Tuesday, April 4, 2006

The "Much Better" threshhold

In general, people have a lot of inertia when it comes to switching between "stuff". That is, most people don't switch bank accounts just because a different bank offers slightly better rates, or move to a new town or state even if it would be better in nearly every way. For things like banks and homes, there's a lot of friction built into the system. Moving is a hassle and costs money and time. Even changing direct deposit is a hassle and takes time. With a lot of technology, the friction of switching systems is reduced, but there's still a hassle and an avoidance of the unfamiliar that causes people to stick with decisions. In order for someone to switch to something new, the something new has got to be "much better" than whatever they had before to get over that hump. Despite being a technology geek, a group who typically have a fairly low "much better" threshhold, I have a reasonably high threshhold. I kept my very nice Kodak DC280 2-megapixel camera a long time past when everyone else was at 3- and 4-megapixel. The Fuji E550 I got is much better. It's 6-megapixel, has very fast repeat rate, is more compact, faster to transfer, lighter and has better manual control. In that vein, there's a bunch of things I've realized fall into that category for me, and they're worth pointing out in case anyone else is looking for the next "much better" thing in any of these categories.

My TiVo is much better than my VCR. I've had a TiVo for nearly 7 years now. I'm not a huge TV person, but I enjoy several programs. I'm not going to preach the gospel of TiVo here, but it is really a revolutionary device. If you don't have one, get one. It is both worth the monetary cost and the "hassle" of switching to something new.

My Mac is much better than my Linux box. This is only mostly true. I still rely on my linux box as a server for both my this web server, numerous limited-audience web services (family, etc.), private server resources (an arcane but useful todo system I wrote years ago), and various other things. But, as the computer I actually use for web browsing, mail reading, document handling, coding and playing, the PowerBook is so much better than any Linux box I've ever had, and I was a big fan of Linux. For various family and friends I've converted, the Mac is much better than Windows, for them. For me, Windows has always been much worse.

Ruby is much better than perl. This is a new
realization. I've been coding in perl for 14+ years and find it to be
a brilliantly expressive language. I've written vast amounts of code
in perl, ranging from uncountable one-liners to occasional hacks to
enterprise-class software. I still think it's a great language. I've
learned lots of languages over the years, and each has their strengths
and weaknesses, but none have been much better than perl, except for
Java, but that seems an unfair comparison. Java is much better than
perl, but perl is much better than Java. It's like saying a hammer is
"much better" than an apple. If you're driving nails, that's very
true. If you're hungry, not so much. In contrast, comparing perl and
ruby is much more of an apples to apples comparison. Ruby is
expressive like perl, maintains nearly all of the positive things
about perl, removes many of the negative things, adds a great deal of
positive things of its own, and adds only a few negatives of its own.
Especially from the perspective of a perl/Java fan, ruby is
remarkable. Note, I'm not talking about "Ruby on Rails" here. Rails is interesting, but I'm not yet a religious convert.

Roomba is much better than my vacuum cleaner. It is the 21st century and having a domestic robot do chores for you feels right, but that's actually only a small part of what makes the Roomba so much better. Sure, not having to push around a machine is nice, but that's the obvious part.

  • It's quiet. Ok, it's not quiet, but it's nowhere near as loud as a normal vacuum.
  • It's battery powered. In addition to not having to push it around myself, of course, I don't have to deal with finding a place to plug it in, like we did with the upright. Unlike the other battery powered vacuums I've used, the Roomba picks up dirt very well.
  • It's light. Normal uprights aren't that heavy, but the fact that it's really easy to just pick it up move it is great.
  • It's really easy to empty. We have to do it a lot more (every or every other cleaning) but it's so easy, in contrast to dealing with bags. Similarly, it's easier to clean than a normal vacuum, but that's more a function of its weight.

Plus, for me, it's rather entertaining to watch. Others I know find it very frustrating, since it can be very "dumb" seeming at times.

There are other things that fall in the category, but those are the big ones. What I'm looking for now is a blogging system that is much better than blosxom. Blosxom has served me well. It's small, elegant, hackable and met my needs. But, there's enough features I would like that it doesn't have that I haven't found other people's plugins that meet the need, that I'm starting to look around. The problem is, most that I've looked at, I'm not convinced they are much better. Typo looks promising, but I'm not sure it'll overcome the inertia.

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