The computer helper: Planning for obsolescence (Feature)
By Jay Dougherty May 8, 2009, 2:08 GMT
Washington - Remember 5 1/4-inch floppy disks? How about the Iomega Zip drive? Does the word processor WordStar conjure familiar memories?
Unless you've been around technology a long time, these once-hot products are nowhere in your lexicon.
And they're also nowhere on store shelves, which means that if you have precious files either stored on or created with these products, you may face some trouble retrieving them.
Like it or not, owing to the fast pace of progress in the world of computers, obsolescence is almost built in to today's technology products, just as it was built in to yesterday's.
And that means you're wise to be thinking about obsolescence and questioning how to deal with it. Read on for some answers.
Q: I have a question I hope you can help me with. Do you think PCs purchased today will be obsolete within two years or so because of faster processor speeds and new software that demands it?
A: No. Most companies depreciate computer over three to five years, which means they do not plan on replacing those computers until that time frame is up. Even if technology could advance at such a pace that today's computers would be obsolete in two years, tech companies would be unwise to follow this path, since much of the industry is driven through corporate sales.
There's another way to look at obsolescence as well: no technology product is obsolete so long as it continues to perform the job for which you originally purchased it, regardless of the other products that may have come along since that original purchase. The computer you buy today to crunch numbers or compose your e-mail will most likely still be able to perform those tasks many years from now.
It's true that if you keep a computer a very long time - longer than five years, for example - you may begin seeing manufacturers dropping support for certain applications that you have installed, which would mean no more updates. But otherwise you should be able to expect a PC you purchase today to last quite a long time. Because the pace of technology development has actually slowed down in comparison to the early days of the 80s and 90s, the useful life span of computers has actually increased, not decreased.
Q: I am storing all of my digital photographs on DVDs. A friend of mine said I shouldn't keep them on DVDs because the format will become obsolete. Is this correct?
A: It's unlikely that DVDs are going to go away anytime soon. But there are two points regarding your current strategy worth mentioning. First, it's dangerous to keep your sole copy of any file on any type of removable storage medium. All forms of removable media can fail or become damaged, so a backup of your files is essential - and perhaps even a backup of your backup.
Second, recordable DVDs themselves are notoriously prone to scratching or even outright deterioration over time. Depending upon the quality of the coating on the recordable DVDs, your disks may last anywhere from three to 20 years or longer, but you won't want to find out the exact life expectancy of your disks by discovering that data you thought was safely preserved is no longer readable when you need it. So make a backup of those disks, and use a different type of medium - such as an external hard drive or flash drive - to do so.
Sometimes problems with the readability of recordable CDs or DVDs is a result not of disk deterioration but discrepancies between the CD or DVD recorder and the one in which you're trying to play back or read the CD or DVD. Take audio CDs as an example. It's not uncommon to hear people complain that an audio CD that they burn using their computer skips or is unplayable in their automobile's CD player. The reason often has to do with variances between the playback device and the recorder.
So while your DVDs may be readable by the device in which they were created, years down the road, you'll no doubt have another DVD player, and there will be no guarantee that all of the data on those disks will be able to be read accurately.
Q: I have moved on to Windows Vista, but I have a lot of files that I created long ago with Ventura Publisher. I cannot even install the version of Ventura Publisher that I have on my copy of Vista. I'm told that the operating system does not support it. What can I do?
A: Before you give up or go looking for an old computer that will allow you to install Ventura, make sure you try to install Ventura - or any old application that you may be having trouble with - using Vista's compatibility mode. Often the incompatibility with older applications lie with the installation application rather than the program itself. Once the application is installed - and this should be the case with Ventura - it will run fine.
To use compatibility mode, copy the installation files to a folder on your local hard drive. Once copied, find the setup.exe or install.exe program, right click it, and select Properties from the pop-up menu. In the resulting Properties dialog box, click the Compatibility tab. Then select the check box labeled 'Run this program in compatibility mode for,' and select the operating system with which it is compatible from the drop-down menu. Click OK, and then try running the installation program again by double-clicking the file on which you changed the compatibility setting. Chances are good that you'll be able to complete the installation and run the program under Vista.
You will not want to try this with any applications that work at the file level - such as old disk defragmenters - or with old antivirus programs. Trying to make such programs run under newer operating systems could render your computer unusable until you reinstall the operating system or restore a backup.
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