Ephemerides

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 1 July 2002

Yesterday was the 18th anniversary of The Git and SWMBO entering the state known as wedlock. usually, it's The Git who remembers such things and SWMBO forgets. This year, for the first time since we met, it was The Git who forgot and SWMBO remembered -- around 5 o'clock in the evening. She is definitely improving with age :-)

-oOo-

In return for his services assisting a neighbour purchase their new computer, The Git was given their old machine and DeskJet 670c printer. The machine is an Acer Entra and it was painfully slow. Why machines intended to run Microsoft OSs are sold with half, or less than half the RAM they need has always been a mystery to me. This machine came with 16 MB of RAM and a combo soundcard/WinModem! The 100 MHz 486 had 32 MB of 60 nanosecond fast page Mode RAM in it and adding that to the Entra made this venerable 200 MHz Pentium MMX seem positively spritely by comparison. Reefing out the combo card and reinstalling Win95 OSR2 will undoubtedly kick things along nicely. I might even replace the 2 GB Western Digital drive and replace it with a 4.3 GB Quantum currently in the server. That was a very slick drive indeed when this machine was considered the bee's knees.

Interestingly, the owners claim that this machine performed flawlessly for the five years (actually, it was four) they owned it. Win95 was never reinstalled -- the original Win95 CD is still in its sealed packet. Unlike most white box machines I come across, there's not a single CHK file in the root directory -- usually it's chock full of them. The keyboard is above average and has replaced the keyboard on my main workstation (also an Acer) that has developed an intermittently sticky shift key. A useful addition to the menagerie.

Thought for the day:

There are few virtuous women who are not bored with their trade.

Francois De La Rochefoucauld

Current Listening

Loudon Wainwright III -- Unrequited


Top

Tuesday 2 July 2002

While copying some files between machines today, I noticed that there were 2,236,959 minutes remaining! Fortunately, the files were all copied in considerably less than 41 years.

One of the main claims of the "warmers" in the climate debate is that we are experiencing more extreme weather events than in the past. This site would appear to give the lie to that claim. The only record to be broken recently was for cold at Vostok in Antarctica, and that was 22 years ago. Missing is the 40 year long drought that afflicted Mexico and part of what is now the United States in the 16th Century.

So where do these almost daily record breaking weather events you read, or hear about in the news come from? Well, given enough weather stations and the variability of weather, you can expect at least one to break a its own record pretty much every week. A bit like having a news headline every time an athlete breaks their own record for an event.

While searching for those links, Google informed me that I can buy Record from eBay, or Yahoo! Hmmmm...

Thought for the day:

The simplest explanation is that it doesn't make sense.

Professor William Buechner

Current Listening

ELO -- A New World Record


Top

Wednesday 3 July 2002

For the first time in a long time, I visited Tom's Hardware Guide. It was an accident really. The Git has been playing with the meta-search engine, Kartoo and very good it is indeed. While Google will remain my default search engine, anything that requires a bit of drilling is better achieved with Kartoo. What was the Git drilling for, you may ask? Well, on these cool mid-winter mornings, the office in The House of Steel isn't all that cool. Due to the heat from two always-on PCs, it's quite mild, only needing an occasional boost from an electric fan-heater when it's really frosty. That led to me thinking about how much heat PCs generate.

While my 700 MHz AMD K7 dissipates 50 watts, the humble 1 GHz VIA C3 manages to get by on 12 watts. Of course there's a sacrifice in performance, but for someone on a strict energy budget, or who hates the sound of multiple fans, this is more grunt than any of us had not so long ago. More than good enough for most word-processing and similar office tasks. As usual, this spurred The Git to thinking of a conversation some weeks ago where it was declared that the only reasons for considering a CPU other than Intel were if you were a rabid game-player, don't care about application compatibility and don't care how hot your CPU runs.

"Just how hot do the main rivals for speed compare?" mused The Git? Kartoo found the answer here, a calculator intended for overclockers. Having looked up how many watts his own CPU generates, he decided to see which CPU holds the current heat record. Unsurprisingly, it's the 0.18 Micron 2 GHz Pentium 4 at 100.4 watts, beating out AMD's highest of 72 watts for its Athlon XP 2100+ running at its stock processor speed of 1730 MHz. "Why unsurprising?" you may be tempted to ask. Well, in The Git's experience, whenever something is common knowledge, Anthropogenic Global Warming for instance, there's always more to things than meets the eye.

The Git also took a look at Tom's comparison between the dual Athlon versus dual Xeon review. As expected, the Xeons performed slightly better on the benchmarks than Athlons, leading to the question "is it worth twice the price?" The answer is a resounding "NO!" if you run Pinnacle Studio 7. While it ran happily on dual Athlons, it flatly refused to run at all on dual Xeons! This is the kind of software you buy a dual-processor workstation for! 

As a friend pointed out to me some months ago when he purchased a couple of dual Athlon machines, it's the software that comes first, not the platform. He had extreme difficulties getting video editing software to run stable on dual Xeon workstations. The few difficulties he had on the dual Athlon machine were promptly dealt with by the vendor and that was the clincher for him. The vendors of the Xeon machines blamed the software he was running and software support blamed the machine vendors.

Thought for the day:

A rumor without a leg to stand on will get around some other way.

John Tudor

Current Listening

Fleetwood Mac -- Pious Bird of Ill Omen


Top

Friday 5 July 2002

The Git has been thinking heat again. Computer heat that is. Some time ago, he was having disk failure problems with Seagate hard disks and added a fan to circulate more air in that part of the computer. Its an old ball-bearing chip fan and the balls have obviously worn a bit as it's starting to make rattling "I'm about to die" noises. The air in the case is only 28C when the room temperature is 19C. The hard disk surfaces are 32C and the centre external part of the CPU heat sink is 29C. The spare fans are back at the cottage and it was too wet and windy to be worth the trip today.

I grabbed the 4 GB Quantum hard disk from the server and put it in the Pentium 200. Then I installed NT4, Service Pack 5 and Office 97 on it. It's quite good enough for use as a training machine now it has 48 MB of RAM and a faster hard disk. 

Then I set up a user account for trainees on the "server". Unlike on my main workstation when logged in as the user, it didn't send me crazy with a long winded dialog box for Windows Installer appearing with the following message:

Preparing to install... 

This is followed by another dialog box, with the following message: 

Please wait while Windows configures Office 2000.

This occurs every time any Office app is launched. Close Word and relaunch it and you have an endless wait while it reinstalls. The solution(s) from MS is in Q265194. Only problem is none of the solutions work!

The NIC in Thomas's machine chose this day to die. At first we thought his machine had been infected with a Trojan -- the amount of packets going out to the Internet slowed the connection to a crawl for him and prevented any access by me. The NIC's a D-Link and we replaced it with an Intel. We still have a bunch of spare 10/100 NICs we can use before we have to use the horrible 3Com. That's the second D-Link to die making four NICs in 7 years. The other two were Alloy, from the same batch, and they were instantly replaced. They were also our first NICs and died within two weeks of purchase.

Thomas spent most of the day setting up a recent distro of RedHat on the old P75. It's going to be running MySQL, Apache, Samba and a few other server apps. Mysteriously, it ran the installer in character mode, presumably because 32 MB of RAM is insufficient for the graphical installer. It's going to be running in character mode only anyway. Thomas didn't bother installing KDE, or Gnome.

Thought for the day:

Black magic operates most effectively in preconscious, marginal areas. Casual curses are the most effective.

William S. Burroughs

Current Listening

Santana -- Abraxas


Top

Saturday 6 July 2002

Over the years, The Git has several times tried to install OS/2 Warp. He once succeeded to do so for a client on a genuine IBM PS/1, but never on one of his own machines. The OS that's "a better OS than Windows" has been his Great White Whale. Having recently acquired a copy of OS/2 Warp 4, he decided to try again. All the previous attempts have been with OS/2 Warp 3. Yet again, the install failed because OS/2 Warp doesn't understand the hard disk -- in this instance a 4.3 GB Quantum Fireball. I tried partitioning it with OS/2, DOS FDISK and Partition Magic 5 -- all to no avail.

I tried using the Ontrack Disk manager software that came with the drive and it told me that the hard disk is not a Quantum! I found a later version on the Internet and it too told me it wasn't a Quantum hard disk. Crap! It says it is on the casing of the drive and diagnostics tell me that it's a Quantum Fireball. OS/2 is crappier than Linux used to be.

The machine, the 200 MHz Pentium MMX Acer doesn't exist according to the Acer website. I went there to check if a BIOS upgrade might help. Some days The Git hates computers! So, I went ahead and installed Windows 95, Windows NT4 workstation and RedHat 7.2. No problems with any of these OSs.

Thought for the day:

Nothing gives a person so much advantage over another as to remain always cool and unruffled under all circumstances.

Thomas Jefferson

Current Listening

Jefferson Starship -- Earth


Top

Sunday 7 July 2002

Well, thanks to Peter Long, I have sunk a harpoon into The Great White Whale's side. Peter wrote:

Hi, Regularly read your column and injoy it. Thanks for your effort. I use OS/2 Warp 4 and the later versions (4.5 and eCS - an OS based on OS/2 licensed from IBM and put out by Serenity Systems). As OS/2 came out well before 4.3Gb disks were readily available, you probably need updated installation disks. These are available on the internet for download. One site is http://www.pc.ibm.com/qtechinfo/YAST-3MARH8.html.

I'm still running my original install of Warp 4 from 1996, but have upgraded to larger drives from time to time. One of the nice things about OS/2 is the ease of copying or making a backup of the system by just using XCOPY when booted from floppy or CDROM.

Try and install the original NT 4 CDROM and install disks on any of the newer large drives. You'll have the same problem until you use an updated IDE driver.

You might also want to install the latest fixpak for Warp 4. The last free one was fixpak 15 and the most recent is fixpak 16, though this is no longer free but only available to subscription users. Whereas Microsoft updated WinNT by releasing new versions Win2000, Win XP, IBM has released 16 fixpaks for OS/2 Warp 4 which included new drivers (eg USB) and new functionality. The best part was that it was free, but is no longer so.

I think they want to retire it as it doesn't generate service revenue like other operating systems.

Regards,

Peter Long

Thanks Peter, the updated install disks worked. I was following the advice at:

http://www.os2.com/file_c/tips/OSINPART.TXT

I'm used to the problems of cylinder limits as I have set up quite a few multiboot machines. The default install created a 4 GB HPFS partition, but said there was insufficient room to install networking. Ah well, at least it boots. It was certainly the most long-winded install I have ever done. Much swapping of floppy disks and rebooting.

I have just used Partition Magic to reduce the size of the HPFS partition and made partitions for Win95, NT4 workstation and a Linux. It won't be RedHat 7.2! It's the most bloated distro of Linux I have yet come across. The default workstation install is around a gigabyte and with 48 MB of RAM spends most of its time swapping to disk. I killed a few extraneous services, but I suspect that the real reason for the problem is a bloated kernel. I hear Gentoo calling.

Thought for the day:

I would rather be able to appreciate things I can not have than to have things I am not able to appreciate.

Elbert Hubbard

Current Listening

Tom Waits -- Closing Time


 

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Jonathan Sturm 2002

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Jonathan Sturm 2002