random stuff

I haven’t gotten around to blogging in the last couple of weeks. Things have been pretty hectic. I’m trying to relax right now, so I thought I’d just write up a few random bits.

I picked up a TomTom One LE GPS unit at Best Buy last week. I don’t really need a GPS often. Most of my driving is just back and forth to work. But, it will definitely come in handy once in a while. I used it today to help me find my way to my friend Paul’s house in New York. I’ve been there before, but not recently. The GPS was definitely a help. In particular, there’s one point where I need to make a turn onto a side street that’s pretty well hidden, until you’re right on top of it. The GPS takes care of that nicely by announcing the turn in advance, then again when you’re right there. It really makes things easier.

I’ve been working my way through the Thursday Next novels by Jasper Fforde. I’m on the third book now, Well of Lost Plots. It’s starting out quite nicely. I’m really enjoying these books. Lots of fun, weird, stuff.

I installed the trial version of VMware Fusion on my MacBook yesterday, and installed Windows XP into a virtual machine. It works pretty well. It’s a little slow, but a lot better than previous virtual machine products that I’ve used on the Mac. (Of course, this is the first time I’ve used an Intel Mac, so right there you’ve got a major advantage.) Oh, and I’ve got to say, I think it’s time for Windows XP SP3. I installed XP with SP2, and had 90 patches to install from Windows Update. Hey Microsoft, isn’t that enough patches to warrant a service pack? That’s one of the nice things about Apple that we maybe take for granted. OS X 10.4 went from 10.4.0 to 10.4.10, and each of those point releases is cumulative, so you never have too many individual patches to install on a Mac.


I didn’t get the extended warranty from Best Buy when I bought my new MacBook. I generally don’t see much point in Best Buy warranties. I’m considering AppleCare though. I don’t think I’ve ever bothered with it before, and I’ve never really needed it on any of my previous Apple laptops. I might actually keep this laptop for three years, though, so that might make it worthwhile. I just figured out that you can get AppleCare at Amazon for $200 rather that the $250 that you’d have to pay if you bought it from Apple. That makes it a little more likely that I’ll get it.

new MacBook

I bought a new MacBook today. I got the white 2.2 GHz / 120 GB HD model. This is my first Intel mac, so that’s the major difference for me between the new machine and my old G4 iBook. I’m liking it so far. The keyboard is taking a while to get used to, but it’s working fine, and I don’t think I’ll have any long-term problems with it. The screen is smaller than the iBook, but it’s a little higher resolution (1280 x 800). That leaves me with slightly smaller type on screen for some things, but that hasn’t been a problem (yet) either.

I was going to buy a custom MacBook from the Apple web site, and go for 2 GB of RAM and a 250 GB drive, but then I saw that I could get 2GB of RAM for about $50 from Crucial, vs. paying Apple $150. And I can probably get a 250 GB drive for less than what Apple is charging, if I decide I really need it at some point.

I bought the machine from Best Buy, online, for store pickup. That worked out pretty well. I actually got $10 off, since they didn’t have the machine ready for me when I came to pick it up.

I have a few apps that haven’t been upgraded in a while; while they all work on the Intel Mac, they’re probably not working as well as they could. FolderShare was a little flaky even on the old iBook, and hasn’t been updated for Intel, but I think it’s working OK now, since I turned off encryption and compression, per some advice on the FolderShare message boards. I’ve been using Juice to download podcasts for a long time. It doesn’t seem like they’ve got a Universal Binary out either. The PowerPC version works fine, but it’s a bit slow. And I’ve switched over from an old organizer program called iOrganize to DevonThink, which is definitely up-to-date. I also had to apply a patch to KeePassX to get it to work on Leopard.

Overall, not that much grief, considering I’m switching to a new machine, a new processor, and a new OS version.

new office

I haven’t posted anything on this blog in a couple of weeks. I’ve been really busy with stuff associated with my company’s move to Somerset, NJ. I’ve learned a few things during this move, but it might be difficult to post a list without getting snarky. I’m tempted, though! Suffice it to say that a lot of things can go wrong during a company move, and it’s easy to underestimate the time and effort that will need to go into it. Oh, and two days before a move is a *really* bad day to have your main e-mail server crash!

more fun with consumer electronics

I decided to update the firmware on my HD-DVD player tonight. I don’t have the thing anywhere near my home network, so I figured it would be easier to do the firmware update via CD-R rather than trying to do it over the Internet. Lesson one: the Toshiba HD-A3 doesn’t like CDs burned with Nero. It seems to like CDs burned with ISO Recorder, at 2x speed. I picked up that tidbit from AVS Forum, which is a great source of information on various audio/video stuff. So now I’ve got the HD-A3 at firmware version 1.1. I’m not sure that’ll make any difference for anything I’m doing, but I feel like I’ve accomplished something.

I also ran over to the local Apple Store and picked up a new battery for my iBook G4 today. I’m pretty sure I want to get rid of the iBook and get a new MacBook soon, but the old battery had almost completely died over the last few days, and I really didn’t want to pick up the new MacBook right away. So the new battery seems to be charging as it should right now. Hopefully, it’s a good battery and will get me through until whenever I get the MacBook.

consumer electronics mess

I got an HD-DVD player today, the Toshiba HD-A3. It was on sale at Best Buy last weekend for $200, with 10 free HD-DVDs (2 in the box, 3 at the checkout, and 5 by mail). I still have an old-fashioned CRT TV, so the actual HD stuff isn’t really going to come through just yet. I’ll probably buy a new TV early next year.
To make room for the HD-DVD player, I had to do a bunch of rearranging in my living room. I finally got rid of my old casette tape deck, which apparently wasn’t even hooked up to my receiver. (I’m not sure how long it’s been disconnected, but I don’t think I’ve used it at any time in the last five years, at least.) And I put my old laser disc player aside, since I haven’t used that in the last few years, either. My VCR is still plugged in, but I don’t actually have any cables from it running to the TV anymore.
I’m keeping my old DVD player (also a Toshiba; picked up from Woot for $40), since I think it supports a few formats that the HD-DVD player doesn’t, such as DivX.
So, that leaves me with a receiver, DVD player, HD-DVD player, Sony PS2, Wii, and Tivo. The Tivo output goes into one video input on the TV, while the other four items go into a four-port switch box that goes into another video input on the TV. Complicated, but I guess not as complicated as it would be if I tried to keep the laser disc player and VCR in the loop.
I haven’t had a chance to actually do much with the HD-DVD player yet, but it seems to work OK. It takes about a minute to boot, and about 30 seconds to load a disc. That seems kind of excessive, but I guess it’s still typical for an HD-DVD player. I think I may continue using the old DVD player for regular DVDs, just due to the quicker load time.
Meanwhile, I think I still have about 50 DVDs I haven’t watched yet. (Most of them are anime DVDs I got during a big sale at Right Stuf. Still, that’s a lot of DVDs.)

nine books

I started reading this post on the NY Times site earlier this evening. I had to stop and bookmark it for later, since there were so many interesting lists in the comments. If you’re looking for a good book to read, just run though the comments and pick one out! So many good books, so little time. I’d second the many recommendations for 100 Years of Solitude. Ditto for the Harry Potter books, the Dark Materials trilogy, Hitchhiker’s Guide, Shakespeare, Vonnegut, Borges, Bradbury, Flannery O’Connor, and a bunch of others.

And there are some interesting recommendations for books I haven’t read, but that might be worth adding to my Amazon wish list: Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami, for instance. I ran across a reference to one of his other books recently, but, prior to last week, I’d never heard of him.

The Road got a few mentions, and that’s another one I haven’t read. Looking at the description now, though, I see that there are cannibals in the book. I generally find that I’m disappointed by any book with cannibals in it, so maybe I’ll avoid that. And it’s got the Oprah stamp on it too, which is kind of scary.

And this list reminds me, again, that I still haven’t gotten around to reading Animal Farm. Sigh.

iPod Touch

I picked up an iPod Touch at CostCo today. Primarily, I’m just looking at it as a replacement for my Nano, which I’ll probably be selling to a friend for a few bucks. I like it a lot, though there are a few little annoyances. Here’s a couple of bullet lists of good and bad stuff:


  • The interface, in general, looks nice and works well. The multi-touch stuff works well.
  • Safari works well on most sites, and there are a lot of sites that are formatted either for the iPhone/iPod Touch specifically, or more generally for mobile devices, that work really well. The browser on the PSP, by comparison, doesn’t work nearly as well.
  • The screen looks pretty good. I synced a few episodes of Heroes down to the device, and they look nice.
  • QuickTime and PDF support in Safari. (I was actually pleasantly surprised about the PDF support. I wasn’t expecting it.)


  • Since there aren’t any physical controls, I’m not going to be able to use it without looking at it. That’s something that I take for granted on the Nano. I don’t think it’ll be too much of an annoyanyce, but we’ll see how that works out.
  • There’s one stuck pixel on the screen. It’s not really obvious, except on a solid black background, though.
  • The keyboard is a bit of a pain. It works, and I’ll probably get used to it, but I don’t think I’ll ever be using it to write blog posts or long e-mails. (It’s definitely better than typing on my Moto SLVR though.)
  • No Flash support. That kills some web sites that rely on it.
  • You can’t use a stylus on the screen, the way you would on a Palm. That kills some potential applications that won’t work with only finger controls, like maybe a drawing app or handwriting recognition.

We won’t see (approved) third-party apps for the iPhone/iPod Touch until next year. I’m hoping for a few key apps. First, a note-taking app. If I can get that, then I can probably (finally) dump my Palm i705. I use the Palm primarily for contacts, calendar, and notes. The Touch already has contacts & calendar; if they can just add notes, then they’ve got everything I need in a PDA. I’d like to see a good offline e-book reader, too. I don’t know if I’d use it a lot, but I’d like to have it. And maybe a couple of games that make innovative use of the multi-touch interface. Heck, even a simple solitaire game would be nice.