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Daynotes Journal

Week of 5/31/99

Sunday, June 06, 1999 10:59

A (mostly) daily journal of the trials, tribulations, and random observations of Robert Bruce Thompson, a writer of computer books.


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Monday, May 31, 1999

[Current Topics Page]

Memorial Day here in the U.S., the day upon which we're supposed to remember those who died to protect our freedoms. Ironically, the paper this morning reports that the Supremes have voided the Fifth Amendment.

No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

The case involves an 86 year old man who is accused of collaborating with the Nazis. The Justice Department attempted to compel this man to testify against himself. The Supremes agreed that it was acceptable to do so, on the theory that the Fifth Amendment protects people against compelled self-incrimination only for prosecutions within the United States.

Now, if this man is in fact guilty of the crimes of which he is accused--active complicity in the murders of thousands of Lithuanian Jews--I have no sympathy for him. But there is something even more important at stake here. The Bill of Rights explicitly prohibits the government from compelling a person "in any criminal case to be a witness against himself". That is a fundamental right, and this Supreme Court decision is an outrage against the Bill of Rights.

* * * * *

One of my readers reported problems with the search function. I tried searching, and had no problems at all. If you've had problems using Search, please let me know.

* * * * *

This from Warrick M. Locke [warlocke@mail.wf.net]:

Consider: two boxes, one PII 350MHz, one PIII 500 MHz. The slower machine has 256 Meg of memory, the faster 768 Meg. Both have NICs, etc. Each of them has two SCSI cards. One (a U2W in both cases) has the disks, ROM burner, etc. on it; the other (an el cheapo U in each case) has only a single device, a flatbed scanner with a proprietary (not TWAIN-compatible) software interface.

Problem: the first, slower machine runs the scanner 2x - 3x FASTER than the faster machine. Crazy or what?

The difficulty seems to be that the I/O requests don't overlap. You've mentioned before that you don't know SCSI very well. Who the devil would I ask about this problem?

Regards,

Ric Locke
warlocke@wf.net
<i>Humble Opinion is an oxymoron</i>

I have no idea, but perhaps someone else will.

 


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Tuesday, June 1, 1999

[Current Topics Page]

I can't believe it's June. I'd intended to have the first book completed by now, and I'm still only part way through the first draft. This is the first time I've ever missed a deadline in my life, and I'm missing it big time. Fortunately, O'Reilly understands that I'm working as hard as I can. I simply made the mistake of assuming that it would take about the same time to write a hardware book as a software book. In fact, it takes about three times longer. So, I'd better get to work.

* * * * *

This from LIN1915@aol.com:

i'm currently looking for a zoom lemnse for my pentax spotmatic 2. i would prefer to have a lense that is up to 200mm. my camera is about 28 years old. if you can provide me with a source of information it will be greatly appreciated.

I haven't bought a new lens in probably a decade. Your camera uses Pentax screw-mount lenses. These lenses were available new for a long time after Pentax abandoned the screw-mount and went to K-mount. They may still be available new, although I'd be surprised. Mainstream cameras that use Pentax screw-mount lenses haven't been sold new for at least 20 years.

Your best bet is probably a camera store that sells used equipment (several of the New York camera stores have large used selections) or an auction site. I'd be inclined to buy only a genuine Pentax lens. Some of the third-party manufacturers like Vivitar made some very good lenses in Pentax screw-mount, but judging the likely quality of a third-party lens at this far remove would be difficult.

There's one more issue. Any zoom lens that old (even a real Pentax lens) is going to be significantly optically inferior to even a mediocre modern zoom lens. Unless you simply want to continue to use your old Pentax, you might be better off simply buying a modern body and a modern zoom lens to fit it. Much though I love my old Pentax Spotmatic, if I wanted a zoom lens for actual picture taking I'd buy a modern zoom lens to fit a modern camera.

* * * * *

This from Bo Leuf [bo@leuf.com]:

So, you will be painting the town red on Sunday? Hehe, I'm only a month or so behind you (July 9), but a year wiser :)

Apropos your recurring notes about the crumbling of the constitutional rights...

It would appear to be a pathological condition even with the most benevolent regimes to render null and void such legislation that protects basic freedoms, on the basis of some perceived "greater good". It was wisely said that the road to hell is paved with good intentions (and is a slippery downslope to boot), for sometimes the worst enemy an individual can have is the concerned authority figure doing something "for my own good".

Oh well, we've been over this before.

Actually, I've never made much of a deal about birthdays. When I was a kid, I remember being amused when my father couldn't remember how old my brother or I was. As I got older, I was less amused, because I couldn't remember my own age without conscious thought. I developed the following method:

  1. Take final two digits of current year.
  2. Subtract 53 to yield first approximation.
  3. If current date greater than or equal to 6 June, then Step 2 results  = current age
  4. If current date less than 6 June, subtract 1 from Step 2 results to yield current age.

As I'm sure you've noted, that method is not Y2K-compliant, so I'll have to update my grayware by year end.

As far as our liberties eroding, I can certainly say no better than Thomas Jefferson:

"... God forbid we should ever be twenty years without such a rebellion. The people cannot be all, and always, well informed. The part which is wrong will be discontented in proportion to the importance of the facts they misconceive. If they remain quiet under such misconceptions, it is lethargy, the forerunner of death to the public liberty... And what country can preserve its liberties if its rulers are not warned from time to time, that this people preserve the spirit of resistance? Let them take arms. The remedy is to set them right as to the facts, pardon and pacify them. What signify a few lives lost in a century or two? The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time, with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is its natural manure." --Thomas Jefferson (letter to William S. Smith, Nov. 13, 1787)

* * * * *

This from Jan Swijsen [qjsw@oce.nl]:

I just read your article about the UPS that you use. Although I don't know much about electricity it is well written and understandable. Better written than most technical books any way.

Here in Belgium, and in most parts of Europe, mains power supplies not 110V but 220V (or there about, ex 230 in Netherlands). Most computer hardware have power suplies with a slider to set them to operate on either 110V or 220V. The default is 220V. The same applies to most of the UPS devices, they have 110V or 220V selectable input and, I think, 110V or 220V output.

Now I wonder if it would be advantageous to switch from 220V to 110V if you are using a UPS (or from 110V to 220V in America)? Because you would still request the same amount of energy it would seem to make no difference but your comparison between the 250VA and 750VA device made me think there could be a difference.

Regards

Svenson

Thanks for the kind words. To answer your question, it makes little difference whether you run the output of a UPS at 110 or 220. In either case, the batteries are still delivering the same amperage at the same voltage for, as you note, the same amount of energy (and about the same run time). For example, a 550 VA UPS may deliver 0.5 amp at 110v or 0.25 amp at 220v. In either case, the volt-amperes (or wattage, assuming a purely resistive load) is the same.

Because amperage is the controlling factor in component ratings--amps flowing is what generates heat--you might think that a given UPS could deliver at a higher VA rating when running at 220v. That is, on a 550 VA UPS with all components rated for either 110v or 220v, those components must also be rated for 0.5 amp if the UPS is deliver 550 VA at 110. Running 0.5 amp at 220 would yield 1.1 KVA. But that ignores the fact that the batteries are running at the same voltage regardless of the output voltage, so delivering twice the VA would require much heavier duty components on the battery side. Also, obviously, delivering twice the VA draws down the batteries much faster. Because the relationship is not linear, batteries rated to provide 8 minutes run time at 550 VA might provide only 1 minute run time at 1.1 KVA. There ain't no such thing as a free lunch.

 


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Wednesday, June 2, 1999

[Current Topics Page]

It turns out that I was mistaken about Windows 2000 Professional support for multiple CPUs. I'd said, more than once, that W2KP supports only one CPU, and that Windows 2000 Server supports only two. The second half of that statement is correct. If you have a quad processor server running Windows NT Server 4, you'll have to upgrade to Windows 2000 Advanced Server (rather than just plain "Server") to get quad processor support. But Windows 2000 Professional does in fact support dual CPUs, as Microsoft states here. Thanks to Don Armstrong for locating this information, which was posted on Tom Syroid's web site yesterday. In my defense, I can only plead that early Microsoft documents did state that W2KP would support only one CPU. I'm glad to see that they've changed their minds about that.

* * * * *

Speaking of Windows NT SMP support, the first serious cracks in the uniprocessor Celeron dam are appearing. Abit showed the BP6, a dual Socket 370 motherboard, at the Computex Trade Fair in Taiwan. Intel, no doubt, is not amused. So long as dual Celerons were effectively limited to hobbyists and tinkerers, Intel probably didn't much care. Running dual Slot 1 Celerons required CPU surgery. Running dual Socket 370 Celerons required slockets and some tinkering. But honest-to-god dual Socket 370 motherboards will probably open the floodgates. Anyone who runs Windows NT has to seriously consider one for his next system.

PC133 memory has also gotten a lot of attention at Computex. Intel now concedes that Rambus memory will not ship in volume until at least the end of this year, which means they may be forced to support PC133 as an interim measure. That's something they've sworn repeatedly they will not do, but they may have little choice.

* * * * *

Last week, Shawn Wallbridge asked:

When I talked to the Tech at Shaw he told me a couple things.....

They check to see if any machines "have a WinGate port open" now I would think that WinGate would have a way of preventing them from being able to tell, but I am not sure.

Although I thought it unlikely that Shaw could tell if a connected machine ran WinGate, I wasn't completely sure, so I mailed my contact at WinGate. Here's what he had to say:

The thing with proxy servers such as WinGate is that the protection leads to a hidden network. What this means exactly is that the internal network is hidden from the internet and external machines. So this means that the ISP cannot really tell that you are using a proxy server other than the traffic that is going through the connection. Of course when you have one machine then you are getting traffic when you are using a proxy server then you will of course increase the traffic, hence the shared connection. This would be about the only way for the ISP to know that you would be connecting multiple computers.

* * * * *

This from Bruce Denman [bdenman@ftc-i.net]:

Long time no write. Much has been going on lately ...would you believe I just returned last week from four weeks in Anchorage Alaska (visiting youngest son; long service call to fix computer). And from there turned around for three wonderful days in Goldsboro, North Carolina visiting/helping daughter/son-in-law (both are assigned to Seymour-Johnson AFT where they have been busy with the latest deployments). Anyway; while gone I was able for the most part to read your daily notes. Some interesting topics and discussions!

Tonight I thought I would ask for some input regarding Motherboards/CPUs. In the past you have been kinda down on AMD for various reasons but I don't think you have much hands on experience with them while I currently use an AMD K6-2/300 and am pretty satisfied overall given my computing needs.

What I want to do is somehow upgrade my son's computer (well; mail him the parts; let him play fix-it man). It is currently a classic Socket 7 MB with a P-133. To keep costs down I am considering sending him my TMC m/b with AMD K6-2/300. This will allow him to run the 300MHz chip at a multiplier of 4.5 x 66MHz initially using 32MB of his EDO dram (SIMMS). That m/b has two SIMM slots and 3 DIMM slots. Later if he wants he can purchase some PC-100 SDRAM and move it to 3 x 100MHz.

That would fix him up rather painlessly but would leave me without a m/b. One strong possibility is to purchase another TMC board (AI5VG+) and maybe move up to a K6-2/400 (hey; always have to inch up speed wise; right?). I am very pleased with this board and they appear to still be available and relatively inexpensive. Another possibility is to move up to a BX board (preferably) and a Celeron 3xx (either Slot1 or Socket 370). I have an AT case but will buy an ATX case if needed; that is not part of this analysis though.

Ignorning the upgrade aspect and looking at buying something that is "just good enough," I question whether one should only consider Intel. Seems you once alluded that one does not have to have a 450MHz or faster for most things. Did you not say recently you were running a 350MHz P-II in your main machine even though you had a 450MHz lying around somewhere...and had not felt the need to swap it out? Well; if a K6-2/300 or 400 gives about the same performance as a Celeron/P-II in the 300-350 range and is cheaper; why would you not consider it a candidate? Lack of upgradeabilty? FPU differences?

So I am now trying to apply your thoughts and recommendations but it is not working. It appears I can get a good SS7 m/b (MVP3 chipset) and K6-2/400 chip and fan for abouit $175 - $200. A m/b with 300a to 333Mhz Celeron would be about $200 I believe. A P-II somewhat more; in the range of $240-250. The Epox -BXT board you recommended sounded nice but the cost of the board $125 or more plus cost of the P-II puts it out of reach and Celerons are not supported; presumably because it strictly 100MHz FSB.

Anyway; I am strongly leaning towards the K6 but figured it would not hurt to check to see if you had any new info or comments. Tomorrow I plan to call around and check on availability and prices. FYI, I used pricewatch for some of my guesstimates. Any comments appreciated.

Regards,

Bruce in Sumter, SC
bdenman@ftc-i.net
http://web.infoave.net/~bdenman

weather report: great; sunny skys; temp in 80s. Been a bit dry however. While I was in Alaska in late April/early May there was still some snow on the ground and 30s at night. Its nice to be warm again <g> (it did green up while I was there I must admit).

PS: And last, our telephone/internet company just completed upgrading the phone lines in the area (hardware/software in the RLS actually) plus finally implemented V.90 in their routers so as of yesterday I am finally surfing at 56k, er 53k, er hmmm...48k. finally!

PSS: sorry I got so wordy; ouch.

And this addendum:

Sorry. Previously verbose and yet here I am again. Hit me that I should have qualified my uses: OS is Windows 98 running bus apps (MS Office) along with light graphics; and internet (surfing; email; newsgroups; etc). No heavy duty streaming audio/video or gaming. I understand your primarily WinNT and thus what you consider "good enough" hardware wise might well be different from me. Hardware is only purchased to run software and occasionally to satisfy the ego <g>.

It's not so much that I'm down on AMD as that I don't think they make any sense for the price. That's based on two factors: first, as you mention, the floating point performance of AMD processors is very poor compared with Intel (although their integer performance is quite competitive). At equal clock speeds, the K6-2 about matches Celeron or Pentium II/III integer performance, and the K6-III actually exceeds it by a few percent. But the floating point performance of the K6-* is about half that of the Celeron or Pentium II/III. Second, AMD K6 family CPUs run only in the Socket 7 platform, which is obsolescent and very poor architecturally compared to Slot 1 or Socket 370. Socket 7 is inherently less stable than Intel's GTL+ platforms, as is immediately evident if you read reviews by Anand or Tom.

All of that said, I don't think AMD is a bad choice. I do think Intel is a better choice. As far as costs, I haven't really compared lately how much it costs to put together a low-end system based on Intel versus AMD. But that EPoX BX-T motherboard includes decent embedded video (Intel i740, which is certainly not state of the art, but is a fast enough accelerator for anyone but a gamer) and Yamaha sound. The last time I looked, i740 video cards ran about $35 to $50, and a low-end sound card is going to run at least another $25. That puts the EPoX BXT on at least an even par with a $75 motherboard that has neither video nor sound. And the EPoX BXT does support the Celeron. I have a BXT system sitting right behind me right now, and it's running a Celeron 333 with a 66 MHz FSB.

You might also want to check the Intel Sun River SR440BX motherboard. It'll cost another $50 or so more than the EPoX BXT, but the Intel has nVIDIA RIVA TNT video and Creative ES1373 sound, both of which are a good step up from the embedded EPoX components.

I don't think you'll be unhappy with any of stuff we've talked about, AMD or Intel. But if it was me, I'd go with the Intel...

 


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Thursday, June 3, 1999

[Current Topics Page]

I wasted half an hour on the phone once again yesterday with GTE Wireless. Every few months, they send me a cell phone bill that is inexplicable high by a dollar and change. We have a service that provides two cell phones, each with its own number and a third number that rings both of them, 150 minutes per month that can be shared between the phones. The nominal price was $39.95/month when I signed up for it several years ago. With tax, it came to $42.03. Since then, the damned government has added a bunch of extra surcharges--enhanced 911 charge, per line charge for subsidizing schools and libraries (although technically I don't have any lines), etc. etc. Until last month, my normal monthly charge was $44.41. This month, they billed me for $45.89. There was no excess airtime to account for the difference, so I gave them a call to ask why they'd increased my monthly charge by $1.48.

I called their customer support number and asked why my bill was higher this month. As usual, they couldn't explain what happened, and agreed to credit the excess charge. Also, as usual, they promised to fix it so that it wouldn't happen again. I doubt it. They promise that every time and it always happens again. Also, as usual, I told them that I was getting sick and tired of spending a hundred dollars worth of my time to get their $1.48 error corrected.

I'm beginning to think that GTE are a bunch of crooks. Somehow, the mistakes are always in their favor. If they bill a million people every month, and if they charge each of them $1.48/month over what they should have charged, that's about $1.5 million per month that goes straight to their bottom line. How many of those million people would even notice the overcharge mixed in with everything else (especially since they change their bill formats often enough that it's very hard to compare the current bill with preceeding bills)? Of those that notice, how many would elect to waste half an hour of their time to get that small overcharge corrected? I think this is a racket, and I don't think GTE is the sole offender. I don't know if they truly do it on purpose, but it wouldn't surprise me.

I think it's time for a technology change. Barbara and I have been using our original Motorola flip phones since we bought them in December of 1993. With both of us now working at home, we don't really need two cell phones any more, so I think I may check into the tiny digital PCS phones. I just bought two new high-capacity flip-phone batteries a couple of months ago, but I think my friends Steve Tucker and John Mikol both still have at least one flip-phone that takes those batteries, so they won't go to waste.

* * * * *

Regular readers will recall that I've mentioned the OnStream tape drives several times over the last couple of months. There's a lot to like about these tape drives. The internal IDE version costs about $250 on the street, and it backs up 15 GB of data (30 GB compressed) to a $35 tape. On specs alone, it beats Travan TR4, NS8, and NS20 all hollow.

All was not roses, however. The OnStream drives are tied very intimately with the bundled Echo backup software. That would be fine, if that software worked. It's a capable workstation backup product, with some very nice features, notably the ability to show the contents of a backup tape as a virtual disk drive. It also has good scheduling and reversion features. The software mostly worked under Windows 98, but it had enough problems to concern me. Under Windows NT 4.0, it was essentially unusable.

Because the OnStream DI30 tape drive is not supported by most mainstream third-party backup utilities, I was afraid that this would turn out to be a great piece of hardware hampered by inadequate software. While the software problems persisted, I could not recommend this drive wholeheartedly. When I talked to OnStream tech support a month or so ago, they told me that an updated version of Echo would be released soon, and should cure most of the problems I had with the original "dot-oh" release. True to their word, they've posted the Echo upgrade on their web site. I downloaded it yesterday and have been doing some playing around with it.

First the bad news. I could not make the OnStream DI30 drive or the Echo software work under Windows 2000 Professional. W2KP is, of course, a beta release. I'm sure that problem will be addressed once W2K comes closer to actual release, but for now don't even think about using the DI30 under Windows NT 5.0. It just doesn't work.

But that may be my own fault. The test-bed machine that contains the DI30 drive no longer has Windows NT 4 installed. It dual boots Windows 98 and W2KP. Looking at it yesterday, I decided to see if perhaps the W2KP backup utility (which is greatly improved from the Windows NT 4 backup utility) would recognize the DI30 drive. It didn't, so I went into Control Panel -- Add or Remove Hardware to see what was going on. Plug & Play recognized the drive as installed, but displayed a yellow bang to tell me that all was not well. Clicking on the drive displayed a dialog that said that no drivers were installed. I hit the OnStream web site, where I found drivers for NT4. I decided to try loading them, just to see what would happen. The drivers loaded successfully, although Windows did warn me that they were not the correct version and suggested that I not install them. I installed them anyway, but W2KP Backup still did not recognize that the drive was present.

While I was visiting the OnStream web site, I decided to do a quick check to see if they'd released an update for Echo yet. They were to have sent it to me as soon as it was available, so I wasn't expecting to find an update. But I did find one, labeled version 2.1.8. I downloaded it, and installed it on W2KP. That turned out to be a mess, whether because Echo simply doesn't run on W2KP or because I'd previously installed the NT4 drivers. In any event, the Echo update appeared to install successfully and prompted me to reboot. I did so, and W2KP loaded part way and then blew up to a blue screen. I followed the instructions on the screen, pressing F8 and choosing Safe Mode for the next boot. This time, the system just hung part way through startup. I had to do a power reset to get it to boot again. After several attempts, I decided that my W2KP installation is probably trashed beyond all hope of redemption, and decided to try the update on Windows 98.

I restarted the machine in Windows 98 and re-ran the Echo update installation. Everything went flawlessly. Echo recognized that there was an earlier version installed, and offered to import its databases, which I did. It then removed the earlier version of Echo, prompted a reboot and finished the installation. I initialized a tape using the retension option (an odd omission in the first version of the software). That took about 10 minutes. Then I told Echo to backup the entire local C: drive, which it did without a hitch. The indicated throughput was 30 MB/min, but this drive is actually faster than that.

The problem was that the drive contained only about 150 MB of data, and the backup process takes a couple of minutes from the time you start the backup until it actually starts to backup data. OnStream, rather honestly in my opinion, includes that front-end overhead in the calculation of backup speed. Measured on-the-fly, the drive backs up about 45 MB/min on a local drive. If I had more data on the drive, say a couple of GB, that front-end load would have become much less important and showed the true speed of the drive.

I'll have more to say about this drive once I get a chance to work with it some more. I'm cautiously optimistic at this point. If the new version of Echo in fact solves the earlier problems I encountered, this will be one heck of a workstation backup device.

* * * * *

This from M.F. or M.L. McDonell [mcdonell35@earthlink.net]:

Re: "Worst Drives"

I was just reviewing a stack of receipts, trying to find out what I paid for my Ancient Epson EPL -6000 Laser Printer (Purchased October 1990).

In the stack, I noted a FRY'S Electronics Customer Quotation and Warranty Limitations thing. It had to do with a Hard Drive. After reading your daynotes, I dug out that Warranty (3 Years no less) and, sure enough, it was for a Western Digital AC2100 IDE Hard Drive. It is getting crowded now but it provided ample expansion space when I purchased it in August 1997.

Good Grief !! Where were these guys when I needed them?

McDonells
1303 KINGSLANE
GARDNERVILLE NV 89410-6006
1 (775) 783-1824
e-mail mcdonell35@earthlink.net

I wouldn't be too concerned about that drive. Just pulling numbers out of the air, a drive with a 1% failure rate looks terrible next to a drive with a 0.5% failure rate, but the first drive is still a pretty darned reliable drive. As I said when I posted that information, I don't how the data were derived or how statistically rigorous that list is. I do know that my own experience tends to confirm some of that information. I've had more problems with Western Digital drives than the others I've used. I stopped buying Seagates entirely for several years, but their recent models seem to be a lot more reliable. For IDE drives, I'm still of the opinion that Maxtor drives can't be beat for performance or reliability.

* * * * *

And another from M.F. or M.L. McDonell [mcdonell35@earthlink.net]:

When I was given a Gateway P-90 for my 60th birthday, it provided, among other things, the ability to run advanced applications such as Adobe "PhotoShop". In due course, that led to a search for scanners. That led to the Hewlett Packard "PhotoSmart" Photo Scanner. It is a SCSI-2 device, the meaning of which was fuzzy but the effect of which was to use up an expansion slot for something called an adapter card. The scanner came with some software and a very small triangular SCSI Adapter Board made by SYMBIOS Logic. That adapter card had a single external connector; which was our introduction to the 50 Pin SCSI-2 connector; with snap locking clips in place of the twist screws, etc. All of this seemed wonderful, so, we owned a scanner.

Soon thereafter, we became aware that CDR technology had become affordable. Our new Pentium PC did not include any backup device and it remained that way until May 1997... Tape drives were lacking in capacity, were slow and noisy and the media was expensive. CDR seemed to be the solution. After many visits to Fry's Electronics and any other store that would let me hold the boxes in my own hands, I settled on the HP-6020 CDR. It came with a software package called Easy-CD Pro 95, created (apparently for HP) by Adaptec, Inc.

Our decision was helped by the fact that the CDR was also a SCSI-2 device. By now, we had heard about "Daisy Chains" and other exotica but did not know the consequences. To save space on the desk, I chose the internal model. That required a new SCSI adapter card that would have the internal connector that had not been provided on that HP supplied card. That led to Adaptec; which company produced the AH 2940 Ultra with its own software called EZ-SCSI 4.01a for Windows.

And so, we created a CD archive of the files on our PC ! But it was a battle. To an amateur user, it was not clear which software package was to be used. Let's see, the board controls the recorder; so use EZ-SCSI 4.01a by Adaptec. No dice, the software could not detect the blank disc in the drive. Period. Try Easy CD. Hey, that worked. But why did the other package not even detect the recording medium waiting in the drive? A spirited e-mail correspondence ensued with Adaptec but they never comprehended the problem. They could not reconcile two versions of their own software!

At last, Adaptec conveyed the news that I had an OEM version of their software and that I should UPGRADE ! Sure, after spending a bundle on their acclaimed adapter, I should rush back to Fry's and muddy the already dark waters with a third version of sofware. So, I use what the manufacturer saw fit to provide and there has been no talk of upgrades.

Moral:

Hi Tech is not ready for Consumers, who might read about new toys being reviewed by experts.

McDonells
1303 KINGSLANE
GARDNERVILLE NV 89410-6006
1 (775) 783-1824
e-mail mcdonell35@earthlink.net

Well, that's certainly not an atypical story. Although SCSI is certainly a lot less confusing to work with than it was a few years ago, it's still complex enough to boggle most consumers, and it can still be confusing even for people who tinker regularly with their PCs. For one example, see Tom Syroid's pages from last Friday and Saturday.

* * * * *

Here's an interesting anomaly. I've been exchanging mail with my friend John Mikol about problems he's been having using the Search page on this site. He tries it, it blows up. I try it, it works fine. He tries it again, it blows up. I try it again, it works fine. And so on. I finally got this message from him yesterday evening:

This is cute, works ok without a proxy server, blows up if I turn it on. I can't see blaming Apache, I have never had a problem anywhere else.

Well, I have to admit that I can't see why a proxy server should have anything to do with whether the search page works or not, but the results seem pretty conclusive, don't they?

 


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Friday, June 4, 1999

[Current Topics Page]

Well, it looks like this place is going to have some SCSI devices before long. I just got two Adaptec SCSI host adapters:

  • 2920 -- a $100 card that supports up to seven devices using SCSI-1, SCSI-2, and Fast SCSI-2 at up to 10 MB/s. This is a mainstream card that's ideal for supporting Fast SCSI2 hard disks, CD-R and CD-R/W drives, tape drives, Zip drives, scanners, and so on.
  • 2940U2W -- a $325 card that supports up to 15 devices using SCSI-1, Fast SCSI, Ultra SCSI, and Ultra2 SCSI at up to 80 MB/s. This card is really intended for servers and high-end workstations, and is overkill for typical standalone PCs and networks clients, but I hope to get some high-end disk drives that will require its throughput. I could have gone with the mid-range 2930U2, which is nearly $100 cheaper, but I wanted the extra capabilities of the high-end card.

I also got a copy of Adaptec's Easy CD Creator Deluxe Edition. I hope to have a SCSI Tecmar Travan NS20 tape drive and a SCSI CD-R/W drive (I *still* haven't bought one, and I *still* haven't decided between IDE and SCSI) hooked up in the next month or so. I'll probably get a SCSI Zip Drive as well. Coming up with the time to get the stuff ordered and the systems built is the problem.

 

 


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Saturday, June 5, 1999

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Barbara's dad had back surgery yesterday, and everything appears to have gone well. Although her dad is in robust good health--he plays golf several times a week and does all his own yard work--he will be 77 years old next month, so we were quite concerned.

* * * * *

The morning paper says that BellSouth is installing fiber-based 100 Mb/s Internet connections to 400 homes in Atlanta, for which they're charging the same $59.95/month they charge for ADSL. Just think, those 400 households now have cumulative throughput of 40 Gb/s, easily enough to saturate the world-wide Internet backbone all by themselves. That won't happen, of course, because BellSouth doesn't have a 40 Gb/s connection to the backbone. Still, those lucky 400 should have some pretty snappy response.

* * * * *

This from Bruce Denman [bdenman@ftc-i.net]:

Thought I would get back to you with a brief note. I appreciate your input on the CPU/motherboard. I spent some time on the net checking prices and checked out Anand's site too. For me at this time, I must say that the argument for the Intel product is not overwhelming convincing and I find the AMD solution is good enough for me (not necessarily for others).

I need a short term solution and cost is a major factor. I had not planned for a case purchase to enter the decision but it did. I actually would have liked to purchase a Celeron or P-II just for the experience. I found I could get a TMC AI5VG+ SS7 m/b, AMD K-6/2 400 and fan for $160 delivered while a Celeron 400 with a decent motherboard and case would have cost about $225-250. So, I went with the least expensive alternative. Perhaps in the future I will need/want something better and then be able to afford the faster product. Time will tell.

Also, regarding the motherboard architecture aspect, my experience has been that the SS7 is "good enough." Arguments over stability are meaningless if one is not having a problem. Intel's new design is no doubt technically superior. Incidently, my earlier comment on the Epox m/b stems from info posted on their website where it lists the EP-BTX as P-II/100MHz FSB. Maybe I missed something. Oh well.

Again, thanks for you help.

Regards,

Bruce in Sumter, SC
bdenman@ftc-i.net
http://web.infoave.net/~bdenman

I'm sure you'll be very happy with that system. As I've said repeatedly, the differences are relatively small between the alternatives in similar price ranges. And cost is certainly a factor in the real world. In fact, I consciously avoid requesting eval units in some cases just so that I can keep in touch with what it's really like to spend money on this stuff. For example, I'm going to buy a CD-R/W drive. I could probably spend a couple of hours on the phone and get HP, Sony, or one of the other manufacturers to send me an eval unit, but actually buying the drive lets me keep in touch with things. If I'm looking at eval SCSI and IDE CD-R/W drives, for example, it's very easy to say that the SCSI drive is a better choice for only $100 more.

On the other hand, if I'm actually paying for the drive, that $100 becomes a very real factor in the decision. I've just now, for example, decided to buy an HP 8100i drive, which will probably cost me $250 or more. It's an IDE unit. I decided on that rather than SCSI for two reasons. First, a comparable SCSI unit is going to cost me at least $100 more. Second, and probably more important, the consensus of my readers is that, although IDE and SCSI both work, one is more likely to have problems with IDE. So it makes sense for me to go with the alternative that is more likely to cause problems. If I can get the IDE unit to work reliably, I have little doubt that the same can be said of SCSI. The converse is not true. Also note that I plan to buy an HP unit, although units from other manufacturers are available for well under $200. I think this is a place that paying for HP quality is a good decision. So, basically, I've decided that an extra $100 or so is worth paying to get the HP name, but that it's not worth paying $100 more for SCSI. Obviously, that's a personal decision.

There are some places where brand name does make a difference. I continue to recommend Intel and EPoX motherboards, for example, even though there are less expensive alternatives available. I do that because Intel and EPoX motherboards really are better in my experience. And I don't say that because Intel and EPoX sometimes send me eval motherboards. I could probably get any motherboard I wanted from any manufacturer just by asking for it. In fact, I've had manufacturers offer me eval motherboards out of the blue.

I've bought Intel and EPoX motherboards on my own credit cards, and none of the systems here use anything but Intel and EPoX motherboards. I've built a lot of systems around a lot of motherboards. Saving money by going with a cheaper motherboard is a losing game in the long run. It may work fine (or it may not). When you have problems, however, you can get them resolved quickly with Intel and EPoX. That's often not the case with some other brands.

As far as Socket 7, if it works for you, great. But there is no doubt that Socket 7 is inherently less stable and less reliable than Intel's newer GTL+ architectures. As you say, that may not be a factor if everything works, but the issue is that configuring a Socket 7 system is much more prone to problems than doing the same for a Slot 1 or Socket 370 system. If you're using low- to mid-range components, that's usually less an issue. But if you try to run high-end video cards or other components in a Socket 7 box, you're much more likely to encounter problems.

As far as EPoX, you're correct about their web site. I don't know why they don't correct the technical specs. I first used their EP-BXT motherboard with a Pentium II/450 CPU. It ran flawlessly with that CPU, as it did with several other Pentium II CPUs. I had a Slot 1 Celeron/333 around, and wanted to try it in the EP-BXT. I emailed EPoX tech support to ask if the Celeron was supported even though it wasn't listed. I got an answer back within the hour that said the Celeron would work fine. It did.

* * * * *

And I'm actually already reconsidering which drive to get. The Smart and Friendly line of drives looks like another very good possibility.

* * * * *

This followup from Bruce Denman [bdenman@ftc-i.net]:

My son in law over in Goldsboro NC has an Acer IDE CD-R/W; a 2 x 6 I think it is. I had a chance while up there this past week to play with it a bit. I installed the software on my hd (have hd will travel; rest of puter stays home) and gave it a whirl. He has a 36X LG CD-ROM and the Acer both on the same IDE channel (secondary) as per Acer's recommendations but it typically will not copy one cd to another using Adaptec's software. Hangs. Suspect its the LG CDROM and/or the sharing of the IDE channel. Did not have time to fuss with it.

I found I could copy a cd first to the hd and then to the CD-R disk. I did not bother trying to use any CD-R/W media so don't know how that would turn out. I think a CD-R would be a nice item to have; can't speak for the the CD-R/W at this time since the initial cost is higher as is the media. I suspect a SCSI CDR-R/W would be best but more problematic for the rest of us. Be interesting to hear about your saga <g>.

Regarding motherboard manufacturers; seems we all latch onto one or two that we like. Local stores carry only a few (typically Asus, Abit, FIC; and/or MTech plus some no names. (and not at realistic prices for do-it-your-selfers; here they typically start about $125 and go up. Mail order is there but has its own pitfalls.

In time hope you get into stuff like video cards and sound cards. Would like to hear what you recommend. But then again; you and JerryP are writing a book I do believe on that subject <g>. I would like eventually get a better video card but do not need the latest 3D whatever. My STB LS128 is actually not too bad but a bit short on video ram.

And last; would not mind hearing about where your order your stuff. I had a chance to visit a Fry's in Arlington Texas last summer and just last month the one in Palo Alto, California which was very near Stanford Univ as it turned out. Strange the way my travels turn out. Sure would be nice to have something like that close by. I did visit a CompUSA in Anchorage. That store had a fair amout of stuff but their sales staff was totally clueless when we needed a 31/2" floppy drive Even their service bench supposedly used their floor stock (which was zero) for replacements (yeah; right). Anyway; a nice store there called Alaska Computer Brokers came to the rescue with a oem working unit.

And the wife just walked in the door bearing a UPS package from Microbarn/NC. Yep the stuff I ordered Wednesday afternoon. Nice turnaround. Time to go play puter repair person. Later...

Bruce in Sumter, SC
bdenman@ftc-i.net
http://web.infoave.net/~bdenman

Acer's recommendation to put both CD devices on the same ATA channel is strange. Only one of the two devices on an ATA channel can use the channel at a time. The Golden Rule of burning CDs with an IDE CD-R(/W) drive is to have the source and destination devices on different ATA channels. That means it makes sense to put the hard disk and CD-ROM on the primary channel, and the CD-R(/W) drive on the secondary. As far as CD-R versus CD-R/W, I think that decreasing costs for rewritable disks will blur the line. I've seen rewritable disks advertised recently for less than $3 each.

I buy stuff from various places. I usually order stuff mail-order from Insight and NECx. They're not the cheapest around, but I don't buy purely on price. I've been burned too often in the past, and saving a few percent by buying from one of the bottom feeders often results in returns and other hassles. I also order some stuff from PC Connection. They're usually noticeably higher priced than NECx, but they'll often match NECx prices, and they ship overnight for less than NECx charges for UPS Ground. I also buy a lot of stuff locally at Computer & Software Outlet. They're usually quite a bit higher than NECx (a drive that's $150 from NECx may be $170 from CSO), but I can drive over there in ten minutes, pick up what I need and have it immediately.

* * * * *

This from Billy Morrell [bmorrell.mindspring.com@mindspring.com]:

I came across your dissertation on the Pentax Spotmatic. I have one just like you described. I purchased mine for about $350 in a Pacific Base Exchange during the Viet Nam situation. I too purchased the F1.4 50 MM Lens and bought the 20 MM and 17 MM lens. I have used the camera very little, primarily because the camera and lens was such a lug to take alone on my frequent trips. I now have a need for a modern and lighter camera, but find it sad to abandon the spotmatic for the modern technology.

Robert, you obviously know lots about cameras, what would you suggest I purchase and from which source to get the best price?

Respectfully,

Bill Morrell
bmorrell@mindspring.com

Thanks for your confidence, but I'm really not the right guy to ask. I haven't bought a 35mm camera body in close to 15 years. I immersed myself in photography from the mid-60's to the mid-70's. Then I discovered computers, which occupied an increasingly greater amount of my free time. This nasty little addiction started in the mid-70's, when I built my first PC around an 8008 CPU with 256 bytes (not KB) of memory. Input was via toggle switches, and output via LEDs. My first "real" computer was an IBM XT, and it's been downhill ever since. I was still doing some darkroom work as late as the mid- to late-80's, but nowadays family snapshots are about my speed.

At one time, Pentax made serious professional grade cameras like the LX. I don't follow the photography scene any longer, but my impression is that now Pentax is primarily a consumer-grade camera manufacturer. If I had to run out today without doing any research and buy a high-grade 35mm system camera, I think I'd check the offerings from Nikon, Canon, and Olympus, and I'd probably settle on Nikon. Your best bet would probably be to read some of the SLR comparison articles in the photography magazines. I assume that Popular Photography and Modern Photography are still around, but I don't know.

 


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Sunday, June 6, 1999

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My birthday. I am 46 years old today. Thanks to all of those who sent greetings. I was surprised to receive quite a few such messages. I've included one from Daniel C. Bowman [DanBowman@worldnet.att.net] as an example:

I have several semi-humorous comments that I could make; however, I'll just say, "Happy Birthday."

I enjoy your site and your contributions to other sites. Keep it up; your perspective is appreciated. ...and even though you've been out of photography hardware for a while: My secretary, a competent amateur commercial photographer and an aspiring professional portrait/wedding photographer has your comments from last week hanging from her monitor as inspiration (and rationale for those trashed pictures).

enjoy your day,

Dan Bowman

Okay one cheap shot: speaking from a perspective of a whole two more years than you, "It is now too late to die young!" (or, from the perspective of back then, did we ever expect to make it this far?)

Thanks. In all honesty, I have to say that I don't feel much different than I did 20 or 25 years ago. Well, I notice that I'm wearing glasses now to read my monitor, and I certainly wouldn't attempt to play serve-and-volley tennis these days, but other than that I don't seem to be going down hill too quickly. Come to think of it, my memory isn't what it once was, either. Geez, the more I think about this, the more depressing it gets...

* * * * *

I have not been enjoying myself over the last 12 hours or so. I'm on my own. Barbara is staying over at her parents' house to keep her father company after his surgery Friday. I'm attempting to help a friend-who-shall-remain-nameless to move his web site from one web hosting company to another. His site was created in FrontPage and originally hosted on an NT box running IIS. We're moving him to pair, which runs UNIX servers. The main problem is the incredibly cavalier way that Microsoft operating systems and applications treat case in file and directory names. It makes me want to strangle someone.

This started yesterday at about 6:30 p.m. I imported the web site, which had all kinds of case-related problems, from the web server at pair Networks to a local copy on my hard drive. I worked from 6:30 p.m. until 1:30 a.m. this morning getting all the folders renamed to lower-case, getting links pointing to the new lower-case directory names, etc. At 1:30, I finally published the web and went to bed. It was uploading at about 1% every minute or two, and I didn't feel like watching it for three or four hours. At about 2:00, I heard the ominous bonk sound that meant the upload had timed out. I got up and restarted the publish process, which required me to sit there watching the screen for 15 minutes or so until I got the prompt to overwrite existing stuff. I told it to do so, and went to bed.

The publish process crashed and burned sometime in the middle of the night. When I got up at 7:00 a.m. I started it again. I finally got 100% of the pages published at about 10:30 this morning. When FrontPage finishes publishing the pages, it starts doing a bunch of internal stuff--fixing links to the home page, "processing web updates" (whatever that means), and so forth. There's no I/O during this phase, and it times out after a minute or so. That's a setting on the pair servers, and they keep it short to prevent rogue CGI processes from bringing the server to its knees. But that short timeout makes it almost impossible to publish a large site.

I hate Microsoft. I hate FrontPage. Unfortunately, I'm a pod person now. Much as I hate being stuck with FrontPage, I'm afraid to attempt to move to some other product. If one of them could import FrontPage webs properly and allow me to get away from FrontPage, I'd sure consider moving to that product. But then there's FP2000, which several people have told me is a massive improvement on FP98. Perhaps I'll see how FP2000 does before I consider moving to an entirely different product.

I hate Microsoft.

* * * * *

This from David Bakin [davidbak@w-link.net] regarding Windows NT TCP/IP Network Administration:

Excellent book! Hope there's an NT5 update!

I bought it awhile ago - now I'm using it to help me get my home network set up. First, I've got a DSL connection that came with a Cisco 675 router - I'm trying to get that working and your book describes DHCP in great detail - defines all the terms I need to understand Cisco's manual - which assumes you already know everything. Second, I'm having trouble connecting my three machines: A server running NT5 at home, my NT5 laptop which is in an NT domain at work which obviously isn't going to be in a trust relationship with my home domain, and my wife's Win98SE laptop. It is more difficult than it should be!

I'm sure Craig and I will do an NT5 update, probably sometime next year. The NT5 TCP/IP environment is significantly different at the plumbing level, and it's going to take quite a bit of work to get it all figured out. We don't write about beta software, and I think it's unlikely that Microsoft will actually ship NT5 much before next February. Then we need to build NT5 TCP/IP networks, drill down into them, and actually write the book All of that takes time, so I'd be surprised if that book hit the shelves much before the end of 2000, but you never know.

 

 

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