Alison Scott is undergoing a religious conversion.

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Thursday, June 13, 2002

I probably ought to mention, while I'm at it, that if you'd like to go and look at the <plokta.con> slide show, now properly edited and hardly repeating itself at all, it's available here.

10:36:01 PM  comment []    

Ooh, lots of stuff to tell you all about. That's if anyone is still reading, that is.

It's like this. I haven't actually abandoned Macadamia for Live Journal. But I was so busy with work and the last minute preparations for <plokta.con> that I didn't touch the iMac for nearly a month. It's because I don't have MS Office, or Photoshop, on this machine, and most of the preparations for the convention were done in Word, Excel or Photoshop. (There were also lots of e-mails, on Agent, and a substantial number of text files, using NoteTab Pro). But now I'm back, and have clearly been seduced by Apple's advertising, because I sit down at this machine and think "This is the computer I have fun with".

One thing that happened at plokta.con was relevant to Macadamia and also very gratifying. But first, cast your mind back to 1993. It's not really that long ago, is it? It was, for example, the year Mosaic was launched. That Easter, at Helicon (that year's national SF convention), the showstopping feature of the closing ceremony was a slide show of the convention. We oohed, we aahed. They'd taken photos all through the weekend, and then got them developed in the photographers in the basement of the hotel.

Now, fast forward nine years. Chris O'Shea lent us his data projector (without which, &c; I really do need to buy myself one before running another con). We used our ordinary laptops (which are PCs). We got people to lend us their flash cards before the end of the con, and we ran them all as a slideshow. No time to edit. 738 photos. Chris said "It's just like Groundhog Day, except it's the same every time". Later that evening, Geri Sullivan returned from visiting KIM Campbell in York. We offered to show her the photos. "I want to take them home with me!" she declared. Mayhem ensued. A huge range of superfluous technology spilled out onto the table as the members of the convention saw a side of the cabal that is normally hidden from them. And Geri got out her TiBook. And then we paused. Geri knows everything about Mac OS 9. Steve Davies & Dr Plokta are serious Windows geeks. But the first several things they tried didn't work. Dr P showed me a photo of the crab nebula on Geri's laptop. "Gosh, that's gorgeous" I exclaimed. "It's a good photo, isn't it?" he agreed. "I wasn't looking at the photo," I explained.

Eventually we booted up the TiBook in OS X. I remembered enough of the syntax for the samba share in finder to mount the PC's hard disk on Geri's TiBook, and we copied the photos over. We also copied a load of other crap over by mistake, but there you go. It's amazing how the things you learn turn out to be useful later.

At <>, I had several conversations about the iMac, and also a conversation with Max, where she asked me about my experiences so far, and I said I loved everything except the hybrid networking, and she said 'does the Mac still treat you as if you're an idiot?' I allowed that some of the programs have fewer user-definable tweaks than I would like, which makes them easy to use but not very configurable (I have much the same problem with many Palm programs, of which more later).

The main example of this for me so far has been iTunes, which burns a CD. Just like that. It's so easy. But unlike the rip mix burn software I use on the PC, it doesn't automatically re-level the music. So the recording level varies wildly when I try to play my CD full of mp3s in the car. I'm not quite sure what to do about this.

I explained to Max that OS X has Unix underpinnings beneath its superfrothy GUI, but she looked unconvinced. I think this is probably a 'horses-for-courses' thing; I am increasingly coming to realise that I don't want to wrestle with my computer on a daily basis.

Remember Apple asking people like me why we switched? Well, they've constructed an advertising campaign out of the replies; and one of the people who is starring in his own ad is Mark Frauenfelder of BoingBoing, the best blog in the world. The switching site is a bit disingenuous, though. It says that networking with PCs is easy, and tells you how to mount PC shares on the Mac (as described above). It doesn't tell you how to get a Mac share on the PC, and with good reason; you can't do it without spending substantial extra money for a third party package. And although it claims you can share network printers, again, it only explains how for proper grown-up networks. I still don't think I can share the laser printer on my little peer-to-peer network. So it's a bit like having half a network. None of this would be a problem for anyone who actually switched over all at once, though. But do people do that? Surely most people would want to keep their old PC and network. If you don't blog for weeks on end, you find yourself with a ton of things to talk about.

Meanwhile, my PC started making horrid graunchy noises. I opened the case, hoovered the power supply, and they went away. It also continues to give GDIs whenever I try to do several things at once. At the worst part of the getting-thing-ready-for-the-con crunch, I had to reboot before printing any copies of the fanzine, because it didn't have enough memory to print the photos if I'd previously run Photoshop.

Worst thing that's happened to the iMac so far? Jonathan played with the screen, mouse and keyboard while eating a peach. It's all orange and sticky.

I moved the iMac across a room, onto a little computer shelf of its own (it's been living on Marianne's special kid-sized table since we got it). The computer shelf was £29 from PC World, and wouldn't be big enough for a grown-up computer. But it works really well for the iMac and doesn't take up a lot of space. I'm already looking forward to a world where we've got rid of all the big noisy towers. At any rate, moving it over and getting it working again took about five minutes. I was amazed for the second time that you just plug it into the wall. I still have to plug in the ethernet and the printer (which involves a bit of feeding cable round the back of cupboards, which is why I haven't done it). I think I need a wireless network card for my printer.

Ah. And Victor Gonzalez gave me a DVD full of all sorts of dodgy software. Including, I'm sad to say, Civilization III, a program which I'd carefully not bought because I knew it would rot my brain. I guess I'd better go and buy it now. It appears to have rotted my brain.

The thing I have bought recently is a Sony Clié T625C; I'm not linking to the Sony website because it may be the worst website ever in the history of the world. At any rate, I took one look at Dr Plokta's Clié and realised I had to own one. It's terrific and I'm delighted with it. I couldn't actually afford it, so I'm on an austerity drive, saving money each and every day by buying cheaper breakfasts and lunches and no newspapers (I'm syncing the Guardian instead). So far I've saved a fifth of the price of the PDA, but to be strictly honest I have to cover the memory stick, incredibly cute case, emergency charging device and registration for Bejeweled and Mars Needs Cows. I also have Zap 2016, not because it's the sort of game I want to play (it's not) but because it's brilliant for showing off the screen and sound to people. "It is, in fact, a GameBoy, isn't it?" said someone (Austin?) dubiously.

So that's it. I've been running a convention, working rather hard, playing with my new PDA, and conquering large chunks of the ancient world. But now I'm back.

And tomorrow I find out whether or not I've been promoted. And if I have, I intend to buy myself a nice, new, legal copy of Photoshop 7 for Mac. And then we'll be cooking on gas.

10:24:11 PM  comment []    

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