posted by Sean Cohen on Mon 5th Jul 2004 18:23 UTC

"A Comedy Of Eras, Page 8/8"

LyX and the associated software (using i-installer) work fine, though I am planning on shifting to fink. I love the idea of Application Bundles for Mac software, but most of my favourite Linux programs just aren't available that way.

My thumbdrive (a standard USB mass storage device) appeared on the desktop almost as soon as I plugged it in. For some reason the activity light on the thumbdrive doesn't stop flashing after the device is unmounted (unmounting the device in Windows causes the light to darken), but I haven't experienced any data loss so I can only assume everything is behaving correctly.

My digital camera (also a standard USB mass storage device) was being a touch temperamental, but unplugging it and plugging it in a few times solved the problem. In Windows I was also able to use it as a webcam, though I doubt that capability will be available on the Mac.

I'm also discovering the joys of Konfabulator widgets, though I have yet to decide if they will remain on my desktop for the long term. I've always tried to keep my screen as clear as possible, but I've found it useful to keep a couple of widgets in the empty area to the left and right of the dock.

And is the slot-loading combo drive supposed to make a "crunch" every time it pulls in a disc? I haven't noticed any data loss or scratching, but it is a little disconcerting.

One thing that has bothered me is how network-aware applications (web browsers, Software Update, Mail, etc.) behave while the modem is connecting. In Windows (this will be the last time I mention Windows, I promise) any network activity is delayed for the period of time that the modem takes to connect, and an application will simply wait until the connection is active to attempt the requested task. On the Mac the default behaviour appears to be to fail any network activity unless a connection is completely active. This doesn't sound like much of a problem, but in my workflow I typically start the dial-up process and then load the web browser while the modem is connecting in the background. Under Windows this would present me with a browser window that would load my home page once the modem has connected, but on the Mac this gives me a browser window with a connection error. This isn't a big deal, but it means that when I see a connection error in the browser window I'm not immediately sure if it's because the modem didn't connect or the browser window needs to be reloaded.

It has been about two weeks now and my fiancee is having a little trouble adjusting to a different operating system, she often screams "This computer is STUPID! This is DUMB! I HATE this STUPID, DUMB COMPUTER!! WHY did you get rid of the old computer? WHY!?!? I was HAPPY with the old computer, the screen is so small on this one, this is a PAIN in the ARSE!!" and so on. To be fair, this sort of language is occurring less and less, though occasionally she still turns around to me and says "Okay [EXPLETIVE], so if there's no [EXPLETIVE] second mouse button then how the [EXPLETIVE] do I correct my [EXPLETIVE] spelling in Word? [EXPLETIVE]? And how do I [EXPLETIVE] forward delete?!?"

Well, you can right-click in Word (or any App, for that matter) by holding down ctrl when pressing the mouse button, and forward-delete on the minimal laptop keyboard is activated by pressing the "fn-delete" combination. I can't do much about the swearing, but I'm told there are a number of finishing schools in Switzerland that specialise in that sort of thing. Explaining each of these finer points to my fiancee has made me realise exactly why it is that she has had such an easy time with both Linux and Windows as desktop machines at home; I have always been there to help. I have always done my utmost to keep our various computers running smoothly, and free from the problems (viruses, instability, configuration, etc.) that buying a Mac is supposed to solve. Because of my efforts she has internalised the belief that Windows works fine (and has always done so), purely because I have kept the truth of the situation from her. I do not shield her because she cannot understand these issues, but rather because - quite frankly - she doesn't care.

Otherwise, everything has been fairly smooth sailing. For some inexplicable reason my USB optical wheel mouse won't work, even though it worked happily under numerous versions of both Linux and Windows ("Blaze" brand, if that makes a difference). I'm not sure if it is the fault of the mouse or the OS, but as far as I have been able to discern it is a standard USB wheel mouse, nothing fancy. Also, friends have started commenting about the machine everytime they have a chance to use it - All love expose, one of them wants to sell his VAIO to buy an Apple, and just yesterday another friend pointed to the dock and said "did that actually come with the computer? Wow." Apart from continually having to explain explaining the division between hardware and software to people who think a computer is about as malleable as a microwave ("Can I get my Windows to look like that?", "Is this running Microsoft?", "All my programs and games would run on this thing, right?") and "Microsoft" as being synonymous with computing ("Not all cars are Fords"), I am beginning to think that there may soon be other Apple products among my circle of friends.

One final point that I would like to make is that I am a strong believer in both Free Software and - more importantly - Open Standards. Barring any "lock-in," I believe highly in compensating a vendor for the quality of their product. I paid a fair price for a high quality machine, and I will continue to do so provided that I am not forced to store my data in an irretrievable (closed) format. I have relied on - and encouraged - Open Source and Free Software for some time, and I believe that Apple is one of the few vendors that respects and embraces this technology in a manner that benefits both communities. Make no mistake, I acknowledge that Apple's behaviour is based far more on good business sense than on altruism, but their recent track record has led me to believe that this conduct will continue. In the mean time, I take care not to store any of my personal data in proprietary, undocumented formats and - should the worst happen - Linux will boot on this machine just fine.

Of course, Apple just announced the Airport Express audio streamer / wireless router, and I'm starting to feel "restricted" at having to work right next to a telephone outlet. Unfortunately the Airport Express device doesn't have a modem built in, so I'd have to drop the cash on an Airport Extreme Base Station (AU$499), as well as the Airport Extreme card upgrade (AU$199) for the laptop. Another AU$700 just to be able to check my email from the couch is quite firmly in the "Not Just Yet" category, but it certainly has me thinking; Wireless audio streaming to the stereo? What about wireless video streaming to the TV? And how about controlling it all from a wireless iPod? Is Apple planning an iTunes look alike for ripping and managing your movies directly on your hard disk? Or how about being able to plug your iSight camera directly into your iPod and use it as a makeshift handicam? As a long time commodity hardware owner, it's refreshing to see some innovation in the hardware space for a change.

So I've taking the plunge, now I just have to convince the two of us (yes, myself as well) that it's worth sticking with. If we can't get work done then the iBook will be replaced, but I can't see that happening any time soon. We have been quite busy for the last few days so I haven't had as much time to play around with the machine as I would have liked, but I did overhear my fiancee on the phone the other day talking to one of her friends;

"Yeah, it's really cute, I saw one just like it in a movie the other day. I'm not glad he's got it, but I suppose I'll get used to it eventually."

I hope she was talking about the laptop.

About The Author:
Sean Cohen is an electrical & electronic engineer working for a major utility in Sydney, Australia. He has a great many hobbies and interests, but too little time to actively pursue any of them. He holds quite strong opinions about the prevalence of closed standards in a number of industries, but unfortunately he doesn't hang around people that are remotely interested in that sort of thing.


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Table of contents
  1. "A Comedy Of Eras, Page 1/8"
  2. "A Comedy Of Eras, Page 2/8"
  3. "A Comedy Of Eras, Page 3/8"
  4. "A Comedy Of Eras, Page 4/8"
  5. "A Comedy Of Eras, Page 5/8"
  6. "A Comedy Of Eras, Page 6/8"
  7. "A Comedy Of Eras, Page 7/8"
  8. "A Comedy Of Eras, Page 8/8"
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