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scrottie (4167)

scrottie
  scott@slowass.net
http://slowass.net/

My email address is scott@slowass.net. Spam me harder! *moan*

Journal of scrottie (4167)

Sunday July 22, 2007
06:43 PM

Two New Toys: Mac with Mac OS X and the Nokia N800

[ #33859 ]

Got a PowerBook G3 Lombard off eBay for $25 plus $25 S&H. 192 megs of RAM, no HD, shot battery. Loaded it with Panther (one version out of date) and I've been playing with it. I asked FreeNode's #mac for Mac killer apps and must have utilities and got a long list of Mac-ized versions of programs I was already familiar with, or were fairly pointless but pretty GUI layers over command line utilities, had an identical Linux distro, or else did some minor desktop organizational task. I wound up with Firefox, VLC, Miro, and a pile of other things.

The thing kind of reminds me of the Nokia N800 that I picked up not long ago -- it does a whole bunch of stuff out the box, and there's a bunch of software for it that installed effortlessly. The N800 is, for me, a camera that uploads its own videos to youtube, and an mp3 player that pirates its own music, and a streaming audio player that'll also stream out. It's the yin and yang, the whole package, and it's tiny and smart and sexy and you can get under the hood. You can drop into Linux, go root, or get a shell, but you wind up not doing that much because, well, it's just knid of against the prevailing mood of the device -- just putzing around being a happy user.

Both the Mac and the N800 are based on Unix but both launch into a complete system that's pleasurable to use and have vast amounts of entertaining software to play with. Either could lure a programmer away from programming, as if under the influence of some narcotic. Both give a (probably false) impression that no more development is necessary and we can all just be happy users now.

Except...

Miro (former DemocracyPlayer) still doesn't work. It draws some GUI in and then tries to fetch the channel guide and sits there forever or until you kill it. I've been trying to get it to work on Linux for ages, trying again each time a new version comes out or when I get my hands on a different distro it supposedly supports. I think it's one of those things where people assume it works but no one has actually seen it go. At best, it's a testament to the remarkable inability of Python, the only language with worse backwards compat than Java, to actually deploy.

The Panther installed was kind of a piece of crap. I kind of it had it built up in my mind that installing OS X would be unlike installing any other OS but as it turns out, it's exactly like every other rotten installer. It makes you partition your drive, and format it. It gets confused and forgets to install the bootstrap stuff. It hits read errors on the disc and rather than skipping the package, it blows up and you have to start over. The installed made no mention of having to dig through the menus to find the disc utility but after getting stuck for lack of a HD I eventually did a linear crawl of all of the options and found it. After the HD was (repeatedly) partitioned and formatted, it still refused to use it, claiming it couldn't be booted from, giving no indication on how to make it so it could be booted from. As it turns out, rebooting and booting from it accomplished the task of making the installer recognize it. It was pretty, but it was laughably bad just like every other installer -- self-inconsistent, completely unhelpful, with even the simplest scenario full of lots of jumping around and searching for hidden options. But it was pretty.

Safari crashes like nuts. I've used it on other people's computers and the fact that people continue to use it just because it came with the machine blows my mind. Sometimes it'll wedge up three seconds in -- I shit you not. I went to type a url real quick, hit enter, realized I mistyped, re-placed the cursor while it was still loading the page, and *wedge*. Clicking around any given site and you'll loose the piece of junk within a minute.

Other programs, like Firefox and VLC, make their Linux counterparts look like a half assed port by comparison.

And Panther is pretty damn zippy on this old 333mhz G3. I can play back video files at full speed, though not full screen. Youtube works fine, even though it's chunky on the 800mhz Via sitting next to it. The desktop video effects aren't as smooth as they could be but they don't slow things down. And Tiger supposedly runs on this thing with just a little tweaking -- that's 8 years of backwards compatibility out of Apple Computer^HInc.

The thing pulled all of its critical updates in one go and all of the fluffy updates in another go -- firing up the last version of Windows, say Windows 2003 SP 0, you'd be there all day pulling updates and rebooting. There are controls for most things in the control panel though not always a whole bunch of options. It's friendly and easy to use. I don't find myself getting lost as in Windows. Nothing seems to go more than two screens in and it's extremely logically laid out.

The hardware is fantastic. Everything is solid, well made, and just extra nice. The thing is curved. The keyboard lifts off by just sliding three tabs down, exposing the RAM slot and HD. Little levers eject the battery or CD. It'll take batteries in both bays. The screen's color isn't as good as newer LCDs but it's probably on par for 1999.

In both cases, I'm very much enjoying having these things on my desktop (or pocket). In fact, I'm feeling kind of guilty having both of them.

-scott

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