October 31, 2002
Here come the Tablet PCs
Prices and features of tablet PC models from Acer, Toshiba and Viewsonic, posted on CompUSA's Web site this week, range from just over $2,000 to $2,500.
I love the idea of a tablet PC (or even a TabletPC) for me, but as a geek buying hardware for a company, I'm not sure who I would buy one for, particularly at $2K plus. I can't see how you sell it as being more valuable than a laptop for the same or less money.
On the other hand, at a price point of $750 or so, even with a slower processor, I think you would see a lot of interest in using them to replace corporate laptops or 2nd and 3rd systems at people's desks.
Also: Q & A on the Tablet PCs, from Pen Computing magazine.
Some preliminary research towards figuring out what exactly goes on between your Mac running iSync and Apple's .Mac service. Eventually, this could lead to a .Mac clone that you could run locally, or that third-party providers could support.
Seen at inessential.com.
October 30, 2002
MovableType 2.51 released
Looks like mostly bug-fixes. I'll probably roll it out a little later tonight.
Hiptop/Sidekick: How they getcha
I went to check out T-Mobile's version of the Danger Hiptop today. CompUSA is running a special through the weekend where you buy the Sidekick (T-Mobile's name) for $249, they rebate $150 (through the mail), and you sign up for $40/month service in the store. According to the saleslady at the store I was in, they're even throwing in the camera attachment.
I just wanted to make a call or two on a functioning device, to see how the phone interface works, and how the calls sound, but none of the three locations I visited had functioning demos. They were either plastic boxes that looked like Sidekicks, or they were for sale.
I'm currently in a cell-phone plan with lots of minutes that costs almost $70/month, and I'm still carrying Palm.net service for my Palm VII. I was hoping I could spend a little up-front on the device and cut my monthly outlay significantly, but I'm not sure I can.
It turns out there's a catch (isn't there always?). T-Mobile has only one (1) billing plan for the Sidekick. If you want it to be your only device, you'll have to make sure you don't go over 200 anytime minutes (and 1000 night and weekend). Minutes above your allocation go for 35¢. Each. If you were to use 500 peak minutes in a month (300 above allocation), that's an extra $105 slapped on your bill, and no way to upgrade to a high-volume plan.
Update: I forgot to mention that the data, which starts out unmetered, only remains so for 1 year. At the end of your first year, you get a 15 megabyte/month cap, with overage costing $3.50/megabyte.
The series tells the stories of three orphans ("the Baudelaire orphans") who are dredged through one misery after another, continually jumping from frying pans into ever-hotter fires. There's a bunch of Roald Dahl in this mix, and some Clement Freud, and Kelly Link, and some Daniel Pinkwater. If you haven't turned the wee ones in your life onto these books yet, you're doing them a disservice.
Christy's reading these to Sophie. They've just started book 5, The Austere Academy. I haven't read any of them, but they sure are fun to listen to, absurdly dour and written without condescension. The author uses a clever construction with words that may be beyond some readers' vocabulary -- he defines the term humorously in the narrative, like this, from Sunny, the Baudelaire orphan too young to talk (she would rather bite things):
"Aregg?" Sunny asked incredulously. "Incredulously" is a word which here means "not being able to believe it," and "Aregg" is a word which here means "What? I can't believe it."
Sorry the site was down for a couple of hours -- it's running out of the house, which lost power briefly. Everything appears back to normal now.
Yet another Mac news site
More ammunition for the RSS vs. fair use debate: This is a new site ("with OS X native fonts!") that looks to have just taken the RSS feeds from every Mac site with a feed, and a few general sites, and thrown them together between a few ads on a very, very, very long scroll.
I was initially going to link to it for the index, which I thought would make a fair set of bookmarks for Mac users, but the links don't go to the named sites, just to the section on MacNewz that shows that site's headlines (and sometimes the lead of their story).
The site looks fine, but the single scroll was a design mistake; it would work better if the front page showed the latest headlines from a variety of sites, and had links to sections for "Headline News", "General News", "Rumors", and the other divisions, which would aggregate the headlines from the 2-7 sites in that division. I was tempted not to scroll down by the time-stamp on the first news, which currently is late last night, but lower sites can have more recent updates, since the ordering is alphabetical, not chronological.
Also a little strange is just how little news shows up "above the fold," i.e. on your monitor without scrolling. I get six stories, all from one site. Even within the "one long scroll" paradigm, this could have been alleviated by having the index move from the center column to the left-hand nav bar position, displacing the "Macintosh Products Guide" link. Better still would be to mix up the stories, and display them chronologically.
Spotted at MacMerc.
If that fails, bribe 'em with a bologna sandwich
Echoes the depressing thesis of Bruce Schneier's excellent Secrets and Lies: Digital Security in a Networked World: computer security is only tangentially about computers. The easiest way into any system is to ask the users how to get in.
Human failings, in other words, can undermine even the cleverest security measures. In one survey, carried out by PentaSafe Security, two-thirds of commuters at London's Victoria Station were happy to reveal their computer password in return for a ballpoint pen.
Seen at Tomalak's Realm.
Python in the new classroom
An interesting story about Jeff Elkner's class at Yorktown High School in Arlington, Virginia. I think I sat with Jeff at one of the meals at the Python Conference in 2000; I remember him talking about using Python as a first language for high school kids.
I though the story was interesting both for the Python and for the fact that the robot-control project it discusses was only briefly a teacher-led project. I'm hoping to foster that kind of excitement in my daughter's chess club, since neither the coach nor I have ever been an A-level player.
October 29, 2002
Phoenix .4 for Windows and Linux is available.