What do we really use our PCs for day-to-day?

I originally ordered my Zonbu ostensibly to test-drive it for work.

Was it a viable replacement for PCs for our broadband users? Was it something we could either recommend for people with constant PC issues, or to new users who weren’t sure what to buy?

Better yet, could we somehow do a cell-phone style bundle and get more PCs in circulation and therefore more broadband accounts? These are the questions an evil broadband genius turns over in his mind…

But as the days passed slowly, as these lazy days of summer do – I started paying more attention to what I use my home PC for. While a toddler in the house, gone are the days of endless gaming sessions and random Internet stumbling and exploration. Now my time at my PC tends to be much more task specific. Yours probably is too if you’re over 25… If you’re under 25 we’d all probably rather if you just went away. If I may quote George Bernard Shaw “Youth is wasted on the young.” So stop wasting time on the PC and get out and waste your youth. You’ll thank me later.

Meanwhile, back on the farm, what I noticed is that I seem to spend the vast majority of my time in my web browser, usually with the truly excellent Rhapsody music service playing through my headphones (I used to have really nice speakers and a subwoofer… now I have a toddler).

The other major things I do are manage my digital photo collection and movie clips (mostly of the aforementioned spawn), interact with PDF and office documents and use SSH to manage servers at the office. Oh and make backups of the aforementioned photos and videos, so that some day, when I do my own version of Gene Simmons Family Jewels I’ll have clips to insert between scenes…

I do have to note two things: 1) we don’t have a printer in the house (I never got around to getting one and the odd bit of printing we need I do at work…) and 2) I’m old school when it comes to my digital photos… I don’t connect my camera with a USB cable, I put the memory card in a reader and copy them myself; so I won’t be able to necessary directly comment on printer support but I suppose, for you, I could connect the camera with a cable and see what happens as well as testing my preferred method of transferring photos. But only for you, because I like you…

Interestingly, my mother visited us recently and she spends her PC time doing almost exactly the same things we do. And spend time she does, she probably uses the PC at least an hour a day. And she’s not tech savvy at all. Is it just my mother or have you folks noticed the over 50 set can be quite avid PC users too?

I decided to watch my wife user her PC for a while and with the exception of also using Outlook to keep track of her address book, she pretty much has the same pattern too. And I have a feeling she’d drop in to Evolution (the email client that ships with the Zonbu) and be able to find her way around without any trouble.

Maybe these Zonbu guys are on to something.

Occasionally I get to fire up a game or two, but I consider serious gaming outside the scope of the Zonbu.

Both because it will be crap at the 3D style games I like, and because, frankly its looking more and more like the upgrade from XP appears to be Linux and a Nintendo Wii (Ok, Ok, or an Xbox 360 or PS3 – I thought you under 25’s left earlier?). I’ve resisted console gaming for some inexplicable reason. I still seem to think using a keyboard and a mouse and a graphics card that cost more than a Wii console is still a good idea. I’m a grown up now, perhaps its time I revisit that…

On a side note, I can tell you that upgrading to Vista is pretty much universally a bad idea.

I got a shiny (literally) new HP laptop at work and decided to get Vista on it. That was a mistake. Two critical office applications I need don’t run on it, both relate to accounting/billing (i.e. the kinds of things you can’t afford not to be able to use) and I’ve had a myriad of other issues just finding my way around and doing basic day-to-day things. Since my windows experience goes back to Windows 3.0 (no, that isn’t a typo), I’m a bit amazed at how significantly they altered “little things” that will annoy, oh I don’t know, MILLIONS OF EXISTING USERS?

So, back to what I do at home, day-to-day on my XP machine. Web browse, photos, videos, Rhapsody.

The first three the Zonbu claims to handle. Rhapsody is a different issue, it has a really slick windows application but no Linux port is available (although, oddly, it runs on my Nokia N800 that is also Linux based). Then I discovered that their website has an online version that works with FireFox, Flash and a custom extension to basically provide most of the functionality albeit with a few limitations due to its web nature. Could this be the answer?

To simulate the expected Zonbu experience I booted a Puppy Linux LiveCD, installed Firefox and tried it out. It worked well enough that I’d be comfortable giving up my Windows interface for most things and using it as my primary interface at home. Score one for Rhapsody and the Zonbu, that won’t hold me back.

That reminds me, I think I’ll fire up Rhapsody right now.

I don’t know of a better place to spend $12-$15/month on the Internet. For the cost of a single CD per month I get access to millions of tunes. I spend most of my professional time in front of a PC, so having something to stimulate the other side of my brain while I work is a welcome reprieve.

I resisted trying Rhapsody for a year, despite constant exaltation by a good friend. When I conceded and tried it, I kicked myself for not doing it sooner. If you like music, stop reading and go check it out. You’ll come back and thank me… I can tell, you’re that kind of person. The kind that says “thank you”. Or perhaps you’re just Canadian and “sorry” and “thank you” are simply the way you communicate. Either way, you’re welcome to come back.

So, the bottom line on all this?

Even in our tech savvy house (where you’ll find not only my desktop PC and my wife’s laptop, but also a home made TiVo-ish DVR, as well as a WiFi Internet Radio (that also streams from Rhapsody) and a Nokia N800 Internet tablet) we actually do precious little with all our equipment that can’t (purportedly) be accomplished with the Zonbu.

Stay tuned to find out what happens when theory meets reality…

-Mr. Zonbu


2 Responses to What do we really use our PCs for day-to-day?

  1. […] realized the other day that when I wrote What do we really use our PCs for? that I forgot one really important task: video conferencing with IM […]

  2. […] try this thing out and see if it really is a viable option. Which then got me thinking… What do I really use my home PC for? But more on that […]

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