Thursday, 24 January 2008

Social experimentation

It turns out that over the last three months I was the subject of an experiment. Since the middle of October, when I made my last book order at Amazon, I did not buy anything for myself that I didn’t eat. The question was, how long can I avoid spending money?
It’s not like I did it on purpose or anything. It just happened to be that around the peak of the Xmess hype I realized that I didn’t spend money on myself at all for a while (again, discounting food stuff, which more than often represents luxuries). At that stage things did become a deliberate effort to postpone the inevitable and see just how long I can go without satisfying my inherent gathering instincts, hard wired into my head through billions of years of evolution.
I made it very clear to myself that things I don’t like will not end up being the curfew breakers. That is, no piece of cloth is going to trip me down here, not even a nice hat to combat the summer sun (a light wide brimmed hat, of the type you can get at a hiking shop, has been identified as a potential purchase that might often work better than the regular baseball hat). It wasn’t going to be a book, either: I have shelves full of books I really want to read at home and don’t get to, and at the moment I’m reading two books in parallel with a combined page count of more than 2000 which I am likely to finish next year; there really is no need for me to buy additional books.
Yet it was pretty obvious that the instinct to buy was there and it was getting stronger and stronger by the day. Just look at this blog’s discussions on buying Ray Ban sunglasses or the discussions on the virtues of the Asus Eee PC; they were there because the basic instinct to gather, which in the modern era became the instinct to consume, is a basic need we all have even if we are consciously aware of its lack of meaning.

The breakdown came this week. It had to be something special, and indeed it was: In a totally expected move, and after Jo couldn’t stand me talking about it anymore, we (read: I) got ourselves (read: myself) a white Asus Eee PC. For the record, they are currently the cheapest at Officeworks.
Was it worth it? Well, it is definitely something I could have lived without. However, at a post salary sacrifice cost of significantly less than $300, it’s not that bad an expense (even if our finances are currently in dire straits with multiple huge expenses on the horizon).
It won’t, however, replace my desktop. The keyboard is too crowded for its own good, the screen is too small to have all the stuff I’m used to having on the screen at the same time, and there’s constant heat coming off the keyboard. That said, it’s quite capable, stupidly light and small (A5 size), and therefore highly mobile. Even with the power supply, the Eee PC means there is never a reason for you not to have a PC with you when you want one.
The one thing that seems to make the Eee PC so great is its operating system. Running Linux doesn’t only mean that you don’t have to pay for a Windows licence, it also means that you don’t need space age capabilities: a simple CPU with a minute amount of RAM are all you need to run at performance levels that are much more than acceptable. The quick boot-ups are worth mentioning, too. This just shows you how crippled we all are through using Windows and how much energy we waste by running an inefficient operating system.
There’s more to it, though. If you ever tried to run Skype on your laptop through a wireless connection you would have noticed it doesn’t run well: your calls would be cut off or disconnected way too often. Disregarding interruptions from microwaves or cordless phone, there are two reasons for that: wireless routers that fail to realize a voice call deserves continuity in service are one, but the second one is to do with the way Windows XP manages its wireless connections. For security reasons, unless disabled, Windows will routinely disconnect and reconnect your wireless connection, disconnecting your call while at it. This, however, is not an issue anymore with Linux: we Skyped my mother for 20 minutes straight on our new Eee PC and it worked like a charm, despite us having the cheapest wireless router ever. With its built in microphone and webcam, the Eee PC becomes your ideal Skype machine.
I have only just started exploring the Eee PC and there’s still a long way to go. To name just one concern, I wonder how it would work with stuff I connect to it given Linux’ lack of drivers compared with XP. Still, as toys go, the Eee PC is one of the more capable and promising ways to meaninglessly spend your money.
Now I just need to contain myself and make sure that the breaking of the levee does not create a flood.


wile.e.coyote said...

talking with your mam for 20 minutes? Is that a record?

Moshe Reuveni said...

It's amazing what living on the other side of the world can do to your appreciation for your parents. It's also amazing how much more interested they are in you once you have a baby.
Still, conversations with my mother never get close to any philosophical peaks.
Most importantly, when is casa Bar-Shira going to get into Skype?

wile.e.coyote said...

I'm on Skype for the last 2 months since Duba got a lover in SF that communicate with her on it.
You are never on-line there

Uri E. said...

Didn’t you buy a cheap pair of sunglasses?

Or is that considered a necessity?

Moshe Reuveni said...

You're right! Didn't think of them.
In my defense, they were a necessity (try driving 5 hours a day on a sunny days without shades). They were also crap, but that would be the subject of a future post.

wile.e.coyote said...

I don't like when the post are odd and not even, that means that the cat didn't answer one of them.
Anyhow to close the issue, the 1st Skype call was done last night, picture and sound were invloved, there were issue with the picture is it seems to increase age and remove hair (not that the cat care about it)

Moshe Reuveni said...

Welcome out of the stone age.