Technology

Mac vs. PC – more than meets the eye

Now, I'm not the sort of person who encourages violent arguments about who is 'right' and who is 'wrong', especially when it comes to your choice of computer.  What is right for one person may well be wrong for another, and the term 'better' is only really quantifiable within certain constraints; my Mac is better at surfing the web, but my toaster is still better at making toast.  I've read (and heard) arguments on all sides about which operating system is superior, some of them quite heated.My own conclusions seem to run along the following lines: PCs are cheap and familiar and make good home computers, but tend to get easily overwhelmed by the sheer quantity of software available and it susceptibility to viruses; Macs are beautiful and easy to use once you get the hang of them, but the insistence on top-quality hardware pushes the prices up; Linux is great for getting down and dirty with networking and programming and suchlike, but lacks the intuitive user interface for most normal people.I was slightly dubious, therefore, when I came across this video entitled "Mac vs. PC", inwardly groaning at the thought of yet another OS-bashing video.  However, this one takes the idea a step further, drawing inspiration from a cartoon/toy/movie franchise that claims to be "more than meets the eye".  This video is definitely worth a peek!

(more…)

By Matthew, ago
Technology

The world of two buttons

I love VNC.  I've been using VNC for years.  Back when I was working at the University of Essex as the Chaplaincy Assistant I used VNC pretty much every day to use my computer.  These days I don't use it quite so often, but it still has its uses.For those not in-the-know, VNC is basically a screen sharing protocol.  When I was ChapAss I would load up my VNC program, tap in the IP address of my computer at home, and VNC would show me my own desktop and allow me to use the computer as if I was physically sat in front of it.  The benefit for me at that point was that I could use all the programs I was familiar with (which were far better than the ones the uni computers provided) and keep all my files in one place.  It worked really well, apart from when my computer crashed - then it meant phoning the house to see if anyone was in who could restart the computer.Now, working from home, I have no need of VNC in quite the same way.  However, I do have two computers and only one monitor, so it still comes in handy sometimes.  My Mac is my main computer, on which I do pretty much everything.  But I also have a PC dual-booting XP and Ubuntu, mainly for testing purposes - it's good to know that my web sites work on 'normal' computers too.  And Linux.  So rather than connecting a keyboard, mouse and monitor to my PC, taking up valuable space on my desktop, I VNC into the machine when I want to use it, using both computers from one monitor and set of controls.Of course, there is one small problem that needs to be overcome for this to work properly, and the root of that problem is that traditionally Mac mice have only one button.  With only one mouse button, how do you right click on an operating system that depends on it?(more…)

By Matthew, ago
Internet

My old PC gets Feisty

Yesterday morning when I turned my PC on it refused to let me into Windows.  It got as far as the logon screen and then rebooted itself.  It took until this morning to figure out what the problem was - the USB wireless dongle had come loose and the dodgy hardware connection was causing Windows to panic.  Aww... poor Windows... can't cope with stuff...Anyway, a byproduct of that temporary glitch was that I started looking into getting Linux working again.  I say again, it wasn't actually broken before.  I had installed Ubuntu 6.10 Edgy on the PC over a year ago and never really used it because I couldn't get it to recognise the wireless dongle I had.  However, having got Windows back online with a CAT5 cable I decided to see if I could persuade Ubuntu to go online too.  And that's proved to be a mammoth operation, and I've got little work done today so far.(more…)

By Matthew, ago
Technology

Brain-ache from too much engineering

The last few days I have been doing a lot of thinking.  Not about philosophy, or theology, or relationships, or anything that one might ordinarily spend a lot of time thinking about.  Oh no, I've got to be different.  I've been thinking about how to create suspension systems in Lego Technic.Some of you may remember that a while back I spent a week creating a Lego 'Tumbler' (from the film Batman Begins), with working suspension and steering.  That was a technical challenge, but I managed to pull it off eventually.  I even made a couple of videos of the progress.  Since then it's sat quietly on top of the unit in the lounge, silently gathering dust and being generally forgotten.  Until recently I couldn't bear it any longer, and just had to start thinking about the next version.  Yes, not satisfied with a Lego Tumbler that has working suspension and steering, now I want to put motors in it too.(more…)

By Matthew, ago
Technology

A review of new (and old) technology

Over the years I've owned a motley collection of computers.  My first (other than family computers) was a little laptop I came to university with.  It was relatively cheap, being in an end-of-line sale at Novatech, so it wasn't exactly state of the art by the time I bought it.  It had a 360MHz AMD processor, 32MB of RAM, a 5.6GB hard disk, and ran Windows 95.  Not exactly impressive, even then.  Still, it did me fine for a year, though it did spend most of its life sat on my desk and wasn't really mobile much.  After that came a 1.2GHz tower, with 128MB RAM, 20GB hard disk, and Windows XP.  Even though it was still entry-level it was a significant step up for me, and allowed me to play games.  Not very good games, but they were games nonetheless.However, it wasn't long before I grew tired of the plastic look of XP, and started modding my desktop with all manner of programs, making it look very little like Microsoft designed it to be.  Eventually I found myself themeing everything I could lay my hands on to make it look more like a Mac, striving for that perfect interface.  It was no surprise then when a few years later I bought my first Mac, a second hand G3 Blue&White.  Although originally it would have been only 450MHz the previous owner had stuffed a 1GHz G4 upgrade chip from Sonnet in there, which made a big difference.  In terms of numbers it should have been slower than the PC it replaced, but in fact it was still faster and smoother and certainly more satisfying to use.  Hooray for Apple!(more…)

By Matthew, ago
Life

A story of commitment, journies, sleepless nights, new toys and competition

Well, that's quite possibly the longest blog post title I've ever written.  But with good reason - I have a lot to say in this post.  So feel free to skip bits that you find boring, I won't be offended.  Just don't expect me to mow your lawn for free unless you've read every word.For a slightly more complete description of the above title, allow me to elucidate.  This weekend started on Friday, which was a little odd, with Phil and Esther's wedding.  That was followed by a fairly taxing drive back home, and very little sleep that night on account of my cold.  On a lighter note, I picked up my new computer on Saturday (on which I am writing this very post), and in the evening I had a house full of people to watch the final of I'd Do Anything, Doctor Who and Pushing Daisies.  All in all, quite a busy weekend, and most of that happened without my wife - Ellie was helping out at a church weekend away, so I haven't actually seen her since Friday afternoon. (more…)

By Matthew, ago
Technology

Back to a tower

I mentioned the other day that I was considering buying myself an iMac, to replace my current Mac Mini that is suffering from a lack of memory. The idea behind this was that it would work out cheaper than a full-blown Mac Pro, which would provide far more power than I would really need for my day-to-day work. Looking around on eBay proved that I might be able to stretch to a nice iMac, so all was looking tentatively rosy. Until my Dad left a comment, that is.He recommended looking at a PowerMac G5, which isn't brand new but would provide plenty of power and retain the ability to upgrade in the future. I was a little dubious to begin with, but a quick look at eBay showed that a typical PowerMac G5 was actually cheaper than a comparatively priced iMac. Tempting.(more…)

By Matthew, ago
Technology

Considering a move to the fast lane

I've finally got to the point where I'm considering upgrading my computer again. Some of you may remember that it's actually not that long ago that I bought my current computer, a second-hand Mac Mini, to replace the previous G3 tower that died. In all honesty the Mac Mini was only intended to be a short-term solution, as I need to replace the G3 but didn't really have a budget for it at the time, hence the need for a cheap stop-gap solution.To be fair, the Mac Mini has been superb. It looks great, does the job very nicely, is blissfully quiet, and has a faster processor than the G3. And for a £260 Mac, it really was a bargain. Unfortunately, however, its power just doesn't match up to my needs, and I've reached the point where I have to seriously consider budgeting for a more powerful alternative.(more…)

By Matthew, ago
Internet

The new face of Gmail

Gmail logoThe other day I logged into my old Gmail account and discovered a pleasant surprise - Google has updated their webmail system.  The changes are subtle, but are still significant improvements.  So significant, in fact, that I'm moving all my personal mail to Gmail. (Curiously, it doesn't appear to be a global upgrade - I also have a googlemail.com address, which hasn't been updated, so they're obviously upgrading in stages.)So, what is it about Gmail that sets it apart from the crowd?  And, more importantly, why has it tempted me away from a 'proper' e-mail client on my computer? (more…)

By Matthew, ago