Some people eat, sleep and chew gum, I do genealogy and write...

Sunday, October 25, 2009

To upgrade or not, that is the question for genealogists

I ordered my copy of Windows 7 and I am proceeding with my plan to put Parallels Desktop on my iMac and see how it works with all my genealogy programs. I am presently regularly running about six or eight or more, genealogy programs and will report on how each one works. I have many more other types of programs, as well, and I will try to load all of them and report on how they work. Meanwhile, I usually upgrade all my programs regularly as updates become available, so most of the programs should work. Tune in as I publish the results from this experiment. If all goes as planned I will transfer all my work from the five year old or so PC I now use to an iMac. If that scenario doesn't pan out, I will probably go to a newer PC.

Considering the bad reception of the previous Microsoft operating system, Vista, I am pretty sceptical of the initial hype for Windows 7. This time I want to see for myself before I am committed with a system trying to work with a clunker.

As I discussed in my last post, one of the most important factors compelling an upgrade of the computer hardware or software is the impact of graphics and the perceived slowing of the computer. Early in the computer years, the decision to upgrade was simple, a new computer system came on the market. Every time there was a new system, the increase in computing speed and memory increased so rapidly that the advantage of moving to a new upgraded system was obvious. However, a few years ago, the basic computer systems became so fast and powerful, that few people could actually observe an advantage. Even though the new systems came out with more memory and faster processors, none of those improvements heavily impacted the genealogy programs which were for the most part, text based and rather simple.

More slowly, the genealogy database programs began incorporating ways of attaching media files to genealogical records. Even the venerable Personal Ancestral File in version 5.2 supported attached media files. At the same time, digital photos got larger and larger and graphic files became more and more available. My PC, that was perfectly adequate five years ago, now take five minutes to boot up and two to five minutes to open iGoogle. I am sure there people out there who would tell me I could add memory or whatever to increase the capacity of the computer and prolong its life. Let's just say that I did all that. I am to the point that I recognize that any significant increase in the speed of the computer is going to require a faster or more efficient processor, not just add-ons to my existing computer.

One countervailing issue to rapid upgrades is the cost of upgrading software. It is sometimes a shock to computer owners who buy a new system to learn that they also have to upgrade all their software to run on the new processor. The software upgrades can easily cost more that the computer system itself. We have kept computers long past their real useful life for this reason alone.

So now I will do what I have done dozens and dozens of times in the past. Test out a new operating system and a new hardware configuration. Although those who say they know claim that the new high end Apple processor, a quad-core Intel Core i5 or Core i7 “Nehalem” processor in the 27-inch iMac, really is over kill but experience tells me that programmers will always use all of the available hardware if given the chance and that over the next couple of years it is likely that many programs will not just run on such a processor, but will begin to require one.

Waiting for the Federal Express delivery of my new Windows 7 software. (I already have Parallels Desktop and an iMac).

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