Posts Tagged ‘Computers’

Researchers in Israel claim to have developed a way to decipher previously unreadable ancient texts using technology similar to that of fingerprint readers:

The program uses a pattern recognition algorithm similar to those law enforcement agencies have adopted to identify and compare fingerprints.

But in this case, the program identifies letters, words and even handwriting styles, saving historians and liturgists hours of sitting and studying each manuscript.

By recognizing such patterns, the computer can recreate with high accuracy portions of texts that faded over time or even those written over by later scribes, said Itay Bar-Yosef, one of the researchers from Ben-Gurion University of the Negev.

“The more texts the program analyses, the smarter and more accurate it gets,” Bar-Yosef said.

I love history, and it always gives me a thrill when some lost ancient text is recovered. The possibility of a Google-like searchable database is fascinating. I can’t wait to see what this new technology uncovers.

Now watch. It will be some scribe’s shopping list. 😉

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So, I’m still in the market for a new laptop. (The old one, affectionately named Talky Tina, is roughly ten years old – eons, in computer years.) My leading candidate had been a Dell loaded with Ubuntu, a flavor of Linux. I’d get a powerful, stable operating system, a wealth of free software (I’m a big fan of open-source and shareware), and it was the least expensive of the three options.

Naturally, there’s a deal-killer.

I need without question to be able to run Final Draft, which does not have a Linux version, nor does it run well in any Windows emulation under linux. So, my second choice moved to first place: a MacBook Pro.

Some people are probably gob-smacked to discover I’m even considering Apple, but they shouldn’t be. It was never the computers I objected to (other than certain interface issues, I think they’re excellent computers); rather, I’m annoyed beyond belief by the paternalistic, sanctimonious arrogance of Apple as a company and the unquestioning, slavish, cult-like devotion of so many of its fans. It’s a tool, not a lifestyle!

Ooops, getting lost in a rant there. Back on topic…

The trouble with the Apple is price: you pay a premium for the cool-factor of owning a Mac. Even with a discount through my workplace, the price for the configuration I want (I refuse to settle for less. If I have to “settle,” why buy?) comes to just over $2,200, a bit over my budget.

On the other hand, a Dell mounted with Vista in a roughly comparable configuration (including quality external speakers and a negligible savings in software-switching costs) would cost a smidgen over $1900.

There are advantages to each.

The MacBook Pro: An established, stable operating system (albeit with a lot of patches, it seems) and ease of operation. If there’s a problem, I can take it to the local Apple store.

The Dell with Vista: An operating system similar to what I use already, thus lessening the software-switching costs and shortening the learning curve (granted, I can probably pick up the “Mac way” of doing things quickly). Home warranty service. A machine that’s more than 15% less expensive. One consideration is that I could easily dual-boot it to run mostly in Ubuntu and just use Vista when I need it, such as for Final Draft.

There are disadvantages to each:

The MacBook Pro: More expensive. Interface features I don’t like. A (probably short) learning curve. Some software switching expenses, perhaps a lack of good replacement software for some programs I use. Having to be without the computer if it needs to be sent away under Apple Care. The “Apple ‘tude.”

Dell with Vista: Likely OS replacement in 2009. Vista problematic with third party software and equipment (not as bad as at first?). Microsoft’s increasingly intrusive “rights management” and monitoring. More security risks.

So, it’s up in the air. I can see good reasons to go either way, and good reasons not to. I’m truly undecided at this point. Confused

More research and thought is necessary. As is more beer. Beer mug

A bit more: Doing some research on the Ubuntu forums about experiences having both Vista and Ubuntu on the same machine, I ran across this tale of woe. A highlight quote from a Ubuntu power-user: “Egads, Vista is a nightmare. Nuke it or install XP.”

Oh, dear. Score one point for Apple.

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