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

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Operating Systems Updated

Apple recently announced another major revision to its OS X operating system. This new version is called Yosemite. This will be the 11th major release of an operating system from Apple. A release date has yet to be announced. There are already rumors of a Windows 9 release, maybe as late as the Spring of 2015. What does this mean for genealogists? Yet another round of program upgrades and that the existing systems take one more step towards obsolescence.

For anyone trying to run Windows programs on a Macintosh, this means a double upgrade. You not only need to upgrade you operating systems, but you will also need to upgrade the emulation programs you are using. What if you simply opt out of the cycle of upgrades? The effect on existing data may not be discernible at first, but changes in operating systems always seem to utilize the latest.

A system upgrade on a computer is not like the annual new car releases. The reasons are a little bit complex, but revolve around the fact that a new computer processor is not just an improvement on an older model, but a completely new design. Here is a quote from Forbes online magazine about the new Intel chip sets:
In its press release to technology journalists, the company highlighted its plans to boost the enthusiast segment including three very interesting new processors, including an unlocked Pentium processor – something that we haven’t seen for many CPU generations. 
Intel also stated that the replacement for current DDR3 memory – unsurprisingly called DDR4, will come to its high-end segment that will offer the new X99 chipset and look to be the successor to current X79 LGA2011 motherboards. 
The first exciting announcement will be the first processor to support the new X99 chipset and DDR4 memory. The as yet unknown processor will also be the company’s first true 8-core desktop model. The highest core count currently stands at six cores with models such as the 4960X 3.60GHz Extreme. The processor will likely use hyper-threading technology too, providing a total of 16 threads for sure-to-be stellar multi-threaded performance.
To have the same type of changes in cars, the major manufacturers would have to be re-inventing the engines and drive trains every year.  It is a back and forth process. The hardware manufacturers, like Intel, develop new chips with increased capabilities and the software and computer companies then have to develop products that will take advantage of the new chips.

The basic effect to the consumer (i.e. us) is that over time, our current computer systems and programs become incompatible and then obsolete. One day, you try to load a new program and find out that the new programs will not run on your computer.

I try to stay a little bit ahead of the curve on this type of change. The release of a new operating system is a clue that some of the programs I am using will have to be upgraded also. Usually, with the release of a new operating system, Apple and Microsoft will provide a list of the processor types that will "run the new system." If your particular computer system is not listed, that is a dead giveaway that you will need to upgrade.

But what if you don't want to spend the money or the time to upgrade? As I mentioned, you might buy a new program and find out that it will not work on your particular computer. But the overall effect is potential for loss of data. If you can no longer get parts for your car, you can spend some money and pay someone to make the part you need. This doesn't work all that well with computer software. Over time, as the hardware changes, it becomes more and more of a challenge to retrieve the old data from the obsolete computer. If you want a dramatic story of how this problem works you can read about the Luna Orbiter Image Recovery Project.

Remember, praemonitus, praemunitus (to be forewarned is to be forearmed).

Should you run out an buy a new computer today? If you need one, yes. But since I now know that there are new operating systems and new processors coming out in the near future, I would probably wait until later on this year and re-evaluate what has actually happened. But at some point, upgrading is inevitable. 

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