Archive for March, 2008|Monthly archive page

Elonex One – postage costs

This will be the last post on the subject for a while.

I expressed earlier concerns about the possible carriage charges for the Elonex One/One+. An eagle eyed reader, Ben Clark, has contacted me directly to point out that the charges are stated on the web site, and a very reasonable £10 (namely the deposit taken) –

Hopefully to alleviate your fears regarding the shipping costs, I’ll point you to the shop page on the Elonex site:

http://www.elonexone.co.uk/shop/indexplus.html
“The full amount (£119) will be paid when your unit is ready to ship, and the deposit you have already paid will become the shipping charge for your ONE+.”

So £10, which seems pretty fair 🙂

Thanks for spotting this.

Update – I found this article which compares the OLPC, Eee, and Elonex One, a really good read and unbiased comparison of the three.

Elonex One upgrade to Elonex One+ – no worries!

Firstly, a thanks to all the blog readers who have managed to more than double my previous best record for this blog.  Over 230 hits today, and from a range of different sources.

I mentioned yesterday that at launch I’d reserved a £99 Elonex One, the linux-based laptop aimed at students.  I was pleased with this, but a couple of weeks afterwards they released the Elonex One+, with double the internal memory (for the operating system and working memory), and Bluetooth for an extra £20.

I wanted to swap, and upgrade, but thought there would be hassle involved in this.  But a quick email to sales@elonex.com with details and I had an email back in fifteen minutes confirming the change, and another sales receipt confirming the switch.

It’s great to get this level of service from what must be a relatively low-value transaction for the company.  OK, I’m still a little wary of how much the postage and packing may be when delivered, and it will be interesting to see if they hit their target of a June delivery window, but I have no reason (yet) to doubt them.

There’s a video of the Elonex One on launch day on the BBC site here.

Linux everywhere

Linux does seem to be everywhere nowadays.

Take yesterday as a case in point.  I checked the order status of my Elonex One, and sent an email to see if my order for the One can be upgraded to the One+ (bluetooth, and bigger internal memory).  I then caught the train to the Queen Elizabeth hospital, watching the in-train tv which is powered by some Linux flavour (given the error message I saw a few weeks back).  Visiting my friend Simon at the QE, he’s spotted that the tv/phone/internet screens that each patient has are powered by Linux.  This is of course when he’s not tapping away on his Asus EEE, and hopefully writing the next Da Vinci Code (only better).

BTW – when clearing out my study, I found not one but two copies of Dan Brown’s novel in my bookcase.  How? and more importantly, Why?

Around university, I’ve spotted Linux at the deli sandwich ordering point (I’ll take a photo next time I’m in, it crashes fairly frequently so this shouldn’t be tricky).  And I noted last year, that the Aer Lingus in-flight entertainment system on the way to New York used Linux – let’s hope the baggage handling system at Heathrow airport doesn’t! (more on this soon, I’m preparing a discussion paper for comparison between this and the other famous airport system failure.

A life without the Internet?

This morning I had to take my MINI in for a recall on a small item.  It would be a short job, so decided to wait whilst it was done.  After all, I had my laptop and would be able to do something productive whilst waiting, maybe drinking some high quality coffee.

Well, I got the good coffee (damn fine coffee!), but with a lack of Internet access of any sort, it’s really restricted what I can do, and has acted as a reminder to me how much of a ‘web worker’ I truly am.

Here are some things which I planned to do in this time slot, and can’t do (with reasons)
•    Check email (work and home) – obvious really, but I miss that first check of the morning.  I was in too much of a rush at home to do that first scan before I headed out.
•    Do finances – the problem with online banking is that it’s.. online.  My plan to update my spreadsheets failed miserably.
•    Check on deliveries – it’s no surprise to anyone that I’ve usually got at least one order outstanding on Amazon or elsewhere.  It’s a bad habit, but I do like to check each day.

Clearly I still have a fully functioning laptop, I’m typing this in Word and will cut and paste into my blog later.  I’ve fired up Scrivener a couple of times, but with the best will in the world, a car showroom waiting area is not a good environment to try and write creatively.  There are other things on my mind today which isn’t really helping.

Comments suspended

I’m back from the Easter break, to a load of spam comments requiring moderation for this blog.  I haven’t got the time to moderate these, so for the time being I’ve suspended the posting of comments for the blog.

If you wish to respond to a comment, please contact me via email, and I’ll do the necessary.

External hard disc

Better late than never, I’ve invested in a backup device – the Western Digital My Book 2 Essential 500GB External USB 2.0 Hard Drive  – or ‘black book’ as I think it will be known.

First impressions are good.  Time Machine worked exactly as advertised, it was almost a ‘zero click’ solution.  Plugged it in, connected to my MacBook, and Time Machine asked if I wanted to use it as a backup device.  I clicked Yes, another Yes to format the disc, and that was it.  50 Gig of data was transferred in about an hour, I just left it chugging away, though it’s supposed to be clever enough for you to be able to interrupt the process.

One thing I’ve been worried about was noise – I’ve been reassured that my iMac will be almost silent in running which will be pointless if the backup device whirrs away.  Just sitting there there’s very little noise, which I don’t think will disturb me.  When accessing there is maybe a little more ‘clicking’ than I would be entirely happy with, but I’m rationalising that it will provide audio confirmation that a backup has been completed.

Why didn’t I go for Time Capsule?  Apple’s wireless product.  Mostly, it’s the co$t, whilst an elegant solution, I couldn’t justify paying over three times the cost.  There’s also a power-issue… Time Capsule would need to be plugged in 24/7, whereas my simple external hard disc can be powered up/down as necessary.

Hopefully I’ll never have to think about this product again, and it will simply provide the reassurance that I wish I’d had last weekend!

iMac v Dell XPS One

In my dark times (techie wise) last week, with a duff desktop machine and my MacBook hard disk dead, I had a good look around the Dell website.

It must have been a moment of weakness that I signed up for their email newsletter.  But I am grateful, as it did ‘offer’ me Dell’s new all-in-one PC, the XPS One, for a ‘bargain’ special offer £999.

I think it’s fair to say that it has been at least ‘inspired’ by the current iMac, look at the design page here, and compare to the design page of the iMac here.  Hmmm…

I’ve specified an iMac with a similar spec to the XPS One (upgrade memory, hard disc and wireless keyboard), and it comes in at £921.99, £77.01 cheaper.  These prices are without any educational discount applied which I’d get (plus a three year warranty)

I don’t know enough about the graphics cards to be able to confirm that they are similar spec, the screen is the same size, and there’s a built in webcam.  It could be argued that Vista needs 2Gig of memory, whereas Leopard works well in 1 Gig (I was pleased to note on the Apple website that the cost of extra memory has finally fallen from £80 per gigabyte to £60 per gigabyte).

So I think it’s clear which I think is better value for money!  This reassures me, it’s sometimes tricky to know whether you’re comparing ‘apples’ with ‘apples’ (excuse the awful pun), but this is so clearly designed for the same market as the iMac.

The more research I do, the easier my decision becomes!

Course Result

Just some more Open University news.I’ve passed the course A251, World Archeology, but not by the margin that I would have been happy with.  My overall coursework mark was a respectable 86%, but my exam element (in fact an End of Course Assessment) was just 58%.  The OU practices threshold marking, so my overall marks was a 2:2 (Pass three).Still it’s another  30 points towards my BA degree, talked about yesterday.

Open University news

Three items of Open University news to catch up on.

Firstly, I’ve been successful in my application to tutor another course with them, and from May will be tutoring Ebusiness technologies: foundations and practice.  This is another new course, and I’m looking forward to teaching what will be a new area for me.  The first presentation will be intense, and over a shorter period of time, and again I’m the only tutor in the region, but I’m sure I’m up for the challenge.

Just as this course finishes, I should start my next creative writing course, the grandly titled ‘Advanced Creative Writing‘.  This will complete my BA degree in ‘fun studies’.  Astute readers may note that I thought this had been completed already, or was close to being done.  Well, it appears that I misinterpreted the academic regulations, and that I couldn’t transfer 60 points of level three (final year) credits over.  Whilst it would have been nice to have the extra letters after my name, I’m also looking forward to having the kick of a structure for my creative writing.

And finally, the Open University has officially started to embrace macs – I was very surprised to see the following note on my student record page.  I’m experimenting with a java-based eTMA file handler myself, so my iMac may not need to dual boot into Windows for my OU work.

Since the 1990s The Open University has primarily supported PC users. This decision was made on cost grounds as fewer than 3% of the population used Macs. Some of the University’s students have recently launched a petition on the No 10 website protesting this policy.

Happily, the situation for Mac users is changing dramatically. The Open University has recently introduced a purpose designed Virtual Learning Environment which makes material available to students via the internet and can be accessed by Mac or PC. The University’s FirstClass conferencing system can be accessed by Macs and assignments can be submitted electronically by Mac users using rich text files (rtf) or open office software available for free download.

There remains a (diminishing) number of legacy courses where material is available on CD Rom or DVD which are PC only. It is simply uneconomic to replace this material before the courses are replaced or re-made but most Mac users find PC emulation software works well to access this material.

One problem has been Mac users studying languages who need to use an audio-conferencing/whiteboard system called Lyceum which is PC based. This is currently being replaced with a synchronous collaboration system that will run on all platforms.

For Mac users a range of guidance is available at an Open University Mac self-help group site http://macgeneral.webhop.org/

The Open University is committed to supporting Mac users and also users of other platforms such as Linux in all future activity.

A more detailed summary of the current situation and the OU’s plans for the future regarding Mac use is available as a PDF at the following link
http://www.open.ac.uk/documents/5/kj081503091445840.pdf

Exciting times indeed at the OU.

Contract Cheating

A quick nod to my colleagues Bob Clarke and Thomas Lancaster.  Their work on contract teaching continues, with a much more comprehensive article than earlier on the BBC News website – link here.

They’ve spent a lot of time on the academic side of this, but have also managed to ‘popularise’ the subject.  I know last time that this created a lot of press interest, which can only be a good thing if it highlights the problem.