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     Silver and Nerdy
    Filed under: — David @ 2:49 pm

    On Monday, after driving the same car for 9 years, I got myself a brand new shiny Prius (I settled for the very common color of silver because I didn’t want to wait an extra 2-3 months). Does that make me an official tree hugger now? I don’t know. I just moved and dramatically increased my commute, so I wanted something with better gas mileage, and I figured I might as well go all the way. Plus I think it’s a really nice car all around. And there’s all the neat gadgets that my 12-year-old car didn’t have, like a navigation system, BlueTooth integration for my cell phone, and SmartKey.

    I actually think the SmartKey is the coolest feature. I don’t ever even use the lock/unlock buttons on my remote key thing because it’s easy enough to lock and unlock the car without taking the thing out of my pocket. The touch sensor on the door handle responds quickly enough that I can basically just walk up and open the door.

    The coolest thing I hardly ever expect to use is the fact that the navigation system’s point of interest database includes phone numbers, so I can get directions to a restaurant and then call them with the touch of a button. I can’t remember the last time I’ve gone to a restaurant where I needed to make reservations, but it’s still cool.

    Of course it isn’t lost on me that the Prius - in the same silver color as mine - appears in Weird Al’s new White and Nerdy video (it’s the car whose rims don’t spin). But I buy stuff because I think it’s cool; sometimes others agree and sometimes not so much.

    I’ve been a Weird Al fan since I was in middle school, back in the mid-80s. His last album, Poodle Hat, was good, and Straight Outta Lynwood also looks to be one of his best. It’s amazing how he keeps on putting out good stuff as if he hasn’t even peaked yet. I’m hoping to get me a signed copy of the new album on Tuesday at the Hollywood Virgin Megastore.

    I’ve seen several people comment that White and Nerdy describes them perfectly except for the name on the underwear thing. This disturbs me. I didn’t know there were so many people out there with a bubble wrap fetish.

     Boot Camp: success
    Filed under: — David @ 10:24 am

    My first attempt at installing Windows involved borrowing someone else’s Service Pack 2 installer (since mine was only SP1) and trying to install using my product key. When I tried again with my own newly purchased SP2 installer, I just installed over the remnants of the previous aborted installation. This was my mistake. I needed to run the Boot Camp Assistant so it could do whatever it does to prepare the disk. This requires reformatting the drive again, but it did give me a successful installation.

    There were two configuration issues once Windows was installed and the Boot Camp drivers were in. First was the speakers. Although Windows had initially used my USB speakers, the Boot Camp installer made it revert back to the internal speaker, and I had to wade through Control Panels to find the place where I could select the Harmon Kardon speakers.

    Second was the monitor situation. I had to explicitly tell Windows to “extend my desktop” to the second monitor to end the “squashed into the left quarter of the screen” effect, though that still happens during startup. But then it wouldn’t let me change my primary monitor - the checkbox is disabled. Why it chose the wrong one, when I plugged the one I wanted into the port marked “1″ on the video card, is a bit mysterious. So I’ll just have to swap them manually.

    There were also a couple of minor hardware limitations, too. Horizontal scrolling on the Mighty Mouse doesn’t work, and the eject key ejects both drives… and you have to close them manually. SuperDrives don’t feel like they were meant to be pushed closed; they resist it a lot more than the drives on my older computers did. (And if you’re wondering why I was so extravagant as to get a second SuperDrive, I didn’t. I just took it out of the dead G5.)

    Now, of course, there are the various annoyances with Windows that I guess I’ll have to live with. One of the first is that the taskbar displays a warning icon for any network interface that isn’t connected. The Mac Pro has three: two Ethernet and one AirPort. I have no reason to use more than one of those at once, especially EtherNet, so it seems I’m stuck with two warning icons in my taskbar. Anybody know how to get rid of those? I already tried the obvious options in the properties window.

     Showtime, but not game time
    Filed under: — David @ 9:25 am

    My reactions to the “It’s Showtime” event:

    • iTunes 7 is ugly. I liked it better when things were shiny.
    • I might buy some old movies where I wouldn’t be missing much in DVD extras, like The Aristocats maybe.
    • iPod games don’t show up in the store’s browse mode.
    • I’m really impressed with the fancy graphics and animation in the games.
    • Various companies are credited with creating the games. So where’s the SDK? If I made an iPod game, what would it take to get it sold on the iTunes Store?
    • I bought Tetris, but experienced a problem that some others reported: it wouldn’t copy it to my iPod, claiming that the computer wasn’t authorized, even though that’s the computer I bought it on.
    • Avatar: The Last Airbender had hi-res previews for the second season, but not for the first. I guess they’re still updating everything, so I’ll check again later. I’m glad I put off buying more shows.
    • If you have a hi-res TV show, and you hook your iPod up to a TV, will it play in hi-res, or iPod screen resolution?

    Unfortunately the iPod game reviews suffer from the same teenager comment spam as many kids’ shows. Most of the reviews, especially for Tetris and Pac-Man, fall into one of these categories (or a combination thereof):

    • “I got the first review!” There are, of course, a ridiculous number of these that are not in fact first. It would be funny if it weren’t an annoying waste of space.
    • “It’s [Pac-Man/Tetris/etc] on an iPod. What else is there to say?” Well, you could say something about the quality of the port and how well the iPod’s controls suit the game. But then, you’d have to actually play it first. Most people apparently can’t be bothered with that.
    • “Games on my iPod! Cool!” Glad you’re happy. Now go look up the word “review”.
    • “I want to play it on my computer.” This is a valid request, and I rather expect Apple will eventually give in. But that’s still an iTunes feature request, not a game review, so you get zero points for staying on topic.

    Maybe users should be required to pass a coherent writing test before they’re allowed to post reviews. The first question should involve spelling out the word “you”.

    To be fair, when I looked up the ADC-DVI converter on the Apple Store (so I can plug my old ADC monitors into my Mac Pro), a lot of reviews criticized the need for the adapter, rather than the adapter itself. These were otherwise coherent and well-spelled posts, so it goes to show that just because you’re an adult doesn’t mean you have a firm grasp of what a review is. Did I mention this is a pet peeve?

    Edit: If you double-click on a game in iTunes, it will prompt you to “update” your authorization, noting that this will not change the number of authorizations you have used. I’m glad someone else thought to try this, because I never would have. I know I can’t play the game in iTunes, so why would I bother double-clicking it?

     Boot Camp: first try
    Filed under: — David @ 9:23 am

    First of all, it’s surprisingly hard to find a full copy of Windows XP, rather than the upgrade version (or the full version in Spanish). Almost as time-consuming was the actual installation. Plus it spreads the information gathering process out through the whole installation, rather than getting everything from you up front.

    I have two monitors, and the video image appeared duplicated on both, except on one it was squashed into the left quarter of the screen. At one point during the installation, they swapped. Both screens would occasionally, and in unison, flash some orange garbage or something. Hopefully a successful installation of the drivers will fix this.

    I’m using USB speakers, and was surprised to hear the Windows startup noise come out of them before I even installed the Boot Camp drivers.

    Ironically, that driver installation had the opposite effect. When the dialog came up warning me that the drivers hadn’t passed Windows Logo testing (as the Boot Camp documentation warned me it would), I discovered that the keyboard and mouse were dead. I tried various USB ports, but none of them would even light the mouse up. No wonder they didn’t pass the test. I tried restarting, but the sound was now coming out of the built-in speakers and after the initial progress screen everything went black, so something was wacky with the video driver as well.

    Still, there was one pleasant surprise left: when I pressed the power button, to hold it down for 5 seconds for a forced shutdown, Windows made its regular shutting-down sound and the computer actually did a graceful shutdown. Maybe there’s hope. I’ll have to wipe the disk and try again later.

     E-Movies
    Filed under: — David @ 5:01 pm

    I admit I’m still having fun transferring cartoons from DVDs to my iPod. I enjoy organizing them and setting the poster frames and all that a little too much, considering the few occasions I have to actually watch anything on that little screen. But it also makes an interesting benchmark to compare my new Mac Pro to the old dual G4. It’s about 6 times faster, although neither one was maxing out the CPUs. Either Handbrake isn’t very multithreaded, or the DVD drive is a bottleneck. Otherwise it would be about 12 times faster, since it’s dual processor vs dual dual-core.

    As for Amazon’s new video service, I don’t think I’d be interested even if it did have Mac support (or if I regularly used Windows). Having a DVD-quality movie on my computer doesn’t seem any better than just having a DVD, especially if it lacks extras and hogs my net connection for an hour or two while I download it.

    Seriously, I don’t see what’s so great about movie downloads. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if Apple and Amazon and whoever else all launch their services with giant fanfare, only to have it fizzle as people discover that it just isn’t as cool as it sounds. I’m sure lots of money will be made before it’s all over, but since I’m not making any of it I’m not excited.

    This goes especially for rentals. Why would I want to go to the trouble of downloading a whole multi-gigabyte movie at DVD (or even HD) quality, only to watch it once? A significant portion of the population (or at least of the target market) can go get something from the local video store in less time than that would take. Not to mention the various software-enforced DRM-type restrictions to be dealt with.

    Combining something with the magic of the Internet doesn’t always make it better, and for now I’m counting movies on the “doesn’t” side of that. Maybe that will change when the Internet evolves to the point where local data storage becomes a thing of the past, but right now that’s the kind of thing you’ll only see in movies.


    This is my personal blog. The views expressed on these pages are mine alone and not those of my employer.

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