Monday, December 29, 2008

Yes, Virginia, There Is A CherryPal

For a while this fall I had the secret fear that the CherryPal, the little green computer that could, would turn out to be one of those mythical beasts like the unicorn or basilisk. Heckofa year to launch a startup. I consider it a miracle I'm typing this on my CherryPal at all.

But the CherryPal is here, it's real, and it works! Hallelujah!

As represented, it is tiny, about the size of a hefty paperback book. It comes with a power supply. You provide the keyboard and mouse and monitor. And the network hookup. It's a great way to get some more mileage out of peripherals you might have around the house. (If they aren't Mac System 9, as ours turned out to be, with the 9-pin plugs.)

It runs on Linux, which gives this longtime Mac-head the sensation of going back to Windows 2.0, but without the crashes. I followed the instructions for setup and with the exception of the monitor adventure chronicled below, and the system date, things worked out as they should.

I'm happy to be using Google at all. When I tried to log on earlier, the Linux system was using a 1970 date and Google could not be convinced this was trustworthy. No Gmail, no Blogger, no Reader -- no fun! I was able to change the system date once CherryPal support assured me it was OK. (The help prompts were rather foreboding.) I am all for retro but 1970 is not a year I'd pick to live again.

There are still some nits to iron out. The CherryPal people are working on more support and FAQs. Some of the instructions are not what one expects. When setting up, for example, the last thing you do is plug in the power because there is no power switch.

Before I can recommend this without reserve to a lot of folks who could benefit from a low-cost green computer -- and believe me, I have a list of friends and relatives who qualify -- there needs to be more user-friendly support in place.

But if you are an early adopter -- a Linux geek -- a green maven -- go for it! The company is very receptive to feedback from users, and working on even better things to come.

Next challenge, photos!

Tech Notes: I'm currently using a new cheap LogiTech keyboard, the Apple mouse borrowed from our system upstairs when the new cheap LogiTech mouse did not seem to work, and the Polaroid monitor that is actually the television.

My startup went splendidly except there was no visible way to interface with the computer. Turned out it was MY problem: the monitor needed to have one additional setting tweaked for "autofit". All the menus, as in Windows, are on a bottom bar, that my display had neatly cut off. I did not know what I was missing, so it took a few exchanges with tech support, who kept telling me to click on things I did not see, before we solved the comedy of errors.

Next up: we'll visit my son the software engineer -- one good thing to come out of 1971 -- and see what he has to say about the CherryPal. This time I promise to remember the power cord.