Long Live The Tablet

I’m a computer nerd, I don’t deny this fact. People who know me don’t dispute this fact either.

Given how heavily I use my laptop & 3G modem commuting and how frequently I’m on a plane, I figured I could find a tablet useful. Since I’m not a foaming at the mouth sort of Apple fanboy (I usually wait until after 2nd or 3rd generation apple hardware is released), and I have personal and professional interests in Android, I researched both the iPad 2 and the Xoom.

Spec for spec, I found them comparable. Sure, neither have HD screens, but I have a HD A/V setup at home for that sort of media experience. The Xoom has expandable memory, which gets expensive when you bulking it up to 64GB. The Xoom has an LTE upgrade, which is very nice, but I don’t expect an LTE network in Ireland in the next 2 – 3 years. In the end, I realised the decision was down to the apps available. The iPad is slightly longer established, hence the better ecosystem of apps.

4 weeks ago, my iPad finally arrived, and it took a lot less time than that for me to become a convert. Sure, I don’t have the freedom of Android, but I’m happy with the better polished apps found in Apple’s app store.

I have specific use cases I wanted a tablet for:

Digital newspaper
These days, I mainly keep on top of current affairs through Twitter for breaking news and Google Reader for general interest stuff. I also have a subscription to the paper edition of Wired, but the delivery delays and mounting backlogs are becoming annoying. I intend to convert to the iPad edition of Wired and maybe even pick up a few more periodicals, if they also have iPad editions.
Media viewer
I’m a big multimedia consumer. I watch TV episodes to distract myself when commuting and I have a lot of DVD box sets I’ll watch over and over. I’ve used my laptop for this over the years, but it’s becoming more and more awkward to whip out my laptop and watch something while standing on a crowded train. Sure, having to sync content via iTunes is annoying, but I expect that to change over time. In the meantime, I’m more than happy with my combination of a media player and a network streaming app (for accessing my NAS when I’m at home). It turns out the Xoom doesn’t have any dedicated h.264 decoding hardware, so I’m definitely happy with the iPad 2 here.
Portable Internet Thingie
This is pretty self explanatory. I’m a computer geek. I use GMail and other web apps a lot. I also have a robust To Do list system, so it’s nice having a better way to maintain it other than fighting with the small screen on my iPhone.

What I didn’t expect:

Aperture photo organising
I expected to keep using my laptop for sorting and organising my digital photos in Aperture. Turns out, there is an iPad app which will bidirectionally sync Aperture projects to the iPad, so you can add metadata to your photos and then sync them back. Handy!
Semi decent SSH access
I got an SSH app, but dismissed it pretty quickly since the on screen keyboard is klunky and slow to type on. Turns out, it’s handy for quick one line things, like restarting that un-babysat daemon on my colo box, as I’m on a train, while Nagios is going crazy paging me about it.
The lack of a native Facebook app
There are a few third party apps, but the thought of paying for one just feels dirty. I used to only use it occasionally, since I have a lost of friends between Google Buzz and Twitter. For weeks later & I’m not missing Facebook at all. I don’t expect to deactivate my account anytime soon though, it’s still a handy, all else fails address book.

All in all, I’m glad I waited a year before getting a tablet. I’m an early adopter, but I’m not a bleeding edge early adopter.

Posted from Greystones, County Wicklow, Ireland.

Reviving This Blog

I’ve been neglecting this blog for far too long.

I stopped posting to it for a number of reasons, primarily a lack of time along with a lack of interesting topics. The emergence of Twitter also played a part, since I find short updates much more convenient, plus Twitter’s API means I have a multitude of clients to use (I’ve never actually managed to get WordPress’ XMLRPC API working here) making posting much more convenient.

But I’ve got a number of thoughts these days too long for Twitter, so it’s time to review this blog and actually continue to use it.

No Longer In A State of Flux…

I’ve bounced around a lot of places in the last few weeks.

In early April, I was in the Zurich office for a few days (and yes, they really do have a fireman’s pole, no I didn’t go down it), before going to Innsbrook, Austria for an internal work conference and finally Soelden, Austria for our annual ski trip. Thankfully, we left Soelden just in time.

After that trip, I was around Ireland for three weeks and doing various things, including a 24 hour trip to Kilkenny for Andrew‘s Stag Night (mischief and mayhem was appropriately documented) and a few weeks later, Ciara and I were in Barberstown, Kildare for Andrew’s wedding over the May bank holiday weekend.

A week later, I was on a plane again, this time to (sunny) San Francisco. I was back in the mothership for meetings and a well deserved top up of the company koolaid. Apart from working, I got up to many things such as taking a San Francisco Bay ferry tour in dense fog, catching up with people, and slowing resenting the 60 – 90 min commute each way from San Francisco to Silicon Valley (like the locals do).

I was also caught unprepared for one of SF’s biggest events, Bay to Breakers, which can only be described as a St Patricks Day Parade (floats, mass drinking, etc) colliding with Halloween (fancy dress costumes), but SF style fancy dress (think Rocky Horror) which masquerades as a 12km run across the city. Very strange and surreal, but quite entertaining.

I’m now back in Dublin since last weekend, with no plans to travel again (just) yet. Photos from my various recent travels should end up on Flickr soon, I just need to sit down and publish the good ones.

2008

So, Christmas the annual arbitrary numerical rollover day have been and gone. This week, I’ve been off work finally (I was oncall over Christmas week) for a full week for the first time in quite a while. I’ve been spending it lazying round, trying to recover from a cold I caught last week and working on little, annoying tasks I’ve been meaning to do for ages, but never got around to doing them until now.

I’ve never really been one for new years resolutions, but this year, I’m going to be more active and get more exercise. I’ve never really been a big fan of athletics, and I gave up swimming regularly a long time ago. :-/ I’m also going to try and get around to watching some of the classic movies I’ve always wanted to watch, but never actually did anything about it. Dr Strangelove is top of my list, especially since I bought it on DVD ages ago and I still haven’t watched it.

2007 was a busy year, both work wise and travel wise. I realised I took 21 flights, visited 4 different countries (many of them a few times over the year) and wandered around 13 cities and saw 7 US states during the year (and I had only been to California before). 2008 doesn’t look like with will be any quieter, Ciara and I are off to Copenhagen in early February. After that, who knows where I’ll end up.

Over the last few weeks, I’ve been tinkering with a few techy things which I am planning on posting about here, but not now. Sometime soon, when it’s not 01:00

Proof Of Life

In case anyone is using posts over here to check if I’m alive, yes I’m alive. I’ve simply been neglecting this part of the internet.

So, what have I been up to over the last 2+ months? (yikes, it has been a while!). Mainly working, a little bit of travel to London for a few days back in early August, and not a whole lot else. I was over in London for a few days, mainly a visit to finally visit Mark in Oxford, and to visit Ikea and a decent Mexican restaurant.

Apartment is going very well. Essential household items such as dishes, bookcases, a clothes horse, a proper DVD player and of course a Budda Bag have all been acquired and thoroughly tested. I had to survive on a 3G modem for a few weeks while my Magnet DSL was setup, which is now powered by a shiny Soekris net5501. I’ve even gotten used to the challenging 5 minute commute to the office in the mornings…

I’ve slowly been working up uploading my vast collection of outstanding photos to flickr. I plan to upload them all before the end of this week, since I’m off with Ciara on a 2 week vacation, exploring New England by car and train. A Garmin GPS is on my list to acquire as I arrive, so I should have a detailed itinerary and accompanying photos after I return.

Now all I have to do is resist temptations such as Core 2 Duo Mac Mini, an iPod Touch, and of course, an EOS 40D while the US dollar is so low. *sigh*

New Server

Over the last few months, my dedicated server from Sagonet has been showing it’s age (I’ve had it since June 2005), mainly with it’s single 80GB hard disk, not to mention the task of upgrading from Debian sarge to etch was sounding like a little too much effot. So, after recommendations from Liam and Gareth, I’ve gotten a new server from hetzner.de and so far, things are going pretty well.

I’ve christened the new server Daedalus and it’s much, much beefier than Icarus – 2x the RAM, a second hard disk, an AMD64 CPU and all sorts of other shiny features, plus I now have a lot more experience running FreeBSD that when I first got Icarus. After a few weeks of setup and careful after hours migratations, Daedalus is now running all the services Icarus was (as confirmed by the facty that you can read this blog post) and even a few more, is under Icarus’ full load and things are looking good.

Light at the End of the Tunnel…

One exam down and 3 to go.

So far, things have been going well. I guess what people say about final year is true, it is mainly just an endurance test.

As some should hopefully notice, I’ve changed the theme on WordPress. I’ll apply some hack to have an IPv6 check later on (if this makes no sense to you, don’t worry, you’re just not able to see Kame). I’ve also stopped outsourcing my blogroll to del.icio.us since I rarely use del.icio.us. I’ll probably pull a HTML export of my blogroll from Bloglines account, which is my RSS reader of choice and thus the most accurate list.

There’s not much to tell in other news, I just don’t have time to do anything at the moment.

The Night Before…

Hmmm, it’s been a while since I posted anything here.

The last few weeks have been busy, as I worked away on my fyp. Thankfully, as of noon tomorrow, my focus will be officially changing. By that stage I shall have demonstrated what I have working, and during this week, I should have complete first draft of my report due in early May. Once all that’s out of the way, I’m disappearing off to a foreign land for a day or two to ensure most of this week is spent being idle. Who knows, I may even do something to celebrate my 0x17 birthday 2 weeks ago…

Next week shall be interesting, proper, in person interviews for real world, permanent jobs begin. Most people would be a little afraid, personally, I can’t wait. I want to leave college, I’m fed up being a broke student. Of course, I also have to study for finals, which come before any job…

On the nerdiness front, last week was interesting. An Intel iMac has been added to the systems I regularly maintain, which is a welcome change from a Windows machine. It’s interesting to play with, and I actually have to try and setup BootCamp (for accounting software).

Over in Maths, we had a minor catastrophe on Tuesday, which could only have been topped by fire, or a rack plummetting through the floor (it has been a worry before). After the central file storage RAID setup was left degraded for 2.5 weeks without a replacement disk, it fell over, spectacularly. As a result, file storage for most of our users, both staff and students were unavailable until this weekend. We lost some files, but we managed to restore as much as we could. Perhaps after all of this, we’ll get a few hot spare replacements and hardware upgrades we’ve been enquiring about.