the difference between mac and pc

posted by victor @ 11:46 am December 27, 2008 in geek,life

For the record, I’m a mostly-OS-agnostic Mac snob who uses PCs a LOT for work, which is 3D animation (Win2K) and writing (Linux or XP on my laptop of choice, an IBM ThinkPad).

It came to me the other day. Here it is:

Windows (and most PC hardware) is designed by engineers.

OS X (and Apple’s hardware) is engineered by designers.

That’s it.

What about Linux? Engineered by engineers, unfortunately. But lately (thank god), they’ve been talking to designers!

in the year of 39

posted by victor @ 1:15 pm December 25, 2008 in music

I recently re-discovered a marvel of a song, ’39*, written and sung by Brian May and friends on Queen’s We Are The Champions LP (the one with Bohemian Rhapsody). At first blush, the song sounds like a Queenly retooling of a traditional folk tune, a tale of intrepid sailors setting sail for new lands. But May also happens to be an astrophysicist, and if you listen closely, you’ll hear a heartbreaking sci-fi story involving space travel at near-light speed and the tragic consequences of a phenomenon called “time dilation.”

The first verse sets the scene. In XX39, 20 souls are sent to find a new home for mankind, as their own world’s ability to support them dwindles:

In the year of ’39 assembled here the volunteers
In the days when lands were few
And the ship sailed out into blue and sunny morn
Sweetest sight ever seen
And the night followed day and the storytellers say
That the score brave souls inside
For many a lonely day sailed across the milky seas
Ne’r looked back, never feared, never cried

“Milky seas” is the first tipoff that this isn’t about sailing in the ordinary sense. The chorus confirms, with:

Don’t you hear my call though you’re many years away
Don’t you hear me callin’ you
Write your letters in the sand
For the day I’ll take your hand
In the land that our grandchildren knew

Many years away suggests a journey beyond miles, and our narrator looks forward to seeing his lover again “in the land that our grandchildren knew,” the future world of their children’s children.

The second and final verse answers any questions that remain, finishing with a devastating reveal:

In the year of ’39 came a ship in from the blue
The volunteers came home that day
And they bring good news of a world so newly born
Tho their hearts so heavily weigh
For the earth is old and gray, little darlin’ we’ll away
But my love this cannot be
For so many years have gone, though I’m older but a year
Your mother’s eyes, from your eyes, cry to me

The year is again XX39, 100 years hence, and our hero returns with good news — but is saddened to find his world “old and gray.” Furthermore, now returning to “the land that our grandchildren knew,” he finds that as a result of the near-light-speed of his travels, he is only “older but a year,” though “so many years have gone.”

It pains him to see whoever it is welcoming him. Who is it? It seems to be the daughter he left behind, now fully grown, in whose eyes he sees her mother’s… But unless she is 100 years old, I imagine it is his granddaughter, one of the “grandchildren” the chorus repeatedly references. So the lover he left behind is long gone, leaving only his memory of her (as her “letters in the sand” have long since washed away). After this final revelation, the song ascends into a final chorus, ending with a tragic lament to his long-lost love, and finally, anyone who will listen:

…all your letters in the sand cannot heal me like your hand
For my life still ahead, pity me.

* why “39”? Well, someone, somewhere, counted. Apparently, if you tally every recording by Queen, on every album, this is the 39th. Try not to freak out. Click here for the chord chart — sing along!

ultimate netbook

posted by victor @ 6:36 pm December 23, 2008 in geek

Today’s laptops remind me of those “bass players” you see with 5, 6 and 7-string basses… Give me a fucking break. If you’re secretly harboring a guitar fetish, learn to play guitar and STFU.

Today, “Netbooks” are all the rage. I’d actually call them “laptops,” since that’s what they seem to be — laptops that know their place. Small, thin, light, powerful enough, wifi… All you need, really, in a laptop.  So when the Asus eee pc came out, I indulged. Nutshell: Fun to look at, maybe play with, but useless for touch typing in any serious way.

Last week I bought a ThinkPad X41. It’s awesome (I happen to love trackpoint navigation, and IBM’s idea of how a keyboard should feel). It’s very thin, very light, with an old-school 1024×768, 12″ LCD… Which I like, ’cause I think the whole “cinema screen” craze is misguided as hell. I don’t use my laptop to watch movies; I use it to write. On vertical, letter-sized pages. WTF. Anyway, netbook schmetbook; it’s a smart laptop that acts like one.

Downside: Can’t run OSX (unless you’re seriously committed)… But I’ve found that with RocketDock, “Cleartype” (is that really the best you could do, M$??) and a nice, minimalist theme installed (and taskbar hidden), I have a superb “netbook” that is also a killer writing machine. Might go for the OSX crack one of these days, we’ll see. In the meantime, I have a wafer-thin happy lappy that weighs less than 3 pounds, has xlnt built-in wifi and is solid as a rock (1.5Ghz CPU/1.5GB RAM/40GBHD).

Total cost? $250. That’s right. I scored extra discount points with the one I bought, as it had wonky keys, so the owner knew he had to go down… $200 out the door, found a new keyboard on eBay for $40+shipping. It even has a fingerprint reader (!?)… So there!

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