Backlog of Server Updates

I’m spending the day today updating my server’s software with numerous updates that have come out from certain vendors. For both Drupal and Squirrel, I’m glad I was slow to update because both had two updates in the intervening time. Once I get my updates current I can look at my spam filters. Then I need to finish converting my ASP sites to Drupal with some raw database work and real Drupal programming — wish me luck.

Traveling Without my Laptop

I just returned from a short business trip. It was just a quick overnight trip to Lubbock. Usually on such a trip I grab two bags; one for my clothes and one for my laptop. Along with my laptop comes a sundry collection of cables. When I am in a hotel I use my laptop to stay in touch with the office mainly via email and to work on specific web-based systems. For this trip I decided to try to go without the laptop. Could I really just use my iPhone for everything. It seemed like a pretty safe bet. Worst case, I could make up any work over the weekend. So off I went. During my absence there was a small figurative fire that needed to be worked. There were about 100 emails in the course of a few hours. I was able to follow the threads of the conversation and give appropriate and timely responses without too much distraction from the current business that necessitated the trip in the first place.

At several points I had to log into a web page and start processes, look at PDF reports, and fill out forms to give approval on new programming that was needing to be tested. This all worked fine. I needed to grab a file back at the office on the server. Used iPhone Remote to connect back to my desktop computer (MacBook Pro) and navigate to a shared folder on a Windows Domain server where I was able to open Word and Excel documents waiting for me.

The real test came the next day at the airport. My flight was delayed and then I got bumped to a later flight. My 2-hour stay at the airport became a 6 hour stay. I was able to keep working. I watched a movie. I listened to podcasts. I worked my email. This is pretty cool.

So how could it have been better? I was not really able to create any new Word documents. Yes I know I can use Google Docs or some other tool but the keyboard would really start to be a factor if I needed to do any serious editing. The screen was fine for viewing emails and other documents. If the trip had been much longer I would have needed a real laptop to do database work for example. I use SQL Developer about every day. If I had a VNC client and a Bluetooth keyboard, I think I could have done everything.

I used to carry a Newton Message Pad 130 (later a 2100). I had a newton case that had room for the newton keyboard which was thicker than the current Apple Keyboards of today. I was able to unzip the case, turn the Newton sideways and type away. I had a modem and a nic that allowed the Newton to send and receive emails.

When the 17″ PowerBooks first hit the market I really wanted one. They are beautiful until you need to try to use them on a plane in coach. You cannot get the lid open. The 15″ MacBook Pro is as big as you can consider using on a plane — get an exit row to be sure. The PowerBook Duo or the PowerBook 12″ are perfect for the road warrior. I tried a PowerBook 12″ for a while but the deal-breaker for me was the lack of ports compared to the 15″. Apple chose not to continue these products leaving a gap in the product line between the MacBook Pro 15″ and the iPhone.

The perfect product for me would be about half the size of a letter-sized piece of paper. That would be about 4×6 to 5×7 or so. It needs a kickstand so it can stand up on its own to watch movies or slideshow. It needs an A/V out port so I can plug into a TV in the hotel. I needs to have WiFi. If it can use my iPhone as a Bluetooth modem, then it does not need its own cellular connectivity. I should have a multi-touch screen but also allow the use of a bluetooth mouse and keyboard. It should have a USB port that allows it to download pictures from my camera like the iPod can do but the iPhone cannot. I should also be able to use the USB port for a keyboard and mouse in a pinch. It can run the iPhone version of Mac OS X. A 400MHz processor and a 1024×768 screen should be fine. I’m imaging a device that would look like the iPod Touch but be bigger but not thicker. I do not need an optical drive but the USB port should support one in a pinch. I do not need Ethernet but once again USB should work. Naturally I want a color screen with a high resolution like the iPhone. I do not need a hard drive. I think I could live with 16 or 32 gigabytes of solid state drive so long as I always have access to my .Mac folder and my VNC computer at home and work.

Star Wars Radio Drama Now Available on Audible

When I was in Middle School I once by chance happened upon an episode of the Empire Strikes Back on the Radio. It was really cool. It had a few recognizable character voices but not a full cast. I remember specifically the scene with R2-D2 in the bog on Degoba and Luke was talking dialog that was unnecessary for the filmed version. It was a clear illustration of the difference between a radio drama and a video production.

So I happened upon this episode of what was a serialized production. It was on the local NPR radio station. I had missed the beginning part. I figured out how to use the family high-fi to hook up to the cassette recorder. This was an old piece of furniture with a radio and a record player. The cassette recorder was a separate wooden box that set on top and connected to the AUX port using RCA cables. The cassette recorder required two hands to press the record button. You had to push the record button and then press the play knob to the right to get it to record. That is how I left it because I had to get to school. I came home to a partial recording of the episode. At the end of the episode was information about when the next episode was on. I think there were 10 half-hour episodes. I recorded as many of them as I could using the same procedure. I shared the cassette tapes with friends from school.

Years later I spotted the same radio drama in CD format in a friend’s CD collection. This same friend also had Star Wars in the same format. During a road trip a short time later we listened to both CD collections. You can still buy these CD collections on CD for about $100 each. Amazon naturally has them for cheaper. About a decade later NPR produced Return of the Jedi in the same format. I have yet to hear this production.

Fast forward to November 2007. Audible.com has just released all three productions in their library. This is a great value, especially if you have the Audible Listener plan like I do. I get two audiobooks every month for a little over $20 — that’s about $10 a book. I downloaded the first episode right away. I’m looking forward to listening to all three episode this month.