Computers


Farewell to the Tecra

I packed the Toshiba Tecra up this afternoon and gave it to a DHL man to be taken back to the TalkToshiba people.

The experience has been a little disappointing. The Tecra A8 is a good enough piece of kit, but it wouldn’t be my choice if I were looking to spend some money on a laptop. It falls between the two types of machine I’d be interested in.

The Tecra was a little too large for me to consider putting it in my man-bag and toting it around town. True, the size allowed for a full size keyboard and the large screen, but these reduced its portability. I’d like to have something lighter and smaller that I can take anywhere with me. Like the old Portege I’m typing this post up on. An even simpler solution I’m thinking of is getting a bluetooth folding keyboard for my mobile.

At the other end of the price spectrum I could really go for the current version of the portege or some other tablet PC with a flip round screen that I could do art on. Or maybe an Apple Macbook, for all my video editing dreams.

It’s been interesting, but I’m afraid the Tecra A8 isn’t for me.


A quick test of battery life

I turned the Tecra on without plugging it in, to test battery life, and got nearly two hours out of it. Which isn’t bad. I wasn’t doing anything too testing, definitely no cds or dvds and very little heavy processing. At some point the screen goes to half brightness to conserve power, which is a little irritating but I could live with it.


Toshiba Test – the weekend

For various reasons I haven’t been able to play with the laptop as much as I’d like for the last few days. It is finally talking to the house network wirelessly, but only because I installed a NetGear USB wireless adaptor. Weak internal wireless is a problem at least one person has told me about on their personal Toshiba laptop.

The laptop doesn’t have a firewire socket, so I can’t get video off my old mini-dv camcorder. However, I now have a JVC hard drive camcorder which transfers by USB, so I’ll shoot some footage and try transferring it onto the laptop.

I have, however, been able to watch some stuff on the laptop. Video playback from dvd is crisp and stutter free. Sound from the built in speakers is good enough for something your watching whilst it’s sat on your lap.

The next challenge would be to see how well it copes as a games machine, but we don’t have anything in the house for pcs that would really test it.

So, overall, a mostly disappointing few days of Toshiba testing. I’ll try to get more done tomorrow.


Toshiba test – day 1


Tosh, originally uploaded by spinneyhead.

I have been given a Toshiba laptop to review by the people at talktoshiba. Which is nice, except that we can’t get it to talk to the wireless.

The computer is a Tecra A8. I don’t have access to the technical specs right now, I may dig them out later. Today’s mission, between trying to fix a puncture 15 times (which is another story altogether), was to test connectivity. First, I wanted to transfer yWriter and WeFi from my PC. This was easy enough once I sorted out bluetooth ids.

Next I needed to send a yWriter project from my normal (borrowed) laptop, an old but reliable Toshiba Portege. I plugged an IR dongle into the back of the Tecra and it recognised it but didn’t want to use it for anything. I lined the two laptops up, but the Portege couldn’t detect the dongle. This looks like something I will have to try again.

Most annoying of all, I can’t get the Tecra to connect to the internet in the house. I’ve tried it around town with WeFi, where it can detect lots of wireless nodes. It could connect to the pay wireless in Cafe Nero, which wasn’t much use. On Albert Square there were dozens of nodes detectable, but none- not even StreetNet which I’ve used before- could be connected to. I didn’t have the Portege with me to do a side by side test, but I can say that it has been used to surf from the Albert memorial.

Damian has pointed out that I can just plug it into the house network with a cable, which is what I will do later, but it does kind of defeat the object of a laptop.

Tomorrow I’ll get the rest of the software onto the laptop and start using it properly.


Serenity: the Game

Not really, though you can buy the role playing game. Whilst watching the Serenity DVD on Tuesday (sort of, it was on in the corner of a pancake day party) and yesterday realised that it really is time for a new version of Elite, with added role playing and small squad tactical bits for when you’re planet side.

I guess I could go and download Frontier.

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Scavenger Hunt Sex Toy

One student’s account of building a sex toy that fulfills several of Spinneyhead’s criteria.

I shall now detail how I constructed this item. The first order of business, right after the conga line, was acquiring a vibrator to modify. We went to Condom Kingdom in Melbourne Central at about 4pm. We had already been past there during the conga line, and were too soft to go to a proper, poorly-lit, sex shop. We bought a black battery operated vibrator for about $25. Then for about an hour we played with the vibrator, sneaking up on people, humping their heads and cock slapping them.

When we got tired of that, I dropped by home to see what parts I had lying around that I could make use of. I grabbed a cordless drill motor/gearbox, some aluminium tubing/sheet/rod, nuts and bolts, transistors, resistors, diodes, an old parallel port cable and a protoboard. I also grabbed my notebook computer, an IBM PIII 700, running Slackware Linux 10.1. I determined that the only other parts I would need to buy would be three relays, two 3 amp for two vibrate speeds, and one 5 amp for ‘thrust’.

Via BoingBoing

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Every where you go, always take your PC with you

Via Tom’s Hardware I’ve discovered the joy of Knoppix. It’s a Linux distribution that boots off a CD without touching your hard drives. A cd-rom drive and some memory is all it ever needs. Klaus Knopper (it’s creator) has really hit on a good idea here. All you need to do is download the CD image (.iso) and burn it on a disk. A capsule review follows:

The good

On my system it goes from boot to desktop in about 2 minutes including detecting hardware. It’s got web browsers, email clients, office software (office xp compatible), media players, a CD-ROM burner and a bunch of other stuff I’ve haven’t explored yet. You can make custom Knoppix builds with the apps and drivers you want.

The bad

Configuring my Alcatel Speedtouch (the most common ASDL modem in the UK) is a real ball-ache but eventually it will work. It doesn’t detect the mouse in my shiny new MS wireless desktop (in defense it’s brand new gear and my old USB mouse and the new wireless keyboard do work from boot).

The ugly

There is no ugly . Ok, the ASDL modem thing is a drag and the current version can’t write to NTFS volumes but it reads them without problems.

End game

It does what it says on the tin. This is an OS that will boot from a CD on a box without a working system disk and give a you a good GUI afterwards. Even if you’re not into Linux you have to admit that this makes it a damn powerful (and cheap) data recovery tool. The customisation possibilities mean you can build your own virtual PC on a CD that will boot on any relatively modern hardware.


Where don't you want to go today?

So I’ve downloaded and installed the XP update, like I’m supposed to, and so far it’s managed to mess with BlackIce (if this patch is supposed to improve my security why is the firewall the first thing it screws up?) and lose the drivers for the USB modem (much swearing and a desperate scrabble around to find the installation disks ensued). Those problems seem to be solved, but I wonder what other programs it’s pissed off to the point of not working any more.

Microsoft- the world leader in unproductivity tools. When I’m brave enough I’m going over to Linux. (I’ve been saying that for years. One day…….)


The Joy of Geeks

I started reading this article in the Guardian. It started off talking in loving detail about two teenagers’ first computers in 1981. The teenagers names were dropped in a way that made me think I should know who they were, David Braben and Ian Bell. This clearly being a computerish article, I consulted resident geek No 1 (Daz). He ummed, said he thought he recognised one of the names but wasn’t sure.

So I read on, hoping for enlightenment. It described how they’d both gone to Cambridge, met up and started working on a game together. The title of the game, Elite, was dropped in a similar, accidental-on-purpose fashion. Still none the wiser, I tried out this title on the other resident geek (Ian).

Ian stuck his head through the banister and burbled for five minutes including phrases like “the first truly genius game”, “It was really cool with trading and shooting people” and “It’s ELITE! How could you not have heard of this?” and then wandered off to see if he could find anything about it on the net.

So it seems I am the only one who hasn’t heard of this. Elite came out in 1984 when I had more important things on my mind (turning 4, adopting the girl next door as my big sister, trying to climb the back fence). It has a apparently fell into the black hole between the true antiques, Pacman and Space Invaders, and the games I started to play in the late 80s, along with anything on the Spectrum.

But I live with geeks and have therefore be not only educated in the wonder that is Elite but supplied with a link to a Java version. Which I present here, whether you have sat here thinking “What is she talking about?” or happily reminiscing about the hours you wasted at it the first time.

Cross-posted to my LJ along with lots of other pointless gubbins.

(I have also spent the last hour arguing with Daz about whether he is a geek.)