Home » Daynotes Home » Week of 26 June 2006

Photograph of Robert Bruce Thompson
Daynotes Journal

Week of 26 June 2006

Latest Update: Saturday, 1 July 2006 09:28 -0400
Free Speech Online - Blue Ribbon Campaign

Paying for this Place
Visit Barbara's Journal Page

Monday, 26 June 2006
[Daynotes Forums]    [Last Week]   [Mon]  [Tue]  [Wed]  [Thu]  [Fri]  [Sat]  [Sun]   [Next Week]    [HardwareGuys Forums]

08:35 - 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 started.

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 perfectly sufficient.

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.


Tuesday, 27 June 2006
[Daynotes Forums]    [Last Week]   [Mon]  [Tue]  [Wed]  [Thu]  [Fri]  [Sat]  [Sun]   [Next Week]    [HardwareGuys Forums]

09:20 - 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.

10:38 - 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 greatest available.

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.


Wednesday, 28 June 2006
[Daynotes Forums]    [Last Week]   [Mon]  [Tue]  [Wed]  [Thu]  [Fri]  [Sat]  [Sun]   [Next Week]    [HardwareGuys Forums]

09:20 - 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...

From:    Bas
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 use.


Thursday, 29 June 2006
[Daynotes Forums]    [Last Week]   [Mon]  [Tue]  [Wed]  [Thu]  [Fri]  [Sat]  [Sun]   [Next Week]    [HardwareGuys Forums]

09:07 - 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.


Friday, 30 June 2006
[Daynotes Forums]    [Last Week]   [Mon]  [Tue]  [Wed]  [Thu]  [Fri]  [Sat]  [Sun]   [Next Week]    [HardwareGuys Forums]

00:00 - Oops.


Saturday, 1 July 2006
[Daynotes Forums]    [Last Week]   [Mon]  [Tue]  [Wed]  [Thu]  [Fri]  [Sat]  [Sun]   [Next Week]    [HardwareGuys Forums]

09:28 - 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.


Sunday, 2 July 2006
[Daynotes Forums]    [Last Week]   [Mon]  [Tue]  [Wed]  [Thu]  [Fri]  [Sat]  [Sun]   [Next Week]    [HardwareGuys Forums]

00:00 -


Copyright © 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 by Robert Bruce Thompson. All Rights Reserved.