old computers, new computer

Had a bit of a clear-out yesterday. I dropped off

  • one Sempron-based PC
  • an ancient eMac
  • a built-like-a-tank Samsung laser printer
  • two monitors: one LCD, one flatscreen
  • two mini-itx boxen of undetermined operation
  • about six external USB drives
  • a DVD player with VGA output
  • a box of stuff, including various network thingies, an NSLU-2 and a KVM switch.

at Free Geek Toronto. I’d heard about them from Colin at Mappy Hour, the monthly(ish) OpenStreetMap event. They have a very neat warehouse, and are definitely doing the right thing in getting surplus electronics either to people who need them, or properly recycled. On the (lengthy – 2 hours from the Junction to home, grr) drive back, I even heard a tiny CBC radio spot about them. Shame that the announcer almost said “old electronics crap” instead of “old electronics gear”, though …

I just built a new linux box to replace a bunch of the stuff I just threw out. It’s a small and quiet MSI 6676-003BUS with a fanless Atom 510 processor. It plugs straight into the HDMI of the TV, and remote work is done with VLC or SSH. To cut down clutter, I’m using a cheapo Logitech® Cordless MediaBoard Pro for PLAYSTATION®3, which works just fine as a keyboard and mouse with a generic $10 bluetooth USB adaptor.

can’t get here from there

I was trying to send a largish promotional image to our marketing department yesterday. It was too big for e-mail, so I put it on the department share, assuming that marketing could read it. Nope. Moved it to a company FTP site. User has no access to ftp. In the end, I had to send it on a CD, even though I’m pretty sure it originated somewhere inside the company.

I also had to point an (internal) reviewer to an engineering report on our servers. Again, it’s on a share – you know, those things that people are supposed to be able to, y’know, read. No dice. I think the reviewer ended up requesting hardcopy from the original consultant, even though I know the file’s on a server in the very same building as the reviewer. Aagh!

If one company that spends a truckload on IT can’t get communications right, there is no hope for us.

very, very old school

Mac OS 7.5.5 Notepad

As I appear to have broken Catherine‘s ability to play Crystal Quest by upgrading her eMac to 10.3.9, I need to find an alternative way to run it. I remember running Basilisk II years ago on a very old Linux box — indeed, my ancient instructions are still here: archive.org :: Installing Mac OS 7.5.3 under Basilisk II on Linux, and quite amazingly, are still useful.

I found the following helpful to get it going under OS X:

the computer does work

Picked up the new computer from Canada Computers yesterday. High-end it isn’t, but it’s more than adequate. It’s an AMD Sempron 3000+ (on a Foxconn K8M890M2MA-RS2H motherboard), with 1GB RAM, 80GB SATA disk and a DVD±RW drive. There was change out of $400, including tax.

It’s running Ubuntu for AMD64. While there are a few things I don’t have configured, it was all installed in under an hour. It reminds me a bit of OS X. There’s one thing it does better than the Mac; it knows about duplex printers, and assumes you want to be able to print duplex. Under OS X, you have to choose two-sided every time you print. Thanks to Davey for originally putting me on to Ubuntu. My life’s too short to mess with linux configs.

Now I need to move the old hard drive over as a spare, and fit the various cards from the old machine.

my letter to etymotic

To: Etymotic Research Inc. Customer Support

I recently placed an order with you for accessories for my Isolator ER-6i headphones. I was very disappointed when UPS added an additional brokerage charge of approximately US$27 (plus taxes and duties) to the order. Since the value of the the order was only $43, your courier’s brokerage charge was almost two-thirds the value of the goods ordered.

Please consider using another courier for Canadian orders. USPS/Canada Post’s brokerage charges are much smaller, of the order of $5.

I would also like to note that none of your agents in Toronto seems able to stock these spares. I visited all three of the dealers mentioned on your website:

  • Long & McQuade had no stock, and didn’t seem particularly keen on ordering any for me.
  • Carbon Computers, though very helpful, only had eartips for the ER-6, and didn’t know that they wouldn’t work with the ER-6i.
  • CPUsed sold me an incomplete bag of ER6-14 eartips; only 6 tips for the full price of 10. When they weren’t assuring me that they’d work with the ER-6i, they were trying to sell me a set of Shure E2C headphones, which they said were better.

Up until now, I have been widely recommending your products. Until I know that you’re serious about supporting your Canadian customers, however, I cannot recommend your products to anyone in this country.

Toronto Subway Station GPS Locations, now in GPX

TTC stations on Google Earth
Further to Toronto Subway Station GPS Locations, I now have them in GPX format: ttc.gpx. Google Earth reads GPX files, but loses some of the metadata.

It would seem that someone has done this before, but using a different approach. I did search the forums, but there were no stations in the community overlay — honest, guv.

Stewart’s long walk

After picking up my UK passport form at Bay & College, I walked to Spadina Subway. Not far, you’d say. It is if you go via College all the way to Dufferin, and back. 7.3 km, I make it, from the amazing Gmaps Pedometer. I went via Canada Computers (where I got a fantastically quiet Vantec case fan) and Soundscapes (where, of course, I bought too many CDs).

And you know why it was such a long walk? I was looking for a Timmy’s. Sad, isn’t it? It would seem that Little Italy is almost totally free of Tim’s. Yes, I know I could have had fantastic espresso and some kind of pastry there, but I wanted Tim’s, and I was prepared to walk for over an hour in sub-zero temperatures to get it, dammit.

Tiger’s Dictionary

OS X Tiger's Dictionary
I was pleased to see that Apple had included a comprehensive dictionary with OS X 10.4. The Oxford American is a decent enough reference tome, and the computer implementation isn’t bad at all.

The typography’s fairly clean, if rather heavy on the whitespace. Cross references are active; if one clicks on the small-caps word whitlow, you’ll go to its definition (if you have to; it’s kinda nasty). For some reason, the Dashboard version of the dictionary doesn’t have active xrefs.

Searching isn’t as good as it could be. As with most electronic products, it assumes you already know how to spell the word. The incremental search does allow that, as long as you have the first few letters right, the list of possible choices is quite small. Like all electronic dictionaries that I’ve seen, it’s not possible to browse the text in that spectacularly non-linear way that makes a real paper dictionary fun.

It does seem to have a good few Canadian terms, but a true Canadian dictionary should be shipped with Canadian Tiger. Correct spelling isn’t just optional. It also only labels British and Canadian spellings as ‘British’.

So, in summary, pretty good, but far from perfect.

dvds by mail

I’m thinking of subscribing to zip.ca, the Canadian DVD-by-mail company. I’ve browsed their catalogue, and they have some good things. But they’re not very clueful with computer security — they just sent my trial password in plain text back to me over e-mail.

my lappy is not well

My ThinkPad T21 is dying. Well, its processor and interfaces are fine, but its backlight is erratic, the battery lasts about 20 minutes, and the case is badly cracked. Because it takes so long for the screen to come on, it’s almost no use as a portable computer.

It’s a shame; it has been a nice machine. I’d prefer not to have to buy a new machine — it’s a toss-up between another used ThinkPad, or a new iBook — but this gets me very frustrated. Catherine has been complaining about how tetchy I am about it.

I’ve probably been very bad at responding to e-mail over the last few weeks because of this. Apologies.