Category Archives: technology

MacBook WiFi problem/solution

Last year my MacBook started having very, very slow WiFi connectivity. So slow, in fact, I almost abandoned the thing. My wife’s MacBook was fine. But my WiFi connection just crawled. Then I read about some MacBook Pros, the new ones with the metal case, having a similar problem.

I was sitting right next to our WiFi router getting super slow connectivity. So I decided to remove the transparent plastic case I’d bought for the machine. It sure did look cool.

As soon as I removed the case (which is made specifically for MacBooks and costs about $30), my WiFi connection improved by about 1000%. In fact, it became normal. No more problem.

So if you have a plastic case on your MacBook, and your WiFi sucks, take the case off.  Amazingly, 2 millimeters of plastic is enough to ruin your signal.

New project

Quick Note: using some of the RSS stuff I learned at CIL 2008 to create some new services at work. Will report on them in more detail later, but I am using Google Reader’s sharing capability/page along with some other tools to push out information relevant to my organization.

RSS Readers: Google Reader vs. Bloglines

I’ve had a bloglines.com account for some time now. Honestly, I haven’t used it that much, but I do think it is useful from time to time. For those who don’t know, among other things, bloglines.com allows you to aggregate posts from any site with an RSS feed, and read/link to the posted items from bloglines.com, rather than having to check lots of sites every day.  In other words, if you read lots of news sites, blogs, etc., you check one spot instead of dozens.

At the Computers In Libraries conference last week, Steven Cohen sung the praises of the Google Reader — Google’s RSS reader. Since I’ve seen him speak at several conferences and he’s never given me bad advice, I checked out Google Reader.

As usual, Steven is right. Google Reader is cool. But first, let me tell you what is STILL good about bloglines.com :

  • When you set up an account with bloglines, you are not only automatically set up to subscribe to RSS feeds, but you are also immediately able to start your own blog. Is it pretty? No. It is a simple blog, with from what I can tell no options for different themes, layouts, etc. But it is a blog, and is right there.
  • I still think bloglines has a nice page layout. It isn’t fancy, but it is functional. The majority of the page is the window in which posts are displayed — nice and wide. Looks good. Displays images from the posts.
  • When you are reading a post on bloglines, you can click a link to see who else subscribes to that feed. Nice feature for finding other interested in the same stuff. Not sure if Google Reader does this — I’ll check.

 So, what is so great about Google Reader?

  • Well, if you have gmail account you an just go right into Google Reader with no sign up.
  • You can import your subscription list from another reader. Don’t have to re-enter all your info.
  • Since it is part of the Google system, you have easy access to all the other Google tools.
  • Most important: Google Reader allows you to click a link and share items to a public page that it creates for you. For example, here’s my public page. As you will notice, there is an RSS stream for your public page, which allows other people to subscribe to it. Yes, you can create an RSS stream of what you are reading. Sort of cool.
  • There’s also a “friends” function in Google Reader. Haven’t played with it much.

As you can see, Google has included a lot of social networking tools within Reader. I think this is what bloglines was missing.  They both allow you to aggregate information for your own use, but Google Reader has added the ability to share that info with the group.

Anyway, pretty cool.

Do I want the extra functionality? Probably. Do I want to sign over more of my online activities to Google? Maybe not. Will I continue to ask questions like this and then answer them? Most definately.

Discuss…

UPDATE: I added a link to my shared matrial from Google Reader over in the sidebar, under bibliosk8 stuff.

Nerd

Two weekends ago I went on a skateboarding trip to North Carolina. It was a jam for Small School Skateboards, with whom I am now affiliated (which means I begged Jeremy to put me on his team, so I could say I was sponsored before I croak).

Anyway, here’s a pic of my hotel room’s desk in the middle of the visit. MacBook, iPod, digital camcorder, digital camera, USB cables, high-speed interwebs connection, battery chargers, coffee, etc, etc. The only thing missing is an iPhone. I have a cell phone, but it is a cheap one. I’m just not a cellphone guy.

I felt like such a nerd/road-warrior. But having everything small and portable enough to just set up in the hotel is great.

Disk Warrior

Yes, another Mac software post.

Last night before going to see Beowulf with my friend Matt down at Northpark Mall, I stopped by the Apple Store. I got one of the good folks there — a fellow skateboarder — to show me the new Leopard OS. Pretty slick. Amazingly slick no less. It will be a bummer to go back to my Gateway PC at work tomorrow after seeing the beauty that is Leopard.

Did I buy it? No. Right now I feel like my current OS (10.4.10) is working just fine. All my software runs, and I don’t have any crashes really. So I will wait until I really need an upgrade to get Leopard or whatever replaces it.

Of course, about half of the demo was on one of those giant Apple studio monitors, which make everything look like magic. Too bad they’re too big to have in your lap. I’m really enjoying just doing my web stuff from my chair in the Chill Zone with my MacBook. I spend enough time sitting at a desk.

I did, however, purchase DiskWarrior, by Alsoft. It is a utility for repairing damage files, optimizing you hard drive, etc, etc. My brother-in-law does tech support for them, so I figure I can get help if I need it. I ran the program this morning, and it found a few things to clean up that cleared up a little hard drive space on my MacBook.

I also backed up all my files to my external hard drive this morning. I’m using iBackup, which works pretty well. I’d really like to find a “smart backup” utility that only backs up the files that have changed — for a faster backup. I’ll have to look into that.

Beowulf was pretty cool. I liked it a lot.

Audio Hijack

This is a great product — Audio Hijack.

 Allows you to grab audio from nearly any source, as long as it is playing on your computer. I’ve used it to capture some music performances from the Henry Rollins Show website. You can then use other audio editing software like GarageBand to put it in the format you’d prefer. Really cool.

Only for the Mac — so get yourself a Mac.

Speaking of music from the Henry Rollins show, if you like Thom Yorke, of Radiohead, check this out.

Headphones

I’m really enjoying my iPod Nano. The old one  — not the new one with the little video screen.  I like to lay down on the bed with headphones and listen to music. That’s one of my preferred activities. Just lay down, turn on the iPod, and zone out. Good stuff.

Anyway, I got these Bose headphones for my birthday. They aren’t the noise-cancelling kind. But they sound really good. I hate ear-buds. Can’t stand having something stuck in my ears. These headphones are pretty light, so it’s not like wearing a helmet.  For a nice set of ‘phones for laying around listening to music, I recommend them.

Death of a Dell Laptop

My wife’s Dell Inspiron laptop died last week. The fan will run, but nothing boots up. Took it to the repair shop, and they predicted $200 to diagnose the problem, and $700 – $800 to replace whatever electronics were fried. All this on a $1400 computer. I told them to do data recovery on the hard drive (Cost: $100.), as we were about to replace it with a new MacBook anyway.

The machine is 2 years old, has seen extremely light use, and has been well cared for.  Piece of shit.

The pervasiveness of technology

Last week in Monterrey, Mexico, we were at a cookout. Everyone at the table had a nice cellphone. There were two digital cameras on the table, uploading pics to a Dell Latitude laptop. Upstairs one of the teenagers was on the ‘net, chatting with friends via Instant Messenger. The house contained 5 or 6 computers of various ages, all connect via a home wireless network to the ‘net.

This was in Mexico.

Forget any notions you might have that Mexico isn’t sophisticated. Sure, there are lots of poor in the rural areas, but Monterrey is on the rise. The ‘net is connecting people everywhere. Global youth culture is web-enabled.

Prepare for the future. Learn a second language. Enjoy.

Web-based video editing application — free — cool

Here’s a story from Salon.com’s techie section, about Flektor, a new web-based video/media editing application (free). Pretty neat. Watch his little movie to really see it work.

http://machinist.salon.com/blog/2007/06/26/flektor/index.html

Thanks to my supercool wife for this link.

TED talks

I just discovered this website:

TED: Ideas Worth Spreading

 If you enjoy fascinating lectures, this site will make you happy. Registration is free, and from there you can download the talks in various formats. Here is a short excerpt from the “about” page:

TED stands for Technology, Entertainment, Design. It started out (in 1984) as a conference bringing together people from those three worlds. Since then its scope has become ever broader.

The annual conference now brings together the world’s most fascinating thinkers and doers, who are challenged to give the talk of their lives (in 18 minutes).

This site makes the best talks and performances from TED available to the public, for free. More than 100 talks from our archive are now available, with more added each week. These videos are released under a Creative Commons license, so they can be freely shared and reposted.

Second Life

Even though I have a fairly active online life, and an active “real” life offline, I have no desire to get started on Second Life. Seriously, I didn’t even know about it until the Internet Librarian last year, which I guess shows that my nerd powers are decaying, but I didn’t.

For those who don’t know, Second Life is an online virtual world in which you assume a Second Life, errr…life…, and then you proceed to do things in that virtual world. I guess you can get a job in Second Life, rob banks, kill people, steal, do good deads, or whatever. Actual real-world financial transactions have started happening because of Second Life events. Weird. Amazing, but weird. Well, I guess it’s not super weird. People who are really into fantasy role playing games, both the on-paper and online kind, probably experience the same kind of thing.

There’s even a group of Second Life librarians who have set up reference service within Second Life. The theory, as it goes, is “meet the user where he/she is”. If the users are mostly living in Second Life, you can meet them there and serve their information needs there.

I have to say, from a purely academic viewpoint I’m sorta fascinated by this whole thing, but man, I have a lot going on in the real world. Websites to run, skateboarding and Aikido to do, a cool wife to have lots of actual fun with, parents to enjoy, nieces and nephews to entertain, etc. I also already have a real world job which I like a lot, but shit — why would I want a job in Second Life? I don’t need a second life.

If I can’t have full-on super powers, I’m just not interested. Telekinesis, Heat Vision, Total Invulnerability — you know — real powers and a cool costume.

OK, I’m rambling. I’m not criticizing the Second Life people/afficianados/addicts, or whatever they are. I just don’t quite get it. Oh well. More on this topic when I am more rested and less prone to ranting.

Moving your site to a new server: some tricks

For those of you who aren’t techies, here is a basic technique for bypassing the “middle man” (your own computer) when moving your website from one server to another. By harnessing the power of the Linux command line, you can really save some time in a most kickass way.

If you have a website with a lot of content, like large picture galleries or video files, moving to a new server presents some challenges. I’m going to ignore the obvious challenge of getting all the systems, like your blog system, your gallery program, etc, to work again. The most basic challenge I’ve found is simply moving those large files and directories. For example, if you have a directory with 400 megs of images in it, and you need to move the whole thing to a new server, but you have a normal DSL line at home with a horribly slow upload speed, it is simply not practical to download the whole directory to your computer then upload it to the new one. It will take all day.

Continue reading

Enthusiasm returning for MacBook

After a rocky start with my MacBook experience, my enthusiasm is returning.

My previous computer was a 1999 G4, the first one they released, running some version of the 9.X.X operating system. Of course, for at least a couple of years it has been impossible to upgrade any software on it. So its nice to have the new OS.

The MacBook is very fast, and it isn’t even the “Pro” version. I got the 2 GHz, 13″ white machine. Everything runs fast. Connecting to our Canon digital camera, the iPhoto application quickly recognized the camera and downloaded 100 images very, very fast. Faster than our Dell Inspiron laptop, and tons faster than the old G4.

On thing I really love, however, is that it boots up and shuts down really quickly.

There’s a lot of really nice, free software available on the Apple site. One of the first things I needed was a good FTP program, for transferring large files to my various sites. I downloaded and tried Transmit. Like all the other software I’ve checked out, it has a clean and elegant user interface and works like a charm. I’m also going to check out Interarchy 8.5.

For the whole tagging/social-bookmarking thing, there’s an app called Socialist that I’m going to try. There are lots of RSS readers/aggregators available.

A few words about the customer experience: Assuming you get a machine without any little problems, Apple has created a very smoooooooth customer experience with the MacBook. When you boot the machine up for the first time, it gives you a really cool looking and sounding “welcome” message, and then guides you easily through some initial setup functions, where you enter your name and other information, create an account on the computer, etc. At this point the system introduces you to the built-in camera at the top of the screen, allowing you to take your picture for your account profile.

Blended into the process is a pitch for Apple’s online services — called “.mac” .mac provides email accounts, disk backup service, remote storage space, blog/website hosting, and some other stuff. It’s actually really cool, but it does cost about $100 year, so I did not sign up. My point here is that the whole experience of starting with these computers is so warm and cozy that you almost just want to sign up.

Anyway, I’ve really just started to explore the software the system comes with. iPhoto is really cool for managing your digital images. GarageBand looks like it will be fun, but there will be a learning curve.

So as long as the MacBook keeps working correctly, I think I’m going to like it.