Tech Luxuries That Aren’t

OK, that headline made little sense, but here’s what I mean: I spend most hours of every day somehow connected to the internet/computers. Either actually coding for web sites (including back-end feeds etc), testing sites, in meetings planning for issues revolving around internet activities. And so on.

During the course of about a decade doing this, there are a few tools/conveniences that are not absolutely necessary (hence, luxuries) that I just can’t conceive of parting with.

As I’ve stated many times before, I’m somewhat platform and tool agnostic – yes, if I were a graphic artist, I’d be on a Mac, and if I was just doing back-end work I’d be on Linux (or some *NIX) and so on. I’m not a Microsoft fan; I’m not a Microsoft basher. Same for Apple, Sun, Google, Yo Momma and so on…

That said, here is my oxymoronic list of some indespensible luxuries, in no particular order:

  • Broadband – I have cable at home; at work we have redundant pipes that make T1s look like slowpokes. Not only the speed, but the always on. Especially the always on.
  • Remote Access – I don’t mind working 28 hours in a given day, but sometimes it’s nice to do it from home. Just for the scenery break. I’m doing it now: Worked my 9+ hours today at the office; reached a logical break point and headed home. Feed the cats, ate some dinner, and am typing this as a test script runs on my (test) work server. Everyone wins.
  • Keyboard with controls for my computer “jukebox” – Recent addition for me. I listen almost exclusively to cuts on my computer I’ve ripped from (my own, OK RIAA???) CDs. The controls on the keyboard make it easy to mute, move forward and back and so on. Hands never have to leave the keyboard; eyes don’t have to stray from the screen (and ruin that coding flow!!!).
  • Big-ass/quality screens – I stare at a screen all day; I’ve always made a point of buying good and large screens. Not only do they save my eyes, but they make me more productive. At work, the 17-inch flatscreen is nice, but I’d be more productive with a large one. Enough to justify the cost? Depends who you talk to…
  • Multiple computers – Right now, I have four boxes sitting in my home office: Two linux boxes (new and old) to my left, two windoze boxes (new and old) to my right. Could I do it all with one? Yeah…sorta. The windoze and linux boxes server two different purposes (work place/graphics and server/backup, respectively), so that’d be hard to fill with just one. The redundancy is the difficulty of moving all your crap from the old box to the new box. The instinct to to horde all the old stuff, just in cases… That part is a luxury (stupidity?), I’ll admit. OK, maybe a convenience, but the two different platforms serve two distinct needs for me.
  • Photoshop – This is the single biggest roadblock to me just chucking Windows and running Linux for everything. Yeah, the GIMP is good and getting better, and Picasa is – as I’ve mentioned – impressive (and I don’t think it’s available for Linux). But Photoshop (and ImageReady) just kick everyone’s butt all over the place. Quark used to be like this, until it shrugged of the efforts of Photoshop-maker Adobe to make a dent in its marketshare. Oops. My bad…

Fuel Pump Payment Blues…

I’m not (in this entry) making political, economic or vehicular judgements, but here is the reality:

My sorry-ass 1997 Ford Escort sedan (yeah, a real chick magnet) was filled up today.

At the tune of $30+.


This isn’t an SUV, it’s a dumb-ass car that takes me to work and back.

$30 bucks? Ouch….

This is a test

This is a test

If this works…good! Or, interesting.

Publishing from Word. Hey, gotta give it a try, ja?

Update (few mintues later):It worked, and worked easily. I’ll have to do some tests with pictures and other stuff, but this may be a good solution for non-Web Monkeys (I’ll do most of my posting in what are basically text editors so I can control the HTML).

Now, a Dreamweaver extension to Blogger, that’d be cool. Satisfy the normal users, and the geeks who could still code in HTML with WYSIWYG front if desired.

Hmm.interesting…but the MS characters and no-break spaces hosed my XML parser. Not a viable solution.

Artists At Work

I’ve been messing around with Picasa (the photo tool, not the similarly-named artist you dweebs!) lately, and I’ve two major impressions to share:

  1. Damn near as good as Photoshop for the basic stuff (think Photo Elements), at a lower (uh, zero bucks) price.
  2. Serious UI issues/concerns

I’m working with Picasa v2 on a P4 Windoze machine with a lot of RAM and disk space; your mileage may vary.

Re: Point #1: Yes, free product that does much of what the basic Photoshop commands do: Crop, filter, grayscale and so on. Pretty impressive, actually. I had downloaded Picasa v1x shortly after Google acquired Picasa and was not impressed; this has now turned around. Very mature app.

Re: Point #2: There are UI issues. Now, I’m fairly savvy with computers and graphics programs, but it was HELL to figger out how to copy (not move – copy) a picture from one area to another. Part of this issue is the new search/storage motif, as exemplified by Gmail and the upcoming MS Longhorn/Vista, where files can live anywhere, and are tied together by aliases and so on.

Fine. But in this case, I want a folder (for example) for pictures I shot in August. The raw images. I’ll examine same, and COPY (not MOVE) the same to a repository that is “stuff I’ve uploaded” – so I can process that copied image to the specs of (again, for example) my blog without touching the original. Hey, I may need that 4M original image for some other reason…

Picasa makes this difficult. The regular “drag and drop” (with shift or control key so the + sign appears) or export feature pretty much just MOVES the file, which is not my desired result.

I think I’ve “cracked the code,” but why should I have to?

Still, Picasa is looking like a winner for basic importing and photo browsing; my personal jury is still out on the Photoshop-ish qualities it does/doesn’t have – I just haven’t worked with it that much.

Further bulletins as events warrent…

Retro This!

On the way home from work one night, I was listening to NPR. And they had an interview with some founder/CEO of a company that is in the business of hauling away computers from big companies. Retrobox.

I.e., the companies pay Retrobox to take the old computers, wipe the drives and dispose of the nasty stuff in a good manner. In part, this is driven by ecological concerns, but more by legal concerns such as the Sarbanes-Oxley Act and HIPPA, which sorta forces companies to NOT divulge data.

OK, the other trick to this Retrobox company is that it takes the computers and – before disposing of them – tries to refurbish (sorta) the machines and – if successful – sells them on the site. Some revenue split happens between souce company and Retrobox.

I was intrigued – I’ve checked local ads and all that (and I’m in the burbs of Chicago; there is a lotta stuff out there), but I could not find what seemed good for me at a good price.

I wanted to upgrade (uh, replace) my current linux box (Pentium Pro, 200Mhz, 128M) with a better box. All the ads I’ve read are too expensive, because they give you MS Office etc.

So I did a Retrobox seach. Got a nice P3, 1Ghz, 1 GIG RAM for about $200.

Took about two weeks to get here; so what?

Put Fedora Core 4 on it; transferred some files, and I’m good to go!

Highly recommeded (I’m looking at blade servers now…)