Category Archives: Gadgets

on bringing the laptop into the shop for repairs

My Mac is in the shop. It's getting a new wifi card, and while they are at it they'll replace the chipped case. The chip fixing means that labor is free for the wifi fixing so it's a very reasonable cost.

The last time I had any kind of extended computer downtime I remember it being a strain, since I then had so much of my personal computing stuff actually on my computer. Now more than ever that's not the case, and I get along just fine with occasional logins from library computer systems or even the ultra-basic stripped down version of apps that I get on my not-very-smart Blackberry.

At some point, everything that you care enough about is also in the cloud somewhere. That might be for backups, so that if you lose a system you can carry on with minimum restore time. It might be to increase the power of whatever web-enabled terminal you log into, so that whatever public system you connect to has most of your stuff even if that stuff is private. Mostly though things go into the cloud and stay there because all physical media are fragile. The consequences of relying on anything in your own possession – especially something that gets knocked around a bit – are too great, and it's better to have those things also or primarily somewhere else that feels safe.

My year without the internet (as suggested by my son)

"When you retire," he says, "you should go offline for a whole year."

The idea is to sell all of your computers, turn in your cell phone, and generally shun any computer technology. Perhaps you'll still write, but it will be longhand or on a typewriter. If there's a phone call to be made, you'll have to be there to receive it, since there is no answering machine. No Twitter, no Facebook, no blogs. Whatever money you save in computing and telecom costs, you spend on pens and paper and postcards and stamps.

I'm not certain what this word "retire" means, but it's an appealing idea. For me, it would mean rewinding the technology clock back to the early 1980s.

A piece of the inspiration for this is the late Steve Cisler's unconnected project.

art on a shovel: looking forward to February

February is thirteen months long in Michigan. – A Primer, Bob Hicok, The New Yorker

Looking forward to February, a civic project: a Marcel Duchamp readymade project, a retrospective civic installation of his work Prelude to a Broken Arm (1915). See Shearer, 1997 for more.

The installation would provide a convenient hook for each of these readymade pieces. Care must be taken to ensure that the works of art be completely decorative and not functional.

More: Tout-Fait, the first interactive, multi-media journal focusing on the French-American artist Marcel Duchamp.

More: Archaeology, Modernism, Modernity, an introduction by Jeffrey Schnapp, Michael Shanks, Matthew Tiews in Modernism/Modernity, v11n1, 2004.

More: in An apprehensive aesthetic: the legacy of modernist culture By Andrew McNamara, p. 118.
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Vacuum cooking: the Gastrovac

When you write a blog called Vacuum, you get all kinds of traffic to your site that you don’t expect or plan to see any sense in. Then, slowly but surely, you feel an unexplainable compulsion to be an “internet expert” (i.e. someone who quotes really well from real experts) in all things vacuum.

Thus, this note on vacuum cooking, and the remarkable device called the Gastrovac.

A photo of this apparatus on Flickr (I’ll thumbnail it here when I get permission).

Time Magazine: “Adoring a vacuum“, Sept 2006

The patented Gastrovac is the result of that kind of collaboration. To design it, Torres and Javier Andrés, of Valencia’s well-regarded La Sucursal restaurant, joined forces with a team of scientists at Valencia’s Polytechnic University. But there’s a big difference to the Gastrovac’s goal: while Adrià and Blumenthal routinely rely on kitchen alchemy to turn one food into another (this summer’s menu at Adrià’s El Bulli in Rosas, Spain, features gelatin and olive oil made into “false olives” and melon turned into caviar), the Gastrovac uses technology to make food taste more like itself.

International Cooking Concepts: Gastrovac, the vacuum revolution

The Gastrovac is a compact appliance for cooking and impregnating in a vacuum. It is patented in over 160 countries and developed with the Universidad Politécnica de Valencia and the cooks Javier Andrés (La Sucursal Restaurant, Valencia) and Sergio Torres (El Rodat Restaurant, Jávea). It functions as follows: by creating an artificial low pressure, oxygen-free atmosphere, the Gastrovac considerably reduces cooking and frying temperatures, maintaining the texture, colour and nutrients of the food. Moreover, the Gastrovac creates the “sponge effect”: when the atmospheric pressure is restored, the food absorbs the liquid around it, allowing infinite combinations of foods and flavours.

Details in the owner’s manual (pdf)

IN ORDER TO CAUSE THE “SPONGE EFFECT” DURING THE VAUUM BREAKING PROCESS, IT IS ADVISABLE TO PRESS THE VACUUM BREAKING BUTTON SEVERAL TIMES (AS MANY AS POSSIBLE) UNTIL THE MEASURE GAUGE INDICATES ABOUT -0,5 BAR. ONCE THIS LEVEL IS REACHED, WE CAN THEN DISCONNECT THE VACUUM HOSE FROM THE OUTLET ON THE LID, OR PRESS THE VACUUM BREAKING BUTTON UNTIL THE MEASURE GAUGE INDICATES 0. THIS PROCESS WILL HELP THE PRODUCT TO ABSORB THE LIQUID WHERE IT IS DIPED

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Identity swap

51Bzmnbm4Bl. Bo2,204,203,200 Pisitb-Dp-500-Arrow,Topright,45,-64 Ou01 Aa240 Sh20 When Jim Benson opened up his web browser one day, he discovered that he was someone else. One of the perils of using borrowed hardware to establish a temporary identity is that if you are not really careful, you can leave quite a bit of your identity behind.

This is as good a reason as any to put your temporary identity on a thumb drive, so that you don’t leave droppings behind that cause confusion (or worse). Jeremy Wagstaff’s Directory of Programs Designed for USB Drives is a good place to start for mostly Windows setups; Lifehacker’s Carry your life on a thumb drive is good too.