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.

….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!

Some things never change.

For those who argue that Google is changing the world for better or for worse, I present you with the proof that google isn’t changing anything. Observe:

I’m a big fan of finding the definition of tough words on google. So today, I popped this gem into a google search:

define: stultifying

And google, with billions in profits and an army of computer scientists, answered my query:

Definitions of stultifying on the Web:

Tending to stultify

Yes friends, even in the 21st century the actual definition of a word is quite elusive. Nor is there a link to the verb stultify, which would represent a great leap forward in dictionary world. I would have come to the same conclusion if I’d brushed the cobwebs off of the stultiest old dictionary in the world. When will we see the day that a person can find a definition of a difficult word that doesn’t include the incomprehensible word which sparked the search?

This underscores a pattern I’ve been noticing for the first time. The web is not, as is so often believed, an innovative thing. It’s largely a new manifestation of the old- and I happen to have the perfect example. For centuries, libraries have relied on paper cards stacked oh-so-neatly into a drawer which sits amidst dozens of other drawers. This represented the pinnacle of bibliographic organization- the card catalog, as it was known at that time.

Then came library automation, a term which to my ears sounds every bit as archaic as talking picture.

Automation relied on very primitive computers and a helluva lot of magnetic tape, which in time was transferred to more complex computers with magnetic platters (most still use this medium), and most recently, library catalogs on the internet. From the time of little cards up to the age of the iphone, libraries have developed dizzyingly complex system which allows us to search for any library material, anywhere, anytime we want. And we call it….the card catalog.

Should this surprise anyone? Not if you look at the information stored first in paper cards, then magnetic reels, then magnetic platters, and soon solid state drives. No, bibliographic information has scarcely changed at all throughout a period of unprecedented technological advances. Naturally, you’d assume it’s because your average librarian is a luddite bookworm, loathsome of google and the monopoly on information it has formed. But you’d be wrong.

At every level of our society, technology shapes our activities. What it doesn’t change is our habits/needs. If you think about it, it’s hard to prove that any technology has really changed what we do; it merely changes how we do it. Library catalogs contain the same information, regardless of what medium they occupy. Same with video- it went from reels to smaller reels (tapes) to dvd’s to blu-ray discs to the internet. But we still watch it, just the same. Music is nearly identical, if not much older example- we’re just as aurally stimulated by tribal chants as the Beatles music in the itunes store. Agriculture, one of the oldest activities our civilization has ever pursued, bears no resemblance at all to the pasttime our ancient ancestors (or even farming as our grandparents knew it, for that matter). And of course, the world’s oldest profession hasn’t changed a bit.

What then, constitutes a real change? I can’t say with certainty. I can’t even be sure that there is ‘real’ change. It’s entirely possible that time is circular, and we just keep reliving the same things in different settings. A very simple analogy is foliage- every year the trees grow new leaves, each one absolutely unique, yet almost indistinguishable from its neighbor. Every year they spend the season, change colors, die, and re-emerge. If you think about it on a larger scale, this yearly cycle might seem to never end. Left alone, our consciousness might not even conceive of linnear time, since every year the leaves experience the same cycle.

Our bodies give away the illusion- year after year, we change (sometimes imperceptibly, other times not). It’s most noticeable in children- they make change more quickly than the rest of us (or maybe we stay the same more than them). In any case, it would seem that this is definite evidence of linnear time. Naturally, I disagree. I don’t think we’re fundamentally different from leaves- we’re all unique, each with his own time and place, yet we’re bound to a singular existence- no matter what, we still do the same things as the folks who witnessed the turn of the first millennium, and we’ll still be doing the same things 1,000 years from now.

With that in mind, I fully expect many things to be different. We’re pretty screwed if 1,000 years from now we haven’t begun to spread to other planets, fly in air-cars and walk our dogs on automatic treadmills. But then, we’ll still be doing the same things, whether it’s in space, in hell, or somewhere in between.

Impulse Power!

During a trip to Target, I joined the 21st century by impulse-buying a wireless mouse. The beautiful rodent is one of the few instances where Chairman Bill and MS gang has gotten money from me. I don’t know why I was so attracted to it, but it’s mine now.

The good:

  • It’s a sexy design, comes in red
  • The flip feature saves battery
  • Works w/ Ubuntu!

The bad:

  • No charger
  • Not bluetooth
  • Comes in black/red (no blue?)
  • No matching keyboard

I’m currently using it w/ my desktop, but it might be nice not to sacrifice my wrists when using my lappie. Although Microsoft has won me over with it’s sexy hardware, I don’t know if I’m ready to use it’s lesser-known software division…

Seg me up!

Regular readers know that I’m pretty skeptical of most technology, but I think we’ve really got something in the Segway.  I finally got to take one of these two-wheeled wonders at the St. Louis Science Center, and it was no less than super-villian fun to cruise around and frighten hapless bystanders.

Of course, the Segway’s novelty far outstrips it’s practicality, but that’s hardly sufficient reason to keep you from being object of jealousy & ridicule in your home town by buying one today.

On an equally amusing note, my coworker and I were barred entry to the tunnel that connects the science center with it’s parking lot, so we had the unsavory choice of crossing I-64 on foot or begging a ride from one of the presenters.  Luckily, I wore my begging boots.