Your computer is about your needs - it's not about impressing your neighbour

What do you do with your computer?
I asked myself that question. If you never asked yourself that question before you might find it to be an eye opener. When I decided what cellphone and cell provider I would sign up with, my decision was similar. I asked myself *where* I needed call and data coverage, geographically. I also asked myself whether I was after a fixed or a variable price for calls. In this case it's computers, and so you should think about which tasks you use it for. Examples of tasks are as following:

- Writing documents, school papers, doing spreadsheets and corporate/school presentations.

- Gaming, situation A
Lots of so called "dedicated PC gaming", where it matters to have the coolest and fastest computer. Upgrading and experimenting with the hardware is of greatest, critical importance.

- Gaming situation B
Casual gaming to relax in front of the computer. This can be tetris-like games or a strategy game that is both entertaining to the person and the mind. Perfect after a tough day at work or school.

- Computer leisure activities such as managing photos, arranging holiday cards, etc.

- Professional editing of movies, music and photos / images.

Note: Unlike what I have seen others do when they write about this subject, I am not going to recommend which operating systemyoushould make based on your tasks. I say: find this out for yourself by giving Mac OS X, Linux distributions and Windows a try on the tasks you need to have done.
The ultimate decision is such a personal choice anyway that you are most likely to disagree with my standpoint in any case if I interfere with my personal opinion on the matter.

If you decide to go an alternative route, how scary is it to be introduced to something new and different?
This is probably the hardest thing for most people. Being scared to something that works very different from what they are used to. While people like me LOVES new things and innovation, a lot of people hate it when they feel lost and almost inprinted with the idea that something is supposed to work in the way *they* want it to work.

The solution to above problem? Be open and be willing to listen and learn.
Accept the fact that there are more than one operating system out there and while A and B can be similar to each other, they are likely to be designed to do at least one thing different. This should logically come from a desire to improve on how things are done in the system.

How likely is it that person A or person B will succeed with learning a new system?
The willingness to adapt. It's all about adapting to the new environment. Feeling at home. If you dare to, you can compare it with changing from living in a big house to living in a medium-sized apartment in another city.

Personal choice
I myself chose a Mac. I did so because it fulfills all my needs on all aspects. I belong to gaming situation B above, and I also extend my gaming needs through gaming on Playstation 2. Again, I repeat: my needs. Not necessarly yours. The perfect machine for me is either a failure or success for someone else.

Good luck! :-)


Yesterday's red moon: Lunar eclipse

I cannot believe that, for once, the lunar eclipse was visible. I have never seen one before.
This time there were no dark clouds in the way as it normally is whenever there's any spectacular sky event happening at all. I looked up the details on when it was going to happen and for how long it would last. At 22:30 CET (10:30 pm) I watched outside the window and noticed that the moon had its bottom left piece "chewed off". At that point it wasn't much to shout about. 30 minutes later it was obvious something big was going to happen. At 23:50 CET (11:50 pm) the moon looked amazing! Somewhat red and partially glowing. Luckily for those who weren't paying attention in Europe or witnessed dark clouds instead of a clear sky, some of you will have another chance to see it in the near future, because unlike solar eclipses lunar eclipses happen regularly. Wikipedia says it happens at the least, 2 times per year. Here is a link also to what it looks like:
Red moon during the eclipse

For those of you in the US who weren't able to witness it, you will have a better chance on August 28th according to NASA.


Cellphones of yesterday and today: my own experience

My first cellphone ever was a Nokia 2110i which connects to GSM 900 networks. Back in those days, all you could do with a prepaid subscription was call landline and other cellphones. My operator of choice at the time, Telia, initially didn't allow sending SMS - only receiving them. For that to work with Telia you had to sign up for a bill-based subscription paid monthly. Of course, you also had to be 18 years old or above that age. Things were very different back then from how things are now. The most significant difference is that the average Joe did not see the need to own and carry a cellphone with them everywhere they went.

Since I belonged to the early adopters, from time to time I always heard from people when they saw I possessed a cellphone, "why do carry one of those? what's the need anyway?". It was as strange for them as carrying a tool with you such as a hammer for no obvious reason. For me it was all about learning the technology and getting used to the features, menu systems and things like that. I kept up to date with which models Nokia and Ericsson had in stock for both standard consumers and business users. As months went on, I noticed around me how other people more and more were getting exposed to cellphones and considering to get one of their own. Numbers of subscribers grew and so did the coverage with GSM 900 cell towers around the country. Call rates were high up in the sky but it didn't scare off regular people to call from their cellphone. The convenience and status it meant to own a cellphone made up for the expensive bills it seemed.

2001 - the year we made contact from cellphones
As I remember it myself, 2001 was the year when people in Sweden and Finland had accepted the fact that cellphones were simply part of our everyday lives from now on. There was this documentary on television that confirmed this as well. They claimed that the success in Finland came from the fact that they are seen as shy people, so a phone call was more comfortable than meeting someone in person. I do not know to this day if that was the reason for the success over there, but here in Sweden I have a theory about how the idea of having a personal phone with you everywhere was an advantage not because it meant fewer person-to-person meetings, but rather an advantage in the sense you could be reached even if the household landline phone was busy. Also, being able to call someone directly in a more private manner rather than calling the family household phone and asking the person answering the phone, "may I talk to ?".

2004 - The price wars
After the market penetration got high, startup carriers/operators wanted to take part of the potential profits out there, steal some market share from the leading companies. How do you steal customers from a competitor? The most common method is to compete in price, so they did! For me, the most fascinating thing was not that the prices fell lower and lower, but that they fell lower and lower for so long! When you thought they had hit the bottom low, another competitor set it even lower. This kept on for TWO YEARS in a row, as far as I can tell! Not until 2006, last year, did I see the market stabilize around the prices.

What happens next?
In a market where there are enough competitors already and hard to squeeze prices (as profits is a sensitive thing), the only way to compete with better prices is to offer something new. The first serious attempt I have seen in this area is X-series™ from Three, which is an operator that operates services over 3G and HSPA (3.5G) networks. Even though they target mobile internet customers, the bundle includes Skype calls, too. This means you can initiate and receive calls for a very attractive price. You can expect more telecom companies to start offering either same or similar services in the future, if they see a need to get a piece of the market there.

I follow the telecom market closely every week. If you're interested in updates on the industry as it is today, you can always go to places such as Google News and search for HSDPA. For an insight of the progress of 3G networks, I suggest searching for HSUPA instead, as that will be the missing piece of HSPA in 3G technology.


Which digital TV solution did you choose?

As digital tv adoption keeps growing for every year and quarter, the question popping up is:
Which one did you choose and what is your experience from using it so far?

Technical standards (and the lack thereof)
There are currently three ways to receive digital television by the means of common standards: Terrestrial, Cable and Satellite. Here in Europe they have technology definitions for each one of them: Terrestrial is dubbed as DVB-T, digital cable uses DVB-C and finally Satellite which uses DVB-S. Apart from this you can also receive it through what is called IPTV (nicknamed 'Broadband TV' sometimes, for consumer clarity).

IPTV aka Broadband TV - Why no standards yet?
I don't consider the fourth alternative (IPTV) even close to being mature yet, though, because of the inconsistency broadband internet suffers from. Today you cannot compare ADSL2+, fiberoptics and cable internet with each other in terms of IPTV experience since the technologies and flexibilities differ from each other.
So, when someone wants to sell you IPTV, there may be a disappointment if you choose to subscribe and expect a certain quality .. and then you don't get the quality you anticipated.

What will it mean to the future of IPTV if the consumers get different experiences from it depending on what broadband connection they have got, AND they do not understand why their experience is bad when someone living in another part of the city sitting on another connection type is more than pleased over the excellency? Just as "broadband internet" means that the bandwidth (frequency) is broad and not autonomously "ADSL2+ connection", IPTV or Broadband TV shouldn't immediately translate to one way of receiving TV over fastlane internet infrastructure. In my view, on contrary, IPTV should get a set of standards itself to allow consumers to tell a distinct difference between the offerings.

Let's examplify this ...

IPTV over ADSL2+ could be dubbed "Copperlane TV"
IPTV over cable could define itself "IP over cable"
IPTV over fiberoptics could have it's name be "Neighbourhood super-highway TV"

Now follows a translation to consumer language (expected to show up in advertisement):

IPTV with ADSL2+
IPTV Light

IPTV with Cable
IPTV Cable

IPTV with Fiberoptics
IPTV Wideband

Feedback, please! :)


Installation of OTA Freeview digital TV

So .. yesterday the unexpected happened: I was able to plug my set-top box for digital television reception, right into the wall plug where you normally connect to analog cable. Instead of connecting up the analog TV to analog cable, I did this:

------- represents coaxial cable
===== represents European SCART cable

[analog cable wall plug] ------- [digital TV set-top box] ===== [Television set]

The very simple accomplishment of mine allowed me to instantly access terrestrial free-to-air digital television channels. Because of the fact that cable companies normally block access to their terrestrial antennas, I had not expected this to work. However, since I had been informed by this cable provider that they do offer this digital tv option I just had to give it a serious try. It just worked, much the same way I am used to Apple products just working right out of the box. Now I'm just pondering about when the right time will be to purchase a prepaid subscription to the full channel plan.

As it turned out I not only need the prepaid subscription but also either an investment in a so called "CI module" or a complete set-top box with built-in support for terrestrial non-free reception.
The latter seems to be a much better choice because of the small difference in price between the two options:

* Buy set-top box that out of the box provides built-in support for commercial content
* Buy extension card to my current digital set-top box (CI module for DVB-T)

Price for choice 1, a new set-top box purchase bundled with prepaid subscription: 1695 SEK
Price* for choice 2, an extension card: approx. 525 SEK

*= Obligatory prepaid subscription plan (starter kit): 795 SEK + the extension card รก 525 SEK equals about 1320 SEK in total.
Not much different from 1695 SEK is it ..?

All in all, I believe the complete package with set-top box, CI module integration and prepaid subscription is worth the extra hundreds. Why? Because it's a complete package ready to plug in and run! Simplicity wins me over, just as MacOS X did for me.