Barbara and I made a Costco run Saturday. She needed a bunch of stuff.
All I wanted was a FireWire DV cable and a spindle of CD-R discs.
Costco didn't have any DV cables, and the only CD-R spindles they had
were TDK-branded discs made in India. That means the discs were
actually made by the execrable Moser-Baer, so I passed on them.
On the way home, we stopped at Wal*Mart. They had a Belkin-branded
FireWire cable that was just what I needed. Unfortunately, they wanted
$25 for it. The same cable on NewEgg costs $9, so I'll order it
from them. I expected Wal*Mart to carry only garbage CD-R discs, so I
was surprised to see Maxell discs on offer. They were made in Taiwan
rather than Japan, true, but I still expected them to be of decent
quality. So I picked up a spindle of 50 Maxell CD-Rs for $13.49.
Unfortunately, they are brightly colored instead of silver or white,
but I can live with that.
When we got home, I started burning some test discs, using the Kubuntu
6.06 ISO. I burned all of the discs in the Plextor PX-740A in my main
Ubuntu system, using K3b, and then scanned them with PlexTools
Professional v2.32 in my Windows XP system.
For those who are unfamiliar with CD scans, the C1 errors represent
errors caught and corrected by the first, lowest level of error
detection and correction. All discs, burned or pressed, have at least
some C1 errors. C2 errors are more significant. A C2 error is one that
couldn't be corrected by the first level of ECC, and had to be
corrected by the second level of ECC. CU errors are the worst of all.
They're the uncorrectable errors, and any disc that shows CU errors in
the data area has at least some unreadable data.
The first chart is a scan of the Kubuntu 6.06 disc burned to one of the
Maxell CD-Rs I just bought. The Maxell CD-R was actually made by Ritek,
which is known for variable quality. Ritek makes some decent discs, but
they also produce some that are complete garbage. This one appears to
be pretty decent.
There are 15,755 C1 errors, which is about ten times as many as I
prefer to see. Although there are eight C2 errors and 86 CU errors
shown in the chart, these are actually pseudo-errors. They occurred at
the very end of the burn, and won't affect readability. Overall, I
consider this disc mediocre, but a lot of people would be very pleased
From mediocre to horrible. I next burned the Kubuntu ISO to an Office
Depot house-brand CD-R. This disc was actually made by the execrable
Moser-Baer in India. At 27,030, the number of C1 errors isn't
completely outrageous, but there are more than 20,000 C2 errors, which
is utterly unacceptable. Most of those cluster in the 28 - 35
minute range, with smaller spikes at about 46, 63, and 72 minutes. This
disc is readable, for now, but an excessive number of C2 errors like
those shown here often means the disc will be difficult or impossible
to read a month or a year after it's written. I wouldn't trust any
important data to discs like this one. Oddly, the disc shows only two
CU errors, which is fewer than it should show given the results on
better quality discs.
From horrible to merely bad. The scan below shows the Kubuntu 6.06 ISO
written to a Memorex-branded CD that was actually made by ProDisc
Technology. That company produces discs that range in quality from
mediocre to awful, sometimes in the same spindle. The C1 score of
55,895 errors is much too high to be acceptable. The 85 CU errors
are again at the very end of the burn, and mean nothing. Most of the 20
C2 errors are also at the end of the burn, but there is a significant
spike at about 62 minutes. I'd use these discs if they were the only
ones I had, but I'd scan each one before depending on the burned data
to be readable, and I'd buy some better discs as soon as I could.
Finally, what a good CD-R scan should look like. This one is a
Taiyo-Yuden CD-R, and its scan is actually a lot worse than most of the
Taiyo-Yuden CD-R discs I've burned. The total C1 errors are 5,282,
whereas I often burn TY CD-Rs with fewer than 1,000 C1 errors. The 8 C2
errors and 85 CU errors that show in the chart are actually
pseudo-errors. All of them occurred at the very end of the burn, and
won't affect readability.
For reference, here's a scan of a pristine pressed audio CD. It's inferior to
the burned Maxell CD-R, and far inferior to the burned Taiyo-Yuden CD-R.
So there you have it. The Maxell CD-R discs I bought are usable, if not
the best. I need to stock up on CD-Rs, so the next time I order
something from NewEgg I'll add a spindle or two of Taiyo-Yuden CD-Rs.
But it still seems strange to me that CD-R discs cost nearly as much as
12:55 - Why Startups Condense in America.
An interesting article, but I think Graham misses one significant
point. American individualism is probably the most important aspect of
American entrepreneurialship. Although individualism is no longer
universal in America, a significant percentage of Americans are
born and bred individualists, small-mouth anarchists. Other cultures,
including Old Europe and Asian cultures do not encourage
individualism. In fact, they go out of their way to discourage it.
With the exception of Brits, Europeans and Asians are, by and large,
tame pussycats. Fitting in is a large part of nearly all European and
Asian cultures. One who sticks his head up gets it chopped off. But
within many Americans beats the heart of a tiger. Fitting in isn't
important to many of us. Doing things our own way is.
14:28 - There
seems to be a firestorm building as a result of recent revelations
about actions taken by Microsoft's Windows Genuine Advantage. WGA is
spyware by any reasonable definition. Pam Jones at Groklaw has posted a
detailed description of the problem. Even MSM like the Washington Post have started to notice.
Every time something like this comes up, I wonder how people can
continue to use Microsoft software. But then I am reminded of the instructions for boiling a frog. Yes,
I know this has been debunked, but the principle remains. Microsoft has
gotten people accustomed to accepting their outrageous behavior and the
incredibly bad security of their products. When there's yet another
outrage or yet another gaping security hole, most people just shrug and
I'm only indirectly affected because I run Linux, but I do wonder how
much longer Windows users are going to put up with Microsoft and
Windows. Many are expecting Vista to be the magic bullet that fixes the
insecurity of Windows. It won't, for reasons I've written about before.
But I suppose that people stuck on the Microsoft treadmill have little
else to hope for, so Vista it must be.
In response to a suit by a nutcase atheist, a federal court has ruled
that "In God We Trust" is a secular motto, and so may continue to
appear on US currency and tokens.
As my regular readers know, I'm an atheist. I dislike religion in any
form, organized or not. I consider religion to be the enemy of reason,
which I regard as the highest accomplishment of humankind. And yet, I
have no problem with others practicing religion, as long as they don't
attempt to force me to believe or behave as they do. I don't understand
how even the most radical atheist could be offended by a cross or a
creche set up on government property at Christmas or Easter, or a
menorah for that matter. (I do draw the line at Islam, because Islam
has shown itself to be the enemy of humanity.)
Perhaps a compromise is in order. Instead of using "In God We Trust" on
our currency and tokens, the government should use the motto "In Gold
We Trust". That should make everyone happy, except perhaps the
government. I certainly don't trust God, and in that I'm by no means
alone. But everyone trusts gold. And it's not as though there isn't
precedent for such a motto. It has appeared on US money in the past.
Netflix is a class act. They sent us a mislabeled disc Saturday,
Monarch of the Glen Series 1, Disc 1, which actually turned out to be
Series 1, Disc 2. It wasn't their fault. It was the disc itself that
was mislabeled, not the sleeve. In the hopes that it was just this copy
that was mislabeled, I returned the disc to Netflix and put that title
back in my queue. But then I realized that I should let someone know.
Even if it was just this disc mislabeled, they need to know so that
they can correct the problem. But it may be worse than that. All copies
of that disc may be mislabeled. It's been known to happen.
So I called the Netflix toll-free number. After wending my way through
a voice-response system, I ended up connected to a very nice young
woman who took the particulars and apologized even though it wasn't
Netflix's fault. She also offered me a discount on next month's
subscription. I told her that was unnecessary, because I rent so
many discs that they're losing money on me as it is. She just
laughed, and said it was policy to offer a discount in such situations.
So Netflix is reducing my subscription fee next month by 25%.
And they also kicked me up to four discs out temporarily, adding the next disc of Coupling to their shipping queue. Coupling, incidentally, is hilarious. Kind of like a British version of Friends, but with sex.
Also, Mary Chervenak offered us her copy of Wonderfalls. We watched the first episode last night. Like Firefly, this series had a very short run. Only 13 episodes were made and only four of those were broadcast. Also like Firefly, Wonderfalls
is quirky and original, which I suppose doomed it. Frankly, I'm not
sure I would have watched more than a few minutes of this program if it
were not for Mary's (and Paul's) strong endorsement, but, after
sticking with it for one full episode, Barbara and I plan to watch the
rest of the series.
10:42 - This from Bo Leuf:
Yeah, I read that yesterday. As usual, Cringely misses the point
entirely. Nothing in his proposed scheme requires the local affiliates.
They add no value to his proposed scheme. They're entirely superfluous.
I'm trying to accumulate what I need to shoot decent video for O'Reilly
to publish, either as pay-for videos or give-away videos to promote our
books. I know a bit about still photography, but nothing about video.
It seems to me, though, that the three key components of making a good
video are using a tripod, lighting the scene properly, and capturing
We already have a usable tripod, so camera stability won't be a
problem. Lighting shouldn't be a problem, either. I'm going to pick up
some 500W halogen work lights at Lowes, which should serve well for
main, fill, and (if necessary) back lights. I think they're only 2900K
rather than the standard 3200K assumed for "tungsten" lighting, but
that should work if I set white balance manually.
My main concern is audio. The Canon Elura 100 has a built-in stereo
microphone, but I suspect it'll pick up motor noise, not to mention a
lot of unwanted environmental noise. The camera has an external mic
jack (I made sure of that), so I can connect a standard wired or
wireless microphone. I decided I wanted a wireless lavalier system for
My editor suggested that even Radio Shack stuff should be good enough. I looked there, and found a wireless microphone system for $50.
It looks like a toy, and I suspect its quality is no better than the
usual Radio Shack junk. It doesn't even offer monitoring of the
So I went looking further. B&H Photo offers an Azden WLX-PRO Camera Mountable VHF Wireless Lavalier System
for $130, which appears to be a giant step above the Radio Shack
system. I think I'll order one today or tomorrow, unless someone tells
me I'd be making a mistake.
- Estimated tax day. Grrrrrrrr.
The Inquirer has a mis-titled article
about the amount Weird Al Yankovic earns from CD sales versus
downloads. Not much in either case, apparently, but he does earn more
from CD sales than from downloads. Reading that got me thinking
about Courtney Love's blast at the RIAA and record companies. It's been some years since she wrote it, but it's well worth reading or re-reading.
As to Weird Al's problem, I sent him the following:
Why not put up a PayPal "tip jar" and
encourage people who've downloaded unauthorized copies of your tracks
to send you some money directly? A lot of people would rather feed you
than feed the RIAA.
Which I think is a good idea for any creative person. Speaking of
which, my web sites and messageboards run on the PBS model. If you've
never subscribed or
if it's been a while, now would be a good time. I don't aim to make a
living at this, but it's nice to cover my hosting costs and other
I almost never buy extended warranties, but I did buy one on the Canon
Elura 100 DV camcorder. The company that actually provides the
warranty, Mack Camera, has an
on-line registration process. The physical warranty is just a card with
a serial number on it. You log on to their web site and enter that
serial number along with the details of the product to be covered.
As I was examining the camcorder to locate the serial number, I was
surprised to see that it was Made in Japan. That's
something seldom seen on inexpensive consumer products nowadays.
Nearly all of them, even those from Japanese companies, are actually
made in China, Taiwan, or Korea.
I much prefer to buy products made in countries known for high-quality
manufacturing, such as Japan, Switzerland, Germany, or the United
States. (Yes, the United States, which still produces megatons of
top-notch manufactured goods.) I'm pleased that the camcorder was made
in Japan, because I think it's less likely to fail than one made in
China or elsewhere. Still, it has mechanical parts, so buying the
extended warranty was probably worth the 15% additional cost.
And the workers just showed up to install siding and gutters, which means it'll be a barkathon for the next few days.
Boy, I expected heads to roll at Microsoft over the Vista delays, but I didn't expect this.
Of course, they're playing it as Gates leaving day-to-day operations to
devote more time to his foundation, but we all know it's really a
matter of him falling on his sword.
That, and getting out before the true seriousness of the Vista delay
becomes obvious to everyone. My sources tell me that things are
desperate now, with no hope of meeting even the most recently promised
ship dates with any product that even approaches what's been promised.
From what I've read and seen of the latest beta release, I can believe
that. It's a complete mess, especially the 64-bit version. There are
still major pieces missing, and a lot of what's there is broken. It
looks to me as though Microsoft will have great difficulties shipping
Vista in any reasonable form in time for the holiday season of 2007.
They have so much committed to the February 2007 ship date now that
they just about have to ship something, but I don't expect it to be
feature-complete, even taking into consideration the gutted feature
list. It wouldn't surprise me to see only versions without media center
support shipping initially, because that seems to be the major
stumbling block. That, and the pervasive DRM.
My drive/media testing marathon continues. I've just tested some Sony
8X DVD-R discs, which have the media identifier SONY08D1.
Unfortunately, I don't think that tells us anything. As far as I'm
aware, Sony puts that ID on all of its 8X DVD-R discs, regardless of
their actual manufacturers. The graph below shows the results of
scanning one of these discs (this was the best result of half a dozen)
with PlexTools Professional v2.32 in a Plextor PX-716AL drive. The disc
was written at 4X with K3b in a Plextor PX-740A on my main Ubuntu Linux
A lot of people might consider this a pretty good scan. PI
errors peak at about 58 and there are no PO failures. That's about the best
that can be said, however. There are more than a quarter million PI
errors over 4.4 GB. Although they're relatively evenly distributed,
that's still way too many PI errors for my taste.
Here's the same ISO file burned to a Verbatim 8X MCC 003 disc at the same speed in the same drive, and tested in the same drive.
The MCC 003 burn is not only worlds better than the Sony burn, but
considerably better than a pressed disc. In terms of initial
readability, it doesn't get much better than this.
The remaining concern is archival stability. There's been a lot said
about how unreliable burned CDs and DVDs are, but I take all of that
with a grain of salt. I've done my own ad hoc
accelerated aging tests, and the results have been encouraging. As long
as the discs are stored properly, I don't doubt that they'll be
readable ten years from now, and probably fifty. Assuming, of course,
there's a drive available to read them.
Easy come, easy go. I got email this morning from my agent to let me
know that they just deposited an advance royalty check for $4,250 in
our account. That would have boosted our checking account balance
nicely, except that I've written enough checks this week to buy a
decent car. After writing checks for federal and state estimated taxes
yesterday, I just wrote a check for $4,150 to the company that's been
installing siding, gutters, and gutter guards on our house yesterday
and today. That leaves me with an even $100 left over, not counting the
estimated tax payments. But Barbara just got a ride with Stephanie to
pick up her Trooper, which is having the 100,000 mile service done. Oh,
Our neighbor Kim has had nothing but problems with her telephone
service for years. A month or so ago, we were talking about it and I
mentioned Vonage and similar VoIP services.
Yesterday afternoon, Barbara needed to go pick up her truck at the
mechanic's place and run some errands. I didn't want to leave because
the guys were still here working, so Barbara walked down to Kim's house
to beg a ride. When Barbara came back to tell me she'd gotten a ride to
pick up her truck, she also mentioned that Kim was having fits trying
to install a router.
A while later, I walked the dogs down to Kim's house, and found out
that the router she was trying to install was the unit she'd gotten
from Vonage when she signed up for their VoIP service. Kim had spent
hours on the phone with Vonage technical support people in India,
trying to figure out how to connect the Vonage router to her
telephones. They kept telling her it was easy, which made her madder
and madder. She had a three-page printout of instructions, which
included dire warnings about her house burning down if she didn't
Those three pages of instructions, absent the lawyerese, could have been summarized in two sentences:
1. At the demarc, disconnect your home wiring from the telephone company wiring.
2. Use a standard base cord to connect the green jack on the Vonage adapter to a phone jack.
So I walked back over to our house, picked up a large flat-blade
screwdriver, a roll of electrical tape, and a base cord (which
Vonage hadn't supplied), and had her up and running in two minutes. We
tested all of her phones, all of which had dial tone and all of which
Then Kim mentioned their security system. Ruh-roh. If it's like other
security systems I've seen, it uses an RJ-31X jack between the home
phone wiring and the telephone company CO line. The alarm system would
be connected to the primary output of the RJ-31X, and the home phone
wiring to the secondary. If a set on the secondary is off-hook when the
alarm system wants to call out, it doesn't matter. When the alarm
system goes off-hook, the RJ-31X disconnects the rest of the phones
from the CO line and seizes the line.
I told Kim that I needed to talk to the alarm company to find out how
they'd installed the system and, if they'd used an RJ-31X, where it was
installed. If they don't have a record of it, I'll have to go off
A moment ago, I spoke with their alarm company. I forgot to ask Kim for
her password, so of course the company couldn't give me any details
about their system, but she did confirm that it was likely they'd
installed an RJ-31X and that they probably had the location documented.
I told her I'd call her back later today from Kim's house and have Kim
give her the password.
She mentioned that for VoIP users they recommended installing a
cell-phone based backup system, which I'll talk to Kim about. I also
need to make absolutely sure that Kim is aware of the 911 issues and
gets 911 set up properly.
1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 by Robert Bruce