A Year from Today

by Brian Jepson

This is the time of year when technology writers predict the future of the industry. I can't do that, but I can try to imagine what I'll be working with one year from now.



Macintosh


One year ago, I was still pouring money into my Old World Mac. First it was a PowerMac 7500 in a 7200 case, and I finally moved the whole show (G3 upgrade card, IDE adapter, RAM, hard drive, and Radeon) into a 9500 case. I spent a lot of time and money trying to make a cheap fast Mac. I still believed that Macs were expensive.



Today, I have an iBook (600 MHz G3, ATI Rage Mobility graphics) on my desk. It suits my needs for the most part, but I wish it were a G4. My most commonly-used peripherals are a 30GB FireWire drive and a Bluetooth adapter.



In one year, I hope to have something faster. I drool over the 1 GHz PowerBook with its SuperDrive, but I can't picture myself spending that much, or giving up the iBook's durability and small size. Between now and then, I expect modest speed bumps and integrated Bluetooth. So, in one year, I'm hoping for a 1 GHz G3 (G4 would be nicer) iBook with Bluetooth and Airport.



.NET


A year ago, I was writing books and articles about an emerging technology called .NET. At the time, I was spending a lot of time with C# and developing code to generate API references for books like C# in a Nutshell. I did all of my .NET hacking on Windows.



Today, I'm more interested in .NET Mobile technology (Compact Framework and MMIT), and I spend a lot of time fixing bugs in and supporting the code that generates API references for books like C# in a Nutshell. I do most of my .NET hacking on Windows.



One year from now, I expect to be working with C# 2.0, and leaving the mobile technology to other folks. I will be doing most of my .NET hacking on Unix or Linux.



Wireless


One year ago, I had an 802.11b network at home and a CDPD modem for when I went on the road. The CDPD modem was really slow, but I could use it anywhere from Washington, DC to Boston, MA. It was reliable enough, and I had a flat rate for unlimited bandwidth.



Today, I still have the 802.11b network. I gave up the CDPD modem and replaced it with a Sony Ericsson t68i (GPRS and integrated Bluetooth). I now spend $20 a month for a measly 8MB of data. I use my bandwidth sparingly and wish for more. However, I'm pleasantly surprised by the number of places where I get decent GPRS coverage (as compared to the AT&T Wireless coverage map that I saw when I signed up). When I'm on the road, I use 802.11b hotspots wherever I can find them (mostly airports and conferences).



In one year, I expect to still have the t68i. I'll probably still have the crappy 8MB data allowance, since it takes a long time for Big Telcos to change (and sometimes they never do). Something slightly faster and cheaper will have come out, and I'll be ticked off about my 2-year contract. However, this will be offset by the fact that I'll find coverage in many more places.



In one year, I'll still have an 802.11b network at home, and I'll find enough hotspots when I'm on the road to keep me happy and make me much less dependent on GPRS.



In one year, I'll have a digital camera that has built-in Bluetooth.



Windows


A year ago, I ran Windows 2000 on a 600 MHz Pentium laptop for most of my work and used a 1200 MHz Athlon for my heavy lifting. I thought that I could slowly migrate over to Mac OS X if I could only get decent performance out of Virtual PC (which was buggy and slow).



Today, the Athlon is in my stepson's rumpus room. I still use the laptop from time to time, but I mostly log into it from my iBook with Microsoft's free Remote Desktop client. I can get some of my work done with Virtual PC, but it is still kind of slow (but not quite as buggy). I run Windows 2000 under Virtual PC and .NET Server 2003 (Release Candidate 2) on my Pentium machine.



One year from now, I hope to use Virtual PC for most of my Windows work (Virtual PC 6.0 is out now, and it promises a big speed boost over the current edition). If I get a newer iBook, it will support Quartz Extreme (my current iBook doesn't), have a bigger L2 cache, and a faster processor. But I'm not fooling myself; I'll still need to keep a PC around for occasional use when Virtual PC doesn't cut it.



One year from now, I expect that I'll run .NET Server 2003 for most of my Windows work, and I hope to be looking at Longhorn betas by then.



Mobile Computing


One year ago, I was trying to use a Palm III for my mobile computing needs. When I packed it to use on a trip, I'd never use it (except to play games on the plane ride). I hated using Graffiti for input. I never had more than a dozen contacts on the thing and probably half as many appointments



Today, I use my t68i the way I imagined I'd use my Palm. I use iCal, Address Book, and iSync on my Mac to manage information that's stored the phone. I have more contacts than ever in my address book and a whole mess of appointments in my calendar. Occasionally, I type appointments and contacts into the phone, but I do most of my data entry on the Mac.



In a year, I'll still use the t68i, but I'll have many more contacts and appointments. iSync, iCal, and Address Book will be much better than their current versions, and I'll have lots of fun with them.




What do you imagine you'll be working with a year from now?