Tag Archives: Apple

Hardware farewells Feb. 2019

A few long-serving tech items have gone into retirement, in the past week or so.

My trusty Canon PowerShot SD1200 IS finally bit the dust after nearly eight years. It might very well have matched or surpassed the service record of the Canon Pixma IP5000 inkjet printer, which lasted more than 10 years, except I dropped the camera fairly hard a while back. Function deteriorated thereafter, and finally it just stopped working.

I have replaced it with essentially a near-new modern version of the same thing, purchased for for about 2/3 the cost of the SD1200, because really a decent point-and-shoot digital camera is entirely adequate for my purposes.

Very possibly a smartphone camera would be adequate, except that many of them seem to take photos which are big but hopelessly smeary. Including the one which I now own because

I replaced my Samsung SCH-u340 fliphone after more than 11 years. This was my first and until now only mobile phone. Despite the fact that it was getting the same kind of looks as the Blackbird 520c Powerbook I once toted around, long after it had gone out of date, this phone is still in good working order and I would still be using it. Except I have decided to change mobile carriers and there is no wireless company which would support this phone, other than the one which inherited it years ago as a legacy. (SIM card? What SIM card?)

So now I have this black rectangle from Motorola, which is probably far more powerful than e.g. my first desktop Mac, but frankly seems pretty utilitarian and boring. (The main point of interest I can find in it is that Motorola has now sneaked back into my hardware line-up for the first time since Steve Jobs ditched them for Intel.)

Also, NASA officially gave up on the Opportunity Rover. Realistically, “Oppy” went offline several months ago. But mission control finally ended Opportunity operations last week, triggering many looks back at what was frankly an astounding working “life.”

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The PowerBook 520c

PowerBook 520c icon

32×32 pixel icon for the PowerBook 520c

My first laptop computer was a PowerBook 520c. I purchased it in October 2003, eight years after Apple discontinued the product.

It was great.

I don’t remember why, exactly, I decided to get this. I think I was still fairly “into” the Macintosh at the time, and that the 520c had something of a reputation on the web as a very good Mac in its time. One of my friends in college had one at that time, I believe. Plus, its codename was “Blackbird” and that’s pretty cool.

I’m still can’t say, at this point, exactly what prompted me to buy an obviously obsolete laptop in the first place. But it was a ton of fun over the next few years.

It was a bit of a project. After buying the laptop, I had to buy a power adapter so I could charge it. Then either initially, or later on, I found that the screen’s backlight went bad. I ordered a new one, then for one reason or another it just proved unworkable to substitute for the old one. So, I ended up buying a whole new top half… But the total for all of this was slightly under $100, compared with an original retail price of nearly $3,000. “Y’know, depreciation.”

I think that I definitely got my money’s worth.

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Steve Jobs, Microsoft and prediction

One of the few consolations in getting older, and more experienced, is the recognition that we don’t know as much about how things are going to turn out as people often like to believe.

This can be taken way too far, of course. We have to make some kind of predictions about the consequences of various actions, and often we have quite ample evidence upon which to do so. I believe 21st century science is in fact rather more effective at prediction, in some areas, than is convenient for a lot of people to accept. Thus, e.g., while it could be that in 2200 someone will look back at climate change concerns and wonder “what was all of that fuss about, really,” I think we can safely discount this possibility in making choices about technological paths to pursue.

Nonetheless—and acknowledging that there is no clean division—certain social outcomes seem far more resistant to prediction even with all the algorithms and computing power of the modern world.

I am especially bemused, in a comforting way, every time I recall the reaction of Bill Gates to Steve Jobs’s return to Apple. Back in 1999, Gates expressed bafflement at why Jobs would reattach himself to Microsoft’s obviously defeated rival in the platform wars. “Why would he do that? He has to know that he can never win.”

Fast-forward 16 years, and this has for some time offered up a chuckle or two. I’m quite over adoration of the late Steve Jobs, now, but it still amuses me to reflect on how ludicrously wrong one of the world’s richest men can be. Apple had already surpassed Microsoft in more ways than not, by Jobs’s exit. Lately it seems like tech media regard Microsoft more as the interesting challenger, in fact. Coverage of Redmond’s new MacBook Pro competitor has largely followed these lines, and yet even here…

Via slashdot, one industry pundit writes that “Microsoft really believes that it has to have a combined hardware, software, and services play to go up against the likes of Apple.” Like, y’know, was seen as the fatal mistake of Apple for so long… and yet, perhaps, not so long after all.

It makes me laugh, at least. More and more, it seems like the Life of Brian… which is all the more reason to appreciate that third element when you can.

Let technology do that for you…

Continuing my long-term archiving project, I just stumbled upon this doodle from… I don’t know. Whenever the iPhone4S and those “I found four locksmiths near you” commercials started running.

It's meant to be funny (kind of).

Ha ha… ha… ha?

New word RFP (wuah wa wah)

I’ve decided we could use a new term. Inspired by a couple of recent, typically empty corporate “responses” to being busted for scummy behavior, I feel like we need a word for this particular variety of noise.

It’s tricky even to describe this, precisely. Time Warner’s comments here are a prime example, as are nearly any “response” from any large telco to anything. Apple’s response to default snooping through Spotlight in OS X Yosemite, in context of their recent crowing about respecting customers’ privacy, captures something of this phenomenon. It isn’t exclusively corporate behavior, either; you hear plenty of this in politics.

It isn’t “derp,” though. Nor is it “FUD.” In both cases there is probably considerable overlap, but I’m trying to define something more basic. It’s little more than noise, but “noise” alone does not capture the element of insult, almost contempt, that sets this apart. I recall Peter King once speculating that Bill Belichick favored the phrase “it is what it is” so that he could move his lips without actually communicating with media; I think now that King was probably approaching a similar concept. Belichick (in King’s portrayal) feels some obligation to go through the motions of “responding” to questions, but no real obligation to account for himself or engage with questioners, whom he probably considers impertinent nobodies who should buzz off. So he makes noises that humor them, in form, while insulting them in (the noises’ absence of) substance. That comes very close.

I think the best explanation of all, though, might be borrowed from Judge Judy’s classic admonition: “don’t pee on my leg and tell me it’s raining.” The “telling you it’s raining” part is exactly what I would like a word for: comments by one who has caused injury, following confrontation about this fact, that are so absolute in their refusal to engage in any legitimate conversation of the issue that the insult rivals the original injury. There’s really less engagement than even a dismissal; it’s mostly noise and almost non sequitur.

Can we come up with a word for this?

My thoughts gravitate toward the iconic grown-ups sound from the Peanuts animated cartoons. I haven’t been able to find a sound clip, but I’m guessing most people know what I mean. That worst-PA-system-of-all-time wa-wuah wa wuah waugh wa. Some brief shorthand for this would be a good term for what I’ve been describing. I thought of “wuah” because so many other renderings seem to have familiar, unrelated usages attached to them. This doesn’t seem to have a lot, though it has some, and Duck Duck Go suggests that “wa wa wa” is the most popular conclusion of typing “Peanuts cartoon wa.”

So, I don’t know for sure. I welcome suggestions. I’m not too particular about the details, I would just really really like some kind of term for this to take hold. I realize that naming it probably won’t change the world, but being able to call this out quickly would at least feel like a small way to push back.