Virtual Private Network. With your home network you could (depending on how you arrange your cable / FIOS system) enable access to your files remotely regardless of where you are in the world and view them while on the road so long as you have Internet access.

* Small business support – with a home network, your business can now be enhanced, allowing authorized / controlled access. To be sure, Dropbox / Google Docs are excellent, but with a home network, you can consider doing such things as iServer or a true business network functionality via a viable VPN that you alone can control at will.

* Entertainment options – in the coming decade (if not sooner) we can expect to see major changes within the cable / FIOs market as to how we view our various shows on our televisions / computers (note how the two are becoming more and more interchangeable). With a home network, you’ll be far better able to deal and take advantage of these changes as they develop.

* Additional Back-up – sure, you have Time Machine, Dropbox and even Google. But in the event that your outside internet goes down, wouldn’t you want to be able to still access movies, shows or music? Now with your home network – so long as the electricity keeps flowing – you can do this. And BTW: one important aspect to consider is including a UPS (Uninterrupted Power Supply) which can also serve as a surge protector and prevent your network from being ‘zapped’.

Homebrew networks reflect a greater, growing trend: the growing expansion and greater utilization of technology at home, creating a real platform for other practical uses and applications.

And you can have all of this for as low as $250 (assuming you already have broadband internet access and a computer).

Might as well get something back from that monthly subscription for cable / FIOS that you’ve been paying for.

(Photo courtesy of bmisitgs.wikispaces.com)

The Worm Has Turned

He that will not apply new remedies must expect new evils; for time is the greatest innovator.

– Francis Bacon

In my last post I spoke of the changes taking place – more specifically, the dynamics between the old Microsoft / Apple rivalry – and how in many ways, that rivalry is irrelevant. Well, as the recent post by Marco.org did regarding a visit to a Microsoft store pointed out, this notion is now, more than ever before, reinforced.

First of all, several things come to mind:

1) Microsoft just created it’s own version of a tablet – something that was (ironically) dismissed some ten / fifteen years ago previously by Bill Gates and his crew.

2) Microsoft created a whole new totally different operating system that is a total break from their old standard versions – from 3.1, ’95, Xp, 7, etc., etc., (gee, whatever happened to Longhorn?) and is along a similar path to some versions of Apple IOS.

3) Microsoft is now touting the notion of utilizing apps as opposed to selling packages of software (note the recently proposed change of users having to ‘subscribe’ to Microsoft products as opposed to paying up front for their software packages).

4) Microsoft is clearly trying to introduce the notion of ‘distributive computing’ – and in the process, is attempting to create their own ‘ecology’ of hardware and software solutions. At the risk of enraging the Microsoft wonks (and for the record, I’m ambidextrous as I work with both services / systems) I have this to say in regard to their tablet thingy:

Microsoft has met the enemy – and they are becoming Apple.

But it’s not a very good version – at least, not yet. The jury is still out and although this is only a recent release still, Window’s efforts still bear watching, if for no other reason to see what this (former) behemoth intends to do with its future. Microsoft is a legacy system, where many users are wedded to its packages (ever notice how Apple iWork products – Numbers, Pages, Keynote, etc. – all follow the same commands and format as Microsoft’s Words, Excel, PowerPoint, etc.?).

But Microsoft is also following a dangerous path, for in its efforts to take the future, it is jettisoning the very thing which defines who and what they are: it’s past, inclusive of their consumer / major customer base. In this day and age of uncertainty, the last thing folks want to do is to have to re-learn how to send e-mail, do a letter or prepare a report for next week’s board meeting.

And yet Microsoft intends to do just that.

Below is a post worth reading: see / read for yourself – and next time, check out a Microsoft store and ask yourself: what’s the real different between these two: Apple and Microsoft? And if one is trying to differentiate itself from the other, than what is the purpose by embracing the very thing whom you intend to challenge – and then (for the time being) failing to imitate your opponent in a very effective manner? (Oh, and point # 5: recalling how the Minions of Microsoft denounced Apple’s consumer outreach program of creating a whole network of stores back when they first opened up, why is it that Microsoft is now doing the very same thing?)

Pablo Picasso said it best: ‘good artists copy: great artists steal.’

The jury is still out on whether Microsoft is being a good artist – or just doing a bad job of it altogether.

Check out this post: http://www.marco.org/2012/10/26/an-alternate-universe

Microsoft Versus Apple: You’re Missing The Bigger Picture

Author’s Disclaimer: For the record, I have a Dell desktop and a Gateway laptop (both running Windows XP), along with a MacBook Pro (Mountain Lion), iPad and an iPod along with an iPhone (older version; doing quite fine, thank you) that just replaced my old and trusty Samsung (RIP, sadly).

Nowadays, you have to be ambidextrous: you need the ability to work within the realm of Microsoft as well as Apple IOS because if you can’t, chances are you’re going to lose out on a lot of opportunities. That said, I’m not about to grace any discussion about which is better – Microsoft or Apple – because frankly, it’s all pointless: you might as well argue about vanilla versus chocolate ice cream. There are far more (and overlooked) important things afoot to consider that brings a whole new context to this discussion.

First hand, the traditional notion of ‘everything on one box’ is pretty much gone; it’s now all about distributed computing. During the past decade, we’ve moved away from stuffing everything on one box, starting with the notion of conducting back-ups owing to data loss, moving to plug-on hard drives, and then moving into remote back-ups. As technology advanced, so too did prices drop offering greater availability for services that heretofore were not financially feasible for many. And with all of this came (in part) the notion of ‘cloud computing’. It’s no longer just about how big your or strong your PC / box is; it’s more about where and how you access you data in relationship to your box / PC.

Secondly, connectivity has dramatically improved. We’ve moved away from traditional cabling and into wireless connectivity – with a vengeance. Wireless is everywhere and it’s only going to increase (little known factoid: did you know that chances are, you are – at most – only about 20 miles away from the nearest Starbucks? Of course, this does not apply in remote areas such as Montana, Wyoming or the Dakotas, but don’t worry; that’ll change). This development strongly underlies the growth of the tablet market: so long as I have a good connection, I can read and process my files without having to carry a bulky 8 pound laptop as was so common back some years ago.

Thirdly, it’s no longer just about ‘software suites’; it’s about ecology. Ecology is a big new concept – while at the same time, it’s as old as the hills. When you went with a specific approach – MS / Windows box, Apple or Linux – you became ‘married’ to that concept. To be sure, there was some ‘bleed-through’ – i.e., Linux can work (to a certain extent) with either Apple or Windows boxes, but overall, for the average consumer or business entity, it was an all or nothing approach. Fast forward to the present time, now you’re finding yourself making choices that went far beyond just which PC / Box you’re buying: it’s now what format are you going to listen to your music? What phone service are you committing yourself to? What television / cable / subscription service are you committing yourself to – FIOs, traditional cable, Apple TV or just winging it on your own via Netflix or other open Internet options (i.e., YouTube)?

And lastly, the nature of data management also has changed: sound, graphic and print files are merged together in ways and means underscoring tremendous creativity, raising the bar for competitive services and advertisements; consumer and political outreach programs as well as new notions for political activism and creative / artistic endeavors. It’s now more about what offers you the easier means to grasp your data, exchange your endeavors and advertise / distribute? It’s a lot easier to do all of this if you’re sharing / existing within the same ecology.

This is the new Ecology paradigm: what ‘system’ offers you the most convenience, less cost and unifies everything in a manner that’ll make your life easier to manage? To be certain, for some, this notion of ‘unification’ is not a desirable aspect (note Wozniak’s comments earlier this year about how he doesn’t have cable service and prefers to use his data / cellular service for his own Internet surfing) but for the average consumer market, this is the new bonanza: getting everybody to sign up for as much as they are willing to do so. Some companies – such as Verizon – got this early on: witness their various ‘bundling’ packages (Verizon doesn’t sell as comprehensive a solution as does Apple or Windows as Verizon doesn’t quite have a complete ecology developed as of yet).

The battleground is not just about which flavor do you prefer – Vanilla or Chocolate – it’s now all about the bowl and how that bowl works best for you; everything else is simply a matter of taste.

The Personal Computer is Dead; Long Live The Personal Network!

Zardoz speaks to you, the chosen ones! Ah, wither the PC. With the rise of the tablet, rapidly dissolving profit margins and the rising costs of operating software as a percentage of the total PC value (save for Linux PC’s) it’s not surprising that the PC is now fading away. In prior years, one obtained PC’s owing to laptops not having the adequate processing power necessary to manage larger programs (not to mention PC’s having larger screens). Now, with the rise of tablets and laptops, building, selling and marketing PC’s is now no longer a viable business model.

Duh.

In the immortal words of Gomer Pyle: “surprise, surprise, surprise.”

Laptops (i.e., notebooks, MacBooks, Airbooks, etc., etc.) have tremendous processing power – in fact, most laptops today generally match or exceed a number of PC’s out there now. Between operating systems cost, the constant threat of viruses (and the ever-constant cost to keep up with the latest anti-virus software) it’s enough to make one look for other options. And frankly, why do you need all that processing power to support an entire array of programs that chances are, you will rarely – if ever – truly use? And if you’re checking out the laptops, chances are you’re finding out that your needs are going to be largely met.

For businesses, PC’s are increasingly no longer a viable cost item. As just discussed, a PC is an expensive notion. Better to issue laptops – or, as some entities are already doing, issuing tablets.

This is all part of a far greater, more significant trend. It’s not just so much the end of the PC, but rather the evolution of the network – more specifically the rise of the personal / focused network. For the past decades, PCs were stand alone islands who just happened to link to other PC’s via network connections whereby the nature of any given network was determined by the users and the PC’s. Now, it is how you control and access your network(s) – and not the PC – which defines you through service offerings (music, iTunes, video, picture files, etc.) as networks are no longer simply wires and routers: they are living ecologies.

It’s also no coincidence that the PC’s are doomed, for with the advent of Cloud computing who needs a big box to hold your data? Who needs to get a dedicated (large) viewing screen when you can simply interface with your flat screen television and do your homework, give a presentation or conduct a Skype call? Your files can be stored remotely through a subscription service or on a dedicated 4 or 5 Tb home network drive, allowing you to set up your very own VPN (Virtual Private Network) allowing you access files regardless if you’re in Philadelphia or Paris, Moscow or Montevideo, Beijing or Benjaymi?

What clearly holds greater importance nowadays is the network and the speed by which you connect to any network – and, more importantly, how you organize and access your information. Really, aside from screen size why do you need a regular PC? Get a tablet, watch YouTube videos; do your homework on a MacBook and text away on your Android. Or, for that matter, kick back and download your Netfix or iTunes – and if you’re really clever, rip some DVD’s and store them on your network drive (Whoops! Sorry, I disavow any such action for fear of the RIAA zombies).

You get the point. It’s no longer about the box: it’s about the ecology. And it’s all about how you define the ecology you will live, work and play in.

Networks are living things: they have hiccups, have good days and bad days and depending upon your flavor, allow you to do things that previously – hell, hardly five years ago – was not possible. It all depends upon the nature of the services, routine and platforms you’re seeking: IOS / Apple, Android or otherwise how you want to work and play determines the network you’re going to be using.

In days past, it was how and what you put on your PC / box; now, it’s how you set up and develop your network and its ancillary services / routines.

For those of us who are science fiction fans, none of this comes as a surprise. John Boorman predicted this kind of thing (along with Star Trek and a host of others) from his (rather intense) film “Zardoz”, with Boorman’s notion of everyone being connected to a vast impermeable computer network known as the ‘tabernacle’. Made of crystals imbedded in users’ heads, the tabernacle linked users along with an extensive series of libraries (and not just one library, mind you) enabling users to access data, communicate and interact within a community of their peers 24 x 7 x 365.

Looking back, such notions were considered the domain of the ‘weirdo’ or the ‘fanatic’ – or simply the result of smoking too much pot and listening to Yes’s ‘Starship Trooper’ over and over and over: now, it’s gradually becoming true within our lifetime that what was talked about is actually happening (and for the record, I never really got into Yes).

So, if you’re wondering about taking that dive off the deep end and getting into Windows 8, that’s your call, but the Vegas line on this is not good – and the numbers are continuing to drop. In the meantime, this is great time to take advantage of services and sales that are now getting really cheap, offering options that previously were unheard of five years ago. As the old timers will tell you, it was cool to ‘build your own personal box’; now the cool thing is to build your own personal network.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to check out my iTune’s account and see if they ever got around to getting ‘Space 1999’ on for viewing on my iPad while getting ready for my webinar which I’m offering to potential clients.