Blogging since 1998. By David Wertheimer

Month: August 2006

Gut reno

Ah, nothing like digging into a full-scale internal renovation project. Not of an apartment, mind you: I’m overhauling my laptop.

Note that I am not particularly technical when it comes to computers. Despite 15 years on the Internet, I am not far above average when it comes to opening boxes, deciphering configuration ambiguities, or otherwise maintaining a machine.

So it was with more than a little hubris that I went to the hardware store, bought two sets of screwdrivers, and went to work on my 2004 Mac G4 Powerbook.

First up: a new hard drive. Ten days ago, our factory installed 40GB drive stopped working. A top-notch visit by Amy to the Apple Soho Genius Bar gave our drive a 72-hour stay of execution, and I was able to back up nearly all our data before it failed completely.

A replacement drive came in the mail Thursday, and armed with my new screwdrivers and a shiny new Seagate Momentus 5400.3 80GB HD, I spent my Saturday night—and a good portion of Sunday—on the install (instructions with photos here). I managed to perform the install without any issue, until I tried starting up the computer off my original CD-ROMs and ran into a kernel panic, which I managed to troubleshoot and resolve (I tell ya, I’m on a serious roll). Once equipped with the proper OS installer, I discovered that in my laptop reassembly, I didn’t properly connect the trackpad, which led to another round of unscrewing and tinkering and nearly breaking the keyboard and the connecting pins before triumphantly resolving things.

With Humpty Dumpty back together again and Mac OS X 10.4 installed, step two (which is mid-process) is the data and application transfer. Imagine the unbridled joy that comes from moving, rearranging, and reinstalling dozens of programs, hundreds of folders and thousands of MP3s! So far I’ve lost the last three weeks of my email and a few registration codes, but I have capably pulled archives, preferences and bookmarks from old system to new. Once everything is installed, the backup data will be ported to a new Western Digital 250GB external hard drive in preparation for the next hard drive failure.

Step three will be a comparatively simple memory upgrade to boost processing capacity and performance. Our Powerbook has always felt a bit sluggish, due to both a lack of memory and a lack of hard drive capacity, and with increases in both HD space and RAM, I hope to create a noticeable boost. Upgrading memory in a G4 Powerbook is relatively simple, so that will be a home install as well.

When all is said and done, I will have gone from a laptop with 512MB of RAM, a 40GB hard drive, and 80GB of external storage to one with 768MB of RAM, 80GB internal and 250GB external. Total cost: just over $300 plus my time (which, with the missus away on business, wasn’t all that precious). Compared with Apple’s $330 starting fee just to replace my dead hard drive, that’s a bargain. And it will give our computer a few more years of usefulness before needing a replacement.

Just wait’ll we buy our next home and I tackle the electrical system.

Evolution of the automobile

The Economist: In-car electronics: Cars are now sold on their electronics, not just their mechanics (subscription required). “Horsepower is nice, but processing power is better. That seems to be the motto of the modern car, which is becoming as much an electronic system as a mechanical one.”

Gizmodo: Lexus LS460 Review. The LS460 has wireless roof-mounted tire pressure monitoring, a refrigerator, full back-seat passenger comfort controls, and can parallel park itself.

In comparison, my 1993 Nissan Sentra SE-R was so consumed by capping weight and cost that power windows, door locks and seats weren’t even an option.

Third anniversary

Amy: “Oh no! I forgot to put my rings back on before we left the apartment.”

Me: “Do you want to go back up and get them?”

“No, I’ll be okay. It’s just that it’s our anniversary dinner.”

“I don’t mind.” [glances at own ring] “Besides, now it looks like I’m having an affair.”

“Ooh, what will the wait staff think?”

“Doesn’t bother me—my wife knows all about it.”

What it’s like having a car in the city

Thursday: realize car must be moved to an alternate-side parking spot for the next day’s street cleaning. Go home, take dog for night walk, head to car. Pull out of hard-won parking space from the day before.

Turn up Park Avenue South. Stop at light.

Turn right on East 16th Street. Dammit, that guy just got a spot. Stop at light.

Turn right on Rutherford Place.

Turn right on East 15th Street. Stop at light. Stop at next light.

Turn right on Irving Place. Stop at light.

Turn right on 16th again. Maybe that guy isn’t staying. No luck. Stop at light.

Turn left on Rutherford Place.

Turn left on East 17th Street. Stop at light.

Turn right on Irving Place. Stop at light.

Turn right on East 18th Street. Stop at light. Stop at light.

Turn right on Second Avenue. Stop at light.

Turn right on 17th. Think there’s anything new the second time through? Stop at light. Stop at light.

Turn left on Irving. Stop at light.

Turn left on 16th. Damn, the guy in front of me is looking for a spot too. Stop at light. Change strategy.

Turn right on Third Avenue. Stop at light. Stop at light. Cut off a bus.

Turn left on East 12th Street. Stop at light. Stop at light. Why am I driving all the way to Avenue A anyway?

Turn left on Avenue A. Stop at light.

Turn left on East 13th Street. Interrupt threatening gangs glaring at each other across the street. Stop at light. Stop at light. Stop at light.

Turn right on Third Avenue.

Turn left on 15th. Nothing. And it’s starting to get late.

Turn right on Irving. Stop at light.

Turn right on 16th. Stop at light.

Turn left on Rutherford.

Turn left on 17th. Stop at light. Stop at light.

Turn right on Irving.

Fuck it.

Pull into The Irving Place Garage.

Friday: get car from Irving Place Garage. Stop at light. Turn left on 16th Street….


One of my favorite diversions in my teens and 20s was the animated or comedy short. Beginning with cartoons, I suppose, and expanding with my immersion into MTV culture—including “Monty Python’s Flying Circus,” which MTV ran in the 1980s—I’ve always enjoyed five-minute shorts.

I don’t delve into online video all that much, but YouTube has some great MTV shorts available. My next few free nights will be spent enjoying Sifl and Olly and the original, wordless Aeon Flux pieces. “Liquid Television,” we hardly knew you.

(See also: Pitchfork’s 100 Awesome Music Videos.)

The perils of automation

Google News, Aug. 8We, the devout users of Google, are supposed to believe that Google News’ superior algorithms and programming make the use of editors obsolete. But Google News has an incredibly varied—and loose—list of news sources that includes the Gothamist newblogs among them.

Gothamist, of course, is a blog of summary and feature, not news, at least not often. More importantly, its editors are not afraid of a good joke or bit of snark. Which is usually good for Gothamist and its readers.

But really: is it good for Google News to select as its lead election story a post from Bostonist with the headline, “Connecticut Primary Almost Exciting; Lieberman Still Boring?”

My home, yesterday

Con Ed executed a remarkable hands-on power-saving strategy to avert disaster yesterday (emphasis mine):

“In the two electrical networks that make up that area, high-voltage feeder cables began to fail. … The utility took the extraordinary step of taking its own headquarters, at 4 Irving Place near Union Square, off the electrical grid and putting it on generator power, and having crews race door to door on the East Side, urging businesses and residents to shut off power.”

In a swift reaction, my building—across the street from Con Ed headquarters—powered down almost all of the commercial and residential space for several hours. Power was restored before the end of the work day, and a crisis was avoided. Nice work.

‘Clerks II’

In the winter of 1994 I dragged two friends into Manhattan to see “Clerks” at the Angelika. It was in a tiny theater with six people in it, including the three of us. Little did we know that the movie was an absolute riot that would launch the (well-known if only marginally celebrated) career of Kevin Smith and become a cult favorite in the years to come.

So it was with a mix of skepticism and joy that I threw myself into deja vu Saturday, walking to the Angelika to see “Clerks II” in a theater with eight people in it (granted, it was 1:20 in the afternoon). And I’m happy to report that the sequel was a lot of fun. Not particularly good filmmaking, and not hilarious—I smiled a lot and laughed a little—but fun. The upbeat on-set attitude was palpable and contagious, the references to the original film amusing and touching and with the right perspective.

Also: Trevor Fehrman is a riot. Someone get this boy a pilot.

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