Archive for August, 2007

Back on PC hardware (HP-Compaq NC6320)

Thursday, August 23rd, 2007

I got my new work computer. It’s an HP-Compaq NC6320. I have spoken loud and clear against HP before, mostly due to disastrous printers, but I have to say that my initial impressions of this laptop are very positive. The machine is pretty large, but not too heavy. Especially the screen and keyboard are excellent. If I’m going to add an external keyboard, it’s because of the separate numpad. I did add an extra screen, simply due to needing the extra space – if this was a widescreen panel, I might do without.

So far I’m mostly missing the Macbook’s better still screen and superior touchpad. This machine’s touchpad is alright, but the “mouse” buttons feel rubbery and too light and the instantly accurate feel of the Macbook touchpad isn’t there. I’ve only used the machine in the office so far, but it sounds quieter than the Macbook and I think it doesn’t get as hot.

I’ll be in Amsterdam most of next week, so we’ll see how the machine does on the road. (The battery life should be a respectable 3,5 hours.) I have extremely limited user rights on the rig, though, so I know I’m not getting the full experience. I would love to play with the integrated fingerprint sensor, for instance.

Active Collab

Tuesday, August 14th, 2007

A colleague tipped me off to check out Active Collab, an open source alternative to Basecamp, the widely respected project management solution. Upon setting up my first project, it feels pretty good. Some things are just off, like the way it’s centered around “companies” and “clients”, when I feel that many people (say, students) might use these things for other uses than business. In any case, definitely worth checking out, supposing that you have your own web host. I wouldn’t change my paid-for Basecamp projects over to it just yet, though, since a lot of features are still being developed.

My motivation for trying out Active Collab was that I needed a solution for a freelance gig and the idea of having zero restrictions (number of projects, size of files and so on) appealed to me. As it stands, Basecamp is still easier to use and better designed.

Stepping back (Apple MacBook)

Sunday, August 12th, 2007

I’m changing jobs and I need to give up my MacBook. I’m not sure what I’m getting in my new job, but most likely PC hardware, in any case, the company I’m working for being large, as opposed to the very flexible advertising agency environment I’m currently in.

I admit I’ll miss the computer a lot. Making the change back to the Windows world does not please me; although the possibility of trying Vista on for a size intrigues me. I’m very likely to get a new portable Mac at some point for personal use.

As it happens, the MacBook has severely let me down just this weekend. Coming back from a holiday, its battery had depleted and the computer just won’t recognize it anymore. The software update didn’t help and it needs to be replaced. Well, not my problem anymore.

I’m hoping Colibri can alleviate my need for Quicksilver. There is one thing I’m welcoming back though, that being the Windows Explorer as opposed to the Mac Finder. Although Path Finder improved file management a lot, I guess I’m just so used to the Explorer that it never felt quite as natural to me. Coda will be missed, as well.

Looking at the whole, though, I’m pretty certain I will first and foremost miss the keyboard and touchpad. This laptop is a joy to type and work on, something I can’t say I have nearly experienced with any PC laptop hardware. Most likely an external screen, keyboard and mouse are called for, again.

Bookshelf: World War Z

Sunday, August 12th, 2007

Max Brooks’ novel of mankind’s aftermath of the so-called zombie war makes for absorbing reading. The work labels itself an “oral history” and makes every effort to read like an actual debrief of a war mankind barely survived. The concept is that zombies spread all over the world and mankind needs to fight them off.

Brooks uses an interview style which provides a perfect blend of narrative, discussion of “facts”, personal accounts and vivid imagery. I found myself forgetting its fictional nature many times, almost about to tell tales of the zombie war to people unfamiliar with the book. Brooks has conjured very effective scenes and people, stuff you like to tell to people, wondering if this is how it would play out. It’s certainly very believable.

They’re making a movie about this and for once I’m somewhat positive about a forthcoming film adaptation. With a documentary style it just might repeat the book’s effectiveness.

Smoke

Friday, August 10th, 2007

We brought back a shisha (hookah, waterpipe) from Berlin. The trip was much better than I anticipated, and the shisha is a sort of exclamation point to the whole trip. I’ve been meaning to get one ever since my first to trip to Egypt, in 2001.

I think I fell for waterpipes when I saw the Caterpillar in Alice in Wonderland smoking one. Since then I never saw one before my trip to Egypt, where I just really liked the atmosphere of sitting around a table with friends, passing a shisha around in the evening. (To be clear, I’ve smoked only flavored tobacco in a shisha, no other sorts of drug.)

So strolling around in a Turkish neighborhood in Berlin, we looked into getting one if we could find something that looked like the locals were actually using. The one we got was not on display and there was the language barrier to get past, since the locals don’t speak English that much.

It works beautifully, and sitting in the candlelight in our balcony, savoring the apple flavor, I felt a bit more at home. Memories of Luxor hit back – only now with a bit of eastern Berlin mixed in.

Off to Berlin

Wednesday, August 1st, 2007

I’m off to Berlin for ten days with my wife for what’s left of my summer vacation. It’s been a good summer vacation thus far, albeit a bit rainy and windy. Lots of time with friends, lots of nerdiness, lack of some things I planned, but I’m not complaining. When I get back, there’s a lot of exciting stuff going on, like the game journalist gig at this large youth magazine I’m trying on for size. I’m really looking forward to this fall.

(Damn, I wish I could say “autumn” as it’s a much nicer word, but I’m afraid I’ve already pretty much committed to the American set. On a second thought, who cares?)

I’m really looking forward to this autumn.