27 February 2013

Making my outdated laptop up to date

Last night, I spent some time upgrading my old PowerBook G4 to a laptop with wireless capability.

PowerBook G4 is my first-ever laptop. It had served me since summer 2002 when I moved to Scotland for doctoral study, and was forced to retire due to an accident in summer 2007. I had some champagne to celebrate my graduation and wedding, and so did the laptop.

Much to my amazement, the champagne-poured PowerBook G4 became alive and kicking after a couple of weeks, but it was still superseded by MacBook Pro Core 2 Duo, my second laptop, purchased after the accident. PowerBook G4 was stored in a bookshelf and has remained there ever since.

Now even though I have MacBook Pro Core i7, the third laptop in my life, I still miss the old good times with PowerBook G4. It helped me finish my doctoral thesis; it helped me complete so many commissioned musical works (and make extra money); it helped me connect to my beloved and family when I was in Scotland.

PowerBook G4 is definitely well past its sell-by date, but it still works. Therefore, I decided to fetch a wireless card to make this outdated machine up to date–being able to communicate wirelessly.

I found a second-hand Apple AirPort Card on eBay for USD 18.92 (including postage) and a set of hexalobular socket screwdriver (also known as Torx or star screwdriver) for TWD 145 (roughly USD 5.00) at a hardware shop near my home. Didn't cost much, did it?

It took me only 5 minutes to remove the back cover, instal the wireless card and restore the back. However, it took more two hours to download all sorts of software update files and update the operating system, Java and so on.

Won't blame it, as along as it keeps being in good working order and brining back old good memories.

23 February 2013

Hand snake lantern

(Ronne and the stretching and curling snake)

The Lantern Festival, the 15th of the first lunar month, falls on Sunday, the 24th of February this year. Just like last year, we received a DIY set–a hand lantern in the shape of a snake, this year's Chinese zodiac animal.

It took use more time than it did last year to assemble the cardboard lantern, because, as you can see in the photos, the snake's body is composed six movable segments, which require more delicate efforts to fit together.

Ronne is going to celebrate the third Lantern Festival in his life with another hand lantern. What a clever design: it can be held in two different fashions, stretching or curling.

Officially named Haha (哈哈), this colourful, shiny snake is painted from its head to tail with 14 graphic decorations inspired by the traditional patterns or symbols from the 14 respective indigenous peoples in Taiwan.

As opposed to its negative impression among the Han Chinese, the snake is believed to be the guardian or embodiment of ancestral power in some indigenous cultures in Taiwan. A hand snake lantern with indigenous tones and colours is obviously designed to bring more positive energy and blessings to all the people in Taiwan.

The lantern festival is traditionally the last day of the Chinese New Year and all lunar new year celebrations conclude on this day. The spring semester 2013 has already begun last Monday in theory; it will surely start next Monday in practice, seriously.

09 February 2013

New year couplet for the year of the Snake

Although sometimes regarded as an eccentric by my relatives, sometimes I am old-fashioned. For example, I insist on writing my own new year couplet (春聯 chunlian) with a Chinese brush every year, rather than buying a commercially mass-printed one.

Again I compose another pair of lines, which have something to do with music and the academia, for the year of the Snake, roughly translated as

Studying extensively poetry and literature, I dream of prosperity in the ancient capital (遍覽詩書夢華錄);
Knowing broadly tuning and musicking, I listen to sounds of this secular world (博通律呂觀世音).

The couplet also comes with a banner: Scholars and laymen be greeted in spring (雅俗同迎春).

I'm not sure, but my wife Fanne comments that I am improving and the handwriting is better than last year.  Better or worse, it's the tradition of the Chens and will be carried on by my son.

08 February 2013

Third laptop arrived

(Three generations of my laptop, from left: PowerBook G4, 2002/ MacBook Pro Core 2 Duo, 2007/ MacBook Pro Core i7, 2013)

I've just received my new toy, an Apple laptop. I bought my first Apple laptop in summer 2002 when I moved to Scotland for my doctoral study. Five years later, I acquired the second one in summer 2007 after my wife and I had some champagne to celebrate my graduation and shared this with the first one. More than five years later, I picked up the third one in early spring 2013 when I felt that I wanted a third one.

(The external package is always elegant! )

Rather than visiting a physical Apple shop, I called 0800 to place an order and customised my MacBook Pro by replacing the standard 750GB SATA hard drive with the 256GB solid state drive and upgrade the standard widescreen display to the hi-resolution one.

I didn't opt for the latest model with a Retina display. Although it's thinner and lighter, it comes without a built-in DVD drive and has no audio line-in port. I can't be bothered to use an external DVD drive and a USB audio interface.

It took me really much time to instal a range of applications and to adjust everything to what I have been used to. I actually would like to use the old OS X 10.4; however, this model has been built with the latest OS X 10.8 and can't be downgraded. Anyway, I'm still exploring this new laptop and hoping to discover more interesting functions.

01 February 2013

Fetching a snake money box for the year of the snake

(Six money boxes released by a department store in Taiwan since 2008, from left: Rat, Ox, Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon and Snake)

Once you start to collect some things, especially those which can make up certain group, you have to be prepared to feel all the time an overwhelming obsessive desire to possess a complete series, to become irredeemable.

Just as how I maintain the ritual of counting down to New Year at the same spot and then taking a photo thereafter since the year end 2006, I have been chasing after the money box in the shape of a specific Chinese zodiac animal for the year of that animal since 2008.

Shin Kong Mituskoshi, the biggest department store chain in Taiwan, began to issue ceramic saving banks in shapes of twelve Chinese zodiac animals in 2008. Twelve different ones will come in the twelve ensuing years. It can only be redeemed for or bought when a customer spends more than certain amount of money, not to be purchased straightaway.

This morning, I have just fetched the sixth–the snake. It takes six more years to complete a series of the twelve animals. I am so determined to collect a whole series and will visit this department store every year as long as I still reside on earth.