Friday, November 9, 2007

AC Adapter: PowerBook vs. MacBook Pro

Update, January 15 2008:  I've heard about problems with the Magsafe connectors.  Just to let you know, I haven't had a tick of trouble.  Zero heating, zero fraying, nothing that would be a leading indicator of trouble to come.  I take care to grasp the body of the connector, of course (no yanking on the wire), but it seems pretty durable.  


Three adapters have arrived.  

Stated capacity:  85W, up from 65W
Appearance:  Identical
Size:  The new ones are about 10% taller and wider, maybe 5% thicker.  In other words, barely larger.
Weight:  Not perceptibly heavier.

This gives four adapters, the normal portion.  
>  1 for backpack
>  1 for work desk
>  1 for home, downstairs
>  1 for home, upstairs.

Batteries: PowerBook vs. MacBook Pro

Two new batteries for the yet-to-arrive MacBook Pro are on my desk.  They are flatter and wider than the PowerBook batteries, so they must be using something other than the classic 18650 Li-ion cells.  Maybe Li-polymer?  Similar brushed-Al look, and the same wonderful power meter (push the flat button and one to five green LED's on the battery face light for four seconds, depending on state of charge).

Labeled Capacity:  Now 60WH, up from 40WH
Weight:  Now 0.95 pound, up from 0.70 pound (postage scale, .05 lb resolution)
Voltage:  Still 10.8V

This gives three packs total, which is my normal traveling complement to accommodate long plane flights with no power jack (the situation encountered more often than not).

PowerBook to MacBook Pro: Transition Coming

The elements necessary to change from the current 1.25GHz PowerBook, 160GB HDD/2GB DRAM, to a new 2.4GHz MacBook Pro, Core2Duo, 250GB HDD/2GB DRAM, have been ordered.  Updates will come as they do.  Since this involves swapping out the entire laptop-related personal infrastructure, this comprises a number of parts.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Post-1.1.1 iPhone status

Things change.  In this case, an adventurous upgrade to 1.1.1 resulted in a bricking of the iPhone, although most user experience indicated that it would leave a usable (but application-free) phone as long as the SIM wasn't unlocked.  Apparently one of the applications touched the third rail and what remained was a $599 art piece.  

Let's define "brick."  A brieked iPhone is not completely nonfunctional.  A bricked iPhone is actually an iPhone with its function set stripped down from at least a dozen to only two functions:  an entry screen that times out (and features a photo of the earth, a lovely planet while it lasts), and a slider that sends you to "Emergency Call."  Emergency Call is the second screen, with a 12-key touchpad and a "call" button that I haven't had the courage to press.  But you can enter digits, and erase them, and enter more.  Eeyore and the Useful Pot, putting digits in and taking them out again.  

The reliability of operation in this mode is evidence to me that this was a deliberate choice by Apple, not the accidental damage their PR implied.  It always works perfectly, just with many fewer functions.   That's not consistent with "we don't know what may happen," which usually yields flickering pixels, dead screens, clicking speakers, or just permanent, irreversible silence.  I usually don't have much problem with Apple's positions on things, but this bit of spurious pomposity, this seemingly deliberate vandalism, is beneath them.  I hope that the decision process by which it was allowed to occur is corrected and not allowed to repeat.

But, anyway:  it's still useful for showing people.  I took this elegant monolith to Denmark, and the amount of interest, even with almost nothing working, was surprising.  They were trying to hold it, playing with those digits, talking about everything they could see and feel. 

Since this happened, there has been a lot of progress with unbrickers, and I've got it back to a reasonably working state.  It no longer syncs reliably with the PowerBook, which has always had dodgy USB interoperability even with my old iPod, but it does sync with a Mac Mini, so I think this is most likely an issue with the laptop.  

Time to move to the next phase in the master plan...

Friday, October 12, 2007

Today's iPhone status

Yes, I have an iPhone.  Bought it shortly after it came out for all the obvious reasons, including the real ones and the rationalizations.  One real reason was to reduce the number of "things" that I carry; at present, the core set is a cellphone, an iPod, and a PalmPilot running some applications.  

Getting something new includes figuring how it fits into your life.  This is true whether you are acquiring kids, bicycles, or iPhones.  In the case of the iPhone, there are several roles that need to transition if this to be considered successful.
  • Phone:  My company cellphone is already on AT&T, but the company does not support iPhone, has not negotiated deals with AT&T.  For the duration and to be able to evaluate the phone, I'm paying for an account myself.
  • iPod:  The old iPod is a third-generation 60GB non-video model.  Paring down 60GB of essential audio to about 8GB was a lot less angst than I expected.  It's still on the computer, after all.  
  • Palm:  The applications are the hardest part, because the iPhone as shipped is functionally incomplete. The web-based apps that Apple encourages are unreliable and slow.  The user community has developed a set of embedded apps, but the latest Apple update breaks them.  Deciding that I prefer these apps to Apple's new UI tweaks (and having no interest in purchasing more Apple songs and ringtones, which is also facilitaed by the new update), I'm staying at iPhone v1.0.2 until a better story comes along.  This gives me a reader, keychain, true IM, a couple of games, even a Mac-style "Finder" into the OS.
New features.  That's another nice part of it.  I've found a great belt clip for the iPhone, and so have a free pocket for the first time in years.  Can play widescreen movies (watching "An American in Paris" on the iPhone is one of the closest things to miraculous I have experienced in years).   Some of those apps exploit the new platform: a pedometer, a tilt displayer, an etch-a-sketch that erases the image when you shake the phone!

Monday, September 24, 2007

Why change?

The trip to Mac started as an experiment, a hope that the rumored simplicity of the Macintosh world could entice my beloved but technology-averse spouse into at least a nodding acquaintance with her own email.   Having almost no information, and knowing no Mac-wielding friends, I purchsed a small, used Mac ibook on ebay to play with.  

Oh, the fun we had, me and my iBook!  It was predictable, it didn't crash, it didn't bounce up a variety of spurious pop-up warnings, it was easy to use, it always did the same thing when opened up, it would zoom the screen for easier reading at a moment's notice, and it didn't channel the kind of fun-loving virus that wiped all the document files off my office machine in '99.  Sure, there were differences in some keystrokes, and those window buttons are on the upper left instead of the upper right, but it had a solid, reliable feel that was almost magnetic.  It was an old G3 machine, but consistency is often more important than speed, and the point of this test was to understand its behavior, not its quickness.  

That experiment concluded with a decision to switch to Mac as the home desktop machine.  A suitable machine was located on ebay, a dual-processor G4 that was a perfect match right up to its mid-delivery disappearance.  After a long, itchy post-payment dialog with the seller , the shipping company finally proved his protestations correct by discovering the dusty crate, forgotten under some mushroom in one of their warehouse Wonderlands, and shipping it the last lethargic miles.  

The transition from PC to Mac will be detailed elsewhere, but after about two years of home use, I tired of supporting two OS's (Mac at home, Windows at work) and enduring continuing problems with the work laptop.  The next big step was to get (new!) a Mac laptop (the PowerBook G4, as it seems all Mac nerds know the exact model name and processor of their machine) and began using that at work.  Some transition issues again concluded with a stable and versatile platform.  

My IT friends and I have a kind of don't ask/don't tell relationship, but as I require almost no support from them, things have been pretty painless.   I don't know if it's because the same mind drives hardware and software over at Apple or because of some underlying philosophy, methodology or orientation, but these things are nice: helping when needed, and staying out of the way when I just want to hit the gas and claw that front wheel up into the sky with a loud, productive roar. 


Friday, September 21, 2007

Getting enegy from hydrogen

I stand before you, holding in my arms a weightless bottle containing one ounce, 25.4 grams, of hydrogen gas.  It's compressed to 300 atmospheres, about 4400psi, so it fits in a one-liter container.  I count eight ways, so far, in which this can be converted into energy.

1.  Use its potential physical energy.  Drop it on a paddlewheel, making it turn.  The four-foot fall will convert its initial potential energy into kinetic, which can then become electricity, or can grind corn, or can spin a siren.

2.  Use its pressure.  Open the valve, releasing the pressure into the paddlewheel, making it turn.  

3.  Use its potential chemical energy.  Burn it, creating heat.

4.  Use its chemical energy again.  Feed it into a fuel cell, creating electricity.  

5.  Partially convert its mass into energy.  Fuse it into helium (if it is partially deuterium, since we need those neutrons).

6.  Directly convert its mass into energy, with complete yield.  

7.  Use its potential economic energy.  Sell it for money, purchase energy with the money.

8.  Misdirection:  use the potential economic energy that encloses it.  If you can learn how to reproduce the technology that allows me, standing here at 1G but by adding no weight, to contain a liter of hydrogen in my arms at 4400 psi,  you can ignore the hydrogen and get value from the storage technology.

Not all of these technologies are available today.  Each has an associated inefficiency.  But all assume that the hydrogen exists.  It is easy to get excited about the potential of hydrogen, but unless the whole equation is included, from getting the hydrogen to using it, that potential is not being accurately evaluated.  If hydrogen is to be burned, it is needed in large quantities; if those will be taken by converting coal or petroleum, the overall cost and efficiency, compared to using coal or petroleum directly, has to be considered.  This is why hydrogen is considered only a transfer technology, not a primary one.


Some topics that I plan to touch on:
Can I even get in to an MS network with a Mac?
What do I do about VPN access?
What about Microsoft Outlook?
Can a Mac do everything I do on my PC?
What is missing, and how do I work around it?
Does IT support the Mac?
What are the big usage differences, from keystrokes to icon locations?
What a Mac can do that a PC can't
How does the Mac compare on stability, viruses, spyware and all that stuff?
The state of my iPhone journey
How do the new Intel Macs affect this all?

If you have a preference on which you'd like to see first, or other topics to cover, please let me know.


I'm Jeff, an engineer at a company that discourages multiple platforms on its corporate network.  While there are good reasons for this kind of policy, the purpose of this blog is to give some coverage to the advantages of having alternate platforms as well, and to look at issues (some problems, some problems and solutions) that I've encountered through the three-year journey to becoming one of very few Mac users (a happy one, incidentally) on an overwhelmingly Windows-based network.

Legal disclaimer:  You already know what I'm going to say.  The contents of this blog are entirely my own creation, except where they come from elsewhere, in which case they're either attributed, quoted, referenced, accidentally non-attributed, or subconsciously linked without clear volition on my part.   The company with whom I am associated has no, zip, zero, responsibility for any missteps, slurs, accidentals, lies or damned lies that may exist within the boundaries of this blog.  I will try to have none of the above except in the context of a musical or statistical discussion, but I am also not responsible for any results that may come from you taking my words seriously.  All the normal "hey, I'm not responsible for anything" words that you'll find in common disclaimers apply here too.  Any really weaselly words you have heard drooling out of a lawyer that have allowed someone to avoid more responsibility also apply here, as I have a particular fondness for well-crafted weaselly words.