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Week of 7 February 2005

Latest Update: Thursday, 10 February 2005 11:43 -0500
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Monday, 7 February 2005
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11:40 - I'm cranking away on the new book, making quite a bit of progress. I'm posting my work-in-process documents on the subscribers' page, so if you're interested in watching a project develop from an idea to a finished book, here's your chance. For now, you'll find plenty of sentence fragments, partial ideas, notes to myself, and so on. As the book develops, those will all be fleshed out, reorganized, and put into final form.

I'd originally intended to post the documents in StarOffice/OpenOffice.org .sxw format, but I ran into some difficulties with that. Some of my "kitchen cabinet" group of advisors weren't able to read those documents for various reasons, including not having permission to install OOo on their work systems. So I went to Plan B, which was to use StarOffice to "Export to PDF". That sounded workable until this morning, when one of my advisors told me the PDFs I was generating were displaying oddly on his MAC. Oh, well.

So, as much as I dislike Microsoft Word and other proprietary formats, I've started posting the documents in two formats, as PDFs and as zipped MS Word document files. I hope everyone who is interested can read one or the other.


Tuesday, 8 February 2005
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09:00 - Killer deadlines this week and next, so there won't be much if anything up here. I'll continue to post work-in-process documents to the subscribers' page periodically.

A lot of people have had problems reading the PDFs I generated from StarOffice. I'm not sure why that is, but I'll try to figure it out when I have a spare nanosecond or two. In the interim, I'll continue posting them as Word documents and StarOffice .sxw documents (I might as well do that, since that's the format I'm using natively.)


Wednesday, 9 February 2005
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09:45 - The death march continues. I need to get a couple of completed Astronomy Hacks to my editor as soon as possible, and I have to have 15 completed Hacks to him by next Wednesday. That's one week of heads-down writing, with little time for anything else at all.

This warning from subscriber Paul Hampson.

-------- Original Message --------
Subject: Plextor firmware upgrade
Date: Sat, 05 Feb 2005 09:45:33 -0800
From: Paul Hampson
To: Robert Bruce Thompson


I found that if you are checking your version via regedit and have the PX-708UF on a W2K system, Plextors instructions leave out a level.  It will be found under

...Enum\USBSTOR\ .. 

rather than under Enum

Thanks for posting that note, it led me to also look at compatability and discover why I've made two coasters out of the cheap Memorex disks I got - I have Verbatims now, following your lead.

Thanks. I haven't had a spare moment, and so haven't updated the firmware in my PX-708s, of which I have several. It'll be interesting to see if I can update the firmware under Linux. I don't recall if Plextor uses Windows executables.

As far as media, DVD writable is at about the same point CD writable was several years ago. There is great variation in quality among different disk manufacturers and brands. For DVD+R and DVD+RW, Verbatim is currently the best I know of.

Which reminds me of a problem I had with Verbatim DVD+RW discs. I back up every morning to a DVD+RW disc. I have discs labeled for Monday through Saturday and then Week 1 through Week 5 for Sundays. A couple of Thursdays ago, K3b blew up trying to write the Thursday disc. Oh, well. These things happen. So I replaced that disc with a blank DVD+RW disc and continued the backup.

The following Thursday, about three minutes into the backup, K3b again blew up with an error message about "unable to access" the disc. That seemed a bit coincidental to me, so I carefully examined the disc surface. There was a small but deep scratch on it. Fortunately, I tend not to throw stuff away, so I still had the dead Thursday disc from the preceding week lying on top of my scanner. I checked it, and sure enough there was a deep gouge.

Apparently, a piece of grit had gotten into the sleeve for Thursday in the Cordura CD case that I keep my backup discs in. I blew out that sleeve and everything has been fine ever since. So it wasn't a Verbatim disc problem after all.

16:20 - Well, she trashed Lucent, gutted Compaq, and ruined HP. I wonder which respected US corporation Carly Fiorina will destroy next. I've never understood why anyone would consider Fiorina qualified to run a lemonade stand, let alone a major corporation. It's not as though she's a Harvard MBA or has any kind of background in technology. In fact, looking at her educational history, she's barely qualified to touch a PC, let alone run a major technology company.

We should export her to China and let her destroy their entire economy.


Thursday, 10 February 2005
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11:43 - I'm still hacking away on the new book, so to speak. I just mailed off the third hack to my editor. I need to have 15 complete hacks to meet a deadline next Wednesday, so only a dozen left to go...


Friday, 11 February 2005
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Saturday, 12 February 2005
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Sunday, 13 February 2005
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