Category Archives: Computers/Technology

Stuff about computers and technology in general.

Reminders of Why I Bought a Mac

I got a reminder of one of the reasons why I bought a Mac yesterday, thanks to the PC in the Parish Office. I got an e-mail on Monday from somebody who had tried to write a CD in the internal CD-Writer on the Office PC, and had got a peculiar error message. Having been at the Parish Centre on Monday evening, I tried the same thing, and got the same problem.

The first time you tried to copy a file to the CD Writer the task appeared to lock up, and then subsequent to that everything you tried to copy produced an error about the folder being in use.

I didn’t have a chance to sort it out then, but as the PC also needed Windows XP Service Pack 2 I thought I’d sort it out at the weekend. I’ve previously had problems with the built in CD Writing feature on XP Home, caused by another bit of software changing a relevant DLL. (Classic DLL Hell)

Anyway, yesterday I spent the evening doing the service pack upgrade, which went off flawlessly, and then moved on to the CD Writer problem.

The main oddity was that Windows was listing the drive as a normal CD Drive with no writing features, so I thought I’d locate a driver online. That proved to be impossible. Searching on Google for the drive, a Sony CRX230E only produced a number of other people looking for a driver. After some digging on the Sony site, I found a firmware upgrade, but not much else. Eventually I found several people who had raised up problems with Microsoft, and with Sony, and basically been told that it just “doesn’t work” with the built in CD-Writing software, but that some of the third party CD writing packages would work with it.

I’m not sure whether the problem is in Windows XP itself, or with something that Sony has done, but it does seem a fairly funadmental problem. (It is worth noting that this is a brand new PC as well – it was delivered with XP and the drive in question). It also reminds me why I got a Mac. I’ve had similar hardware problems with PC’s before, where some combination of product A, with product B, under operating system C, on machine D just doesn’t work, or only partially works, but on a slightly different machine works without problems. You also get the joy of making sure you install the relevant drivers in order to make the thing work.

I’ve not had the same problems with the Mac. The key reason being of course that Apple tightly controls the platform, so there is a much more limited selection of hardware and software combinations. In the PC market the machines are built from a selection of component, and the whole concept is that you can build a machine with whatever components you require. For example firms can build a machine with a basic sound card for an office machine, or a surround sound system for game use. This flexibility ultimately leads to the problems I encountered, nobody can possibly test all the combinations, so although Sony lists the drive as XP compatible, it just isn’t compatible with the particular combination.

With regards to the drive, Evesham, who supplied the machine, included a third-party CD Burning application, which I assume supports the drive. Having said that, I’m tempted to make use of our support agreement to get them to try and get it working from XP directly, since the machine was delivered with XP and the two drives I would have expected that I should be able to use the built in CD burning functionality, or for it to be disabled, certainly it shouldn’t lock up the machine.

Tinned Meat Ahoy

After fairly successfully weeding out the spam from our e-mail, I’ve tonight had to do the same to the blog. I’ve had the spam filter turned on in WordPress anyway, but tonight we got deluged with spam that got round the blacklist, so I’ve made a couple of changes to the setup, that initially will cause all comments to be moderated until I’ve got the filter trained. However after that the spam should not make it onto the comment pages for the blog.

A Bit of Retro Gaming

I’ve been playing about with a couple of new bits of software, that are actually based on something rather older – Open TTD which is an open source clone of Transport Tycoon Deluxe, and Oolite which is a space trading simultation that is an almost direct clone of Elite but runs under MacOS X. Oolite comes complete, but Open TTD requires an original copy for some of the data files, so I dusted off my Windows copy, and copied the files onto the Mac.

Open TTD running on the Mac is really great, the essential game is the same, with the same simple graphics, however you can now run the game at something other than 800600. Just as adictive as ever. Oolite is much the same game as Elite, but again with better graphics. Strange how games companies spend millions on producing the next big game, but I’m quite happily playing games that are more than a decade old!

However it does pass the time whilst the PC is backing up copies of our DVD’s that Beth uses at school. Yet again, one of our DVD’s has been nicked, probably by the same minority of kids that took mouse balls out of the mice whilst I was working at the school. Anyway there are a couple of DVD utilities for both the Mac and the PC (the PC versions are freeware, so the PC is doing the work) that allow you to backup your DVD’s, so rather than run the risk of loosing any more, Beth is going to take the backup copies to school instead. Whilst the school has offered to pay for the most recent one to go walkies, I don’t really see why they should be subsidising stolen DVD’s either!

New Toys

Ok, I decided yesterday that the Mac really needs an upgrade, although I have to say, not really because of any problem with the computer itself as to be honest I’ve not got a problem with it, but because of this….

This is the new iMac, which unlike the eMac we currently have is flat screen, has no noisy fan, and has a G5 processor… With the price of flat screens coming down it is much better priced than it’s predecessor, with even the middle of the range model coming in under £1000.

Unfortunately Beth has said that I’d have to get rid of two other computers before she’ll agree to have one – which is a bit of a problem as with Beth being a teacher she can get a nice discount from the Apple education store.

Anyway, you can read more about the new Mac at David Chait’s site.

Cheques made out to the ‘Richard wants a new iMac’ fund gratefully recieved!