Scripting News for 5/24/2007

Say it ain’t so 

AppleInsider “believes in all sincerity that the Mac mini is dead.” I, for one, would be disappointed if this were true.

The Mac mini is exactly the kind of product Silicon Valley should never stop making. It’s the perfect platform for tinkerers in the middle of the hottest growth area for tech, the home network. I keep mine under a 46-inch Sony HD-TV. Nothing else in Apple’s product line would fit except Apple TV, which doesn’t do enough to interest a guy like me. I want a new much faster Mac Mini, and would pay for it. It’s the most cripped Mac I own, slow at everything. Yet its the workhorse of my home network.

Flickr: Mac Mini in my geeked-out home network.

Europe travel questions 

1. Will my Cingular Blackberry work in Europe?

2. Will my Sprint EVDO?

3. Will there be Internet on the KLM flight from SFO to Amsterdam?

4. Will there be power at the seat?

5. Which power adapters do I need to bring?

Todd Mitchell offers some very detailed answers.

Brian Benz has a novice geek’s guide for staying connected while overseas.

I got Cingular to turn on the international roaming service. Calls and email will be expensive, but what the heck, I’m only there for 11 days.

KLM says no there’s no Internet on the 747 and no electric outlets either. It’s an old plane, but it’s huge. I got them to put me upstairs, in a window seat. Let’s hope I don’t have to go to the bathroom too much. :-)

The consensus is that I can leave the EVDO card home, it won’t work in Europe at all. Luckily wifi does work in Europe, and it should be better than the last time I was overseas.

Two eye-openers in the NY Times 

I don’t often read op-ed pieces in the Times, they’re part of Times Select, and it’s never really occurred to me to pay them for opinion pieces. Today I happened to be on a plane flying from San Diego to Oakland, and I picked up a copy of the Times, in print, an affirmation that newspapers aren’t dead.

One of the pieces that caught my attention was by Nicholas Kristof, an essay about trade with China. He explained that while the balance of trade between the United States and China is lopsided in favor of China, there are countries with which China has a trade deficit.

For example, China is in the business of assembling parts created elsewhere, and those parts show up as a negative on their balance sheet. So while a Barbie doll they send to US creates a $3 debt from the US to China, only $0.03 of that belongs to China, the rest of it is owed by them to other countries. Our massive trade deficit with China actually distorts the economic strength of China. They’re not so strong.

The second piece, about nursing homes in the US, was written by Atul Gawande. He explains that while nursing homes are good at keeping people alive, and better than they used to be, for people who lead rich lives before requiring care, they can be like prison. For people my age, this reality isn’t so far away that it wouldn’t be a good time to start thinking about it, and learning, and maybe helping to reform the system.

Season finales 

Two TV serials I follow wound up their seasons this week.

I have to watch the last episode of Heroes again to figure out the details, but it left me satisfied. A good story, with a good moral. Check.

The finale of Lost left me wondering why they’re going to have another season. So much was resolved. It also had a strong moral message, be satisfied with what you have.

TV is definitely getting better.

Advisory board finale 

Every so often I get an email asking what’s up with the RSS Advisory Board.

Here’s what I thought in May 2004: “This group is not a standards organization. It does not own RSS, or the spec, it has no more or less authority than any other group of people who wish to promote RSS.”

Today I think it’s even less than that. It basically stopped functioning later in 2004. The people involved went on to do other things. In the meantime RSS kept growing and growing.

Did RSS actually need an “advisory board?” No, it didn’t.

I think it’s great that people care about RSS. Keep supporting it, and if you want to help people use it, great. Just don’t pretend there’s any official board or body or whatever behind it, because there isn’t.

Oh and by the way this is where the RSS 2.0 spec is and always will be. (Modulo redirects and Acts of Murphy.)

Postscript: Any group could create a profile of RSS, and recommend that other people use it. That group could be the authority on the profile, and change it in response to feedback. A validator could have an option to test against conformity to the profile, to say that a file is not only compatible with the RSS spec, but it also conforms to the profile. The group could act according to rules they devise, which they could pattern after the IEEE, IETF or W3C, or come up with a completely new protocol. Doing a profile is a logical and fair way for people who want to do standards work based on RSS to proceed.

Yo Ted! 

Kind words from Ted Leonsis about Web 3.0. :-)

Request for linkage 

Valleywag used a Creative Commons licensed photo of mine, one that I’m quite proud of, taken when I knew Scoble was leaving Microsoft and the rest of the world didn’t (yet, it would leak out the next day). I asked how it felt to be out of Microsoft, and he made this face, in jest, for sure. It would be great Valleywag linked back to the original from the photo they used, share some of the flow and credit. Seems like a fair trade. Thanks in advance! :-)

17 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by heavyboots on May 24, 2007 at 9:45 am

    Well, the good news is that you can upgrade the processor and the hard drive if you want to make it a bit faster. The bad news is that they’re not exactly *easy* to open up and work on…

    Reply

  2. I agree, re the mini. At my workplace we have editors and designers in a pubs department using both Mac and Windows. A couple editorial assistants have minis so they can occasionally grab something from the Mac network. Since they don’t use it as their main machines, if it were not for the mini, our nonprofit org probably wouldn’t get any kind of Mac for them, just let them hop on somebody else’s computer when they had to.

    Reply

  3. Posted by vanni on May 24, 2007 at 11:41 am

    Hi Dave – one can get a universal power adaptor for european plugs. Italy uses the two round-type peg system. Don’t recal lwhat denamrk uses. Apple sells a World Travel Adapter Kit.

    http://store.apple.com/1-800-MY-APPLE/WebObjects/AppleStore?productLearnMore=M8794G/B

    I recently travelled on KLM out of montreal and they had a power center for laptops. NOTE: In February 2005, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines will welcome its first Boeing 777 offering an SMS and e-mail service for passengers in World Business Class and Economy Class. This new service will also be available aboard the six Airbus A330s that will be joining the KLM fleet as of August 2005.

    Reply

  4. I have the same setup – in the bedroom under a 32″ lcd… Its far and away the most stable, easiest to implement webserver I’ve ever used to host my blog… Other versions of linux I’ve used have died during upgrades or gone the way of the dodo or were a pain to setup.

    Reply

  5. Posted by Anto2000 on May 24, 2007 at 1:17 pm

    BBC: The cost of making mobile phone calls in Europe is set to fall substantially after lawmakers backed plans to cap so-called “roaming” charges.

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/low/business/6682835.stm

    It will save you a fortune to read this :-) The levels of DATA ROAMING charges are quite high in europe. Start buying medical supplies now so that you are well equipped when you take your telephone bill out of the letter box, back home again.

    From a theoretical point of view it would be interesting to know if you pay roaming charges at all when you travel with your Blackberry registered and billed in California to New York (one economic market).

    In contrast to your european expedition (Amsterdam – Netherlands, Denmark, Germany, Austria, Itally) accross five different economic GSM markets with five different very high DATA ROAMING charges, which you are going to be billed when you are back home.

    Reply

  6. Photo Link Request…I don’t recall you ever providing a link to the originals of all the photos you use Dave. If you don’t, why should others?

    Reply

  7. Your memory is faulty. :-)

    Reply

  8. I noticed your rss feed for Morning Coffee Notes doesn’t seems to be updating. The last two podcasts never showed up in my itunes.

    Reply

  9. Thanks for flagging the NYT Nursing Homes article, Dave. I’m at the Village Building Convergence in Portland, OR, visiting various cohousing neighborhoods and other placemaking activities… today I helped stir mud (kind of like stomping grapes to make wine) to make cob to help create a teahouse for a mini-cohousing community. While the energy here is dominated by young folk with the flexibility to tune in, turn on, drop out, and pursue alternatives to the default world, there is a lot of discussion about aging in community issues and how to create new choices — alternatives to institutionalization or isolation. I’m taking your advice and starting simple with blogging on the topic — tune in in June! Have a safe and happy Memorial Day Weekend.

    Reply

  10. Bummer if the Mini is dead. I figured my first mac in a decade and a half would be a mini. I was just waiting for the next bump.

    There was a great Radio Open Source on aging a few weeks ago featuring Atul Gawande:

    http://www.radioopensource.org/the-new-age-of-old-age/

    My take away: The quality of life benefits of admitting you are old and seeking health care from docs who specialize in old people are substantial.

    Reply

  11. Yes, no, no, probably yes and yes, the one with the two round prongs.

    Reply

  12. Posted by Henk Doornbos on May 24, 2007 at 11:05 pm

    Wow,

    Just curious, what are you going to do in Europe, Dave?

    Henk

    Reply

  13. Will my Cingular Blackberry work in Europe?

    If it can ‘do’ GSM, yes.

    Will my Sprint EVDO?

    No.

    Which power adapters do I need to bring?

    For your laptop, whose power transformer almost certainly already does both 110V and 220V, a simple plug converter will do. Kingston has a really nice one for about twenty bucks. You can plug anything into the top, and move pins on the side to get it to plug into any local socket.

    If it’s not a laptop and you can’t find the magic word ‘220V’ anywhere on the device (or its charger), you’ll be needing an AC transformer. They go for about 80-100 spuds.

    Reply

  14. Yep, for power, you need only a US-to-EU converter. In the EU, everywhere except the UK and Ireland use the two-round-pronged plugs (we use chunky three pronged plugs instead). You can, if you want, buy a laptop power cable instead. The Apple power bricks have replaceable cables that go between the power brick and the socket. I looked in to this while I was in the US last year and it was cheaper just to get plug converters which you can probably buy at the airport on either side of the Atlantic for a few euros. The simplest thing is to bring a power strip in your checked luggage and then just plug everything in to that.

    Things like phones and other gadgets (iPod, for instance) can be charged from USB power.

    As John said, your BlackBerry will work if it runs on GSM. I’m not sure whether Cingular is GSM or not – when I visited Boston last year, I mostly roamed on T-Mobile (when I was in Cambridge, it would sometimes flip to Cingular and go all weird on me). GSM is not the only requirement. Your phone needs to be tri-band too – ie. it needs to be able to switch in to the European frequency – 900Mhz. I’m betting that your BlackBerry is probably tri-band, but if it doesn’t work, that may be the reason.

    If you have a way to turn off the ‘stream’ of e-mails to your Blackberry, it’s probably not a bad idea. Your roaming rate will be extortionate – especially for data.

    For mobile data, we have two standards in the EU – GPRS and 3G. GPRS runs at modem speeds (56k) while 3G runs quite a bit faster (low-end broadband speeds) – 3G also ‘steps down’ to GPRS if in an area without high signal. You can get phones which offer data support for fairly low amounts – and so long as it has Bluetooth, you can probably use it for data.

    This about.com article has pretty good details: http://goeurope.about.com/cs/stayingconnected/a/cell_phone_buy.htm
    (The only thing that isn’t quite true is the bit about buying SIM cards – I know people who’ve bought them all across Europe without having to show their residency in any particular country).

    Data prices are high, but a lot lower than roaming prices. The best thing to do is to buy an unlocked GSM tri-band phone which you can hook up to your Mac and then you can buy SIM cards in each country for that network’s coverage. You can get Mac drivers for phones at http://www.taniwha.org.uk and a list of all the providers at http://www.taniwha.org.uk/gprs.html

    3G really isn’t available without a contract, and if you want to go down the GPRS route, it can get complicated. The easiest solution is to hope that your hotel has wi-fi or get your credit card out and go to Starbucks. If you are going to be mostly within cities, wi-fi is probably a lot easier than trying to get mobile data. When I lasted visited France, I didn’t bother setting up mobile data as I was only there for three or four days (at the ill-fated Le Web conference) and both my hotel and the conference centre had wi-fi.

    Other things to look for with wi-fi are FON. http://www.fon.com – if you see a wireless access point which has an SSID that starts ‘FON_’, it is a public access point provided by a user of the FON network. They aren’t spectacularly high speed, but you can buy FON day passes for only three euros, which is significantly cheaper than everybody else charges. They are dotted all over Europe and there is a map on the site.

    For free wifi in Copehagen, check Wikitravel’s entry, it has a list of cafes and other venues with free wifi. http://wikitravel.org/en/Copenhagen#Contact

    Finally, you might want to look at http://www.seat61.com – it’s has pretty comprehensive links to non-air-travel within Europe. So if you are stuck somewhere and just want to hop on a train and go, have a look. It’s pretty neat.

    Reply

  15. Posted by Tim Faulkner on May 25, 2007 at 5:25 am

    Dave, I posted the story, and image, at Valleywag; sorry. I initially used the photo without credit. I’m fairly new to blogging and quickly grabbed it from Google Images where I found it without proper sourcing. Valleywag is always happy to provide proper crediting and linking when appropriate. Thanks for being patient and considerate.

    Reply

  16. Beware Cingular’s sales tactics. Worst case is landing with a useless phone:

    http://www.zmetro.com/archives/007626.php

    B & H photo / video has a useful set of plug adaptors with a convenient small bag:

    Franzus International Adapter Plug Kit – Allows Ungrounded 2-Prong USA Devices to be used in Most of the World

    http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/18282-REG/Franzus_M500E_International_Adapter_Plug_Kit.html

    Have fun!

    Reply

  17. Since they don’t use it as their main machines, if it were not for the mini, our nonprofit org probably wouldn’t get any kind of Mac for them, just let them hop on somebody else’s computer when they had to.

    Reply

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