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Week of 15 March 2004

Latest Update : Monday, 29 March 2004 07:57 -0500


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Monday, 15 March 2004

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8:11 - I completed the first draft of the Building a Mainstream PC chapter yesterday. It's posted on the subscribers' page as a 3.2 MB zipfile. There are 54 images in the chapter, which accounts for its size. I thumbnailed each 5 MP image down to 640 X 480 before I embedded it. Otherwise, the chapter would be more than 100 MB.

I have to complete five more chapters between now and the end of the month, which means I have an average of three days each to complete them. I'm going to be busier than the proverbial one-armed paper hanger, so there won't be much here. After I complete those chapters, I have to take some time off to do my taxes. Then I'll jump back in and start working on the other chapters, which are mostly text. That should carry me through the end of April, at which point I start on the 4th edition of PC Hardware in a Nutshell. For the month of May, I'll be working on PC Hardware in a Nutshell as well as doing clean-up on the new book, getting it ready for production.

Throughout the summer and early fall, I'll be working on PC Hardware in a Nutshell and I hope as well as the early stages of another new book. I haven't pitched that one to O'Reilly yet, but I think they'll be excited about doing it. In other words, I'm going to be one busy author.

 

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Tuesday, 16 March 2004

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No post. Busy writing.

 

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Wednesday, 17 March 2004

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13:20 - Finally. For the last several years, I've felt like the proverbial voice crying in the wilderness about the pathetic lack of usability of Linux and Linux applications. No one listened to me. I have no Linux credentials. But now someone who does have those credentials, in spades, is repeatedly slamming the usability problems in Linux. Following his first rant, which I praised at the time, ESR has delivered a second broadside. His penultimate paragraphs sums up what I've been saying all along:

It's been twenty years since the GNU Manifesto and nearly seven since The Cathedral and the Bazaar. I think it's time we stopped congratulating ourselves quite so much on our dedication to freedom and our ability to write technically superior code, and began more often to ask What are we doing to serve the real users? Good UI design, and doing the right thing by Aunt Tillie, ought to be a matter of gut-level pride of craftsmanship.

 

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Thursday, 18 March 2004

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7:57 - If you've ever wondered about the origin of the phrase "pissing contest", wonder no more. I just watched one. Barbara always takes Malcolm and Duncan out for the first time when she goes out to get the paper. Soon after Barbara leaves for work, I take them out in the front yard for a longer sniff-fest. When I took them out this morning, they sniffed around for a while and then Malcolm wandered over to the yard cart, which was sitting at the curb for pick-up. He lifted his leg and urinated on it, whereupon Duncan wandered over and did the same. Meanwhile, Malcolm was checking out the flower bed, but when he saw Duncan mark over his mark, Malcolm headed back to the yard cart and marked it again. Duncan meanwhile was sniffing a pile of branches at the curb, but he saw Malcolm marking over his mark, he headed back to the yard cart and marked over Malcolm's new mark. Malcolm wasn't about to put up with that outrage, so he headed back to the yard cart and marked again. Then Duncan. Then Malcolm.

That went on for several iterations, until they both finally ran out of urine, I think. At that point, they were both ready to go into the house. When I got them in and released them from their leashes, they both ran into the den and started slurping up water. Reloading for the next pissing contest, I guess.

 

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Friday, 19 March 2004

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9:35 - I completed the first draft of the Building a SOHO Server chapter yesterday. It's posted on the subscribers' page as a 2.7 MB zipfile.

I was going to start work today on the Personal Workstation chapter or perhaps the Kick-Ass LAN Party PC chapter, but I decided to finish the Home Theater PC chapter first. Part of the reason for that is that it's nearly complete anyway, and I'd like to get another chapter knocked out quickly. But the real reason is that our VCR ate another tape last night.

We'd taped NYPD Blue for Barbara. We got part way through watching it while we ate dinner in the den and then stopped the tape while we cleaned up the kitchen. When we returned after walking the dogs, the tape wouldn't play. Barbara finally ejected it, and it came out of the VCR with its intestines hanging out. I finally had to cut the tape to get it out of the VCR. I was going to use Scotch Tape to patch it temporarily so that Barbara could watch the rest of her program, but she said not to bother.

So I'll finish up the Home Theater PC chapter and put this HTPC/PVR into production use. I plan to make a few changes, some of which will appear in the chapter and some not.

As to those that will appear, first, I've decided that having a DVD writer in the HTPC/PVR is a waste of resources. If I want to write something to DVD, it'll be easy enough to transfer it across the network and write it on one of my regular desktop systems. Attempting to run interactive Windows programs on a television display is simply too painful. I'll probably replace the Plextor DVD writer with a black Lite-On DVD-ROM drive.

Second, I need to install a PCI 802.11g adapter. The HTPC/PVR sits in our AV rack, which is on an exterior wall. Barbara has a sense of humor about dangling cables, but I don't think she'd put up with an exposed 100BaseT cable on a permanent basis. Running cable through an exterior wall is a painful process, and particularly with the finished basement area below it. So wireless it is.

As to changes that won't appear in the chapter, I'm debating installing a second hard drive. The system has one 160 GB drive right now. I may add a second one, either to expand the available disk space to 320 GB or as a mirrored drive to protect against drive failure. Second, although the brushed chrome bezel on the Antec Overture is very pretty, I've come to think that I'd prefer a matte black finish. So I'll probably pop the bezel and spray paint it with matte black paint.

I also think I'm going to build a satellite system. It'll reside in our bedroom and link to the HTPC/PVR via 802.11g. This system won't have the horsepower for video encoding. Instead, it'll simply be a playback device, both for DVDs and for video files recorded on the main system. I'll probably build it in an Antec Minuet microATX case with an Intel motherboard and Celeron. In fact, I may even use obsolete technology. I think I can run a Pentium III or P3-based Celeron with just a large passive CPU cooler, which'd cut way down on noise.

 

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Saturday, 20 March 2004

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Sunday, 21 March 2004

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