Friday, January 01, 2010

Seeing in a New Decade

[N.P. Andrew Zimmern - Australia]
Just stuck my nose out onto the balcony to shout "Happy New Year" to the neighbours ... its raining on snow right now, and really not warm! Brrr! Andrew says "you know what there's nothing like? The smell of roasting turtle-guts over an open fire. Yum. Then wallaby-tail hot off the barbie!"

Tech Update
Last time said goodbye to an old friend and raved over a neat new machine. Now a few more words on the EeeBox. My son did his homework on it yesterday and the system produces .odt and .doc files just fine - they were emailed out to his home afterwards with no problems at all. However, I've noticed that the version provided with the box is OOo version 2, while the current version is 3.1. Also the version of Firefox provided is a version 2.something, and we're heading into 3.6 right now.

Now please don't think that I'm complaining - the software all works really well together, and that's what you really want with a system like this; something that a user who really isn't interested in learning a lot about computers can use. What is really missing is an intro-video to show people who really are totally computer-illiterate how to use a computer. Still, the fix most people use is to accost a 10-year-old off the street and get them to do it all for them - how do you think I get the VCR programmed ? !

On the other hand, I do have one major complaint about this machine and that's the keyboard. The keyboard as a whole is very good indeed, but for one thing - the Function Key is outside the Control Key at the lower-left of the board.
A few years ago Microsoft used its sway to get a "Windows" key stuck in in between the Control and Alt keys, as you can see from the photo on the right, but it really isn't used very much - most users have no idea that it can actually be useful.

In most laptops you will find a Function Key inserted just to the right of the Control Key, and this includes the Sony VAIO, the Acer Aspire, and the Asus Eee-PC - I just checked! This gives your fingers the "habit" of automatically feeling for the bottom-left and knowing that that is a particular key. However, as you see in the photo, the Ausu keyboard supplied with the EeeBox has reversed these two keys. This is an incredibly annoying "feature", as you'll soon discover as soon as you want to cut, copy, or paste and haven't ever learned the original non-Mac keyboard short-cuts. Control-C suddenly becomes Function-C, which doesn't do anything at all, except replace the selected text with a "c", which doesn't help you in the slightest!

If you are running Windows on your Eee-Box, go for KeyTweak, which is a little program to grab the key signals and swap them around before any other program gets its electronic mitts on them. I've been looking for something like this for Linux - specifically Ubuntu because that's what I normally use - and found some info here that would work for the Asus too. However, that is waay technical and much too difficult for most people, and it's "most people" that'll be tearing their hair out over this.

[N.P. Pre-game before ice-hockey at Fenway Park]
Semi-Tech Update
A few years ago my ex succumbed to the lure of advertising and bought a Magic Bullet blender. They're still selling 2 for $99 on their site today. Anyhow, it never ever got used, after that first month, so I begged it the other day. I also bought a melon and some other fruit for New Year. Ice-cold smoothies when you're toasty-warm and watching other people freeze their rear-ends off out in the cold parades, or playing ice hockey at Fenway Park, is a really nice and decadent luxury. Go whoever-you-are-out-in-the-cold!

Friends for Dinner
Assorted sausage and cheeses for hors d'oeuvre (amuse-bouche, to be strictly correct). Two chickens (thank you, Shoprite!), "Potatoes O'Brien" (chopped, cooked, fried with onion, and then baked in sour cream and cheese, and Cauliflower Cheese (barely-cooked cauliflower baked in a roux sauce of flour, cheese, and Meaux mustard). Ice cream to follow. Let them walk after that!


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