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Week of 10 July 2006

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Monday, 10 July 2006
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09:00 - Crunch time is here. We have six weeks to get the new edition of Building the Perfect PC finished, so I'll be focusing all of my efforts on that project. Don't look for much to be posted here between now and then. As usual, I'll be posting the draft chapters to the subscribers' page.


Tuesday, 11 July 2006
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09:15 - I'm still working on the Mainstream PC chapter. I've winnowed down the several hundred images we shot of the build to the 50 or 60 that we'll use in the chapter, and am plugging those into the chapter and writing the descriptive text around them. I'll finish that up in the next couple of days, and then start on installing software and testing.

As usual, we built this system with no floppy drive, and as usual I'm going to need one. We installed two hard drives, planning to use the integrated Intel RAID 1. (At $50 for the second hard drive, why not?) Of course, I'd forgotten that we'll need to insert the Intel driver floppy when we install Windows. I'll just leave the side panel off and temporarily connect an FDD until Windows is installed, and then remove the FDD. I'd leave it in, but it messes up the look of the front panel, and it'll never be needed again.

This coming weekend, we build and shoot the SOHO Server. I have several TB of hard drive spinning on our network already. The SOHO Server will add another two TB. (My goal is to be the first PB home on the planet, but that'll take a few years...)


Wednesday, 12 July 2006
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08:18 - Hmmm. Netflix has begun throttling me again. In June, they sent me 24 discs, of which one was mislabeled and one unreadable, for a net total of 22 usable discs. Here we are almost halfway through July, and they've sent me only 6 discs. It looks like it won't get much better, either.

For example, they received a disc back from me on Monday. Ordinarily, they'd have shipped the replacement disc on Monday, and I'd have received it Tuesday. Instead, they didn't ship the replacement disc until Tuesday, and the ETA is Friday. A one-day delay in shipping the disc combined with a two-day delay in shipping time means they basically used up a whole week for that one disc.

They received the other two discs I had out on Tuesday and ordinarily would have shipped two replacement discs for arrival today. Instead, they're sitting on one of those discs. My queue claims the replacement will ship today, but it may not and even if it does I have no idea when it will arrive. When Netflix is throttling me, they tend to ship from Lower Slobovia to extend the arrival time. In all fairness, they did ship one disc yesterday, as they should have, for arrival today.

We have this implicit deal, which Netflix may or may not be aware of. If they don't throttle me, I make every effort to return two discs in one envelope to save them postage. If they start throttling me, I start returning one disc per envelope. Hmmm. I have about 50 unused Netflix return envelopes. Perhaps I should start using those envelopes to send them "Why are you throttling me?" notes. Nothing in each envelope except the note. And a brick.

Projecting forward, my guess is that Netflix will end up shipping me 14 or 15 discs for the month of July. Although I like to keep my rental costs at or below $1/disc, I can live with that.


Thursday, 13 July 2006
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08:36 - I'm still working on the Mainstream PC chapter for the new edition of Building the Perfect PC. This system includes a pair of 80 GB Seagate Barracuda 7200.9 drives in a RAID 1. At $51 for the second drive, why not? That's pretty cheap insurance for a drive failure.

Of course, in order to use Intel Matrix RAID, you have to set it up in BIOS before you install Windows. That presented a problem for screenshots, because when the setup screens are visible, the system hasn't finished booting yet.

First, I tried shooting literal screenshots. That didn't work very well with my little point-and-shoot digital camera, so I set up Barbara's Pentax DSLR on a tripod. I figured that using a telephoto lens from a distance would give me reasonably good images. It didn't, or at least it didn't during several trial passes. I probably could have made it work, given enough time and effort, but I decided it'd be easier and cleaner just to create dummy "screen shots" in OpenOffice Writer to use for the illustrations. Here's the first one I did, which looks pretty much exactly like the actual screen, if I do say so myself.

Bo Leuf has posted a good review of Xandros 4. As usual, Bo dug a bit deeper than most reviewers, and found out several things worth knowing. And Jem Matzan has posted another interesting article on Xandros 4, Hacking Xandros Desktop Home 4.0. Jem's article covers some of the stuff that Xandros left out, such as adding the ability to play encrypted DVDs and Windows Media files. Both articles are well worth your time to read if you use Xandros.


Friday, 14 July 2006
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09:06 - I finished the draft of the Mainstream PC chapter yesterday afternoon. Today, I'll work some more on the SOHO Server chapter, and this weekend we'll build and shoot the SOHO Server system. I should be able to finish the writeup on that chapter next week. The Antec Fusion media center case is due to arrive Monday, and we'll build the Media Center PC the following weekend. I'll finish the chapter draft for that the following week, which gives us four of six project systems complete by 28 July. We'll build the Gaming PC that weekend. Barbara is off on a day trip that Saturday, so the build may slop over into Monday. Still, I should be able to finish the writeup on that chapter by the following Friday, 4 August. That leaves a couple of weeks to finish the SFF chapter and do some final cleanup before our 20 August final deadline.

On Monday, 21 August, I send off the completed draft to O'Reilly and jump back into working on the astronomy book that we put on the back burner in order to get this PC book completed quickly. I also start work on a proposal for a new book for O'Reilly, which will be a departure for us. I hope we can have the astronomy book completed by late October, which means we should be well into the new book by year end.

I'll be posting the current chapters from the new book on the subscribers' page late this weekend or early next week.


Saturday, 15 July 2006
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09:16 - Imagine my surprise to get this spam from Amazon.com this morning.

Apparently, they're mining their orders database from years ago. This is the third or forth spam I've gotten from them in the last month, all trying to sell me more books. I'm not sure why they've just started spamming me. I opted out of their spam years ago, and they've just started sending it again.

Ah, I see. I visited the link in the email and went to the communications preferences page. The bastards had reset my preferences to enable all of their spam and spam from their "partners". So much for opting out. It's slimy actions like these that give e-commerce sites a bad name.

Barbara's cleaning house at the moment. This afternoon and tomorrow we'll be building and photographing the SOHO Server project system.


Sunday, 16 July 2006
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