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How Modern Software Improves Modern Hardware

Since dual core and 64-bit processors started going mainstream, computer users have had more power than they know what to do with. In fact, they’ve had more power than their software knows what to do with. To truly take advantage of major advances in modern processors, modern software is required, all of which makes the upgrade cycle much more interesting.

Previously, software and hardware advances were less interrelated, and an advance in one did not advance or require as much the other. Sure, you might need a faster processor to run a faster version of Windows, or a new game to push that new graphics card to the limit, but these were questions of pure speed, not capabilities. It’s analogous to the difference between a faster car and a self-driving car. A faster car runs faster everywhere, but a self driving car is just a regular car until you have roads that allow and support the use of cars that can drive themselves.

The speed race in processors and other pieces of hardware ended years ago. If it hadn’t, Intel® would be releasing a 15 gigahertz Pentium 4 by now. Instead, you can buy an off-the-shelf PC today that runs at the same basic speed a PC released in 2002 could have. The newer PC smokes the old one because while both processors might be running at 2.2 GHz, the modern one isn’t one processor, it’s many. A 64-bit processor can run instructions 4 billion times as large as a 32-bit one. A dual core processor is almost like having 2 processors, and a quad core is twice that. Add in multi-threading, and you have a maching that for all practical purposes might as well have 4 or 8 2.2 GHz processors.

None of this means anything without the right software. Install an old version of Windows on the newest, fastest Dell with a 64-bit quad- or six-core chip, and you might get nothing more than the power of a single logical processor, not the 8-12 logical processors you paid for and would have gotten with a more up-to-date release. As a result, upgrading your software will often upgrade the hardware because the powerful hardware you bought years ago pre-dated the advancements in software required to take advantage of it.

Since we are in the midst of a series examining different modern IT issues, it’s useful to point out that it used to be that aging software in a corporate environment was the norm, but that trend has strong reasons to change. Older hardware is better capable of running modern software than at any time in the past. Windows 8′s system requirements are “If you could run Windows 7, you can run Windows 8 faster”. “If you could run Windows Vista, you can run Windows 7 faster”. Efficient operating system design by Microsoft means that a PC from 2006 could run Windows 8 in 2013, some without any upgrades. Business computers are in fact the most likely to have been more powerful than average when purchased seven years ago, and more likely to have survived until now, to be able to make the move to the new OS.

The fact is that while everyone knows that newer hardware is faster than older hardware, many software developers have been doing such a great job writing apps that, with each upgrade, run faster than the previous version. Sometimes it’s a new feature that makes use of the software more productive, but more often these days it’s better written code and better use of modern hardware and software capabilities that makes that newer software so much more awesome.

We’ve had amazingly fast computer hardware for a decade at this point. 2013 hardware is faster than 2003 hardware, but 2013 software can run faster on 2003 hardware than 2003 software ever could and draw less electricity while doing it. We’ve had dual core processors for years, but modern software knows what to do with it. We’ve had 64-bit processors since the 90s on desktop PCs (and the 70s in other cases), but if you aren’t running a very up-to-date version of your favorite software, it isn’t taking advantage of it. In fact, until a couple of years ago, it was common for systems with 64-bit processors to ship with the 32-bit version of the OS installed for compatibility reasons. Thankfully, that trend is almost dead.

Businesses have more reasons to perform upgrades, since they can then do more with the hardware they already have. Windows 8, or the latest Office or Photoshop can put both cores on your CPU to work (or all four cores or more, as it were). They can serve up 64-bit instructions to that CPU many times faster than a 32-bit one would have been. A new OS, in turn, adds APIs and features to your computer, while new software takes advantage of those additions so that they, too, can run faster. All of which is why it once you put a price on productivity, it can often be more expensive to keep the older, slower version of critical business software than absorbing the cost of the next version.

It’s extremely likely that whatever machine you are using right now, the software you are running isn’t taking full advantage of its capabilities, and in some instances, the software needed to take advantage does exist yet. For this reason, it’s important to look at PC hardware as an investment that can grow over time. By picking a processor with features that haven’t been fully utilized yet, you are picking a computer that will only get better with age, like a fine wine.


This is a paid post in conjunction with IDG, Dell and Intel®.

April 29th, 2013 Posted by | Adobe, Applications, Corporate, General, IT Series, Mobile, Office, Sponsored, Tablets, Vista, Windows, Windows 7, Windows 8, XP | no comments



Import PDFs Into Microsoft Word

Microsoft’s Word 2007 has the ability, with a plugin, to save your documents as PDF files. What it can’t do is import PDFs, but Microsoft’s MMEvents blog lists two utilities you can use to take a PDF and bring it into Word as an editable document.

Scansoft’s PDF Converter 4 lets you turn PDFs into fully formatted documents, forms and spreadsheets that look just like the original, retaining formatting and graphics. It even imports into WordPerfect, integrates with Word and Windows, and has a ton of other features for working with PDFs. The software costs $50 for download and requires Windows 2000 or better and works with Word 2000 through 2007.

Able2Doc 4.0 PDF to Word Converter also costs $50 and performs very quick conversions, and it has a free trial. They also have the more versatile Able2Extract PDF Converter 5.0, which can convert PDFs to Word, Excel, Powerpoint, HTML, text and more, for $100.

November 29th, 2007 Posted by | Adobe, Applications, Office, Word | no comments

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How To Fix The Photoshop Clipboard

photoshop-cs3.jpgFor many Photoshop users, there is a horrible bug in Adobe Photoshop that causes the program to stop importing from the clipboard. You’ll be using the software for hours or even days without a problem, and all of a sudden you won’t be able to copy and paste anything into it at all, with your only option to close and re-open Photoshop.

Thank god there is a solution, because this has been driving me nuts! I upgraded to Photoshop CS3 over the weekend, and the bug is ten times worse on CS3 under Vista than ever before.

The solution, found in a few user forums, is in the AlwaysImportClipbd_ON.reg file, contained on your Photoshop/CS install disk. Go to \Photoshop CS3\Goodies\Optional Plug-Ins\Photoshop Only\Optional Extensions or the equivelant folder on your disk, and run that file.

If you don’t have the file, don’t fret! It’s a simple registry file, and that means you can create it yourself right now without the install disk. Open Notepad and type:

Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00

[HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Adobe\Photoshop\10.0]
“AlwaysImportClipboard”=dword:00000001

Version 10.0 is Photoshop CS3. If you have CS2, use 9.0; for CS, 8.0; and for Photoshop 7, 7.0. Save the file as AlwaysImportClipbd_ON.reg, then double-click on it. That’s it!

Photoshop has an internal clipboard, so when you switch applications, it asks the Windows Clipboard if it has anything new to offer. Sometimes, Photoshop forgets to ask, and it needs to be closed before it starts acting normal again, but this fix forces it to ask all the time. This fix should work on all versions of Photoshop, from 7 through CS3, as far as I know.

Happy? I sure am!

September 5th, 2007 Posted by | Adobe, General | 9 comments

HD Photo Plugin For Photoshop Released For Mac OS

hd-photo-for-mac.jpg

Microsoft has released a new version of the HD Photo plugin for Photoshop, one that runs on Mac OS X. If you want to save your photos in the high quality HD Photo (or eventually, JPEG-XR) format, you can now use the plugin in both Windows and the Mac.

The Mac plugin is new, and the Windows XP/Vista plugin has been updated, with a redesigned encoder options dialog that gives you seperate basic or advanced controls, as well as a completely redesigned codec that significantly improves performance on larger images, a fixed tiling option, other bug fixes, and a new setup program. The Mac version is identical to the newer Windows version, and it adds support for HD Photo to Finder, including image thumbnails.

Get the Windows version of the plugin here and the plugin for PPC and Intel Macs here.

August 23rd, 2007 Posted by | Adobe, Apple, General | no comments

Adobe May Take On Office

Wired’s Michael Calore says that Adobe might be working on an office application suite to combat Microsoft Office. Over the last few years, Adobe has cemented itself as an application powerhouse, with creative works applications (Photoshop, Creative Suite, Production Studio) and online creative apps (Flash, Dreamweaver), and the time might be right to challenge the big dog in the application space: Office.

No one has mounted a formidable attack on Microsoft in many years. Currently, the only real competition Microsoft faces are from web-based and open source office applications, while former desktop competitors wilt away. The article says Adobe could use its Adobe Integrated Runtime to create web-based apps that also run when the user is offline, leaping past Google’s limited suite to take on Microsoft.

Right now, Google has the most attention in the online office space, but Google’s applications are limited, don’t look very good, and don’t work offline. Even though Google has a framework for running online applications offline, it hasn’t implemented it in Google Docs yet, so the market is open for Adobe to make a big splash. There’s room for a more mature package in this market, and Adobe could fill it.

Don’t forget something: Microsoft’s cloud infrastructure is coming, and when it does, it may fill that online office void in a unique and innovative. I fully expect it to.
(via Slashdot)

August 16th, 2007 Posted by | Adobe, Applications, Google, Live, Office, Windows | one comment