It is becoming increasingly obvious that it is time for a new round of computer upgrades. The recent release of KDE 3.5 and the forthcoming Microsoft Vista are advancing the graphical platform in a number of key areas.
KDE 3.5 now integrates SuperKaramba, a nifty utility similar to Yahoo! Widgets and Mac OS X Dashboards that provides a full compliment of enticing widgets on your desktop. While it is still possible to work on your computer without these graphical goodies, they can provide some rather useful capabilities in a convenient place. My desktop now includes a performance monitor and a graphical widget that allows me to control my music playback. This is an improvement on the ability to load web pages on your desktop in Windows 98, a desktop widget can include a rich presentation with interactive controls to work with applications on your computer.
There are a few widgets on my wishlist currently, and as these are expanded my performance will obviously continue to dwindle. Perhaps a little memory would help improve things, but many of these widget applications are interactive and they demand processor time.
Perhaps the most significant performance penalty from these emerging windowing environments are 3D enhancements. This evolution in presentation technology was inspired by Project Looking Glass and is a pivotal new feature for Microsoft Vista. Essentially, it is possible to rotate a stack of windows where the top window is obscuring a number of windows behind it. This technology requires advances in hardware 3D rendering and is further complicated by the emergence of high level GUI tookits like XUL and XAML.
The next significant change is the ubiquity of transparent windowing for presentation. In most cases, transparent windows will be most translucent at the title bar but it will be possible to enhance virtually any part of a window with transparency. This is a feature in KDE 3.5 and Mac OS X, and will become increasingly integral with Windows Vista.
Finally, it is clear with platforms like MythTV and Windows Media Center that digital media is going beyond photographs and music. The next generation of digital storage will be focused on multimedia content like movies and home videos, and these kinds of digital media require much more powerful hardware.
Regardless of your next operating system, it is time to start shopping for your next PC. This system should be compatible with the os and include all video acceleration capabilities. In addition, systems that can offload audio/video encoding to a specialized chip are preferred. Once your media translation work is offloaded to a coprocessor you can take advantage of your CPU for all the other tasks you really need it for.