Monthly Archives: February 2007

New computer, old peripherals

So one of the issues I’ve had with the MacBook is that whilst it is brand sparkling and shiny new, much of the rest of my hardware is not.

My printer, for instance, is a very nice and usable HP LaserJet 1100. Less than a decade old. No native OS X driver though.

My scanner, a cheapo A4 Packard Bell Diamond Plus 1200 (a rebadged Mustek BearPaw 1200CU) is not recognised by Image Capture.

In both cases, open source software came to the rescue.

The printer is attached to my home Linux server and shared via Samba. The problem is that OS X doesn’t list a driver for it in the Printer Setup Utility. The solution is hpijs. Install the two packages, and it’s all good: the driver now appears in the much-extended list.

The scanner puzzled me for a little bit longer. In the end, I followed the instructions for the Mustek A3 scanner on this page, but downloaded the appropriate gt68xx drivers (ps1fw.usb, PS1Dfw.usb, PS1Gfw.usb – wasn’t sure which one to go for, so I went with all 3). I then edited the SANE settings to uncomment any lines that mentioned the BearPaw 1200 or Diamond Plus 1200 (since I wasn’t sure precisely which one I might need). The upshot is that my scanner now appears in Image Capture through SANE.


Credit cards, phones, and train carriages

My trip home last night. Just how insane do you have to be to order your airline tickets to Australia on a packed commuter train out of London Waterloo, on a mobile telephone, split across three different credit cards?

And yes, she did read out the security code for each one, too.

If I was an evil person, I could have a lot of fun at this point.

The Spike is back

Continuing the analysis of the growth (or not) of traffic to the site. Since Steve highlighted my previous post on the topic in his presentation at Lotusphere, it would be rude not to 🙂

Over the past months things have been fairly poor. For some reason the blog nearly disappeared from the Google index, and as a result I wasn’t getting much traffic from searches. As the chart shows though, I was still averaging around 250 hits per day even without that traffic, which I think is fair – peaking a little over 300 and dipping into the 100s at weekends. Unfortunately it doesn’t bear out my previous statement where I felt that my ~700 hits/day during January represented “sustained growth”, since it settled back to December levels. Clearly there is a way to go in terms of building long-term readership.

Late last week I noticed a small growth in daily hits, and popping some terms into Google it looks like the site is mostly back.

As you can see, on Thursday the site saw its single best day ever, easily doubling the previous record. This was mostly caused by a spike in hits on the infamous tax disc post, so again I theorise that a bunch of people got their renewal notices mid-month (the previous high of 1459 was also on 16th Jan, followed by this one of 3074 on 16th Feb).

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Photoshop Lightroom out today

It’s shipping.

Waiting for the download link to drop into my inbox.

*drums fingers*

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Thoughts on a MacBook Pro – the hardware

A number of decisions were involved in choosing my new laptop. I’d pretty much known I’d go for the Core Duo option (i.e. the Pro). However, it wasn’t until I was in the store and asked Adrian where the white and black ones were that he explained the Pro only comes in brushed metal. No matter.

The first choice was screen size. Pretty straightforward – 13″ too small, 17″ too expensive. 15″ is nice. I spent my test drive in the store using a 17″ model, but that would have been even bigger.

I did struggle to make a choice over the type of screen… glossy or matt. I tried both: played movies, viewed photos. The contrast and saturation on the glossy one was really good. Both are very sharp. There was a bit of reflection on the glossy screen though, and when I got to the point of ordering, the sales assistant asked what I’d be using it for and recommended matt for photo processing. Ironically, I think the Apple website recommends glossy for photo processing, I’ll have to go back and check 😉

I wanted the upper spec in terms of memory and CPU, since I knew I’d be working on photos later.

So that was that. Now that I’ve used it a bit, my impressions of the hardware are (mostly) extremely positive.

The power adapter is a work of art, for starters. Magnetic attachment to the laptop. Clip to keep the wire in order when coiled away.  The plug or cable slides sideways onto a little lug which prevents the cable being kicked out of the power brick – very thoughtful.

The machine itself is weighty, and obviously longer than any Thinkpad I’ve ever handled due to the widescreen, but very very slim.

I do find the catch on the case to be a bit fiddly to press in, since it is very narrow (clearly I have fat fingers), but I like the way the sleep light comes on when the machine is in standby.

Keyboard excellent, although the narrowness of some of the keys bothers me a bit, I’ve missed the enter key a few times and switched caps lock on accidentally. I’ll adapt. I like the way it lights up according to ambient light levels.

I’m still getting used to a single mouse button. I love the Trackpoint on the Thinkpads, and have never used the trackpad even on the ones that have it. In the shop, I kept on tapping the trackpad to click. I know you can turn that on, but having used the MacBook for a bit now, I think I’m adapting to the button. I did actually try the tap-to-click function, but found it easier to use the button in the end.

The MacBook Pro comes equipped with Bluetooth. I checked for nearby devices and it immediately found my old Sony phone, generated a random pairing key, and then offered to sync with the phone book – nice – no need for additional software. 

It took me a week before I picked up the remote. I wasn’t sure what to expect. It looks like the old type of iPod shuffle. Press the menu button, and the MacBook immediately switches to Media Player mode, with a choice of playing a DVD; going through your iTunes library; browsing photos (although I’ve yet to work out how to stop it from playing annoying music when it puts on a slideshow); and looking at movies. The movies option also has a pretty trailers option which connects to the QuickTime trailers on the Apple website – advertising yes, but a handy touch when I didn’t have any actual movies to watch in the iTunes library.

I’ve not plugged it in to an external display yet – a moment of potential joy for the future. I like the range of ports on the machine, and the arrangement along both sides… The only thing I’m not so keen on is the lack of PCMCIA or ExpressCard slot – USB or FireWire peripherals all the way.

The only actual, physical concern I have is that the SuperDrive is unbelievably noisy. Is this normal? It makes a really nasty clicky clunky noise when a disc is inserted. It seems fairly quiet after that, though, and reads discs without any issues.

Currently I’m using an old Thinkpad backpack to carry it – I need to look around for a suitable case or shoulder bag.

We were watching an episode of Sex and the City the other night, and I noted that the Apple logo on the top of the iBook that Carrie was using was the other way up to the one on my MacBook Pro. That one was facing the user when the lid was closed. Mine faces away from me, so that it’s the “right way up” to an observer when the lid is open.

And with that statement… I’m going to be one of those Mac fanboys, aren’t I? You can tell already.