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ATPM 16.01
January 2010


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by Mark Tennent,

It Just Sits There Dribbling

My boss was using my work computer to demonstrate to a new employee how to send files from Lotus Notes. She gathered the files together, a mix of Word documents and a couple of PDFs, then clicked on Send. Several tens of minutes later, the computer became operational again. For some strange reason, Windows XP, or the Dell Optiplex, cannot multi-task in the same way a Mac can. Data dribbled out, meanwhile locking out Notes.

It felt like going back to the early days of System 7 or even System 6 MultiFinder, when Macs were running on Motorola 680x0 chips. In those days the network was at modem speed or 10Base-T if you were lucky. We weren’t sending as much data, but even so, e-mailing a file wouldn’t hang the mail package, and data would depart as a background task.

Move forward ten years, even a lowly PowerBook G3 under Mac OS 8 was able to send large attachments as a background task while acting as a PostScript RIP for our large-format inkjet.

Onwards another five years to the era of my work Optiplex and G5 Power Macs. The Dell runs XP like treacle off a spoon, while the Mac is busy with huge pieces of software working concurrently. Photoshop might be applying a filter to a 500 MB image at the same time as VisualHub is compressing a video. The Mac user is busy designing in QuarkXPress while Mail is sending a 20 MB attachment and still collecting new messages every five minutes. Just to add to the fun, SETI is in the background utilising spare capacity.

Back to nowadays, and the Dell is long in the tooth but its equivalent Mac is still cracking away as a graphics workstation. I opened up the Dell, and inside its guts are neatly set out. It still took removal of the CD and floppy drive to be able to swap a 256 MB SIMM for a 1 GB DIMM, but it all clicked backed together again easily. There are only two RAM slots instead of the four or more a Mac Pro has, no graphics card, and amazingly, even a brand new Optiplex still has a floppy drive. Do they make floppy disks any more? It has been over 15 years since I last used one.

Of course, the message my boss had sent bounced back. It was barely 11 MB but too large for someone’s server. I spent the rest of the afternoon sending the files one by one. Each time, I was locked out of my work as the files hogged the application.

Bosses, eh?

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Reader Comments (1)

gwats · January 5, 2010 - 22:56 EST #1
I feel you, my friend. I remember sending pictures of my yearly trips to the Kingdom of Thailand to my sister
and having her tell me my files were too big (500KB) for her ancient HP to handle. Fast forward ten years... I'm using a G5 2.0 Ghz Dual core, The last of the G5's, which is at least 4 years old and about to become my teenager's best friend as I upgrade to Intel-based desktops. The G5 still screams with speed on my 21 MB connection and my sister is finally buying her first digital camera. Go figure. :)

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