More for your money

As technology advances, what you can get for your money takes great leaps forward.

Photo of Steve Cowie
Sun, 2011-02-06 14:48By scowie

I've just been tidying up the website for one of my previous employers and it got me thinking about how the price of stuff has changed in the last fifteen years. As part of the tidying up I wrote a short history of the company - www.artimedia.co.uk - and described how it used to run a multimedia centre. At the time the only 'affordable' way to get on the Internet was a dial-up modem so Artimedia had six separate lines with six 9600 bps modems. The telecoms costs for the centre were £1200 per quarter (although there was an ISDN line in there as well, which for ages we couldn't use because we couldn't afford the router). You'd get more bandwidth now with a £50 router and ADSL for a total annual cost of less than £200. At that time we were making a case to funders that you had to support ICT centres because the cost of being connected was such a barrier to people being able to make constructive use of Internet technology. In light of what's been happening in Egypt over the last few weeks, that views seems a bit dated.

Still on digital reminiscing, I just purchased a new laptop from Lenovo this week. As you might expect, the team at CodeEnigma need fairly heavy-duty hardware so I pretty much ordered the kitchen sink laptop - 2.66GHz processor, 8GB of RAM, 500GB hard disk, six hours battery life, etc, etc, - total cost for this power laptop was £1500 including tax. That feels like a chunk of money to spend on a computer given that you can buy a passable desktop machine for under £500 these days but it did occur to me that the last time I spent that much was when I bought my first computer in 1992. Admittedly I did get an inkjet printer as part of the deal but what my £1500 bought then was a 486 20Mhz processor, 4MB of RAM, and a 100MB hard disk. It came pre-loaded with Windows and Microsoft Office, which took up 80MB so not too much free storage space. So for the same money over a 17 year period I get a computer that is several thousand times faster.

Enough wandering down memory lane - time for some handy information that you can take away and make use of. I set up the old company site as Drupal 7 on Webfaction and the whole exercise took about 15 minutes. That says something good about the webfaction.com control panel and about what a step forward Drupal 7 represents. The Webfaction model takes a short while to get your head round as they separate out domains, websites, and web applications so you have to create an application then link it to a website, and then associate the site with a domain. However, you do all this in a web interface and it just takes a few minutes. If you have a low-traffic site and no major security considerations Webfaction seems ideal; obviously if you have specialist requirements you'll be asking us to host your site on one of our managed servers. Once your Drupal 7 site is up you can configure that in just a few minutes more and I keep finding nice little improvements such as the htaccess file for redirecting everything to 'www' (or the other way) being a little easier. There would still be a case to a wizard or walk-through approach for setting up obvious stuff like the contact form because you still have to enable that module and then set up permissions for it, which is easy if you know it, but not immediately obvious to a standard end-user. In fact, we did have a discussion a while ago at CodeEnigma about building a golive module that would help people with setting up standard configuration stuff.