It has been a slow week in tech around the campus.
The seventy degree weather coupled with the building heat still being on, is making the Pentium Fans work over time. There are still many Pentium 4 "Pizza Ovens" running around out there. We are getting ready to roll out our first Core 2 Duos this spring. The remaining machines are Pentium Ds or Pentium 4 Hyper-Threaders. Our main stalwart is the Dell Optiplex GX-270, and the Optiplex GX-620, to be replaced by the GX-745s when they become available.
The 620's case is the best feature of the device. The open front USB ports, and metal sides are much more practical than the GX-270s. Whomever came up with the idea to place the front USB ports under a gray flap was mistaken. That is the worst case design I have ever come across. Dell should also place a reset switch in the front of the case. IT pros still need to reset machines every now and then. Also, Dell or Microsoft should figure a way for XP to load drivers for various keyboards at boot, so when you swap a PS/2 keyboard for a USB model, one does not have to watch the drivers load while staring at the "Control - Alt - Delete" prompt.
iMac Update Oddity...
I did unpack a new Apple iMac 17" for our computing lab this week. This is my second Intel-iMac that I have set up for my users, the first for the lab. I cannot get around how compact and seem-less the computer is designed. Basically, the whole device is the size of a two or three year-old LCD monitor.
While following a normal setup routine, I ran software update on the Mac and chose to install all available updates. The iMac came with Mac OS X 10.4.8 out of the box, a much more updated example of the operating system than would be found on a Windows computer. Among the updates was a firmware patch for the Intel hardware. I still have to keep remembering that all Macs are basically, shiny, polished PCs nowadays (Sorry Mac fans, but they are...). I then rebooted, installed the firmware update and awaited the finishing reboot. The iMac hung for thirty minutes after that initial reboot with a light blue hue on the screen. Normally, I would be getting nervous at this point, but I am an hour into setup and have no real data at stake yet. The iMac came around after power-cycling the computer. All seemed well, so I let the computer run for the rest of the day. During the setup configuration, I set the Mac to turn off at midnight every day and boot every day at six AM. That is a setting that has never seemed to work on any Mac. They will boot up, but just never turn off. Why keep the computer on during the middle of the night when no one is using it?
Klowning Around with Kubuntu...
I finally took the plunge and installed Kubuntu 6.10 "Edgy Eft" on my laptop. The install is a dual-boot between Windows XP Pro. SP2 and Kubuntu. I still need the Windows side to run my database applications, which are all written in MS Acess, and I know that it will work with the wireless card.
I chose Kubuntu, over the normal Ubuntu because others may use the laptop and Kubuntu has a very similar layout to Windows with the "K Desktop Environment" (KDE). Ubuntu defaults to the "Gnome" desktop environment and is a clear departure from anything Windows. My favorite version of Ubuntu is "Xubuntu", and is designed for older hardware, but not exactly suitable for a laptop. The laptop acting as the guinea pig is a Dell Latitude with 512MB of RAM and a 1.0GHz Pentium III processor. The tech-radio and podcasting maven Leo Laporte recently claimed that a pentium III computer makes a good door stop. It seems to work well for my purposes. Kubuntu picked up all of my hardware, except the NetGear wireless card. I was expecting that. Prior research showed Ubuntu derivatives were not too great at picking up wireless PCMCIA cards. With that in mind, I am more than ready to dig-in and configure the wireless card with Kubuntu...
Product Review... (I'll try to do these now and then)
I purchased my shuffle on November 7, about a week after it's release. The device is very very small. One would have to figure about two quarters placed on top of one another as an accurate depiction. I have to take extra caution not to wash it with my jeans. The unit is encased in brushed aluminum, with a built-in clip for garment attachment (watch the ad). Included in the plastic, sunglasses case-sized package, are a set of earbuds, very well-illustrated docs, mini apple stickers, charging dock/USB connector. One thing that the new iPod shuffles and nanos do not come with is an iTunes CD-ROM. This may dismay some potential users, but apple research actually shows that most users do not have to actually download and install iTunes, and that the shuffle is a second iPod.
The small size is cool, but not a closing feature. The clip allow me to get my geek on and cruise around completely oblivious to my surroundings (something my military training strongly discouraged). The silver brushed aluminum finish scratches easily, and the ultra-small form factor will not be easy to create a case around. The volume is adequate, it is strong enough to drive the speakers in my truck through a Sony cassette adapter (It works...). The battery life is top-notch, but the unit is also new. The first gen shuffle's battery started to wane after months of use. For the price of seventy five dollars, the new iPod Shuffle is well worth it.