Posts Tagged ‘computers’

More than you (or I) ever wanted to know about USB cables

March 4, 2020

By Matthew E. Milliken
March 4, 2020

I wanted to add some odds and ends about the computer stuff I’ve been posting about.

First, USB ports on Macintosh laptop computers — that is to say, the MacBook, MacBook Air and MacBook Pro. I wrote on Friday that these machines had had USB Type A ports since the line was introduced in 2006 up until 2017. If you’re a Doubting Thomas, you can click the links in the first sentence of this paragraph, which will lead you to the appropriate pages on the website

The MacBook’s USB Type A ports came in two flavors; the receptacles initially conformed to USB’s 2.0 standard before being upgraded to the 3.0 standard. The early version transfers up to 480 megabits per second, while 3.0 can transfer 5.12 gigabits per second, which is roughly 10.7 times faster. By contrast, USB 1.1 — the version that made the Universal Serial Bus a popular connection standard starting in the late ’90s — topped out at a measly 12 megabits/second.

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DriveQuest: The hardware strikes back

February 28, 2020

By Matthew E. Milliken
Feb. 28, 2020

My plan to add a network-attached storage device to my home computing setup and thereby create a personal cloud has yet to come to fruition.

I put in an online order for a network-capable hard drive on Thursday, Feb. 13; it was set to arrive the following Tuesday, Feb. 18. But after my post on this topic went up, I received an email saying that the NAS drive was out of stock and that I could cancel my order and receive a full refund.

I did so and instead bought what I believe is a slightly newer device made by WD, or Western Digital. It was a little bit more expensive than the item I’d originally bought. It came on Thursday the 20th.

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Items for Feb. 15, 2020: Lost pens, new pens, computer storage

February 15, 2020

By Matthew E. Milliken
Feb. 15, 2020

Various items:

• Sometime over the last week, I lost a red pen. It’s not a big deal, I guess, but it was still annoying, especially because when I checked my office supplies at home I discovered that I didn’t have any red pens in reserve. I use red ink to mark questionable words and challenges while playing Scrabble; I also use them to mark attendees and the total number of players in late games when I work as a World Tavern Poker tournament director.

On Tuesday, Feb. 11, I went into a convenient office-supply store that’s part of a national chain; I had a $30 “e-gift card” for it. (This item, which I printed out at home, belongs in a different category than either a gift card or a gift certificate, as various cashiers and I learned in 2019 through trial and error.)

I wound up buying a four-pack of fine-tipped black pens for $10.98 and a five-pack of fine-tipped red pens for $7.29. I wasn’t out of black pens, but I have been searching for fine-tipped black writing implements. I can no longer find the 0.5-millimeter black rollerball pens that used to be stocked in every office-supply store.

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Time marches on, but memories linger

March 1, 2016

By Matthew E. Milliken
March 1, 2016

When I was a child, someone gave me a set of books by John D. Fitzgerald, the first of which was titled The Great Brain. Each volume was an episodic novel about kids in a small Utah town around the start of the 20th century. The title character, whose given name was Tom Fitzgerald, was an incredibly shrewd youngster who was great at solving mysteries and resolving problems. In one story, he outed a card shark by discovering that the suspiciously lucky stranger was using a deck that had been manufactured with subtle irregularities in the patterns on the backs of certain cards.

I only remember bits and pieces of the books, which I loved but have not laid hands or eyes upon for probably the better part of three decades. There was one story that I recall only for its opening scene. The tale, which was perhaps the last chapter in its book, started with the Fitzgerald patriarch causing a hubbub by having a W.C. — a water closet, now better known as a flush toilet — installed in the house. The other townspeople, shocked and appalled by this newfangled contraption, smirked to each other and snarked that the Fitzgerald home would shortly be awash in foul odors. Most of the Fitzgerald clan felt exactly the same way, sharing the dismay and puzzlement of their neighbors; the only exceptions, I think, were Mrs. Fitzgerald, who had long ago resigned herself to riding out her husband’s passing fancies with a certain tolerance, and possibly the Great Brain himself.

To the modern reader — The Great Brain was published in 1967 — this uproar is, of course, comical: I was trained on flush toilets from a young age, as (presumably) were my parents before me. I know what an outhouse is, of course, but the concept is still somewhat foreign to me. It’s hard, not to mention unpleasant, to imagine what cities were like before the advent of running water and modern sanitation.

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Turing’s tests: ‘The Imitation Game’ is a superior but tragic biopic about a brilliant but lonely intellectual

December 31, 2014

By Matthew E. Milliken
Dec. 31, 2014

What makes life worth living? Why should society — why should anyone — value a man’s existence and accomplishments?

Those are some of the questions Norwegian director Morten Tyldum poses with his new feature, The Imitation Game, which examines the life and work of pioneering British computer scientist Alan Turing.

The movie has three interwoven narratives. The shortest, but arguably the most heart-wrenching, shows a roughly 15-year-old Turing at boarding school in the 1920s. Turing, played with touching vulnerability by Alex Lawther, is bullied mercilessly by his classmates — all but one, Christopher Morcom (Jack Bannon), who shows appreciation for Turing’s quirky personality as well as his impressive intellect.

The grown-up Turing whom we see throughout the rest of the movie is less vulnerable — at least superficially. Benedict Cumberbatch (Sherlock Holmes in the BBC’s ongoing 21st-century update of the character and Khan in Star Trek Into Darkness) portrays the main character as he first strives to crack Nazi German cryptography in World War II and then, in the early 1950s, tries to deflect the inquiries of an overenthusiastic Manchester detective who suspects Turing of spying for the Soviet Union. (To avoid spoilers, I’ll confine most of my commentary to the movie’s World War II narrative.)

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Too many tabs, man. Too many tabs.

December 5, 2012

Many years ago, I worked at an institution of higher learning that I usually refer to, with my trademark snark — not to mention my stale wit — as PU. A guy in my office was also named Matt; he had some kind of information technology job, the exact nature of which escapes me.

Anyway, one day Matt stopped at my desk for some reason and noticed the bar at the bottom of my screen. My computer was running some more or less current (at the time) version of the Windows operating system.

Windows then did (and continued, I believe, up until the version released this year) to display a number of rectangles in that bottom-line status bar. Each rectangle represented either a program that the computer was running or an individual window of a program that was running. If more than a few programs were running, a program would get just one box.

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