Adventures of a Road Warior

"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 an impediment to 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 from my old email program, Outlook Express, with Ladybug looking on. Entourage crashed once during all of this, but recovered. Rushed off in a taxi last minute. I 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. The 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. Using iTunes was straightforward so I had music while I worked.

The 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 don't like Powerpoint and for school talks, use iView Media to arrange photos in sequence (I have almost no text), then export to a webpage format and present it using a browser. I find that much quicker.

We go to the Indira Ghandi airport to pick up the Germans, Japanese and Koreans. They had just come in from a training workshop in Vietnam.

The next day, I click away with a Nikon Coolpix 990. At the end of the day, I plug in the cables wonderingly, and yes, iPhoto presents the 100+ photos. Gingerly I click the play button, and iPhoto starts a slideshow with music! Another button reveals I can choose the music track. Used something with an Indian flavour to suit the host country (Colonial Cousins). The changing tempo of the music fits the mood of the photos very well and the mac gets free credit as PC users gather around and gape. More points for the iBook!

The Chairman of the IUCN/SSC Otter Specialist Group, Claus Reuther (the German otterman) had a powerpoint presentation that was larger than 300MB to provide us with an overview of recent work. He was a little wary of IT and the mac (what is this thing?, he said, scratching his characteristic beard).

I leaned over to poke my nose into their business. They were using the Japanese otterman's new Fujitsu. It was struggling, so I pulled out the mac's video adaptor cable and linked the iBook to the projector. Everyone was watching, so this was a trial by fire. It worked! Saved the day and all credit to the Mac!

After the presentation, the iBook's battery finally gave out. But luckily not before. I plugged it in for the remaining presentations.

The Japanese otterman actually still uses an old mac on OS 7.5.5 for word processing at home but wary of OSX, had purchased a Fujitsu instead! The other Japanese otterman (there are two) was also familiar with Mac ("aaahh, the new iBook!") I guess it is quite famous in Japan, and regarded fondly, but perhaps not seriously? They were the next to be wowed.

One person had a floppy to be read but the Fujitsu was busy. I poked my nose into the fray again, uh-oh. I tried my luck by borrowing the Japanese otterman's USB floppy drive. "Aaahh," he said, "but this is not possible! This is for PC!". I just plugged it in and we all held our breaths. After a slight pause, a floppy icon turned up on the desktop! Everyone exhales. More credit points for the mac! Again, during a live trial!

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!

Taking minutes (left) on the high performing 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.

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 extremely large file. The PC was struggling to cope, so I whip out the video adaptor cable and runs his presentation flawlessly. So I leave my iBook with them while a driver dashes me back to the hotel to grab my bag. He makes good time and so I take a bath to get fresh for my flight. He speeds back to the conference centre and I hop out with time enough to take a photo or two of the German otterman using the iBook for his presentation. I claim the Mac back during the Q&A session, 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!


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

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