A last minute scramble

I am flying off to Seattle on Wednesday for an important family obligation. I think this will be the first time in two years that I’ve been on a plane. I’m not looking forward to it.

Especially since my laptop died yesterday, totally and irrevocably. It’s a shame, too, since it was a beautiful razor thin MacBook with a 12″ screen. Once upon a time I would have said that was too small, but man, it has been such a sweet lightweight computer that I was won over. Sometimes small is good. But then again, that compact efficiency is the reason I can’t repair it. Instead, Mary found an antique netbook in a closet that is horribly clunky and ugly, and runs (it runs! That’s good enough for now) Windows XP, so I’m going to be suffering with that for a few days. I guess I’ll be trying to find some pennies in the budget to get a replacement — I’m thinking I may go the Mac Mini route.

The other important mission today was to get the spiders comfortable for my absence. Everyone got new clean cages! I paired up a lot of the males and females, so they’ll have something fun to do while I’m away. They’re all accommodating themselves to their new digs, and tomorrow, once they’ve decorated with nice sheets of cobweb, I’ll be throwing in a lot of flies and a mealworm for each. They’ll be fine without me for a few days. They might miss me terribly, but we’ll all cope.

I may not have much of a computer, but I do have a nice camera and a lot of SD cards. Maybe when I get back I’ll upload a flood of photos of Beaches! And Ocean! And Marine Organisms!


  1. doubly says

    Howdy PZ, I’m Cora, Jeff Shallit’s kid – I have an old 12″ macbook that still runs fine, with some minor bend damage on the screen that’s visible at low brightness – Would you like it? I’m not using it anymore.

  2. JoeBuddha says

    Back when the original MAC came out, our hardware engineer loved it. He had an app he did circuit boards with. The only problem is that he couldn’t hook it up with our digitizer. So, I whipped up a program to do the digitizer part and the we wrote to Apple to see what a development system would cost. $2500. In the eighties. Our company had about eight people. No way. I DID try to use the mouse port, toggling lines to mimic the mouse input, but it was too clunky and non-repeatable. Stayed clear of Apple ever since. I guess I’m a bit vindictive.

  3. Rick Bailey says

    Right, so don’t connect that xp machine to a network please. It’s just asking to get taken over by a malicious someone who knows how to hack anything xp.

  4. dean56 says

    In late May my wife and sons gave me an 11 inch M1 Ipad and the associated keyboard for a milestone birthday and Father’s day combined. I’m amazed at how much I can get done with it. If I don’t need to use my stat software for classes it’s a very capable laptop replacement. (And if I do need to use stat or math software, or Latex, I want a larger screen anyway.)

  5. larrylyons says

    A couple of suggestions, ever thought of taking Amtrak? You have an Amtrak station in Morris and its only a couple of days through some of the most gorgeous landscapes in the country. Their cleaning procedures are much better than the airlines, and I find it much more relaxing.

    As for the MacBook Air vs the Mac Mini, they’re about the same, although the Mini does have an extra graphics core. That said I’m in about the same boat trying to decide which. My kid has a MacBook Air and so far I’ve been very impressed. But coming from a mid 2015 MacBook Pro with the 15 inch screen, I admit I’m spoiled, that extra two inches in diameter does make a difference.

    That being said, I should note that Apple is announcing new systems at their forthcoming WWDC starting tomorrow – it’s widely expected that among the announcement is a Mac Mini Pro (A Mac Mini with either a M1X or M2 chip and up to 64 gb of RAM) and a new MacBook Pro. So you could wait a bit for the latest shiny new toy.

  6. christoph says

    “Maybe when I get back I’ll upload a flood of photos of Beaches! And Ocean!”
    Which ocean? Could you be more pacific?

  7. christoph says

    @larrylyons, # 6: I took an overnight Amtrak train once. One passenger had a baby that cried and screamed for about 8 hours straight. Never again.

  8. says

    Cora: That would be very nice! I’d definitely use it frequently.

    Pierce: it’s the netbook that is horribly clunky. Although come to think of it, the closet was kind of a mess.

    Larry: We do not have an amtrak station here. We used to, but the rails degraded so much that they no longer allow passenger traffic.
    I don’t know that I’d want the very latest and greatest. Although if they caused a price reduction in existing models, that would be nice.

  9. blf says

    christoph@8, I’ve taken multi-day Amtrack multiple times. Never had that problem. (Don’t really recall it ever here in Europe either, where I’ve ridden trains over a order of magnitude more times.)

    Some amusing Amtrack stories — like drinking wine with lunch in Utah as we approached Salt Lake City, sitting with two moronic cult elderly ladies — or (different trip) having trouble paying my bar bill because I only had 50USD notes — but nothing like that… which has happened to me on an aeroplane fight (albeit, fortunately, for less than eight hours).

    As an aside, I’m uncertain Amtrack still goes through Morris. Various sites claim the Empire Builder did until 1979. Supposedly, BNSF now runs a service, but I’ve not investigated any further.

  10. says

    No passenger service here at all. The Morris station is a sad, dilapidated mess that is used for storing railroad debris. The nearest functioning station is in Alexandria, 40 miles away.

  11. billseymour says

    There’s a passenger station in Alexandria? Connecting to what, going where?

    Amtrak’s Empire Builder stops in St. Cloud, Staples, Detroit Lakes and Fargo, all in the wee hours of the morning; and all but Fargo are unstaffed, so all you have is a waiting area.

    Since you’re probably used to flying out of MSP, you could just drive to St. Paul Union Depot.  The Builder departs at 22:10 westbound and arrives at 07:43 eastbound.  Family could pick you up at King Street Station in Seattle.  (Clearly too late for this trip, though.)

    I’ll probably be on the Builder in early February, COVID permitting.

  12. says

    The weather here has been quite pleasant with only sporadic rain. Wed/Thurs should be beautiful.

    If you’re interested in hunting spiders in the Snoqualmie/North Bend area national forest, give me a holler.

  13. says


    If you’re getting a mac (which I’m not saying you should definitely do), you really need to get the M1 chipset. It’s a completely different architecture, and though they are still selling computers that use the Intel chips, those are being phased out right now, so future operating system upgrades will, a few years from now, abandon the Intel chips.

    All my macs have lasted at least 8 years except one that I deliberately traded in at 6 years because there was a battery recall and they were going to replace the battery for free, but they ran out before I got my butt to the store, so they instead offered me a refurbished, 16 month old MacBook Pro Retina for $299. I couldn’t turn it down, but you can’t count on that happening.

    What that means to me is that maybe 4 years from now they’re going to stop supporting the Intel machines that still have a ton of life in them while they continue to support the earliest M1 models (the ones sold today) for a couple years longer, and then you can limp along on your last OS upgrade for 2 to 4 more years. That’s 8 to 10 years of life for an M1 based mac, assuming the hardware survives (but it always has for me) but 4 to 6 years for an Intel based mac.

    I really think you’re going to be sacrificing a lot of value if you buy anything other than an M1 based Mac right now.

    Your choices are your own, of course, but I thought I would throw that out there since I’ve been researching this lately.

  14. Matt G says

    I have a 2016 12” MacBook which, in many ways, I prefer to my 2020 13” MacBook Air (Intel).

  15. Nemo says

    I loved my 12″ Retina MacBook, a really beautiful machine. Dropped it one too many times. Now, I have a 13″ M1 MacBook Air — same fanless design, slightly larger screen, better keyboard, longer battery life, and most of all, crazy fast. And, it actually cost less. But the weight is 1.29 kg vs. 0.92 kg for the 12″, according to MacTracker.

  16. says

    Yeah, I’m definitely getting a mac, and almost definitely the M1 Mac Mini. I’ve tried living in Linux Land, and I like it, but it really just gets in the way when I’m trying to get work done. I’m giving a presentation at the end of this month, and Keynote is the tool to do it in; and then in the fall its back to teaching, and half a dozen presentations every week. PowerPoint and LibreOffice Impress just don’t do the job.

    I’ve been doing a lot of photography, too, and nothing outside the Mac world even comes close to the built in elegance of the Mac Tools, except Photoshop. But I am not going to get sucked into Adobe’s evil subscription scheme.

  17. says

    I’ve got a gigantic 16″ aircraft carrier of a PowerBook. It was great as a desktop machine, but that slick little 12″ laptop spoiled me, and I could never go that route again.

    The PowerBook is right here, unplugged, and slightly terrifying. The battery compartment started to swell. What I want to do is plug it in one last time, back up everything, and then dissect out the hard drive (if possible) and dispose of the thing before it catches fire and explodes. This is another reason I’m thinking of going with a Mac Mini — no big battery.

  18. Owlmirror says

    Does the Powerbook actually need a battery in order to boot up and run? I found a MacBook (I think a 2006 model?) that someone was throwing away that had a swollen battery. The battery went into electronic recycle, but the machine worked fine running off of the power supply.

    I wrote “worked” . . . it went into my “projects to work on” bin, and hasn’t come out for a couple of years now.

  19. sc_262299b298126f9a3cc21fb87cce79da says

    Does the spider “fun” you alluded to involve the female biting off the head of the male? Or is something else?

  20. John Morales says

    Gerry, it’s something else.

    (See, spiders don’t have nipping nippers; rather, they inject with their fangs and in due course suck out the juices. The head stays on)