Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Newsflash: Computers Crash

It's pretty common knowledge that some people get as worked up over their computer's operating system as others do about, say, religion. (I mean, I really like Macs, but just listen to the caller at the beginning of this web-show where the woman on-screen is installing Vista on her MacBook Air. You want to cry...? My goodness...)

Sometimes, a little perspective is fun:

And I know some have tried to compare me to the caller in that first link. But, come on. As strongly as Final Cut Pro pulled me into the Mac universe, Portal still keeps me pretty rooted in Windows XP... :)

Update: Ok, this one's funny too!

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

21st Birthday!

Wooooooooo! 21!!!! Partaaaaaaaaay!!!!!!


Actually, with the big 2-1 falling on a tuesday for me, the traditional barhopping drunkeness may have to wait. (Though never fear! I fully plan on making up for it this weekend) Although I did have one drink (admittedly, one rather strong drink...) last night a bit after midnight. I had to. You know how it is.

And Christine made a cake! THANK YOU CHRISTINE!

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Why Does Apple Have Such a Good Rep? This Might Be Part Of It...

It's no secret that Apple usually gets some of the highest marks for customer satisfaction among computer makers in places like Consumer Reports. But why is that? The value proposition is about the same these days, objectively anyway. And Macs certainly are just as capable of having major hardware mishaps as other manufacturer's machines - especially now that the Intel transition is complete and everybody basically uses the same guts.

So why do people love on Apple so much? A pretty GUI and elegant OS architecture don't make Customer Service any better. So what gives?

I offer this anecdote:

A couple weeks ago, my trusty, almost 3-year-old PowerBook G4 started having a few issues. Namely, Kernel Panics, the UNIX-y equivalent of the infamous Blue Screen of Death. Now, if your PC bluescreens, you just cuss Bill Gates (or Steve Ballmer, your pick) and reboot. On a Mac, if things manage to go this wrong... it means there's something wrong!

Long story short, some troubleshooting of my own narrowed it down to the RAM, and specifically, the actual RAM slots in the logicboard (Mac-parlance for laptop motherboard) as opposed to the sticks themselves. Bummer. Fortunately, this problem cropped up two weeks before my extended AppleCare warranty was set to expire. So I made an appointment and brought the machine in to the local Apple Retail Store, where the guy there confirmed the problem, checked with me to make sure I had everything backed up (I did) and shipped the machine off to the nearest Apple repair center. Zero cost to me, because it was all covered under AppleCare.

It was away for about a week, mainly because they don't keep a ton of spare parts for machines as old as mine on hand. The next week, I get a call.

"We have the machine back here... but it's failing our standard diagnostic test. It says here there's a problem with the VRAM. Now, it does boot, so if there's an immediate need for the machine you can come and pick it up, but I'd just as soon send it back and have them re-replace the logic board."
Ok, so that's kind of crazy... but hell, my AppleCare is expiring soon so yeah, by all means send it back until it gets a clean bill of health.

Another week passes, and I get a call.

"Ok, so the machine is still failing the diagnostic. So... there's two options I'm authorized to give you, but I think I know which one you're gonna take..."
I'm listening.
"First, we can order yet another new logic board, have it delivered here to the store, and install it ourselves to make sure it's done right, and hope that fixes whatever the issue is."
"Or... we offer you what's called a CRU Exchange, which would be the closest replacement machine that is not lower spec'ed than your current one."
"You'd get a MacBook Pro."

Needless to say, I went with option 2! So in a nutshell, my computer started acting up, and now - at no cost to me whatsoever, - I'm going from this:
PowerBook G4 15.2-inch
1.67 GHz PowerPC G4
2 GB PC2700 DDR RAM (upgraded from 512 Meg originally)
120 GB ATA hard drive (upgraded from 80 GB originally)
ATI Mobility Radeon 9700 - 128 Meg VRAM
2x DVD Burner

To this:
MacBook Pro 15.4-inch
2.2 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo
2 GB PC2-5300 DDR2 RAM
120 GB SATA hard drive
NVIDIA GeForce 8600M GT - 128 Meg VRAM
8x DVD Burner

... Sweet. For comparison purposes, this is my current "gaming rig" PC tower:
AMD AthlonXP 3200+ @ 2.2 GHz
160 GB ATA hard drive
NVIDIA GeForce 6800 non-ultra - 128 Meg VRAM
DVD... reader.

In short, once I get this new machine (in a week or so.... whatever, I can wait) I'm going to be very interested in seeing how 3D Mark scores match up once I make a WinXP partition (ah, the convenience of Intel chips!).

In conclusion, if you ever wonder why Apple's customer loyalty is so high - stuff like this is a big part of it. Oh, and if you ever get a Mac, particularly a laptop.... get AppleCare!
Update: Corrected the spelling of "CRU." Apparently it stands for "Customer Replacement Unit." Pretty straightforward.

Friday, February 01, 2008


I'll probably put something on Facebook once this stuff gets closer to reality, but I figure'd I'll mention it here first.

Longtime followers of my online activities will be familiar with the two webcomics I've worked on in the past: Medieval Mayhem, the borderline-8-Bit-Theater-ripoff sprite comic I made in junior high, and Directionless, the semi-autobiographical borderline-MacHall-ripoff I briefly made during my freshman year of college. After my life got a little too busy spring of freshman year, I abandoned that comic and haven't really done anything since. That's about to change...

One of the classes I'm taking right now is TRF414: Writing and Designing for Interactive Media. Turns out this class is mostly a "how to make web pages with Dreamweaver and HTML" class. Clearly, well below my ability level, and the professor knows this. So instead of sitting bored in class as we do things I've known about for years (this is a "tag") he's allowed me to basically turn the credits into an individual guided study sort of thing.

For this class (and really, I think getting a grade on this will be pretty good motivation!) I will be bringing back Directionless. Instead of the clunky free hosting I had on Comic Genesis last time, I'll be getting the comic it's own domain, and piggy-backing on the server space for Hanley Films. I know some of my friends from high school (Halapy in particular... thanks for nagging!) liked to read the comic the last time I did it, and since then I've had several people here ask "why don't you do more of those - you should put us in it!" so there's plenty of reason outside of the TRF class to do this as well.

Plus, I don't have any film/video production classes this semester, and if all I do creatively is write, I'll go crazy!

The resurrected comic will follow the same format as before: semi-autobiographical, but probably about as loyal to the facts as the father in Big Fish... However, I will likely be the only returning character, since I don't really see much of the guys from my floor freshman year anymore. Instead, the new comic will focus around the group of friends I tend to hang out with now (don't worry - we're all plenty crazy too!)

The website will take a while to put together, since I plan on making it much nicer than my previous ones: probably a dynamic PHP site with a MySQL backend to make uploading new comics really easy once it's all running. Now, my previous experience with MySQL is approximately... none. So while that's all coming together, I can hopefully get a buffer of comics going so I won't miss as many updates as I've been known to in the past!

So, expect to see more on Directionless v.2 in a few weeks!

Medieval Mayhem
What? You thought I'd forget this classic? Though Medieval Mayhem only ran for 32 actual strips, and I don't really want to revisit making sprite comics, it was fairly humorous, and had a halfway decent following for what it was. (hell, the guy behind Elftor make a guest comic!)

Because of this, I'm looking into options for something my mother has been asking for for a long time - a printed book. I'm still looking into it, but it looks like if it happens, I can get a 34 or 36 page comic-book-style (saddle-stitch) full color printing without too much trouble. Unfortunately, unlike Directionless, Medieval Mayhem was put together at web resolution, so the DPI isn't as high as I'd like for printing, but there's not too much I can do about that.

I was thinking of pricing them at $5 a piece, and I'm very interested in how many people would be interested in one at that price. (Yes, obviously people who express interest to me early could get signed copies.... for whatever that's worth... which is probably nothing. Meh.)

So that's where things stand with me and webcomics. There's a lot coming up, so stay tuned!