Tuesday, January 13 2004
For the past few days I've been trying to figure out how to install a entirely different operating system on my Vaio laptop. The problem stems from the fact that it can read from only one hard drive at boot time and can only boot from that one hard drive. I could easily change from Windows 98 to Windows XP, since that installation (which Microsoft terms an "upgrade" - as if George W. Bush is an upgrade from Bill Clinton simply because he came along later) can be initiated under Windows 98. But now what? What if I want to install, say, some subspecies of Linux? Using a PCMCIA interface, I can mount a second hard drive after booting the machine, but I don't know how to go about making that second hard drive a bootable Linux drive without having first booted from a Linux CD. I'm sure there's a way, but whatever it is, it's not intuitive.
This afternoon I was at a client's house for a second well-paid period of several hours, spending much of my time wrestling with her Airport Extreme. These expensive designer-designed devices are intended to be idiot-proof magic monuments that effortlessly put the Macintoshes around them on the internet wirelessly, but this particular unit was a nightmare for the person who wants his or her computer to, you know, just work. The Airport would run okay for a time and then mysteriously crap out, even at very close range. There were no sources of interference nearby; for example, there were no cordless telephones in the house operating in any frequencies above 900 MHz. So I'd monkey with the settings in ways that required me to enter the password, and then it might come back for awhile. (This, by the way, is the second client I've dealt with who had a flaky Airport Extreme.) My client, who doesn't really even know what an Airport Extreme is for, had contented herself by blaming AOL, but AOL is actually a pretty bullet-proof application, even if it does think of itself more as an operating system. When measured by this standard, the Airport Extreme is a piece of junk. It doesn't have to be that way; the quasi-no-name wireless technology I'm using with my Vaio is so flawless that you don't really notice it's there (the hallmark of a quality Apple technology). It just works. You can wander around the house surfing the web. You can even pull the wireless card out and then stick it back in and the connection magically recovers on its own. I'm not one who enjoys knocking Apple, but sometimes it seems the fine folks there focus an excessive percentage of their efforts on developing fetishizable objects without paying enough attention to reliability of the nasty electronics buzzing within them.
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