An 'Historical Blunder' and Other Tech Turkeys of 2009
If you had to pick the biggest tech turkey of 2009, what would it be? Suggestions from the blogosphere include Windows 7, the iPhone, the Chrome OS, Nvidia's mishandling of its solder debacle, Intel's Atom, toolbars and other crapware, Ubuntu, e-readers, EA, and the current patent system. That should give you plenty to chew on, if you're still in the gobbling mood.
So Thanksgiving has come and gone for another year here in the U.S., and all that remains is a bunch of leftovers. What better diversion as we all make our way through Avogadro's number of turkey sandwiches than the Linux Blog Safari's first annual "Tech Turkeys" column?
Yes, you heard that right! It's time to talk turkey here in the Linux blogosphere, and Linux Girl has her Quick Quotes Quill at the ready. She couldn't resist asking some of her favorite bloggers: What were the tech turkeys this year?
Windows 7: 'That Turkey Will Not Fly'
"That's easy: '7'," responded blogger Robert Pogson. "What else can you call a product that was supposed to be released in 2006 as Vista, that people have to pay for twice (Vista AND Vista SP 2) and it works no better?
"That turkey will not fly," Pogson concluded.
"If there is one tech that perturbs me more than any other, it has to be the iPhone," Slashdot blogger Josh Ulmer told LinuxInsider.
iPhone: 'People Look Like Jerks Using Them'
"While bringing smartphones, and in general the web (and all associated apps) to the masses, it has created an entirely new group of elitist users while encouraging the practice of vendor lock-in," Ulmer explained. "Not to mention the App Store, with its obfuscated approval process."
Then there's the fact that -- as with "certain kinds of cars -- people just tend to look like jerks while using them," he asserted.
"What frustrates me the most (still) is the iPhone, and Apple in general," Slashdot blogger David Masover agreed.
'Developers Are Getting Frustrated'
"What bugs me about Apple is that they're actually innovating, and that they're patenting what they innovate, which means that many of the interesting-looking things I'm seeing on Macs -- even as simple as the magnetically-attached power cord -- probably won't be available elsewhere for 15 to 20 years," he told LinuxInsider. The problem is best summarized in this Web comic, Masover added.
"So many cool things are rejected from the App Store almost arbitrarily, and so many interesting developers are getting frustrated," he noted.
Android, meanwhile, "is looking cool, but it keeps getting hampered by shoddy implementations, and it's sold in a bit of a locked-down way," he added.
Chrome OS: 'A Historical Blunder'
"I think we're seeing Google make a historical blunder with the premature announcement of Chrome OS netbooks," chimed in Slashdot blogger Barbara Hudson.
"Sure, Android is a hit," Hudson explained. "With Droid, Google gets lots of people using its software stack, and that means lots of chances to sell ads to an audience that is up-to-date and doesn't mind spending (US)$80 to $100 a month on a smartphone plan. These are a good audience for advertisers."
It will be a different story with Chrome OS, she told LinuxInsider.
'Definitely Not an Open Netbook'
Chrome OS netbooks are not due until Christmas 2010, she noted, when "it's going to be too little, too late, and a very unfriendly machine for those who like open source."
With components and extensions that are cryptographically signed, "this is definitely not an open netbook," Hudson asserted. "Google wants to make sure that you can use the Chrome browser, and ONLY the Chrome browser.
"No installing a different distro, no hacking it to allow for running local apps or anything other than what Google approves of," she added. "So we have a machine that is Tivo-ized: 'Sure, you can have the source -- you just can't do anything with it on *your* hardware'." Aka 'WelfareBooks' Meanwhile, it's already possible to buy "a much more open netbook for $300 at the local retailer," Hudson pointed out, and by next Christmas, things will be even better.
At the price point they'll need to hit in order to attract users -- likely $170 or so, Hudson opined -- Chrome OS netbooks "will quickly become known in the search industry as WelfareBooks, and advertisers will simply refuse to buy placement for pages displayed in a browser running Chrome OS," she predicted.
In short, "this initial Chrome OS-based, restricted-use netbook just doesn't have a natural constituency," Hudson concluded. "It doesn't solve any problem that isn't better solved by more open netbooks, or booting a Linux distro off a thumb drive, or using a smartphone."
What should Google be doing instead? "Looking at where the world is going to be a decade from now," she asserted. "Hint: 'This is not the cloud you're looking for.'"
Nvidia: 'That Is Just So Wrong!'
Slashdot blogger hairyfeet had a long list of turkeys on the tip of his tongue.
For example: "The way Nvidia handled the mess with the bad solder was a turkey," hairyfeet told LinuxInsider. "Just leaving that junk in the channel was a bad move and why I moved to ATI for all my builds."
Then there's the Intel Atom: "Although it is a hit, I would call it a turkey in that the performance on that thing was worse than the 1.1GHz Celeron I recently retired. In this age of multimedia, that is just so wrong!"
The trend in which "everybody sticks those stupid toolbars into what once were legitimate programs, like Java," is another one, hairyfeet added. "I should be able to send a customer a link for a basic app like that without having to scream, 'watch out for the crapware!'
"That is why I am so happy I found ninite.com, which is the closest thing I've found to Synaptec for Windows, with over 90 of the most used apps and NO TOOLBARS!" he noted. "Yay! Nice, full of FOSS, and free to boot!"
E-Readers: 'Fail Written All Over Them'
Though many may disagree, Ubuntu is "a bit of a turkey," said hairyfeet.
"They release way too often and just seem to me to replace one buggy release with another instead of slowing down and making it a solid OS," he explained.
Continuing down hairyfeet's list, "all these different e-readers coming out are gonna be turkeys" as well, he asserted.
"Most folks forget we went through this in the 90s, with a bunch of different readers, all supporting different formats -- it was a mess," he recounted. "Until the book industry accepts DRM-free like the music industry did, these e-readers have fail written all over them."
EA: 'The Symantec of Gaming!'
Last but not least, "I would say EA is a giant turkey," hairyfeet opined. "Why oh why do they keep buying good game developers, only to completely destroy them?
"EA has gotten so good at killing products," he added, "their new slogan ought to be, 'EA -- the Symantec of Gaming'!"
And Linux Girl's pick? It may not be a technology per se, but if anything has damaged innovation in the software realm this year, it's the patent system. A world in which Microsoft can have its way with the sudo command is a world in which something is fundamentally broken. Friends don't let friends patent software!
Now, for all those out there who are still feeling defeated by their dinners, Linux Girl can't resist closing with this little gem. Happy digestion! ;-)