File this!

May 2, 2009

A family member recently upgraded from an “old” Windows XP machine to new brand new, “direct from the big-box electronics store” Windows Vista machine. Since he had a lot of data on the old computer’s hard drive, he took advantage of (or, based on how the story ends, was taken advantage of by) the store’s offer to extract his existing files to DVD-Rs and re-load them on the new PC, for a small service fee, of course. Sounds like it should save some time, correct? After all, those documents, spreadsheets, and digital photos might be a bother to burn to CD-R and then re-copy. And while a direct copy might be easier yet, that procedure is solidly outside the realm of most novices’ capabilities.

So, nartually, after paying this fee and taking home the new PC with two DVDs of archived files, I got the phone call: Read the rest of this entry »

Mac vs. Windows for newcomer usability

January 29, 2009

A colleague recently asked me if I recommended a Mac or a Windows-based PC for a coworker. He asked at an interesting time. With all the speculation of what the loss of Apple’s Steve Jobs might bring, and the advanced hype about Windows 7’s premiere, it got me thinking: “Which is easier to use these days?” Further, which is easier to use for a newcomer? And has that switched back and forth over the years?

While I’ve not laid my hands on Windows 7 yet, I can tell you from what I read, I don’t expect the world to get easier for newcomers. But I do hope things turn out much like they did after the introduction of Vista — more complex, but core concepts unchanged. Vista was an evolutionary layer onto the older Windows concepts, but at least the core concepts didn’t change. And while the Mac OS concepts haven’t changed since the introduction of OS X, my opinion of which is more usable has since deciding to write the book.

When I started writing The Ultimate PC Primer, I genuinely believed I could craft a book to cover the basic computing concepts of all versions of Windows from 95 on, Mac OS X, and much of the Linux-based window manger environments. After all, a PC is pretty much a PC at some level. So I tried hard to focus on the similarities between Apple and Microsoft’s products, but there came a point I realized I had to chose one over the other. But which to pick? The crucial question was: which would more newcomers be learning to compute on? The answer surprised me. Here’s why… Read the rest of this entry »