Now look – I’m no MSFT basher, but…

Jan 28 2008

It just occurred to me what using my now-several-months-old laptop reminds me of.

It’s a reasonably beefed-out Thinkpad, with plenty of memory, and (ahem) it came preloaded with Microsoft Vista. I stifled my instinct to reload it on day one, thinking that the naysayers on Vista were simply disgruntled… well, disgruntled “whatever-you-have-to-be-disgruntled-about to be overly harsh about Vista.” Wrong-o, to my chagrin.

The performance of my machine honestly reminds me of the days of Windows 3.1, with (in terms of sheer performance relative to reasonably expectations) Windows 3.1 coming out the clear winner.

Windows Vista is an unspeakably bad operating system implementation, and compares so unfavorably to each of the last three generations of Microsoft desktop operating systems that I cannot think of any non-profane way to describe it. Yet, here I am trying to avoid potty-mouthing my own blog. So it’s a conundrum.

It will take me days of effort to reload my machine and reliably assure myself that I got everything restored, but my disgust with the worthless alleged advances of Vista has finally overcome my desire to avoid computer busywork. I’m reverting to XP, knowing that the speed I gain in doing so should recoup me the time lost in reversion. I project a payback of two weeks or less. Yes, Vista is that badly done.

I repeat – I’m no Microsoft basher, and I’ve been a satisfied user of their desktop operating systems for 20+ years. But Vista has no upside to cancel out its hideous performance downside, and is an abortion best avoided.

Addendum – 3/3/2008: I’m presently half-way done replacing Vista with XP Pro. My disdain for it is such that I look forward to never using Vista again. Luckily for me, my disdain hasn’t reached critical levels, as it has for some people.

Mobile phone radiation wrecks your sleep (?)

Jan 20 2008

From today’s Independent, a story about a study funded by the mobile phone companies:

Radiation from mobile phones delays and reduces sleep, and causes headaches and confusion, according to a new study.

The research, sponsored by the mobile phone companies themselves, shows that using the handsets before bed causes people to take longer to reach the deeper stages of sleep and to spend less time in them, interfering with the body’s ability to repair damage suffered during the day.

Published by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Progress in Electromagnetics Research Symposium and funded by the Mobile Manufacturers Forum, representing the main handset companies, it has caused serious concern among top sleep experts, one of whom said that there was now “more than sufficient evidence” to show that the radiation “affects deep sleep”.

(ellipsis mine)

The report refers to a “massive study” of 1,656 Belgian teenagers, the results of which are claimed to complement the lab studies done by MIT et al. Those MIT studies noted a significant effect (with “significant” left undefined in the article) on the level of tiredness found in study participants the day after exposure to RF in the 884MHz range.

The embarrassed Mobile Manufacturers Forum played down the results, insisting – at apparent variance with this published conclusion – that its “results were inconclusive” and that “the researchers did not claim that exposure caused sleep disturbance”.

The MMF should be embarrassed, for two reasons. First, it’s silly to assume that RF emissions have no effect on their surroundings, and it’s not unreasonable to try to quantify these effects, good, bad, or indifferent. More importantly, if you’re going to downplay the results of the study you’ve funded as “inconclusive”, you ought to at least not do so by simply & directly contradicting the stated result of the study. While holding no opinion on the degree to which sleep can be disrupted, I’m sympathetic to their conundrum, but there are far more credible ways to spin a study’s results than just to reflexively deny its conclusion.

In particular, the definition of “very tired”, judged in isolation from other influences on sleep, seems subjective to the point of absurdity, particularly in a study of only 70-odd people. I’m sure they considered this, of course, but it would be nice to read how they’d attempted to adjust for the effect.

It’s an interesting article either way, made more so by the omission (if not in the study, in the article itself) of any control group who’d simply used a wired phone during the same periods of the day. The lab tests, with RF but sans actual phone use, go some (undefined) way toward finding causality, but while studying the overall effect of late night phone use, it seems ludicrous to ignore the fact of actual conversation.

Because, at least in this case, the medium, all due respect to Marshall McLuhan, is not the message.