What I learned on my summer vacation

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We’re in the home stretch of MacMania 3.5, anchored just off Visby, the quaint and colorful medieval village on Sweden’s Gotland island. As I placed those shirts I’ve deigned clean enough to avoid offense on an open deck into their respective Thursday, Friday, and Saturday piles, I thought that now would be as good a time as any to reflect on what I’ve learned while aboard the Westerdam.

Sure, as part of the faculty, my job is to impart knowledge rather than absorb it but, unbeknownst to my “students,” I’m gaining nearly as much information on this trip as I’m giving. With that in mind, allow me to pass along a few helpful tips I’ve picked up over the past week.

Tip 1: The hand disinfectant, which is available from dispensers scattered throughout the ship, is a darned fine screen cleaner. Boasting a goodly percentage of ethyl alcohol per dose, the disinfectant quickly evaporates after you’ve wiped it across your PowerBook’s dirty screen.

Tip 1a: If you need to test potentially disastrous monitor cleaning techniques, find a friendly (though, possibly, gullible) Australian with a Toshiba laptop. Should the technique prove to do more harm than good, suggest that more vigorous rubbing will put things right and then quietly slip from the room.

Tip 2: Should iPhoto report a phantom device in its Source list—a digital camera that’s not connected, for example—launch Image Capture and see if the device appears there as well. If so, toss Image Capture’s preferences file as the structure underlying Image Capture tells iPhoto which cameras and media readers are attached to your Mac. You can find the com.apple.ImageCaptureApp.plist file by following this path: youruserfolder/Library/Preferences/.

Tip 3: Never, ever loan your PowerBook’s power adapter to someone without first getting their cabin number. Providing your cabin number to them only helps them learn which part of the ship to avoid.

Tip 4: Do things the easy way. Geeky though it may be to set up a computer-to-computer network in order to pass, from one PowerBook to another, the priceless shot of the street vendors outside the Hermitage, dropping that picture onto a USB keydrive and sharing it around the circle of your new fast friends is likely to get the job done more quickly.

Tip 4a: Always carry a USB key drive.

Tip 5: Carry as flexible media reader as you can. While my PC Card reader is very convenient for pulling images from my camera’s Compact Flash Type 1 media, it does me no good when someone using a different media format wants to share a load of their pictures with me. Ben Long’s Vantec 11-in-1 media reader, which reads just about any flavor of media format you can throw at it, has been a big hit among the faculty and attendees.

Tip 6: Europeans seem far more likely than Americans to carry music players that don’t bear the Apple brand. Although I’ve seen a fair share of white headphones, the majority of them appear to be attached to small MP3 players. While the landscape is hardly devoid of iPods, I’m seeing other brands here more often than I do around the streets of San Francisco.

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