2007 — 22 Feb: missing only the main event

Apple wrote me a nice email to reassure me that the iMac is now on its way. Meanwhile, since yesterday afternoon I've had my nose stuck in the pair of fat "The Missing Manual" titles that Mr Amazon very kindly dropped off next door in those crucial few minutes while we were out1 for our combined brisk walk in the drizzle and pick up a pint of milk exercise session. Somebody has to keep an eye on the progress of local building developments, don't you agree? And it may as well be us.

The two titles are at least well-written:

Play nice now, boys

The basic spec of the iMac is essentially identical to that of the (very capable) HP Media PC I bought four months ago. We will overlook the amazing price discrepancy issue — a chap needs his hobbies. Although I was woefully underwhelmed by the Windows XP Media Center 2005 experience installed on the HP I have no problems at all with the basic performance of the box. In fact, it's going to be a fascinating exercise to have Mac OS X and WinXP sitting side by side — at least for a while. (And let's not overlook the Ubuntu 6.10 I have on the Gateway system, a 2.8GHz dual core Pentium D from a year earlier.) I shall also be able to run the Dell 24" screen as a satellite to the Mac's own integrated 24" screen as well as keeping it as the main screen of the HP, it seems.

If it turns out that there is some killer app that needs me to keep a Windows system2 then so be it, though both Boot Camp and Parallels offer scope for keeping a small-scale Windows partition, as it were, knocking around on the Mac. Still, I can quite see yet another Ubuntu installation looming, this time in the HP's near future.

Nominative determinism by another name

The Barbican is to host an exhibition charting 2,000 years of explicit depiction (aka erotic art). So sensitive is the material that only over-18s will be allowed in...

"It's not a show for someone to get their rocks off on, but a serious scholarly undertaking," said the Barbican's head of galleries, Kate Bush.

Charlotte Higgins, in the "National" section of the Guardian, 22 February 2007

"Getting your rocks off on." Such poetry, Ms. Bush! Is it like being caught between a rock and a hard place? On an almost related note, by the way, did you realise "Britney Spears" is an anagram of "errs by panties"? My newspaper (and its letter writers) has so far never ceased to amuse me.

In other news

The new Epson flat-bed colour scanner3 also showed up, as did the amazingly neat little "Slug". But still nothing from Ernie, dammit. I shall let chum Brian try said Slug's power supply as he suspects problems with his own. We shall also attempt the lobotomising and installing-of-a-new-personality (Linux) exercise on my neighbour's original model Xbox, largely because it's there, and can be done, and it's otherwise just going to go on sitting there now that its user has grown up and left the nest. Brian's turned his into a streaming BBC media player, basically. But other possibilities exist, of course.

I also found time to read the user manuals for the Toshiba HD DVD player I saw in Comet a few weeks back and a corresponding Samsung Blu-Ray player. Both are hedged full of amazingly similar caveats about the "evolving" standards that mean no guarantees of playing the full range of existing disk types. Plus some mealy-mouthed descriptions of how analogue (video and audio) content is degraded (not the exact word either manufacturer uses, funnily enough) when the hi-res media carries the appropriate content tokens.

What I somehow hadn't expected ever to read in an appendix to a piece of domestic kit, of course, is a full-blown GPL EULA to accompany the Linux code embedded into one of these players! Actually, seeing a "Java" logo was a bit of a shock, too.

Well done, Fran!

My friend Frances Allen (having been IBM's first-ever Lady Fellow) is now the first-ever lady recipient of the Turing award. Yippee!

Day 111  


1  If I didn't know better, I could swear delivery chaps lurk out of sight round the corner until they see me leave the house. But good neighbours help thwart their plans!
2  So far, the only one I can think of is the Windows-only code that offers the ability to download software to upgrade the flash ROMs in my Humax satellite receiver, DVDO video scaler, and Humax digital PVR via serial ports. And for that I use the Windows Home partition I've left on the Gateway machine in any case, not the HP. (As keener readers will remember, I've already discovered the hard way that modern Intel Media PCs have now dispensed with old-fashioned RS232 serial ports. Although Brian assures me a simple Serial-to-USB cable fixes even that, it won't fix the "Windows-only" nature of the two utilities I use.)
3  Don't anyone tell Big Bro, but this looks well able to scan 35mm slides at the same 4000 dpi as his fancy Nikon Coolscan. But at just over 20% of the price. I'm sure it will be fine for my porpoises (actually, we have lots of slides of ducks, too!)