Windows XP Machines Still Being Sold

For anyone resistant to converting to “Windows Vista” from “Windows XP,” there is still an alternative. Dell continues to sell new computers, desktops and laptops, loaded with Windows XP (www.dell.com). Reportedly, some other manufacturers are doing the same. The Dell prices are competitive with prices at major retailers, where only Windows Vista loaded machines are for sale.

There are also reports that “downgrades” to Windows XP can be obtained for some Windows Vista machines, however the process as described on the internet may not be as simple as some might like.

There are two good reasons for postponing the switch from Windows XP to Windows Vista.

1. There are continuing complaints about Vista. They are so intense that competitor Apple has run television advertisements about Vista.

2. Many older programs will simply not work on Windows Vista. In the longer run, people using such programs will need to migrate to the new operating systems (or to alternatives, such as Linux or Apple). However, the new 2007 Microsoft Office product, which features Word, Power Point and Excel runs on both Windows XP and Windows Vista, so that additional time can be taken to adjust to the emerging Windows environment without having to make a complete break with Windows XP and the many years of PC compatibility that Microsoft appears to value so little.

A final, less compelling reason for resisting the change is to “vote” against Microsoft’s recurrent practice of unveiling new operating systems “before their time.” Planned or forced obsolescence is in no-one’s best interests except that of a firm seeking to maximize its revenues by undermining the interests of its customers. This is why, in the longer run, Microsoft, will face market share losses that are likely to be swift and significant, if serious competition ever emerges. So far, Apple is not even a threat (regrettably).

Thus, this is no advertisement for Apple, to which I attempted to switch a few years ago in an expensive experiment. One afternoon about a month after switching, I realized that I was more productive on a French language keyboard (with its extra letters, requirements to hold down more than one key for some letters and default special character set rather than numbers on the top row) than on an Apple US-English keyboard. That realization resulted in the Apple being boxed up within minutes (as soon as I could copy the nwere files to my older PC), and I have never looked back. My sister in Alaska, who had long wanted an Apple, was well pleased.


Paris Light Rail (Tram) Increases Greenhouse Gas Emissions

According to University of Paris researchers, the new (2007) Paris tramway (light rail or streetcar) along the south boulevards des Maréchaux has attracted, at most, 3 percent of its ridership from cars. This finding is made in a paper entitled Paris: un tramway nommé désir (Paris: A Streetcar Named Desire), published in August 2007 by Rémy Prud’homme, Martin Koenig, Pierre Kopp. The authors note that this small modal shift “once again shows the limits of modal shift strategies” (our liberal interpretation of the French).

While traffic along the boulevard has been reduced, this has been accomplished by narrowing the capacity and forcing traffic to parallel roadways. The result has been to increase traffic congestion and, as occurs when traffic becomes slower and more erratic, increase fuel consumption, which of course leads to higher greenhouse gas emissions. It is estimated the tramway has resulted in a net increase of nearly 40,000 tonnes of CO2 annually.

Finally, the social costs of the project are estimated to have exceeded the benefits.


Ken's Loss is London's Gain

Paris (20080502): The Evening Standard reports that Ken Livingstone is history as mayor of London. Boris Johnson, the Conservative (Tory) candidate is reported to have won the election convincingly .

This is an important victory for rational transport policy. Johnson is a “somewhat” critic of Livingstone’s radical congestion charging plan (implemented in 2003), which requires a payment of ₤8.00 ($16.00) for each car entry to central London between 07:00 and 18:00 on work days. Livingstone had announced plans for much higher tolls to be levied later in the year based upon the pollution rating of car models.

The congestion charging zone was expanded to the west in 2007 and has proven relatively ineffective. Johnson has promised to dismantle the expansion, returning the congestion charging zone to its original, smaller geographical definition. He would also reduce the charge, cancel the planned increases and charge based upon time of day and length of stay. No longer would it cost $16 to “pop” across the cordon to buy Al Gore’s proverbial quart of milk.

Remy Prud’homme and colleagues from the University of Paris have shown than the social cost of operating London’s congestion charge system exceeds the benefits.

The Daily Telegraph published my commentary expressing concerns about the congestion charge scheme the morning it was implemented. Those concerns remain and it would appear that a Johnson mayoralty will begin to round the rough edges of what has to be one of the most arbitrary transport policies in history (Commentary 2003.02.16.

Finally, Johnson would phase out the “bendy-buses” (articulated buses) that Livingstone had used to replace double deck buses. One problem with the bendy-buses is that their length makes boarding difficult at bus stops where many buses often line up. Of course, this also increases traffic congestion.