December 24, 2009

Overdue Back-to-Tour Shopping Post

I call this: computers,mac,On the Road Again,theatre — Posted by KP @ 4:56 pm

I ordered a lot of supplies before going on the road. Here’s a run-down.

Business Cards

With this tour I’m switching to using my @headsetchatter.com email address for business and personal use. Naturally I needed new cards. I was going to do new cards anyway because my old ones were designed to match the Go Button site and logo, and I wanted to use the HeadsetChatter site colors and logo as a kind of personal branding.

Once again I ordered the premium business cards from VistaPrint, which are more expensive because they have full graphic images on front and back, and these even more so because I added a foil effect, which looks really cool.

Composite-Toed Shoes

I bought a pair of Sketchers steel-toed shoes about five years ago. They’re sneaker-like, but very heavy and uncomfortable. So heavy that sometimes if I wear them too much they start to hurt my leg muscles in uncomfortable ways because I’m not used to having to work so hard to pick my feet up. I only wear them in very rare cases, where I’m working in a theatre while the set is really still under construction.

Last year on tour, our props supervisor, Daphne, was the only one of the three of us who loaded the nose of the truck who wore safety shoes, so she was the designated person who would kick the scenery into places where it didn’t want to go. On one of our long nights in the truck, I asked her how she liked her shoes, and expressed how I never wore mine because they were so heavy. She informed me that her shoes aren’t steel, and aren’t heavy. At some point, hopefully back on the bus, and not on the truck, she took one off and let me see how light they are. At that point I decided it was something to look into if I returned.

The pair I found are made by Converse, and are a little heavier than Daphne’s, but I think most of the weight is in the heavy rubber sole, not from the toe cap. I wear very lightweight Puma running shoes normally, so the contrast is especially large for me when I switch to the boots. They have an air bubble in the heel, which also helps to make them feel more supportive and sneaker-like. The site where I got them, Steel-Toe-Shoes.com, had some options that really look just like regular sneakers, but I decided to play it safe and go with black, in case I need to wear them for performances. My philosophy about that is that if I am at the stage of production where I need to wear black, and still need to wear safety shoes, something is really wrong. But it’s always good to be safe.
When I had to reduce weight and bulk from my suitcase, they were the obvious thing to cut, but I held onto them, and I’m so glad. As it turns out, I have worn them almost every day. Not because things have been getting dropped on my feet, but because of the snow. Pumas, it turns out, do not make good snow shoes. These are relatively heavy, and my feet get kind of clammy compared to the breathable sneakers I tend to wear, but in the snow the warmth is very welcome, and the thick materials and high-top design gives me a little more confidence about slipping on the ice.

Work Gloves

Last year I did load outs with my leather winter gloves. First of all, it roughed up my gloves pretty bad. And then when it was like 70 degrees, it was really lame to be wearing winter gloves. So then us ladies on the tour all bought weightlifting gloves, because they were made small enough for us and padded, but offered no finger protection. This year I vowed to find serious work gloves that fit properly.

Apparently in order to find serious work gloves for women you have to be willing to buy things marketed as “gardening gloves,” but these gloves by Youngstown Glove Co. are very comfortable, and in my limited amount of frozen-truck-work, they felt great.

Hard Drive Upgrade

Maybe surprisingly, this is the only computer upgrade. I have been planning this since I bought my Macbook Pro two and a half years ago. For various reasons of time, place and money, I’ve put it off, but this was the time.

I bought a 320GB 7,200rpm drive from Western Digital which will is my new internal drive. I haven’t noticed a significant decrease in battery life, although I do hear the fans running a lot more, and the drive itself sometimes vibrates so much at random times that when I have my phone next to the computer, I think my phone is ringing.

I also got a 500GB 5,400rpm drive from Fujitsu (my new secondary Brand I Trust since I can’t believe how well the original drive in the MBP did). This will be my external Time Machine backup drive. As is my style, it’s a 2.5″ laptop drive so that it also serves as an emergency replacement should my internal drive go kaput.


I ordered these from Newegg, which is pretty much the most reliable seller of anything on all the web, so far as I’m concerned. However, I also wanted two drive enclosures to put the outgoing 160GB drives in, and none of the ones on Newegg filled me with confidence or floated my boat. For that it was back to Other World Computing (macsales.com), who sell the enclosure I currently use and love, and will continue to use.

I was looking for one or two cheaper USB enclosures just to have around, so I wouldn’t have to swap out to use my spare drives. The one I found was so nice, small and so cheap ($20) that I bought two. I ended up bringing one of the old drives on the road with a few seasons of The West Wing and The X-Files on them for entertainment. Just a word about these: they look cool, they match the Mac product line, but they are plastic, not aluminum. They’re $20, and there’s a reason they’re $20. But for a cheap enclosure, they do the job and look good doing it.


The reasoning behind this upgrade is that I’ve always wanted a faster internal drive, and I’ve got 4 frickin gigs of RAM and rarely feel it, and I was sure that the drive speed is the bottleneck. I’m not a big one for benchmarks, but I will say that since the upgrade I have yet to stare at the spinning beachball of death and wonder what the hell is taking so long.

Also I needed a larger Time Machine drive. The reason both my drives were 160GB is because I bought the backup drive before Time Machine existed, and I was doing exact clones for backup. Naturally if you’re just cloning your drive, you don’t need a bigger drive than the one you’re backing up.

Before the upgrade my Time Machine backups went back about four months. In October I discovered a couple songs missing from my iTunes library. I know I listened to them over the summer, but my backups only went back to July and they weren’t there. I have no idea where they went or why, but they’ve been gone long enough to have outdone the mighty Time Machine. This event had nothing to do with my decision, but it’s a very good illustration of why your Time Machine drive should be as big as possible.

Winter Coat

Screen shot 2009-11-14 at 10.17.48 PMWhat I wanted for Christmas from my family was a new winter coat to get me through December and January in Minneapolis. It had to be super-warm for the weather there, and yet light and flexible enough that I could do load-outs wearing it if the weather was really bad. At my mom’s suggestion, I looked at the offerings from Eddie Bauer, and decided on this one. It’s awesome. I have yet to really be cold in any part of my body covered by the coat.

July 30, 2009

Apple Releases 2TB Time Capsule. Karen wishes for 320GB hard drive.

I call this: computers,mac,theatre — Posted by KP @ 11:11 am

Today I read this article on TUAW about Apple’s release of a new Time Capsule (router with included hard drive for wireless backups) with a 2TB capacity. Suddenly I feel like a Luddite because the scale of everyday storage capacity is starting to exceed the amount I work with exponentially.

The largest hard drive I own is 160GB. I have three of them. One in my laptop. One that was the backup drive for my laptop and once got knocked on the floor. And the one I bought to replace the one that got knocked on the floor, even though to this day it appears not to have been damaged. One can never be too safe. Of course one could also back up to multiple locations, but one doesn’t have the time for that, or a 2nd enclosure for the other drive, and one is too cheap to get a nice one, and too techno-elitist to get a crappy one.

Anyway. All this to say, I would love to upgrade my laptop drive to a 320GB 7200RPM drive, but I must admit to being a little bit wary of doing the installation myself (my Macbook Pro is out of warranty and Apple Care, so that’s not really a factor, I’m just trying to keep this machine happy for another year or so). However, my computer is now just over two years old. The logic board was replaced four months ago, the battery three months ago. At this point it feels in many ways like a spring chicken again. Which makes the hard drive even more likely to be the thing that fails, though I must say it has always inspired confidence, and doesn’t even make any kind of noise, as one that’s as old as it is, and moves around as much as it does could be expected to make. I check its SMART status every now and then, and it just keeps chugging along. Except it doesn’t chug. As I said, it’s silent. Fujitsu. Damn fine little machine in there. Western Digital tends to be the HD maker I trust, but I think that may need to change for these future drives. I’m impressed.

Yes I said “drives.” In order to back up said drive, I would then need to purchase a second drive at the same time, of 320GB or bigger. So there’s a bit of cash involved beyond just the cost of a single drive at Newegg. The plan currently is that I would only do the installation at home, where I have all my stuff, tools, spare parts, etc. in case I ran into unforeseen complications (I did bring my precision screwdriver kit to Reagle just in case I got inspired).

I’ll see how I feel both technologically and financially when it’s almost time to head home in about three weeks. I also have a phone interview in a few hours for what could potentially be a rent-paying job for the fall, so if I book that I think I can handle a couple hard drives. I actually have been entertaining a number of potential jobs, but hadn’t really thought about it so specifically. It needs to be this one. Momma needs a bigger hard drive!

My concern about the upgrade also is that while I can see that my hard drive is creating the bottleneck in speed, I worry that 7200RPMs will damage my battery life. Which it might. But although I like the freedom at work to sit at different places without having to find an outlet, I do spend most of my time plugged in. Paul has been Super Electricity Assistant this year. Wherever we sit, he’s right on it with a power strip and extension cord. Usually with the power strip gaff taped to the table too, and the cables nicely dressed.

For the external drive I would need more space. Originally when I bought my backup drives it was back in the days B.T.M. (Before Time Machine). Back then you just cloned your drive and that was it. I specifically wanted a drive that was an exact duplicate of the one in my machine, so that in the event of a complete hard drive failure, I could physically swap them and carry on like nothing happened. The way Time Machine works, by keeping multiple backups as far back as your hard drive capacity allows, encourages that your HD be many times the size of the drive it’s backing up for maximum effectiveness. Not to mention it would be nice, since Time Machine does not store its files in a way that’s bootable, to have room for another partition that could be an actual clone. Or even a third partition for storing stuff totally unrelated to backups (like large video files, movies, anything big that doesn’t need to actually be stored on the computer).

The only problem with all of this is that going bigger than 500GB wrecks my whole backup system, because that’s currently the biggest any 2.5″ hard drives come. I like using a laptop drive for my backups. It’s small, light, runs without external power, and serves not only as a backup of my files, but as a backup for the hardware itself. Being on the road all the time, the ability to have a spare hard drive in my computer bag that travels with my laptop 24/7 is a great security blanket.

If I lived at home most of the time, a Time Capsule would be a nice idea for a second, non-portable nightly backup (either an actual Time Capsule hardware, or a hard drive plugged into an Airport Express). I don’t have a Time Capsule, because as is just my luck, I upgraded to the Airport Express “wireless n” router just before the Time Capsule came out. In fact I think I missed the cutoff date to turn it in for an exchange by like 2 days. So needless to say, I really won’t need a new router for some time. And as you can see, I have no idea what I would do with 2TB of storage if I did.

June 16, 2007

New Goodies Have Arrived

I call this: computers,mac — Posted by KP @ 11:28 am

Since I got my Macbook Pro, I have been busy with some other purchases that I’d been waiting on to go along with it.

Adobe CS3 Design Standard

I plan to use this for a long, long time, especially since it could take me the better part of a decade to come up with money for an upgrade. This one arrived most recently and I haven’t actually spent much time working with it yet. After an installation that seemed to take forever, I’ve mostly just been using the Adobe Bridge app to organize my commonly-used images and give them keywords and stuff. I mentioned that I find iPhoto unsatisfactory for my image-organizing needs, and Aperture and Lightroom too expensive. This fills the gap in some ways, at least. I’m looking forward to playing with it more.

4GB of RAM

I was planning to wait a while on the RAM upgrade, but when concerns came up about the quality of video playback on the projections for Singin’ in the Rain, I decided to have 4GB sent overnight from Crucial so they would arrive in time for tech. Crucial’s $369 was not the lowest price I found, but I’ve ordered from them several times before and trust their quality and service. The RAM arrived in the morning on the first day of tech, but as the computer was already busily projecting things, I didn’t get a chance to do the upgrade until the meal break. When I did, it was pretty amazing. After putting in the new RAM and screwing the cover back on, I turned it on and it flew through the boot-up process. The loading OS X progress bar went by so fast it was almost invisible. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not some magical instant-everything solution. There are some things that happen very fast and others that go along as always, probably due to the rather unimpressive hard drive I wound up going with.

External Hard Drive

I mentioned before that I didn’t bring a backup drive with me to Waltham, because I was waiting to buy one for the new computer. What I really wanted was an external enclosure offering Firewire 800 and USB 2.0, not requiring its own power source, and holding a 2.5″ drive that would be the same capacity and type as the one inside my MBP (thus the reason for waiting), so that in the event of a HD failure I would have an immediate replacement.

So upon purchasing the MBP, I hopped on to Newegg and was surprised to find that the number of 2.5″ enclosures with FW800 and USB is… ZERO. After some Googling, I found a total of ONE. I wound up ordering both enclosure and drive from a company I’ve never purchased from before called OWC (Other World Computing). They specialize in hardware for Macs. They make this enclosure which looks nice, it’s clear, which is kind of cool. It comes with cables (which is good cause I’ve never had a reason to buy a FW800 cable before), and it even includes the power adapter should I ever want or need to plug it in. The HD I got is a Western Digital SATA 160GB 5400rpm, same specs as the internal one I have (I thought I might go bigger, but it was significantly more expensive, and I prefer to have the drives just be clones of each other anyway). The drive and enclosure went together easily, and it seems to be working well. FW800 is faster than USB 2, although nowhere even near the theoretical speed. I’m averaging about 15-20mbps when backing up, under USB it was about 7mpbs. The backup software I use is Intego’s PersonalBackup, which is the first backup software I have ever found to be user-friendly enough to actually get me to backup regularly.