24 April 2008

Wireless internet browsing killed Sibelius

I don't think I'm IT savvy all the time, but most of the time I know how to negotiate, on the slippery surface of my Apple laptop, a curved path to redemption when ensnared in any system or application trouble.

Based on my experience, once you start improving something or an upgrade process on your computer, you have to be prepared for much more than improvements and upgrades.

My old PowerBook Titanium has been with me since summer 2002 and throughout the course of PhD study. My doctoral thesis was completed on this laptop. With strong camaraderie and my wholehearted appreciation, particularly after it recovered from the champagne incident, I keep working on it, in tandem with the new MacBook Pro, using it when giving lectures.

(Sadly, I have no alternative but to submit myself to the omnipresent PowerPoint. Nowadays those who don't use it when giving presentations seem to be powerless and, even worse, pointless.)

Two weeks ago, I bought a new battery and added a piece of 512M SDRAM for the old laptop, because I wanted to instal Microsoft Office 2008 for Mac, a birthday gift from May, one of my best friends and a channel manager in MSN Taiwan. There came a string of unexpected hard work.

Firstly, there must have been a manufacturing defect in the battery because it couldn't be charged to its full capacity only two weeks later after purchase. Then, after taking it back to the seller for inspection, I found, mysteriously, something went wrong on the new MacBook Pro: The MacOS X MIDI system failed so much so that Sibelius could play any score properly. Well, why did this happen at this particular moment? Why didn't the system conk out three weeks ago? Why wouldn't it go kaput next month?

There seemed to be a program-incompatiblity issue, I guess, triggered by the enigmatic power of the battery. Therefore, while waiting for the battery seller's report, I started a long journey
erase the hard drive
instal one application
run Sibelius to see how it works with the MIDI system
instal a second application
run Sibelius to see how it works with the MIDI system
instal a third application
run Sibelius to see how it works with the MIDI system (I have no idea how many applications there are installed on the MacBook Pro)
... till the dawn
Finally, I found the bane...

It's the software update of AirPort, Apple Computer's implementation of the 802.11a/b/g/n wireless protocols. With the updated software, when accessing the Internet through the wireless network, the two-way signal transmission between the router and the laptop would interfere with the operation of the built-in MIDI device.

Surely, there are no regrets in life. If I had known the cause, I could just have shut down the wireless device when running Sibelius rather than conducted the stupid series of instal-uninstal-instal-uninstallation, which have taken me a couple of days.

04 April 2008

Flying penguins on April Fool's Day

I don't think April Fool's Day would be an official holiday in any country but it's indeed celebrated in many by making practical jokes on colleagues, friends, family members or, on a larger scale, all the people in the country.

However, it appears to me that although we see petty jests in Taiwan, Taiwanese people are far less enthusiastic about April Fool's Day pranks than Westerners. Having spent nearly five years in Britain, I found that British institutions, particularly big companies, are quite willing to blow their money on April Fool's advertisements.

For example, each year BMW produces an April Fool's Day advert in the broadsheet press, such as The Times and The Telegraph, to provide their customers, of course as well as the broad readership of these newspapers, with good laughter. The car manufacture proudly takes this as a tradition primarily aimed at BMW drivers as a once-a-year opportunity for them to drop their guard and have a laugh at themselves. Visit BMW Education website in the UK to see some April Fool's ads.

Although I've moved back in Taipei last summer, I'm still watching and reading about what the Briton's are doing. What really captivates me this year is a spoof footage of flying penguins produced by BBC as part of its new natural history series and as a promo for its website for streamed video clip content iPlayer (unfortunately, due to rights agreements, iPlayer is only available in the UK).

It's a classic! As commented in The Telegraph, it is accomplished work of this kind that guarantees the BBC its unique status.

A comment on YouTube even makes me laugh for another five minutes
It is REAL guys! They are already HERE!!! I can see them flying through my windows right now, I meant my Microsoft Windows :P
I have to say that this is really British. I will see nothing in Taiwan comparable to BMW's annual April Fool's Day broadsheet adverts, never ever to mention BBC's footage.

The idiom '... and pigs might fly' expresses that there is no chance at all of something happening. I suggest that BBC produce another spoof of flying pigs next year, and probably a new usage of this idiom will be introduced.