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Week of 19 December 2005

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Monday, 19 December 2005
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10:25 - Crunch time. I have two weeks to finish up the first two chapters on the new astronomy book. As usual, I think I won't make it. As usual, I probably will. But with the Saturnalia holiday intervening, it's going to be a push. At least I have all my gifts wrapped and ready to go.

10:25 - Here's an image I came across while I was organizing files. It's our friend Mary Chervenak, fully equipped for Talk Like a Pirate Day. Yes, that's a black eye patch she's wearing, and a parrot sitting on her shoulder. (Well, okay, the parrot is actually a baby duck, but we did the best we could.)

Which reminds me of an exchange between a delivery man and Captain Hastings on an episode of Poirot.

DM: "I have a parrot here for Mr. Poy-rott."
CH: "Pwah-roe, it's pronounced pwah-roe."
DM: "All right, then. I have a pwah-roe for Mr. Poy-rott."


Tuesday, 20 December 2005
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09:40 - Barbara had a brilliant idea this morning. We were reading the newspaper, which had an article about Winston-Salem adding another $300,000 to the budget for rat control. Barbara turned to me and said, "Why not take all those cats they euthanize every day at Animal Control and toss one down each storm drain and sewer?" Why not, indeed? The cats are to be killed anyway. This way, they'd at least have a fighting chance, and Winston-Salem would soon be ratless. Birdless, as well, probably.

I was cheered to see Arnold Schwarzenegger's response to the obnoxious comments made by the city leaders of Graz, Austria, who disapproved of his decision to allow the execution of Tookie Williams to proceed. Arnold took Graz at its word. He told them to take his name off their stadium, and to stop using his name to promote tourism. He also sent back the ceremonial ring they'd awarded him.

I like Schwarzenegger a lot. I don't agree with him politically, but he's an honest man. He says what he thinks, and does what he says he's going to do. I was about to say that's refreshing in a politician, but of course Schwarzenegger is no politician. He just happens to hold high political office. We need a lot more people like him in office.

Last night, O'Reilly sent me the QC1 PDF galleys for Repairing and Upgrading Your PC. Those are now posted on the subscriber page. If you're a subscriber and you're interested, please have a look at them. I've set up a topic for each chapter in the Subscribers Only forum on the hardwareguys.com messageboard, where you can post comments. Before you post any corrections or suggestions, please read the existing comments to avoid duplication. Note that the book is already laid out, so any changes we make at this point must be small ones. Unless there's a truly catastrophic problem, we can't do anything that causes page breaks, let alone chapter breaks.

I'll be spending the next couple of days going through the galleys carefully to spot and correct any problems. Once we finish up this pass, there'll be a quick QC2 pass in mid-January. By that point, any corrections should be very minor. After QC2, the book goes to the printers and will soon be in bookstores.


Wednesday, 21 December 2005
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13:24 - Okay, I've burned through the QC1 pass, using two days that I had planned to spend working on the first two chapters for the new astronomy book. Why I didn't plan on this two-day review session, I don't know. But at least it's done and I can get back to working on the new book.

My email has been backing up for two days now, and it'll take me a while to get caught up, so if you've emailed me and haven't had a response, please bear with me.

Incidentally, some of those messages I haven't gotten to yet are new subscriptions or renewals. I'll get to them as soon as I can, but it may be a few days, probably this weekend. Thanks to everyone who's subscribed or renewed recently. Subscriptions don't bring in a whole lot of money, but they do at least pay for the direct costs of running these sites, and I do appreciate everyone who's chosen to support our sites financially.


Thursday, 22 December 2005
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10:55 - The back-and-forth of proofing the new book continues. All changes are due by the 28th, so if you do read the PDF galleys and have any comments, please post them on the forums no later than next Tuesday.

One of my subscribers has an interesting question. I don't know the answer, so I figured I'd solicit comments:

-------- Original Message --------
Subject: DVD recorder
Date: Wed, 21 Dec 2005 18:45:05 -0500
From: Michael Boyle
To: Robert Bruce Thompson


I built a computer with a 915gux motherboard. It has a Plextor sata drive in it. Works like a champ.

I have a Toshiba DVD Recorder. It has a 80 gig hard drive. It's dvd drive doesn't work. Won't play or record. They want $400 for a replacement drive. Do you think a LiteON dvd -rw/ram drive would work in it. The connections are standard. That drive costs $40.00.

I will probably try it. If it doesn't work, I'll have a good drive around.

I don't know the answer to that. Assuming that the power and data connections are standard and a standard form-factor drive physically fits, I'd think you'd be fine. If not, you could install a slim-line model. The only potential pitfall I can think of is that Toshiba may have modified the firmware in the drive to work with the unit. If that's the case, the best bet would be to look at the existing drive to determine the model and then install a standard Toshiba DVD burner of the same model. You may be able to update the firmware in the replacement drive using the same method you'd normally use on the DVD recorder to update firmware. But I've never tried any of this, so I don't know for sure.


Friday, 23 December 2005
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Saturday, 24 December 2005
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Sunday, 25 December 2005
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09:31 - Curses! Foiled again. Santa apparently arrived and departed without me seeing him. All of my preparations went for naught.

I'm beginning to think my attempts to capture Santa and loot his gift bag may be doomed to frustration. I started this project when I was about eight years old. I hid behind the sofa, with a clear view of the fireplace, and lay in wait with my very realistic looking Thompson submachine gun. At some point, I fell asleep. When I awoke, Santa had been and gone, and there were presents under the tree.

Just about every year since then I've tried to capture Santa, and every time I've failed. I may just give up.

I see there is a movement afoot, the Streamlined Sales Tax Project (SSTP), to require merchants to collect sales tax on out-of-state purchases. In the past, the Supreme Court has ruled that in the absence of legislation passed by Congress, the States can't do that. But now the States and Congress are getting organized, hoping to get around that judicial prohibition.

I see a problem with this, though, and apparently I'm the only one who's noticed the problem, or at least the only one who's pointed it out.  From the Constitution:

Section 10 - Powers prohibited of States

"No State shall, without the Consent of the Congress, lay any Imposts or Duties on Imports or Exports, except what may be absolutely necessary for executing it's inspection Laws: and the net Produce of all Duties and Imposts, laid by any State on Imports or Exports, shall be for the Use of the Treasury of the United States; and all such Laws shall be subject to the Revision and Controul of the Congress."

Okay, if Congress passes the law the States want, that solves the "without the Consent of the Congress" problem. But read the rest of the section. If Congress passes this law, and if a North Carolina mail-order company, for example, charges sales tax to a Michigan buyer, for example, the tax collected can't be remitted to North Carolina or Michigan. It goes straight into the federal coffers. I don't think that's what anyone intended. Except perhaps Congress.

There's another problem, of course. Less than half the states, accounting for only about a quarter of the population, have signed on to the SSTP. If it is implemented, I expect a mass migration of on-line and mail order merchants from states that are members of the compact to states that are not. Since member states will not be able to compel merchants in non-member states to collect sales tax on their behalf, on-line and mail-order buyers will simply stop buying from merchants that are located in member states.

North Carolina and other SSTP members will not only not collect much additional sales tax, they'll lose a lot of on-line and mail-order businesses. States such as New Hampshire, which have no sales tax, will be the beneficiaries of this plan.


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