Categories: "computer/tech"


new computer boxI did finally make up my mind and end my search for a computer. I settled on an iMac G5. I bought it Friday night at the Apple Store in Kansas City. It just happened to be the release party for Tiger, the new version of the Mac OS, so the place was packed and they were giving scratch tickets at the door. A few people won an iPod or a laptop, but everyone else got 10% their purchase that night. That worked out very nicely for me. Here are some of the specs from my computer, if you're interested:

Monitor: 17" widescreen LCD
Processor: 1.8 GHz G5 600 MHz FSB, 512k L2 cache
Memory: 256 MB PC3200 DDR (soon to be upgraded to 1.25 GB)
Hard drive: 80 GB SATA (7200)
Video: NVIDIA GeForce FX 5200 64 MB of DDR SDRAM (AGP 8X)
Optical: 4X/8X/16X/8X/24X slot-loading Superdrive

There are more pictures in the gallery. So far I really like it. The Mac OS is very nice. I'm working on a new video of Emma, using the built-in iMovie, and I should be posting it online soon.

We're back

This website, along with all of and a great deal of our webhost, Vizaweb, has been down for about four days. There was a spam attack that caused our site to overload a server, so we got suspended. It took Vizaweb four days to get back to me and reenable our site. But we're working on protecting the site from spam attacks so this won't happen again. front page

It took me three tries, but I got a story onto the front page. I guess it's ironic that it would be a story about Linux when I'm about to switch to a Mac. But I don't think I'm really giving up on Linux. I'm still going to use it for my server, I'm still going to use the Linux-like stuff about the Mac OS, and I'll continue to test Linux distros. But some of the little annoyances about Linux are starting to wear on me. I think Ubuntu has just about reached the point that a basic user can install it and be good to go. But I'm not a basic user. I want to edit video, attach my digital camera, etc, and the Mac will make that easier.

Choosing a Mac

I guess I'm getting a little more serious about this now. Brendon, having made this switch recently, has some ideas for me. I'm thinking that my money might be better spent at a Mac store for a new Mac than on eBay for last year's model. A new Mac would get me more power, a better warranty, more choice in what I get, and the newest version of OS X. Now I've narrowed it down to three Macs:

  1. A Mac Mini as souped up as I can get it
  2. A mid-range G5 iMac
  3. The cheapest G5 PowerMac

I'm still open to ideas, especially from anyone who has made the switch or is familiar with Macs.

Real or Hoax

Real or Hoax? - Take this quiz and see if you can tell which photos are real and which are faked. My score: 5.


Choosing an OS, part II

I still haven't really come to terms with the idea of buying a computer. At the moment the thing that looks like the best balance of all my needs is a G4 Powermac. They can be had on eBay for just under $1000. I already have a monitor, so that's no problem. I don't need a pretty iMac and I don't really need a laptop. These things are oozing with power. Look at this one and this one. I could do some serious multimedia crap with that. And since OS X is built on BSD then I would still have my command line and I could still install some open souce apps. If I get lucky on eBay I could get a computer that already has some good stuff installed (think Photoshop, Final Cut, etc.) If I do go with a Mac, then I'll actually end up with one of each. I'll have my XP laptop at work, my Mac desktop/media machine and my Linux server.

I don't think I'll be buying anything until I'm sure that I need my current computer to become a dedicated server. So, I have to get some web design jobs. If this Mac idea is stupid then I need some friends to talk me out of it ASAP.

Choosing an OS

I'm planning on hosting some websites on the server running in my back room at home. If I do that, then I'm going to have to stop using it as my desktop workstation. That means that I'm in the market for a new computer. At the moment I'm really torn about what operating system I want on my new computer. I've been using Linux at home for a few months now, but a Mac would be nice for doing more multimedia. And there's always Windows, too. So, I'm going to do some thinking out loud (er . . . in writing) and I would love to hear what you think.

The first question that needs to be asked: What am I going to do with my new computer?

  • Regular websurfing
  • Web design
  • Digital photography and a little graphic design
  • Maybe some gaming
  • Audio production
  • Video editing (maybe)

Here are the factors that are going to come into play: Cost, hardware compatibility, available software, ease of use and security.

Linux is the clear winner here. The OS itself is free (Ubuntu is my distro of choice) and almost all the applications you can get for Linux are free. Windows would come in second. The OS comes bundled with a new computer, but it does add something to the cost. There are some free apps for Windows, but commercial programs are the norm. Apple is the worst in terms of cost. You can only get the OS by buying a computer from Apple, and they are notoriously expensive. Mac OS X does come with iLife, a very cool suite of software. Windows and Mac OS charge money for upgrades, so there's more than just the one-time cost to consider. If I pay $200 for Windows XP today, will I be paying another $150 for Longhorn next year? Like I said, Linux wins this round.

Windows, which works with just about anything, would have to be the winner here. If I shopped carefully I could build a computer that works fine under Linux. The printer would be the tough part. I have two printers at my house now, and neither of them has drivers for Linux. A Mac requires Apple hardware.

Available Software
This is a tough one. It really needs to be broken down into some sub-categories: multimedia, gaming and everything else.

The Mac wins here. Right out of the box you have some cool tools for creating audio (Garage Band) and video (iMovie). And it would just work. I don't have a video camera now, but I could be confident in plugging one in and being able to edit video without a lot of trouble. Most of the good podcasters are using Macs to create their shows. Windows can do most of the same stuff, but it requires you to buy some software. (The only bundled software that MS has added to Windows since version 3.1 is a free trial of AOL). Linux is a big unknown here. There are free programs available for all of this stuff, but I'm not sure if it would Just Work. My current soundcard won't record from a mic in Linux. If I go with Linux I can't be sure whether a video camera would work with it. On the other hand, the coolest drum machine program I've ever used is Hydrogen, a free Linux app.

Not much to say here. Game companies make versions for Windows and that's about it. I've tried running Starcraft under WINE, a Windows emulator. It's supposed to work, but I've never got it to. But, I don't do that much gaming and when I do go to a LAN party it's not that hard to find an extra machine.

Everything Else
Then there are always those programs that come up randomly. Shockwave animations won't work in Firefox under Linux. Gcompris, a kids' game that Emma loves, is built for Linux. But I can do 90% of what I want to do in Linux using Firefox, GIMP, Skype, Audacity and Bash.

Ease of Use
This category should probably go to the Mac. Things just work in a Mac. Linux is harder to use in many cases. When I plug in my card reader or my thumb drive, does it just show up as a drive? Wouldn't that be nice. I have to go to the command line and try to find out what /dev label it was given by the kernel, then I have to issue a command to mount it in my filesystem. Only then can I use the device. Windows is getting good at this kind of thing, but Windows annoys me in so many other ways that I can't really call it easy to use.

I suppose that Mac and Linux tie for first and Windows finishes a very distant third place. I'm so sick of worms, viruses, spyware and adware. My Windows machine at work runs pretty clean, but it takes a lot of work. Everyday I'm updating antivirus software, scanning, checking for Windows updates, etc. Linux and Mac are both practically virus-free.

So, I'm very torn. I haven't decided whether I want a laptop or a desktop, either. The Mac seems like a good choice, except that it costs more and I have virtually no experience with the Mac OS. I would love to hear what you think about any of this.

GIMP tutorials

DBC ButtonThanks to StumbleUpon, I found another very cool website: GIMP User Group Tutorials. I've talked about GIMP before. It's a free and open source program that is similar to Photoshop. I've been using it some, but I don't have any real skills with it yet, so these tutorials should be a big help. I went through this one and it helped me create the graphic on the left. If anyone does another tutorial and makes something cool, then email me the picture and I may post it.

There are also a bunch of good tutorials on the official GIMP website.

After going 5 days without posting last week I decided that I needed some way to find new stuff to talk about. Brendan has been using Stumbleupon for years now, so I thought I would try that. Basically, you sign up and download a toolbar for Firefox (other browsers are supported, but why would you use another browser?). When you sign up you tell them some of the things you're interested in. On the toolbar there's a button marked "Stumble!" Click it to get a random page from your chosen categories. The toolbar also has thumbs up and thumbs down buttons, so when you're on any web page (whether you stumbled to it or not) you can give it a positive or negative rating. It's a good time waster because you can keep clicking Stumble! until you find something interesting. You get a profile page (mine, Brendan's) that shows what you've said about pages you rate and it shows links to the pages that you liked. It also creates an RSS feed of links that you like. That way your friends can see what kinds of things you're stumbling upon. I included my feed here on Danny's Blog Cabin. You can see it on the right under the heading "Recent Stumbles." So, even if you don't decide to sign up, you can come here when you're bored and find some fun links.

The Screen Savers

G4TechTV was renamed to G4TV and The Screen Savers has been renamed to "Attack of the Show." This is a good thing. The crappy network will no longer be associated with the good network that it destroyed. And the The Screen Savers, one of the best shows ever, will no longer be associated with the commercialized, dumbed-down freak show that it had become. AOTS is a stupid name for a stupid show. But take heart, my geeky friends . . .

A new podcast has begun: Revenge of the Screen Savers. It's a weekly podcast featuring a rotating cast of former TSS stars. The first episode was a half hour of chat and tech news from Leo, Kevin, Robert and Patrick. It was almost like the old days. If you want to get the show, then subscribe to the LaPorte Report podcast feed.

On the first episode, Kevin Rose discussed a new project he's working on called Systm. It will be a downloadable tv show that covers tech like the Screen Savers used to.

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