Monthly Archives: January 2007

Mack Reed getting out of the game

(Note: The Daily News blog server is ailing, so I’m posting here for the moment instead of the usual spot for this sort of thing.)

As far as I’m concerned, the top three L.A. blogs are L.A. Observed, Laist and L.A. Voice. Now comes word that L.A. Voice creator and ringmaster Mack Reed is leaving the blog in a couple weeks due to his other (paying) commitments.

Can you believe that a leading L.A. blog isn’t a rampant moneymaker? I can — it’s tough out there, even for somebody with the talent and passion of Mack Reed.

But he wants L.A. Voice to keep going and is willing to set somebody else up in his seat to shape, run and grow the blog. He says it requires a commitment of 12 to 15 hours a week, but I can’t believe he ever spent that little time on it, ever. Here’s part of his pitch:

If you’re interested in taking on a virtually non-paying, 12- to
15-hour-a-week job – for the chance to re-shape, grow and drive a
well-respected, L.A.-centric community blog toward being something brilliant,
edgy and cool, then maybe this gig is for you.Here’s who I’m looking for:

Candidate:
A strong, clever writer with solid content-development
skills in Photoshop, HTML, Unix and a willingness to get your hands dirty with a
little code. I’ll train you on our crazy-quilt platform and provide tech support
where necessary.

A die-hard Angeleno – someone who has a long history (7+ years in greater
L.A.) and a healthy love/hate (or love/love) relationship with all of Los
Angeles.

A serious blogger with an overwhelming desire to write two to six times a
day.

(Very important)
An open-minded citizen of the world, with strong
opinions but complete respect for all points of view – even the ones you
disagree with violently.

I sure do hope somebody comes out of the woodwork to run L.A. Voice — I can think of a few current contributors to the site who would be great stewards of all that Mack has built. You know who you are … but who’s got the time for this kind of thing?

Another thing I hope for is that Mack Reed continues to contribute to L.A. Voice, or continues his blogging and writing in one capacity or other — his voice is an important one both online and in the general conversation of Los Angeles.

And while I’m here, I’d like to thank Mack for linking to me back in the dayswhen 2,000 Days in the Valley was new, the Daily News didn’t have blogs, and I needed all the linking and blogrolling I could get.

Not that I’ve been doing anything lately

… but between 10 and 30 people a day stop by this blog. That’s more than my other blogs, which get updated way more often.

I guess it speaks to the popularity of jazz guitar among Web surfers because most of you arrive here as the result of search engines. Since Google is so Blogger-friendly, the former owning the latter and all, I come up pretty high in a lot of searches.

Lately I’ve been spending more time on writing, blogging, working on my various computing projects (Mac, PC and now Palm) doing my “real” paid work at the Daily News and spending time with my family … not necessarily in that order.

But my musical future — and very likely a whole new blog to go with it — will being unfolding at some point soon.

At least I hope.

While here, I heard the new Sheryl Bailey live organ trio record, and it was pretty good. She’s such an expressive player — she can really speak through her instrument. I do have her instruction book, “The Chord Rules,” and I have to confess that it seemed a little simplistic, like there wasn’t enough there to really get you going as an improviser — or maybe I’m missing the point.

Agendus Mail SSL Edition for Palm

To use your older Palm with e-mail services that require SSL on both outgoing and incoming servers (including Yahoo! Mail and Gmail), there are two third-party programs that can get it done.

The one I hear most about is SnapperMail, but the versions with SSL are between $49.95 and $59.95. And you can’t download the manual to see exactly how it works unless you’re already a customer. If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s to READ THE MANUAL before buying.

But in terms of value, Agendus Mail SSL Edition, at $24.95, is a better deal. And with the manual, I can confirm that it handles an unlimited number of wireless e-mail accounts but only one hotsync account. So if I decided that I really, really wanted to get POP access on Yahoo! or use my Gmail account, I could do it this way for $24.95.

All told, I’d rather stick with VersaMail, but since I can’t get an updated version with the SSL, if I want to use my main e-mail account with the Palm, I have to get one of these “extras.”

What’s your price?

I have a hard time paying anything over $300 for any old computer.

Between $100 and $200, I’ll think about it.

Below $100, or free? I’m totally there.

I guess it depends on what it is. I did see one of those “lampshade” iMac G4 800 MHz computers at We Love Macs for $499. I can’t believe that such a design triumph for Apple was so short-lived, but you can never figure out Apple. Still, $499 is a lot of money. For $200, I’d jump on this in a second. For an iBook G4 in good condition, I’d pay $350, not more, but would prefer to pay $200. For any G3 iMac, I wouldn’t go above $200 for a 500-700 MHz model, and for a 233 MHz tray loader? I’d have to say between free and $30 is my threshold, if I even want it to take up any physical space in my life.

Right now, The Back Room doesn’t have a Mac installed. Instead, that’s the home of This Old PC, which with all I’m doing with the Palm handheld these days, is destined to stay there for quite some time. I’d love to have a really nice all-in-one Mac back there, especially one that could run OS X 10.3.9, but when’s that going to happen?

The oldest Mac you can run 10.4 on

Low End Mac’s Charles W. Moore tells his tale of replacing a dead iMac with something that can run OS X 10.4. He rightly says that for older Macs, 10.3.9 works better, but if you absolutely must run 10.4, here’s what you can run it on:

– He recommends G4 Powerbooks and iBooks … naturally.
– The Mac Mini … if you can get a cheap one.
– A 750 MHz G4 iMac (available for about $350, he says … and if that’s the “lampshade” variety, I don’t think you can get them that low)
– 867 MHz “Quicksilver” Powermac G4 tower (about $550 sans monitor, he says)

He also has some software suggestions, including the gimmies (Thunderbird) along with AbiWord, Tex-Edit Plus and TextWrangler. Click over for links.

Moore also offers that at a minimum, he uses 10.3, since he never liked 10.2 and continued to use the Classic OS (9.2.2) until 10.3 “Tiger” came out. I’m a big fan of 10.3.9 and haven’t seen the need, as yet to upgrade to 10.4 for the iBook G4.

Powerbook Guy for parts and repairs

I came across the Web site for Powerbook Guy, who offers many, many parts for old Powerbooks, as well as repair and upgrade services. He has Powerbook 1400 logic boards for $9.95 (used) to $19.95 (new), and when you think about it, getting a logic board only, or a processor card ($7.95 for a 117 MHZ, $9.95 for a 133 MHz) is easier than cheaper than buying a whole 1400 for spare parts. Most of that savings is due to shipping — a whole Powerbook is freakin’ heavy, and a single board weighs only a few ounces. He has a 48 MB memory card for the 1400 for $119 … OUCH. I couldn’t find a 48 MB card anywhere, but I did find a 32 MB card, and it only cost me about $10 over the Low End Mac swap list. So you’ve got to know what things are going for before you leap.

Powerbook Guy also has some great prices on used laptops: iBook G3s from $239.95 to $379.95, iBook G4s from $379.95 to $629.95.

Personally, I’m not comfortable playing more than $350 for any of these iBooks, but the fact that an iBook G4 can still fetch from $400 to $600 means that, if you can manage to find a buyer, getting rid of a 5 or more year old Mac laptop can really boost your bottom line. Of course, since an iBook G4 can run 10.3.9, 10.4.whatever and maybe even 10.5 with a RAM boost, th0se ‘Books are not anywhere near obsolete.

Follow me now … the iBook G4 1 GHz were sold, pretty much, during 2003 and 2004. Now it’s 2007, so most of those have seen between three and four years of service. Now Apple is on OS X 10.4, and will release 10.5 in the spring. So even if you don’t want to run 10.5 on the iBook, you can definitely run 10.4, and that will probably carry you comfortably for between three and five more years. So that iBook will have an easily usable life of between six and eight years before you have to start scrambling (and that scrambling is what This Old Mac is all about).

As I’ve said many times before, it all comes down to whether or not the apps you want to run will work with the hardware and operating system available. In keeping with that, Windows is much more forgiving; you can run the latest Firefox browser even if you have Windows 98. Not that you’d want to, but it can be done. With Mac, OS X is the dividing line — all modern browsers run on X only, and not on OS 9 or anything before that.

For me, the Web is the critical app — the nature of Web browsing is constantly changing, and if your hardware and software can’t keep up, your computing experience really suffers. For me, the Powerbook 1400 is a niche machine. For writing and e-mail and basic Web browsing, it works. But will it show YouTube videos, streaming video from network TV sites, complicated Flash animation and work with things like Google Docs? No.

But these G4 notebooks will do these things, and as long as the browsers continue to work with the latest version of OS X you are able to run, you’ll be in good shape. Things like Microsoft Office, even Photoshop, will always be available in versions suited to your hardware and OS. And hopefully e-mail protocals won’t be radically changing, and today’s e-mail clients will be able to handle the major providers’ POP and IMAP servers for some time to come.

Still, the Web — and the browsing thereof — is the 900-pound gorilla when it comes to computer obsolescence, and you will know when the bell begins to toll.

Palm Desktop without a Palm

It has been suggested that you can benefit from use of the Palm Desktop software for both PC and Mac, even if you don’t own a Palm handheld.

The software is available for free at Palm.com, and even without the handheld, you get a really good address book and calendar application. If your PC is set up to have Outlook as the default mail client, you can send e-mail, using the Palm Contacts portion of Palm Desktop, directly through Outlook. And if you do need a calendar or Tasks-type list, those are all here too.

The reason Palm Desktop runs so well is that it probably hasn’t had a major update in the past five or more years, and that makes it eminently suited to older PCs (and Macs — it runs on OS X and OS 9).

And did I mention that it’s free?

Bringing Palm to This Old PC

At this point in its history, even the newest Palm handheld
is kind of retro. That means the Palm itself — and the
software that comes with it — is quite friendly to older
PCs.

Now I have the Palm Desktop software running on the XP box
at work, the iBook G4 at home and This Old PC — the Pentium
MMX 333 MHz.

The software is very, very fast — great for older hardware
(you need USB, at least for the Palm Tungsten E that I'm
using). For the moment, the Palm is changing the way I
approach computing. I can write just about everywhere and
either save my work as e-mail and send it when I "hot sync"
the Palm, or create text files in the Palm Memos application
and pick them up after the same hot sync operation.

The Palm also comes with a program called Documents to Go,
whlch can read and write Microsoft Office-format files.
It works very well.

Besides the Memos, Documents to Go and VersaMail applications,
I also use the Palm's Tasks as a running "to do" list (having
the list synced on multiple computers AND with me on the
Palm is key — as it is for all of this. I was also able
to bring both my Outlook contacts and Yahoo! Mail address
book into the Palm's Contacts program. This also helped
me bring all of that data into the OS X Address Book –
which doesn't accept the .CSV files from the old version
of Outlook in This Old PC, but does work with the vCards
generated by Palm Desktop.

Another thing — the Palm's VersaMail e-mail app works very
well with Outlook to send mail. They somehow sync together
– and you can originate and receive Outlook mail on your
Palm.

It's a little dicier with POP and IMAP mail, but it does
work. Unfortunately, there seems to be no way to upgrade
VersaMail, and only version 3 allows for SSL on the outgoing
server. The current Palms will do just about any e-mail,
but this older Tungsten E, with VersaMail 2.6, won't do
Yahoo or Gmail.

Still, I can use my DSL Extreme and FastMail accounts, as
well as the Outlook. I believe you can sync up to eight
accounts. And with the current Palms, all of the popular
mail providers are available.

There are also other e-mail programs for Palm, SnapperMail
and Agendus Mail among them. Those programs seem to excel
with either a Wi-fi or cell-phone-connected Palm. For hot-syncing
multiple e-mail accounts, VersaMail is the only way to go.
But if you have an older Palm and just need to sync one
e-mail account, the other apps are definitely worth looking
at.

The best TV show you’re not watching

It's "Campus Ladies," on the network you're also not watching:
Oxygen. It's also a network I'm not watching because, A)
I don't have cable, and … B) I don't have cable. Oh, also,
I'm not a woman.

I've seen two episodes of "Campus Ladies" on DVD, fishing
them out of a bin replenished during the infrequent visits
of Daily News TV critic David Kronke. That and TiVoed DVDs
from Ilene's mom are our only sources of cable programming.

Anyway, I get the feeling I'm somehow supposed to know who
the ladies of "Campus Ladies" are. I don't. They are very,
very funny, though.

The premise of the show is that two housewives of a certain
age (and no, I don't know what that age is), one widowed,
the other divorced — and both lifelong friends (can you
see why Oprahcentric Oxygen bought this?) decide to go to
college together.

They move into the freshman dorm, fall in with three college-age
friends, and hijinks most definitely ensue.

It's like a 3-minute "Saturday Night Live" skit extended
to a half-hour, except that it doesn't suck.

Is "Campus Ladies" better than my other favorite show,
"The Office"? No, but it's very close — it's that good.