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Week of 31 July 2006

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Monday, 31 July 2006
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08:06 - I had hoped to have the Gaming PC chapter completed by Friday evening. Here it is Monday morning, and the chapter still isn't finished (although the PC is up and running.) We still have two more systems to do before deadline, and only three weeks left as of today.

Things are going to be a bit hectic around here, so don't expect much in the way of posts here until the book is finished.

Look for more significant price cuts on the AMD Athlon 64 X2 processors soon. AMD's price cuts last week, as dramatic as they were, didn't come close to matching the price/performance ratio of the new Intel Core 2 Duo E6300 processor. In head-to-head testing with a wide variety of benchmarks, the situation is basically this:
(Where two prices are given for Athlon 64 X2 models, the higher price is for the energy-efficient version, which still draws more current than the Core 2 Duo.) If AMD wants to remain competitive, I see no alternative but for them to slash the prices of their processors even more. Intel is unlikely to cut the Core 2 Duo prices until at least November and probably early next year, so something like the following might allow AMD to maintain some of its hard-won market share:
Of course, all of that goes out the window for anyone who is willing to overclock a Core 2 Duo. Various enthusiast web sites have reported successfully overclocking the Core 2 Duo E6300 by 40% or more with complete stability. With even modest overclocking, the $183 Core 2 Duo E6300 outperforms the Athlon 64 FX-62 in nearly every benchmark. That means AMD processors are no longer viable choices for serious gamers and other enthusiasts who are willing to overclock their systems, which is to say most of them. Compared to Core 2 Duo, the AMD processors have very little headroom for overclocking, so the benchmarks at stock speeds are the best case for AMD. For them, it goes downhill from there.

Intel has spent the last couple of years gnashing their collective teeth, as AMD made them look bad, apparently without effort. Now the screw has turned, and the Empire Strikes Back.

I hope that AMD is able to hold on for the next year or two, by which time they may have a competitive processor to sell. But for now, AMD is back to the K6 days, when all they could do was compete on price in the "value" segment. In a very real sense, we have AMD to thank for the Core 2 Duo. Without the competitive pressure that AMD has exerted on Intel, Core 2 Duo would never have existed. But it does exist, and that is very bad news indeed for AMD. Of course, AMD has made it through bad times successfully in the past. Let's hope they can do so again.

I don't usually post press releases, but this one is timely for a lot of people. Probably not many of my readers still use Windows 9X, but I suspect most know people who do.

Xandros Desktop - Home Edition Offers Easy-to-Use Linux Alternative for "Disenfranchised" Windows 98 & ME Users

NEW YORK, NY - Xandros, the leading provider of easy-to-use Linux alternatives to Windows, today announced an immediate solution for the 50 million 'disenfranchised' Windows 98, 98SE and ME customers left without support and security patches. In response to the recent announcement by Microsoft to suspend support to these customers, Xandros is providing affected users a special opportunity to upgrade their now unsupported and vulnerable Windows systems to Xandros' recently released Desktop Home Edition or Home Edition Premium, a secure and stable Windows alternative with full support and online update facilities. Xandros is offering these users a 50% mail-in rebate when upgrading to either Xandros Desktop Home Edition or Home Edition Premium which can be installed alongside the unsupported Microsoft Windows, even on older hardware, eliminating the need for costly new hardware required by a Windows XP or Vista upgrade. After upgrading to Xandros, users will continue to have full read and write access to all documents, music, and other files that reside within their original Windows installation and users can choose to install and continue to use Microsoft Office and other popular Windows programs.

"Now that Microsoft has discontinued all support for Windows 98, 98SE and ME, legacy Windows users have three options," said Andreas Typaldos, CEO of Xandros. "First, they can cross their fingers and continue to use the abandoned, insecure and unsupported Windows product. Second, they can purchase a costly XP upgrade along with new hardware that will be out of date as soon as Vista is released. Or third, they can continue using their existing computer by installing the latest Xandros Desktop Home Edition. Not only does this option extend the useful life of their computer without a need to learn anything new, but it also provides users with a stable and reliable platform that is free from the constant frustration of spyware and viruses, and costs less than Windows-based Anti-Virus software alone."

"Because of Xandros' unique approach in developing Linux-based products that do not require Windows users to change the way they use a PC today, we can offer more than just a lifeboat to these recently abandoned Windows users," said Todd Kanfer, Xandros' Vice President of Marketing. "Xandros Desktop Home Edition will rescue them today from the sinking ship of Windows 98, and provide a fortified, stable and secure computing platform for their future, freeing them from stress, frustration, and high costs of maintaining their digital lives on Windows."

"Like other widely used consumer products that harness the benefits of Linux and Unix behind the scenes, such as Mac OS X, gaming platforms and multimedia devices, Xandros Desktop delivers a packaged solution that meets the needs of the consumers digital lifestyle," Kanfer continued. "For the millions of users who are being forced by Microsoft to upgrade, Xandros provides a quick, robust, easy and inexpensive alternative to Windows. Xandros Home Edition delivers the features and the look and feel to which these users are accustomed and can be installed on an existing Windows 98 or ME PC, preserving access to all their Windows files. Within minutes, they will be up and running, using the Internet and e-mail, creating documents, enjoying their music and media without interruption to their digital lifestyle. Even though the Linux technology is not visible to them, users immediately benefit from its superior performance, stability, security and lower cost of ownership."

The Platform For Your Digital Life

The new Xandros Desktop Home Edition combines the security and stability of Linux with the familiarity of Windows and Mac OSX.

Some of the included features are:
Users can install Xandros Desktop Home Edition on existing hardware and enjoy transparent Windows compatibility, including the ability to work on the same files from Linux and Windows. Premium users have the choice of using popular Windows software products, such as Microsoft Office, or popular open source software products, such as OpenOffice.org.

Special Windows 98/98SE/ME Upgrade Offer

Xandros is offering a special upgrade promotion for Windows 98 & ME users. From now through August 31, 2006, qualified users who upgrade to Xandros Desktop - Home Edition or Home Edition - Premium will receive a 50% rebate. Users can take advantage of this offer by purchasing these products at any retailer that offers Xandros, including CompUSA, Circuit City, TigerDirect, Fry's, and Buy.com and then visit www.xandros.com to redeem their rebate
For further details, please visit www.xandros.com.

About Xandros

Founded in 2001 with headquarters in New York, offices in Frankfurt and Mumbai, and research and development facilities in Ottawa, Xandros, Inc. is the leading provider of easy-to-use Linux alternatives to Windows. Its Debian-based products range from standalone consumer desktops to end-to-end enterprise desktop, server, and management solutions featuring workflow automation and centralized, remote administration. Xandros pioneered low cost, graphical operating systems that leverage existing skill sets and provide seamless compatibility with Microsoft Windows programs and networks. For more information, please visit www.xandros.com.

Xandros is a registered trademark of Xandros, Inc. All other trademarks and/or registered trademarks are the property of their respective owners.
Xandros Customer service or sales please call : 212-213-8083 


Tuesday, 1 August 2006
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08:37 - Nothing focuses the mind like a book deadline coming up this month. On Monday, 21 August, the new edition of Building the Perfect PC goes to production. We have two project system chapters left to do, along with incorporating tech review comments, some re-write, writing the Preface, and so on. It's going to be a busy next three weeks.

The Gaming PC chapter is posted on the Subscribers' Page. I started work yesterday on the Media Center PC. Well, actually, I re-started work, because I've already done a lot of it. That chapter should be posted around Monday of next week. This will be an interesting system, built in an Antec Fusion case and using a Core 2 Duo processor, with dual analog tuners and an HDTV tuner, running MythTV.

We'll get it built, running, and tested, and then probably recycle the components into something more useful for us. There's not much point to us having a multi-tuner DVR. We recorded Inspector Lewis on our DVD recorder Sunday night and watched it last night. That's the only network television program we've watched in the last six months. It really has come down to Springsteen's lyrics, 57 channels and nothing on.


Wednesday, 2 August 2006
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09:21 - I was slaving away yesterday on the Media Center PC chapter when the video on my main office system suddenly went completely wonky. Critical Need Detector, indeed.

I wasn't having any. I shut down my main system, popped the side panel, and pulled the MSI video adapter. I needed another PCIe video adapter quickly. Unfortunately for the Gaming PC, it was still sitting on the kitchen table with its side panel open. I roared into the kitchen, pulled the nVIDIA GeForce 6800 Ultra out of the Gaming PC, slid it into my main system, reconnected the PCIe power cable, put the side panel back on, and restarted the system. Total elapsed time, about four minutes. Wham, bam, thank you ma'am.

The last component we need for the final two project systems is due to arrive from NewEgg today. Yesterday, a Core 2 Duo E6400 arrived from Intel and an NSK1300 SFF case from Antec.

I didn't realize until last weekend that Antec had discontinued the Aria SFF case, replacing it with the NSK1300. I had an Aria sitting in the work room that we planned to use to build the SFF system. Then I realized that it had a 20-pin power supply, which probably wouldn't work with the Intel D946GZIS motherboard for the Core 2 Duo processor. I visited the Antec web site to see if there was an "Aria II" with a 24-pin power supply, and found that the Aria had disappeared completely. I happened across the NSK1300, which looked like a direct replacement for the Aria, and emailed Mafalda Cogliani, my contact at Antec, to ask her if she could get me one quickly.

Mafalda mailed me Saturday to say she didn't have any NSK1300 cases available, but, worst case, she'd send me one of the open units they had at the office. Monday afternoon, Mafalda emailed me again to say there were some NSK1300 cases on the way in to Antec, that she'd ordered one for me, and that it should arrive at Antec Thursday. She said she'd overnight it to me so we'd have it by the weekend.

Yesterday morning, FedEx showed up with the NSK1300 case. When I emailed Mafalda to let her know it had already arrived, several days early, she replied, "Incredible. They must have unpacked the container just for you."

I pulled the NSK1300 to take a quick look at it. It's a very nice case, nearly identical to the Aria at first glance. As far as I can tell, the only differences are that the NSK1300 has an ATX 2.2 24-pin power supply, that it has round front buttons instead of square ones, and that it no longer includes a bundled card reader. The card reader was a nice feature, but it did boost the price of the Aria, and the NSK1300 list price has been lowered to reflect the lack of the card reader.


Thursday, 3 August 2006
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08:30 - Today is forecast to be yet another with a heat index above 100°F.

The morning newspaper says the demand for electricity is at an all-time high, but the power companies don't foresee any problem meeting demand. Duke Power has asked that people voluntarily conserve, particularly during afternoon hours. I've shut down all but our main systems and bumped the thermostat up a degree or two. If even a thousand other people do the same, that's probably a megawatt of reduced demand right there.

I do wish that the government and utilities would get off their butts and start building standardized nuclear power plants. We should set a target of building ten new nuclear power plants a year for the next ten years. Using a standardized design and cutting all the red tape with a fast-track approval process would cut the costs of those new plants to a small fraction of what they would otherwise be. Plentiful, cheap electricity would go a long way towards what should be our goal of energy independence.

As someone who trained as a chemist, the idea of burning petroleum and natural gas, or coal for that matter, seems amazingly short-sighted to me. Although I don't believe we're in any danger of running out of those resources, they should be reserved as feed stocks. Cheap, ubiquitous electricity generated by nuclear plants should be used to meet our heating, lighting, and transportation energy requirements.

Obviously, none of this can happen overnight. But we need to get started on it now.


Friday, 4 August 2006
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08:30 - I have both the Media Center PC and SFF PC chapters in progress. We were going to start the build on the Media Center PC last night, but Barbara and I were both whacked. We'll start on it tonight and finish the build of the Media Center PC this weekend. We may also get a start on the SFF PC.

14:30 - It looks like Circuit City has decided to challenge the DMCA head-on. Either that, or they're monumentally stupid and all of their lawyers were out to lunch that day. I'm betting on the latter.


Saturday, 5 August 2006
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Sunday, 6 August 2006
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