The Northern Spy: the desktop/laptop market is past mere maturity
TweetFollow Us on Twitter

The Northern Spy: the desktop/laptop market is past mere maturity

By Rick Sutcliffe

The Spy and wife own and she drives a 1991 Buick Regal that in today's terms is generally regarded as hopelessly obsolete driving technology. It has no informative car computer display, not GPS, no telephone, no heated seats, TV in the back seating area or anti-lock /skid braking system, and the climate control system is primitive and manual.

Even the 2002 Buick Regal he drives has some of that, though it too is regarded as ancient by some people. Yet both continue to do the job for which they were purchased--transporting among home, Church, town, and children/grandchildren--and, contrary to some, the end use is far more important than the means. So, in what practical sense is either mere means of transport obsolete, except from an advertising bumph point of view, where the goal is to persuade us, against a known lack of need, that we want to buy the latest replacement?

Likewise, hundreds of millions resist computer upgrades because their old beat up Windows XP or Leopard box still defies the odds and keeps on handling email, browsing, and a little document composition. True, the former is likely to have been recruited into one or more bot nets and spend the night sending out bogus emails to plague honest folk, but both do what their owners want.

Customer demand in the modern computer industry is highly artificial--the market is all but saturated and any latest and greatest machines are only needed by a few very high end professionals in computing science, graphic arts, or video editing, who have put off upgrading until the old box' limitations become an obstacle to their work. Who else will buy a new Mac Pro, significant though the upgrade may be? Well, the Spy will, but he fits the profile.

Face it. The desktop/laptop computing industry is past mere maturity and well into old age. Very few people could make a convincing argument for more power in their box than they already have, could discern the difference between a "retina" display and the next notch up or down, could creditably claim that they are using what they have at a level even close to its capabilities. Want a new computer? Produce the truly important use cases as justification.

Recall the Spy's Tenth Law: Computers are not toasters. They're compound sliding mitre saws. The time is coming, perhaps has already arrived, when it makes most sense to sell them that way--in either tool stores, among general electronics goods, or at office supply emporiums, with the occasional shelf space in some of the large discount or general box stores. How long can Apple maintain the high end mystique for the corporation as a whole, or more particularly, for its retail boutiques? A broadening of the retail product line may soon be in order to keep those in business. More to the point, Apple must either produce a new game-changer, or slip into the mediocrity of a mature manufacturer lacking any distinctive cachet.

Consider the case of Sony which used to operate many retail stores. Three remain in the Lower Mainland of BC in very large shopping centres, none within fifty kilometres of the Spy's igloo. It's not hard to predict there will soon be none. With Sony's commercial paper now degraded to junk, corporate profits a thing of the far distant past, and few ideas to take to the bank, there's no access to capital for building out.

As with Kodak, there may be patents worth acquiring in a bankruptcy, but it's not clear there is sufficient "there" there to tempt even a breakup artist, much less a takeover or turnaround expert. And, in what mould could the company be re-invented? The only mould is what has grown on its problematic products and development department. No new ideas = no future. (Apple beware; the honeymoon is over.)

So why, faced with a bewildering array of other choices from marginally more viable suppliers, did the Spy purchase a Sony STR-DN1040 home-theatre-style receiver (list $799; actual about $549)? After all, he knew supplies had nearly dried up--a sure harbinger of either a new model line (typical at this time of year) or an ignominious exit from the business.

Answer: see the above. Both reviews and specs seemed promising, the price and service from electronics retailer giant Crutchfield were attractive, and the unit would do the job he wanted. As long as the latter is the case, the technology remains locally current, whatever the new product market is doing--or saying. This one has all of AirPlay, Wi-Fi, Ethernet, and BlueTooth networking, though, contrary to what the Spy thought pre-delivery last month, the unit does not in fact have a phono input--a curious omission given the recent comeback of vinyl, though perhaps not in view of many newer turntables sporting a built-in pre-amp.

Hey, the Spy and wife are pleased to be able to play their fifty-year-old LPs, whether on their existing turntable upstairs, or a new one down. There's no music like it today--lyrics you can actually understand set to melodious and memorable tunes. Records were never obsolete except in the minds of those who came to believe something better had replaced them, and whether this was ever really true or mere advertising myth seems now to have become a matter of debate. (Careful objective analysis may verify this; opinions on the other hand are no longer so universal as they once were.) But the vinyl will still play, albeit through an inexpensive separate pre-amp box to the Sony receiver, and thence to a nice Tannoy home theatre speaker array--itself not top of the line, but adequate for the minimal basement space the Spy is willing to share for such amusements.

Unit setup was simple. Run a little plenum-rated speaker wire to achieve the surround effect with speakers installed beside the sitting area, hook the equipment to the receiver, attach the configuration microphone, power the unit, go through the simple calibration, lock in a few radio stations on the tuner presets, and all was ready to use. The sound is of course a vast improvement over the tinny speakers on any TV screen, and any source with better than mere stereo encoding offers a whole new experience in listening. The setup delivers pure, clean, listenable sound, and audiophile reviewers (which the Spy is not) rate receiver and speakers well.

One oddity--the 1040 detected the small Tannoy bookshelf left and right front speakers as "large" but apparently this is a recommended default, though it can be manually altered. The available 7.2 setup is currently being employed in a 5.1 arrangement, though the Spy may mount front high or zone two speakers in place of the unused rear (configuration options). He sees no need to employ the second sub-woofer, however. The kind of sound for which some find that useful has zero appeal here.

The 1040 has eight (one front) HDMI inputs--more than most people would ever need--plus component, AV, coax, and analog audio inputs (2). Some of these are assignable, meaning they can be used, say, for audio or component, but not both. Seven total is the maximum in any one configuration. One or two more pure audio RCA inputs would have been more convenient, but there is one optical audio input besides the return on the TV--the latter needed because the set in use does not return on the HDMI connection. The unit can handle 4K video, which the Spy does not require. There is one switched AC outlet.

The remote is of course programmable. Once the code for a component is discovered and attached to a selector button, that button turns the remote into the controller for that peripheral--except that oddly, there is no eject. For a second zone, one can either co-opt the powered rear/high front pair, or employ a separate unpowered output for a pair with their own amp. The multi-lingual GUI is minimal when displayed on the receiver's own screen, but quite acceptable when routed to the TV screen. (First thing the unit did was download an update to this.) Network choices seem quite broad for radio, but limited for video. Local network choices are limited to audio and video, and the unit does not recognize a photo server. Fortunately the existing Samsung Blu-ray does, so there is no loss.

The Spy and wife inherited from her parents a beautiful old stereo cabinet dating from the late 1960s that is even now being gutted of electronics and fitted with shelves for components. There is nothing obsolete about a piece of furniture this fine--solid wood and plywood put together with glue-and-screw joinery and given a finish never to be seen in the modern particle board imitation furniture milieu. The electronics still functioned, and the scratchy tuner and volume control and the sticky phono might have been repairable, but forty-six years is perhaps slightly past the best-before date.

What other "obsolete" technology will the Spy install in said cabinet, besides a better phono than came out? A dual cassette tape player, a combination DVD/VCR (for the latter) a newish Blu-Ray player, and an ancient (1970s) cartridge-style CD player. The latter is the 6-disc type made for many years by Pioneer and sold by them and under Toshiba, JVC, and Kenwood brand labels. Since there was already one of these in the living room (picked up for $10 on EBay as a replacement for a broken one) it made sense to acquire another from the same source so the cartridges could be played downstairs as well. There's nothing wrong with the electronics in these; it’s the mechanical parts in the changer that eventually fail.

"Impossibly old fashioned" you say? Perhaps true, but the Spy has neither the time, the inclination, nor the motivation to copy all the household music from CDs to the house server in order to play it from there. True, he has the house wired with CAT-6 (because he could) but does not do everything for that reason. He limits how much time he'll allot to toys or tools. When the old perform to the necessary level, he sees no need to change. When the new does a new task he deems useful, he considers a purchase. But, this column notwithstanding, people are far more important than things.

Oh, and you might have wondered why only radio presets were mentioned. That's because there is no television feed in the house. The cable company supplies Internet and phone, but there is no need for modern broadcast TV here. This household is content with classic BBC productions and a very few very old TV shows on DVD or Blu-ray, but this true-north-strong-and-free household cannot even justify TV for hockey, and there's certainly no "want" for a single current entertainment offering, thus, nothing to justify a cable TV feed. Don't want it, don't miss it.

So, though it's a pity that the Sony 1040 receiver may already be an orphan, quite probably to be joined soon by everything bearing that brand name--unless a buyout can quickly be organized--that consideration didn't play into the purchase decision. Every mere thing eventually becomes obsolete. The need/want was delineated, what was on the market to meet the required specs was investigated, charted side by side, and the best technology fit ordered and installed.

Considerations of the supplier's future prospects did not factor into the decision. If one hammer, drill, or brand of compound mitre saw vanishes from the tool store shelves tomorrow, another will replace it the next day. Meanwhile, the one purchased remains current and useable for as long as it continues to pound nails, drill holes and set screws, or saw boards, respectively. True, his current Bosch cordless drill and driver offer more torque than the older corded models, but they were bought for the portable convenience, not because the others were obsolete. Same goes for electronics.

Ditto programming languages which are also tools. They remain useful until their utility falls behind the demands of emerging use cases. That's the motivation for the Spy being involved in the Modula-2 R10 project--moving the art and science of programming language design into the modern era so as to have tools to solve present day problems. The older languages remain useful for the purposes for which they were invented, but clumsily bolting on new features to accommodate new needs eventually becomes old. The time comes when the basic structure of the tool needs a partial or complete gutting, the philosophy needs a re-thing, and the tool re-cast for modern construction methods. The authors froze the grammar this month, and look to freeze the library structure shortly, so a descriptive book can be published, and a compiler built.

The top line:

Let's have some perspective. Technology only becomes dead dead--or even obsolete--when it either ceases to perform the task to which it was set, or the task itself no longer needs to be performed. Until then, it remains current, no matter how old. The useful retains at least some value. Moreover, of those who say "(s)he who dies with the most toys wins", the Spy gently enquires, "Wins what and where, pray tell?"

Friends and family are of infinitely more importance, will always endure, never become obsolete. Human values such as fidelity, constancy, truth, love, righteousness, honour, duty, and morality are timeless. Such will be current even when the universe itself is replaced by a new heavens and a new earth, at which event both technology and the negations of such values will forever be forgotten. Let's have some perspective, even when we talk ephemeral toys.

--The Northern Spy
Opinions expressed here are entirely the author's own, and no endorsement is implied by any community or organization to which he may be attached. Rick Sutcliffe, (a.k.a. The Northern Spy) is professor of Computing Science and Mathematics at Canada's Trinity Western University. He has been involved as a member or consultant with the boards of several community and organizations, and participated in developing industry standards at the national and international level. He is a co-author of the Modula-2 programming language R10 dialect. He is a long time technology author and has written two textbooks and nine novels, one named best ePublished SF novel for 2003. His columns have appeared in numerous magazines and newspapers (paper and online), and he's a regular speaker at churches, schools, academic meetings, and conferences. He and his wife Joyce have lived in the Aldergrove/Bradner area of BC since 1972.

Want to discuss this and other Northern Spy columns? Surf on over to ArjayBB.com. Participate and you could win free web hosting from the WebNameHost.net subsidiary of Arjay Web Services. Rick Sutcliffe's fiction can be purchased in various eBook formats from Fictionwise, and in dead tree form from Amazon's Booksurge.

URLs for Rick Sutcliffe's Arjay Enterprises:

The Northern Spy Home Page: http://www.TheNorthernSpy.com
opundo : http://opundo.com
Sheaves Christian Resources : http://sheaves.org
WebNameHost : http://www.WebNameHost.net
WebNameSource : http://www.WebNameSource.net
nameman : http://nameman.net

General URLs for Rick Sutcliffe's Books:

Author Site: http://www.arjay.ca
Publisher's Site: http://www.writers-exchange.com/Richard-Sutcliffe.html
URLs for items mentioned in this column
The Sony 1040: http://store.sony.com/7.2-channel-4k-wi-fi-network-a-v-receiver-zid27-ST...
Crutchfield: http://www.crutchfield.ca/
Modula-2 R10--see the link at: http://www.modula-2.com/

 
AAPL
$104.80
Apple Inc.
-0.04
MSFT
$45.99
Microsoft Corpora
+0.97
GOOG
$538.12
Google Inc.
-5.86

MacTech Search:
Community Search:

Software Updates via MacUpdate

OS X Server 4.0 - For OS X 10.10 Yosemit...
Designed for OS X and iOS devices, OS X Server makes it easy to share files, schedule meetings, synchronize contacts, develop software, host your own website, publish wikis, configure Mac, iPhone,... Read more
TotalFinder 1.6.12 - Adds tabs, hotkeys,...
TotalFinder is a universally acclaimed navigational companion for your Mac. Enhance your Mac's Finder with features so smart and convenient, you won't believe you ever lived without them. Tab-based... Read more
BusyCal 2.6.3 - Powerful calendar app wi...
BusyCal is an award-winning desktop calendar that combines personal productivity features for individuals with powerful calendar sharing capabilities for families and workgroups. BusyCal's unique... Read more
calibre 2.7 - Complete e-library managem...
Calibre is a complete e-book library manager. Organize your collection, convert your books to multiple formats, and sync with all of your devices. Let Calibre be your multi-tasking digital... Read more
Skitch 2.7.3 - Take screenshots, annotat...
With Skitch, taking, annotating, and sharing screenshots or images is as fun as it is simple.Communicate and collaborate with images using Skitch and its intuitive, engaging drawing and annotating... Read more
Delicious Library 3.3.2 - Import, browse...
Delicious Library allows you to import, browse, and share all your books, movies, music, and video games with Delicious Library. Run your very own library from your home or office using our... Read more
Art Text 2.4.8 - Create high quality hea...
Art Text is an OS X application for creating high quality textual graphics, headings, logos, icons, Web site elements, and buttons. Thanks to multi-layer support, creating complex graphics is no... Read more
Live Interior 3D Pro 2.9.6 - Powerful an...
Live Interior 3D Pro is a powerful yet very intuitive interior designing application. View Video Tutorials It has every feature of Live Interior 3D Standard, plus some exclusive ones: Create multi... Read more
The Hit List 1.1.7 - Advanced reminder a...
The Hit List manages the daily chaos of your modern life. It's easy to learn - it's as easy as making lists. And it's powerful enough to let you plan, then forget, then act when the time is right.... Read more
jAlbum Pro 12.2.4 - Organize your digita...
jAlbum Pro has all the features you love in jAlbum, but comes with a commercial license. With jAlbum, you can create gorgeous custom photo galleries for the Web without writing a line of code!... Read more

Latest Forum Discussions

See All

Rami Ismail Opens Up distribute​() for D...
Rami Ismail Opens Up distribute​() for Developers Posted by Jessica Fisher on October 24th, 2014 [ permalink ] Rami Ismail, Chief Executive of Business and Development at indie game studio | Read more »
Great Hitman GO Goes on Sale and Gets Ne...
Great Hitman GO Goes on Sale and Gets New Update – Say That Three Times Fast Posted by Jessica Fisher on October 24th, 2014 [ permalink ] | Read more »
Rival Stars Basketball Review
Rival Stars Basketball Review By Jennifer Allen on October 24th, 2014 Our Rating: :: RESTRICTIVE BUT FUNUniversal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad Rival Stars Basketball is a fun mixture of basketball and card collecting but its... | Read more »
Rubicon Development Makes Over a Dozen o...
Rubicon Development Makes Over a Dozen of Their Games Free For This Weekend Only Posted by Jessica Fisher on October 24th, 2014 [ permalink ] | Read more »
I Am Dolphin Review
I Am Dolphin Review By Jennifer Allen on October 24th, 2014 Our Rating: :: NEARLY FIN-TASTICUniversal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad Swim around and eat nearly everything that moves in I Am Dolphin, a fun Ecco-ish kind of game... | Read more »
nPlayer looks to be the ultimate choice...
Developed by Newin Inc, nPlayer may seem like your standard video player – but is aiming to be the best in its field by providing high quality video play performance and support for a huge number of video formats and codecs. User reviews include... | Read more »
Fighting Fantasy: Caverns of the Snow Wi...
Fighting Fantasy: Caverns of the Snow Witch Review By Jennifer Allen on October 24th, 2014 Our Rating: :: CLASSY STORYTELLINGUniversal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad Fighting Fantasy: Caverns of the Snow Witch is a sterling... | Read more »
A Few Days Left (Games)
A Few Days Left 1.01 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $3.99, Version: 1.01 (iTunes) Description: Screenshots are in compliance to App Store's 4+ age rating! Please see App Preview for real game play! **Important: Make... | Read more »
Toca Boo (Education)
Toca Boo 1.0.2 Device: iOS Universal Category: Education Price: $2.99, Version: 1.0.2 (iTunes) Description: BOO! Did I scare you!? My name is Bonnie and my family loves to spook! Do you want to scare them back? Follow me and I'll... | Read more »
Intuon (Games)
Intuon 1.1 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $.99, Version: 1.1 (iTunes) Description: Join the battle with your intuition in a new hardcore game Intuon! How well do you trust your intuition? Can you find a needle in a... | Read more »

Price Scanner via MacPrices.net

Nimbus Note Cross=Platform Notes Utility
Nimbus Note will make sure you never forget or lose your valuable data again. Create and edit notes, save web pages, screenshots and any other type of data – and share it all with your friends and... Read more
NewerTech’s Snuglet Makes MagSafe 2 Power Con...
NewerTech has introduced the Snuglet, a precision-manufactured ring designed to sit inside your MagSafe 2 connector port, providing a more snug fit to prevent your power cable from unintentional... Read more
Apple Planning To Sacrifice Gross Margins To...
Digitimes Research’s Jim Hsiao says its analysts believe Apple is planning to sacrifice its gross margins to save its tablet business, which has recently fallen into decline. They project that Apple’... Read more
Who’s On Now? – First Instant-Connect Search...
It’s nighttime and your car has broken down on the side of the highway. You need a tow truck right away, so you open an app on your iPhone, search for the closest tow truck and send an instant... Read more
13-inch 2.5GHz MacBook Pro on sale for $949,...
Best Buy has the 13″ 2.5GHz MacBook Pro available for $949.99 on their online store. Choose free shipping or free instant local store pickup (if available). Their price is $150 off MSRP. Price is... Read more
Save up to $125 on Retina MacBook Pros
B&H Photo has the new 2014 13″ and 15″ Retina MacBook Pros on sale for up to $125 off MSRP. Shipping is free, and B&H charges NY sales tax only. They’ll also include free copies of Parallels... Read more
Apple refurbished Time Capsules available sta...
The Apple Store has certified refurbished Time Capsules available for up to $60 off MSRP. Apple’s one-year warranty is included with each Time Capsule, and shipping is free: - 2TB Time Capsule: $255... Read more
Textilus New Word, Notes and PDF Processor fo...
Textilus is new word-crunching, notes, and PDF processor designed exclusively for the iPad. I haven’t had time to thoroughly check it out yet, but it looks great and early reviews are positive.... Read more
WD My Passport Pro Bus-Powered Thunderbolt RA...
WD’s My Passport Pro RAID solution is powered by an integrated Thunderbolt cable for true portability and speeds as high as 233 MB/s. HighlightsOverviewSpecifications Transfer, Back Up And Edit In... Read more
Save with Best Buy’s College Student Deals
Take an additional $50 off all MacBooks and iMacs at Best Buy Online with their College Students Deals Savings, valid through November 1st. Anyone with a valid .EDU email address can take advantage... Read more

Jobs Board

*Apple* Solutions Consultant - Apple Inc. (U...
…important role that the ASC serves is that of providing an excellent Apple Customer Experience. Responsibilities include: * Promoting Apple products and solutions Read more
Senior Event Manager, *Apple* Retail Market...
…This senior level position is responsible for leading and imagining the Apple Retail Team's global event strategy. Delivering an overarching brand story; in-store, Read more
*Apple* Solutions Consultant (ASC) - Apple (...
**Job Summary** The ASC is an Apple employee who serves as an Apple brand ambassador and influencer in a Reseller's store. The ASC's role is to grow Apple Read more
Project Manager / Business Analyst, WW *Appl...
…a senior project manager / business analyst to work within our Worldwide Apple Fulfillment Operations and the Business Process Re-engineering team. This role will work Read more
*Apple* Retail - Multiple Positions (US) - A...
Job Description: Sales Specialist - Retail Customer Service and Sales Transform Apple Store visitors into loyal Apple customers. When customers enter the store, Read more
All contents are Copyright 1984-2011 by Xplain Corporation. All rights reserved. Theme designed by Icreon.