January 26th, 2007


the new laptop

I got my beautiful Dell today, and I'm posting from it. It's quite good-looking. I'm generally happy with it, but there are a few outstanding issues:

- It took three-and-a-half hours to install all the Windows and Office (Word) updates. (Well, I passed on IE7, because I've heard it can mess things up, and I don't use IE anyway.) Yes, 3:30. Would it have killed Dell and Microsoft to come together and bring things a little more up to date? I mean, I was downloading patches from 2004 here! I don't mind doing lots of things myself, which is why I was comfortable with choosing a PC over a Mac, but this seems silly.

- The Num Lock doesn't work. It's nice that I can theoretically bring it on just by pressing Num Lock (instead of having to use Function key + Scroll Lock like I've seen on some models), but pushing it just lights the Caps Lock light a little brighter. Actually, I wouldn't care about the lamps, but I still get letters when I hit the appropriate keys. Heck, Scroll Lock lights the Caps Lock lamp as well. I hope this is a software issue, but with the wrong light going on, I have my doubts! At least Caps Lock works, but I rarely use it. UPDATE: Okay, it does work, just not the way I expected. If I don't have Num Lock on, holding down Fn and pushing those keys causes the cursor to move; if I have Num Lock on, I can use the Fn key to get numbers out of them. Gee, my old Acer had a better solution than that...

- The FireWire port is a 4-pin. I don't know if that means I just need a dongle, or if that actually limits what I can connect to it. Research to follow. I'm a number of days away from even thinking about editing video, but it'll come.

- A fair amount of unnecessary things start up by default. I've cleared out the worst offenders, but Dell ought to know that when the left edge of the system tray icons starts to creep past the middle of the screen, it's time to chose who goes there a little more carefully. For instance, please spare me that hateful QuickTime Quick Launcher. You would have made me just that little bit happier without these kinds of annoyances.

Things I liked:

+ The initial run of XP prompted me to set a bunch of things up while Enigma or some kind of new-age elevator-relaxo music played over the speakers. It felt and sounded good. The speakers on this rig are NOT your stereotypical tin-bin wonders, and while they're not going to deliver heart-pounding bass, they sound just fine. Also note that I did not need a 17" 10-pound "multimedia" behemoth to get this satisfactory performance.

+ Typing's not too bad on this. I especially like the dedicated cursor control keys, (Home, End, etc..) although it'd be nice if they were a little bit bigger. Of course, this is notwithstanding the major, major keyboard issue noted above.

+ The wireless 0wnz. I'm glad I sprung for the Intel chipset - at least it's not doing any harm. This baby connected to my network faster than I can read this sentence and a heckuva lot faster than I can type it. Throughput is barely distinguishable from a conventional ethernet connection - maybe that's par for the course these days, but I've seen my share of pretty crappy wireless connections and I'm glad I'm not reliant upon one of them. Of course, part of this is because my network is named "default" (ugh) and is totally unsecured. But if you saw where we lived, you'd forgive my laxity.

+ The display is nice and bright while maintaining fine detail. I didn't really have any specific expectations, but I'm pleased nonetheless. The colours come across quite well. I have yet to run any games on it or do any of the zillion things I dreamed I might do tonight (creating a FAT32 partition and installing Ubuntu and FreeDOS, for instance), but I think it'll be fine. I could be the envy of Intro Psych.

I'm trying out LiveJournal.NET for this post. Apparently it can leverage Word for spell-checking. (It does - it's just horribly implemented. After you hit the post button you get the lovely red sqiggly lines but no way to chose a correct spelling. Plus it's checking with American spelling, and I've already set my default language in word to English (Canadian).)

I'd better hurry up and get some sleep - I've got a phone interview with the former video director at Camp Towanda at 11 ET / Noon Atlantic. I don't know how I feel yet about spending more than 8 uninterrupted weeks in a bubble, but I suppose it would be just like Canada World Youth only with more games, fewer CADs, and a wage.
long beard

Ubuntu - we have lift-off!

Okay, I got Ubuntu functioning; I just need to install it semi-permanently. It was a bit of trouble to get my wireless going, but once I enabled the device it was easy from there. Oh, but Ubuntu thinks it's 9:30 ... of course!! GMT! Ha-ha!

Seriously. I seriously need. Sleep.

Oh, and I fixed the Num Lock thing; it was a setting in the BIOS, where I had to go anyway to adjust the boot device order so I could access Ubuntu. =) It still uses the wrong lamp, b4t at 3east 5t w6r2s.



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Suddenly Windows doesn't seem so bad after all. At least there I know how everything works. This is going to be a much, much steeper learning curve than I thought, especially if I can't even get write permission to change my configuration files as indicated by a plethora of resources.

It looks like Chris from that camp will be calling me in less than 30 minutes. I'd better switch to an environment where I have some confidence! =)

back to basics

Alright, here I am, back in Windows again. Ferry crossed the Mersey and here I’ll stay and all that. I wasn’t ready for Linux. Too many new paradigms, too many new brick walls to run headlong into. Ah, I feel so much better now…

I deleted the Linux root and swap partitions using the Gparter that comes up during Ubuntu installation, which is about the only thing I ever managed to get working the way it was supposed to. I used it to shrink my XP partition and created two new NTFS partitions: one for data and one for video (many non-linear editing programs recommend a dedicated partition). The data partition will make backups easier as well as simplifying the transition to Windows Vista.

After bulldozing Ubuntu I couldn’t boot – I’d get stuck at a Grub error maybe three seconds after powering up. So I slipped in the XP Recovery CD, hoping that I wouldn’t have to endure a full installation (and then the updates!). I went into recovery console, formatted my new partitions, then ran fixmbr which fixed up the boot sector and normalized things. And XP recognized my new partitions without issue.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that although it’s possible to do better than Windows, it’s really just a ton of work. The hardware manufacturers and Linux distributors still have a lot of work to do in making things usable, accessible, and intuitive. I should have had my hand held though the partitioning process and the default option certainly shouldn’t have been to reformat everything! =)

Anyway, I’ve got everything here working the way I want it to – my documents are saving in the right places, my settings are just so, etc.. so I guess I don’t really need to be using another operating system anyway.
long beard

my first dongle + job? yes, job

My first accessory for this new machine is this:

PS2 controller to PC or MAC - USB adapter 2-PORTS NEW

Only one cent, plus eleven bucks shipping. What a joke. "NO PICKUPS NO EXCEPTIONS" Chortle. But it's something I want that would be tricky to find in stores. I have the PC version of Final Fantasy VII running quite smoothly; it would be pretty funny to be able to use a PlayStation controller for it. Oh, XP users who want to run Final Fantasy VII will need to install just the game, then install just the "movie player," then install this patch. There's a huge forum at qhimm.com that covers all kinds of issues and is a great up-to-date resource. It'll be the place to go for info on running FFVII under Vista.

I think I also have a shot at that camp job...

Z and C**** tell me that you are the man, the media man!! They tellme that I must hire you!! Alrighty then….but I do wantto talk to you..if I get a hold of you tonite (Friday) I wont be able to till Sunday or Monday……. Please letme know best times and what number to reach you at…… looking forward to it.

M**** R*****, Director

Boy, it'll be a tough one if I take it (and I'm planning to, bar disaster). It'll be almost nine solid weeks immersed in a high-octane environment from which there is no escape. It really will be like Canada World Youth, but slightly remunerative. BRB - the phone's ringing...

OK, so I've been officially offered the job. Oh boy. I think it'll be a lot of fun, but the salary is a little low-ball IMHO. I don't know, has anyone ever worked at a camp before? With spoiled rich kids? =) I have until Tuesday to decide. It'll probably be "yes," if only because I don't have anything else lined up yet.

On the plus side, they'd be happy to pick me up in NYC, so I could visit some relatives and see some sights before heading to camp.

On the minus side, there'll be no summer left after camp is over, and it'll be straight on into B.Ed. purgatory (or so I hope), unless I defer my acceptance.

What's this, you only get 24 years to be a kid?! =)

Time to make some phone calls.