Thursday, November 26, 2009

Macbook Pro Purchase

Each and every time that I have been in the market for a new computer, I have considered a Macintosh but decided on a PC. The recent research for a laptop resulted in the same type of comparisons, but with the completely different final result, a Macbook Pro instead of a PC. To be sure, the decision for the Mac has much more to do with internal thoughts than any measures used for comparison.

A simple measure is initial cost. Except for the first computers purchased while a graduate student, the initial cost has not been a major factor. Even so it is a point of comparison and for the systems I've been interested in the Macintosh is always more expensive, also true of this most recent purchase. Certain aspects of the systems could be compared fairly closely, such as processor, memory, harddrive, battery, display, and video cards. Between the two options I considered most closely, the Macintosh was 39% more expensive.

What benefit might I obtain for that extra third in cost? Possibly it is in aspects that are more difficult to compare, such as operating system, software, manufacture, usage, and aesthetics. As far as operating systems, I have used Unix-like systems (i.e. Linux) for a decade and a half. While I am glad that Macintosh OS X is also based on a Unix-like system (i.e. freeBSD), the Macintosh look and feel and behavior is the stock interface. Cost makes a reappearence in that Linux is free whereas OS X is not, so future operating system upgrades for the Mac will likely require more money.

Most of the applications I use are open source and monetarily free. As far as I know at this moment, I neither need nor will be inclined to want Macintosh applications. However, this is part of the experiment — to determine if the software is so good that I would be inclined.

It does appear that the Macbook Pro is more sturdy than the other contender. This judgement is based on two main things: a personal notion that the aluminum body will hold up better, and vicarious experience from user reviews of the competing systems. User reviews also indicated some potential usage problems such as excessive heating for the PC laptop. However, I tend not to weight user reviews too much because of variability and unknown correspondence of priorities with my own.

Finally, there are the aesthetics to consider. In short, while I appreciate beauty in computers I am more interested in how the device will help me do the things I want to do. A trip to the Apple store confirmed that I am not their demographic, and I think experience will bear out that what I most want to do with computers is not available in iLife. I remained unconvinced that the slick look of the applications and the availability of mouse gestures will increase my efficacy.

If the decision were based on an algorithm of definite and known measures, I would have chosen the PC. Some things, however, are hard to quantify and in this case a desire to gain first-hand experience was probably the deciding factor. Never having a Macintosh means that I am not fluent in their administration and usage; this purchase adds a third major operating system to my toolbox. Although less important, the experience should help me better compare major operating systems and their ability to help users be more productive.

I hope the Mac is at least a poem that I can appreciate.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The Poetry Class and Apple Macintosh

Years ago I took a poetry class as an undergraduate. The professor asked each student why they elected poetry. I responded that there was a lot of poetry that I did not like and I wanted to know why. At the end of the course I appreciated a wider variety of poetry, but that same experience and understanding also deepened and extended my dislike.

This week I bought my first Apple computer. When asked why I elected the Macbook Pro over a Dell XPS I respond in a similar fashion as I did about the poetry. I have decided to experience the system for myself in order to judge more thoroughly the benefits and costs of an Apple solution. Gazing into my crystal ball, I can see how there may be ways in which I appreciate the Mac more, but in others I'll simply consider it bad poetry.

Monday, November 2, 2009

More Blogger testing

The original plan for this blog was to use FTP publishing rather than using a custom domain. However, the present solution is a custom domain where the pages are hosted on Blogger. This means that I must publish articles via the Blogger interface which was a problem a few days ago because of line breaks and odd HTML behavior.

Just today someone pointed out that a newer Blogger interface could be used. There were two advertised steps:

  1. Select the new editor
    • Navigate to Settings|Basic
    • Choose updated editor for Select post editor
    • Save settings
  2. Deactivate line break conversion
    • Navigate to Settings|Formatting
    • Choose No for Convert line breaks
    • Save settings

The initial tests with this very post showed that the line breaks were being converted to hard breaks. Then I discovered a solution, at least for this post:

  1. Workaround
    • Navigate to Posting|New Post
      • Enter HTML content
    • Open Post Options
    • Choose Ignore newlines under Edit HTML Settings
    • Publish post

Now the authoring-publishing flow is

  • Write post using emacs in orgmode
  • Select contents (without including headline)
  • Export region as HTML fragment using C-u M-x org-export-region-as-html
  • Copy HTML buffer to the Blogger interface for a new post in the "Edit HTML" tab
  • Ensure that newlines will be ignored
  • Publish Post

Sunday, November 1, 2009

What HTML does Blogger want for nested lists?

I use orgmode in emacs to write almost all text-based documents, including entries to Blogger. After exporting a region (C-u M-x export-region-as-html) and pasting the result into Blogger, the layout had problems. First, whenever an li element was followed by a newline, Blogger rendered the a linebreak, but I had expected the logical markup to be honored rather than the presentation. More troubling was the fact that nested lists, unordered inside an ordered, did not behave as expected. Namely, the ordered list did not continue numbering after exit from the unordered list. This post is done using the Blogger editing interface so that I can see the HTML that it expects for lists.
  1. OL 1
  2. OL 2
    • UL 1 under OL2
  3. OL 3
OK, so in the Blogger interface I can get nested lists. This gives me some hope.

Configuring Yahoo smallbusiness website for Blogger account

  1. Log into account on http://smallbusiness.yahoo.com
  2. Select the "Manage" tab
  3. Select the "File Manager" tab and create a new directory (e.g. naturallogofx)
    • If desired, the directory could be made private which would restrict access to users that have permission
      1. Select "Manage Subdomains"
      2. Create a new subdomain (e.g. naturallogofx)
    • Ensure that the subdomain is pointed to the correct directory
      1. Select "Advanced DNS Settings"
      2. Create CNAME record
        Source: naturallogofx
        Destination: ghs.google.com
        
      3. At this point my Blogger account reported that my new subdomain was properly configured. However, the Blogger instructions indicate that making A records is useful, but when I tried the following the CNAME record was deleted and Blogger reported bad configuration
    • Create A records
      Source: naturallogofx
      Destination: 216.239.32.21
      

      Repeat for the following IP addresses

      • 216.239.34.21
      • 216.239.36.21
      • 216.239.38.21 Reading the instructions more carefully it might be that this particular configuration would be useful if the blog is the main content on the original domain.