Saturday, February 10, 2007

Technological genius

A couple of weeks ago I helped a friend to spend a lot of money. Do you know how much fun that is? Believe me, it is. We went to the Apple Store in Shinsaibashi on Monday and she plonked down enough cash to make me feel dizzy. She had been saving ¥500 coins for the last year or two in a piggy bank, and it is amazing how much you can save in ¥500 coins relatively quickly, if you are determined about it. She has been VERY determined.

However, she did not pay for her new computer in ¥500 coins. I tried to be mature and not show my disappointment, and on reflection she was probably right. I don't think they would have appreciated it. Instead she had the coins changed into notes, and used those, to buy one of these, the biggest, 24-inch one, and one of these, the 'smaller' one. (30 gig.)

A day later her new toys were delivered, and I was there when they came. She wanted my help with setting everything up, and while I didn't think I would be much help, who was I to refuse an offer to play with someone else's new gadgets?

The delivery man dumped (but gently) the enormous box in the genkan, and left. My friend and I stared at it, intimidated, and decided to have a cup of coffee.

But eventually we got the computer upstairs, unpacked it (which took almost as much time as what followed) and plugged it in. I was a bit worried about the wireless mouse and keyboard (how do you connect those?) but then we switched on the computer. (This turned out to be the only time I consulted the manual - to find out where the power switch was.) The familiar chimes rang out, and we laughed. It worked! I love it that everything comes pre-installed. And as it turned out I didn't have to know anything. On the screen appeared diagrams about what to put where (batteries, mainly), and a couple of minutes later everything was working.

In fact I am not REALLY sure why I was there, because after that the new computer only wanted to talk to her. The only time when I might have been a little useful was perhaps for the bit where I initialized her new external hard drive (her new backup system), twice (because I did it wrong the first time) and plugged it into her old computer to back up all her old data. I just dragged it over to the new drive. That was easy, but she seemed to think it was all terribly mysterious, so my techie aura remained intact.

It even remained intact when we got to the bit I had been a little worried about, which was getting the new machine connected to the Internet. I didn't have a clue. The Man did ours when I was at work one day. I had even asked him to go with me to my friend's place because this whole business made me so uncertain (he refused - he was too busy), but my worry turned out to be unnecessary.

"Which is the modem cable that connects to the old computer?" I asked my friend, eyeing the spaghetti of cables behind the desk.

"This one, I think," said my friend, untangling some of the cables. "There are three coming from the modem, and ... let me see ... yes, this is the one that plugs into the computer."

"Three?" I asked, a little alarmed. "Oh, one will be the power cable, and that's the computer one, and the other is the, er, the other is, er, the cable cable. I suppose." I didn't feel very clever.

"Shall I pull them all out?"

"NO," I said. "Just the one plugged into the old computer. We'll switch it to the new computer."

She unplugged it and passed it to me.

I looked at the plug, and looked at the variety of hubs on the back of the new computer. One of them looked the right shape, so I plugged it in.

Then I stared authoritatively at the computer. Nothing happened. What was I supposed to do next?

The computer stared back unhelpfully. My friend hovered behind me, totally confident in my abilities and waiting for the magic to happen.

I launched Safari. I was pretty sure there was more to this than just plugging in the modem, but YOU NEVER KNOW. And it's true, you DON'T, because it turned out that in fact plugging it in WAS the only step necessary. I typed in and the Google search page came up.

"Um, that's it," I told my friend, hiding my shock. "You are online."

"Oh, you're so clever!" she said, "I could never have done this by myself."

"Actually, I think you could have," I said, and I wasn't just being modest, either.

The next thing was to get Eudora, her email program, working. She wanted to be able to access all her old mail. I told my friend i might need all her cable provider details.

I downloaded the latest version (sponsored mode - getting the full version could wait a couple of days) and installed and launched it. Then I found her old Eudora settings file and double-clicked it. My friend had left the room, and this was a good thing because I let out a very rude word when the new program responded to my little experiment by crashing.

Before attempting to launch the program again, I moved all her old mailboxes and things over to the new Eudora folder, trashing the new ones. Then I double clicked the settings file again, somewhat uncertainly (but I didn't know what else to do). Astonishingly, the new program launched and everything worked. How did that happen? I mean, I wanted it to happen, but how can it be that you can jump from a very old version on a different system to the latest version and still have everything intact like that? It was amazing. All her old mailboxes were there, the settings were there too, and no mail was lost.

My friend came back into the room.

"Here's your email," I said, smugly. "I don't need your provider details after all."

Now she thinks I'm a computer genius.

After that we set up the iPod. Easy.

A few days later another friend wanted me to help her to set up her new iPod, too. She is so intimidated by new technology I think she was afraid to take it out of the box by herself, and she'd heard how helpful and impossibly knowledgeable I was.

I told her it was a piece of cake, but she didn't believe me, so I went. I was pretty sure that when she saw how easy it was my reputation would suffer. But still my techie aura remained intact, because I installed Firefox onto her machine as well and showed her how to use tabbed browsing. She now thinks I am a technologically advanced person and I have no doubt she will call me whenever she has a problem. That in itself could be a problem, but I'll cross that bridge when I come to it. (Besides, I showed her how to force quit a program instead of pulling the plug when something didn't go the way she wanted it to, and I'm fairly sure she won't be having problems any more.)

But she also thinks I'm a genius because I introduced her to Miette's Bedtime Story Podcasts. She was enchanted at the selection offered, and also with Miette's story-reading skills when she experimentally listened to a little of one story, and when I subscribed her and she saw the archives in iTunes she could not stop clicking "GET." I tried to tell her she could always download the rest later, but she'd gone click mad and stopped listening to me. She ended up with over forty stories on her iPod, and I do not expect her to surface for a while.

Miette is one of the reasons my old 4 gig iPod is simply not big enough anymore. I keep getting 'cannot sync' messages because my iPod is full, and have to unsync stuff I haven't heard yet. I do not seem to have time to keep up with everything I want to listen to. I want a new, bigger iPod.

But if I get a new, bigger iPod, it will take forever to sync because my computer is a little too old to have USB2 and the new iPods don't have Firewire. Actually, it appears the iPods have not had Firewire for a while. I hadn't realized.

Bloody Apple. They make things easy, but only if you keep up.


Radioactive Jam said...

"Instead of pulling the plug."


Also, I still WANT A MAC. I'm just saying.

Kay said...

I made the PC-to-Mac (MacBook) switch last Sept after 20-some-odd years as a techie PCer. Took me awhile to get over my "oh no!" phase and make friends with my Mac, but my Mac and my iPod have made life immeasurably simpler than it ever was with a PC. Your story makes it real!

Kay said...

p.s. Some time ago, Badaunt, you mentioned Rickie Lee Jones, "The Low Spark of High-Heeled Boys"--I loved it then and I love it now and just got it on my iPod today. No music mentions on the blog lately......but thanks for that one!

Nils said...

I believe you can still buy firewire cables (or at least find them at ebay)... last i heard, the person at the Apple store told my father that apple doesn't officially support them any more, but not only do they work, but also they charge the iPod faster due to higher voltage (;

That was for a 1G Nano though, so I don't know for sure, maybe they really abandoned it by now...

Badaunt said...

RaJ: So... why don't you get one?

Kay: RLJ is lovely. One of the reasons I like her music is that I can listen again and again and not get bored. (That used to be particularly important when I was using a Walkman and had to carry tapes. I rarely carried more than one or two, so it had to be music that could stand repeated listening.)

Nils: I'm pretty sure that was (is? I'm not sure) only for charging, not for synching. It's the synching I'm worried about. For charging I can always get a travel adaptor if the USB is too slow. But if you find anything that makes it possible to sync using Firewire, do let me know! (Aside from a new computer - I'm not quite ready for that, yet. Or at least can't justify it yet.)

Nils said...

As far as I see, your only options would be to either buy some kind of USB 2.0 adapter card (PCI, PCMCIA or ExpressCard, provided you don't have an iMac :-S) or an older (Apple refurb?) iPod (to find out which are supported check this link ;) ).

Sorry, that was a lot of parenthesis :D

Hope that helps (=

Badaunt said...

Unfortunately I have an iMac G4, which leaves me stuck, as far as I can see. The only option I can think of (besides finding an older iPod) is to buy a Mac Mini, hook it up to the iMac, boot off the mini, and sync from that instead of off the iMac.

It's an EXPENSIVE solution, though, if the iPod is all I want the mini for. Maybe if I could convince myself I need more computer power it would seem worth it, but I have to admit I've been perfectly happy with my lampstand. I need to work up a little dissatisfaction first. :-)

Nils said...

Well, you NEED a new Mac for running Vista via BootCamp q-;
Seriously though, I'm a bit jealous, I personally like the iMac G4s design best of all the iMacs yet.

One other thing you might want to think about is if you actually need firewire. For example, if you get a bigger iPod, you'd (hopefully) rarely need to change your playlist, since all of your music fits on there. That leaves podcasts, which you could sync over night (unless you take your iPod to bed...seeing as it's Miette's _Bedtime_ Stories (; )... so, the only problems would arise with video transfers, which are huge... and video playback is one of the major advantages of the new iPods......
This is not going the way I wanted it to :D
Anyway, if you're cool with waiting to use the video features either painfully slow or only as soon as you get a new mac, go for the new iPod, if you don't need Video, go for an older one (or even a non-Apple-player that might have FireWire + Video but - iTunes syncing, though I can't think of one right now)