ApacheCon Dublin

Apachecon Europe 2006 just started, and the first keynote from Mark Shuttleworth is over. I’m exercising my new camera and posting a few pictures on Flickr (you might want to look for the “apachecon2006” tag to see more from other attendees, or even “apacheconeu2006”, “apachecon” or whatever tag the next guy will decide to use).

Meanwhile, I’m frantically finishing up slides for my two talks, and getting some stuff ready for the Open Development BOF I just submitted, hoping a few people will show up to discuss the whole concept and how to approach it. If you feel like chiming in, head to the Ulster room tomorrow at 9PM, we’ll have some fun!

Aren’t new toys fun?

Almost a month ago, my wife realized our faithful Powershot S20 decided to enter the Underworld of Failed Electronic Devices, leaving us in the cold and blatantly refusing to even read the CF card. Given the poor thing just had its 6th birthday, we couldn’t really blame the manifacturer, so we started looking around for a replacement: I had been considering an SLR for quite some time, in a hazy reminiscence of some photography classes I had as extracurricular activity while in primary school, and it seemed the time was just right to vent the sheer amount of dust from my somewhat obfuscated notions of aperture and exposure.

A few days ago, while having a Kebab lunch with my colleagues, I discovered that both Filippo and Andrea are passionate about photography, and I was definitely sold to the world of “real” gear. Andrea pointed me at an offer from our local grocery chain, who was giving away the EOS 350D for a bare 399€+12.000 fidelity points which, translated to real money, means roughly 500€: definitely a good deal considering the average Internet price of 650/700€. We went to the store on saturday and our order was fulfilled today (just in time for my next trip to Rome), which means we now have a new toy to play with, as you can see from the following image, showing a view at dusk from our bedroom window:

Desio at night

While this is not quite a work of art and it’s pretty far from looking like the masterpieces from Julian Cash, playing with the huge deal of camera settings has been great fun. Don’t expect this to become a photoblog, but I expect to be experimenting for quite some time…

Life with a MacBook Pro

It’s been quite a while since I moved to my brand new MBP 17″, so I guess it’s time to have a small writeup of what’s going on so far. First of all, let me state this was a welcome yet unexpected and unplanned change: given the fair amount of woes about the new shiny toy from Apple, I was willing to wait a tad more and schedule the upgrade for sometimes in September, once Leopard hit the shelves and hoping to avoid the infamous first revision nightmares.

Unfortunately, the hard drive of my Powerbook had different plans and was eager to retire: it all started with an increased sluggishness of the whole machine, until the dreaded I/O errors started to pop up in the logs, eventually making the system barely usable. I rushed to buy a FireWire disk to deal with my last chance of backing stuff up and I ended up with a fresh install on the external drive to get things going while rushing to an upgrade. It took me quite a while to decide that I was going to get the 17″ model: I was a bit scared about portability, but in the end I figured out the difference would have been barely noticeable, considering also that I’m carrying a fully loaded golf bag some 10km per weekend with little to no effort.

At the end of the day, I think the 17″ has been a great choice: the screen (anti-glare model, glossy just doesn’t cut for me) is just gorgeous and I haven’t experienced any temperature-related problems, probably thanks to the increased room for stuff and heat dissipation. Performance-wise, I’m absolutely astonished: my productivity skyrocketed lately, and the beach ball is (almost) a memory from the past. I’ve been hammering the poor thing with all sort of apps (as I’m writing this, I have 18 different apps in my application switcher), and I’ve finally been able to enjoy Spotlight and Dashboard which I duly disabled on my Powerbook workhorse.

There are still quite a few bits I don’t like about the new Macbook. First and foremost, I still don’t buy the integrated iSight, it feels like it’s stealing precious screen estate and somewhat makes the screen frame look bulkier, with little to no advantage. Yeah, Photo Booth is cool, but it gets boring in no time flat. Meanwhile, there is no decent videoconferencing stuff (iChat just doesn’t work through firewalls), which means that until Skype comes out with a video-enabled, the camera is going to stare at me with a blind eye.

Another detail I don’t happen to like (and yeah, I know I’m nitpicking) is the plastic frame around the DVD slot. Looks like El Cheapo stuff, and it’s definitely far from being pleasant to the eye. The same goes for the rubber band on the screen hinge. Now that I mention the hinge, then, I have to say I found it quite bit weak: there is basically no way to carry the Macbook with the screen halfway closed, something I used to do a lot with the Powerbook when moving between meeting/conference rooms. Probably the display is just too heavy, but the final result is a swinging screen that tends to either snap your fingers or slam itself wide open, pulling the laptop from your hands. Given how this makes MacSaber nearly unusable, you can clearly see why I just don’t like that: getting my ass kicked on a Jedi battle by 15-inchers is just a shame.

A final word about batteries: despite the huge brick facing me when I turn the thing upside down, I’m still stuck well below the 4 hours limit. Not so bad, but I think Apple could have done better, even though I have to admit how powering up such a huge and bright screen must be a challenge to every battery maker out there.

In any case, I’m completely sold to my new machine. Next month I’m going to be a roadwarrior again, and I’ll see how it behaves in my backpack. Which reminds me I really should buy a new second skin/folder, even though there is no announce of a specific MBP thingy (I guess it’s safe to assume powerbook ones would work just fine, as this is definitely the case for the 15″ model). More on this in the next few days.