A Daily Diatribe by a Pompous Git

Who is that fat bastard? A Sturm's Eye View, Guaranteed Free of Harmful, or Potentially Harmful Chemicals -- but Watch Out for the Ideas! Some of them are Contagious! 

A journal of sorts to record Jonathan Sturm's (and others') thoughts and observations on things worth thinking about. Feedback welcome, but be aware that unless you prominently say you want your communication kept private, I may publish it.

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Monday 9 July 2001

I found the source of my Win2k problems and it's the hard disk. This is the second Seagate hard disk to die on me this year.  The previous one gave me a SMART error, but when I returned it to the dealer, they found nothing wrong with it. On the off-chance that the Seagate Diagnostic Utility was misreporting the serious errors, I fdisked and formatted the disk as one large FAT partition. DOS format complained of allocation unit errors. Partition Magic 5.0 found CHS to LBA translation errors. Spinrite got stuck about 5 hours into its rigorous testing. It will be interesting to see if the dealer can rejuvenate this drive too.

I attempted to boot my Win2k partition copy by telling the BIOS to boot from the secondary IDE drive, but it didn't work, so I decided to make a clean install. This was possibly the cleanest install of Win2k I have ever done. There's no Win98 on this disk at all. The install went smoothly until the first real boot at the end. DISK BOOT FAILURE, INSERT SYSTEM DISK AND PRESS ENTER. It took some time figuring out that after telling the BIOS to boot the secondary IDE drive earlier, I had removed the primary hard disk, the one that failed, and made the secondary drive the primary.

Immediately after installing the base OS, I defragged as is my usual wont. Unless you look, you won't believe how fragmented it is at this juncture! Why the defragger doesn't run, or a message pop up to advise you to do so, only MS knows! Then I created a 3 GB data partition, a 400 MB FAT partition for the paging file and a 3 GB partition for applications and temporary files. Having pointed the system at the paging partition and temp file location, I rebooted and installed Service Pack 2. Even though I told it not to back up my old files, the 1 GB partition allocated to Win2k was now too full for yet another defrag. I found a folder called Service Pack Files with some 154 MB of files in it. Moving that out of the partition allowed a complete defrag of the boot and system partition.

Having installed all of my apps, it's now time to think of finishing my friend's Win98SE box I started on yesterday. Her husband brought by the application and driver disks I didn't have. 

Thought for the day:

The scientific theory I like best is that the rings of Saturn are composed entirely of lost airline baggage.

Mark Russell


Tuesday 10 July 2001

One of the problems of replacing a dead hard disk under warranty is the time it takes. The disk goes back to the supplier who confirms the problem, then forwards it to the distributor who in turn sends it to the manufacturer. Then it all happens in reverse and weeks have passed. So I have ordered an IBM hard disk to provide me with insurance against the current hard disk failing. Ordinarily, I avoid IBM like the plague. On two occasions IBM support refused to help -- how to access the BIOS on their machines and how to set the jumpers on one of their hard disks. My supplier only sells IBM, Seagate and Western Digital and the latter have had problems of late I'm told. Usually I sell on my hard disks around the time the warranty expires, so hard disk failure hasn't been a problem. Before these two Seagate failures I only had one, a 40 MB Conner in my Zenith 8 Mhz 286 -- a long time ago.

When the Seagate Barracuda III is replaced, I will put the Seagate U8 in the server to replace the 4.3 GB Quantum Fireball that's now almost 4 years old. Much to my surprise it's worth an appreciable percentage of the cost of the IBM drive. A friend who repairs machines and sells second-hand computers says that more often than not, it's a dead hard disk that's the problem and that of course a machine is useless without one. Older machines do not understand recent hard disks, so appropriately sized disks retain their value much better than the rest of the hardware.

And on the topic of value, I note that I paid $A430 each for the two 64 MB SDRAMs in the server and $A435 for the 4.3 GB hard disk. The cost of a 256 MB SDRAM is currently $A143 and the 40 GB IBM hard disk is $A330. By way of contrast, the Matrox Millenium II cost $A330 while the current Millennium G450 32MB dual head is a mere $A335. For an approximate US dollar value, just halve those numbers!

While on the topic of hardware, I just finished reading Robert and Barbara Thompson's PC Hardware in a Nutshell. It's an excellent introduction to the subject and I highly recommend it. 

Thought for the day:

We are in the process of creating what deserves to be called the idiot culture. Not an idiot sub-culture, which every society has bubbling beneath the surface and which can provide harmless fun; but the culture itself. For the first time, the weird and the stupid and the coarse are becoming our cultural norm, even our cultural ideal.

Carl Bernstein


Wednesday 11 July 2001

For some reason, out of the blue, Dell are bombarding me with glossy brochures exhorting me to buy their wares. If I was in the market for a "proper" server, it's likely I'd buy from them. Or Compaq. Or IBM. But that's highly unlikely. Usually I follow Robert Thompson's advice and build my own. Well, almost. My supplier, EYO, has a website where you choose your components and they build the box(es) for $A30. (Yes, I know it says $33, but when I tested the system yesterday, it put $30 on the shopping list). When I first purchased parts and computers from Nikol, assembly was free. Even at $A30 ($US15) it's a bargain. And I get all the advantages Bob refers to in PC Hardware in a Nutshell. Mainly it means getting a machine that's tailored to my needs, not those of the seller. And it generally costs less than a generic machine regardless whether it's brand name or white box. Rule of thumb: if you see a white box advertised for less than a build-your-own, there's a reason for it -- likely it's crap!

Yesterday, just for the hell of it, I went through specifying a machine so I could share my thoughts with you. 

The most important part of a computer to me is the monitor. I spend long periods looking at the screen and poor monitors are a very bad bargain when they cause eyestrain and headaches. On this occasion I chose a 19" Sony CPD-G420. At $A1,305.70 it's a bargain when you consider that a little over a year ago I spent $A1,536.00 for its predecessor. If I was on a budget, the 19" Hitachi CM-715 is a mere $A789.80, but I'd be more likely to go elsewhere and purchase a Philips or a Samsung. My experience with both have been very favourable with the edge going to Philips on the grounds that local service is excellent. My Philips 17b was accidentally dropped a few years ago and turnaround on repair was 2-3 days. It has since needed another repair and again turnaround was two days. It's now five years old. For three and a half years I used it for at least eight hours a day and now my son uses it around 30 hours a week. The brightness control is far from fully wound up, so it's likely got a few more years life in it yet.

At the bottom of the monitor stakes is an 19" AOC 9GLR at $A556.60. Such a monitor has a useable lifespan of only a couple of years before it drifts so far out of spec it's unusable. That works out at $A228.30 per annum, compared to $A261.14 or less for the Sony, a trivial difference when comparing the quality.

The next most critical component is the motherboard. On this occasion I chose an Asus PGA370 CUV4x-DLS dual CPU with SCSI and NIC built in. At $A792.00 it's not cheap, but a dual CPU board with separate SCSI adapter and NIC would likely cost somewhat more. My current machine, also based on an Asus MoBo is rarely CPU bound, but I do multitask intensively. Having two CPUs would make for better performance when I run Linux in a VMWare virtual machine, something I would do more often if I had such a machine. In no particular order, I have had good experiences with Asus, A-Open and Gigabyte boards. A friend and colleague in the industry swears by iWill. Cheap motherboards, like cheap monitors, are no bargain. Stable motherboard designs cost more to implement and the cheaper boards usually compromise on critical components as well. Electrolytic capacitors instead of the longer life tantalums, passive voltage regulation instead of active resulting in more heat in the box for instance.

While this motherboard uses a VIA chipset and I hear of problems with them, I have never experienced any. I have had problems with Intel chipsets, most notably the TX. I had two Socket 7 machines, one with a VIA chipset and one with the TX. The one with the VIA chipset was nominally slower than the TX, but that only showed up in benchmarking. In real life there was no difference. Until I installed an extra 64 MB of RAM. Then the machine with the VIA chipset blew the TX machine away. At the time I purchased those machines, I had the option of two Intel chipsets. Either one that supported SDRAM and cached only the first 64 MB of RAM, or one that used EDO and caching of more than the first 64 MB of RAM. That VIA machine is now my file, print and Internet connection server. It runs flawlessly.

Incidentally, that machine also contains my SCSI CD burner. This is contrary to Bob Thompson's advice to put the CD burner in your most powerful machine, but there are extenuating circumstances here. The server is not heavily loaded, despite its antiquity, SCSI being a great help here. Win2k's multitasking skills undoubtedly help, as does the 128 MB of RAM. After more than 500 CDs burnt, there has been but one coaster despite the dubious quality of one spindle of a hundred.

A decent motherboard also comes with decent documentation, something the cheaper sort lack. This becomes critical when troubleshooting the almost inevitable problems during the computer's life. As well as paper, these documents are usually duplicated on a CD that comes with the board and on the manufacturer's website. The latter often contain information not available at the time of manufacture as new CPUs are released.

The CPUs I chose were 833 MHz Intel Pentium IIIs at $A393.80 each, $A787.60 total. Together, they will easily outperform a 1.7 GHz P4 at $A1,111.00 doing the kind of things I use my machine for.

When I recently updated my current workstation from a 5,400 RPM hard disk to 7,200 RPM, I was pleasantly surprised by how much performance improved. SCSI, because it handles hard disk transfers more efficiently and loads the CPU less should have a major impact on performance. Two 18.2GB, 10,000 RPM Ultra160 Seagate Cheetahs at $A478.50 each would provide more than adequate storage. Mysteriously, the 18 GB 7,200 RPM Barracudas are somewhat more expensive. The new 15,000 RPM Cheetahs are far too expensive at $A838.20 each! 

The amount of RAM has a great impact on performance. I use lifetime warranty KingMax and for this machine I chose to install 768 MB. While 512 MB would be more than adequate for my current needs, RAM prices have never been so low and it makes sense to invest now, rather than discover later that I need more and that the price has risen to astronomical levels again.

Rather than a CD-ROM drive, I have gone with a DVD drive as we are now seeing more software delivered in that format. Most notably in my case, SuSE Linux. The Samsung SD-612 reads CDRW as well as ordinary CDs and is inexpensive at $A119.90. A SCSI CD-ROM is by contrast $A154.00 and far too expensive given its more limited utility, even though the interface is faster than the IDE interface of the DVD.

Such a machine needs a decent backup system and I chose a Sony SDT7000R DDS-2 DAT drive at $A1018.60. The capacity is 4 GB uncompressed, 8 GB compressed and has the advantage over my current AIWA Travan IDE of being faster and using cheaper tapes.

For video display I chose the Matrox Millennium G450 32MB dual head at $A335.50. What this lacks in 3D capability, it more than makes up for in 2D display quality and for me that's paramount. Having the ability to attach a second monitor while not essential would be quite handy.

For sound output, it's hard to choose anything other than a current Sound Blaster unless you have specialised audio needs. In this case a SB Live! Digital at $A184.80.

I chose an AOpen ATX case, HX48 equipped with 300w power supply. This is a more than reasonable quality case with slide off sides for ease of access and can take an optional extra fan.

Finally, for keyboard and mouse I chose a Microsoft Internet K/B + Intelli mouse at $A63.80. I like the feel of this keyboard better than most and I never really took to the MS Natural layout.

The grand total of $A6677.33 is not dramatically different to what I paid for a 700 MHz Athlon system not much more than a year ago. It looks like a great time to buy computer hardware! What a pity I don't have the spare cash to buy this machine.

Thought for the day:

Dreaming permits each and everyone of us to be quietly and safely insane every night of our lives.

William Dement


Thursday 12 July 2001

The replacement hard drive didn't arrive yesterday. The courier's website confirms that it left Hobart 32 miles away at 7:53:30 yesterday. Sometimes the driver can't be bothered coming all the way up the hill to the farm and leaves parcels at the local post office, but that didn't happen yesterday. And today I am off to the big city for the second interview for a job I'm not sure I want. Well, I would like a part-time job to bring in the bare minimum needed for survival and rely on occasional short training contracts and consultancy for the luxuries. 

My last "nine to five" occupied me for 60-70 hours a week and that was just too much. The pay sucked as well. To add insult to injury, the monthly paycheck rarely arrived on time. Then the expected 25% annual bonus was reduced to less than 5% as the business owner deducted 100% of the (essential) hardware purchases I authorised, rather than spreading the cost over the estimated lifespan of the equipment. The boss also paid a special bonus to the laziest member of the staff because he had been there the longest! Then I was told that the salary renegotiation at the end of my first full twelve months was meant to be twelve months after that -- in fact 28 months after I started working there!


Some interesting correspondence on the hard drive issue:

Ah, well. Everyone has different experiences, and I did point out that this was my own observation and not necessarily statistically valid. However, I do think it interesting that among the 100 or so hard drives in this house, dead and alive, I have a stack of dead WD's and zero dead Seagates or Maxtors. Conversely, nearly all of my many systems have one or more Seagates or Maxtors running just fine, with an occasional IBM or other brand.

Feedback I get from others seems to confirm my recommendations. WD's suck. IBMs are generally okay, but have some compatibility problems (ask Tom Syroid). Almost everyone has good experiences with Seagate and Maxtor.

-- Robert Bruce Thompson mailto:thompson@ttgnet.com http://www.ttgnet.com/rbt/thisweek.html

Yes, luck must play a part. Some years ago, a colleague in the industry struck a bad patch with Maxtor's drives. As luck would have it, I urgently needed to purchase an extra drive and all I could get locally was a Maxtor. That drive is still going strong after more than five years!

I might have suspected heat as the source of my problems with the Seagates except my son is running an almost identical box with two U8 Seagates. The only difference is he has an A-Open MoBo with GeForce vc and mine has an Asus MoBo with Matrox vc.

I sure hope there are no compatibility problems with the IBM drive! It arrives today, hopefully in about four hours.

BTW, when the SMART error that occurred in the U8 Seagate mysteriously disappeared while the drive was being tested by my supplier, you said IIRC that you were going to mention it to someone you knew at Seagate and see if they could cast light on the issue. Did anything come of that?

Ah, here was his response:

My godz, Bob, I just ran across this message from you (4 1/2 months old!!) and I don't think I ever responded! I'm so sorry. It's been a crazy year, but I consider you a top priority and I shouldn't have missed this.

I hope you found an answer perhaps from Seagate tech support -- but if not here's the scoop: 

1. A SMART error does not always mean there is a serious hardware problem or near-term failure prediction, but it can. 

2. A SMART error can indicate many things. SMART is intended to flag you when a threshold of drive behavior is passed that MAY indicate a failure will occur. SMART logs things like spin retries, seek retries, how many sectors have been reallocated because they are difficult to read, CRC data miscompares, etc. In some cases a SMART flag can be caused by environmentally-induced factors, such as ambient temperature causing several seek retries. The drive wouldn't "cure itself," but if taken out of the environment, the events will stop and SMART will no longer see anything to flag -- such errors are said to be "normalized" or to have "settled down," and this means they truly do not exist any more. Probably, this customer's supplier runs a diagnostic test on all incoming returns (like Seagate SeaTools) and found that there was no longer any warning signs. 

3. If there were an unacceptable number of bad sectors on the drive (the real concern for possible failure), these would be permanently difficult to read and SMART would continue to catch these after a reformat. My top tech person here says that if SMART is no longer flagging anything, he is perfectly confident in the drive. 

4. SMART errors can indicate either.

Sorry again that I lost track of this! I hope it will be useful as reference anyway. Best regards, John

-- Robert Bruce Thompson mailto:thompson@ttgnet.com http://www.ttgnet.com/rbt/thisweek.html

Thanks Bob. That's interesting reading. Makes me wonder if internal case temperature *might* be an issue, though it's a capacious mid-tower and the motherboard temperature sensors seem reasonable. [34C] Just in case, I'll install a fan adjacent to each hard drive as insurance.

That is interesting.

People seldom consider heat as a culprit when they're having hard drive problems, but I have seen it occur. It's unusual because normally the processor and memory are more heat sensitive, but it's possible to have a system where the processor and memory are adequately cooled by air flow but the hard drive is not.

-- Robert Bruce Thompson mailto:thompson@ttgnet.com http://www.ttgnet.com/rbt/thisweek.html

I first became aware of heat problems with hard drives in a discussion about the relative merits of different brands on the WINNT-L. It soon became apparent that most brands were OK and that it was heat that was the big killer. This was confirmed for me by a repair guy I have a lot of respect for. Putting a second hard disk in a mini-tower nearly always caused problems due to the extra heat and these days he refuses to do so.

I only ever assembled one machine in a mini-tower and that was for my son Thomas. I ended up having to use a cpu fan to cool the video card. Ever since then, I have used larger (cooler) midi towers and I don't overload them with drives. I always try to place the hard drives so that there is an air gap both above and below to allow adequate air flow. Nevertheless, my office gets hot enough in summer that there are occasional days I need to shut down my machines.

However, the U8 died in spring when the weather was cool and the Barracuda in winter, so I am drawing a long bow on possible cause. Providing a fan for each hard disk can't hurt, only extend the life of the drives.


Just for laughs:

The REAL Foster's Ad

I don't have a kangaroo for a pet 
I don't wrestle with crocodiles 
And I don't wear a cork hat

I fight wars 
But never start them 
I would rather make peace 
I can wear my country's flag with pride

I am a rock 
I am the ocean 
I am the island continent

My neighbours are the Smiths, the Wilsons, the Santerellis, the De Costis, the Wongs and the Jagamarras

I play football without a helmet 
I like beetroot on my hamburger

I ride in the front seat of the taxi 
I believe it's a prawn not a shrimp

I believe the world is round 
And down under is on top

I believe Australia is the best address on Earth 
And Australians brew the best beer.

The REAL Aussie

I ate my pet kangaroo 
I am shit scared of crocodiles 
And I wear a baseball cap

I love star wars 
And the wookie is my favourite 
I would rather get pissed 
And watch someone else carry the country's flag with pride

I like to rock 
To Billy Ocean 
I am blind to my incompetence

My neighbours are the Smith's, the Wilsons, the Wogs, the Lebs, the Chinks and the Abos

I watch football with a tinnie 
I take the beetroot off my hamburger. 
And throw Macca's pickles on windows

I do runners from taxis

I believe the world is flat 
And Australia is fucking miles away from anywhere

I believe Australia is the best address on earth 
And Australians brew the best beer 
And that's why we never touch Fosters. 
We export that shit.

A note for readers living outside Australia: Fosters = beer, pissed = drunk (not angry), tinnie = a can of beer, Wogs = Italians and Greeks, Chinks = Chinese, Lebs = Lebanese, Abos = Kooris = aborigines = black fellers

Thought for the day:



Friday 13 July 2001

I hate couriers! The hard disk I ordered Monday arrived in Hobart Tuesday morning -- their website says so. On the way to Hobart yesterday, once I was within mobile phone range I checked for messages. There was one from the courier apologising for missing delivery on Wednesday as the truck had left before it arrived, but they would deliver Thursday. As you have probably gathered, it didn't. Margie says there's a parcel at the post office and I suspect that's where it has been delivered. One time the courier phoned because he didn't know where the cottage was. He said: "I'm not fuckin' driving all the way up there! There's nowhere to turn the fuckin' truck around."

That leaves me a logistical problem as we own only one car these days, (for an estimated annual cost saving of around $A10,000 compared to owning two. Now you know where all the money for our computer system comes from.) Margie works from before the post office opens until after it shuts today. Usually, Fran and I drive in his van to Huonville Fridays for our counter lunch, but he's ill and that won't be happening. The taxi fare to the post office is $A10, or it's a two hour walk. Each way! If it was any other day, I would cab, or walk if the weather's fine. A perfect excuse to continue the few extra metres to the local pub for a few refreshing pints of Guinness and a chat with Richard and Michael.

But today is Friday the 13th! And that means it's my friend and colleague John Stephenson's house warming. Since it's a little over 30 minutes drive away, we'll be eating early. Turning up half-pissed and late is not my style. I'm looking forward to it as I haven't seen John since April when he and Gary Dupree bought me lunch for my birthday.

I hate couriers!


Yesterday's interview went quite well. There was a surprise in store for me though. A short test that included creating a query in Access and exporting a report to Word. I had neglected to take my reading glasses and that made reading the instructions a little difficult. And it's more than a year, possibly a long as 24 months since I last used Access. And that was Access 2000. All of the introductory Access training I have done was with version 2 and 95! This was Access 97. I had no problem generating the query in the design grid, but it resolutely refused to show me any data. And Mr Clippy was his usual completely useless self!

When the replacement hard disk arrives, I will install Access 97 in VMWare and refresh my memory with one of the sample databases. I recall being stumped by this issue in Access 1.0, but not how I overcame it. This is why I prefer FileMaker Pro to Access. Where Access requires effort, FileMaker just gets the job done. There are applications that you can create in Access that are well beyond FileMaker's capabilities, but this isn't one of them. It's far less complex than the invoicing, client tracking and income database I created for my own business in order to come to grips with Access. It took far longer than creating it in FileMaker and it was apparent would always take at least twice as long as doing similar things that FileMaker was capable of. What I particularly like about FileMaker is its layout capabilities. When I was first shown FileMaker (on a Mac) I was told we were going to lay out an illustrated book of poetry, something we ordinarily would have used PageMaker or Quark to do. A week later I was beta testing Samurai, the first Windows version. FileMaker was the database I had dreamed of.

Part of the interview was with the current incumbent via telephone -- Brenda lives in Melbourne. The data entry portion of the job appears to largely consist of cut and paste from emails, so my 30 wpm typing isn't an issue. Although I'm not a gambling man, I wouldn't mind betting that I can do that quicker than most. While almost everyone who uses a PC intensively know the Ctrl-C, Ctrl-X and Ctrl-V commands for copy, cut and paste, almost nobody knows the select keyboard commands. To select a letter, it's Shift + left or right Arrow  key. Ever tried to select a lower case "i" with a mouse? To select a word, it's Ctrl + Shift + left or right Arrow key. To select to the beginning of the line it's Shift + Home and to select to the end of the line, it's Shift + End. To select whole lines, it's Shift + up or down Arrow key. Nearly always this is much quicker than moving your mousing hand from the keyboard.

The machine I was sitting at seemed sluggish once I had two Access databases and Word opened. I commented on this and was told (IIRC) it was a Compaq 800 MHz P III with 128 MB of RAM. I would have expected it to be similar in responsiveness to my 700 MHz K7 with 256 MB of RAM. The extra 128 MB in this machine only gets used when I have far more than two applications opened, or I am editing large bitmaps. Perhaps the difference is down to Windows 98 versus Windows 2000.

Brenda works full-time from home and the potential employer would prefer me to work full-time in the office. My preference is for a bit of both. I understand the need for fact-to-face contact. There's a worry that I might be bored by some aspects of the job, so I assured the interviewers that even though I have enjoyed the cut and thrust of working for myself, that too entails doing things I consider boring. Life's like that.

One interesting aspect of the job would be setting up a VPN. RAS is easier and definitely more secure, but ties up a phone line and requires an additional modem. I haven't done a VPN yet. Currently the databases are ferried back and forth between the worker and the main office.


Yesterday I ran into an ex-workmate from the last time I was an employee. David went from being a trainer of mainly Lotus products to learning NT system administration. As happens so often in that field, the employer over-exploited him and he left in order to get a life. The new employer, a computer retailer, went broke and the previous employer, upon discovering this immediately hired him back with much more favourable conditions. David and I have enormous respect for each others' abilities. Along with Jason (the Access guru) and Helen (the marketing maven), we called ourselves The A Team. All of our weaknesses were covered by the others' strengths so it felt like there were eight of us. The team fell apart because of the stupidities of our employer. Jason was the first to leave and since I was the Captain I was the last to leave the ship. I suggested to David that if we can track Helen down that we have a get together for some well-earned nostalgia.

David has an interesting project -- a test roll-out of Lotus SmartSuite. His employer buys IBM boxes, so they get SmartSuite for free. Paying for MS Office licenses if there is no compelling reason to do so makes no sense. If David's thinking this way it's odd-on that other admins are doing so too. Microsoft's lunatic new licensing could create a market for the down and out Lotus and Word Perfect. Interesting!


Following Mat Beland's advice, I purchased The Hacker Ethic and the Spirit of the Information Age from the bookshop where I ran into David. Also a book about Stephen Covey by Robert Heller. Covey wrote The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, perhaps the best book on time and life management ever written. I was actually looking for a decent book on Access, but all I saw were books about Access 2002! I will order Access Database Design & Programming, 2nd Edition today.


Some correspondence:

Very much enjoyed Wednesday's notes about specifying a machine. I find myself agreeing with much of what you chose.

Monitor quality is paramount for me as well given that I spend every day looking at them. Rather than the 19" I chose to use two top quality 17" monitors connected to my Matrox G450, and I'm delighted with the results. Cost was lower and screen real estate is greater. I suspect the 17" monitors give me a sharper image. I'm currently debating whether to replace them with two 15" LCDs.

I'm at odds with your decision to put SCSI on the motherboard. I find myself replacing motherboard & cpu annually in my main workstation, but my SCSI card (Adaptec 29160 currently) soldiers on. I've bought ASUS for years.

I'm close to changing my current mb & cpu (ASUS A7Pro & Athlon 900) and can't decide to go with a 1.4g Athlon or dual PIIIs. I've used dual cpu systems before and appreciate them, but I also appreciate raw speed. My last system was a dual 450 and the Athlon 900 generally feels faster. The Athlon 1.4 would probably be fastest in raw speed and certainly cheaper, but I worry about the size and noise of the cpu cooler it requires!

"I'm not a lumberjack or a fur trader. I don't live in an igloo or eat blubber or own a dog sled. And I don't know Jimmy, Sally or Suzy from Canada, although I'm certain they're really, really nice. I have a prime minister, not a president. I speak English and French, not American. And I pronounce it about, not aboot. I can proudly sew my country's flag on my backpack. I believe in peacekeeping, not policing. Diversity, not assimilation. And that the beaver is a truly proud and noble animal. A toque is a hat, a chesterfield is a couch. And it is pronounced zed, not zee, zed. Canada is the second largest landmass, the first nation of hockey and the best part of North America. My name is Joe, and I am Canadian!" - Molson Canadian commercial

- Robert

I rarely upgrade my machines, preferring to press them into other duties, selling on the oldest and obsolescent. So onboard SCSI in a new machine would make more sense for my needs. In fact, on Tom Syroid's excellent advice,  I will be purchasing an Adaptec 29160N to drive a bunch of 10k 1 GB Seagate drives I am being given. Right now I lack the space, so that's something I look forward to when The House of Steel is completed.

The only CPU-intensive task I have is the processing of wave files made from my vinyl record and cassette tape collection. Once that's finished, I'll no longer need raw CPU speed for the foreseeable future. The dream machine is pretty close to the bottom of my priorities and that's an unusual feeling when looking back over the last decade and a half. An extra computer would be handy, but I'm more likely to purchase a second-hand P-233, or low-end Celeron for emergency use. If I hadn't lost my email connectivity Monday, that damned replacement hard disk would have arrived with the replacement CD-ROM drive! I was reluctant to install Outlook on my server that hasn't missed a beat since April 2000!

Regarding dual monitors, again, space is a problem at this time. I will likely buy Thomas a 19" monitor for Christmas and have the Philips 17" back. In theory I should be able to use my Matrox Millennium II to drive that. The server doesn't really need that good of a video card. The 19" Sony is ideal for bitmap editing. A 17" would require a lot more scrolling and scrolling large bitmaps sucks dead rabbits!

Our needs are different, but it's a difference we can celebrate.

I notice a lack of a thought for the day (7/12). Possibly the 'Just for Laughs' portion sufficed. Thanks for the definitions (and what are Macca's pickles?).

a wog :-) Dave Krecklow

Lack of Thought for the Day was an oversight! <blush>

Macca's pickles are what you get when you order a Big Mac.

It's a good thing all of the bosses are out of town or not in today. They'd see me sitting in my cube, working away, and then suddenly burst out in a fit of giggles, mumbling "Fosters, heh".

We've got a restaurant here called the "Outback Steakhouse". Last time we were in there a young lady tried an Aussie accent to welcome us. I've not got the Thompson ear for accents/dialects, but I can tell Canadian from American, etc - this sounded much more Cockney than Aussie. Oh well.

Next time we get there (haven't been in a while - it's pretty spendy) I'll see if I can steal a menu for comparison...

Anyway, thanks for the laugh.... ;-D 

-- John Dominick

Bad timing on my part, John? Next time I'll post the humour for when the bosses are in!

BTW, while it's great that the DayNotes link now takes us directly to your new location on Mat's server, it currently shows his page, rather than yours!

Thought for the day:

It is an article of faith in my creed to pick the man who does not take himself seriously, but does take his work seriously.

Michael C. Cahill


Saturday 14 July 2001

Yesterday I made the hour long walk to the Post Office to pick up the replacement hard drive. To add to the enjoyment, I took the Walkman and listened to Brian Eno's My Life in the Bush of Ghosts -- such excellent walking music. Usually someone stops and gives me a lift. Mostly, I'd rather walk all the way, but it seems rude to refuse the offer of a lift and conversation.

I chose to taxi for the return after a couple of pints of Guinness. It was starting to rain. In any event, the return is mostly up-hill and my tired old legs ache very much from the unaccustomed exercise and the housewarming party I went to last night. I installed the drive, gave Partition Magic 5.0 it's instructions and took a nap before preparing the soup Margie and I would eat before going to the party. By the time we left, the drive was partitioned and I had installed Win98 SE. I need it for the stupid new Tax software that won't run on Win2k! Later today, I will install Win2k and my apps, leaving the Win2k and apps on the second (slower) drive as a backup. 

There were hints that I might have problems with the IBM drive and my BIOS, but so far it appears to run just fine. I have allocated only 13 GB so far, leaving 31.5 GB free. Later that will be filled with a mixture of VMWare OS installs and wave file recordings of my cassette and vinyl record collection. Processing them to remove clicks and other noise requires a lot of CPU grunt, so I will process one overnight and another during the day while working on The House of Steel.

The party was at a colleague's home. John has always been my hardware guru and has often discussed tough software issues with me when he gets stuck. I mentioned the rather high cost of the Adaptec 29160 and he said he has been using Asus SCSI adapters for the last few years. Apparently they use the Adaptec chipset and drivers and work just fine at a fraction of the cost. Following John's advice, I should be able to afford better quality SCSI cables which is where experience says most SCSI problems arise.

Much to my amusement, as usual the most interesting conversations were outside where we smokers must go these days. Or at least that's the observation made by the non-smokers when asked why they are outside with us. Luckily, it was a mild night by local standards.

Several people at the gathering I hadn't seen for many years and it was a pleasure to be able to converse with them again. Sadly, one I was hoping to see excused himself as he has a toothache. He'd better not have a toothache when we have our housewarming.


One thing that amused me very much this week was a chat I had with a person involved in the roll-out of Medicare years ago. This entailed providing an identity number for every man woman and child in Australia for the purposes of accessing our government subsidised medical scheme. When he analysed the database, he discovered that there were 1.25 million more cards issued than the total population of Australia at the time. My Medicare number is the basis of my Thawte ID!

The conversation arose because this person had lost his wallet containing his driver's license. When he went to obtain a replacement, he had much trouble because a driver's license is a key part of verifying one's identity these days. Credit cards, Medicare cards, electricity bills with your street address etc each are allotted a certain number of points. Not enough points and you don't exist. The driver's license is allotted the most points. Lacking this critical component, he asked what documents he could produce to bring the number of points up so he could obtain a replacement. The only one left for him was his birth certificate. "Yikes!" he says, "I haven't a clue where that is these days. Where can I obtain a copy?" "Why, here of course", says the counter-clod. "That will be forty dollars".

My acquaintance decided that he'd rather spend the forty dollars on beer and await the renewal of his licence when it comes due. Technically, he will be committing an offence by not carrying the missing license when he drives, but he thinks the odds are pretty much in his favour.


Now it's time to finish that install on the new hard drive. This time the drive is mounted in one of the 5.25" drive bays where the air can reach more of its surface. As well, it and the adjacent drive are in the air flow from a strategically mounted chip fan. If heat was the cause of my earlier woes, it won't be in the future.

Thought for the day:

To really enjoy the better things in life, one must first have experienced the things they are better than.

Oscar Homoka


Sunday 15 July 2001

The last few weeks I have been busy thinking mostly of things decidedly uncomputerish. Today I caught up on some reading of Woody's Office Watch and Windows Watch newsletters. Both are great sources of information and free. You can check them out here. A recent Windows Watch contained a particularly valuable link. FreeAnswers is a natural language query front end to, among others, Microsoft's Knowledge Base. The relevance of results are much better than Microsoft's own search engine, but that should come as no surprise to anyone who has searched for an article they know exists, but failed to find with Microsoft's engine. Highly recommended.


Found in my inbox:


Example: You can train a dog to fetch a stick. Therefore, you can train a potato to dance. 

Example: On the basis of my observations, wearing huge pants makes you fat. 

Example: I don't listen to country music. Therefore, country music is not popular.

Example: People choose to be obese/gay/alcoholic because they prefer the lifestyle.

Example: Some Elbonians are animal rights activists. Some Elbonians wear fur coats. Therefore, Elbonians are hypocrites.

Example: I'm a liar. Therefore I don't believe what you're saying. 

Example: I enjoy pasta because my house is made of bricks.

Example: He's not a criminal. He just does things that are against the law.

Example: If you have the right tools, how hard can it be to generate nuclear fission at home. 

Example: I'm putting ALL of my money on the lottery this week because the jackpot is so big.

Example: I know that bungee jumping could kill me, but it's three seconds of pure fun!

Example: Remember "all things come to those who wait." So don't bother looking for a job.

Example: $100 is a good price for a toaster, compared to buying a Ferrari.

Example: I'm correct because I'm smarter than you. And I must be smarter than you because I'm correct.

Example: Your theory of gravity doesn't address the question of why there are no unicorns, so it must be wrong.

Example: Sure, the experts say you shouldn't ride a bicycle in the eye of a hurricane, but I have my own theory.

Example: Uncle Horace says eating pork makes you smarter. That's good enough for me.

Example: My car won't start. I'm certain the spark plugs have been stolen by rogue clowns.

Example: His last six wives were murdered mysteriously. I hope to be wife number seven.

Example: My house is on fire! Quick, call the post office and tell them to hold my mail!

Example: The simplest explanation for the moon landings is that they were hoaxes.

Example: The Beatles were popular for one reason only: They were good singers.

Example: The sun causes sunburns. Therefore the planet would be better off without the sun.

Example: If everyone had more money, we could eliminate poverty.

Example: I bought an encyclopedia but I'm still stupid.

Example: If you let your barber cut your hair, the next thing you know he'll be lopping your limbs off.

Example: I've never seen you drunk, so you must be one of those Amish people.

Thought for the day:

To a nun from his deathbed: "God bless you, Sister, may all your sons be archbishops."

Dylan Thomas


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Jonathan Sturm 2001


Jonathan Sturm 2001