Sunday, May 11, 2008

New mini-laptop.

I decided to photograph my new mini-laptop alongside the normal-sized one . It looks more like a wannabe laptop. With the weight less than a kilo it means no more lugging the bigger one round to libraries. Developed in response to a 'computer for every school-child ' programme, it's called an Asus Eee PC.

As I'm a bit of a gadget freak, I keep out of IT shops as a rule. I was there for something fairly harmless like printer cartridge when I first first spotted the Eee on a shelf in a local branch of Curry's.

The salesman, a gangly youth in a smart royal blue shirt, wasn't interested. He was talking to a colleague about how he'd spend the evening, at some night-club called Zero.

Normally, I'd just study the batteries or something, and listen in, but I was quite keen to get the information. The Eee looked like the best writing aid I'd seen since I'd bought my first computer in Singapore, a desk-top Apple Mac with a 7 inch screen. I'm not counting the prototype monster requiring five and a half inch floppies my husband brought home when he worked for BT. It had no mouse, but a long list of key combinations to do things like starting a new paragraph.

The Curry's assistant decided the sooner he got rid of me the sooner he'd be downing Red Bull and Vodka at Zero's.

'I wish they'd never brought these out! There's no CD-Rom drawer, for a start!'

'Well, I didn't want one of those. I just wondered if it could be used as a word-processor...'

'You need one of these bigger ones. It doesn't have Word.'

'It says it's compatible, though, on that card. Could you turn it on so I can see the size of the print?'

He complied, his body half turned away so he could work with one hand and talk to the girl at the check-out desk at the same time.

I'd come back at 5.15pm as the shop was busy earlier. Waiting in the post-office queue had whiled away half an hour, but it was obviously too near closing time at Curry's to get this guy's full attention.

'Would it be possible to load Word onto it?'

'What? The programme would take up more than the memory. It's only 2GB, or 4 GB if you pay the extra £30.'

At £249.99 it still looked good to me. I could put my Bingo win towards it and call it an early birthday present. I'd raid the Edinburgh Festival fund.

I went home and did some research on the Internet, then when I was satisfied the Eee would suit my purpose, I took a bus to PC World.

There the first salesman I asked made sounds which I took to mean he'd go off to see if they had them in stock. I never saw him again.

The second was much more helpful, cheerful even, and looked on his computer catalogue to see which colours they had in stock: pink, blue, green, white and grey. He didn't even try to talk me into a pink one, although they had six of those.

It seems to fit my purpose. I plug my data stick into one of the USB ports and open up a file to work on, then save it to continue on the normal-sized laptop when I get home. So far I've only used it on the park. The keyboard's a bit small and takes some getting used to. It's got Wifi so I should be able to check emails once I get it configured. (If you click twice on the picture and then slide it round you can get a close-up)

This afternoon I'll take it down to my local library. I have an idea they don't make a charge for using their Broadband Internet connection.

At least they are fairly helpful there. They even have card on the counter that you can fill in if they don't come up to standard as regards being polite and helpful. Seems to me they could introduce that scheme in computer shops.


No probs surfing the Web at my local library where the Wifi connection is free. The IT-savvy librarian was very excited about the Eee. 'You're very trendy, Madam. Did you know Stephen Fry has one of those?'

Friday, May 09, 2008

Martello Beach Resort

We had a cold stay of it, mid-April, at a caravan site in Clacton - myself, son and two grandchildren. At least the Martello Tower inspired me to write a short story. Years ago I visited one famous in literary annals: the Martello Tower on the coast near Dublin. That was wildly romantic, with steep rocks and a pool where James Joyce swam in his youth.

My son brought an 'Essex 2008' brochure, mainly stuffed with notices of Summer events. I read that 103 of these Martello towers were built between 1805 and 1812 in case Napoleon invaded. Essex was thought to be so vulnerable that two were built within a mile or so of one another. I can see the attraction of landing on those flat shingly beaches. The towers themselves , though, are not at all attractive; they're squat and cement-coloured, like fish-and-chip-shop steak puddings. Mostly they're derelict and this one seemed deserted, as if turned out of its mould onto a patch of derelict caravan site near the ugly sea wall. Apparently it's used as a 'community resource' - the odd structure on the top is with the sloping roof is used for watching birds, I think.

Roy stayed behind in London as he was still recovering from 'flu, and I wished I'd taken a hot water bottle. I'm still working on the story, hopeful it will suit one of the women's magazines I've been studying. The children enjoyed the pool at the club house, and I liked splashing around although it was really too shallow for serious swimming. Clacton was a featureless town without the seedy frontage or romantic old town pubs of Hastings, the cultural attractions of Brighton or Whitstable's oysters. It was too cold for walking, and anyway my grand-daughter doesn't like to, so we watched interviews with Marathon runners on the TV and kept the gas fire turned up high. Shame the heat never reached my bedroom, at the other end of the van. The walls are not much thicker than cardboard.

On Sunday afternoon it was remarkably easy to park in a Clacton side street to visit a run-down aquarium on the pier, entrance fee a very resaonable £2. They could hardly have charged more, considering that the main tank was under repair. I felt sorry for the ugly lumpfish, squatting in the murky depths like half-deflated grey balloons with rows of carbuncles along their sides and gaping botoxed lips. They were surrounded by mini-shoals of agressive silver hake, dashing from one end of the tank to the other. Further along the pier the children filled transparent plastic figurines with layers of coloured grit, my grandaughter choosing a heart with a lace attached. 'Look, grandma, a present for mummy'.

By the time we went home she'd handled it so much that the layers had mixed together.

The evening entertainment was Bingo, then a giant rabbit leading the kiddies in line dancing with a misogynist magician to follow. Maybe he was just jaundiced, but it was a bit early in the season for that. I didn't care by then as I'd won £100 for a 'full house', although young Sam had to help me keep track of the numbers. He was duly rewarded.

I've done more reviewing than fiction writing this month, mainly of French films, and reported on some China-related talks. I also joined an excellent 'live' writing group which inspired me to write two stories, one of which I posted to WriteWords. It attracted fewer negative comments than the usual run, so I'm quite cheered.

Yesterday was so warm I took my new mini-laptop to the park. It was too hot to work in the pavilion cafe garden so I went into the cafe itself but as I half expected I attracted admirers - well, one admirer who was in his late fifties/early sixties maybe but had a fine head of wavy grey hair and good taste in shirts.

'Excuse me, but I couldn't help noticing the machine you are using, and wonder where you bought it.'

(Did anyone think it was my personal allure ? You can lower your eyebrows now)

I told him all about it, and I'll do the same here when I've had time to take a photo of it to include with my next post - maybe tomorrow.