New Air

Two things I’m noticing about my lovely new MacBook Air (which replaced my 3.5 year old first-generation Air):

1. It’s fast. Especially over wireless. Way way faster than my early-2009 iMac. I’m not sure why that surprises me, but it really does.

2. The power key is way too close to the delete key. Just saying.

More Complaints

Remember this kid? She, or someone like her, is at it again. Twice in the last two weeks I’ve had my Apple ID “disabled for security reasons,” which happens when someone tries to log into your account with the wrong password three times in a row. Each time, I’ve discovered what’s happened because I’ve suddenly gotten an email message from iForgot with a link enabling me to reset my password. And each time, I’ve reset it. So no real security breach has taken place, but each time I’ve had to propagate my new password through all the bits and pieces on my system that need it, which is enough of a pain that I’m now complaining about it.

Whoever you are: kfitzpatrick at mac dot com belongs to me (as does its relative, kfitzpatrick at me dot com). That’s not going to change. Please stop.

Technology Updates

Of which there are several:

  • While I was on my last trip (to New Orleans), I discovered that the 12-inch Powerbook G4 that I’ve been attached to for the last three years suddenly had a battery life of about 20 minutes. I’d been planning on replacing it before this summer’s travels anyhow, so I stepped up the timeline a bit, and this Sunday came home from the Apple store with one of these. I’m almost completely, perfectly in love.
  • I’m running a bit of an experiment on that machine, trying to see how long I can go before I’m forced to install anything related to this. I’ve left instructions for those files to open in this; we’ll see how long that works.
  • This weekend, I’m in San Francisco. Yesterday, Bryan Alexander actually managed to convince me to start doing this. I’m as surprised as anyone; I was convinced that this was one of the two recent technologies that I’d never see the value in. (I’ll save the other one for another time.)
  • This morning, I upgraded my system to the new version of this. So far, I really like the look and feel of it, though I’ve got the sense that it’s going to take me a while to find everything.

I think that’s all of them, for now, at least…


I’m still processing my responses to yesterday’s Macworld Stevenote and the announcement of the MacBook Air. On the one hand, a super-lightweight portable computer seems to me a great niche for Apple to move into. On the other hand, this one is almost too focused on lightweight portability for me. It would be a fantastic travel machine, but not so great for working on day in and day out: not enough storage, not enough ports, not enough screen real estate.

Which makes me begin to suspect that Apple has opened a new front in consumer electronics marketing, as of yesterday: not upgrade-your-current-computer but instead buy-a-second-machine. After all, if you’re going to take advantage of things like Remote Disc, you’ve got to have another machine nearby. And if you’re going to use wireless networking for everything including backups, you’ve got to have a Time Capsule. So the digital hub seems increasingly to be throwing out new spokes, producing not a convergence of appliances but instead appliance proliferation.

I held off on replacing my 12″ PowerBook G4 until now, hoping that I’d want to replace it with something new and sexy. And I do, as it turns out: I want to replace it with a 24″ iMac and a MacBook Air. But until I get some grant that will allow me to do so, it looks like I’m going to be getting the same MacBook Pro I’d have gotten last month instead. Ah, well.

Private Communications

Okay, I’m in the middle of reading today’s Chronicle Careers column, and have just hit a paragraph (or two) that has me positively gobsmacked. The column is about ostensible faculty misuse of campus computing resources, and begins with a fairly reasonable anecdote about a faculty member being denied the ability to distribute news about an anti-war rally via an official campus announcements listserv, because policy clearly stated that the listserv was for official business only. Fair enough: as I can note from my own institution, anti-war rallies lead to puppies that need adoption and furniture for sale, and if your institution is big enough, that kind of thing would be fairly insupportable. But then there’s this:

Broader ethical principles are at play as well. For example, while it is generally considered unethical to use university e-mail accounts to engage in personal communication, most institutions are tolerant when it comes to minor personal usage, such as inviting friends to lunch or cocktails.

But institutions frown on extensive personal use, such as carrying on lengthy private exchanges or selling personal property on eBay, not to mention engaging in day trading or political advocacy. Those are all abuses to one degree or another.

I’m sorry; am I understanding that correctly? It’s considered unethical for me to use my campus email account to engage in non-official-business-related dialogue with my friend across the country, or across the hall, and my institution is merely being “tolerant” of such violations?

I suppose I understand the latter concerns, though frankly, as long as they’re not taking up work time or extensive network resources, I’m not sure I see the harm there, either. But I’m absolutely stunned by the general-principle separation of the official from the personal that the author seems to advocate here. Granted, these days, with free full-service email accounts to be had all over the place, it’s little hardship for an academic computing user to have a second personal account. But most of us in the profession came of computer-using age during the period when the only access that most of us could get — and certainly the only access worth anything — was through our institutions. Of course we use our email accounts for personal purposes; they’re our accounts.

I take the author’s overall point,* that maintaining a non-university email account can help faculty avoid any unwarranted investigations into one’s personal communications, but to intimate that the use of such an account for things other than official business is unethical seems to me a bit over the top, and more than a little impossible to support. No academic life is so clearly separable, it seems to me — work over here, personal stuff over there. God knows what he’d say about my using my work computer to write blog posts…


*On the email question, that is; the column later goes on to insist that any attempt to install non-officially-sanctioned software on your university-provided computer is also a misuse of campus resources. The lunacy of this claim — particularly for Mac users — is not even worth exploring.

The Most Brilliant Thing I’ve Read All Month

That would be this hint on how to force Apple to display messages in plain-text. Even those annoying messages from the assistant who insists on using an image as background for the message. And forcing plain-text also forces re-wrapping of HTML messages with lines that are too long for Mail’s window.

The only drawback is that there are certain messages that I don’t mind getting in HTML, but it seems to be an all-or-nothing thing. What I’d really like is a set of well-crafted rules: if mail is from person X, then force plain-text. Unfortunately, Mail allows for the “if” part of the statement, but not the “then”; you can flag, or mark as read, or move to a folder, or delete messages that qualify under some if-statement, but you can’t force plain-text upon them, alas…

This is a Test Post

In which I attempt to figure out whether my computer, or WordPress, or the internet more generally has a problem with the 31st of July. I posted an entry on the MediaCommons blog earlier this morning, but for whatever reason the permalinks to that entry totally fail. And Quicken was very wonky this morning when I asked it for some data over the last year (i.e., 31 July 2006 to 31 July 2007). There isn’t something going on no one’s told me about, right, like 31 July is the new 29 February? Or could it be the Y2K bug, just forestalled for seven years and seven months?


I’ve spent much too much of this weekend wrestling with a series of thorny and utterly unnecessary technical problems related to various of my websites. And I’m having a hard time making myself stop and do the things I actually need to be doing this weekend. Like grading. This is in no small part because dealing with these technical problems looks like work without really feeling like it, allowing me to spend hours and hours goofing off while still maintaining the appearance of productivity.

Continue reading “Tinkering”