- I sometimes get email asking why I abandoned tape for backup
and shifted to using writable DVD. This screenshot from this morning's
backup shows the primary reason. With DVD+RW, I can backup and
verify/compare 4 GB of data in half an hour, and that's using 4X
DVD+RW. If I'd used 8X or 16X discs, it would have been much faster. If
I'd used DDS tape, it would have taken more like two hours.
The other thing I like about using writable DVD is that the data are
immediately accessible without doing a restore operation. That's come
in handy more than once, most recently when I upgraded my main desktop
system to Xandros 3. The upgrade left the contents of my original home
directory in thompson_old. I copied what I thought I needed over to the
new home directory and deleted the backup. Unfortunately, I'd forgotten
that I had an ISO image I wanted to keep in the downloads directory of
thompson_old. When I noticed that it was missing, I simply popped in a
backup from several days prior, listed the contents, and copied/pasted
the 600 MB ISO file to my hard drive. That took all of 30 seconds, not
counting the time for the file to finish copying. If I'd had to recover
that file from tape, it would have taken significantly longer.
We had a busy weekend. I didn't even get around to checking my email,
so if you sent mail and haven't received a reply, that's why. On Friday
night, despite an iffy forecast, we decided to head up to one of the
club observing sites. Although the clouds cleared as darkness
approached, the transparency was much too poor for observing galaxies,
which was what we'd planned to do. About half an hour after full dark,
the clouds started to move back in, so we headed home. Saturday and
Sunday we spent cleaning up, sorting stuff out for the annual Bulky
Item Pickup. We also did cleaning, laundry, and the other usual weekend
Yesterday afternoon, we headed over to Barbara's sister's house for a
Mothers' Day dinner. I took along a spare 80-wire ATA cable to replace
the one in Frances's system. As it turned out, the old one looked
pretty beat up, so I suspect it's been the problem all along. I've been
beating on the two drives that "failed" in that system, and the
diagnostics keep telling me they're fine. We also relocated the
computer from one side of the desk, against the wall, where the system
had no ventilation, to the other side of the desk, where it can breathe
I have lots to do this week, so I'd better get to it.
- I'm still trying to catch up. I have systems to build, email
to read, and a lot of other stuff to get done. Not to mention the final
stages of finishing Astronomy Hacks.
I just reviewed the index and sent in my corrections. I expect they'll
send me the PDF galleys of the QC2 pass any time now...
- I activated a copy of Windows XP Professional yesterday,
mainly just to see what would happen. I'd rebuilt one of the test-bed
systems to run DVDshrink and some Windows-only astronomy software. I'd
originally planned to install Windows 2000 Professional on it, but I
couldn't find a distribution disc. Digging around, I found a Windows XP
distribution disc, so I decided just to install XP and be done with it.
Although I've sworn never to activate Windows XP (or any other
software) on a production system, I decided to give it a shot on this
test-bed system just to see what happened. Not much, as it turns out.
The activation wizard asked me to provide personal information, but
since that was optional I declined to do so. When I clicked on the
button to activate, Windows simply told me my copy had been activated.
All of my Windows XP copies date to its original release. I'd emailed
Wagg-Ed and asked them for an unlocked version, explaining that I
needed to install and re-install Windows repeatedly on numerous systems
to support my book writing. They told me they didn't have an unlocked
version available, but asked if 20 licenses would suffice. I told them
that'd be fine, and they sent me the 20. Having activated one copy now,
I'm down to only 19 left. Oh, well.
I hadn't installed Windows XP for some time, and I'd forgotten just
what a pain in the butt it is to install. It didn't recognize the
Ethernet adapter in the ASUS A7N8X-VM/400 motherboard, so I had to
download drivers for it on another system, burn them to CD, and install
them manually. Once I did that, I started the Windows Update routine.
When I connected to Windows Update, it told me there were 17 critical
updates, and I told it to go ahead and install them. After a reboot, I
went back to Windows Update, which told me I needed to install SP2.
Huh? I figured it'd have done that in the first pass. But no. So I
downloaded and installed SP2, rebooted, and went back yet again to
Windows Update. It told me there were 17 critical updates that needed
to be installed. Crap. Apparently, installing SP2 made it "forget"
about those other updates. So I told it to download and install all 17
critical updates yet again, which it did. Geez.
Xandros has really spoiled me.
When I use Windows nowadays, I'm constantly aware of just how crude and
kludgey it is. A pretty face covering an absolute mess. I'll probably
take a look at Shorthorn, if Microsoft ever gets around to shipping it,
but I'm pretty sure it'll be much too little and much too late. I don't
doubt that Microsoft will ship something they'll call Longhorn by the
end of next year, but it won't be Longhorn as Microsoft originally
defined it. For that, we'll probably have to wait until at least 2010,
and probably 2012 or later. Can you imagine where Linux and Linux apps
will be by then?
Coincidentally, after I activated Windows XP yesterday, I came across this
article on activation on Ed Foster's GripeLog site. I thought one
of the anonymous comments summarized pretty well why I won't depend on
any product that requires activation:
- Different activation schemes can interfere with each other,
leading to finger pointing among vendors and more headaches for users.
As more and more software makers begin using activation in their
products, this problem will only worsen.
- Activation often has problems with some hardware and OS
configurations. It is infuriating when something that does not affect
the program itself prevents it from running because the stupid
activation scheme cannot deal with it properly.
- Upgrading hardware and re-installs can easily become a nightmare
when involving software requiring activation. For all the varied
reasons users purchase hardware and software, I assure you that so they
can spend hours making technical support calls to reactivate something
they already paid for and have a legitimate right to use.
- The presence of an activation scheme in a mission critical piece
of software leaves you vulnerable if it fails. This has happened twice
to me personally when I hours away from a deadline. Having to stop work
to call tech support on these occasions was unacceptable and the chief
reason I no longer use products that must be activated.
- Activation leaves users vulnerable to changes in policy. No
matter what promises are made by a company today, they can stop
activation for older product versions tomorrow if they want to force
upgrades to newer versions. With the lack of customer concern in this
industry, this would not be surprising. Of course if the company goes
out of business, users will no longer be able to activate either.
- For smaller IT departments that cannot take advantage of volume
licensing, being able to ghost machines and quickly restore them (or
even building a standard system install CD containing the OS and core
applications every user needs) is hampered by activation. Its mere
presence makes life more difficult for system administrators.
- Last of all, it seems that vendors employing activation too
easily dismiss the fact that it is an insult to honest users who do not
pirate software, casually or otherwise. They dismiss it, but it is
nevertheless true. I for one refuse to pay for something that assumes I
am a thief right out of the box
- I read John Sandford's Broken
Prey last night. The protagonist's wife bought him an iPod and a
gift certificate for 100 songs from iTunes, so throughout the book he's
debating with himself and others about which 100 songs to choose. He
wants the top 100 rock-'n-roll tunes. I remembered that VH1 had done a
Top 100 Rock Songs thing a few years back, so I went out and searched
for it. I didn't think much of their list, so I started thinking about
my own. I'm 51 years old, which means that I was too young to be an
Elvis fan. I first became aware of rock about the time of the British
Invasion, or slightly before, say 1962 or 1963.
So I've been thinking about my own list. Off the top of my head, and
without yet attempting to rank them, I started as follows:
1. Satisfaction (I can't get no) - Rolling Stones
2. Paint it Black - Rolling Stones
3. Sympathy for the Devil - Rolling Stones
4. Beast of Burden - Rolling Stones
Hmmm. I'd better stop there and arbitrarily limit it to at most four
songs per group.
5. Somebody to Love - Jefferson Airplane
6. White Rabbit - Jefferson Airplane
7. Incense and Peppermints - Strawberry Alarm Clock
8. Won't Get Fooled Again - The Who
9. Bargain - The Who
10. Layla - Derek and the Dominoes
11. Sweet Home Alabama - Lynyrd Skynyrd
12. Ohio - Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young
13. Hey, Hey, My, My (Into the Black) - Neil Young
14. Old Man - Neil Young
15. Amie - Pure Prairie League
16. Stop Draggin' my Heart Around - Stevie Nicks and Tom Petty
17. Refugee - Tom Petty
18. Fast Buck Freddie - Jefferson Starship
19. Lola - The Kinks
20. What I Like About You - The Romantics
21. Losin' My Religion - REM
22. Love Potion #9 - The Clovers
23. Louie, Louie - The Kingsmen
24. House of the Rising Sun - The Animals
25. Dream On - Aerosmith
26. Money for Nothin' - Dire Straits
27. China Grove - The Doobie Brothers
28. After Midnight - Eric Clapton
29. Lay Down Sally - Eric Clapton
30. Knockin' on Heaven's Door - Bob Dylan
31. Night Moves - Bob Seger
32. Stairway to Heaven - Led Zeppelin
33. Magic Carpet Ride - Steppenwolf
34. WIld Thing - The Troggs
35. Piano Man - Billy Joel
36. Only the Good Die Young - Billy Joel
37. Rhiannon - Fleetwood Mac
38. The Chain - Fleetwood Mac
39. Maggie May - Rod Stewart
40. American Pie - Don McLean
41. It's a Heartache - Bonnie Tyler
42. Girls Just Want to Have Fun - Cyndi Lauper
43. For What It's Worth - Buffalo Springfield
44. Mr. Bojangles - Nitty Gritty Dirt Band
45. (Sittin' on) The Dock of the Bay - Otis Redding
46. Both Sides Now - Judy Collins
47. White Room - Cream
48. I Love Rock-'n-Roll - Joan Jett and the Blackhearts
49. Brown Eyed Girl - Van Morrison
50. Born to Run - Bruce Springsteen
Holy Cow! Half way there and I haven't even gotten started. I'd better
not make a pig of myself. I'll stop at 50. The other 50 are up to my
readers. Post them over on the messageboard.
- And I think about my all-time favorite rocker, J. S. Bach, and
wonder what he would have done with electric guitars and drums. I'm
sitting here imagining the Rolling Stones doing Concerto for Two
Violins in E Major.
- Friday the 13th falls on a Friday this month. (In case anyone
is wondering, that comes from the Niven/Pournelle novel Lucifer's Hammer.)
I've started the QC2 pass unexpectedly. Marlowe Shaeffer, my production
editor, sent me PDFs the other day to check figures. As I went through
and commented on the figures, I noticed that some edits had been made
to the text. I asked her if this was the "final" version of the text
that I'd see in QC2 and she said it was. So I asked her, rather than
waiting for the official QC2 release later this month, if I could just
start proofreading this version of the text. She agreed, and I
suggested that we call it QC1a. She said she'd find it less confusing
if we just designated it QC2, so QC2 it is. What would have been QC2
later this month will now be called QC3.
I'm getting ready to replace my main system, hypatia. That system is a Pentium
4/2.8 with an Intel D865GRH
motherboard and 512MB of memory in an Antec Aria case. The new main
system, newton, will be a
Pentium 4/550 with an Intel D925XCV motherboard, 1
GB of DDR2 memory, and an nVIDIA 6800GT video card in an Antec P160
case. Quite an upgrade.
The real reason I'm upgrading, though, is that the CPU fan noise from hypatia is driving me insane.
Until several days ago, it'd been cool here, with high temperatures in
the 60s. We didn't bother to turn on the heat, so the indoor
temperature was usually around 68°F. At those temperatures, hypatia is very quiet. I checked
the CPU temperature and fan speeds during this cool period. The CPU
temperature at idle was around 50°C. The CPU fan was running about
2,600 or 2,700 RPM, and the power supply fan at about 1,100 RPM. The
system was very quiet.
Then it warmed up outdoors, and our air conditioning kicked in. We keep
it set at 72° or 73°F. That four or five degree difference in
ambient temperature makes a huge difference. When I checked Wednesday,
the CPU temperature was at 57°C, with the CPU fan running at 5,118
RPM and the power supply fan at 1,545 RPM. The system was much louder.
Yesterday morning, the CPU idle temperature was at 60° or 61°C,
the CPU fan was running at 5,726 RPM, and the power supply fan at 1,822
RPM. You could hear the CPU fan whining from a couple rooms away.
I looked down and noticed newton
sitting under my desk. When I turned it on, I found that I'd already
installed Xandros 3 on it, so I decided to migrate my stuff over to newton and make it my new main
system. The heatsink in newton
is huge and there's also a very large
CPU fan with exposed blades that apparently does a good job of cooling
the heatsink without making much noise. Sitting on the floor beside my
desk, newton is nearly
inaudible, even when running under load.
Yesterday, just before I started to do the QC2 pass, I'd copied my
Mozilla profile information over to newton.
That worked fine. The trick is to copy everything from your old profile
to the profile directory on the new system before you fire up Mozilla Mail for
the first time on the new system. If you do that, all your mail
folders, address books, and so on just work.
Interesting news about Microsoft
Windows XP Crippled
Starter Edition. Microsoft wasn't kidding about it being intended
for entry level third-world users. As it turns out, Crippled Edition
won't run on most common processors, including the Pentium 4, Athlon
64, Sempron, and even the Athlon XP. Crippled Edition checks the CPUID
string at boot, and will only run on computers with an AMD Duron or
Geode (!), Intel Celeron, or VIA processor.
Not that that matters much, because by all reports Microsoft isn't
selling many copies of Crippled Edition. It's easy to understand why.
Computer buyers in the third-world countries where Crippled Edition is
available have a choice. They can buy a bare computer or one with Linux
installed, or they can pay US$15 to $30 more for that same computer
with Crippled Edition installed. If they want Windows, they can buy a
Windows CD for about $3. So why would anyone pay $15 to $30 more for an
inferior version of WIndows?
I once heard chutzpah defined as someone who'd murdered both his
parents appealing to the jury for sympathy because he was an orphan.
But Microsoft has redefined chutzpah. Later this year, they'll release
a paid service,
One Care, that incorporates virus and malware scanning. Pricing has
not yet been announced, but is expected to be in the $80/year range per
One has to admire their nerve. Release a fundamentally insecure, broken
operating system, and then charge people to protect themselves against
the security problems that exist because they use your operating system.
All of this will eventually come back to haunt them, though. People can
be pushed just so far, and I'm starting to see indications that this is
happening. Technology Review has posted an interesting
essay, How Linux Could Overthrow
Microsoft, by Charles Ferguson, the guy who started Vermeer
Technologies, which Microsoft later bought and used as the basis of
FrontPage. Ferguson is, if anything, too pessimistic about how long it
will take Linux to become a major force on the desktop.
During the rest of this year and in 2006, I expect to hear frequent
announcements about major organizations migrating to desktop Linux. IBM
is, as always, cautious about pre-announcing anything, but there's a
lot going on behind the scenes there. Novell is going full speed ahead
with desktop Linux deployment, and I expect them to be announcing some
major wins over the coming months, with multiple large-scale corporate
and government deployments in the 5,000 to 50,000 desktop range.
I think the error made by people who are pessimistic about the adoption
of desktop Linux is that they assume linear increases. For example,
pessimistic observers say that desktop Linux is at 3% right now, will
reach 6% by 2008, and 9% by 2011. But it doesn't work that way. It's a
critical mass question, and once critical mass is achieved, the growth
rate becomes exponential. As more organizations adopt desktop Linux, it
becomes far easier for other organizations to do so as well. At some
point, it becomes a matter of tipping the first domino and watching the
others fall. And that is what Microsoft lives in fear of.
1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005 by Robert Bruce Thompson. All