bit-tech.net

Please have your boredom pass ready

Please pay attention as we may not have long together.

You may be surprised to learn that as a bit-tech’er and now aspiring columnist, I’ve never actually flown alone before, and obviously it’s something which is somewhat daunting to a first timer. Granted, I have the added benefit of some good old-fashioned common sense, but flying isn't as simple as getting on a bus. Therefore, whilst the flight in to my destination was without incident on this, my maiden journey, I was not prepared for having to bide my time on the way back. So, like many writers before me, I’m writing my column in the departure lounge of an airport looking at the board which says ‘Delayed’.

Now as I understand it this is a relatively common occurrence if ‘Airport’ (a BBC TV staple here) is to be believed; however, I thought it was usually only the downfall of people on long haul flights across the planet (cue visions of weary sun seekers stretching out on an unforgiving bench, ticking away the six hour delay by reading yet another Stephen King novel hastily purchased from the local WH Smiths).

"..only once did I sense any concern from the Apple camp that battery life was wavering."

Clearly I was more than a little dismayed to find that a relatively short hop from Edinburgh to Bristol has been slapped with a whopper of a two and a half hour delay - literally twice the flight time. To the more experienced duty-free goblins, two hours is a walk in the park. Unfortunately, I'm made of less patient stuff so it's deflating to find I’m only thirty minutes into the wait and, having turned on my laptop, found it to have next to no battery life. Readers, we have T-Minus 19 Minutes and counting. (Auto save on standby)

Having been a participant in the recent bit-tech.net staff AGM, the conversation invariably always comes down to willy-waving in the technical departments and, owning a relatively top of the range Toshiba Satellite Pro, I felt at home pulling my enormous tool out in front of the smug Apple users that seemed to surround me. One thing I’m afraid I can’t compete with, according to the Macophiles, is battery life. (T-Minus 17 Minutes and counting). As much as I tried to ignore it, battery times of three to four hours without even so much as a yawn were being bandied about by my cousins; these babies could apparently download music, stream webcams, connect wirelessly and no doubt make tea and polish your shoes, with the quoted battery life not so much as wavering from the listed guidelines. These Macs were literally going on for hours and hours!

To illustrate this, the only member of the team not present this year was our US Correspondent, Chris Newman (aka Eddie The Dane). To compensate, we thought we’d actually attempt to transport him to Aberdeen via the miracle that is iChat webcam technology. Plonking him on a chair, carrying him around the house and even wheeling him out to the garden for a barbeque (a la Futurama ‘head in a jar’ style), he may as well have been there. We did this for most of the evening and only once did I sense any concern from the Apple camp that battery life was wavering. (T-Minus 12 Minutes and counting)

My laptop, however, barely left the power supply and, at absolute worst, was put on standby unplugged for a few hours. Consequently I thought nothing of it and packed my laptop away for later use. However, here we are, with two hours yet to go and I’m watching my only entertainment (if you can call writing a column entertainment) fall away like the last grains in an hourglass, reminding me that for approximately the next one hour and fifty five minutes, I have to read a crappy book on unexplained phenomena, not including the time I’m going to be on the plane (thank heavens for the BA supplied copy of ‘High Life’). Oh, T-Minus 9 Minutes, in case you were concerned how we were doing.

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Chris Caines


Obviously the more Anti-Mac of you will point out that it’s clearly my fault for not leaving the laptop to charge and that Macs are no different from any other laptop in terms of battery life versus raw idiocy. This may be true, but with new battery technology still far enough on the horizon that it doesn’t exactly help me right now, there does seem to be some difference in how the two systems handle the efficiency of that battery. In order to get myself to a point where I can kill 30 minutes of time before resigning myself to looking forlornly at the other poor sods stuck here, I have removed all my PCMCIA cards, shut down the wireless, close any applications which might want to use the processor and turn the screen down the brightness to a point where I can barely read what I’m typing. The Macs, with their inbuilt everything and lights in places only an endoscope should surely probe, press on looking pretty and STILL give their users enough juice to take them through a full sitting of Lord of the Rings with regular toilet breaks.

"Whilst I love all the new technology PC Laptop manufacturers include in their devices, I wonder if they really consider what a drain this will put on the system."

The irony of this situation annoys me no end. Here I am with a system which I tout as being functional and flexible in comparison to its Apple counterpart (and I do tout that a lot, to the annoyance of Wil Harris), but I still seem to need some kind of nuclear reactor to power Solitaire, whereas the Apples can sit there and brightly ridicule me whilst feeding their owners a diet of DVDs and iTunes. Whilst I love all the new technology PC Laptop manufacturers include in their devices, I wonder if they really consider what a drain this will put on the system. At least Apple takes this issue into account, and very well it seems.

I used to maintain that I never understood why people bought a Mac over a PC and I still hold that mentality for the desktop environment. But now… Right now, I would give my bored right arm for a laptop which would rid me of the monotony of sitting here and sighing along with everyone else. I have often pondered the question of why writers seem to use Mac laptops and it’s been answered for me by BA - it's because they spend the majority of their lives sitting around in the Departure lounge waiting for their flights back from some swanky conference, and they can actually get some work done instead of buying yet another paperback.

Luckily, boredom helps me to write quickly and (as is usual for me) frustration has given me more than enough subject matter to spew out in record time. Amazingly, I can leave you with still a dribble of battery life left to hit save before it’s back to the next overpriced latte.

Time for a last check on how much time I have to shut down, T-Min.. *