Harold

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Sorry for the previously undetected glass ring stain. My fault.

This little ditty is being written on Harold. Harold is an Apple G3 Powerbook from 2000. It is a truly ancient machine, but it was undoubtedly the first sexy ‘must have’ laptop.

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Nothing like a bit of good news on the front page of the Guardian. Good to know that David loved Laura.

‘Why you, why now?’, I can hear you ask in a little falsetto voice.

Well, first of all, it looks like a little designer cushion. It’s also one of the coolest and iconic pieces of industrial design ever. When I was a little boy in his early thirties, I used to watch ‘ West Wing ‘. If you don’t remember or never heard of it, it was only the best political show ever on TV, but nae bother. All my favourite characters wrote beautiful speeches, policy papers and devastating memos on G3 Powerbooks, mainly at 11pm, only powered by hoisin sauce and a Budweiser (the staff. Not the laptops). For all geeks, a quick little rundown of his innards: 400mhz G3, 1gb ram, 2x USB, 2x Firewire, Ati Rage M3.

I always had a thing for these beauties, but didn’t really have the cash to get them (by that time I was running around with the less powerful and decidedly more uncool white Ibooks), but I never really forgot about them. Very likely due to the fact that we are still watching ‘West Wing’ at chez Fordie’s.

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Somebody in the white house hard at work. Probably writing a birthday card.

So, 14 years later, I finally got one from Ebay. I cleaned it, gave it a bit more ram and a new battery and: hey presto, well working new laptop. It runs OS X 10.4.11, Office 2008, an amazing version of Firefox -compiled for its ancient G3 processor – called TenFourFox.

And it’s fully functional.

OK, there are things it doesn’t do: online streaming is really not its thing, as are elaborate browser games, but it emails, tweets, plays my music collection, browses the web -all it once. Not bad for a piece of 15 year old technology.

Because it’s happily running Dropbox, it’s become the defacto work laptop in the living room. The rather generous keyboard makes writing those annoying Open University essays a doddle and it happily handles the work emails and easily deals with the neverending Excel sheets that seem to pervading my life.

Most importantly, it makes me happy. I have decided to take it to the next meeting at work, to park it proudly between all those Dells, Toshibas and other modern kit.

All I need now is a policy job in the White House.

 

What to do with an Ipad

So I had my Ipad now for 4 weeks, and it’s been an interesting experience, to say the least. People still stare at the thing (not so much at me, thanks heaven) when I fire it up on the train and can’t seem to be able to peel their eyes away from it. Initially I was a bit concerned about its potential uses and that I might have bought the most overprived email reader ever, but over the last 2 weeks or so I have slowly but surely started to appreciate its strengths.

So, what is it good for?

Reading

You might think that’s a bit obvious, but since you can import pdf’s into the book reader, I carry a lovely little collection of white papers, studies and manuals around with me that I can read at leisure on the train without showering everybody in paper. The ebooks available on iTunes are still a bit few and far between (not if you’re a Jeremy Clarkson fan though), but if you keep looking you can pick up some pretty good deals. Reading is a joy, especially on busy train rides, as you can use the iPad one handed and switch between pages with your thumb.

Video

Thanks to the iTunes store I now carry a 2 or 3 seasons of my favourite TV shows always around with me, which makes train journeys and flying much more fun. It’s also much easier to watch than with my Macbook. Try unfolding a Macbook on Ryanair or Easyjet! With a good set oh headphones you can forget the world around you and enjoy watching a group of total strangers hunting another group of strangers on a desert island after a planecrash.

Music

As a pure music player it’s a bit bulky, but if you’re reading anyway, it serves this purpose as well

Email and Web

With a zippy 3G connection or Wifi no complaints. Flash would be nice, though.

Everything else

I have suddenly started to take notes during meetings, as text entry is quite easy. Killer applications like Korg’s ielectribe halp with creating beats on the train.

Is it worth the 700 pounds? Likely not.

Is it oodles of fun: Definitely.

Should you have one? It depends. If you have a long commute on the train or if you travel regularly, definitely!

Otherwise, spend half the money on a decent netbook.

Moving from the Mac to Ubuntu?

It’s time that we had another geekish post, as there has been far too much footy and other stuff lately So today we will focus on the age old lament of people switching to Linux because they fear Apple’s hardware and software lock in. THis time it’s Salon.com’s Dan Gillmor to make the big jump and I completely understand where he’s coming from. I’ve done it numerous times: after I sold/broke a Mac I swore solemnly to embrace Open Source and would end up buying some laptop and install Ubuntu/Suse/Mandriva/Debian/Red Hat on it, just to pine for the functionality of ease of OS X on a MacBook and end up byuying one 6 months later anyway.

It’s perfectly ok to be suspicious of Apple’s control freakery, but in the end their stuff works. No missing drivers, no blue screen of death, no Kernel upgrades that go awry, no hardware problems. I have Ubuntu Karmic installed on my Desktop where it works just beautifully, but just because I continue working under the hood to MAKE it work.

Not so my MacBook (s). Since my first Powerbook 150 back in 1993 they have performed dutifully from day one, survived numerous drops and my current one dutifully updates my Ipad (which I now carry around with me instead).

So if Simon wants to go down the exciting road of Linux on the Laptop, I wish him luck. Being old and lazy now, I prefer to use what works.

P.S. Looks like Ubuntu isn’t working on his new Levono.

Ipad Day

Sorry for not dropping by for some time. Work was murder, the Open University is currently draining a lot of my resources and somehow I didn’t feel I had anything interesting to share. This might of course still be the case.

Over the last weeks I followed the brouhaha over the Ipad. Being in theory an utter Apple fan boy who is aware of his uncritical admiration for the company’s products I still have enough braincells left that being locked into a non-free hardware/software stitch up run by opinionated and rather megalomanic CIO is not necessarily a good thing. This is why at least two of my computers are running Linux and OpenBSD on bog standard hardware. Nevertheless, it’s hard to seperate me from my Ipod(s) and my MacBook. And if I wouldn’t find such enjoyment taking my computers apart, I am sure I would by another Imac (I bought the first generation Imac back in 1999 and still sometimes dream of it). With other words, it’s now been 17 years since I bought my first Mac (a used PB150) and I’m still utterly in love with the company’s products. Although I have to admit that it sometimes feels like a liaison dangereux.

Anyway, to come back to the Ipad. I have been watching the whole thing from the sidelines, and pretty sure I wouldn’t need one: I have my MacBook and my Ipods (no Iphone. You’ll have to pry my wonderful Nokia E72 from my cold, dead hands). When The Guardian started its strange, drooling coverage last week, I still wasn’t convinced. Then I saw one actually in action one a Youtube video, and I was hooked. So this morning, I went to the most unfashionable PCWorld in East Anglia and bought one. And bloody hell, it’s gorgeous. Even the best girlfriend ever was happy to acknowledge that it’s just utterly beautiful.

After the unboxing, synchronizing and general drooling was over, I started making myself a micro sim card. Armed with a pair of scissors, my 3 network dongle and a youtube video I managed to convert my dongle to dual use and indeed: the ipad is exceedingly happy using my self made micro sim card.

So, what it’s like to use? Brillant. The most impressive thing is the speed. And its intuitiveness. And its screen. And its 64 gb ram. And did I mention the speed?

But what do you actually use it for? Good question. At the moment it’s the best mobile email reader I’ve ever had.

And I’m sure that ‘Lost’ on the train will be absolutely spiffing.

More as soon as I stop drooling.

Itunes Sharing

So there I was, sitting pretty having a coffee in the corner of a so called ‘Conference centre’ when I felt the urge for some digital therapy. After getting the Macbook out, putting the headphones on and listening to some sweet Steely Dan I suddenly noticed that my shared folder list had suddenly multiplied. Normally only occupied by my office PC, it suddenly sprouted an amazing array of names.

Now, I normally switch off all sharing on my control panel as soon the MacBook leaves the secure confines of its home network, but I wonder whether these people know that their personal taste in music can be seen (and listened to). I then did a quick check of my network folder, and indeed: dozens of mac users with easy access to machines.

Maybe the majority of these user should -before yelling at facebook – make sure their own machines are fiddle proof?