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New Soul

posted in Tech Talk on November 14th, 2008

A couple of months ago, I woke up to a a world of hurt: a bad cough and a busted graphics in an aging laptop.

Having faced an identical busted graphics card problem about a year before, too, I knew that repairing my rig would cost me approximately $1,200 to $1,500, depending on the availability of the items that are needed and the amount of man hours required to replace the parts.

While my Toshiba Tecra M4 has served me very well, I am not crazy enough about it to invest such a sum into a device that is 2.5 years old and quite honestly: who would, besides NASA.

The downside of my decision is that I have been laptop-less for close to six months now and since my Tablet PC acted as my primary computing platform, I am actually finding myself in a position where I get less work done in more time, simply due to the lack of adequate processing power.

Before I set out on my trip to the US, I was eying a couple of devices, such as the Asus EEE PC and even though I do not consider myself a geek, just being able to say that I built a web application with the help of the hottest sub notebook currently available, would have been a fun idea.

From a prosumer point of view, however, the EEE PC is definitely not able to cater for all my wishes and as such would not have been much than a secondary backup, computer as opposed to being my (primary) weapon of choice and as such, the hunt for new hardware continued.

Every few years in my computer life, I come to a point, call it a crossroads if you wish; a point where I decide to (radically) alter the way I go about doing things and go in directions I have not gone before, mostly in an effort to make my computing experience more pleasurable, but also: more efficient.

Seven years ago, this meant going the Pocket PC route and I have not regretted this one bit. Five years ago, it meant foraying down the Symbian Smartphone route, then back to Pocket PCs again.

This, eventually, lead to flirting with a Windows Mobile Smartphone, which worked well, due to its form-factor, but essentially changed my mobile computing habits from “creating” to “reading”, in other words: my productivity dropped, so back to Pocket PCs it was, once again.

During that period, I also ventured into the area of Tablet PCs, a technology that appeared interesting to me on a number of levels, mostly due to the fact that it altered the way I would be using my device henceforth.

After having used a Tablet PC for 2.5 years and having followed the scene since literally Day One, I can, wholeheartedly say that I did my best to accept it, love it and not hate it, but it just did not work out the way I hoped it would.

The applications that were killer and hot two years ago, are still the same ones that are hot today because, all in all, the Tablet PC ecosystem has not nearly seen as much influx as everyone predicted.

Their impact on the market is, still, negligible at best: Tablets are used by medical professionals and a few other niche areas, but for me, there is no future in this platform and as such, the hunt for new hardware continued, once again.

I knew that my next device, like my aging Tablet PC, would have to be a true Desktop replacement, because switching devices AND keeping them in sync all the time gets annoying really quick.

Another thing I require from my device is that it just works, in the sense that I do not have to install extra software when I hook up a projector, or, even worse: reinstall my whole operating system, because neither the built-in display adapter nor the external display provide me with any (visual) feedback whatsoever.

Naturally, just having a device that works is not all I want, I also wanted to try something new, venture into, for me, uncharted territory, so to speak. The last time around, this ended up being a Tablet PC, which basically was just an extension to the current operating system I was using at the time, this time around, I am inclined to switch operating systems too.

All in all, and more importantly, to bring this story an end, I have decided, that the best I could make is Apple’s new MacBook Pro and I am looking forward to, as one friend called it, experience that working with your computer can actually be fun.

Of course, while I made the decision on my own, I feel that there are two people I should thank, for putting up with my geekness during this trying time:

First and foremost, my biggest thanks go out to Nate Nelson who helped me put together my order, helped me change it, helped me order more stuff and even got me some nice extras to play with, thanks bro’!

Secondly, Kevin Pilasky for devoting the last three plus years of his life to make me consider and try out the OS X platform and finally have the guts to move to, and I quote: the system that will work for you!

* for the Apple fanboys who scuff at the mention of “New Soul” in combination with a MacBook Pro, I am sorry, I know the song is meant to be used for the MacBook Air, but it was just too tempting.

tools of the trade

posted in College on August 28th, 2006

As a student, I find that I have little time and loads of work to do, so I like to streamline my workflow. Part of that streamlining process is my hub to the digital world - my Tablet PC, a pimped out Toshiba Tecra M4 running the latest Windows Vista build.

I strongly believe in the formfactor of Tablet PCs and I expect them to be the standard amongst students in about 5 years - well, I hope so anyway and if prices go down, that might just happen.

Financial issues aside, I know that I’ve had a better learning experience last year because of my Tablet PC. Thanks to applications like Microsoft OneNote 2007 (currently in beta testing), I’m able to take notes during classes. I don’t have to worry about bringing the right set of pens or markers with me, OneNote 2007 (and 2003 too, naturally) has it all. Other great features include the ability to transform ink into text (which tends to work even with my chicken scribble) or enhance an image to make the text inside that image (!) searchable. And if you’re too lazy to write yourself, just take audio notes and listen to the session at your earliest convenience. Feel like sharing your notes? Just export to a PDF and share it with any Windows or Mac user.

Apart from OneNote 2007, I also strongly depend on Outlook 2007, which basically handles my day. Once it’s sync’ed with my Smartphone, I can always see which class is coming up next and where I ought to be. Doesn’t get much easier than that.

No matter what you study nowadays, chances are that you’re gonna use the internet. A good browsing experience is key and as such, I prefer to use Firefox. I don’t dislike Internet Explorer or anything, I’m just a lot more satisfied with the features Firefox offers me.

Studying is no fun if you can’t socialize and since everyone prefers to use a different network (be it MSN, ICQ, Y!, AOL or Skype), I went with Trillian a few years ago and haven’t looked back once. Trillian is truly the hub of my online life, showing me the information I need (Wikipedia integration, information about Timezones for people from abroad) and enabling me to chat without being annoyed by ads about dating sites or car insurance policies.

Apart from those four, there’s also Adode Dreamweaver, Fireworks and Flash, as well as Photoshop and Illustrator. Couldn’t live without any of those really, but the first four, I believe should be installed on any student PC - that is, if you’re serious about getting good grades.

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