Monday, December 26, 2005

Christmas presents

It must be a sign, but I'm not sure of what. Theresa and I ended up with the coolest gifts this year.

Theresa's main present was a fireplace -- our first in at about 16 years (Ailish was a baby the last time we had one). It puts out a lot of heat, easily heating most of the downstairs. And if I get carried away and stuff too much into it, we have to move upstairs or out in the sunroom for a while. (I'll eventually get my pyromania under control.)

New fireplace

What I especially like about it is that we don't watch the TV as much. It's more pleasant to just sit around the fire, listening to music or reading a book.

My main gift is a new 20-inch iMac. It's mostly for the kids, since I have a PC running Linux upstairs. But I get to play with it a lot, especially when I'm off a few days. (I'm writing this now on the iMac.)

My Christmas present

I've wanted a Macintosh since college, and a few days with the real thing has convinced me that Apple has the most advanced PC on the planet, by far. Windows can't touch this. (Nor can Linux, for that matter, but what do you expect for free?) Apple's decision to switch from the PowerPC processor to Intel has more recently given me pause. What tipped me over this time is that the kids' Windows PC is beginning to fall over and the thought of starting all over again with the battle to keep it upright against a determined kid attack was just too much. The Mac, like Linux, is far better equipped for life on the Internet, even (and especially) in the hands of children. Plus, the kids are now getting familiar with Windows, Linux and Mac OS X. They're able to sit down on any of them and be productive. That's got to be worth something. The Intel migration, I decided, wasn't much of a worry. A family PC has a 2-3 year life and, by then, Apple will have made the transition and it'll be time to start thinking of a new main computer.

I'm in the process of trying to get my head around Apple's version of Unix, which isn't very different from Linux. Still, it's the differences that are tripping me up. I've created a script to back up everyone's documents folder to Linux using rsync. This is native-speaking for Mac OS X, happily, except for telling it when to run (cron seems to be ignored). I've figured out that I need to use Apple's next-generation services interface via a program called launchd. It's still early days for that, however, and creating and managing services is a bit rough. You have to create an XML file and put it into a central place. I guess I thought "crontab -e" was difficult, when I first encountered it, so this will be no different. I found a good program called Lingon that made it easier to set up and schedule the tasks. I'll find out tomorrow morning if it works.


Another gift that will mostly be used by the whole family is a GPS (global positioning system) receiver. I wrote a post recently about our weekly outings to local parks and Dean Shareski added a comment suggesting we try geocaching. We're taking him up on it. The kids have already found a couple of caches nearby. The idea is that you use GPS to find containers (usually tupperware) hidden around the world. The boxes have little tidbits in them -- little momentos. You take one and add one. Sounds fun and it'll make walking Dude a little more interesting.

The kids? Well, they got the usual assortment: Nintendo DS, some Playstation 2 games (and the network adapter), and various loud toys. But I've barely noticed. I'm too busy playing.

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