The equipment list update
The four-week check-in

The Powerbook 190/66 b/w

Boy, talk about mixed reports. The good news is that the PB190 is the most comfortable powerbook with which I have worked so far. The keyboard is generally comfortable (although my fingers have trouble with the delete key), it fits on my lap (where it is sitting at the moment), it's lighter than I expected. In short, but for a couple of little things (one of which is kinda major) I'd give this an enthusastic 'thumbs up!'

Okay, the bad news. First off, I have lost half of my screen space. There I was taking images and writing at a concert one night in Budapest (I do think I remember a line running occasionally across the screen). Then, I get to where I am staying and turn the computer on to make sure it is charging and realize that I can't read the bottom half of the screen. It has become a real screen (in the printing sense). At about the 50% point (or a bit less) to the bottom, only about one line of pixels in four works. It's a regular pattern which means that anything in the lower part of the computer is vaguely visible, but absolutely not readable--not file names, not program selections, nothing.

I checked out a replacement in Budapest, and they would have wanted a month and $600. In a month I'll be home, so I'm just living with this, but it has complicated life tremendously, and taken a lot of the fun out of writing and working with this computer.

To add insult to injury, one of the little doors for PCMCIA cards fell off this week and was promptly lost. That's the bay in which I would normally leave the modem, anyway, but I took the modem out because I'm not using it and it seems silly to blow power on something that is just as happy in my shirt pocket. Besides, jostle the computer and the card slides a bit out--and can't be slid back in without turning the computer off.

Batteries have not been giving me 2-5 hours. I have the battery that came with the computer, and a spare one. I am using mostly Eudora Pro (e-mail) and BB-Edit (writing). I avoid the image-editing applications while unplugged because those really chew up batteries. Even so, I don't know that any one battery has consistently lasted longer than two hours. There may be some leakage due to leaving the computer in "sleep" mode, rather than turning it off, when I take a break while on a train, or when moving a short distance, so I am starting to avoid that. Fortunately, so far in a worst-case six-hour train ride (not all of which was spent writing) I was barely getting by on "reserve power" when i arrived at my station. Although I still wish I had the color model, I shudder to think what this trip would have been like with that power drain.

Kodak DC20 Camera

This continues to work well. There are conditions where pictures simply don't work and I don't understand why. There are also conditions where I wish I could take pictures (shots with depth, for instance) and the camera is not designed to perform worth shit. But for its main purpose--reasonable images instantly available and giving me recognizable people and buildings--the camera has been fine. It's even been a nice icebreaker. People go gaga when I take a picture and then show their faces on the computer in a few minutes. The accompanying software is decent, if limited. And, obviously, the ease of guessing at colors is hard when you are limited to displaying 16 shades of grey--and only on the top half of your screen real estate.

I swapped batteries after about a month of use (about a week or so into the trip) because the green light was blinking. The second battery.

Connecting to the Internet

This has been easier than I originally planned. Rather than try to make connections to the local international POPs of something awful like CompuServe, I have, instead, been generally lucky at finding local desktop publishers with PPP accounts. (I just run in that sort of circle.) This means that I connect the computer to their computer using my APS "SCSI PRO" set, and then launch Fetch or Eudora or NCSA Telnet as needed from my prefs files. This launches their PPP setup (Open Transport, MacPPP, whatever) which logs into their account using their computer and modem, and then, once online, the computer goes and does what I requested in the first place. I usually don't even know what my host's login id is, and it just doesn't matter.

In a pinch, as in Krakow, I don't bother to upload material for a few days and make do with a local "Internet Cafe." This lets me check and answer my e-mail via a telnet session (although it also means that I lose the appearance of sending e-mail from the personal domain that my local ISP hosts), log onto the WELL, and even, in a pinch, I suppose I could edit files online, although that hasn't yet seemed worth the effort.

The key factor is that, when I can't connect my computer up to someone else's, I can't take advantage of Eudora for e-mail, and obviously, can't post any materials sittng on my computer (without the bother of some sort of disk transfer or null modem transfer). I am on vacation. This is just not a bit deal. So, every so often I am limited to some other terminal for e-mail. So it goes. And once, in Belgrade, I couldn't connect nohow. Still, that's a much better record than I expected.

In my bag are cables to connect to a PC via null modem, but it's hard to imagine that being worth the effort. It will depend how lucky I am in maintaining the string of contacts with PPP accounts and Macs. I also tried to dial directly, using my Megahertz PC card, in Belgrade, but the phone lines were awful. This was a fall-back strategy which we tried after we failed to get a connection at my friend's office using his setup. When you need to use pulse dialing, you know that you're in trouble....

One key part of this setup is a modular PB to Mac connector kit that I got from the mail order outfit, APC. It consists of a regular PB30 to Mac25 pin connector piece (with a switch that lets me choose connecting as a hard disk, or to connect other SCSI devices to my PB, with the PB controlling them), and a nice cable that gives me enough room. The cable is its own separate piece, and at the other end of the cable is a 25-50 pin adaptor, for use when needed. For my home setup only (it's been irrelevant everywhere else) I also added a "pass-through" terminator, so that I can get a terminator into the SCSI chain when necessary. (The PB is not terminated internally, and this has so far led to a problem with just the one computer--mine, at home.). Excluding the terminator, which was a separate $10 purchase, the whole thing cost about $50 and has been a major sanity piece.

Other stuff
To tell the truth, I can't think of anything else that I lugged along that has been relevant so far. While driving in the car with Jovica, it did occur to me that a cigarette lighter power converter would have been nice, but that was, like, two days out of four weeks, and the batteries did suffice. There was a two week period, roughly coinciding with the Budapest/Krakow shuffle, that I had an awful sore throat--too many smoke-filled rooms too late at night with too little sleep and too much rain. That caused me to cough more than I have in years, and eventually I got some cold medicine at a local Apothecary in Budapest. I also had to pick up some shampoo, after leaving mine behind somewhere. As is to be expected, these things are available, and prices are reasonable. Not a computer problem. Wetware. Me.

Europe '96 | Ivritype | My WELL pages

Page maintained by Ari Davidow, / Last revised 9/19/96.