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.