jamie goode's wine blog

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

A new netbook

I've just replaced my beloved Asus Eeepc with a new netbook. The Asus developed some technical problems, and so I bought a little Samsung (here). It's very like the Eeepc, except that it runs XP rather than Linux, is slightly larger, and has a larger screen.

My fingers like the larger keyboard, and my eyes like the larger screen. But it's not as convenient (the Asus was such a good size, and started up really, really fast) and feels less robust (it's very plastic-y).

The big benefit is the six cell battery, which gives 6 hours' + battery life. Result.

It's amazing that you can get computers like this so cheaply. Early days yet, but I'm quite pleased with this as a tool for working on the move.

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Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Skype rocks

Just spent 40 minutes calling California for an interview. Normal phone charges would have made this an expensive conversation. With Skype, it just cost me 52 p. Quality was great.

This followed on from a conference call with the fellow organizers of the Sparkling wine symposium, which we also did on Skype, and which cost nothing.

Just another example of how the internet has changed the way that we communicate. Some people make use of it; many don't.

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Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Switching to web-based mail

I realized this week that I've never really sorted my email communication out properly. My first email account was a work one, back in the mid-1990s. It was all very new, then. As I began writing about wine on the internet, I used my work e-mail address for all my correspondence. Then, when I registered wineanorak as a domain, I began a dual email system, using both my work address and my wineanorak address in tandem. This carried on until earlier this year, when I left the Novartis Foundation.

At this stage I began to think about shifting from a POP3-based mail system (my wineanorak address) to a web-based email system (in my case, googlemail). The advantage with a POP3-based system is that you download all your e-mails onto your local machine, so you can access them without being online.

The advantage of a web-based system is that you can access your emails fully wherever you are, and from any machine, as long as you have an internet connection. I have three different laptops and a desktop machine that I use regularly. Currently only one machine can be used for my emails. These days, internet connections are everywhere, no matter where you travel to. So it's a bit of a no-brainer: web-based email has to be the way to go.

Googlemail can pick up your POP3 emails, so today I switched completely to Gmail, which I'd been using for a while in tandem with my wineanorak account. All the mail from my wineanorak account will now come through Gmail. It seems strange, but as from today, all my emails will be fused into a single, efficient system.

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Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Mac vs. PC

This week I've been spending some time working on an imac, as opposed to my usual PC laptop/desktop combination. I can understand why Mac fans are so loyal - and why someone might want to spend a lot more on a Mac to get the same level of performance that they would from a PC.

They are aesthetically beautiful machines, and the screens are so bright, detailed and vivid. They are also highly intuitive - you don't need to be at all geeky to feel comfortable with them.

The downside? I guess it's the cost. A 20-inch imac will set you back about a grand, while an equivalent specced PC can be had for around 400. And if you are used to PCs, or you like to fiddle with your computer, then it's quite a step to make the shift.

But most of us spend a lot of our waking hours with computers. They are the extensions of our brains. It's not an area of expenditure where you want to make too many compromises. If aesthetics and beauty matter to you, and you find macs beautiful and PCs ugly, then spend the extra on the mac. It nay be a bit fashion-victimy, but if that's what makes you feel good about yourself, then who's going to criticise you?

Now that there aren't any real compatibility issues, even media folk can do what they need to do on both PCs and macs. So it's a question of choice. Personally, while I find macs very attractive, I don't find them attractive enough to justify the difference (which would include new software costs, as well - a non-trivial expense). When I get a new desktop, it will be a PC, I reckon, with a nice big TFT screen.

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Monday, February 25, 2008

MacBook Air or EeePC?

The new MacBook Air is a beautiful-looking piece of kit. I've yet to see one in the flesh, but from looking at the various online reviews and the promotional video, it is enough to induce techno-lust in even the most hardened PC advocate. (See another review here.)

It's designed for those who want something smaller and lighter than a conventional laptop for working on the go. So how does it compare with the EeePC, which is my current preferred solution for ultra-mobile computing? I guess they aren't designed to be competitors - but they do share a common role, as a secondary machine where portability is key.

The MacBook Air weighs in at just under 1.4 kilos, as opposed to the eeePCs 0.9 kilos.
The Air has a 13 inch screen; eeePC gives you just 7 inches, but this does make the eeePC smaller.
The Air looks very sexy; so does the eeePC, in its own sort of way. However, the Air will get you more of those jealous glances.
The Air is less robust than the eeePC because the eeePC doesn't have a hard disk.
The Air has a bigger keyboard and is therefore less fiddly than the eeePC.
The Air runs the Mac operating system, if you like that kind of thing; eeePC runs a version of Linux and all the software is open source.
The Air has one USB port; the eeePC has three.

But the clincher, in my view is this:
The Air is 1200; the eeePC is 200.

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Friday, January 25, 2008

Eeepc on the road, and a tea tasting

Yesterday afternoon I learned a great deal about a subject I'd previously been woefully ignorant of: tea. It was the Circle of Wine Writers/Guild of Food Writers tea tasting, held in association with specialist tea importers Jing (http://www.jingtea.com/). It's a huge subject - I felt like a wine novice must feel at a wine tasting, and came away with the impression that this is a really interesting but rather daunting subject.

Now for the promised eeepc update. For the last 10 days I've been on the road with just my eeepc. I was slightly nervous about the decision to leave my laptop at home and rely just on this tiny notebook device, but it has served me well. For picking up emails, surfing and posting blog entries it has been perfect. You get used to the small keyboard (any smaller would be unusable) and tiny screen (which has great resolution even though it is small) fairly quickly. Its portability is a great asset, as is its fast boot-up time and easy connectivity by Wifi and LAN (bizarrely, the Iberia VIP lounge doesn't have wireless).

What I haven't used this machine for is image editing or updating the main wineanorak site, largely because I haven't had time to learn how to install the relevant open-source software. The fact that the eeepc has an SD card slot means that photos can rapidly be uploaded even if you haven't got time to download them all from your digital camera. I also haven't been able to do any video editing on the road.

In conclusion, the portability of the eeepc makes it a great choice for a travel computer, and it will take the place of a full-sized laptop for my travels in the future. At just over 200 it is a total bargain.

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Thursday, January 10, 2008

More on the eeeeeeeepc


Sorry for the non-wine-related digression. Seriously considering taking the eeepc as my sole computer on my next trip (leave on Friday for Chile).

Peter wanted to know how big it is, so here's a picture showing some scale, with a standard laptop, an SLR camera, a phone and a CD in shot. The eeepc is the white machine sitting on top of the laptop, just in case you were confused.

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Tuesday, January 08, 2008

My new toy, the eeepc

I have a new toy: it's the Asus EeePC, which I've mentioned here before.

It's a tiny laptop the size of a paperback novel. It runs linux, has 4 gb solid state memory (no hard disk) and a 7 screen. It comes with most of the software you might need (open office applications, etc). It has 512 mb of RAM, three USB ports and looks beautiful. The keyboard, however, will take a while to get used to at the moment my typing is a little slower than normal. I'll let you know how I get on with it.

I should add that this isn't intended to be a straight replacement for my laptop or desktop rather, it complements it as a special occasion machine that I'll use where portability is an issue. To be honest, I'm growing a little tired of lugging a big bag with a laptop in it around with me, and Im hoping that Ill grow comfortable enough with this little machine that it will fulfil most of my portable computing needs.

One thing that will take a little bit of getting used to is the size of the screen, which is quite tiny. This makes working on images or anything that requires a good-sized screen very difficult. It will also take a little time to get used to linux: you can't just install programs with a few clicks like you can with Windows XP. For now, linux still seems to require a techie bent if you are to do anything serious with it.

Is the eepc a compulsory purchase? Too soon to tell. But I forgot to mention perhaps the best bit about it, which is the price. A shade over 200. [I got mine from ebuyer.com.]

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Thursday, December 20, 2007

Tecchy bits

I've been thinking about how I can best integrate my online life. It's currently a bit 'bitty'. I have three different email accounts, two of which I use regularly, of which one currently copies into the other. The third is a gmail account which I'm thinking of making my primary one. Then there's facebook et al, which I check regularly, plus some blogs and online fora, as well as the usual news outlets.

Because I use multiple computers and am often on the road, the idea of being able to access my online life through a single portal is an appealing one. I've been having a look at www.netvibes.com, which seems to be a powerful and flexible way of doing this. It's really, really impressive. Does anyone reading have experience of this - or similar - solutions?

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Thursday, August 23, 2007

Facebook friends

I now have a staggering total of 10 http://www.facebook.com/ friends. Wanna be my friend? You only have to ask!

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Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Goobye Eudora, hello Thunderbird

No, not the wine-based 'drink', but the email client. I've been getting so weary of deleting hundreds of spam messages each day, I've switched from Eudora (which I like but which is no longer supported), to Mozilla's Thunderbird as my email client, in part because it has decent spam protection incorporated into it.

So far, so good. It takes a while to get used to new applications, but I like the look and feel of it. And it let me import my Eudora inbox without any fuss. Now I need to start thinking about consolidating my various email accounts, two of which I use very regularly.

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Friday, June 08, 2007

Where is this picture from?

Where is the picture above from? What can you tell me about it? As much detail as possible, please. [The filename will give no clues.]

With the end of my last laptop, I've thought about my IT situation. I earn my living with computers as a tool, so I should plan my IT stuff more efficiently.

Currently, I have one laptop, two desktops at home (which I don't use much), and a wireless network (connected to broadband, security enabled). I also have a desktop for my science editing job.

Backing up consists of dumping stuff at irregular intervals onto the science editing job network (which is rigorously backed up itself). I pick up emails through two accounts on two different machines, into three different mailboxes. This is an unsatisfactory situation, but I should lose one of the accounts when I go fully freelance in a few months.

The most urgent matter is instituting a rigorous, bombproof backing up procedure that I can then follow to the letter, because computers (and particularly hard disks) fail. Then I need to sort out my email: it all needs to come into just one mailbox - the current situation is too complex. And I need to stop using my inbox as a filing system. Once emails are dealt with they need to leave the inbox. I also need to deal with emails as soon as I read them, not read them, decide to reply later, procrastinate, and then forget to reply - which happens too often. It also makes me feel a mixture of weariness and guilt to come to a full inbox each day. If I fail to reply to an email it needs to be through a conscious decision not to reply, and the email needs to be deleted.

We humans are bad at changing. We read about change, talk about change, decide to change, but only seldom do we actually implement personal change. Well, I am going to implement change, and to do this I'm going to set myself achievable sub-goals. The first one is to source and purchase a USB hard disk. I shall use this to act as a back-up and storage device. I shall back up every week, on Sunday evening. I'll let you know how I get on.

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Wednesday, June 06, 2007

How I killed my laptop

My laptop is dead. It had been playing up over the last couple of months, to the extent that I became extra serious about backing up. Then a few weeks ago it didn't start up. Repeated attempts, however, were successful in firing it back to life, but it was a short-lived remission, and tonight it looks like it's gone to laptop heaven - it won't respond at all.

The machine in question, a Dell Latitude D600, was a good performer, but always a little flimsy. I think I've just worn it out. Now I need to find a replacement, fast. I don't have high requirements - a gigabyte of RAM will suffice, plus decent battery life because I'm using it most days on the train and when I travel. When it comes to operating systems, I don't want Vista - XP Pro for me, please. And I'd like something rugged and reliable. A laptop that is easy to live with, because I spend so much time on it. One quirk is that I like the little nipple mouse thingy more than the trackpad, which I don't get on with. And no one makes these any more.

I'm going to try to revive the Dell, just to take the remaining non-backed up emails and data off it - a few day's worth, so it isn't too upsetting if I fail.

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