31 October 2009

PowerBook G3 "Wall Street"

As a Mac geek, it makes perfect sense for me to write about my first Mac computer as the first entry in the Heartbreak Hardware series. It was 1997 or 1998, I was recently married and living with the in-laws in Brooklyn, space was tight. I had a 486 Packard Bell running on Windoze 95, but I had no place in my room to keep it so it was put in the basement. It was accessible but I just had to make the trip from my room from the second floor to the basement. It did not help that the PeeCee, like the typical machine back then, and even now, took forever to boot up. I am sure there were instances when just as the PeeCee was ready for use, it was dinner time and I had to turn off the computer then made the trip back upstair. I also had an Amiga 3000 but without the ability to get online I left it at my parents' home in Queens. Perhaps the A3000 can be written about in a future Heartbreak Hardware article.

Twelve years ago, I had no problem recalling the specs on the PowerBook G3. These days, I only remember that it is a Wall Street model. It still works so I now know that it runs at 266 MHz. It has 530 MB of RAM but I know that is not the original. I do remember dropping it off at Tekserv to have the memory upgraded. When the hard drive died, I got a 12-GB replacement drive from Other World Computing and did the change myself. I love how the keyboard comes off easily to grant access to the hard drive. Hot-swapping was, and still is, a great feature on the PB G3. The default hot-swappable items are the battery on the left and the CD-ROM drive on the right. The Removable Media War at the time involved everyone trying to unseat Iomega's Zip drive. I sided with "everyone" and bought the hot-swappable 120-MB SuperDisk from Imation. (On the drive itself, the maker is identified as VST Technologies). One major selling point for the SuperDisk was the it could do double duty as a floppy disk drive. It was a slooow disk drive but it got the job done. Eventually, I ended up with a Zip 250 USB external drive.

Like having a first child, I bought many extra hardware for the PB G3. In no particular order, they included: a PC Card USB adapter; a PC Card Firewire adapter; a Firewire CD-RW burner that was half the size of the PB G3 itself; a $99 special cable to connect the PB G3's ADB printer port to the parallel port on an HP LJ 4L; a $50 SCSI cable, bought from DataVision (Fifth Ave. and 39th Street) so I could use the 1-GB Jaz drive I originally bought for use with the 486 Packard Bell PeeCee. The battery had to be replaced then even the second battery died.

On the software front, I upgraded the OS once to 9.2.2 and a few times in OS X. Eudora Light was my email client, Roxio burnt backup CDs or CD-RWs for me, and I tried out many web browsers, including Netscape Navigator and Camino.

Some time in 2001, possibly with great influence by OS X's ever-greater demands, I got a domed iMac and the PowerBook G3 finally got retired. Four years of life is a long duration in computer time.

29 October 2009

Heartbreak Hardware

What is worse than a ranting and raving computer geek? A nostalgic, ranting and raving computer geek, of course! I have thought about writing a series called "Heartbreak Hardware" but got distracted by things like work, family, and Facebook.

Unlike software, hardware, or physical components, are not easily upgraded or improved. Sure, for a computer you can add some extra RAM and put in a larger hard drive and get a few more years of useful life out of it. But there are other hardware pieces that simply become so outdated there is nothing you can do about them. Many people buy new computers every few years and toss the old ones out. It is heartbreaking, to some geeky people like me, to think about these hardware pieces. In the next few posts, I'll interlace my usual, infrequent rants with trips down hardware memory lane...

28 October 2009

Return To JHS 73

After about 27 years I re-visited JHS 73, just the outside, of course. It was a rainy Saturday, the morning of which I spent at my high school. I was disappointed to find the school covered by scaffolds but the school yard sure looked nice. After such a long time, I can only recall the time spent waiting for the Q-58 bus and sometimes going upstream, as far as past the LIE to catch the bus. Other times I just made the long walk home, all the way back to Elmhurst Avenue and Roosevelt Avenue.

21 October 2009

Meet My Philo

Much as I think of myself as a green person, I am no gardener. I cannot easily identify plants like some real gardeners and the only garden plot I ever had was overrun by weeds because I wasn't around often enough. I do have one plant that, sort of, has been around almost twenty years.

At my first job out of college, an engineering consulting firm, I volunteered to water the plants in my area. There was a tall cactus and a few others that I don't remember now. A co-worker bought a house and there was this plant sitting in the backyard. It wasn't well-tended so she brought it into the office for me to take care of. Sitting by the window, the plant grew healthy and started to climb its way around. Exposed to plenty of sun, the plant's leaves can become really big. Cut a piece and you can grow a new plant from the dismembered piece. As I changed job over the years, I brought the plant, or a descendant of it, with me. A few people liked it and I would cut a piece, put the piece in the pot and gave the pot and plant away. I can recall at least three people I met at the jobs I had who received a piece of the plant from me.

All along I didn't even know what type of plant I had. I told you I am not a good gardener, right? It was not until the year 2000 that I finally did a little research and arrived at the now-defunct web site www.vg.com. It was supposedly something related to Time-Life books. Good thing I have a printed page telling me the plant is a philodendron, of the burgundy variety. The plant shown here is now in my home office, although there may not be enough light, sun-provided or otherwise, so I may have to move it elsewhere later on.

Here's to a few more years of growth, my Philo!

08 October 2009

Facebook - Share Photos With Groups

I've been active in helping run my high school reunion scheduled for next year. We have a Facebook group, naturally, and found a few hundred people already. It is great to see the old photos when someone managed to dig them up and share them. Most of the time though, the owners of the photos only share them via their personal albums. One would have to be friends with the owners to know about the photos. I suggested that the owners share the photos with the group but most of them don't know how. So here it is, the step-by-step process of sharing a photo, which was already uploaded to one's personal album, with a group.

For this example, I will post a photo that I already put into my personal album called "Recycling". The group that I will post the photo, that of a recycling bin under the sink, to the group called "I Love Recycling".

First I went to my list of groups. There are many ways to get there. You can go to lower corner of any Facebook screen to click on the Groups icon, which is a picture of 2 people, blue one on the left and a black one on the right. The way FB present the groups can be annoying. It defaults to show only those with recent activities on the right, plus groups that your friends have activities in on the left, so that the group that you want to get to may not be visible right away. If that's the case, you would need to click the See All but on the right side to see all your groups. Even then your groups list will not be in alphabetical order but rather in order of activities. Find the group you want to add the photo and click it. (I'll assume everyone uses a Mac and there is only one button to click. I sure wish life is really that simple, but I digress...)

Once in the group, scroll down to below the Wall Posts and above the Link List to find the Photos section. Click Add Photos.
As shown in the screenshot below, you want to have the tab called Add From My Photos selected. You can upload photos from scratch but why repeat the work? In my mind, the only time you want to do that is if you don't want to share certain comments people already added to the photos that were already uploaded into your album.
You may have many albums and again FB annoyingly doesn't list things alphabetical by default but rather by creation date, or some other way. Find your album and click it.
To add just the photo of the bin under the sink, I clicked its checkbox. Note that the photo of the standing bin in the dark is already selected. I added that photo earlier so it remains selected. To finalize this part of the process, I clicked Add Selected Photos.

If I have many photos to add, there is a Select All button on the right, but my screenshot doesn't show it.
Back in the "I Love Recycling" group, my new photo is now shown as the latest addition to the group's photos album. Done!

07 October 2009

Tiger, Snow Leopard, Oh My!

This cartoon reflects my recent experience of going from Mac OS X 10.4 to 10.6. You sure save some money by not upgrading whenever a new OS comes out, but the bigger leap, when you do upgrade, takes more time to adjust to. Especially when the new OS is really new. Some software simply stop working, as is the case with NeoOffice. There was a fix, but you had to donate some minimum dollar amount to have access to it. I donated some amount before and didn't mind meeting the higher, minimum amount but it was something I'd rather not have to deal with.

04 October 2009

The Strangers We Meet Everyday

One of my favorite songs by Cantopop singer Sam Hui is 天才與白痴 . It can be loosely translated as Geniuses and Idiots, although the movie by the same name is called The Last Message. Such is the usual case with movie titles translated from Chinese to English, or vice versa - the original meaning does not necessarily stick. But I digress.

A great play on words, the song is mostly about the many types of people in this world. You can not always tell who is dumb or who is smart. The first two lines of the song go

呢個世界上 有精仔 有懵仔 有叻仔 散仔 賭仔 重有戇居仔

有衰仔 有好仔 反骨仔 癲仔 蠢仔 重弊過敗家仔

Still, this past Friday I came across two different people and I am pretty sure which one is an ignoramus.

After picking up my son, niece, and nephew from school, I treated them to Italian ices at the store near the school. Nephew got his treat first then my son accidentally knocked the cup onto the ground. Nephew was very upset and started to cry, even though I told him I would buy him another one. The Ice Cream Man noticed the commotion and told Nephew that he would scoop him another one. When it was time to pay, I was ready to pay for the extra scoop but the Ice Cream Man didn't charge me for it. Maybe he was the owner and was business-savvy enough to know not to nickel-and-dime every customer. Maybe he just knows it's good business to give back a little some time to build loyalty. Whatever the case, he won my approval and although with the cool weather fast approaching he may close down for the season soon, I will no doubt patronize the place again and again in the future.

At dinner time, I had a much less pleasant experience. I went to dinner at Popeye's Fried Chicken with a big group, something like eleven people. The place was crowded and we only had a 4-people table to squeeze 6 kids in. The adults had to stand or sit at some other tables. Right next to our kids table there was a man, all by himself at a 4-people table. He even had a plastic bag on the seat next to him so he actually took up 2 seats out of 4. We were right in front of him and he could not have possibly not seen us. He made no attempt at moving a table back to the 2-people table. One of the adults in my group eventually asked him if she could sit opposite him and he didn't object. Yet he still made no effort to move. Maybe in his culture, wherever he was from, sharing tables at restaurant is to be expected. But if he was a considerate person, he would have moved away and let us have his table. Some people are just plain clueless.