Hello World! and Computer Crash

Late start for my Day of Digital Humanities. That’s because my MacBook crashed last night and I’ve spent the last few hours trying to repair it. I ended up taking it back to the Mac shop. It all started when I tried to install an update to Oxygen XML Editor last night. The system froze when I tried to open it. Maybe I was supposed to have OS 10.5? Don’t know. It’s all history now. But I need to rethink a 3-hour class this afternoon which was based on using R on my MacBook. Luckily I have the required materials uploaded already to eClass. And I have R installed on a PC Laptop (Dell, purchased in 2002, but works which is more than my MacBook does at the moment). So, I should get through it OK.

It got me thinking, once again, about the fragility of computers and how vulnerable we are if we rely on them too much. Not an original thought, but it’s useful to be reminded about this.

White Knight does Battle with Black Knight

Today has turned into an all-out battle between the White Knight (me, representing the world of Mac) and the Black Knight (the world of Windows). It’s all because of my Mac crashing last night which means I have to use a PC laptop today. I’ll skip the irony in the fact that I am fighting with PCs today when this has all happened because my Mac let me down. So, actually I am raging against all computers today.

I needed to set up a wirelss connection on my laptop to the University Wireless Service on my PC. This worked fine a year ago, but all the protocols have now been changed. I sought help from (a) the help pages of the computer centre of the University (multiple pages for XP, by the way) and (b) our own technician. The technician and I gave up. It’s well-known, apparently, that it is now an almost impossible task to access the wireless internet service using Windows at our University.  Maybe if you have the latest Vista or the latest computer, it’s OK. I don’t know. All I know is that I was advised not to even try. And don’t forget a further piece of advice I was given:  if ever I did manage to set up  my PC laptop to successfully receive wireless internet at university, for sure there would be a problem receiving wiresless at home on the same computer.

I think there’s some exaggeration in what I’ve just written. PC’s just *can’t* be that bad. If they were, nobody would buy ‘em. But, you know, if you’re going to write a blog, you may as well exaggerate. Otherwise where’s the fun? Of course, when I publish serious, scholarly papers, I never, ever exaggerate.

Polling my students about their operating systems

I had to teach LING 619 Methods in Corpus Linguistics this afternoon. I was going to blog during class, but discovered that my PC laptop couldn’t display all the words in a line in this window in WordPress. So I couldn’t blog during class.

Instead I asked my colleague Dr. Anon to help out. [Dr. Anon is a pseudonym. I figure that if I am not allowed to show an image of any person in my blog without their explicit signed permission, I obviously couldn't name a person by their *real* name either.] I took a poll in my class about why people hate PCs. However, because I’m an unbiased, objective, scientific academic, I would never ask a question like that in a poll. So, in the interests of creating a *positive* and *enriching* experience for everyone polled, I went around the class one-by-one from front to back asking the question “What do you like most about the operating system you are using [here, now, in class]?” Dr. Anon obliged by recording the responses. There were 6 responses from Mac users and 8 responses from Windows users. Here are the responses alongside the  OS being used:

x [I don't know how to add a blank line in WordPress.]

The best thing about my Mac OS is:
Mac OS 10.5.8: The Mac goes a lot faster and doesn’t take 30 minutes to load.
Mac OS 10.6 Sexy (especially Spotlight)
Mac OS 10.6: You don’t have to mess with the viruses! The colleagues I work with on-line are always having their systems shut down on account of viruses.
Mac OS 10.5.8: The thing I like best is that it’s really intuitive. WIth PCs, it’s often confusing, because I can’t find things.
Mac OS 10.5.7: I like that it’s fast and that I have the international keyboards (Swedish). And it’s smarter than me.
Mac OS 10.5.8: It’s not a PC


The best thing about my Windows XP/Vista is:
Windows Vista: I’ve never used Mac before
Windows XP: The only thing I like about it is I’m used to it.
Windows XP: I like it because I can find a lot of Open Source soft ware
Windows Vista: You don’t have any compatibility problems (I think that’s the only thing you can say good about it)
Windows Vista: I like it because I can download Chinese programs which the Mac doesn’t allow me to install
Windows XP: I always hope that it could be faster. (There’s room for improvement)
Windows  XP: It speaks Polish.
Windows: I like it because I have the latest version of R on it (which I didn’t have on my Mac which just crashed). [In the interest of full disclosure, this is me. JN]
Results and Discussion: A majority of students in my class use a Windows OS. Windows users seem to have more optimistic personalities, e.g. “I always hope that it could be faster”.
Of course, this is a very unscientific poll. It would be laughable if academics used as their subjects for experiments only university students. That could never happen.

My Corpus Linguistics class

Today we discussed two papers on multifactorial analysis using vast amounts of data based on a corpus of English. The statistics are fiendishly difficult but we have beautiful R scripts that do the hard work for us.

Two students in my class. As you can see, I never did get the written permissions required to photograph faces and clothing.

More students in my class. As you can see, I never did get the written permissions required to photograph faces, clothing, and cool, distinctive customized skins of Mac laptops.