Thursday, April 30, 2009

Netbook Fever

I have been downloading a LOT of information about woodworking lately. There is so much out there on the web, if one could find the time to actually digest it all I am sure they would be a professional woodworker in no time flat. I, on the other hand will require a little more practice.

However it's hard to divide my time between studying this material and actually working in the shop. I could spend every free moment studying it if I wanted to be glued to my computer. Unfortunately I do have other things I need to accomplish in a day. So I was trying to figure out a way to be able to make this info portable so that I could peruse it whenever I had some spare time but wasn't near my computer. Surprisingly enough my spouse suggested I get one of those "netbooks".

Now I am sure I may have mentioned that I would like one of these appliances, but when the suggestion was made I immediately took that as a blessing to go ahead and get one. In retrospect I can see that wasn't the intention.

But I started web window shopping and the best deal I could find was an Acer Aspire One for $329.00. (1.6GHz CPU, 1GB RAM, 160GB HDD, Web Cam, B/G wireless.) For the heck of it I thought I'd check Kijiji, and low and behold, 27 minutes earlier someone posted the EXACT same spec netbook for $200.00! Needless to say I snapped it up before the spouse could say "just kidding".

The thing had been barely used and I put it through some torture the first day. I ran the battery from a full charge non stop for 2.5 hrs doing actual computing. Not great but not bad for a small Lithium Ion battery. I uninstalled the crapware and installed all the programs I would need on it.

I really LIKE it. It's not designed to replace your computer, but for surfing, checking email, watching video or reading e-books its GREAT! For old folks like me the screen is a bit small and requires reading glasses. It's not FAST at anything but it gets the job done. My only major complaint is the networking is a little quirky and slow. I had a lot of trouble connecting to my home network and moving documents or video from my main computer to the netbook. It connects to the Internet fine but is a little slow loading complex pages.

It's small enough to take absolutely anywhere. This means I can carry my full woodworking library of books and videos everywhere I go and catch up on my reading any time I have a free few minutes. I could also watch movies, listen to music, carry my favourite pictures.

The camera works, but the video is very low quality. It might be alright for Skype or MSN messenger, neither of which I use so no biggie to me. This is not a gaming computer by any means. Solitaire and Mine Sweeper are about the limit. The video quality is good and very bright even on battery power. The tin can sound is all you can expect for speakers probably the size of a dime. Headphones or ear buds will remedy that.

There is no optical drive but one can be connected via one of the three available USB ports. Unless it's externally powered it will be a severe drain on the battery unless the unit is plugged in. The keyboard takes a little getting used to. Everything you need is there but some functions require the use of the number lock of Fn keys. The touch pad has two side buttons to replace the left and right mouse buttons. This works exceptionally well. The pad requires only a light touch.

Overall I would give it 3 out of 5 stars. If the networking was better I would have given it 4 stars. It can't get 5 only because it is not designed to replace a computer or laptop. But for portability and usefulness it's right on!

So Much For Regulations

My "Near Miss" at work was finally investigated by the Ministry of Labour. Unfortunately what I thought was black and white turns out to be a very grey area. Oddly enough the language in the OHSA seems to address my issue directly yet the investigator did not find the company at fault.

There have been some improvements to the equipment at work and it's a shame that it always takes a fatal or near fatal incident to initiate these things. The company is looking over their lockout policy again and trying to get some clarification for the "grey" areas. I don't have much faith that anything will change there only because it's this very ambiguity that protected the company in this incident. Why would they close that loophole?

I am left feeling angry, violated and devalued. The only bright side is that I was lucky enough not to be killed or seriously injured.

This time.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Wood Up

The "Shop" has been keeping me very busy. When I am not tuning up tools I am learning fundamentals of wood working mostly through trial and error. Today I got a new resaw blade for the band saw and have been slicing through planks of red and white oak and black walnut. I am also getting lots of use out of the jointer and planer with this raw wood.

I have to highly recommend R&D Bandsaws and their Tuff Tooth Blades. They have a great site, excellent prices and the quality of their band saw blades is exceptional. Shipping was incredibly fast and reasonable. Their Little Ripper resaw blade makes short work of hard woods with a smooth clean cut.

It seems I am still having problems getting wood square. I just haven't figured out what I am doing wrong yet. Obviously I am missing a key step somewhere.

Still I am thoroughly enjoying my new found hobby. There have been lots of additions to my tool collection. A couple of things I have yet to master would be planing and plane sharpening. There just don't seem to be enough hours in the day. And of course I do have to shut things down at a reasonable time as I am sure my neighbours do not appreciate the late night buzz of a table saw.

It's going to really suck when I actually have to go back to work 5 days a week. Unfortunately that's coming VERY soon.