Computers March 2010

The author's spare bedroom converted to a nice office set up.  The matching wallpaper and curtains, the dark wood office style furniture complimenting the wardrobe doors, the black leather executive swivel chair and the neat rows of lever arch file boxes.  The computer set up is dominated by the 23 inch Apple Cinema display, with a MacMini on top of a matching back-up drive sat to the right and a Hewlett Packard all-in-one printer to the left.  Also seen is an optical mouse, small stereo speakers, an iPod Classic a BT Homehub and an underdesk bass sub-woofer
My rather comfortable home office setup in 2008 with little work being carried out

Stop Maccing About

A recent but enthusiastic convert to the Macintosh stable I am now using my ninth Apple product [excluding accessories] and each has been truly Golden Delicious.

Initially, like many, I was sceptical about plunging headlong into the orchard but chance brought me into the core and I have now nibbled away since 2007 on many wondrous devices.

It all started when I was redoing my office, as shown in the photograph.  A bedroom was converted to accommodate my electronic needs and desires both personally and officially and the centrepiece was to be a good looking computer.

Previous PC setups had included various CPUs and screens and experience had taught me that the CPU and displays became obsolete at differing times.  This reinforced the notion that PC separates were the way to go.  So a search was on to find a compact CPU and great looking screen.

The screen was the stumbling block.  All were dull, black and uninteresting but then I saw the light.  It came shining in when Apple opened my local Apple Store and nestling within was this magnificent looking 23” widescreen Cinema Display.

It clearly had my name on it so I grabbed copies of all the Mac publications I was able to carry and became convinced I could become one of the enlightened.

I wasn’t quite brave enough to go for the full all-in-one iMac and to be honest wasn’t keen on the over-square design at the time.

I considered a Mac Pro but chose a Mac Mini as a ‘starter’ kit, just in case I was actually a PC.

Since then more AM products have followed including an iPod, a replacement Mac Mini, an Apple TV and a MacBook plus countless leads, docks, accessories and software. So far…

And that’s not mentioning the phenomenally successful iPhone with sales so high there is no more space off the chart.  I’ve played my part and had three iterations of these.

Mac Versus The Opposition?

Being such a new found fan of Apple products I have been musing a way of describing how a Mac computer differs from a industry-standard PC and I think the answer lies in a car washing analogy.

The PC – This is the jet wash – It takes an awful lot of effort and skill is needed to get a satisfactory result.  It is best if you can get constant assistance from someone who knows what they are doing.  Unfortunately it will cause damage unless care is taken all the time.

The Mac – This is the car wash – It is simple to use but more expensive.  It does all the work for you using simple logical commands.  It is only likely to cause damage if the basics like putting your aerial down are ignored.  You come away thinking that the car wash has actually been the clever one, as opposed to yourself.

The Linux – The bucket and sponge option.  Far too much effort and I’m not that poor any more.

Mini Mark 1

Like all Austin, BMW and Mac people I am rather fond of my little Mini.  It’s cute dimensions, uncluttered look, surprisingly good for its size performance and its ‘actually runs a full Macintosh OS’ qualifications compel you to love it.

I chose the Intel Core 2 Duo driven 2.0GHz stock model with 2Gb 667MHz DDR2 SDRAM and a 160Gb hard disk.  Disappointingly it shipped with the new Leopard software as I am rather fond of Tigers but it also sported the full Mac iLife 08 Suite which I bolstered with an 08 version of iWork to reinforce the official view that it was a real business purchase.

Being bereft of all accessories I coupled it to the 23” Apple Cinema Display that initiated the purchase and allowed me to see what was going on and a wireless keyboard and mouse to actually do some going on.

Backup is as important to a Mac-Man as it is to a lowly PCer so I accompanied my Mini with a matching Iomega MiniMax MMHD, a 500GB USB/Firewire 400 back-up drive.  The inbuilt Time Machine software does all the difficult bits of coordination between the two.

Becoming A User

Transgressing from the dark side of PC usering to become an Apple Fan-Boy is not all plain sailing.

For instance the Mini does not have a built in camera and Apple had discontinued it’s sideline in accessory visionary devices by dumping the popular iSight Camera.  However I had a smart looking Logitech QuickCam Fusion which had temporarily sat atop my crusty old laptop and once allowed me to Skype my friend in Australia.

Unfortunately the model was shown as incompatible with fruit based CPUs so I had to butcher a way round this, which actually proved to be pretty easy using a software application called Macam, even if the fancy zoom and lets pretend I’m a dinosaur effects won’t work.

I also had to learn the Mac way of doing things and I called on many a magazine article and user book to work out how to download, mount applications and find out how to do basic spreadsheet stuff with all the pretty and ultimately logical software.  In fact if anyone ever asks the most compelling reason to switch to Macs I now answer;  “Apart from the fact that I never have to use anti-virus programmes, ever, I also have never downloaded a driver.  If my Mac links to a printer it will just work.”

I have also become accustomed to upgrading to the latest software as it comes out.  This is a Mac user trait and thankfully Apple, unlike Microsoft, do not feel the need to totally fleece their customers each time this happens.

Not that it is all cheap.  No Apple products are.  Quality comes at a cost and you don’t enter the world without generous pockatage.  However, the process all feels more silk than fleece.

Mini Mark 2

A mac Mini 2 sits on top of a matching Iomega backup hard drive.  The associated firewire lead has been removed from an adjacent USB drive but the kink in the cable remains meaning the open Firewire end floats in the air
The new Mac Mini. Seen here sat atop the Iomega drive and behind the invisible USB device

In time I decided that I wanted a speedier, faster Mac.  My original Mini had proved I could be an Apple user but the speed limitations hindered use of some of the more powerful software, particularly the inbuilt music creator, Garageband.

I chose the simple option of buying a replacement model from the new 2009 range Apple conveniently launched for me and traded up to a Intel Core 2 Duo driven 2.26GHz stock model with 4Gb 1067MHz DDR3 SDRAM and a 320Gb hard disk.  With twice the RAM, twice the disk and 1.599700149925037 times the speed I am now a well content Leporidae.

But the road to change wasn’t as smooth as the sales pitch might think.

Apple make migration from one machine to another a pretty simple step.  It’s all handled pretty automatically, like most Apple stuff, using easy to use software.  All I had to do was connect old and new, press a couple of buttons and hey presto, a new Mac looking somewhat disappointedly exactly the same as the old one.

What the instructions failed to foresee though was each machine had to be attached to something to allow said buttons to be pressed. I only invested in a new Mini [CPU] and therefore only had the one keyboard. My misses clears extraneous clutter like a supercharged Wall-E and all spare keyboards had been long been filed away in the big grey receptacle.  However, Apple was at hand and my new cutsey box lost it’s virginity to the Time-Machine backup from the MiniMax.

A series of photographs showing the progress of physically destroying a MacMini, firstly removing the case, then exposing the innards, removing parts then splitting apart the hard drive
In deference to security concerns I needed to get to the hard drive, and duly destroyed the old Mini…

Having an Intel engine allows me to run [spit] Windows on my Mac and my preferred method of doing this is via Sun’s VirtualBox and XP.

This allows me to emulate the wondrous old habits of virus protection, Windows security updates and Internet Explorer whenever I get the need.

MacBook

For a long time I waited impatiently for Apple to release their much anticipated iPad tablet.  I figured that such a device was the answer to pitter pattering away whilst watching TV.

However in frustration of their delay and with need to get on with this website before Alzheimers set in I decided to get a MacBook instead.

A white MacBook sits to the left of the Apple Cinema Display and on the right is a Dell Notebook
The MacBook joins the fray. Note the little Dell Mini 10 getting it’s latest Windows Update

Purchased in December 2009 it is a factory-standard unibody white unit boasting an Intel 2.26GHz Core 2 Duo and has 2GB of 1067MHz DDR3 RAM, close to its 250GB drive, whilst glistening through a 13” glossy screen.

If you are reading this [in 2009] it clearly works.

Non Fruit Based Electronica

Many PC based computers have passed before my hands but only a few remain, partly because of the needs of friends and family, partly because of the calling of eBay but mostly because, as discussed above, the misses doesn’t like keeping clutter.

Not that any of these outdated machines were rare enough to be worthwhile now, even the very first ex-work behemoth running CP/M on a green-black screen.  These were the days of command lines, 5.25” floppies and frustration.

My first real PC was a metal cased, custom built desktop of dubious heritage containing both 5.25” and [new] 3.5” floppy drives.

This was superseded by a much more powerful [in the sense that a beetle is more powerful than an ant] Packard Bell tower case which along with the CRT monitor, keyboard, mouse, printer and Yamaha speakers filled my desk space completely.

In between times I discovered the joy of laptop computing and my first foray into this was in 1999 when I invested in a Dell Inspiron 15” primarily for work use.  This was superseded by the Novatech [see below], which I still own.

I also recently purchased a Dell Mini Netbook, primarily to ensure I had a reliable Windows based machine because some stupid outlets still insist on good old XP [also, see below, but this time a bit further down].

Lugubrious Laptop

My now outdated Windows based laptop is a Novatech Soprano.

It is very heavy for a portable, more of a movable unit boasting super fast 3.07GHz HT Intel Pentium 4 running on 512Mb RAM.  Although now slow compared to the multi-core processor machines.  Storage is a [not nearly as gigantic as it used to feel] 60Gb hard drive and the world is accessed via the built in 56k modem.

I run Micro-pathetic XP Professional and display on the built in 64Mb 15″ TFT LCD.  Audio is supplied by two small shrill insects inside somewhere that like to go bleep very loudly at times.

You can see a photo of this by looking at my article about my Computers in 2003, imaginatively called Computers October 2003.

Lightweight Laptop

An opened but switched off Dell Inspiron Mini 10 Notebook.  It has a glossy screen, black bezel and keyboard and a silver trackpad and wrist rest area
A tiny Dell Inspiron Mini 10 Notebook all ready to link to my massive HiFi Processor

The Dell Mini 10 was, as alluded to earlier, purchased as an insurance against the failure of the Novatech.

In particular I have a computer based HiFi processor which insists on getting its updates via an XP interface.  The quality of the processor is such that it warranted such an acquisition but the Mini is a useful tool for quick and dirty Internet Explorer [spit] web-use such as insisted by certain work clients [after the obligatory updates and virus protection refreshing].

The Mini 10 sports, if that is not over-egging the cake, an Intel Atom Z530 1.6GHz motor driving a 1Gb RAM with 160Gb HD on tap.

Accessories

Printy All-in-One-a-Mabob

A Hewlett [I will take over your system if it’s the last thing I do] Puckhard HP Photosmart C6180 All-in-One, which is a basic lie as there are absolutely loads of things it doesn’t do.

It does do however boast WiFi operation, full colour printing based on the usual sell your mortgage ink supplies, photocopying, after a fuss and only via the website remote scanning and hope it works facsimile functions.

It was chosen as it was the least looking like, but still quite like a, bread bin model.

Wi-Fi

BT provide my WiFi needs via a snazzy HomeHub 2.  This dust collecting device spits out up to N grade WiFi and acts as a router as well.

It could cope with up to 8Mb but BT tell me that my home is only worth 6Mb.  Which would be OK if the speed tests showed more than the usual 3000 to 4000 kbits/s down and about 250-300 kbits/s up.

Author: Vince Poynter
From the Computers section of the vinceunlimited.co.uk website dated 3 Aug 2018
Written and First Published: Version 3.0 Mar 2010
The first image is of the author’s converted bedroom Apple Mac set up showing the matching wallpaper and curtains, the dark wood office style furniture complimenting the wardrobe doors, the black leather executive swivel chair and the neat rows of lever arch file boxes. The computer set up is dominated by the 23 inch Apple Cinema display, with a MacMini on top of a matching back-up drive sat to the right and a Hewlett Packard all-in-one printer to the left. Also seen is an optical mouse, small stereo speakers, an iPod Classic a BT Homehub and an underdesk bass sub-woofer. The image was taken by the author, in summer 2008 and was added in Version 3.0 Mar 2010
The second image is of the author’s second MacMini, the MacMini 2, sat on top of a matching Iomega back up drive. The attached Firewire connector cable was removed but still held its original position. It was taken by the author in Jul 2009 and first added in the website in Version 3.0 Mar 2010
The third image shows a composite of photographs taken by the author in 2009 when my original MacMini was taken apart to be destroyed. The montage was first added to the website in Version 3.0 Mar 2010
The fourth image is of the author’s two home laptops, a MacBook and Dell Mini 10 Notebook, taken in Mar 2010 and first added to the website, Version 3.0, during the same month
The final image is of the author’s Dell Inspiron Mini 10 Notebook, taken in May 2011, first added on 3 Aug 2018

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