I continue to be amazed at the things we have available to us - we generally live in the future. But every once in a while the past intrudes with full force. As in when I tried to connect an HTC Evo to a Mac laptop with a USB cable to transfer a bunch of video. At first, I got absolutely nothing. Then I went into settings on the Evo to discover that there is a setting to change the USB connection from “charging only” to “mount.” Easy, I thought, until I noticed a pop-up on the Mac saying “Unrecognized volume” with three options “Format”, “Ignore” and “Eject.” I very gingerly moved the pointer so as to not accidentally hit the “Format” button and gently tapped “Eject”, sighing a (pre-mature) sigh of relief.
Turning back to the Evo, I suddenly see an unhappy SD card icon flashing. I go to camera to find that there is no archive — not a trace of the video. At this point, I am in a minor state of panic at the thought of having lost the video that Susan and our youngest spent the morning recording. Again, this time on the Evo there is the helpful suggestion of letting me reformat the SD card. Not quite willing to give up, I turn the Evo off, take out the battery and reboot. Going back to the camera, the Evo initially still shows no sign of the videos, but then flashes as “Searching for images” on the screen and after doing that twice finally recovers the videos.
At this point I search around and find that other people have run into this problem. Someone provides a solution using USB debug mode but I couldn’t get that to work either. In the end, I wound up transferring the videos via Bluetooth which is quite slow compared to a USB connection. It seems incongruous that one could have a device as powerful as the Evo and then have it stumped by a seemingly trivial problem. This whole experience reminds me of something else that never seizes to amaze me: engineers can make airplanes fly but they can’t get the cabin temperature to stay in a comfortable range. Oh well. Maybe it’s good to have some reminders of the past.
On Friday at GEL 2009, I met Thomas Deng, a co-founder of DeviceVM which makes Splashtop. Then on Saturday, I noticed a ZDNet story on Techmeme about Presto. Both Splashtop and Presto are so-called instant-on solutions which are essentially miniature Linux distros that boot in a couple of seconds and give you a web browser with Internet access and a few other goodies.
My comment to Thomas was something like “that’s impressive” when I found out how many PCs had shipped with Splashtop. But then I told him that I already have “true instant-on without Splashtop” (and without Presto). Whe he asked what it was, I said “a Mac with an SSD.” And I am not kidding. My Mac boots in only about 30 seconds, but more importantly, when I wake it up from sleep, the machine is fully up and running by the time I have the lid open.
I have always in the past carried my laptop in sleep mode for a shorter wake-up time but usually had to reboot once every 10 cycles or though due to Windows hanging in some weird way. Now with my Mac I go for weeks without shutting off my machine and have really restarted only for software updates. That means I get to enjoy instant-on the whole time and we are not talking some minimal Linux distro but a hugely powerful full fledged machine.
So if you are on Windows and want instant on, instead of adding extra software, I highly recommend switching to a Mac with an SSD. If you are on a Mac already and don’t like waiting, the SSD is the way to go.
I had been using a Panasonic Toughbook W2 for about 6 years and it was a great machine for that time. It was light (3 lbs), fairly full featured and robust. But of course it ran Windows with all the problems that entails. So I had been wanting to switch to a Mac for a while, but all the MacBooks were too heavy. Then came the Air, but it made too many compromises for someone who was hoping to keep this new machine for another 5-6 year (sealed battery?). Now I am writing this on my brand spanking new 13.5 inch MacBook.
I love everything about it except for the extra pound I am now lugging around. Given my plan for longterm ownership, I splurged a bit and got 4GB of RAM and the 128GB SSD. I am extremely happy with both choices. I run Parallels and have given it 1GB of RAM for a WindowsXP instance on which I have Outlook and the rest of Microsoft Office. In Coherence mode, those appear as applications in the OS X dock. Performance is significantly better than my old machine. Load times for applications off the SSD are lightning fast and I can boot the machine in about 35 seconds (wake up from sleep is instantaneous).
I have started to add some development stuff also. It was nice to find Apache 2 and PHP 5 pre-installed. After installing MySQL it took only a few minutes of poking around to figure out how to change the configuration (change a socket) to work with the setup already on the machine. Trying out Cornerstone as a visual Subversion client (yes I should switch to git, but can only do so many switches at once) and Cyberduck for SCP and other file transfer. Now just have to figure out which editor I want to use.
All in all it took me a lot less time to get up and running than I had feared. Now just have to plug a few little holes, such as getting some of my Firefox Extensions back.