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Wednesday
Apr162003

Optimistic Wi-Fi Tidbits

Wi-FiIf you've been intrigued by all of the Wi-Fi wireless network related articles I've been posting here of late, I've come across a few more encouraging Wi-Fi related tidbits to share with you.

First, there's a great source of articles on getting unwired over at Wired Magazine. I especially got a kick out of Palm Pulls the Plugs on Palm, Inc's organic shift to internal Wi-Fi networks.

In other news, Kinko's copy shops and Border's bookstores have both announced Wi-Fi access across the US, in conjunction with T-Mobile's HotSpot service.

Finally, it seems Apple has already shipped more than 150,000 Airport Extreme base networking products, since its launch in January at MacWorld San Francisco. Airport Extreme is Apple's brand name for Wi-Fi 802.11g, which offers up to 5 times the speed of regular Airport (802.11b) while maintaining backward compatibility with older 802.11b equipment.

It's wonderful to see Wi-Fi increasing in popularity! :-)

Tuesday
Apr152003

Apple iScreen on the Horizon?

iScreenToday I came across a very interesting story from DigiTimes (via MacNN) and at the Register about Apple supposedly working on a 'wireless monitor' (I assume it will use Wi-Fi).

From what I gather, this 'wireless monitor' or iScreen would be about the size of a Tablet PC but will have no processing power other than monitor hardware and a wireless transceiver. It's also purported to come with a detachable keyboard but no battery (now that seems odd). It's unknown whether the iScreen will have handwriting recognition or not -- though I suspect it makes sense to include this feature to better compete with Tablet PCs.

So, this thing would be a wireless terminal in the form of a flat screen monitor. If you're an old-timer like me, you might remember that old mainframes followed this concept of a central computer CPU with multiple 'terminals' with access. It's unknown whether more than one iScreen could use a single Macintosh or not -- I'd guess it's a single iScreen per Mac .

Even though this is all speculation, the idea of an iScreen with optional detachable keyboard intrigues me. Rather than hauling a laptop around the house, I could just take the screen. Since there is no CPU on board, it's possible that battery life might be quite good compared to a laptop or Tablet PC -- assuming there is a built in battery.

Of course, these kinds of rumors about Apple device often lead nowhere, like the long running rumors of a mythical Apple PDA which have never surfaced in real products. This could also be a Wi-Fi or Bluetooth wireless monitor you can hang on a wall or even a well-placed leak by Apple to divert attention. Still, a wireless monitor... that seems more in line with what Steve Jobs might consider a killer consumer device.

Here's to hoping for an iScreen! ;-)

Monday
Apr142003

Boot Linux from a CD?

KnoppixYes, that's right -- a distribution of Linux (Debian to be precise) which can boot from any Windows PC's bootable CD-ROM drive. It's called Knoppix, as it was packaged up by a German gent named Knopper, who worked out the CD-booting feature.

As a Mac OS X user (OS X runs on top of BSD, a variant of Unix something like Linux), I was surprised at how well it worked on my Dad's ThinkPad -- recognizing his hardware and even his ethernet network card with no configuration. In fact, Dad stopped by my house today today, so we plugged in a WaveLAN Silver Wi-Fi card from my old PowerBook and it worked flawlessly! It was almost like using a Macintosh. :-)

As I understand it, Knoppix specializes in the CD booting feature, which is great if you want to check out Linux without committing to a full installation. A CD bootable version Linux can also be a handy administrative tool, since all an administrator needs is a Knoppix CD to turn any Windows PC into a Linux box. If you're a Linux guru, you can even mess around with the bootable CD itself, saving your prefs on it and adding whatever apps you might want to have on the CD. Pretty slick, eh?

Knoppix is a full-featured distribution of Debian Linux, including KDE 3.1.1, the desktop windowing application (equivalent to the pretty part of Windows XP) that sits on top of the Linux base, or "kernel", Konqueror, a Linux web browser and OpenOffice, which can open and save Microsoft Office documents. There seemed to be many other apps installed that I didn't check out, however I can report that the windows-like KDE application looks pretty nice!

Knoppix is released as open source software, so once you buy a master install CD you can make as many copies as you like and install Knoppix on as many computers as you like. The CD is only $6 and Knoppix can even be had for free, if you fancy doing a download over your cable modem connection.

So, if you've ever been curious about what the heck this Linux thingee is like, check out Knoppix. Linux couldn't be any easier or more painless! :-)

Friday
Apr112003

The Amazing Wi-Fi PDA Case!

Wi-Fi PDA CaseNow here's a cool idea from a company called Enfora -- a nice leather case with a Palm universal connector and Wi-Fi card built into it. This should make it dead easy to getting a Palm branded handheld on your Wi-Fi network. Even better, the case includes a long-life battery, which keeps the power hungry Wi-Fi transciever from sucking your Palm dry, while providing up to 24 hours of operation. It isn't super cheap at $169, but it's not outrageous and should be easy to use.

Like the coming Wi-Fi SD cards and Memory Sticks, it isn't supposed to appear until June of this year, so we'll have to wait and see how well these accessories for PDAs are accepted. Personally, I think Wi-Fi will have become even more popular by then, so I predict these kinds add-ons will do quite well.

Thanks to bargainPDA.com and Gizmodo for the heads up on this one.

Have a great weekend everyone! :-)

Thursday
Apr102003

Microserfs

MicroserfsOne of my all-time favorite books is Microserfs, by Douglas Coupland. The book is about a group of Microsoft programmers (called Microserfs) and their struggles at work and their attempts to find a meaningful life. While it's a fictional account, I get the feeling that Coupland did some serious research and probably conducted interviews with current and former Microsoft employees to help paint an accurate picture of Microsoft culture.

I was most intrigued by Coupland's character development, his detailed descriptions of life inside Microsoft and his dry sense of humor. As a single guy at the time, I could (to a degree) relate to many of the characters lifestyles. I certainly knew what it felt like to pull an all-nighter for a hot deadline and was also very interested in all things tech.

Funnily enough, I originally read Microserfs when it first appeared in the January 1994 issue 2.01 of Wired magazine, long before release of the book. At the time I thought it was just a short story published by Wired, and maybe it was. I don't know for certain if Microserfs was published to promote the book, or whether the short story was so popular that it became a book.

I still recall the evening I first read Microserfs. I'd just come home from work, and was excited about receiving the latest issue of Wired magazine. I immediately found a comfy chair and skimmed the issue (a ritual I still continue to this day). When I came across the Microserfs article, I stopped to read it and was immediately drawn into the story.

Two hours later, I finished the article, thoroughly enjoying the read and wanting more. Little did I know I'd only read a small portion of what was to become an entire book entitled Microserfs.

Four years later, I was at Barnes & Noble and found a book called Microserfs in the discount bin. I checked the book out and sure enough -- it was the same story I'd read in that Wired Magazine with much more to read! I bought the book and devoured it over the next two weeks, enjoying every twist of the plot and nuance of the characters I'd known from years earlier.

So, if you're at all interested in a great story centered around technology, interesting characters and the quirky atmosphere of Microsoft, I can highly recommend Microserfs.