Friday, 22 June 2012

07:50 – I had one of those days yesterday that was, as Pournelle says, eaten by locusts. At the end of the day, I’d worked hard all day but felt as though I hadn’t accomplished much.

In retrospect, though, I guess I actually did accomplish a fair amount. It was just that it was a bunch of small stuff. I processed orders and shipped a couple of kits, answered in detail several queries about kits, did more research on shipping to Canada, reviewed the Preface for the forensics book, did final assembly of a dozen chemistry kits to add to inventory, made up boxes and started assembly on a new batch of 30 chemistry kits, downloaded and burned the current version of Linux Mint, and a partridge in a pear tree.

Speaking of Linux Mint, I really have to do something about my main office system. It’s quite elderly, although still fast. (It’s an Intel Core2 Quad Q9650.) But it’s running Ubuntu 9.04, which hasn’t been supported for a long time. This system was scheduled for replacement 18 months ago, but I never got around to it. Barbara’s old system failed, and the only system we had available at the time was the six-core Core i7-980X box that we built as the Extreme System for the 3rd edition of Building the Perfect PC. That one that was to be my new system, but she’s using it now. Meanwhile, my den system has also failed. That was the mini-ITX system we built for the book, and I need to do something about it as well.

So I think I’ll order a replacement Intel Atom motherboard/processor for the den system, rebuild it, and convert it to Barbara’s system. (She mainly does web browsing and email on that system, so the six-core system she’s using now is gross overkill.) I’ll then do a quick refurb on Barbara’s current system and convert it to my new main office system and retire the current one to stand-by status. To replace the den system, I’ll just build a microtower system with a low-power processor.

11:04 – I just ordered an Intel D2700MUD Atom motherboard/processor combo and a 2GBx2 Crucial memory kit for it. I wasn’t about to order anything ever again from NewEgg, so I searched Amazon didn’t stock that board, but several of their vendors did. I decided to order from PC Rush, which had a large number of excellent reviews. Their price, including free shipping, was $85.55.

I added the item to my cart and then searched the PC Rush storefront for compatible memory. Compared to NewEgg’s search system, Amazon’s sucks. I wasn’t able to find any compatible memory on the Amazon PC Rush storefront. Or perhaps I could have, if I’d been willing to scroll through 300 pages of items from that storefront. So I Googled PC Rush, went to their site, and added the BOXD2700MUD to my cart. Then I went over to the Crucial website and used their configurator to search for compatible memory for that board. It returned only one hit, on the CT2KIT25664BC1067 2GBx2 kit, for $29.99 with free shipping. So I went back to the PC Rush site, which also had that kit, but for $36. I added it to my cart anyway, figuring it was worth the $6 difference to have to place only one order. But when I added that memory kit to my cart (which already contained the motherboard with free shipping), my shipping cost went to $16 for ground shipping. Geez. So I deleted the memory kit from my cart and submitted the order for the motherboard only. It took me about two minutes to order the memory kit on the Crucial site, and saved me $22.

My first thought was to install this motherboard and memory in my mini-ITX den system, but I think instead I may install it in a new Antec Sonata or other micro-tower case–I have plenty of those sitting around–and put it in Barbara’s office to replace that six-core system. The Atom is much, much slower than the Core i7 she has now, but she probably won’t even notice the difference using the system for web browsing and email. I, on the other hand, need as much CPU as possible for doing stuff like video production. I’ll just pull her hard drive from the big system and put it in the new one. Then, with a quick upgrade to the current Linux Mint, she’ll be good to go. I’ll do a quick clean/re-furb on the six-core system, put in a 3 TB drive (which has been sitting on my desk for months now), and rebuild my main system. My current system will go under the desk, not plugged into anything, and sit there moldering in case I need an emergency replacement. Then I’ll probably order another D2700MUD and memory for it and use those to upgrade my den system.

14:07 – With the exception of Angela Merkel, eurozone “leaders” are delusional. Here’s yet another example. At today’s summit of the Big Four (Germany, France, Italy, and Spain) leaders, those leaders spent their time discussing a “growth pact”. The summit was followed by a press conference. A typical headline is something like “Europe’s Big Four Agree €130 billion stimulus package, 1% of EU GNP”. All hail the €130 billion growth package. The problem is, it’s not a €130 billion package; it’s a €10 billion package. That is, only €10 billion is “new money”. The rest is imaginary–leveraging that €10 billion to €60 billion using accounting smoke and mirrors and demonstrably false assumptions–or money that’s already been spoken for and allocated. The eurozone leaders, including unfortunately Merkel, seem convinced that the markets are stupid. The markets will shrug this off, just as they shrugged off the so-called €100 billion Spanish bailout, which hasn’t even been requested yet, let alone approved, let alone paid.

Meanwhile, we keep seeing articles about Merkel coming under pressure. Merkel is not under any pressure. There’s nothing the EU, the IMF, the US, or anyone else can do to force her to pay the outstanding debts of the rest of the eurozone. Her voters across the political spectrum don’t want her to do it. She doesn’t want to do it. She’s not going to do it. Even if she were inclined to do it, the German constitution prohibits her from doing it. And even if she ignored her own convictions and the German constitution, German citizens would crucify her if she did it, perhaps literally. It’s just not going to happen. And yet it’s the only hope for the eurozone, which is why everyone keeps talking about it as though there’s even the tiniest probability of it occurring.

Seven years without Windows

The last time I ran Windows was seven years ago today. On 4 July 2004, I removed Windows from my systems, declaring Independence Day in more ways than one.

Since then, I’ve run Linux exclusively. For the first year or so, I ran Xandros, which was a training-wheels version of Linux that became moribund soon after the company signed a deal with Microsoft. At that point, I immediately removed Xandros from my systems and installed Ubuntu/Kubuntu, which I’ve been running ever since.

I’d actually had Linux installed on some of my systems since the late 1990’s, but only servers. By 2004, desktop Linux had made sufficient progress that I decided I was ready to take the plunge.

It was never about price. As someone who wrote computer books for O’Reilly, I could simply call Wagg-Ed and they’d send me free copies of whatever Microsoft products I asked for. I abandoned Windows because it was–and reportedly still is–insecure, buggy, and unstable. Serious bugs went unfixed for literally years, and an entire anti-malware industry had grown around protecting Windows from its own inherent security holes.

Linux, on the other hand, was and is rock-solid stable and inherently secure. (In seven years of using Linux, I’ve yet to install any kind of AV software or malware scanner; it’s simply not needed.) Linux bugs were and are fixed very quickly, usually within literally hours of being discovered or reported.

Of course, abandoning Windows also meant abandoning MS Office, Outlook, Internet Explorer, and other Windows-only applications. No great loss, as it turned out. In fact, it was a major gain. OOo Writer did everything I needed to do, and it’s never once eaten one of my documents, which happened regularly with Word. Kompozer was an adequate replacement for FrontPage, and Kmail/Kontact was noticeably superior to Outlook, which corrupted its database more than once and frequently forgot to notify when I’d set reminders. Firefox was worlds ahead of Internet Explorer. In terms of core productivity apps, Linux had everything I needed and those apps were generally at least as good as and often better than the Windows apps they replaced.

The same was true of other apps such as video and audio players, disc-burning software, backup software, and so on. Each time I needed to do something new with Linux, I found there was at least one good app and often several to choose from.

When I started shooting DV video to post on YouTube, I was a bit concerned. Prevailing wisdom was that Windows apps for video production were decent, Apple apps were superb and Linux apps were primitive and lacked function. That turned out not to be the case.

While I was playing around with video editing, my editor was kind enough to lend me a Mac Mini with iMovie installed. My first impression was that it was easy to use mainly because it didn’t do much, and that was confirmed as I used it more. It simply wouldn’t do several things that I wanted to do.

There were one or two Linux apps that resembled iMovie, both in ease-of-use and lack of functionality, but I eventually settled on an industrial-strength video editor called Cinelerra. Industrial-strength as in powerful enough to be used by commercial video production companies, including major film studios. But Cinelerra is also simple enough to use for basic functions that I never felt the need to look any further.

So, here I am after seven Windows-free years. I’ve never looked back.