Monday, December 05, 2011

Stand for the CBC

I have been a listener and viewer of CBC since 1971. Many things can be said about CBC's contribution to Canada, Canadian society and the rest of the world. What I think is its most important contribution, however, is that it is brings Canada together as a nation. I don't feel it is hyperbole to say that it is the modern equivalent of the building of the Canadian Pacific.

Many of CBC's program, especially Radio One, are family affairs, that bring not only prominent Canadians and international persons into closer dialog with "ordinary" Canadians, but also provide a forum and kitchen table for all those not-so-ordinary Canadians to have a family chat, a debate, or celebration.

As the current government actually conserves nothing, they are, of course, seeking to destroy the CBC. This agenda has in plain sight for decades, and now with a Conservative government that has kicked its progressive sensibilities to the septic field, please stand with me to make your voice heard.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

One Month+ with the MacBook Air

I suppose all love affairs have to end at some point, but I don't foresee my feelings about the MBA changing.  If anything, after more than month with it, my admiration for it, if not my crush on it, has increased. 

There has not been one hiccough (yeah, I know ... old spelling; I'm old,) and I only see the MacBook line getting better as the technology that drives the Air migrates to the MacBook Pro line.  The only drawback I see to the machine is that RAM is not upgradeable.  The RAM module(s) is/are soldered to the system board, so upgrading would be difficult and somewhat costly.

 The other limitation is the lack of Ethernet port.  Designed as an ultralight laptop replacement, this makes sense.  WiFi may not be ubiquitous, but it is normally readily available.  It is at home or office that an Ethernet port would be an advantage, especially when uploading a lot of data to a network drive.

You can, of course, get a USB-to-Ethernet adapter, but that limits you to 10/100 speeds, as the Air's USB port is 2.0 -- no Gigabit speeds for this machine.  The Air's Thunderbolt port is faster than even USB 3.0, so this makes sense.  But there are precious few Thunderbolt devices, much less adapters, available at this time, and the jury will be out on Thunderbolt for awhile, perhaps for a long time.  A Thunderbolt to gigabit Ethernet adapter would be really, really handy.

Which brings us to Thunderbolt itself.  Happily, there are some display port to HDMI available, and I purchased the Kanex which works perfectly and seems to be solidly built.  In our spare room we have a 22"  HDTV set (720p), and I wanted to use that as a larger display for photo editing and to have a dual display setup available.

With the Kanex adapter, it works perfectly! Well ... as perfectly as the Sylvania (Funai) technology permits.  As a TV, the Sylvania is not bad.  Video from my satellite receiver via HDMI and Nintendo via component is good.  But at only 720p and with an older, lower spec'd panel from an unknown manufacturer, it's really not going to cut it for serious photo editing.

What I would like is a 27" IPS display that can also serve as a TV monitor.  At that size, an IPS display is going to run serious money.  Models from NEC, Dell, HP are going to be north of $1K, and an Eizo FlexScan SX2762W, which is pretty much an industry standard for the graphics environment, is over $1600.

Enter, then, the Apple Thunderbolt at $999 (less with employee purchase plan discount,) which not only starts to look "cheap" but adds 10Gb peripheral port capability -- and that's full duplex.

The fly in that ointment is that to date there are no adapters available to connect HDMI sources such as AV receivers, satellite and cable boxes to the Thunderbolt display.   This is after the first release of Thunderbolt technology about 9 months ago.  If I have any criticism of Apple at all, it is that they have repeatedly developed and implemented new I/O technologies that have not gone mainstream.  Firewire ... DisplayPort ... these and others were proprietary enough to keep them from becoming standards.  In this case, my understanding is that Apple initiated Thunderbolt and transferred IP  to Intel for development so that indeed it could become a standard.  That's hopeful, but it's not a guarantee of success.

Another option would be for Apple to manufacture or purchase as many adapters and devices for Thunderbolt as possible and flood the market.  Hell, make PCI-e to TB adapters and practically give them away.  Entice Windows PC owners and at the very least you they will sell some devices that are either Apple branded or branded by 3rd party suppliers closely associated with Apple.  How many Windows users have iPods and iPhones?  Make the next gen of those devices Thunderbolt-enabled for super-fast syncing (yeah, I know ... iCloud is replacing tethered syncing,) and watch how many of those users eventually buy a Mac. 

Such a strategy is not technically difficult.  On the Intel page referenced above, Intel states:

"Extend to reach other I/O technologies by using adapters that use widely available PCI Express* controllers. It's simple to create a Gigabit Ethernet, FireWire, or eSATA adapter using existing device PCI Express* drivers."

Did you get that Apple and Apple partners? 

Of course, Jason Hiner thinks the whole Thunderbolt strategy is a block on wireless USB 3.0

If so, Apple (the only "major" user of TB that I know of) and Intel better get really, really busy. Anyone who comes out with wireless USB is going to have at least a reasonable chance of having a major impact on technology.  And making a lot of money.

Then there's the rumoured Apple Television (not the Apple TV set-top device) ... which I would hope would have HDMI input as well as Thunderbolt.

But back to my MacBook Air ... Will Moyer wrote a blog entry about his MBA purchase.  His only real negative was that he felt the cursor (arrow) keys were chintzy.  I don't find mine to be any different than the other keys, and they certainly don't feel chintzy.  I suspect Apple has more than one OEM vendor for keyboards, and I got lucky.

So all-in-all, I'm still thrilled.  It's like being on a really long honeymoon with an inanimate object. 

Yeah, I'm weird.  But you knew that.

Saturday, October 01, 2011

My new name is Gene Wilburn

After all, I'm sitting in a coffee shop, writing on a MacBook Air. This is a good trick because the "real" Gene Wilburn is no doubt sitting across Lake Ontario (about 100 miles as the crow flies,) in a coffee shopt, writing on a MacBook Air.

There is a lovely symmetry to this, don't you think? Actually, it was my friend Gene's experience with his MBA that contributed to my final decision to make the jump.

Gene is a fellow photographer and fellow IT professional. With a long career as a techie, I figured someone who had been a Unix sysadmin, developer working on contract for a major, major online retailer, someone who dove into Apple and loved the experience, well ... what can you say?

Having been a long-time Wintel user, I had resisted Macintosh primarily for two reasons.

First there was the price. Mac fans will argue that there is more long-term value to the purchase of most Apple products, and won't argue that point as I really haven't been qualified to do so. But the fact remains that if you don't have the up-front cash, then you just don't have it. For some years I held that premise as a major barrier.

Second, there was familiarity. Once you're deep into knowledge and experience of a particular system, technical or otherwise, there is an inherent resistance to changing. Don't get me wrong, I am not stubbornly resistant to change. I just knew what a big, time-consuming effort it would be to make the leap.

Fortunately I overcame the first challenge with a really novel technique -- I saved. Shocking, I know. Every paycheque I put aside $75 into savings, moving some of it into a CD once I hit the minimum deposit for a CD. I created a spreadsheet predicting the date when I would be able to purchase a specific model of MacBook. I noticed that in general I would have sufficient funds just after the Air product line was likely to be refreshed.

This pleased me, since I deduced that I likely would be able to purchase a better, more powerful Air for the same money, or I could purchase a previous configuration for less in the event the refreshed models were not a significant upgrade. If you know Apple, you know that latter was not likely to happen. And it didn't.

I ended up with (delivered at 11:51 yesterday!)

MacBook Air 13"
128 SSD
Apple One-to-One

I'll write another post (or several) about my experience, but for now I can summarize my impressions as follows

* Wow -- amazing design and build quality
* Smooooooth
* Fast

Monday, July 04, 2011

Thoughts on Interdependence Day

Yes, I know it's Independence Day in the US, and yes, I know there is an Interdependence Project, though I don't know anything, really, about that except that it's a secular Buddhist affiliation.

It occurred to me this morning, however, that one of the central ills of the US is the whole idea of what independence is. Somehow the issue of separation from a ruling government not of one's choosing has morphed into "We can do anything we want just because we are us/US."

This is trouble.

All things, all beings are interdependent. That's not an optional view or belief system.

It just is.

Sunday, March 06, 2011

Tuesday, February 08, 2011


Enlightenment seems to be greatly misunderstood. As it has no "definitive definition", all I can really say is that is not perfection; it is not achieving a permanent state of detachment from externalities.

Sitting outside, summer day
Silent. Total
Breeze ceased
Skin, air intertwined without notice
That big tree there
That colour of sky