04/01/2001

Mailbag:

HD; Impressions; Apple RAM; DOS Utility

I spent some time Friday at my alma mater, giving a presentation at their second annual Technology Fair. I talked about the publishing industry, and how technology gives me something to write about, and allows me to write about it comfortably. Without e-mail, I never could write for Computer Shopper UK.

A lot of my fomer teachers are retired now, or nearing retirement. My journalism instructor is giving up that class next year so someone younger can come in–she retires in three years. My CS instructor is retiring in two or three years. My geology instructor told me about changes to the science program–they’re a lot more serious about teaching science now than they were in my day. Had it been that way when I was there, I’d have complained a lot, but they probably would have made an engineer out of me. Scary thought.

My former lit/writing/speech instructor asked how my books were doing and what I was up to. I told him I was learning the Queen’s English. He laughed and said it was about time. I complained about how the British use plurals and commas and acronyms, and he alternated between grinning, nodding, and rolling his eyes. At least I’m not the only one who thinks it’s strange–and it’s really good to know that the one who used to spill barrels of red ink on my papers struggles sometimes with the British way of writing things. He told me to let him know when I write something other than a computer book–he said even a Dummies book is probably too much. I told him the atrocious royalty rates a Dummies book pays. He couldn’t believe it. Andy Rathbone and Dan Gookin made money off their Dummies books, certainly. But at 25 cents a copy, most authors won’t make much.

The vice-principal came up, admired my published work, and said, “That’s so cool! I can point at this and say, ‘I know that guy! I used to yell at him!'”

That he certainly did. I did learn one really useful thing from him though. I was a sophomore, about to get fired from my first job (I thought). He saw I was down and asked me one day what was going on. I told him. “You know what you can learn from this?” he asked. I shook my head. “Imagine, if you’re a single mother of three with no education and no marketable skills, so all you can do are these Mickey Mouse jobs. You’re completely and totally at the mercy of those people. Doesn’t that make you want to stay in school and get out of there?” I don’t know if that tactic would work with anyone else, but it worked on me.

Going back made me feel old though too. One guy came up to me. “You know my brother.” He said his name. Uh, yeah, his brother and I were best friends. The last time I saw this guy, he was probably in the fifth grade, if that. Now he’s getting ready to go off to Mizzou and major in business. Remarkable. I thought I spotted another former classmate’s kid sister, but she didn’t say anything to me.

Afterward, one of the students showed me a Web application he’s putting together in PHP. It’s nowhere near finished, but when it’s done, it’ll be better than the commercial app the shcool is using now. I felt a long way from hacking out programs on my C-128, which was what I was doing when I was his age.

I’m jealous. In some regards, George W. Bush has the world’s coolest job.

Uh oh. I know they had this idea before I printed it, but the day after I suggested someone needed to copycat Apple’s cube design and put a VIA C3 chip in it, I read this.

Another source. Regular readers of the irreverenet British IT publication The Register will undoubtedly recognize the name Mike Magee. Well, The Great Magee has had some health problems of late, and then along the way it seems he’s split with the Register and gone off on his own, and at least one of his former staffmates seem to have followed him. You can find his stuff at http://theinquirer.net .

Monitors. I ordered a 19″ NEC FE950 monitor last weekend, the black model, since the place I ordered from was out of stock on the white. I got a good price on it too–$386 before shipping. I remember when a 14″ RGB monitor used to cost about that much. Sure, that was 15 years ago, but hey, I remember it. And that’s before calculating inflation. Very nice price. By way of comparison, my dear departed NEC Multisync II monitor cost about $910 new after adjusting for inflation. How far we’ve progressed.

Well, sorta. Back in those days, you ordered something over the phone, and it showed up about a month later. These days, when you order from someone reputable, stuff shows up in a week or less. And if you need it overnight, you can definitely get it overnight. But not this time. Not from this place. I order on Saturday. They finish processing my order on Thursday and ship it, but they haven’t notified me of the tracking number yet. I didn’t order from my usual sources–this place was considerably cheaper–and I know, you get what you pay for. But these guys had a pretty good ranking on reseller ratings, and a Computer Shopper reader’s choice award and a Better Business Bureau membership to boot. How bad can they be?

Well, by 1986 standards they’re still doing OK. But it’s a darn good thing I wasn’t in a hurry.

And I just realized, I could have used that logic to justify a 15-inch flat panel. Oh well.

Mailbag:

HD; Impressions; Apple RAM; DOS Utility