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New Toys

Started: 2008-02-16 22:44:57

Submitted: 2008-02-16 23:33:41

Visibility: World-readable

Last weekend, I finally got around to buying a new iPod. Four years ago, I acquired a ten-gigabyte third-generation iPod which I eventually named Dawn (after Buffy's sister). Dawn served me well, but her battery life declined over time; these days, I can get up to two hours on a full charge, which works ok for week days (especially when I can tether her to power), but doesn't give me much play time on weekends when I tend to go on long hikes (or, in the winter, skiing or snowshoeing) while listening to podcasts. After making a paper mock-up to get a better feeling for the device's actual size (which was rather hard to determine from the Internet alone), I ultimately decided on portability over storage and larger screens for video and opted for a US$200 third-generation iPod Nano in every hacker's favorite color.

I visited the Apple Store at Boulder's pseudo-shiny missing-hyphen mall, actually touched my chosen model (which was made more difficult by the security system), concluded that the tiny screen wasn't entirely worthless for playing video (though it makes postage-stamp-sized web videos from the nineties seem huge), and handed my credit card to the Apple Store employee.

The packaging wasn't quite as neat as my first iPod's packaging, but it took far less space: the entire clear polycarbonate case was roughly the size of my old iPod, with the new Nano nestled inside. I named my new iPod Drusilla and started synchronizing music. (iTunes seems to have no problem driving multiple iPods from the same music collection.) My initial plan was to use Drusilla for podcasts and a small subset of music (my "New Music" playlist, where I place every new album I purchase), since I can't fit my entire music collection in ten gigabytes on Dawn, but I quickly realized that I can fit all the music I actually listen to on Drusilla's eight gigabytes and still have plenty of space to spare. After a week, I haven't used Dawn at all; I'm tempted to retire Dawn and use Drusilla exclusively.

In other hardware-acquisition news, Kiesa and I finally decided to retire our trusty fifteen-year-old LaserJet 4; it's been having trouble feeding paper (though it's much better once we moved it upstairs a year ago), and the toner cartridge streaks. Both of those problems are probably fixable, but we've also lusted after color printers with duplexers. Last Sunday, I spent a few quality hours researching printers and eventually decided on an HP Color LaserJet 2605dn. (I even figured out how to decode HP's letter suffixes; "d" means "duplexer" and "n" means "network".) I ordered online and set it up last night. While discussing names, Kiesa observed that the printer looks short and wide, so I suggested the name Rygel, which stuck. So far, I like the printer; I was able to get CUPS to talk to it without much effort, and successfully got a color test page. I suspect HP had the venerable LaserJet 4's footprint in mind when designing this printer; it's exactly the same width (sixteen inches) and almost the same depth, so it fits in exactly the same space next to my TV.

(We also acquired a new shredder; our new model can shred twelve sheets at a time and boasts a 20 minute on, 40 minute off duty cycle. This should be enough to keep up with our junk mail.)

In related tech gadget news, I left Solekai on Friday, 8 February and started at Morphlix on the following Monday. Morphlix is a small Boulder startup with a super-secret scheme for home video delivery. Leaving Solekai meant I had to surrender Darnassus, so last Friday I dusted Illyria off as my primary portable computer. To my minor surprise, I was able to get 3D acceleration running on her embedded Savage/IX, so I can run Google Earth with a passable frame rate, at least until I load my lifetime KML file and bring Illyria to her knees. (I had much better luck getting 3D acceleration running on Illyria than on Ziyal. This seems ironic since Ziyal has a Voodoo 3, which used to be a shiny 3D acceleration card around the turn of the century.) This means I need to get myself a new notebook someday, and I have enough time to shop carefully. I'm hoping for a portable desktop replacement (realizing that's basically impossible); I'm attracted by Dell's Latitude 830, which looks a bit smaller but more powerful than Darnassus, but I continue to lust after MacBooks, and I need to take a look at ThinkPads. (I haven't researched recent ThinkPads carefully, but the feeling I've gotten is that Lenovo isn't nearly as Linux- and hacker-friendly as IBM used to be. Of course, I'm currently typing this on a ThinkPad.)