- Accumulating and testing components for the project systems for the new edition of Building the Perfect PC
is nearly complete. We're getting ready to start building and
photographing them, which will probably start next week. We're still
missing some pieces, notably the Core 2 (Conroe) samples, which
probably won't arrive until late July. But we have enough to get
There'll be a lot of changes from the old edition, naturally. One small
change that regular readers may notice is that none of the new
project systems use Plextor optical drives. For the last couple of
months, we've been torture-testing several inexpensive DVD writers.
We've concluded that current NEC and BenQ models are perfectly
adequate for most people. They write good quality discs, are reasonably
durable, and sell for a third the price of premium Plextor models.
That's not to say that Plextor models are overpriced, or that it never
makes sense to install a Plextor. Plextor drives write discs of
unmatched quality and are considerably more durable than inexpensive
writers. It's just that Plextor drives are more than most people need.
A $100 premium Plextor drive makes sense if you're going to use the
optical drive very heavily, but for most people a $35 NEC or BenQ is
We were going to try to shoot still pictures and video of the builds
simultaneously, but we concluded that doing that would complicate
matters too much. Instead, we'll shoot the still images first and
finish writing the chapters. Then we'll come back and re-do the builds
to shoot the video. At first glance, that seemed like twice the work,
but in reality it'll probably be less work to do it that way.
This will be my last significant post for a while. I have to make some progress on these chapters before we begin the builds.
Still heads-down writing. I put in 10 solid hours yesterday, taking
only brief breaks to walk the dogs. I used to be able to put in 12 to
14 hour days seven days a week for weeks on end, but I no longer have
the mental stamina to do that. Writing is mentally exhausting, and
although it might seem strange to anyone who has not written, it is
also physically tiring.
It's back to work for me.
I think it's time to upgrade our network. This'll be the fifth or sixth
upgrade for us since we first installed a home network more than 20
years ago. We've run ARCNet on RG-62U, LANtastic on proprietary
cabling, 10Base2 Ethernet, 10BaseT Ethernet, and now
100BaseT Ethernet. And our 100BaseT network is regularly saturated
when transferring large files. It'll only get worse as we begin to work
with DV files.
Most or all of our current systems have 1000BaseT adapters, but the
routers, hubs, and other active components are all 100BaseT.
If it were a simple matter of replacing those devices, I'd have done it
long ago. The problem is the cabling. Some of it is Category 5, but
much of it is Category 3, installed back when that was the latest and
In theory, you can't run 100BaseT on Category 3 cable. In practice, it
works just fine over the short runs we have here at home. But somehow I
doubt that I'll be able to run 1000BaseT over Category 3, no matter how
short the runs. That'd mean pulling new Category 6 or better cable, and
I'm not sure it's worth the trouble.
What I may do instead is convert to a switched network architecture. I
could isolate Barbara's office, my den system, and the downstairs jacks
on 100BaseT switch ports and just use Category 6 drop cables to connect
the systems in my office to 1000BaseT switch ports. That'd make things
a lot easier and would have the same practical effect.
I'm still spending my days writing and doing little else. I have spent
some time working with Xandros 4 on my den system, and I'm pretty well
satisfied that it's solid. I'm debating whether to upgrade Barbara's
current Xandros 3 system to Xandros 4, or to wait until we've built a
replacement system for her.
If I do the former, I'll back up
her home directory to a network volume, pull her current hard drive,
and install Xandros 4 on a new hard drive. That way, I can always get
her back to where she was. On balance, though, it probably makes sense
just to wait a couple of months and swap in one of the new systems we
build for the book.
If you still haven't begun your personal migration to Linux, go read this.
Then think about it for a while. If you're not concerned, think about
it a while longer. Don't think it can't happen to you. It can. It's
happened to me, and I barely use Windows. I shudder to think what might
happen if I depended on Windows. So I don't, and neither should you.
As important as it is to use software that can be trusted to load and
run today, tomorrow, and next year, it's even more important to stay in
control of your own data. That's why I began migrating to Open Source
applications even before I made the jump from Windows to Linux. All of
my important data is stored in open formats. Even if a particular
application is no longer usable, the data itself is accessible. So,
even if you're not ready to convert to Linux, you can at least take the
first step by converting to non-proprietary file formats. Junk MS
Office and begin using OpenOffice.org. Avoid Windows Media files and
similar proprietary formats in favor of open, documented formats. Get
control of your data now, or you may have cause to regret it later.
12:25 - Get out while you still can...
To: Robert Bruce Thompson
Subject: More on the MS WGA imbroglio, be afraid, be very afraid....
Date: Wed, 28 Jun 2006 11:54:41 -0400
it's about to reach critical
mass. Is MS on a self-destructive course? What good (to
them and everyone else) do they think they can accomplish?
Good advice from you in today's daynotes, everyone should take heed.
Is Microsoft about to release a Windows "kill switch"?
Posted by Ed Bott @ 8:06 am
From the article:
"in the fall, having the latest WGA will become mandatory and if its
not installed, Windows will give a 30 day warning and when the 30 days
is up and WGA isn't installed, Windows will stop working, so you might
as well install WGA now."
I tell you three times. If you haven't already migrated to Linux or OS
X, now is the time to get started. I have only one Windows XP system
running. When I installed it a couple months ago, I made the mistake of
telling Microsoft Update to install all critical updates. Among them
was WGA, which tells me that I have a pirate serial number.
How ironic. Back when XP first shipped, and I was still on reasonably
good terms with Microsoft, I emailed Wagg-Ed (Microsoft's main PR
agency) to request eval copies of XP. As they always did back then,
Wagg-Ed fell all over themselves to help. I'd told them that I needed
several copies or licenses because I intended to install XP on several
systems related to book projects. Wagg-Ed asked if I needed media for
all of them or just serial numbers. I told them that one copy of the
media was fine, so they sent that and 10 or 20 additional serial
numbers on little orange stickers.
I filed those away, keeping track of which ones I'd used. When I built
this latest XP system a couple of months ago, I used one of the unused
serial numbers that Wagg-Ed had sent me five years previous. Imagine my
surprise when WGA reported that the serial number supplied by Wagg-Ed
was one that had been produced by a "warez" program. I wonder if
Wagg-Ed knows about this.
If it can happen to me, it can happen to you. I'm fully expecting this
XP installation to die this autumn. If it does, it'll just be a minor
aggravation for me. I'll reinstall from the original media and not
bother to activate. After I install my applications, I'll image the
drive. Every 30 days or whatever, I'll simply restore the image and
keep on trucking. But that's probably not a solution you'd prefer to
One of the configurations in the new book is a Media Center PC, so I'm
keeping my eye on various PVR applications. Yesterday, the late,
lamented ReplayTV was resurrected, kind of. D&M Holdings (which my
readers will probably recognize as Denon and Marantz) announced ReplayTV PVR software.
Unfortunately, it looks to me as though their software will be too
little, too late, and too expensive. The feature list is pretty
standard, the software isn't due until autumn, and it sells for $100,
which is on the high end of the range. Also, there's a yearly fee for
access to the program guide. It's only $20/year initially, but who
knows what D&M will charge down the road or how long the service
will continue to be available?
I've about settled on MythTV for our Media Center system. MythTV is
free, in both senses of the word, and runs well on standard Linuxes
like Ubuntu. It's as fully-featured as anything else out there. More
so, in fact, because MythTV doesn't pander to the copyright pigs. There
are a couple of features I'd like to see added to MythTV, notably a
fully-automated commercial-skipping function based on user-submitted
start/end times, but overall MythTV beats the competition on features.
Of course, once we get this thing built, we'll be in the position of
the guy who owns a 200 MPH Ferrari in a world of 55 MPH speed limits.
We no longer watch any network TV programs at all. Barbara watched Left Wing
until the series ended, but that was the last network program we'll
ever watch. We turn on the news at dinner time when severe weather
is threatening, but that's about it for TV news. Barbara watches golf
tournaments and Winston Cup racing on weekends, and every once in a
great while we'll record a Masterpiece or Mystery on PBS. Other than that, the only thing we use our TVs for is watching DVDs.
Our friends Mary Chervenak and Paul Jones have discovered Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
They borrowed the entire series on DVD, and watch it most evenings.
Some days, they get through as many as six episodes. Paul commented to
me the other day about how different the experience is of watching DVDs
rather than a live network feed. No commercials, and you can watch what
you want to, when you want to. A $20 Netflix subscription gets you
access to 60,000 titles on DVD. Granted, perhaps only 5% of those are
worth watching, but that's still enough to keep anyone occupied.
Commercial TV is dead. It just hasn't realized it yet. Advertisers and
networks are desperate to force us to watch their ads. It's just not
going to happen. DVD rentals and PVRs have killed their business model.
There's no going back.
As regular readers know, non-commercial copyright infringement doesn't
bother me at all. If someone copies one of our books for personal use,
well, who cares? I certainly don't. If someone posts one of our books
to a USENET group and I become aware of it, I send the link to my
friends at O'Reilly, but I really don't worry much about it.
On the other hand, this annoys me.
These bastards have converted several of our books to Windows compiled
help files, and are selling them at knock-down prices. What's really
infuriating is that at $2.80 for our most recent book, they make more
per copy than we do for a copy sold legitimately.
1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 by Robert Bruce