Reflections of a Road Warior/Guides for novices

"From 8.6 to X"
by N. Sivasothi
A mac user finally makes the leap with his new iBook
Original version posted to on Wed, 06 Mar 2002 13:32:06 +0800

I have been using the Macintosh OS 8.6 on a G3/233Mhz enhanced Powerbook 1400 since August 1997. Though a great leap from my Powerbook 140 (25Mhz, 4MB RAM & 40MB drive), I had been plodding by on a limited 64MB RAM, doubled virtually with RAM Doubler. With the onslaught of digital photography, the heavy demands of webpages, mailing lists and several physical mishaps, the great machine was finally impeding my work at the Raffles Museum in Singapore.

So I bought a 14.1" iBook G3 600 just before I left for a conference in New Delhi, India. Though a long-time mac user, I haven't a clue about OSX and most of the new stuff that has arrived since OS8.6.

The iBook was loaded with Office v.X. But swamped with last minute work (only knew a week before I was going) so yelled for the macuser down the corridor. Chemistry student Raymond Ng, came over and obligingly settled some software downloads and data transfers I needed from the university server and my old Outlook Express. Entourage crashed once during all of this, but recovered. Rushed off in a taxi last minute. Had hardly used the iBook so far.

At the airport, I found the "rest area" I had heard of from a local macusers mailing list: list. Remember the person saying it was dead easy. Okay, may as well try - clicked the airport icon (a familiar logo even to me), turned it on, and I was in business, whilst still on NUS settings! Entourage had gobbled my 200MB data from Outlook Express and I was sending out emails. Afraid they were all inane, of the variety, "hi guys, Siva here with my new iBook. I'm using airport at the airport!"

Plane took off, and still on battery power, wrote the draft of the paper I was to present at the conference. Ibook sat okay on the tray while I installed music (about 1.5GB worth of MP3s) from CDs I had burnt from the office PC it loaded up fine, no worries. Itunes was straightforward so music while I worked. Seat next to mine empty, so why had I been on a waiting list? Hmm...

Reached the hotel after midnight, started preparing my 100-slide presentation; I had burned all my digital photos from the museum's PC on a CD. Gave up once I was assured I would be able to do it; too tired. The battery had lasted more than 4-hours, and still had juice. I love how I hadn't shut down (what is that?) since I left on Friday. Just snap the lid and sleep.

The meeting was for Otters and Wetlands, so various Asian ottermen and women would be coming, many were old friends. Went with the organisers to pick up the Nepalese otterman next morning, and realised the route in was peppered with pill boxes, sand bags galore and soldiers with rifles. Sep-11 fare or the parliament shooting?

Finished my presentation by 4pm. Then did it for my roomate, the Nepalese otterman. I've only used powerpoint once before but it was okay, but laborious. Probably do not know how to use it properly. For school talks, I used to use iView Media to arrange photos in sequence (I have almost no text). Then just export to webpage, and present using a browser. Much quicker.

Picked up the Germans, Japanese and Koreans. They had come from a training workshop in Vietnam.

Next day, clicked away with a Nikon Coolpix 990. End of the day, plugged in the cables wonderingly, and yes, iPhoto presented the 100+ photos. Gingerly clicked a play button, and it started a slideshow with music. Clicked another button and found I could choose the music track. Used something with an Indian flavour to suit the host country (Colonial Cousins). The changing tempo of the music happened to fit the mood of the photos very well. Free credit! PC users gather around and gape. Extra points for Mac!

The Chairman of the IUCN/SSC Otter Specialist Group (German otterman) had an overview powerpoint presentation that was larger than 300MB. A little wary of IT and the mac (what is this thing?, he said, scratching his beard).

We were using the Japanese otterman's Fujitsu. It struggled, so I pulled out the video adaptor cable that came with the iBook and tried linking the iBook to the projector. Everyone watching, so trial by fire. It worked and saved the day. More credit for Mac!

Battery gave out, exhausted, after the presentation. Luckily not before. I plugged in for the subsequent presentations.

The Japanese otterman actually still uses an old mac on OS 7.5.5 for word processing at home but was wary of OSX so got a Fujitsu. The other Japanese otterman (there are two) was also familiar with Mac (aaahh, the new iBook!) guess it is quite famous in Japan, and regarded fondly, but not seriously?

One person had a floppy, and the Fujitsu was busy. Uh-oh. I tried my luck, borrowed the Japanese otterman's USB floppy drive ("Aaahh, but that is not possible? This is for PC?") and plugged it in. We held our breath and after a short while, the floppy icon turned up on the desktop. All exhale. More credit points! Again in front of an audience!

I edit the group's newsletter, and would have to feature the proceedings. So I started writing as the speakers presented, and took the minutes of the technical meeting as well (by this time everyone had an unshakeable faith in the iBook's abilities, which I will confess, I did not entirely share). Burned everything (about 90MB with photos) for the core group of 10, and yes, more points! They usually see these things a month later, but instead, they were taking it home with them!

I was to leave for hotel and airport. But they had problems.

The Chairman's public talk (it was evening of second day) uses another large file. PC struggling, I whip out the video adaptor cable, run his presentation, and a driver dashes me back to the hotel to grab my bag. He makes good time so I take a bat. Rush back to conference centre. I stop to take a photo of the German otterman using the iBook for his presentation, claim the iBook back during Q&A, and make a dramatic exit as everyone waves goodbye. I am late for my plane, and there is Delhi traffic.

Driver is good so I am early at the Indira Ghandhi airport. Get myself all the way in and start doing the the next issue of Habitatnews, an e-newsletter I circulate. Continue on the plane, KL airport and finally at Changi. I stop briefly near the rest area, yank the lid open and download mail wirelessly in seconds. Find a few urgent issues to incorporate into the next issue. Head for the new Airport MRT station. Ride to Buona Vista station is a long one, but the iBook is perched on my lap. Deal with the urgent issues, finish the newsletter, snap the iBook shut and dash out the train at Buona Vista at the last second. Still cannot get used to that!

Mailed off everything once back at the Raffles Museum. Could have done that in the Science Canteen actually, campus in process of getting wired. Bought a Griffin Tech iMate ADB-USB adaptor from Funan's Mac Centre. Back home that night, use my old and greatly favoured Apple Extended Keyboard.

All in all, it was reasonably painless. When I was in desperate need, OS X and the iBook provided excellent support. Not just to me, but the conference!

Of course I have questions. OS X and Office X.v is a bit sluggish here and there; haven't pin-pointed the details. Is 256MB RAM enough? Or is the system simply just not as fast? My OS8.6 machine was very stable and heavily customised with shareware (all paid for in gratitude). Although the iBook/OSX has to catch up, it did many new things with photo, video and interfacing that helped the meeting a lot and brought smiles to many faces.

I now it possible to import the MS Outlook calendar? Why did my OE5 rules not get imported. Will it be easy to bring over the dictionaries in Word, and bookmarks. Why do I keep getting directed to the admin folder, instead of the root directory. How do I get my location manager (or equivalent) settings back? I have to adapt to new shortcuts in Entourage. Have not tried out excel, and must finally make the switch to Dreaweaver I now use Claris Homepage 3.0 for my 4-5 webpages. I will also to get OS X upgrades for a lot of the shareware.

Ordered a couple of books - will have to read some manuals before I can regain power-user status.

I guess I would not have made the switch from my comfortable machine had I not been forced by the demands of the international conference and expedition (I'm one of the organisers and we leave next Monday). Pros and Cons, but it I nice to be on the crest of the wave. I can finally start reading OS X user articles in MacWorld, MacAddict etc. Oh yes, and Apple Script works on this machine...


Sivasothi aka Otterman
Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research
The National University of Singapore

P.S. The workshop was fruitful; the Asian Otter Specialist Group is gradually putting together action plans for each country after surveys in the field by local scientists and rangers with our help, we build a distribution map of otters, map out the wetlands, figure out threats in the area, learn about the problems caused and experienced by people living in the area, and come out with a plan that help the otters, the wetlands habitat and the tribal people who live in these areas.

For US$2,000 we can survey a very large river system, larger than Singapore. The specialist group tries to get the money, train the local people, help with the reports, and implement the recommendations. Good results have emerged from efforts in Thailand, Vietnam and Sri Lanka. Even small steps are important, i.e I managed to provide funding for computer access in some areas for one year. There is a good team there who do good work and needed this. It will take along, long time, to solve all of this in Asia, but we'll get there.

Home - Otterman and a Mac


Taking minutes (left) on the high performinng battery of the 14.1" iBook. A slide show of the previous day's photos is admired (top) amidst a suitable music track from my MP3 library, all via iPhoto.