Monday, October 27, 2003
Which brings us to another technology angle in all this. My trusty old IBM Thinkpad 600E has a mere 13.3-inch screen and THAT is almost too large in coach on most airlines. I can type (sortof) and watch DVD's (best with my tray table stowed and the computer sort of 2/3rds opened propped at an angle on my lap. (Apropos of the previous post, it has never even occurred to me to ask the person in front to inconvenience themselves so that I can have more room than the airline saw fit to give me.) Yet, so many new thin and light laptops have seriously large screens today. Let's look at IBM's line. (Not to pick on IBM but they're a major producer of business laptops and I've found them to build serious, solid gear.) The R series, billed as the best blend of portability and essential features, has a 14-inch screen at the entry level and quickly jumps to 15-inch. Only the "extra-light, "extra-small", "extra-portable" X series has a petite 12.1-inch screen (in 1024x768 resolution). In other words, all except the stripped "ultra-portables" have hefty sized screens that to my way of thinking can't be used in the typical coach cabin. It surprises me a bit that there aren't more designs tilted toward a nice blend or portability and features--including the feature of being used in a coach-class airline seat. Does everyone who cares about using their laptops in flight (and doesn't want to accept the compomises of an ultraportableon the road) just have an unlimited number of upgrade certificates? (Fatter but smaller systems like the Fujitsu 5000D seem a better choice for airline use. I should be able to get my hands on one in a few weeks. Stay tuned.
The great battles going on under our noses that we never know about. The recent introduction of a device as the "Knee Defender" brings to light the previously uncataloged battle between the airline seat recliners and the airline seat anti-recliners. Me? I guess I'm a recliner because it boggles my mind that there's any question about whether airlines should ban a gadget that quite explicitly interferes with the functioning of airplane equipment (the seat). And I quite squarely fall into the camp that--other than when one has to place "seatbacks and tray tables in an upright and locked position" for takeoff and landing--if you weren't meant to recline your seat then the powers-that-be wouldn't have put these little buttons into your arm rest that cause the seat to do just that. I'll concede exceptional circumstances if there's someone with a broken leg in the seat behind or whatever, but not that general lack of legroom or desire to type away on a big-screen laptop in the row behind me trumps my desire to sleep on my (oh so little) reclining economy seat.
Friday, October 24, 2003
As the new owner of a Canon Powershot G5 digital camera, I've been giving some thought to the ongoing transition from film to digital. These thoughts are in the vein of what I guess I would call an "advanced amateur" or "prosumer" to use a phrase that's starting to be thrown around in some circles with respect to both photography and computers. I'm still learning my way around the camera and getting a feel for the subtleties of its handling, so more comments will doubtless follow later. But here's an initial reaction to the "gestalt" of it.
Today's prosumer digital cameras, in many respects, recreate the rangefinder camera category that had all but disappeared. In the case of film cameras today, there's really just a choice between SLR's and "point and shoots" with only a few very expensive, high-end exceptions (e.g. Leica) that provide an SLR-level of control in a more compact package. Some of the point and shoots are sleek and fancy indeed but they still don't provide the level of exposure and shutter speed control offered by even the most basic SLR (and demanded by serious photographers). The G5, on the other hand, provides full control over shutter speed and aperature -- something that's been hard to find in non-SLR form factors for a long time now. (You can also just shoot in full auto.) The G5 doesn't offer quite the full control of the rangefinders of yesteryear. Focus is only auto and lenses aren't interchangeable (although there are some fairly pricey adapters to widen or narrow the view). But, still, a camera like this one provides a nice intermediate choice between a full-fledged SLR and a point-and-shoot that's been sorely missing in the film world for years.