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Only the fastest will do

By Jean-Claude Elias - May 05,2016 - Last updated at May 05,2016

We handle and move data in such quantities, in such huge truckloads that we simply cannot afford to wait to have things done. How many times have you lost patience copying a set of photos onto a low performance USB flash drive you want to give a friend or a relative? Or making a backup of all your precious files? Or uploading a big video to Youtube that seems to take forever to be there, for the world then to see? Or opening a high-definition photo with Photoshop, using an inadequate old Pentium 4-based computer fitted with a miserable 2GB memory and waiting two minutes just to see the photo appear on the screen? Or playing a game on a machine that does not have the proper graphic controller? Or carrying out a video call with your smartphone over a sluggish Wi-Fi or 2G connection that renders the image broken, pixelated, hardly enjoyable?

Time is money said Benjamin Franklin. It may sound trivial, an old commonplace, but it’s good to be reminded of the concept while dealing with IT. Especially that we all spend a significant part of any normal day dealing with IT, one way or another.

Last week, while renewing my car’s annual registration at the traffic department, the computerised system went completely down and then was back to normal operation in less than one hour. For all those waiting to renew their car’s papers or to pay their traffic tickets the wait seemed like eternity, though it was just one hour. Besides, the department is usually known for being very well organised and one of the fastest in the country for expediting the various procedures it handles for citizens. We depend so much on networks, computers and automated work that any wait now seems unbearable.

Whereas we can do little to prevent complete systems failures that are bound to happen every now and then, we can at least opt to use tools and devices that are appropriate for the job, that are fast enough to do it in reasonable time. I can hear a voice slyly whispering: “define reasonable”.

Say you live in Amman and are planning to spend a weekend in Aqaba. If getting there takes you anything from two to four hours, depending on whether you fly or drive, this can be considered as reasonable, although one hour would understandably be even better, but this is another story. On the other hand, if just getting there is an eight-hour trip, then the whole plan wouldn’t probably be worth it, for travelling 16 hours just to spend a weekend may not sound, precisely, reasonable.

The same applies to using computers, smartphones and of course before anything else the Web.

There are countless ways to empower your IT tools, to lift the performance of the devices up to a level that makes the task worth doing, and in reasonable time. USB3.0 drives and connectivity is just one of them. USB2.0 is a standard that belongs to the past. Sufficient memory is another critical issue. By current standards, a laptop with less than 4GB of it is poor, 8GB is good, and 16GB would not be a useless luxury.

Powerful Wi-Fi routers, i7 processors, 3G and 4G networks, NVidia video cards and gigabit network controllers, they all come to the rescue to help us finish the work faster. If it must take me 10 minutes or so to process a candid snapshot and have it delivered to a friend by e-mail or WhatsApp, I’d rather do without it all in the first place. This is a task that should be done in a few seconds, in one minute at most.

The local telecoms can provide some areas in Amman with 24MB ADSL Internet, whereas other parts of the city are still limited to a maximum of 4MB speed, because of the cabling infrastructure. The difference in terms of usability and performance is significant, especially that 24MB is seen today as the minimum to have.

 

True, it costs money to keep replacing equipment all the time, to be always up to date with the fastest, most powerful IT tools, and to have fast web connectivity. The question is: “doesn’t wasting time watching the devices work at crawling speed cost more?”

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