Posts Tagged ‘Pismo’

Wear & tear and the mending of my trusty Pismo.

Saturday, August 6th, 2005

Whew. I had to sigh several sighs of relief after Andi and I finally attached my Powerbook to the local stereo setup and successfully listened through the track Ortungstest by the German hip-hop band Fettes Brot. What happened that would cause such a joint effort in advanced breathing techniques? In the course of the last weeks the audio outlet on the back of my laptop began to show signs of a wackelkontakt. Rough rides in our car through the french countryside finally caused the wackelkontakt to morph into a full blown audio desaster: we weren’t able to listen to my music files anymore, therefore having to submit to french advertisement jingle harassment hammered through the diverse radio stations. Luckily Andi knows his way with a soldering iron much better than I do… After getting a soldering iron in Limoux’s M. Bricolage, buying a size 9 torx and a size 0 philipps screwdriver we embarked on to the repair of my Pismo’s audio outlet. And I have to tell you, it was a long journey. We had to disassemble the whole laptop to be able to get at the audio outlet. Lots of different sensible parts to be pryed out of their locations and tons of screws to manage. The audio outlet is covered by a metal shield which Andi had to solder off and on again with equipment that wasn’t really up to the task. Which is why he accidentally melted the plastic casings of some close by stuff to our shared dismay. However, some knife-scrapings and needle-piercings later the plastic was back into some sort of probably working shape. The actual repair of the audio outlet was almost trivial: two solderins points had been broken loose and were easily reattached and reinforced with a generous measure of soldering stuff. After putting the pieces together again the PowerBook did not boot up, not even making a sound after pressing the power button. Some more serious pressing of plugs and contacts was required (*cough* the processor board wasn’t firmly put into its seat *cough*) and finally the good old workhorse was booting again. Lo and behear: audio was working again, Andi is my personal hero of the week and I am really relieved that I can keep the laptop that I have grown quite fond of over the course of the last years… If you have any questions regarding surgery and patient, feel free to contact me – I did not have the nerve to take pictures, but I have a pretty vived recollection of the events and protagonists.

Tiger installed.

Wednesday, May 18th, 2005

After Cisco updated its (still buggy) VPN client to be compatible with Mac OS X 10.4, I was finally able to upgrade my trusty workhorse, the Pismo PowerBook, to new version of Apple’s operating system, codenamed Tiger. For major system revisions my tactic has always been to do a complete reinstall of everything and this is what I did with my Pismo as well. Worked out great. (I manually imported all my old mail, which took a long time. However, got the impression that a lot of people had problems with just updating their mail archives.) I still find it astonishing that with every major Mac OS X revision the speed of the operating system accelerates – even on old hardware such as my almost five years old laptop. I like the interface and integrated search features. You have probably read about these features yourself. Therefore I will report two advances that I did not know about before even though they are quite substantial for me:

  • When synching Address Book with my SonyEricsson K700 all fields are now synchronized. That means that I am finally able to read street addresses and even contact notes on my K700. Awesome. I really wanted this.
  • The other thing is the new power and versatily of the System Profiler – now it tells me how much capacity is left in my batteries, and even how big the actual power drain is while using the laptop. There are tons of other new infos in the overhauled System Profiler – you should definitely check it out. (The only thing that continues to bug me is that this app’s window still doesn’t remember it’s size and position after quitting.)

Well, I guess thats it so far. I will keep you informed if I stumble into anything else worth telling Tiger-wise.

Screen real estate growing.

Friday, February 25th, 2005

Another upgrade in my hardware department: This week I bought a LC Display on eBay. I purchased an Eizo FlexScan L685 for the price of € 290 (including shipping). It is an 18 inch flat screen display with two input ports and a 4-port USB hub included. Having two video input ports is really excellent for me – I can connect my PowerBook and my G4 PowerMac at the same time, using the huge 18 inch display as additional screen estate for the PowerBook when I need it. Just the press of a button away. I’ll check if I can get a cheap USB switch too, so that I can use one keyboard-mouse combo for both computers, further minimizing clutter on my desk, and making my ergonomic keyboard and mouse readily available for my laptop too.
The display is older than I thought (more than 4500 hours of use, the screen manager says), but it doesn’t feel old. It is spotless, has no pixel defects, and it is amazingly bright, clear, and colorful. I personally think I made a very good deal. At least if it doesn’t die in the course of the next 18 months or so. My former display (17 inch CRT) slowly got worse and worse, small fonts getting hard to read so that my eyes started to complain even more. No complaints about sharpness anymore. A nice side effect of it being an 18 inch display with a resolution of 1280×1024 pixels is that the pixels on the Eizo and on my PowerBook have almost exactly the same density (~90ppi), so that the size of windows and pictures doesn’t change when I move them from one screen to the other. Call me a happy camper!


Wednesday, January 26th, 2005

Time to celebrate. Celebrate a new PowerBook in an old case. Today the order I placed at Fastmac did arrive. I ordered two things: a 2x SuperDrive (in non-Apple lingo: a DVD burner) and a processor upgrade for my Pismo PowerBook.

2x SuperDrive: This drive is advertized as an upgrade for PowerBook G3 laptops like mine. This is correct in so far as the drive works flawlessly in my Pismo, and that FastMac is providing a detailed installation manual for putting this into a Pismo. However, the front bezel does not match the port into which the drive is fitted – it is too small. That means that there is a small gap of about 1 to 3 milimeters around the front of the drive. Through this gap dust and whatnot can enter the case of my PowerBook. Booo, FastMac, booo! I will see if I can find a fix for this. This doesn’t really hamper the functionality, but it doesn’t look good and facilitates the entry of unwanted substances into my dear PowerBook.

Processor Upgrade: I chose the best they have: the Motorola G4 7410 running at 550 MHz, with 1 Megabyte of L2 Cache (2.5:1). Installation was easy, at least if you have opened a Pismo before. ;) They offer three modes of delivery, two of which include sending your old processor board to them, which they will replace with a new one, and then send back to you. I chose the other mode; they send a new processor board to my address and I send back the old one. Since I had to place the order in the US I chose this option, because sending stuff back and forth across the Atlantic Ocean is risky and takes a lot of time.

I am really happy with the result of this upgrade. The PowerBook is a lot faster now. I timed the ripping of an MP3 from an audio CD file before and after the processor upgrade (both with the new drive). Before it took 2:06 minutes, after the upgrade it took … 57 seconds!! That is a speed increase of more than 120% in a real world app! I am still impressed. But there is even more good news.
Two things bothered me before I decided to purchase this upgrade:

  1. I was not able to play DV files in iMovie fluently. To be able to do this is definitely important when I am presenting video clips that I recorded for my research project. The last time I made a presentation containing video clips, for example, there was too much stutter to show the small movements of people that are most important to my analysis.
  2. I was not able to play Divx or Xvid encoded movies of a good quality on my Pismo, especially if the video file is on an optical disc. Too much stutter. Now, I can use my PowerBook as a Divx, Xvid etc. player, connect it to a TV or projector and watch movies without any stutter.

This is soo good. Working in the Finder, starting applications and everything else is faster too. A great upgrade. For me, it was worth the cost: US$ 550.89 for drive and processor including shipping. (I got a rebate of US$ 20 for pointing out a problem with their online store.) That is € 411.60. The only bad thing is the not-exactly-fitting case of the disc drive and that the German customs got their hands on the delivery. It took them one week to process it and I had to pay a € 65.86 customs fee (16% of the price). All in all a reasonable price to enable my Pismo to do the things that I really need it to do and nicely accelerate everything else. Being able to burn CDs and DVDs is great too. (My old DVD drive was almost completely broken.) Another great side effect: saving resources, and prolonging the use of electronic equipment is better for the environment than always buying the latest and greatest. My trusty Pismo rocks and the trees are happy too!

Baking bread.

Saturday, January 24th, 2004

Today I presented the provisionary first results of my fieldwork. The thing went reasonably well. The technological setup worked, the projector projected, the PowerBook booted, the external harddisk revolved and the video clips that I recorded at the Darmstädter Hauptbahnhof (main station) and cut during the last weeks stuttered over the screen. My trusty old Pismo Powerbook is a bit underpowered for this kind of high-quality DV movie material presentation, and I am hoping to be able to upgrade its processor during the semester break. Getting back to the point: what kind of video clips did I present though?
The first half of the session was to be about my involvement as a participant observer in the field, or, to be more precise, my impact as a DV camera wielding researcher on the people walking through the station. This went quite well and got a few laughs (I hope to be putting some of the sequences online as soon as I have figured out a way to hide the identity of some of the people that could be identified). The only thing that irritated me was that several people asked me what the sequences which I presented have to do with technology, since we are in a post-graduate college with the title “technology and society.” Well, as I said before I started the presentation, technology in the form of ticket selling machines would be the focus of the second part of the same presentation that they currently witness. Mpf.
I had less time for the second part than I would have liked. Quickly scratching trough the two remaining clips I wanted to demonstrate the first (micro-)sociological result of my work so far: it appears that ticket selling machines generate some ambiguity after the transaction should be finished, that is after the tickets have been printed. I will be analyzing this in more detail, but I want give you some kind of hint of what is happening. After people extract their tickets (which in itself is not always an easy process) it seem to be unclear if the interaction with the machine is actually finished. People turn to leave the machine but then look over their shoulders, even going back to the machine (sometimes in spite of displaying signs of being in a hurry) to check if the interaction is actually finished. Why is that? A possible explanation would be, that the machine does not obey the rules of personal interaction that demand a recognizable token of completion of the interaction and/or a closing remark similar to a verbal or gestual good bye.

What does all of this have to do with baking bread you might ask yours truly. Well, as I was sitting in the local train from Darmstadt to Frankfurt I found a nice introduction for the letter which I have to write to the DB AG (German Railway) representative who has to grant me the right to make further video recordings at train stations: As the mills of science grind slowly I can not yet offer you much. However, I have produced enough flour to bake a small roll for you. With more time in the field I will be able to produce enough flour to bake a bread. Perhaps we can even add a cake as dessert. I am not sure if this is the absolutely appropriate form to address these people. Whatever.

Welcome to the world of audio chatting.

Wednesday, June 25th, 2003

Yesterday Apple presented new stuff. I would definitely like to have one of the new G5 machines, but I surely won’t have the money. Panther is a different thing – I’m looking forward to Panther (Mac OS X 10.3) very much, I only fear that it won’t run too well on my old iBook and the Pismo that I have. The Panther release might be time for getting the 900Mhz G3 processor update for the Pismo.

But I do want to write about another thing Apple published yesterday: iChat AV, the new version of Apple’s chat program. Kerstin and I installed it and it works beautifully. I am very impressed. It is full duplex (i.e. both people can talk and listen at the same time), and the sound quality is very good. There are only a few dropouts now and then, but we might get that optimized sooner or later. It’s gorgeous. Our phone bill is quite likely to shrink by a certain amount.
The only problem I had was with my overly restrictive firewall setting and with getting the audio in to the G4 at home, but after some cooperative hacking of the firewall (thanks Kerstin!) and some plugging in and out of cables and devices (thanks Chr!) everything is vanilla.