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.
May 31, 1999
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 [email@example.com]:
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?
<i>Humble Opinion is an oxymoron</i>
I have no idea, but perhaps someone else will.
June 1, 1999
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 [firstname.lastname@example.org]:
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
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
- Take final two digits of current year.
- Subtract 53 to yield first approximation.
- If current date greater than or equal to 6 June, then
Step 2 results = current age
- 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,
* * * * *
This from Jan Swijsen [email@example.com]:
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.
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
June 2, 1999
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
* * * * *
This from Bruce Denman [firstname.lastname@example.org]:
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
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
Bruce in Sumter, SC
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
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.
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...
June 3, 1999
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 [email@example.com]:
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
GARDNERVILLE NV 89410-6006
1 (775) 783-1824
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
* * * * *
And another from M.F. or M.L. McDonell [firstname.lastname@example.org]:
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.
Hi Tech is not ready for Consumers, who
might read about new toys being reviewed by experts.
GARDNERVILLE NV 89410-6006
1 (775) 783-1824
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
* * * * *
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?
June 4, 1999
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.
June 5, 1999
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
* * * * *
This from Bruce Denman [email@example.com]:
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.
Again, thanks for you help.
Bruce in Sumter, SC
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
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 [firstname.lastname@example.org]:
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
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.
Bruce in Sumter, SC
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 [email@example.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?
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.
June 6, 1999
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,
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 [firstname.lastname@example.org]
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.