December 15, 2007

The Inadvertent Mac Switcher

Two nights ago, at the (hopeful) nadir of several difficult weeks -- my desktop PC died.

Bricked. Kaput.

Fortunately the data survived, and I've begun migrating it to my trusty PowerBook G4 Titanium. For a five year-old, merely 1 gigahertz machine, I love it. It does everything I ask of it, it will probably run the new Mac OS X upgrade somewhat decently, and it can even boot into OS 9 if I'm feeling nostalgic.

Unfortunately, I'm an inveterate gamer and the laptop is more sluggish than I'd like. So while I'll be a Mac-only guy for the next month or so, ultimately a new machine is going to have to come into the household.

Modern Macs can dual-boot into Windows, of course, but to turn them into a truly modern gaming machine may be more than I can afford. (F'r instance, I don't think the current iMac has a powerful enough video card to support modern 3D gaming at its LCD panel's native resolution.)

I'm enjoying being in a Mac environment full time. However, for all of Apple's John Hodgman-driven marketing success in attracting PC users, there's that one category of user out there -- the gamer -- who isn't being served by their current mix of products. A comparatively cheap, scratch-built gaming PC may be in my future, sitting next to the PowerBook just as the dead one did.

Macworld Expo is coming up soon. Will Steve Jobs offer me a new reason to switch for good?

June 9, 2007

Jumping Monkeys

A new podcast dedicated to parenting in the digital age: Jumping Monkeys, hosted by former TechTV personalities Leo Laporte and Megan Morrone. Having started drinking from a podcasting firehose ever since I got an iPod, this podcast scratches a completely different itch. I'm not in the tech industry, but the hosts' observation that parenting and family issues are something of a taboo there rings true. So Jumping Monkeys feels pretty fresh: the first full podcast is an intriguing look at how current Web2.0(TM) technologies such as Twitter and Flickr can intersect with parenthood.

Shannon and I are both listening to this one, and she's finding it a lot more enjoyable than Star Wars Galaxies with Yivvits and MrBubble. Hard to believe.

(Oh, yeah. I'm back.)

March 20, 2005

Get the CPU! Part II

Remember A Charlie Brown Christmas? Remember the Christmas tree? "Augh! Everything I touch is ruined!" Well, that's been my week with computers.

Continue reading "Get the CPU! Part II" »

December 2, 2004

The Uncanny Valley

That's the weird space where "Hey, that computer generated imagery looks almost lifelike! Cool!" becomes "My God, they look almost human -- that's creepy!" An issue for moviemakers and video game developers, it could be the explanation for why The Incredibles is currently de-pantsing The Polar Express.

September 27, 2004

Camino, the Mac Browser that Did (and Could Again)

Mac.Ars looks at the browser which ruled the roost on Mac OS X before Apple released their Safari browser.

Classically, Mac users have been extremely picky about the UI -- just look at some of the arguments over Safari's "brushed metal" look, for example. For the longest time, Camino had it all over Mozilla, OmniWeb, and Internet Explorer because it had Gecko rendering and native Apple widgets. Even now with its development having lagged, I prefer Camino to Firefox. Camino seems more responsive, and it's the little things in Firefox like non-Aqua drop-down menus that make me cringe. Moreso than Windows and Linux users, Mac users tend to expect the consistency that has been the Apple ideal. And while the code under the hood may be messier, Gecko rendering beats KHTML handily.

Safari may have the mindshare and lock-in, and Firefox may have the convenient shared foundation with the other Mozilla products, but if Camino regains its momentum -- as it seems well on its way toward -- it stands a chance of becoming the premier Mac browser. I think it can be more competitive than Firefox for the Mac faithful, so long as it is given its chance to thrive. Attaboys go to Mike Pinkerton and his fellow stalwarts.

September 5, 2004

Further Back Into the Mac Fold

It was a year after I was married, just after I'd taken my first post-graduate job, when I first became unfaithful. Willfully so. I saw the opportunity -- cheap, quick and easy -- and I took it ruthlessly, with no thought of remorse. And it was very, very good.

That was the year I bought a PC, so I could play more arcade games, and cast aside my aging, or rather positively decrepit, Performa 600.

I've been through a few upgrades since then, self-installed or self-inflicted. But a couple of years ago after Shannon had to relinquish her grad-school laptop, we decided that we could afford one of our own. And since gaming wouldn't be a priority for the laptop, this one could be a Mac. Thus was the iBook G3 acquired.

The PC continues to be my principal computer; Gamer am I, through and through. But I could be on the road to spending most of my time in a Mac environment again, leaving the PC for only gaming. I picked up an IOGear KVM switch yesterday. Ably assisted by the ingenious screen spanning hack that bypasses the iBook's video mirroring limitation, the KVM switch allows me to use the iBook as a full desktop machine, sharing the Keyboard, Video (monitor) and Mouse with my PC.

Earlier today I turned on the Mac while the PC was off. I started surfing the web before I realized how unearthly quiet the den was. Being a laptop, the iBook doesn't have case fans -- no white noise.

It's good to have a desktop Mac again; it only cost me $70 to have one.

January 27, 2004

What He Said

Shoot me. But shoot that other m-----f----- first.

-- Mark Tebault, a university technology help desk guru and philosopher king, on the author of the latest Windows virus

November 5, 2003

It Broke

My family never gets tired of the story of how, when I was Will's age (almost 2!), I once broke a piece of chalk and then quietly and expectantly held it up to Mom -- waiting for her to fix it.

I've just returned from the Apple Store. My iBook has died. Sitting at the Genius Bar, I very much felt like I was expecting the Apple Tech to put the chalk back together.

Currently trying to clone the hard drive, so I won't lose all the applications and data that were on the damn thing. I was going to get around to making a full backup....

September 17, 2003

She Makes Me Sad

I should not pick on her on her birthday. But my dearest wife is using our wonderful iBook almost exclusively as a terminal for her Windows machine at home.

(Microsoft makes Remote Desktop Connection software for Macs and PCs that let you log in to a Windows XP machine and have its desktop appear on your screen. Great when you're on the road or watching the baby in one room when you need to check on your computer in another.)

Here I've gone expounding on the glories of the Mac, and here she's using it as just another way to get on a Windows PC. I can only stand, silent, like Iron Eyes Cody in those old '70s anti-littering commercials, with a single tear running down my cheek.

September 5, 2003

How could I ever have left?

Today at work a batch of new upgrades for my aging PowerMac G4 arrived.

Bliss. 400 MHz of aging 1999-era processor replaced with a 1.2 GHz G4 from Powerlogix. 512 MB of memory, a DVD burner and a small video card upgrade. Suddenly I've got a machine that boots almost as soon as you turn it on, as opposed to making a quick coffee run in between the two events.

Let's hear it for the Mac architecture, which not only makes a Mac last longer than a comparable PC but -- in this case, anyway -- allows a comparatively cheap upgrade process to bring an old machine almost up to par with recent new computers. Sorry, Mr. Jobs, but we just couldn't afford a whole brand new computer. Public payroll, dontchaknow.

I was a Mac person through and out of college, my first machine being the underpowered, overpriced Performa 600 (a slightly crippled Macintosh IIvx for the home market). Even back then, I waffled between a Mac and PC -- because I wanted to play computer games AND wanted the software I was familiar with. And Macs Simply Worked.

After I finished grad school, however, the Performa 600 had long overstayed its usefulness. I STILL wanted to play computer games -- even worse than before, because PC gaming technology had just turned a serious corner. So I began my love-hate relationship with the PC. Pound for pound, PCs are more computer than Macs. Because they're commodity hardware, they're much cheaper. And because they're ubiquitous, there are a lot more software and hardware options. Obviously, there's no comparison in the gaming realm.

But even in 2003 Windows PCs still don't play all that well with odd configurations of hardware and software, while Macs Just Work. The OS is more elegant, and (in general) the software that I use on both machines seems to work better on the Mac.

We "needed" and could briefly afford a laptop early this year, so I chose an iBook. Despite the small screen and single button trackpad, it almost felt like home again.

Now that my office Mac has new life in it, I suddenly think I'll be spending more working hours on it than the comparably-sped IBM ThinkPad I've been using as my primary machine. Suddenly, I'm using Mac OS X without any compromises. No slow processor. No laptop screen.

During a lull at a going away party for one of my dearest friends, she did a quick poll of the room: Mac or PC? After a little while, I had to admit that I was "bi." This got a good laugh from the room. I have to admit, though: my orientation is shifting a bit again.

Shannon willing, next time we have to replace a home machine, there'll be an Apple in the den. 'Cause once you've had Mac, you never go back.

July 1, 2003

Miracle Hangover Preventative?

You be the judge.

April 29, 2003

I want a new hard drive...

...and I want Linux on it real bad. Just upgraded Movable Type for the blogs and had a cow. Several successive cows, in fact. All better now. But I hate using Windows tools to tinker with Unix files. Although it wouldn't be an issue if I got with the program and actually learned the Unix command line....

March 13, 2003


That CD never knew what hit it. Pretty lights, though.

March 11, 2003

Brushed Metal Safari

That sounds like a bad album title, doesn't it?

So there are a bunch of browser choices available for Mac users these days: Mozilla, Camino (nee Chimera -- my favorite), OmniWeb, Microsoft's Internet Explorer (of course), and Apple's own public beta Safari. Safari is a bit of an odd duck in that the browser window has a brushed metal appearance, in apparent contravention of Apple's own Human Interface Guidelines:

This window style has been designed specifically for use by -- and is therefore best suited to -- applications that provide an interface for a digital peripheral, such as a camera, or an interface for managing data shared with digital peripherals, such as the Address Book application.

This appearance may also be appropriate for applications that strive to re-create a familiar physical device?the Calculator application, for example. Avoid using the textured window appearance in applications or utilities that are unrelated to digital peripherals or to the data associated with these devices.

A quick Googling shows that User Interface geeks are not terribly thrilled.

There are a couple of benign reasons for Apple to have done this. Steven Fisher, a Camino developer, suggests, "Looking at all the pre-Safari metal apps (iTunes, Calculator, Sherlock, iCal, iChat, iPhoto, Address Book, etc, etc) it's fairly obvious what they share in common: They're all applications that don't follow the a document model. Any data they access is stored in either a database or in an external device. Exactly like web browsers have always been." So the problem's with the guidelines themselves, which he figures that Apple will correct.

But explanation two -- which requires a flight of fancy -- might be that some hotshot might be puttering around in Apple's basements on a tablet web browser or PC....

At any rate, I still prefer Camino to Safari, although I'm using Mozilla more and more. But I wish all web browsers let you right-click on a word and go straight to Google with it, like Safari...

February 26, 2003

Making Linux and Windows XP co-exist

Stick it to the Man! Fight the Power! Install both operating systems on your computer!

Dual-Boot Linux and Windows 2000/Windows XP with GRUB HOWTO

Red Hat's Configuring a Dual-Boot System"

December 17, 2002

From my cold, dead hands!

Quoth the New York Times:

The Defense Department, arguing that an increasingly popular form of wireless Internet access could interfere with military radar, is seeking new limits on the technology, which is seen as a rare bright spot for the communications industry.


...American executives say that the military's demands may also curtail the capacity of wireless Internet services and could even force a complicated redesign of millions of computer communications systems already in place or nearly ready for shipment.

Darn it, I just bought an iBook and Airport Base Station. You can't take that away from meeeee!