Category Archives: de re digital

MacBook Air and enterprise support

The Mac generally plays very nicely in an enterprise environment: simple binding to AD, users can be denied admin access without compromising their ability to join networks, change the time zone, add printers, OS updates can be managed and delivered from local servers rather than each machine going out to Apple to download the same patch, and machines can be set up rapidly from a standard image using target disk mode.

The MacBook Air can live nicely in an enterprise environment too, but its limited port count poses some particular challenges, mainly that no FireWire means no target disk mode, and the particulars of its ROM mean you may need to augment your base image slightly. Having said that the new MacBook Air ships with a USB boot disk, which means you can rapidly boot the machine, attach a USB hard drive with your image on it, copy that image to the internal drive, and reboot.

The MacBook Air can also be effectively managed by Casper and imaged over Ethernet – the USB Ethernet adapter is for the most part identical to a physical Ethernet port though from time to time I have seen them lose connectivity – by netbooting the Air and running the Casper imaging process.

The main issue may be your support staff’s unfamiliarity with the system since many standard support procedures will expect an Ethernet port, a DVD drive, a FireWire port, etc. – the more important question, however, is why not get an iPad and a much more powerful full-size laptop or desktop Mac for the same money!


oh yes those thoughts….

after the Atari every computer I have used as my ‘main’ machine has been a Mac – from my first encounter with a Mac in 1984 I was hooked and bought my first in 1990. Since then I have lost count of the number I have purchased except that when I last shopped in the Apple Store the sales person looked me up on the system and then called his manager who scanned the screen, raised his eyebrows and shook my hand saying, “you have owned a lot of Macs!”

I have owned and used PCs as well but have always returned to the Mac for day to day communications and data management, until now. Since joining NBC Universal I have been using a PC as my main machine and dealing with the slight differences of logic and location, the difference of dogma and credo that led Umberto Eco to his beautiful discussion of Mac and PC as Catholic and Protestant –

I could bemoan the dependence on the right click, the difficulty of finding diacritics, the recycle bin, but I would be offering nothing new to the discourse so I shall focus on the most difficult aspect of my conversion: moving hundreds of contacts from the Mac Address Book to Outlook.

A one off import was not only difficult to achieve as Address Book creates a single vCard file with all the contacts and Outlook only recognizes individual cards for each contact, but would mean endless updating of both address books to keep them in sync. An LDAP server would work but as I celebrate my first Christmas in 15 years without a pager I was keen to avoid taking responsibility for another 24/7 commitment. So after much resistance I tried plaxo (

Plaxo does one thing very well: it syncs all your contacts on all your computers, Mac or PC with an online searchable database so you can access contact info even when away from your own machines.

Plaxo does one thing very badly: it attempts to sync iCal with the calender in Outlook and makes a complete mess of both – at last count I have 5 instances of every appointment in my calendar and if I delete the duplicates it removes the original as well – I am awaiting feedback from plaxo tech support and will update this entry as and when the issue is resolved.

Plaxo does one thing that is brilliant conceptually but with some interesting ramifications: if someone in your address book is a plaxo member their entry in your address book is updated to the information s/he has entered on plaxo. In theory it means you will have up to date contact info at all times, but like all aspects of Web 2.0 it relies on us all keeping our individual profiles up to date and our phone numbers formatted for international dialing.

Like anything democratic our predictions will be over optimistic, but on balance I think the plaxo effect is worth the effort, and will be all the more so if we each take a moment to update our current contact info for the benefit of all our contacts. And to encourage this process plaxo has engaged the connections ideology from LinkedIn and Facebook – combined with its ability to sync address books this is a real plus for the esociety.

I recommend disabling the calendar synchronisation functionality for the moment.

de re digital

My first computer was an Atari 400 back in the days when programmes were loaded from cassette tape – I still have a pretty good ear for binary and can talk to most fax machines and modems – but with it came an amazing book entitled:

De Re Atari
Anno Domini MCMLXXXI

It is amazing for three reasons:
– it predated Apple’s risqué use of Roman Numerals when naming OS X by XVIII years;
– it was a book;
– it set out to explain the mysteries of BASIC, which for a ten year old was proof of nothing else than that the inventors of BASIC had a warped sense of humour when naming their programming language.

In later life as a Latin scholar I encountered other references to de re and realised that my interests in ancient literature and technology were more compatible than I had thought. So it seemed a fitting reference under which to file some thoughts about the digital worlds we occupy. Now where were those thoughts…