A history of modems#

Speaking of modems, I remember in the mid-90's when, in my little town right outside of Orlando, no ISP's offered 33.6k connections (only 28.8k). At least one in Orlando did (it was called IAG — Internet Access Group — if memory serves), but Orlando was a long-distance call from my house. However, we had some sort of deal with (I think) AT&T that allowed us to make calls of infinite duration to Orlando, for a quarter; the problem though was that it made you jump through a series of verification/ forwarding hoops. Naturally then, I did a little research and whipped up some modem strings that allowed for the connection. (I needed that extra 5k!) I usually was able to stay connected for 2-3 days at a time, and so the connection fee ($.25) ended up being a non-issue.

BookArc, from Twelve South

December 21, 2009

Last week I posted a shot of my new desk to Twitter and quite a few people wrote me asking about various things in the shot (e.g., mouse, keyboard, chair, speakers, etc.), but nothing was asked about more than the Twelve South BookArc, and so I thought I'd discuss it briefly here.

For those that don't know, the BookArc is a vertical laptop stand, designed with Macs in mind (and I've previously mentioned it here on this site). There are many obvious benefits to keeping your notebook vertical, including better heat dissipation, smaller desktop footprint, and, in my opinion, superior looks.

Regarding the BookArc specifically, let me start by saying that it is very well made, feels as solid as a rock and is heavy(!), which attributes are exactly those you want ascribed to the thing that is cradling your aluminum baby. The rubber feet are fastened appropriately and stick well to my desk.

The silicon rubber inserts on which the the laptop rests (it comes with three of varying widths) are as soft as any rubber I've ever felt; the feeling really is quite amazing, and leaves you with zero worries about whether the setup will harm your gear. Unfortunately, the rubber inserts are at the heart of my only real complaint with the BookArc, namely that the gap in which the laptop sits is just too wide.

While my laptop rests perfectly vertical (because, I guess, my desk/floor are relatively parallel to the ground), it takes little force to cause the notebook to fall to either side and rest at an angle (~8-10 degrees of vertical). Though there's no chance of the laptop actually tipping over from its weight alone, or even with a decent amount of external force (it seems to need ~25 degrees of tilt before it's even a possibility), it would be nice if it would more assuredly stay vertical.

If I were Twelve South, I probably would offer extra inserts for people like me who prefer a tighter fit; like I said, the rubber is so soft that I don't think I would mind it rubbing against my laptop during daily installation and removal. Also, and as mentioned above, the unit is quite heavy, and so even with a tighter fit it still should be possible to pull the machine out of the stand without the stand coming up with it.

Overall, it's a thoughtful, great-looking product that leaves you feeling confident in its ability to support your precious, but you may find that the fit is just a bit too loose for your liking.

Finally, a quick note about using vertical stands with the 24" Apple LED Cinema Display. As you may know, this latest Apple display connects to (the latest) Apple laptops via a Mini DisplayPort, a tiny interface similar in size/shape to that of Mini-USB. The display couples the Mini DisplayPort cable to both a MagSafe power connector and a USB cable (so the monitor can receive USB devices), and so you're left with one very convenient, but heavy cable. (This one cable splits into three smaller cables — power, display and USB — about a foot from the end.) The upside is that (with the latest laptops) the "omni"-cable acts almost like a dock of sorts, allowing you to set the laptop down and link it up to the rest of your system with minimal effort and hassle. The downside is that when you rest your notebook in the vertical position, back end down, all of the weight of the heavy cable is put on the Mini DisplayPort because that port is above USB and power.

If you're like me, this, uhh, doesn't sit well with you and immediately you start thinking of possible solutions. One option may be to tie the USB and power cables to the display cable (at the appropriate points) such that each is forced to support an equal amount of weight. Even better would be to figure out a way to put all of the cable weight on the power connector, which definitely could handle the load. Another option might be to simply keep the cable on your desk (instead of having it hang off the back of it) so as to minimize the strain on the display port.

I'm still trying to figure out the best way to fix this problem, and in the interim am losing sleep thinking about it. :)

UPDATE: Soon after I wrote this post, the perfect solution came to me: route the omni-cable under and through the back end of the BookArc. This obviates the weight-of-the-cable issue (because the cable sits on the desk), and as it turns out, the plastic piece where the three cables come together is just large enough to get caught by the back end of the BookArc, so the cable is always 1) the perfect length, and 2) in the same position. It's about as close to a dock as you can get with a Mac notebook.


Pearce 75 Atom raygun#

Um, something tells me this is going to be sitting on my desk at some point. (It should complement well the Goliathon 83 Infinity Beam Projector already sitting there.)

Relatedly, while reading through the description of this model I noticed that it will ship (Q2/2010) with a Universal Gun Stand. Woot! I've been waiting for Weta to deliver this very thing for a long time. While it's neat to display the rayguns in their cases, the setup can be very limiting given their size (they're BIG); the gun stand will allow us to put them wherever we want.

How to avoid getting a headache while watching Avatar in 3D#

[T]he trick to avoiding a headache when watching this movie is to be obedient, and concentrate on the parts of the shot that the focus tells you are ‘important.' Once I understood this… my headache began to clear up, but I was conscious too of the effort of having to ‘zip over' to the next point of rapid-focus in order to keep up and preserve the 3D illusion.


Using our simple tools, you can instantly send a web page from your web browser or iPhone for reading on your Amazon Kindle.

Works as advertised, though it definitely would be much more useful if it filtered the content through Readability (or similar) before pushing it to the Kindle; without such a filter you run the risk of having to sift through all kinds non-content stuff, which can be terribly annoying on a page-at-a-time e-ink device.

(I'm in the process of building something similar, and obviously will write it up here when finished.)

Old visions of a high-tech future#

In 1969, Shonen Sunday magazine featured a series of illustrated articles entitled "Computopia," which depicted life in a pleasant future pervaded by computers.

I'll never tire of retro-futuristic imaginings.

Lost in the filth simulacrum#

[4chan is] our best preview of where human consciousness is going. […]

Yet what the media has failed to grasp is what 4chan can tell us about where we're headed. The Chans aren't the freak sideshow of the Internet. They are the heart and soul of the Internet. And they are the ones furthest ahead of the pack, leading us. At this point there should be little doubt that the Internet is mutating the human species into something completely different. Therefore it's instructive to look at the most extreme, freebased forms of the Internet to see where we're going — and 4chan is that freebased version of mankind's new drug of choice.

Lucidica for Google Reader#

Another beautiful userscript for skinning Google Reader, this one based off of Helvetireader (which I currently use). I quite like Lucidica, but it seems mark-as-read via scrolling breaks when the height of the unread item(s) is less than the height of the browser window, which forces you to search for and click the "mark all as read" button. Also, the amount of space it puts between headlines that wrap to two or more lines is a bit much.

Questions for Jeff Bezos#

A rather useless and boring "interview," save the following two excerpts.

What do you say to Kindle users who like to read in the bathtub? I'll tell you what I do. I take a one-gallon Ziploc bag, and I put my Kindle in my one-gallon Ziploc bag, and it works beautifully. […]

Of all the books that Amazon sells, what percentage are digital books? For every 100 copies of a physical book we sell, where we have the Kindle edition, we will sell 48 copies of the Kindle edition.

Power outlet with built-in USB ports#

Our custom TruePower power outlet solution includes two Universal Serial Bus (USB) charge ports in addition to the two standard three prong power outlet ports.


David Pogue on the Bose QuietComfort 15 headphones#

He confirms what I begrudgingly had to admit, namely that these headphones actually are pretty damn good. Also, you have to appreciate this hedge (which I too would have made):

Music sounds fantastic: crisp highs, solid bass, well-defined midrange. (Note to letter-writers: Yes, yes, I know: they're not audiophile quality. For normal people, though, they sound great.)

Fact is, I'm now using these day-to-day at work and quite like them. Indeed, I think I'll keep them around even after I finally order the JH 13 Pro in-ear monitors.

Depression's evolutionary roots#

[D]epression is in fact an adaptation, a state of mind which brings real costs, but also brings real benefits. […]

So what could be so useful about depression? Depressed people often think intensely about their problems. These thoughts are called ruminations; they are persistent and depressed people have difficulty thinking about anything else. Numerous studies have also shown that this thinking style is often highly analytical.

Ken Rockwell reviews the Leica M9#

The LEICA M9 is the smallest, lightest, highest-quality digital camera ever created by the hand of Man.

This may be the most laudatory review (of anything) I've ever read; Ken loves this camera and has me again considering its purchase. As some of you know, I was thinking very seriously about getting this piece of kit and had my eye on it long before it was released. Save its cost, everything about it speaks to me. However, a few weeks ago I decided against buying it, for two main reasons: 1) it's $7,000 for the body alone, and I have no compatible lenses; and 2) I'm quite happy with the Canon 5D Mark II, together with the Ricoh GR Digital III (which replaced my Leica D-Lux 4, which replaced my Ricoh GR Digital II, which replaced…).

If I thought the M9 could replace the Canon (and I could sell the 5DM2 (plus lenses) and put that money towards the M9) I probably would do it in a heartbeat, but I just don't think that's possible, at least not with my current shooting style. That said, I love the idea of being able to have such an amazingly capable camera strapped to me at all times, something Ken mentions repeatedly in his review:

The M9 and a lens weigh so little that it can be thrown over a shoulder and taken everywhere, all day and all night. You never want to take it off and leave it back in the car or the hotel while you take a break.

This sort of thing is so inexpressibly appealing to me, and while the GR Digital III is a fantastic (portable) camera (seriously, I can't recommend it highly enough), it isn't a Leica. Nothing is. So, while the M9 obviously could replace the Ricoh, I just don't think I can justify having both the 5DM2 and the M9 right now, and I blame Ken's gushing review for making me even consider it (again).

Relatedly, anyone in Silicon Valley care to let me borrow their M9 for a day or two? Actually, scratch that, because I'm pretty sure me putting it through its paces means an automatic buy. Gah!