Life By marco, August 06 2006

Not a good idea: taking the 06:40 train on Sunday from Amsterdam to Haarlem and then falling asleep and waking up just as you're approaching Heemstede-Aerdenhout. Because the next train back (a 5-minute trip) will be 45 minutes later and at that time in the morning, in a place you don't know with no stores in sight open there's not really anything to do. Besides slamming your head into the wall for half an hour because the falling asleep part was stupid.

Tech, Life By marco, July 11 2006

I've never made a secret of not liking the 'MacBook Pro' name. PowerBook just had a better ring to it. It said 'This is a powerful machine, in book form'. And the 'Power' part never had anything to do with the PowerPC: they were called PowerBooks even when motorola m68k chips still made them spin.

So now that I have one, how am I going to get around this? The answer is quite simple. You see, the G3, G4 and G5 don't really exist. They're just marketing-friendly names for the PowerPC 750, 74xx and 970 respectively. The G standing for 'Generation' and the number having an obvious use in that classification.

So I want you to meet Portia, my Macintosh PowerBook G6:

Portia: Powerbook G6

She has a 2.0GHz G6 (Also known as Intel Core Duo) processor, with 2 gigs of memory and an 80 gig hard drive. And so far she's been wonderful.

Tech By marco, June 28 2006

Every day, I have 30 minutes of time to waste on a train, going from Haarlem to Amsterdam or vice versa, a 15-minute trip. Sometimes, I open up a laptop to write a few more lines of code or play some gridwars or whatever. Most of the times, I'll also have a look at the wireless networks around. It always surprises me how many there are these days.

So the past few days I've been lugging a MacBook Pro around, and I've noticed it's very good at sniffing out wireless beacons. My TiBook will usually only show only one or two networks where the macbook will pick up on 6 or 7.

I've described two dots. Now let's connect them.

I figured it was time to run KisMAC on the macbook while on the train from Amsterdam to Haarlem. I've actually done this before when I was still using a PowerBook G3 with a PCMCIA wifi card, but didn't really pick up on anything. I think I found about 5 networks that day. This time was a little different.

Some stats: Between Amsterdam Central Station and Haarlem, there are at least 110 wireless networks, reachable from inside a moving train. Of those, 33 are on channel 1, and 38 are on channel 11. 17 are on channel 6, 8 are on channel 13, 7 on channel 7, 6 on channel 3 and one on channel 8. The other channels don't see any action. 17 networks use WPA encryption. 37 use WEP. The remainder is unencrypted. 30 seem to be set to their defaults.

This was with an active scan, as KisMAC does not yet support passive scanning on intel macs. That means hidden networks do not show. I think I might repeat this experiment later with a non-pro MacBook. It has even better wifi reception thanks to its entirely non-metal case.

Scan results as a Netstumbler text file.


Tried it on a MacBook non-pro too. As I thought, it does slightly better: it comes up with 286 networks. Contrast that to my TiBook which picks up on a whopping 15 networks.

General By marco, June 01 2006

Ok, so just to address the two things that I thought would annoy me about the MacBook:

  • The keyboard: not that bad. The flat keys feel a bit strange at first and the vertical return key seems to be a bit thinner, but overall it's ok.
  • The screen: not as bad as some PC versions of glossy screens, but still crap. I work with a lot of terminals which happen to have a dark background, and that makes the gloss show up badly even in fairly dim lighting. I can see myself move around, and anyone who might happen to be behind me. When the screen is mostly bright that disappears for a large part, but stuff like ceiling lighting will still show up. Not a good idea for an office environment with the fluorescent lights that go with it.

Picture to illustrate the screen problem:


Also note how the remote handily sticks to the screen bezel.

The rest is pretty nice. I absolutely adore the magnetic features: the MagSafe connector obviously and the new, entirely brilliant magnetic latch. No more buttons to press to open the laptop, yet it stays shut well-enough to make you think the the little hook that popped out before is still there. The speakers sound fairly ok considering their size, and overall it's been pretty speedy.

And don't worry, I'm still against this Intel thing. That will take time.

Life By marco, May 22 2006

Having not attended last year's highly successful (or so I heard) BarCamp Amsterdam, I felt I had to make up. By being late every day. But anyway. It was an interesting experience.

I intended to code somewhat on a DNS based remote Growl Notification Thingo I'm working on. In practise, that never actually happened. Between running around with my camera and talking to other people, there was just no time.

I did meet some interesting people, among which were Matt Biddulph and Deb Bassett. They both brought Canon 350Ds, which I also happen to own, so we had this little unphotoclub thing going on. Matt instantly handed over his newly acquired (same morning, in fact) Canon EF-S 10-22 lens when I, at that point a total stranger, asked for it. That's the kind of trustingness that I like in people. I think at this point I've used his new lens more than he has. (Sorry about that.) Deb has a sixth sense for cameras. She is able to tell if any camera in a fifty meter radius is pointed at her and will break out a big smile (barely contained, here). We tried to see what would happen if we overloaded it by pointing 5 cameras at her, but she's pretty resistant to that. I gave them my lensbaby to try. There was 'oooh'-ing.

I also had a quick go at iRex's e-ink device, the iLiad, handily brought by Edwin Mons. At first I thought the device was just an empty fake one, as seen with cellphones and PDAs in stores because the display looked like it was just printed plastic. But then it changed. This is what it looks like. Look at the screen, it's beautiful. If it weren't glossy, it could have been actual paper. (iRex: hint, hint.)

Anyway, of course the usualsuspects were there, as were lots of other interesting people. The list is at the BarCampAmsterdamII wiki and above-mentioned Matt has one too, so I'm not going to duplicate those.

I think everything went rather well. Some initial trouble with the WiFi on friday night after a thinko on my side causing everyone on the second Base Station I added not to be able to get DHCP going. Got an epiphany after the second Mac user complained and fixed it. No more complaints after that, except for Gijs Kruitbosch, who was reinstalling his laptop and was having trouble even getting Ethernet going, most probably due to something Ubuntu did wrong. Oh well.

So I had a good time at least, hope we'll do this again soonish.