Saturday, February 09, 2008

Catching Up

I've been traveling in Ecuador for the last month and although I managed to check my email and update my personal blog periodically I haven't been keeping up on news in the computer world.

One big acquisition was Sun buying MySQL. Sun seems to have done ok with Open Office, hopefully things will work out ok with MySQL.

And Microsoft is trying to buy Yahoo. I find this a little scary. I wonder what would happen to things like Flickr. It seems unlikely that Microsoft could manage to stay "hands off".

I knew Apple would be announcing new stuff while I was gone and I kept meaning to check it out. It didn't turn out to be anything too exciting. A cool new smaller laptop, but since I bought a MacBook not that long ago, that makes me annoyed more than anything! They also announced movie rentals which is interesting. It makes an Apple TV more attractive.

Of course, then I found out movie rentals are US only. Argh! I guess I shouldn't complain. I have no desire to move to the US and Canada has better access to new technology than many/most countries. But this "US only" thing seems to be getting more common. I just heard that Bug Labs new product (that I've been waiting for) is also initially US only.

Sometimes I enjoy the relentless rush of new hi-tech products, other times it's annoying. I buy a MacBook, they announce the thinner, lighter MacBook Air. I buy a Pentax K10, they announce the K20. In most cases I don't need the new product, the old one doesn't suddenly stop working. But it's hard to stop yourself from thinking "if I'd just waited a few months". But you know that doesn't work, the treadmill doesn't stop. Of course, when you're waiting for a new product or feature then it seems to take forever to arrive.

My One Laptop Per Child OLPC XO arrived while I was gone.

It took me a while just to figure out how to open it. I was trying to use the latches on the bottom but they're for the battery. You have to open the antennas to unlatch it. It powered up ok but the user interface was pretty cryptic at first. I kept trying to click by tapping on the touch pad (like I'm used to on other laptops) but that doesn't work. My next problem was that the left "mouse" button is labeled with an "X" which I automatically associate with "close". So I kept trying to use the right button which is labeled with "O". I should have ignored the labels - the left and right buttons work like other systems. Once I got past these roadblocks it got easier.

The keyboard is too small to touch type on with adult hands but I was expecting that. The screen is nice and is quite readable in direct light with the backlight turned off - this saves power and also lets you use it in bright sunlight. I managed to connect to my home wireless network without too much trouble (had to pick hex and shared key) and was able to browse the internet and check my email. The built in camera seems to work fine.

The only real problem I've run into is that I get two CRC errors when I boot up. I'm guessing they're from the hard drive. So far they don't seem to be causing any trouble.

I don't have a particular use in mind for the XO, it's just interesting to see what they've come up with after hearing about the project for so long.

Also waiting for me were the new books by Christopher Alexander (of design patterns fame). Now I just have to find time to read four hefty volumes. Lots of pictures at least :-)

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