I've gone through a series of notable hardware and software updates so far this year, and it's barely February. In no particular order:
Dell D630 Memory Update
I upgraded the D630 from 2GB to 4GB (2 x 2GB sticks) for a mere $70 total from Dell itself. This was for the company notebook. By the time Windows is up and running I can only 'see' 3.5GB, but it's worth it, and if I need all that memory I can swap around my hard drives and run Fedora 10.
I run Widows XP SP3 primarily. Windows applications include Google Chrome, Google Earth, Visual Studio 2008, NetBeans IDE (6.5 and 7.0M1), Eclipse (3.4.1 and 3.5M5), as well as Office 2007 and Visio 2007 professional. And then there are other project-specific applications (EventStudio System Designer, for example) and testing applications before deploying. It's not unusual for me to hit 1.5GB with everything up in a normal day-to-day workflow, and I was not happy to hit swap on this notebook. So I bumped up memory and everything runs a lot smoother for a lot longer.
Apple iPod Touch Firmware Upgrade
Apple upgraded the Touch's (as well as the iPhone's) firmware to version 2.2.1. In spite of admonitions from certain quarters not to do so. I can attest that Safari is indeed running more stably. Updates also came down the pipe for Google Earth, Declaration for iPhone, Koi Pond, Night Stand, BSkiesLite, and Air Sharing.
The only major problem I have these days is with the NYTimes application. It's gotten to the point where it won't connect to the server and download news, especially late at night (say around midnight). I've installed the USA Today application as an alternate source of news, but I prefer the much higher quality writing of the NYTimes over USA Today.
The Java JDK just bumped up to Java 6 Update 12. It's a bugfix release, but there are a lot of bugs fixed. So it's worth installing this one on Windows and Linux. I'd have said Mac OS X as well, but we all know how lousy Java support is on the Mac (thanks Apple). NetBeans IDE 6.5 was released back in November, and after a few months and a few updates I can comfortably recommend it, if you can stand the long initial startup times. A good alternative is Eclipse 3.4.2. Both NetBeans and Eclipse are busy in their next-release development cycles; NetBeans 7.0M1 was released in January, and Eclipse 3.5M5 was released this past Monday. I tend to prefer NetBeans for personal use, but your mileage may vary.
Chrome, Earth, and to a lesser extent Mail, seem to be on a tear. I've moved over to Chrome because I grew somewhat tired of Firefox's developing idiosyncrasies, especially memory consumption. I may switch back to Firefox 3.1 as my primary browser, but for the time being most of my browsing and browser development I do within Chrome. I'm now in the unusual state of having two 'legacy' browsers, IE 7 and FF 3.
Earth is one of those applications that are fun to play with at first, but once the new and shiny begin to ware a little thin it becomes less used over time. I've been trying to see how I could integrate it with other tools in my work flow, but I haven't found a clean way yet. The free-as-in-beer version seems pretty closed, and in this economic environment that doesn't sit well with many that I serve.
Mail has had a number of interface tweaks since December; coloration of tags, buttons replacing links, and better organization of the whole UI are but three things I've noticed. All of these makes Mail easier for me to use, especially when tagging and moving messages out of my primary inbox. My filters are pretty good, but there are enough mail messages that land in the inbox that need to be tagged and archived that I now appreciate the 'Move to' drop down that tags and archives a message in one simple operation.
Yeah, it's been a few days since the announcement that KDE 4.2 had been released. I need to carve off some time and upgrade my openSUSE 11.1 system to the latest version. Not that I've been unhappy with openSUSE's 4.1.3 version. Limited it might be, but when all you need out of a GUI is an ability to launch applications, specifically shells, then you don't really expect or need much. Besides, I had my expectations ratcheted down quite a few notches with the original release of KDE 4.0, so they can only go up in my eyes.
All the updates have been solid if incremental. Nothing shocking. Just good quality work by a lot of very bright folks. I'm hoping that 2009 will be a period of consolidation, cleanup, and polish, especially on Linux. Whether the Linux world realizes it or not Windows 7 poses a much greater competitive threat to Linux (and OS X) than Vista ever did. It will be interesting how Linux and Apple respond to the release of Windows 7 as well as the ongoing economic meltdown. Up-front cost is nothing (even if your upfront cost is nothing); it's the long-term efficiency the OS brings to individuals and organizations that really count.