Note: This column represents the opinions
of the writer and as such, is not purported as fact
While I was trawling the Net last night looking for various software options
for the Personal Digital Entertainment Centre (PDEC) aka PC-based Tivo-like box
that I'm about to start documenting for readers, I realised that things
have changed a lot in the last ten years or so.
A decade or so ago, a fairly significant percentage of PC owners wrote at
least a few bits of code -- either for fun or to perform some task for
which an off-the-shelf application simply wasn't available.
Go back a little further and you really had to be a programmer to make
any real use of your flash new PC-XT or PC-AT.
These days however, it seems that the closest most people come to cutting
code is writing the occasional spreadsheet macro.
Of course it's true that today there simply isn't the need for PC users
to cut code. Most personal computers are used for tasks such as word processing,
spreadsheeting, accounts and the like -- for which there are dozens of commercial
But what about other applications?
What if Microsoft Office just doesn't cut it or you're not interested in
balancing your chequebook or general ledger?
Is it still practical for brave (or stupid?) people to knock up their own
applications from scratch?
Are there any people out there, apart from professional programmers, who
are using tools such as Delphi, Java, Visual Basic or whatever to knock up little
(or large) programs?
Perhaps the cost of getting kitted out to develop full-blown Windows applications
has put many people off. Perhaps the complexity of the modern development
environment has left others scratching their heads.
Whatever the reasons, it seems that the kitchen-table programmer is a far
rarer beast than (s)he used to be.
Which raises the issue of Linux...
The Linux platform, for all the hype and positive vibes that surround it, still
suffers from a dearth of decent, slick, easy-to-install and run applications.
Hey, that sounds like the Windows marketplace 10 years ago doesn't it?
Windows users a decade or so ago survived by cutting their own little apps
using Visual Basic, FoxBase, Delphi or other easy-to-use development tools.
Are there Linux equivalents to these products that allow non-programmers to
knock up a small program so as to accomplish a relatively simple task -- or
must they navigate the bowels of MySQL, C/C++ and other vastly more complex
Maybe this type of very simple "do it yourself" programming environment is what Linux
needs to help increase its popularity and make it a practical tool for
a much larger number of users.
What do you think?
That Tivo-like Box
The hardware has arrived and I've begun work on the PC-based Personal Digital
Entertainment Centre which, to avoid trademark problems, I need to come up
with a name for.
My first impression is that this isn't just a case of throwing together
the offerings of a few manufacturers. I'm using the Pinnacle PCTVPro card
which is a fine piece of hardware -- but the manufacturer's software isn't
everything it claims to be.
There is a wealth of other freeware, shareware and open source software
out there however and I'll be steadily wading through the options and
evaluating each on its merits.
In a day or so I'll have a section of the site set up specifically to document
this project so you'll be able to read all about my successes and failures
I'll also take a moment to once again thank
who have kindly supplied the hardware on which this system is based.
Have your say.
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