Apple, Where’s The Love?

So I bought a new MacBook Pro. My old MacBook was starting to lag a bit and was so tattered and battered that it started to become a bit of an embarassement.It now rests in the office and is working diligently as backup storage and media server. To get the new MacBook, all I had to do was walk into the Apple Store in that monstrosity that is Westfield Stratford, tell the nice polish store assistant what I wanted, gave her my credit card and, fuuump, 2 minutes later I was walking out of the store, schlepping a nice new computer. Of course I could have ordered the beast to be delivered, but as the bloody mall is literally on my way home, this was much better.

Now, rewind to 1998. In my 5th year as an Apple owner, my main machine was a Power Mac 7100, a painfully slow G3 PowerPC based, ugly as hell beige brick that I was immensely proud of. To acquire such machines (and remember, this is year 4 of the web) you would have to search for the hidden 5 or 6 Apple dealer around the country (or, in my case, search for the even more obscure used Apple dealers). On top of that, I still had a Powerbook 165 lying around (with a 68040 chip!), a Macintosh IIfx and a Powerbook 150. All computers that were terribly slow and rather ugly compared to the then (comparatively) blindingly fast PCs. But as an Apple owner you would sneer and get a rash in the presence of any Microsoft product or Intel based PC. When in 1999 I finally bought my first iMac and thanks to Steve Jobs Apple’s ascendancy to the most valuable company in ze vorld was secured, nobody thought back to those painful years between 1986 and 1998 when Apple was almost completely irrelevant outside the graphic design studio.

So, do I get any Lurve from Apple for my unwavering commitment over 20 years of ownership (ok, their shares made me a fair bit of money)?

No. On the contrary. The bloody things seem to be getting more expensive every year.

But then, would I have any other portable computer? Looks I’m locked into their business model forever.

They are rather shiny, though.


Mmmh. Shiny.


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’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.

Acer Aspire One instead of EEEpc. Oh well.

Right.  Turns out my online supplier of geeky goods actually sold out of the desired EEE. Just as all the other computer retailers around me in the south east of England. So I ordered an Aspire One. To be exact, the Aspire One A150-AB (Why in the world do makers of laptops come up with these weird and seemingy random model numbers?). This baby sports 1 GB ram, a chunky 120GB HD and Linpus Lite, their netbook Linux flavour, a derivative of Fedora 8. That would be another Linux flavour to get used to. Sigh. So one day the nice man from Amazon knocked on my door and brought a small but eagerly awaited package.

The Aspire is undoubtedly attractive and feels better designed and made than the best girlfriend’s first generation EEE. The keyboard and the screen especially are superior to the EEE, and there is a multicard reader that’s coming in handy.

Still compact, but larger than a Star Trek VI mug.

Apart from the multicard reader there’s 3 USB Slots, an external VGA plug, and an additional slot for more SD cards. It boots up in seconds and apart from a mild whirring noise when the little fan is trying to cool Intel’s Atom processor pretty quiet (though not as silent as the girlfriend’s eee).

It’s pleasant on the eye, balances well on my lap and fits perfectly into my work bag. Unfortunately the batttery is completely pish. While watching Little Britain USA (which, btw was rubbish) the battery drained almost cmpletely, and I presume that under full load the battery wouldn’t last longer than an hour. No comparison to my Macbook that would happily run for 5 hours. So no long train journeys or flights to New Zealand in economy class then.

As mentioned before, Acer is selling the One with Linpus lite, a Fedora 8 derivative. This is quite similar in apperance to the EEE’s Xandros flavour, just with worse applications. I have no idea who had the idea of leaving out Skype (it does have a webcam, you know), VLC and Thunderbird and instead use some other unusuable crap. So my first job was to get used to Fedora’s weird package manager, ‘yum’. I now have all the necessary apps installed, and available via XFCE’s ‘advanced menu’, but still have to remove the annoying apps and then edit the desktop file to add the right icons. I am quite happy to do that, but I can see the best girlfriend ever struggling with that task.  I have no idea what Acer’s software engineers were smoking when putting the One’s software package together, but here they certainly messed up.  Another minus was the lack of the GIMP and the fact that so far my trusty TX1-Powershot is not being recognised by the crappy photomanager.

So, after 3 days with the Aspire, what are the first thoughts?

Well designed hardware that is let down by a crap battery and a software package that is lacking in functionality compared to the EEE’s far superior Xandros flavour. I am pretty sure that very soon Ubuntu’s Hardy Heron will make a guest appearance, but for now I am just happy that I have replaced the Macbook with a credit-crunch model (the Aspire costs exactly a third) and that I can again watch movies and listen to my music.

The curse of the electrical household goods strikes

This weekend was obviously not meant for my two favourite gadgets to survive. On Friday my Macbook got an accidental dousing with a recreational fluid and since then has refused to work (and will probably never work again), and the next day the LCD screen on my lovely Powershot TX1 stopped working.  Sniff.

The next step will be to pray to the gods of backup that I can save my 10 gigabyte of precious photographs from the Mabook’s hard disk. So, a set of small screwdrivers and a USB to IDE connector will have to be acquired and hoped that I can mount the HD under Linux (apparently it works, but you never know).

The next step is to decide what to do with the dead MacBook. Sacrifice it? It is rather reassuring to see that I am not the only one who gave his MacBook a good dousing. The intarwebs are full of people asking for help after recreational fluids leaked all over the keyboard.

The biggest question of all is of course what to replace it with. The best girlfriend ever has been a happy eeepc user for more than 9 months now, and after having a look at the new EEEPC 1000 myself, I decided to finally rid myself of proprietary software once and for all (apart from my ancient windowsbox that I only use to play Settlers III).  After one year with the MacBook I still had to find an application that needs a dual core processor and 2 gigabyte of ram, as I didn’t use any other applications than Mail, Firefox, DVD-Player, VLC, Neo-Office and my twitter client. I find it unlikely that I will suddenly need new applications. I will of course miss the incredible ease of use of the MacBook, but once Ubuntu is installed (and let’s face it, installing is the best bit) it runs just as smoothly.

So, wish me luck in my endeavour. And cross your fingers that the MacBook’s HD is still mountable.