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Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Download in progress

From the Department of Digital Inefficiency:

I have several specialty applications that I launch once or twice a month for quick, minor tasks. Inevitably, upon launch they inform me that there is a new version of the app that I need to install to deal with some security threat or a compatibility issue with some major application. So, I download. Tap, tap, tap. And I install. Tap, tap, tap. And I close and relaunch. Tap, tap, tap.

Every once in a while this process involves finding some ghastly 40-digit authorization code I was sent when I first installed the app three years ago.

Of course, by this point the update has taken three times as long as the minor task I'd wanted to accomplish. Is there any wonder why I don't use the software more often?

Monday, November 26, 2007

The open-book test

You can't judge a book by its cover, but the middle page is a whole other story.

I have four books to review for a publication. For the heck of it, I opened one book to the middle and read a page.

Ugh.

I opened the second book to the middle and read a page.

Ugh again.

I opened the third book to the middle and read a page and thought "Not bad."

And then I opened the fourth book, read a middle page, read another page, and thought "Nice. Really nice."

Tonight I'm sitting in the living room reading that fourth book, and it's pure joy. I can't believe people pay me (a modest amount) to do this.

Of course, I do still have to go back and read and review the other three. I guess that's why they have to pay me.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Books for the season

Winter wouldn't be winter at our house without a reading of Terry Pratchett's novel The Hogfather, a wise and profound satire about the way our culture handles the winter holidays, from decorating and gift-giving to over-indulging to confronting our deepest hopes and fears.

Pratchett, a highly regarded British novelist, writes mainstream adult and young adult fiction (and, come to thing of it, children's books) cleverly disguised as comedic fantasy. While he's a household name in Britain, he's more of a cult author in the US — often known for an early-career collaboration with Gothic/anime writer Neil Gaiman (Good Omens, 1990).

This winter we're starting early, with Pratchett's recent young adult book, Wintersmith — the story of an adventurous teenage girl who has leapt into a dance with the god of Winter, an act that threatens to derail the cycle of the seasons.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Seattle Weblogger Meetup

The Seattle Weblogger Meetup this evening at Ralph's in Belltown night included Hamburger Lad (complaining of blogger's block), Clark Humphrey of Misc Media (showing us preview copies of his latest book Seattle's Belltown), and Jack Bell, who had his hands full with grandson Riley (who is celebrating his 5th birthday this week). And me, taking a break from Thanksgiving cooking.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

News flash

The ratio of news to commentary online is so low these days that when I skim a "news" site I feel like I'm watching a field of cows gumming their cuds.

So when Rebecca Traister at Salon did some digging to write bios of all the spouses of all the current presidential hopefuls, I was pleasantly surprised. And when I read some of the bios, I was unpleasantly startled.

Not sure if Traister's article requires a Salon subscription, but it would be worth getting one just to read about Judi Guiliani. Ick.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Got bacn?

video

Find out more about bacn here.

And, for how I made this videocast using QuickTime Broadcaster instead of Quicktime Pro, check out this great article by Derrick Story, author of Digital Video Pocket Guide. (And, yes, I know I should address the audio background noise by hooking up an external microphone. Next time!)

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Making it as a freelancer

After two very slow months, I'm now writing and editing at full speed on a variety of interesting projects. This is just what I wanted -- both slow times and busy ones.

Blogger Ryan Caldwell, posting at Deborah Ng's Freelancing Writing Gigs blog, talks about the odd mixture of work and play that characterizes successful freelancing in "5 Signs You've Made It As a Freelance Writer."

Friday, November 2, 2007

The attack of the Leopard. Ouch.

I'm a technology gadfly, not an expert, but I'm going to weigh in about Apple's new operating system, Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard, anyway.

Most Mac users had a smooth experience with installation, but a sizable minority -- a larger minority than usual -- encountered problems. Because I have two Macs, and had two very different installation experiences, I flatter myself that I can add something to the discussion.

Installation of Leopard on my Intel iMac (one of the early Intel iMacs) was quick and flawless. The only glitch I noticed subsequently was having to enter the WEP key (password) for our WiFi system.

Lulled by that experience, and emboldened because my little 12" PowerBook (a just-before-Intel machine) is merely a convenient travel machine and holds no significant data, I popped the Leopard disk into its DVD drive and began the install. (For those of you raising eyebrows and betting that the 12" PowerBook was not a Leopard-eligible machine -- nope, it is. The chip is plenty fast. Read on.)

The installation verified the DVD and began to install. But I returned an hour later to find a vague message that the install had failed.

I tried again. On the second try, a message informed me that the installer needed to wipe my drive and install fresh. Sighing, I realized this meant something on my machine was annoying Leopard, and I'd probably need to reinstall the software, piece by piece. But I agreed.

And was quickly surprised when this journaled install failed. But now I had no original OS on the machine to boot with -- just the install DVD. At this point, I looked up pricing on the new Intel MacBook and considered reinstalling Tiger on the PowerBook, selling it, and getting the mid-price MacBook. Definitely an option.

I went to the Apple support site and read the discussions, found a few people also struggling with non-Intel PowerBooks, and noted that indeed the problem seemed to be software on the machines that was confounding Leopard. Vaguely intending to configure the options section of the install to address this, I figured "what the *," and installed again.

To my amazement, it worked. Of course, I ended up with a complete vanilla system, which I now need to reconfigure and repopulate with software and data.

Fortunately, I have my Address Book contacts, browser bookmarks, and calendar all synced through .Mac, so by registering the drive with the new OS on it with .Mac, I had downloaded all that data to the machine in a few minutes.

Over the next few days, with the help of VersionTracker, I'll be re-installing and re-downloading my basic software for the travel machine. As for data...well, perhaps this is my opportunity to explore the Mac-connecting features of Leopard, or just put the PowerBook in target mode and drag the stuff over.

To sum up the experience, I should have been suspicious about the 12" PowerBook. I know it's not like Apple to be overly solicitous about "legacy" machines. I'd be willing to bet that the older your Mac, the more frustrating glitches you're likely to experience. So -- do check out that new MacBook. It comes with Leopard already purring away.