An Eee pc, English?

Technology is a demanding mistress, and I usually don’t have the desire or funds to keep up with every new gizmo.  On occasion, though, temptation overpowers rationality, and I buy a new toy.  In case you haven’t figured it out from the title, I broke down and bought an Asus Eee PC.

For two-hundred eleven hard-earned dollars, I walked out of Best Buy feeling quite uncertain about whether or not I would be able to handle the dwarfish keyboard and spartan design.  Oh how wrong I was.

It may not be natural to love a computer, but this is as close to man-machine love as I’m likely to get.  It’s light as a 2-pound feather, has a very bright screen, and a keyboard that make you feel like your hands are enormous.  Fortunately, typing on it for about 20 minutes improved the experience dramatically, and I now I have very few typoesq.

I installed Ubuntu (via Easy Peasy) and found it to be much more useful than the standard Eee PC operating system.  I played with it as long as I could, and then had to go to bed.

I woke up Friday to the promise of a day filled with cabinet shopping (it’s easier to just embrace it than fight it).  Some folks go to Lowe’s or a kitchen store for their cabinet needs; I go to cabinet Mecca: the Amish country.  It’s about a two-hour drive across Illinois to get there, and I wasn’t entirely confident I knew the way.  I fired up my Eee, plotted the route on Google maps and saved the instructions.

As april and I arrived in Arthur, IL, I pulled out the Eee to consult my map.  Unfortunately, I wasn’t sure of the address of the particular store we were going to visit, so I just got directions to Arthur, which we easily found.  The store was a bit more difficult to locate, but I was thrilled by the sight of the petit Eee set against the backdrop of horse-drawn buggies and bearded men eyeing us disapprovingly.

I can’t be sure it was the first netbook the Amish ever encountered (maybe they make their own?), but it was certainly the coolest.

We finally found the store, where Gram and Grampy were waiting patiently for us.  Sadly, we didn’t find any cabinets, but I did enjoy a fair and balanced lunchtime debate with Gram.  After Arthur, we headed back to Springfield, visited a few more cabinet places, and had a tasty dinner with my folks.  After dinner, we discovered the most important feature of the Eee, one I was totally unaware of: Yahtzee.  No more carrying around a cup and dice!

If you haven’t already rushed out to buy your Eee, do it now!  I’ll wait.

If you don’t like the weather in Illinois…

…wait 10 minutes.  No sooner than the proverbial ink on my post excoriating the weather had dried, the first real snowfall of the season comes.

Taking a walk in snow engages so many senses.  When it’s falling, you can hear the steady patter of snow flakes hitting the ground- that’s my favorite white noise (no pun intended).  Watching it drift though the sky verges on hypnotic; it’s really the only weather sight I’d describe as beautiful.  Hearing, seeing, and feeling it fall is the most calming sensation I can imagine.

Of course, freshly-fallen snow is the sequitur to the above.  The crunch crunch crunch of your footsteps in a quiet spot is so satisfying. I think it fulfills some deep-seated need for attention.  After a good crunching, I immediately look at my footsteps and see how far I can jump, which isn’t very far when wearing longjohns and bluejeans.  Then I notice the sparkle- a lustre that seems to come from nowhere.  By daylight, it can be blinding.  But at night, the light from the houses gives it an elusive shimmer.

What might be the most interesting thing about snow (at least in these parts) is the effect it has on people.  They may hate to drive in it, but it’s a rare person who doesn’t sit and stare at it for a bit, or go out and play (something they might rarely do otherwise).  My guess is that for this region, the ephemeral and rather rare appearance of snow gives it an importance other folks don’t understand.

Would you pass the wintry mix?

december-2006-021It’s that dreadful time of year- the euphoria of Christmas and New Year’s are gone, the weather outside my house borders on uninhabitable, and the end won’t come soon.  Until April, there’s very little to look forward to; just a few Hallmark Holidays like Valentine’s Day and the Ides of March.  Is there any profit to be had from this mess?

For others, yes.  The inhabitants of more northern climes enjoy plentiful snow and skiing; folks down South lack the snow, but benefit from overall milder weather.  As  Illinoisans, we have the worst best of both worlds.  I really think the midwest must be one of the most profitable regions for electrical and gas utilities- we require year-round climatisation.

I manage to stay comfortable in most places, through a combination of forced air heat and feline convection.  The only concern I have is for the Junipers I planted in the front yard.  They were a lovely green when I planted them in November; now they’re a healthy brown shade.  How can I keep them out of Juni-peril?

….And now, a word from our sponsors

img_2987Forgive me for the interruption in service, but ’twas all for a higher purpose: a belated new beginning for Quebecker.

With the countdown to the 100th post (this one being #96), it became evident that I needed a new webhost.  Selecting a webhost is a major life decision, and I’ve been putting it off for too long.  I have high expectations for a hosting company:

  1. Don’t nickle and dime me (looking at you, Godaddy)
  2. Give me the tools I need to maintain a site, not some crappy tool developed just for your site
  3. Give me something to believe in- I’m talking Green hosting or Open Source Software or something

3 simple needs, how hard can it be?

Real hard, as it turns out.

A lengthy search only left me with a few choices, all of which involved compromising one of my requirements.  Damnit.

I put it out of my mind for a few days, along with going to the doctor and getting my piano tuned.  While casually browsing the web yesterday, I remembered a colleague mentioning Dreamhost.  My only knowledge of Dreamhost was that they hosted 1-click WordPress installs, something I’d seen advertised alot.  This struck me as the Microsoft approach to software, and we all know how well that tends to work.  Still, I felt obliged to explore the possibility.

2 hours later, my Dreamhost account was established, including a new domain.  That left me with the task of migrating my WordPress database from a derelict desktop computer to the glitz-and-glam Dreamhost server.  It wasn’t easy, but I’ll say that my initial estimation of Dreamhost was way off- I had absolutely everything I needed to manipulate my Mysql databases, upload images, setup mail (which is handled by Google Apps), the whole works.

Expect more posts, more action, and more shameless self-plugs.

Power in the blood

You may not have known that being anal about electricity consumption is one of my favorite pasttimes.  Before we switched to a digital meter, I would stand outside and watch the little mechanical wheels spin on our old electric meter and try unplugging different devices and measuring the outcome. Seriously.

Sadly, those days are gone.  The digital meter is no fun at all to watch, so I have to find other ways to indulge myself.  Enter the Kill-a-watt, and handy little gadget that measures how many watts a device is using.  First in line to be measure was my trusty computer. In choosing the components of my desktop, I aimed for the lowest possible power envelope without sacrificing usability. My journey down the lonely path of ultra-efficient desktops led me to an AMD X2 4850e processor, running at 2.5Ghz with a maxium power envelope of 45w. The perfect mate for this efficient chip was a Gigabyte AMD Fusion 780g mobo, with respectable integrated graphics.

So how much electricity does all this add up to? Kill-a-watt in hand, I cranked up my machine and steeled myself for the results.

Boot-up… 50watts

Idle…40 watts

Huzzah! My computer typically uses less than your run-of-the-mill incandescent bulb. Under heavy load, the consumption spiked to 75 watts. For normal usage (running Ubuntu, Firefox, music player, im) it’s a very steady 47 watts. I have no complaints about performance, until I get into batch editing pictures from my Rebel- which I may as well not even try to do.

A fringe benefit of energy efficiency is whisper-quiet performance- I don’t hear my computer run at all. To make sure it’s turned off, I have to put my hand over the exhaust fan, which consistently blows cool air.

What really sucks

Filled with smug satisfaction after checking my computer, I took aim at our Dyson vacuum. It’s probably the most complicated single-use appliance I’ve ever seen, but it does a fine job of cleaning the floor. I connected the Kill-a-watt, and fired up the Dyson…

….1.2 Kw

Sweet zombie Jesus! The Dyson really surprised me- if enough people used these things simultaneously, we’d have rolling brownouts. More importantly, the foundation for Ape’s nagging me about leaving the computer turned on instantly vanishes- my computer uses the same amount of electricity in 24 hours as her Dyson uses in 1 hour.  So there’s that.

I’m not sure what to do next. Figuring out what is the biggest energy hog in the house (and replacing it with something less greedy) would be a good goal; my money’s on lighting.  Think of the savings we’d see with glow-in-the-dark paint!