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Peter Cochrane's Uncommon Sense: A Christmas Wish List
Now Santa, take a deep breath and get your techie hat on
I have worked hard all year, honoured all customers, agreements and contracts, and mostly delivered more than was originally asked for, ahead of schedule.
It has been another hard business year with a lot of travelling and it has been tough keeping ahead of rising cost structures, not to mention fast changing markets, business practices and technological advances.
I have tried to be really good by helping as many people as possible, giving good, value-for-money advice.
I have been tolerant of my fellow man and their oft incomplete technology.
So I thought you may have something a little extra for me this year! Not that I expect all of it, you understand, just a few items on my wish list would be a real treat and they would make everyone else's life just a little easier too.
Here goes, in no particular order: How about some extra-small and very lightweight batteries for my laptop and mobile phone with 10 times the capacity of today so I don't have to always be on the look out for power outlets. A machine that doesn't imitate a hot plate and burn my legs would also be a real boon, along with a self healing OS, automatic recovery and back-up of all files, and automated upgrades of all software including firewall and virus protection. Preferences and options that stick would be nice. No more mysterious resets please.
And while we are on the automatic theme, a search and destroy program for all those people and web crawlers that keep probing my network and machines.
Oh yes, I'd also like a bit more range on all my wireless devices, especially mobile phones and Wi-Fi - so how about some automated, and miniaturised, beam steering antennas?
Could you also recover the disaster that Bluetooth has become? Would you believe that there is no common implementation standard and all the companies are doing their own thing? Most of the commercial offerings refuse to work together. Even products from the same manufacturer sometimes hesitate to recognise each other, while those from different sources might as well be from another planet. What a waste. Such great potential is being squandered.
It seems that emailer designs and features are stuck in some kind of time warp. Little seems to have changed in the past 15 years and it would be great to have a really capable search function that worked lightening fast on sender, subject, date, address, content and relational information. Could we also have automatic filing, cataloguing and indexing for free too? And how about really good spam and virus filters, plus an ability to précis those really verbose messages?
I don't want to be mean but could we make sure that the designers have to live with their emailer creations for a year on a 9600Bps mobile phone modem. That way they would stop designing as if we are connected to a 100Mbps corporate LAN, 24 x 7.
Come to think of it, could we invoke the same rule for all architects and product designers so they have to live in and/or use and be subject to their own design? That way we would get buildings and products that not only look nice but function well and, most importantly, improve generation upon generation.
Best of all I would like all software and other products to do what is said on the box, especially talk and type packages. And while you are at it, how about talk and type plus voice command and control in a noisy street, train, airport or office location? Working in an anechoic chamber is not practicable for many of us.
Next, I would like to abolish all handbooks and replace them with good intuitive designs - a 300-page manual for a wrist watch is no joke. A level of AI - artificial intelligence - would go a long way to help us navigate an increasingly difficult IT world and is probably the one and only thing that can improve my work rate and efficiency which seems to be stalling after a steady year-on-year progression since the arrival of the PC. What I need is sort of a Miss Moneypenny -or rather Michaela (my PA) - inside, if you see what I mean. It would be an agent capable of anticipating my next want and action, an entity willing to vet and test all my decisions and actions against a real world model of me, other people, companies and society.
On the more mundane side, I can always use more processing power, a bigger hard drive (or two) and a lot more RAM. Also desirable would be automatic scaling of all text and graphics trained to meet the requirements of my eyes, along with a flexible screen to also give me a variable size workspace.
And of course bandwidth - lots of bandwidth, everywhere, so we can all access and upload everything in a flash, and gain access to all our data remotely on any machine, anywhere, anytime. I know it is a tall order but if you could just exert some influence (or grab them by the throat/pension fund, which is likely to be more effective) to get the network companies to supply bandwidth in much larger quantities and at a reasonable price it would transform our societies and economies. It is strange that the average cost of broadband per month is only $17 in East Asia, $42 in North America, while across Europe it is $122 for a comparable tenth of the quantity and service. Bandwidth choke points are negatively impacting the economy of individuals, companies and countries in the EU and becoming a prime impediment to progress. The laws of physics and economics are the same N, S, E and W, and it seems only a matter of greed and incompetence in Europe.
And farther out? If only I could access my son's school work and grades online and our family's medical records, no matter where we are. It would also be nice to have doctors, consultants, medics, teachers and government officers who could also use IT and quickly respond to our emails.
And while I think about it, can we get rid of the ancient paper voting systems so that a society closer to a true democracy can evolve and perhaps change the course of history in a more positive direction?
If only people would retire from conflict and pursue contributions that would enhance our species. More and easier modes of communications might just do it.
But I digress and I also run out of space. This was supposed to be a short wish list. I settle for any of these gifts but, come to think of IT, some are far more important and critical than others - but then that is for you to choose, should you so wish.
Conceived on BA704 flying London to Vienna, compiled on LH448 flying Frankfurt to Phoenix two days later and despatched to silicon.com via a free Wi-Fi service in my hotel the day after that.