12/05/2000

The Asus A7V motherboard and Unix. I’ve been seeing a lot of search engine hits with phrases containing “Asus A7V” and various Unix bretheren (NetBSD and Linux, most recently). I know exactly what posting is turning up under that query–the dream system of a few weeks back.

Is there something weird about the A7V and the BSDs and Linux that people should know about? Installation difficulties? Or are people just trying to confirm compatibility?

Any of you intrepid searchers care to comment? I have to admit, you’ve got me curious.

When replying to reader mail, remember that we spam-filter the addresses. I insert the word “nospam” into the address somewhere, in order to prevent this site from being a bonanza of e-mail addresses for spammers. You can reply by clicking their link, but remove the “nospam.” in their e-mail address before hitting your Send button.

I like reader mail because it builds community, but I hate spam and don’t want that penalty for readers who participate.

I used to keep a trap for spambots on the page, but this is more effective. Though maybe I should set a trap again. Depends on how vindictive I feel, I guess.

Disable your screen saver before playing DOS games inside Windows. I forgot to mention this little tidbit in Optimizing Windows, and I also forgot to mention it in my upcoming Computer Shopper UK article, which is about getting cantankerous DOS games running, even under the reputedly DOS-unfriendly Windows Me.

The games will run, but if you’re sitting there thinking for a long time and your screen saver kicks in at the wrong moment, your system may freeze. Doesn’t seem to happen all that often, but it happened to me yesterday when I was playing The Secret of Monkey Island (I’d forgotten how much I love that game).

That game also makes me feel old. I first played it on a CGA system. Needless to say, it looks a lot better in VGA.

My standard screen saver advice. Screen savers are generally a bad idea anyway, because most screen savers do more harm than good these days. In the days of low refresh rates, images could burn into the screen’s phosphers if the screen sat idle for too long. The high-refresh monitors made since 1994 or so are largely immune to this. But people continue to use screen savers out of the mistaken belief that they’re good for your computer, or because of tradition, or because they look cool.

The more colors a monitor has to display in rapid succession, the more likely it is to deterriorate quickly. The easiest color for your monitor to display is black, because all the guns are off. Keep a rapidly changing image up on the screen, and your monitor actually ends up working harder. As does your CPU–the 3D screen savers make your CPU work harder than Word and Excel and Outlook do. Combined. This increases heat and electrical usage, two things that businesses tend to worry about a lot. They buy green PCs, then keep their energy-saving features from ever truly kicking in (other than spinning down the disk, the savings of which is negligible) by not banning screen savers. Yet they think they’re being all eco-friendly.

Case point: one of the PCs I use at work was first used by a contractor we let go back in March after he’d been there about a year. He had every gimmicky blinky obnoxious screen saver out there, and he used them, leaving the monitor on all the time. The monitor still works, but the color is all messed up. The color quality on my ancient NEC MultiSync 3FGe at home is much, much, much better than on this two-year-old Micron-branded monitor.

If you want to treat your monitor right, use the Blank Screen screen saver or another blanker. And don’t fret if you have to disable it from time to time.

12/04/2000

~Mail follows today’s post~

I’d forgotten how many telemarketing phone calls you get during the day. Blimey or something! How are you supposed to get anything done?

I had a classmate who used to mess with them. “You want to sell me windows? My house doesn’t have any windows, you see, because it’s a cardboard box. Sure, you can get phone service to a cardboard box. You can get cable TV too. I thought about a mini-dish but I’m not so sure my walls could handle the weight.”

He really enjoyed the roofing people, because he could tell them, in all honesty, “I don’t have a roof.” Hey, when you live in an apartment building, if you’re not on the top floor, you don’t.

The guys over at Junkbusters have a different solution. Make ’em sweat. They’ve even got a script with questions to ask. Visit them at www.junkbusters.com/ht/en/telemarketing.html if you’re sick of the bother.

Print it out, then keep it by the phone. And when you pick up the phone and get that tell-tale delay, followed by an unfamiliar voice who mispronounces your name, pounce. “Is this a telemarketing call?” (That question weeds out the other annoying phone calls, like Chrysler and MCI Worldcom calling up because of billing problems–sorry, you’ve gotta deal with those on your own.) If the answer is yes, then keep going. ” Could you tell me your full name please? And a phone number, area code first?” And they’ve got 12 other questions, where those came from.

I’m vacationing in beautiful Mehlville, Mo. as I write. Before you get too excited, I live in Mehlville. (It’s a St. Louis suburb.) My boss’ boss e-mailed me a while back and said, “Go on vacation!” so I did. Gives me a chance to catch up around the place–there’s a lot I’ve been neglecting.

Plus it gives me a chance to work on that last article for Shopper UK.

I’ve been reading Guts, the business strategy book by former Chrysler #2 man Robert Lutz. Lutz was the driving force (or a major driving force) behind all of Chrysler’s bold experiments in the 1990s before Daimler-Benz swallowed them. Interesting reading for anyone interested in business or the auto industry, though I’d have liked to see more of a memoir from him. Lutz didn’t graduate high school until age 22. How do you go from graduating high school at 22 to No. 2 man at Forbes’ 1997 Company of the Year? No matter how successful you are, there are lessons to learn from this guy. Obviously there’s more to him than an MBA, a stint in the Marines, and an interest in cars, and I want to know what that is.

I’m guessing there’ll be more later. No idea when. I’ve got a really hairy question from an Optimizing Windows reader to figure out.

~~~~~~~~~~

From: “Rodrigo Zamora” <rzam@nospam.cox-internet.com>
Subject: Sound Blaster Value
From what I have read the SB Value is exactly the same thing as the more expensive models except that it does not include the daughter card which has extra connections.  And it obviously didn’t have the LiveDrive which only comes with the Platinum.  However, this is not an issue since you can purchase these devices as add-on upgrades either from Creative or clones from another company.

The newer Values came with a Digital output which the older versions did not have.  In fact, it appears that even the AC3 Dolby Digital feature supported in the newer 5.1 seems to be only a  software (driver) update.  In other words, it seems that ANY SB Live! can do AC3 support with the right driver.

By the way, where did you hear that the Values have been discontinued? Creative still sells them on their site.

Rodrigo Zamora

~~~~~

The Value is a slightly different card, see http://www.byte.com/feature/BYT19991020S0006, and also http://alive.singnet.com.sg/features/products/. The main difference seems to be the quality of jacks used; when doing voice recognition or recording, you’ll notice the difference. Chances are you’ll notice a difference in output quality as well, though I haven’t tried the two cards side-by-side myself to confirm. They do use the same chipset, and some of the Value cards seem to have digital output capability, while others don’t. (My Live! MP3+ makes even a cheap pair of desktop speakers sound really good; connected to a stereo it’s nothing short of awesome.)

I’m pretty sure that I read in the Dragon NaturallySpeaking forums that the Value was discontinued and replaced by the MP3+ and Gamer (the difference in those cards is the software bundle). And the Value, though listed on Creative’s site, is out of stock there. I did find the card over at www.mwave.com priced at $47.

So for some uses, there’s little difference and the Value may be a way to save $40. But I will say the software that comes with the MP3+ is definitely worth the extra money if it’s at all useful to you.

I found a third-party daughtercard, at www.hoontech.com; any idea who makes the LiveDrive clone? Creative’s is pretty pricey; if the clone is less expensive, I’m sure there’s a huge market for it.

Thanks.

~~~~~~~~~~

From: “Gary Mugford” <mugford@nospam.aztec-net.com>

Subject: This and that

Dave,

   I actually saw, on the shelf for the first time, your book at Chapters, Friday. Still full price. Bought it anyway as a Christmas present. Worked wonders for my tech guy’s appreciation of his software guy, if you know what I mean. I’m sure it’ll be appreciated by its intended recipient, too.

   Dirty333 crashed rather spectacularly last week. It’s been a week of getting Tookie up and running to take its place. (segue to explain the names: The machine was an Win95B AMD K6-333. There was a famous player in the Canadian Football League named Jim Young, nicknamed Dirty 33.  I’m a lapsed jock journalist. Tookie’s a Win2K machine born in 2000). I lost a day’s worth of work to the crash and four days re-installing everything and getting the settings just so. All in all, I’m happy about the move, save for the switch over to a modern Logitech keyboard from the old 84-key keyboards that I’ve used since forever. Just why the hell is that damned capslock key STILL being put there long after the alternative for emphasis became font and style changes, rather than capping? Not to start a holy war, however.

   On the other hand, as a disinterested third party, I still have some reservations about the American election just past. I have no quarrel with the basic concept that a lot of people voted for an agenda they prefer. I do have a problem with some people who voted AGAINST one candidate or the other, as that’s an incredibly stupid way to cut your nose off. Better to waste the ballot, then to do that (I’ve probably wasted half the ballots I’ve ever cast, because nobody earned my vote. And to make it obvious, I would mark off EVERY box). But it seems a lot of people voted against Gore. And I think that had a part to play in the Bush victory.

   We don’t directly vote for Prime Minister in Canada. So, I’m never put to the task of deciding I like my local guy and hate his leader, or vice-versa. I’ve got no choice. And so, apparently, did you [G]. One’s supposed to be a ding-dong (my one meeting was pleasant, brief and non-opinion-forming) and the other was so stupid, he blew an easy victory by wanting to be his own man. One’s supposed to be a leader, but has never been anything more than a figurehead, except when he was losing money looking for oil in Texas, while the other was a very active partner in running the country (and the back room). The nitwit Nader was right in one respect, both of them were the same guy with slightly different accents.

   The difference was in the political apparatus behind them. That’s all. Bush will be a one-term president, as his father was. And the family failure to not keep promises will be his undoing. That it was the gridlock in Washington that will have forced him into recanting, will be forgotten in ’04. Gore will also go the way of the Quayle and nibble away at the fringes. Whether Gephardt or Kerry or whoever runs, they will beat Bush. They will be repeating the winning mantra of the ’90s, “It’s the economy, stupid!” And the American populace, longing for the good old ’90s will march to the polls and reverse the error of 2000.

   As far as Florida is concerned, it’s hard to see how either side can pretend to the moral high ground. The Democrats actually put in WRITING how to deny overseas ballots. And Gore’s supposed to be the bright one, right? But that was balanced by the Republicans delaying legal recounts, going to court first, arranging for out-of-town ‘ordinary folk’ to show up repeatedly to exercise their fully-paid for First Amendment rights and they repeatedly made mistakes over-reaching whatever was in their grasp at the moment.  The election day-after cabinet posing was designed to fool the umpire, but there was no umpire. The citing of Nixon’s consession to Kennedy despite Daley’s dad’s malfeasance in Illinois overlooked the fact the state’s electoral votes didn’t affect the outcome one way or the other. Calling the hand count tabulators all kinds of names, including suggesting illegalities when monitors from both sides were there, was assinine. Arguing against standards for assessing a questionable vote that were no less forgiving than that of the Texas law signed by Bush was the equivalent of Gore’s absentee ballot crushing screwup. But the rallying cry in ’02 will be the Republican refusal to recount the whole state and after-the-fact attempt to squash the recounts that DID take place.

   Even I could run that PR campaign. “Make it clear to the Republicans, your vote DOES count… this time!”

   So, on behalf of all Canadians, we say to you Americans, “Thanks for the entertainment! [G]”

   Regards, Gary
  ~~~~~

Thanks for the purchase! I’ve yet to see the book in a store myself. Of course it won’t sell if people can’t find it… O’Reilly needs to get it into stores before they have any right to complain about its lack of sales. Sandy McMurray’s review and the subsequent run on the book up north should have said something, I would think.

You just gave me an idea on machine names, and how to remember their IP addresses. This computer’s name is George Brett, and it’s 192.168.0.5; this one’s Mike Sweeney at 192.168.0.29. Problem is, I don’t know that there are five Royals whose uniform numbers I remember quickly, and do I really want to name my gateway after Buddy Biancalana or Rey Sanchez? But I’ll definitely name the Packard Bell I deny owning (I didn’t buy it new!) after Johnny Damon since he’s being the biggest putz since Jose Offerman. He deserves to have a piece-o’-junk computer named after him.

As for intelligence in U.S. politics, Gore’s supposedly the brighter one, but I remember seeing a video clip where he and the esteemed Mr. Clinton were touring Monticello, and Gore pointed to a picture on a wall and asked, “Who’s that?” The tour guide replied, “Well, that’s George Washington…”

I’ve never met a flunkie who didn’t recognize Washington (his face is all over the place, after all, including the one-dollar bill and the quarter, so you can’t spend money without seeing him occasionally), let alone any intelligent person who’s been in the United States more than a week.

General consensus is that Dan Quayle is smarter than both of them.

~~~~~~~~~~

From: “James Cooley” <c_closet@nospam.dnai.com>
Subject: Yer Mom’s Great!

Dave,

Ah, your mom is great! Has Jerry Pournelle seen this? Would make a splendid addition to his stumping against ADD in the classroom.

As a computer repair guy myself I have a motto to share: “Focus on the solution, not the problem.” Regards,

Jim
~~~~~

Thanks.

I’m sure there’s not much room on Jerry Pournelle’s reading list for my site. Of course, with psych being one of his PhDs, he’s certainly qualified to talk on the subject.

Hasn’t Jerry said before that he probably would have been diagnosed as ADD in his youth, and in reality his “problem” was that he was better-read than a lot of his teachers and was just plain bored and unchallenged? (I’m doubly fortunate in that regard; I’m not as bright as Jerry and my teachers always bent the rules and let me work above my grade level to make sure I was adequately challenged.)

Good motto, especially if you remember that the easiest solution often involves cable connections and system logs.

~~~~~~~~~~

From: “Michal Kaznowski” <michalkaznowski@nospam.yahoo.com> Subject: DPMI error while zipping windows

Hello David,

If you have the time, might you be able to point me to the easiest solution of a problem I have been having when using info-zip to zip a windows installation.

I get:

load Error no DPMI – Get csdpmi*b.zip

I am aware that Protected mode is required, but what is the easiest way of obtaining this.  I am mostly using 98SE (And Slackware 7.0 and SuSE) to install for friends, family and some that pay(!) and would prepare boot disc just to be able to run zip and unzip on the backup as described on page 201/2 of your guide to life and computers.

Your book is a raving success with my friends (what few I have as I like computers) and numerous copies have been purchased.  We are all looking forward to your definitive guide on a version of Linux so that we can all use it without the pain we have at present

-Best regards, Michal                         

~~~~~

Try downloading ftp://ftp.simtel.net/pub/simtelnet/gnu/djgpp/v2misc/csdpmi5b.zip. Put the executable files from this archive into the same directory as your Info-Zip executables. Let me know ASAP if that doesn’t fix it. (This is as painful as some Linux programs’ installations!)

Thanks for your encouraging words on Optimizing Windows. Unfortunately, O’Reilly cancelled the Linux book, so for now I’m just writing Windows optimization articles for Computer Shopper UK and taking a few months off from book writing while I decide what to do next.

~~~~~~~~~~

 

12/03/2000

E-mail vs. That Discuss Button. Just in case you’re wondering, I don’t really care which people use. The discussion stuff certainly gets up there faster. E-mail is a bit easier for readers to navigate. I just reply to e-mail and copy Di, my sister, anyway, who then posts the mail later that day or the next. The other drawback to discussion is that you have to be a member of the site in order to post, which I presume is a minority of the readership here.

In case you’re not familiar with membership on a Manila site, you create an account and password, which gives the benefits of allowing you to receive site updates via e-mail and being able to post to the discussion groups. I don’t do anything with the membership database (I can’t say I’ve even looked at it–counting Di and myself, I know who four of the members are).

Late update today. I was up late, way too late last night reading old Mike Royko columns, then I had to be at church at 7:30 this morning. Now it’s noon, and I’m back with my cup of coffee next to my computer, and a burning desire to write something Royko-esque.

So I’m going to hand over the reins and lay down until that urge goes away. That’s the best thing a writer can do when faced with a desire to do something like be someone else, or use a $12 word when a ten-center will do.

Good discussions yesterday, by the way. I appreciate the feedback! That thread is here  (original plus responses) if you want to read it easily.

There’ll be mail later. There’s stuff in my inbox I haven’t replied to yet.

And now, time to hand the reins over to my mom. Mom sent me this, Friday I think, in response to focusing on what’s right rather than what’s wrong.

You can always find something that’s wrong–or difficult–or unpleasant–or uncomfortable.  But focusing on the negative will never get you anywhere in life.

You’ve probably heard this story before, but I’m gonna tell it again.

I once had a student who had been diagnosed with just about every learning disability that had ever been named.  He was in a regular classroom and did the regular assignments on the same time frame as everyone else.  And he regularly had just about the highest score in the class.  One year the school hired Ms SuperDuperLearningDisabilitiesExpert.  She immediately told us all the stuff we were doing wrong.  “Because he has this disability, you need to make this allowance.  Because he has that disability, you need to do this instead of what you’re doing now.  Because he has this AND that, you need to make this exception. . .”  We thought, “If he’s an A student now–and we’re doing everything wrong–just think what he could do if we start doing what Ms SDLDE tells us to do!”  So we did exactly what she told us to do.  Within weeks, his grades slide from As to Ds and Fs.  And, as his grades went down the tubes, so did his behavior.  Finally, we asked the parents’ permission to go back to what we used to do.  Almost immediately, his grades went back up and the behavioral problems went away. 

When we focused on what was wrong, we gave him permission to use his “disabilities” as an excuse.  Grades went down and he became a terror in the classroom.  By focusing on what he COULD do, we presented him with challenges to overcome.

Time to get off my soapbox and get back to work.

One last thing. I’ve been writing really long lately. I’m going to try to keep my stuff down under 700 words. I can’t control the volume of mail, so I’ll post whatever I get there. I don’t want it to take half an hour to get through my site every day. I think 700 words of me, plus a couple of letters and responses is plenty for anyone to endure on a daily basis.

12/02/2000

~Mail follows today’s post~

Optimizing Windows is half price at Amazon.com. I questioned whether that might mean we’re nearing the end of the line, but that seems not to be the case. The paperback edition of Robert Lutz’s business book about the transformation of Chrysler in the late 1980s, Guts, is also half-price. I know that book’s not going out of print yet. So Amazon must be running some kind of holiday promotion on paperbacks.

What’s Optimizing Windows all about? My premise is that no PC built in the last three years or so is truly obsolete. You’ve got a pile of resources there, and Windows probably isn’t using them wisely. I argue that you need to make your computer work smarter, before you make it work harder, and I show you how. (Contrary to what one person asked me, it’s not a book about bird feeders.)

For $12.47, you can definitely squeeze another year out of that old clunker (or add some more zip to your new hot rod). This is the book I needed but couldn’t find when I was faced with the challenge of managing a fleet of three-year-old PCs, well past obsolesence, but with no funds to replace them. The three-year-old PCs of today are much better than they were in 1997.

So if you’ve been waiting to pick up Optimizing Windows, this is a good time to do it.

That’s enough attempt at marketing for one day. Well, wait, one more thing. Here’s a review by popular Canadian syndicated columnist Sandy McMurray.

Presidential questions. Chris Miller, the production editor at Computer Shopper UK, wrote in with some questions that really made me sit down and think about the election. I think this bears repeating and I have little else to say, so here goes.

Incidentally… isn’t it worth campaigning for electoral justice when (a) it’s looking like the candidate with more votes will lose, (b) there’s the distinct whiff of corruption in Jeb’s Florida, and (c) the man you say should win is a murderer of innocent men and the mentally disabled?

Just a thought, I’m sure they know what they’re doing
Regards
Chris

To which I responded:

I’m sure we’re giving you plenty of laughs across the Big Pond with our election. My reaction to your questions…
 
a. This isn’t the first time this has happened. It doesn’t happen often–the other time was in 1888, when Grover Cleveland lost to Benjamin Harrison despite winning the popular vote. The United States is a republic, not a true democracy. George W. Bush did win the larger number of states, and a much larger geographic area. Al Gore’s support is very much concentrated along each coast and mostly in metropolitan areas. There’s no question that Bush could have won the popular vote. But politicians care about electoral votes, rather than the popular vote, and adjust their game plan accordingly. (Both candidates garnered far more votes than Bill Clinton ever did.)
 
b. There are questionable acts in Florida from both sides. Statisticians have questioned the likelihood of Gore gaining the number of votes he has. It’s very easy to steal a close election, and both parties have done it before in the past. This is the first time a presidential election has been this closely contested, however. There’ve been opportunities in the past–Gerald Ford in 1976 and Richard Nixon in 1960 are the most notable recent examples. For various reasons, they didn’t contest. Republicans filling out missing information on requests for absentee ballots (not, as widely reported, on the ballots themselves–that didn’t happen) is questionable, but even Gore himself said every vote should be counted. (I think he really means “every vote for me should be counted,” but that’s not what he said, and no one ever put Al Gore in charge of this election. We’re a republic, not a dictatorship.)
 
But the alleged “mob” Gore speaks of was about 30 well-dressed people whose lone demand was that the press be let in to observe recounting procedures. If everything going on behind those doors was free and clear, why were they afraid to let the press in? Why did they feel the need to try to paint this group of protesters as a mob?
 
Meanwhile, there was a case, not widely reported, in Washington of a Gore supporter punching a 13-year-old boy in the stomach for carrying an anti-Gore sign. No one in the group of Gore supporters pointed out the perpetrator to police.
 
c. The death penalty is one of the few protections citizens have against cruel and unusual crimes. Not all states have it. Bush is more of a death penalty hawk than some governors, but the citizens of Texas were the ones who put that law on the books. Bush is simply the final appeal for criminals who have been tried, found guilty, and sentenced to death. He’s not the jury, he’s not the executioner, nor is he the judge who does the sentencing.
 
But I think my greatest lament is there was a time when the two major presidential candidates and parties trusted one another enough to politely step aside and transfer power. They did not truly believe that the other party, or at least one politician, could destroy the country in 2, 4, or 6 years (be they a representative, president, or senator). History has proven that. We have plenty of infamous presidents who were caught breaking the law or doing (or trying to do) things of questionable legality under the Constitution: Andrew Jackson, Abraham Lincoln, Andrew Johnson, Ulysses Grant, Warren Harding, Franklin Roosevelt, Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton… None of them destroyed the country. Some of them changed it very dramatically. But Harding may have been the most corrupt of the bunch (at least his administration was), and no one’s ever heard of him today.
 
The president has more power than the Queen, certainly, but the president is a figurehead. Without Congressional support, they can’t do much of anything. The overwhelming majority of US citizens know that, and would rather see this election resolved quickly than to see the fight go on. Gore’s support is eroding by the day, if not by the hour.
 
I believe Gore is mostly interested in being president, and gives indications he seems to believe the presidency is his birthright. The best thing for him to do would have been to go home, then run again in four years. He got more votes this year than Bill Clinton did either time he ran (as did Bush). Usually, a losing presidential candidate’s career is over, but not always. Richard Nixon ran again in 1968 after losing a close (but not this close) race in 1960, and won. Grover Cleveland won the presidency in 1884, lost his 1888 re-election bid (but won the popular vote–a parallel Gore should have noticed), then won four years later when he ran again. Gore probably stood a better chance of defeating Bush in 2004 than any other Democrat would, with the possible exception of Dick Gephardt, who won’t run anyway until he gets his chance to be Speaker of the House. The US economy isn’t likely to sustain its current levels because our booming economy is largely due to people spending more than they make and racking up debt and that has to slow down, and it won’t be Bush’s fault, but he’ll take the fall, so the same thing that happened to his dad could very easily happen to him. Gore should have cut his losses and gone home, especially once this election reached the point where there was no legal precedent to overturn it.
 
These are my thoughts, based on the year and a half or so I spent as a part-time political reporter, in addition to what I’ve picked up from friends who are political activists (both conservative and liberal), and from my knowledge of US history (a subject on which most USers are woefully deficient). I’m certainly more conservative than Gore, and that colors my opinion, but eight years of Clinton have proven to me that my history teachers were right–even given eight years in office, no president is likely to destory this country. There is no historical precedence for it. Now, if we are now on a slippery slope after a century of mostly questionable presidents, maybe one will be able to in the near future. I know Bush won’t destroy us and I’m pretty sure Gore couldn’t either, at least not with a Republican-controlled or evenly divided Congress.
 
Discussions have been posted. Click the skull below, or click here.
~~~~~~~~~~
From: “Tom Brill” <tbrill@nospam.orofino-id.com>
Subject: good modems

Love your column. Ordered your book. Last Friday you mentioned that Zoom had a quality modem. Do you remember the model? Is it true that all external modems are non Win-modems?
Thanks, Tom
~~~~~

Thanks much!
The Zoom 2920 was the internal PCI controller-based modem I was referring to. I’ve had great luck with Lucent-based modems and Zoom is one of the few remaining reputable modem manufacturers out there.
Zoom has a nice configurator at http://www.zoom.com/modemsna.html where you can find a modem to meet your needs. To avoid getting a Winmodem, specify Unix or Linux compatibility, even if you intend to use it with Windows, and look for the words “controller based”–most modem makers will tout that as a feature these days and throw in buzzwords like “performance” and “enhanced” and “speed.”
US Robotics has a chart at http://www.usrobotics.com/products/home/compare-home.asp that serves a similar purpose. The consumer-oriented US Robotics Performance Pro modem (3CP5610A) also looks good. Not sure if USR is still developing and using their own chipsets or if they’ve gone to Lucent and Rockwell chipsets as a cost-saving measure.
I know of no external Winmodems, but they’re not a technical impossibility. I doubt we’ll ever see serial (RS-232) Winmodems, but USB Winmodems would be less of a surprise. I know of none, and it kind of defeats the purpose, but the words “no external modems are Winmodems” make me nervous. If you want to be really safe now and in the future, look for DOS and Linux compatibility even if you’re buying an external.
Thanks again.
~~~~~~~~~~
From: Al Hedstrom
Subject: The Optimizing Book

Dave –
 
Yes, Amazon has it on sale, but they make up for it on their shipping.  I did a comparison for final cost with shipping and tax and BookPool is still cheaper (by 30 cents).
 
Just thought you’d like to know.
 
BTW, I think your notes today were excellent.  I’ve followed your column for a few years now, but your comments on American politics were right on the money. 
 
Al Hedstrom
http://dadspcchronicles.editthispage.com
~~~~~
Figures. I hate it when companies lower their prices but then jack their shipping rates up to compensate. Especially when it ruins my marketing schpiel. In my day, I’ll tell you, people were honest and didn’t do things like–oh. Wait a minute. I’m 25. This is my day. Were people ever honest?
 
I guess the workaround is to order $100 worth of stuff so you can get the free shipping. Or order from Bookpool.
 
And thanks for the compliments on my soapboxing, both here and on your site. In response to your comments there, back when I was writing for newspapers, you know what editors did when I tried to write like that? They’d sprinkle their agenda into it, so I looked like a left-wing nut by the time the thing was finished. Of course, it was my name on it, not theirs. So I had to turn into a right-wing nut in the hopes that they’d miss a couple of right-wing nuggets and we’d have a somewhat balanced perspective. So I started writing about technology, in hopes that it’d all sail over the editors’ heads and they’d leave it alone. They found ways to mess that up too. So I said screw it, I’ll get a job fixing computers instead because at least it pays better.
 
And that’s why I don’t stop talking about Shopper UK. An editor’s job is to make sure the reporter/writer did his/her job and that the story doesn’t break any laws. But there aren’t many of those out there.
~~~~~~~~~~
From: “Bruce Edwards” <Bruce@nospam.BruceEdwards.com>
Subject: The Election

Hi Dave:
 
Enjoyed reading your journal today and appreciate your political view point. Another item some folks seem to forget (and I have not read the Texas statutes to verify this, but this is what has been reported) is that the governor of Texas can not stay an execution permanently or pardon someone condemned to die.  What he can do is give them a 30 day reprieve.  That, of course, does not change the valid point that the execution of those guilty of terrible crimes should  be done in the most solemn manner.
 
On a slightly different but related subject – if you find the time, I’d really appreciate your critique of my online journal and your comments on any of the topics discussed if they interest you.  I’ve been mostly thinking about the election lately and that really shows in the last four weeks or so but there are other topics addressed.
 
Well, I hope you have a great weekend.  I look forward to your continued journal updates.
 
Sincerely,
Bruce
 
Bruce W. Edwards www.BruceEdwards.com/journal
~~~~~
Thanks. I’ll try to head your direction. I’m not the most well-traveled Daynoter due to my infamous wrists, but I’ll see what I can do. Not sure when I’ll fire off something like Saturday’s or Friday’s again (I
thought Friday’s late update was the better piece, which shows what I know), but I try to make it worth everyone’s while to come around.
 
Thanks again.

12/01/2000

~Mail follows today’s post~

Darkening the site for World AIDS Day? This site’s always pretty dark. OK, my excuse: I didn’t know. I’m a bit out of touch. My apologies. So I’ll comply with the alternative suggestion: I’ll tell a story.

I’ve never been close to anyone living with AIDS. But I know someone who has. I’ll tell his story because his story is one of the greatest stories of hope I know.

I moved to a small town in 1983. We weren’t particularly close to either set of next-door neighbors, but we were very close to the family across the street. They co-owned one of the most popular restaurants in town, and had three kids fairly close to my and my sister’s ages. Di became very close with their daughter; I was very close to their two sons.

The kids had an uncle named Mark. Mark was, as I recall, about 22 at the time. He’d gone off to seminary but decided to come back, worked as an assistant manager at the restaurant (owned by his brother and brother-in-law), and dabbled in plants and antiques. There are a very few truly, truly nice people in this world, and Mark was one of them. At the time, Mark was probably the nicest guy I’d ever met. Seventeen years later, I still have to rank him somewhere in the top five.

He was also one of the least fortunate. That summer, his pickup was stolen and never recovered. There was a fire at the carriage house he was living in. Then, the unthinkable happened. As the saying goes, the good die young.

Mark was having problems with headaches. Finally, he went to see a doctor about it. The doctor came back with the worst possible news. Mark, you’re terminal. You have cancer. There’s very little we can do. You have about six months to live.

Mark, being the class act that he was, didn’t tell his family right away. He didn’t want to distress them. He did tell his girlfriend. She left him. Mark never blamed her; she just couldn’t handle watching him die and he totally understood. Sensing that the end was near, Mark made his own funeral arrangements. He paid for everything, picked out everything, including his own coffin, and had everything taken care of. He planned to tell his family, then hand them an envelope and say, “Everything’s taken care of. All that’s left to do is wait.”

But something happened when he picked out that coffin. Something arose inside him. A voice said, “There is no way in hell they’re going to put me in that box.”

Mark determined to spend the rest of his life fighting with every ounce of his considerable resources. Fight he did. He underwent aggressive chemotherapy and radiation. One of the best-known cancer treatment centers in the world was in St. Louis, about an hour away, so he took advantage of it. His hair started falling out, so he shaved his head. In this conservative small town, his shaven head brought him considerable ridicule. And in this place, which was still small enough that everybody knew of everybody (it wasn’t quite small enough to know everybody personally), whenever he ventured out of his house, he got weird looks, like he was a ghost. Aren’t you dead yet?, he imagined them saying.

It became too much for Mark to bear, and things were getting worse, so he moved to St. Louis to be closer to his doctors and to lose himself in a crowd. His six months was up, and he was still alive.

At some point, Mark met an American Indian who was also dying of cancer. A very old and wise man, he took Mark under his wing. “I’m very old and I’ve lived a full life,” he told him. “I’ve outlived my family. I have no one left. But you… You’re too young for this. These beads have been in my family for generations. There’s no one for me to give them to. Take them. And live.”

Mark dismissed the beads as superstition, but didn’t underestimate the power of the mind. He took the beads and wore them. They reminded him that he was fighting the battle of his life.

In 1986, Mark went into remission. He credited his outstanding medical treatment, his determination to live, and his faith in God with saving his life. Grateful to his doctors, his hospital, and God that he’d lived far longer than he was supposed to, he wanted to give something back. He wanted to help others who were dying, to give them hope. There weren’t many terminal cancer patients his age. But there were a number of people his age who were dying of a frightening, still little-known disease known as AIDS.

Mark wasn’t afraid of AIDS or of the AIDS patients. He was patient with them, but firm. Giving up gets you nowhere. That was Mark’s message.

Mark’s volunteer work continued for a number of years. When I last saw him and spoke with him in 1994, he had stopped, but he knew he would go back. “I just need to spend some time in the land of the living,” he told me. “I’ll know when it’s time to go back.” Mark told me he would never live to be an old man–his body was that of a man nearly twice his age and he looked older than his 33 years–but he was still grateful. He and his doctors had traded life expectancy for ten years (at the time) he wasn’t supposed to have.

Mark and I lost contact soon after that. But I’ll never forget his message. I’m sure that’s true of many (and there are many) of the people Mark touched.

Mark didn’t overcome AIDS. And while there’s still no cure, Mark’s attitude will go a long way towards helping those who are living with AIDS to gain years that they, too, weren’t supposed to have.

Thanks to a glitch Wednesday, I was in the Top 100 at editthispage.com. Top 100 sites generally have at least 25,000 hits to their name; this one has about 10,000 so it’s not quite halfway there. I find when I concentrate too much on stats I concentrate not enough on content and everything goes downhill, but 10,000 hits in 6 weeks is pretty good. Thanks to all of you who read regularly. I really do appreciate it.

For those who aren’t Mac people… Let’s revisit yesterday for a minute. Yes, a 45-second boot time on a Mac is very good. Anything under a minute and a half is considered good. For comparison, I took the fastest Mac I have available that’s capable of booting from a RAM disk (G3s and newer cannot), installed a lean, mean OS to it, defragged it and ran DiskWarrior (defragging doesn’t make the ramdisk physically any faster but it helps the filesystem work more efficiently) and rebooted a few times. I timed it at 30 seconds.

That’s a 133 MHz machine with EDO RAM, but that makes me think that you’ll never get a G4 to boot in less than 30 seconds, even with a high-end SCSI card and a 15K RPM hard drive. Slow RAM is still several orders of magnitude faster than any hard disk; that 30 second boot time must be due to the limitations of HFS (Hierarchial File System).

And Di’s two cents. Hey, she’s my sister, and she helps out with the site, so when she wants to say something, she gets to say it. In yesterday’s post, I lamented about focusing on what works right, not what’s wrong. Her comment:

[That’s] the whole basis for occupational therapy, osteopathy, and psychology. It’s all related to the holistic approach.

Hmm. My dad was an osteopath (an osteopath is a medical doctor, but with a slightly different underlying philosophy, but a D.O. can do everything an M.D. does) as were both of his parents. I was never close to his parents so I can’t speak for them, but Dad lived and breathed osteopathy. And my sister has a psychology degree and is working on an OT degree. So no wonder I agreed with him!

I’ve got more, but I’m out of time. I’ll be back tomorrow with more–I’ve been writing long this week anyway.

~~~~~~~~~~

From: Ab
Subject: That virtual memory thingy.


Hi Dave
 
I’ve just read your article in Computer Shopper and came a bit unstuck when I got to specifying my own virtual memory settings.  I’ve got 64Mb ram, so, as you suggested I want to give myself a 64Mb swapfile.  I’m just wondering how exactly you enter this in the Min and Max boxes, as I’m fairly new to all this setting changing business.  I tried entering it as just ’64’ in both boxes, but this appears to be wrong, ‘cos  my games starting complaining that my swap file was too small, so I thought I might as well try emailing you to make sure I get it right.
 
I found the rest of the article to be really informative – keep up the good work.
 
I’d be really grateful if you’d mail me back about my problem.
 
Thanx alot
 
Ab
(England)
~~~~~

I’ve never seen a game complain that 64 megs of physical RAM plus 64 megs virtual isn’t enough, but hey, if it says it’s not enough, then it’s not enough. Sounds like you got it right, and for your combination of hardware and software, I’m wrong. My apologies on that.
 
Safe bet is to go 128 instead of 64–it’s overkill, but in Windows 95/98 and Windows Me little too much is better than not enough. If you’ve got really obnoxious games, it may take 192 to appease them, but if they’re really using that much virtual memory, my guess is they’re not running very well.
 
I’m glad you liked the rest of the article. There’ll be another in the Feburary issue, and another in March.
 
Let me know if anything else comes up. I post all the mail I get about my articles and book on my Web site so it can help other people if something I write confuses them–that’s inevitable in this business.
 
Thanks!

Make a Power Mac 7200 feel like a G4

I’m all over the place today. So fasten your seat belts. We’re going for a ride.

How do you make a Power Mac 7200/120 feel like a G4? Install vintage software on it. We’re dumping some old Power Macs at work, but since they’ve recycled some of the software licenses (and lost most of the rest), the only legal thing to do is to wipe the drives, install the now-free Mac OS 7.5.5 on it, and perhaps another free package or two. I went ahead and threw in WordPerfect 3.5, which Corel has made available free of charge. The systems boot in 45 seconds (even less if I defrag the drives and then run DiskWarrior) and WP loads in 7-9.

I hear System 6.0.8 on an SE/30 running programs like WriteNow is even nicer. From what I remember of using such a machine in 1992-93, it’s probably true. Memories fade and tales grow taller with time, but I remember that SE/30 was just about the fastest computer I ever used. It didn’t multitask, but then again, the PCs of the time didn’t multitask well. In those days if you wanted real multitasking, you had to get a Unix workstation or an Amiga.

In those days I used the SE/30 at school and had an Amiga 2000 at home. The SE/30 was definitely faster, but the Amiga let me multitask, and I abused the privelige. It’s arguable which machine made me more productive, as much as it pains me to admit.

I’ve also heard arguments that the SE/30 makes you more creative. That’s absolutely not universal. Having strong emotions about the tools you’re using certainly helps–and that can go either way. Intense hatred is as inspiring as intense love. Why do you think we hear so many love songs and love-gone-wrong songs? It might be more inspiring. I find it much easier to write angry angst-ridden punk or self-loathing goth (the two extremes of love gone wrong songs) than to write worship music, which, face it, is basically love songs to God.

I think a 1.2 GHz Athlon with a 15,000 RPM SCSI drive and 256 megs of RAM would make me more creative, but mostly because it wouldn’t stand in my way or slow me down.

And a stolen insight. I was talking and praying with another church member Wednesday night. He’s a psychology PhD, brilliant mind. We talked about work, and he was talking about a couple of his more extreme cases, and at one point, remembering what my own mind can do sometimes, I asked, “Is anyone normal?” Then he let loose with a pearl of wisdom.

Don’t focus on the disorder. Focus on the order, the things that work right.

Like my creative bursts! They’re usually accompanied by a mood swing. Focus on the creativity, good stuff happens. Focus on the mood swing, bad stuff happens.

We do this in other stuff. Nobody cares that the x86 is quite possibly the worst CPU architecture mankind ever foisted on itself. Trust me, it’s awful. I can program every other chip I’ve tried. OK, so me not being able to program something doesn’t make it awful, so let me state that another way. I can program other architectures. They’re easy, so they’re awesome. Not the x86. But the x86 has so much software for it–because programmers gave up and just decided to write in high-level languages–so no one cares how awful it is.

Nobody seems to care that the Mac never had preemptive multitasking or memory protection because it looks cool and makes you feel warm and fuzzy when you use it. It’s got that cuteness factor that people go ga-ga over.

Why is it we give these stupid machines the benefit of the doubt, but not each other? I don’t get it.

~~~~~~~~~~
From: “James Cooley” <c_closet@nospam.dnai.com>

Subject: S3 ViRGE 325

Dave,

Enjoy your column and read it daily. You refered to the above video card and I wanted to share your enthusiasm. I also wanted to point out that I use the driver at www.s3.com (try http://208.202.167.131/DRVVIEW.HTM for a direct link)instead of the huge Diamond drivers or the generic Win98 driver.

Regards,

Jim

~~~~~

Thanks. Yes, I also downloaded the S3 reference drivers for comparison; for now I’m just letting the Microsoft-supplied drivers do the job. I’ll
probably switch it this weekend though. S3 and Diamond definitely know their chipset and card better than Microsoft does.

I’ve always been impressed with Diamond’s cards; too bad their days as a prominent graphics card maker are pretty much over. I’m sure Guillemot’s video cards are fine, but Diamond was familiar.

A Mac Norton Antivirus tip

Mac Norton AntiVirus tip. If this affects you, you probably already know this, but just in case, I’ll metnion it. NAV under Mac OS 9 isn’t exactly reliable. Its autodetection of installing software (so it can offer to disable itself during the process) likes to crash the system. The conventional advice of rebooting without extensions to install software is no longer a suggestion in this environment. It’s a must.

I don’t like having antivirus software running all the time personally (it slows down systems something fierce and I find it preferable to just not engage in high-risk activities because sometimes things slip past antivirus software–I’ve always thought it’s better to promote responsible behavior than it is to try to make irresponsible behavior safe), but sometimes that’s unavoidable, e.g. in corporate environments where there are policies mandating such things.

Weird day yesterday. My boss and I had talked about moving me on to bigger and better things. Yesterday was the day. I totally forgot. I was wondering about mid-day why I hadn’t had anything to do when someone else mentioned it. Oops. So now I’m Office 2000 Deployment Czar. Sort of. Yuck. Didn’t I see a pile of IBM Selectrics somewhere…?

And then this… My songwriting partner asks about the feasibility of writing an original Christmas song for the Christmas Eve 11 pm service. Ooh. Is there such thing as an original Christmas song? But this is like being asked to write a song for your best friend’s wedding or something, so if there’s a way to still write an original Christmas song, I’ll find it.

~~~~~~~~~~

From: “Gary Mugford” <mugford@nospam.aztec-net.com>
Subject: The definition of rich
David,

  From the Great White North, have a great holiday season. We struggle
away ourselves, having already had the holiday
back in October.

  Your pastor’s saying brought back a memory of something I wrote way back
in Grade 9. Haven’t changed belief in it much
since then. It was a poetry assignment in English that was supposed to
combine traditional and non-traditional form.
It’s lousy, but I’ve never written a poem since then. To me, I’d done
better than I could ever do again. And since I had
the marks to afford it, I declined to ever write another poem. Schmaltzy,
yeah. Crazy for sure. But i’s gotta be me!

  I unabashedly give you …

The Richest Man in the World

“Rich,” he said, “That’s what I’ll be!”
“I’ll own the world, just you wait and see!”

And then he met her.

And his world started to shrink, not grow larger.
And his wallet grew thinner, not fatter.

As the years passed by,
and life passed unto death,
there came to be erected
in the Olde Church graveyard,
a tombstone bearing an inscription,

“Here lies a very, very rich man.
She loved him.”
~~~~~

Poetically, sure, there’s room to criticize it, but that doesn’t change the
message one bit. That is the coolest thing I’ve read in a long time. Thanks!
~~~~~~~~~~

From: “Don Armstrong” <darmst@nospam.yahoo.com.au>
Subject: Ergonomic thingies

Dave, have you checked out 3M’s CWS (Computer Workstation Solutions) site, particularly their Ergonomics section, and particularly what they call their Renaissance Mouse?

It’s at http://www.3m.com/cws/index.html

Now, the “Renaissance Mouse” obviously owes a lot of its ancestry to gamer’s joysticks, but it seems to me to make a lot of sense when I play-act going through the motions of using it. There are other things there – like gel-filled wrist-rests – that also make sense. I’ve used them before, and they help.

Regards, Don Armstrong
~~~~~

I just checked the site. The renaissance mouse looks much like the old
third-party joysticks people bought for Atari 2600 consoles. Definitely
interesting. I may be putting my credit card to use…

Thanks!

~~~~~~~~~~

From: Edwards, Bruce
Subject: Ripping audio

Hi Dave:

I noticed that yesterday you talked about ripping audio from your CDs.  What sound card do you recommend as a good choice for encoding audio from LPs to either WAV or MP3 format?  I am interested in (when I build my next PC in about three to four months) getting a sound card that will provide excellent fidelity from an analog line in source.  I know there will then be interference issues within the PC too, are certain sounds cards more immune to this than others?

Thanks for any comments.

By the way, I ordered you book off Amazon last Friday and they were selling it for 50% off list.

Sincerely,

Bruce

~~~~~

It’d be really hard to beat the Sound Blaster Live! series (just avoid the Value version of the card, now discontinued). The card itself has excellent sound quality, and a much larger number of capacitors on it than I’m used to seeing these days, which will cut down on excess noise. The sound inputs are outstanding as well. The only way you’ll do better would be to get a truly professional-grade audio card, such as those from Digital Audio Labs (but you’ll pay more for it and you’ll have a card with zero multimedia capability–no MIDI, no nothing).
 
I see as well that the book’s at 50% off list. I wonder if that means it’s nearing the end of the line? It’s still at 20% off in the UK, which is where my sales are anyway, so if it stays in print there I’m in good shape.

Published again

I’m published again! The Jan. 2001 issue of Computer Shopper UK features an article titled “Windows Cleaning,” by Yours Truly. It’s essentially a rewrite of chapter 2 from Optimizing Windows, with a few new insights, but due to space limitations I had to leave some stuff out too.

I looked into the cost of getting it in the States; you can order it from Amazon UK but you’re looking at 2.25 pounds Sterling for the mag, then another 7 pounds sterling for shipping, so you’re talking almost $14 US for a magazine. Note that Shopper UK is not the same as Computer Shopper in the US, so don’t go looking for me there (I doubt those guys have ever heard of me). The article is mentioned on their Web site but the content isn’t posted, as far as I can see. Sorry.

Short shrift today as I finish up the second article in the series. Funny how the Internet compresses production times. My first published article was written in March, then appeared in November. Today, articles go to press days (or even hours) after I finish them. Hopefully I’ll earn some points there in the UK by slipping in a Joy Division reference.

I’ve just shipped it off to Jeremy Spencer, my editor over there. I find I really like working with him; he seems to have a very laissez-faire approach to editing and I have a particular hatred of overediting, so we seem to make a good team. I’m sad to see this series end with a third piece, to be published in the March issue.

And the question everyone is asking… Jeremy asked if we were ever going to get around to picking a president and offered to send me a copy of the Revocation of Independence. I told him I’d seen it, and that we elected George W. Bush, but Al Gore is showing he’s not made of the same stuff that Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford were. They lost close elections, and rather than contesting them again and again and selectively recounting ballots until they got results they liked, they went home for the sake of the country. Rule by their opponent, they believed, was better than chaos. (So we got Jack Kennedy and Jimmy Carter. Carter was–is–a good man but a poor president. Kennedy was a beast of a man and only slightly better president. Bush can definitely do less damage than those two.)

Al Gore doesn’t care about the good of the country. He wants to tell his grandkids about the days when he was president. Many Americans consider Richard Nixon to be evil incarnate, but frankly, Gore is making Nixon look like Thomas Jefferson.

We’ve now seen Gore at his worst (I hope), and to me, that’s plenty indication enough that he has no business in the White House.

Upgrading by downgrading

This is really sad. I don’t like complaining about supercheap video cards any more than you like reading about them, so yesterday I did something about it. I caught a glimpse of my components graveyard under my desk, and among the rubble I spied a Diamond Stealth 3D 2000 card. This was a mid-range card I purchased for $100 or so in mid-1997 to go with an Abit IT5H motherboard. For its day, it provided high color displays, high resolutions, GUI acceleration, and slight acceleration of some 3D-related functions.

We still have some of these in service at work and they’re adequate, so I figured it would be worth a try to swap it in for my AGP Cirrus Logic-based card. It only has 2 MB RAM on it, as opposed to the Cirrus’ 4 MB, but this system’s connected to a 15-inch monitor so that’s not an issue. I popped the hood, pulled the Cirrus, dropped the Stealth into an available PCI slot, powered on, and Win98 automatically installed S3 ViRGE 325 drivers. I’d have preferred to feed it the Diamond drivers I downloaded, but there was no harm in giving the MS-supplied drivers a shot. I let it reboot, then attempted the acid test. I loaded up Winamp, then IE. Once Winamp was running and playing, I went to The Register. Normally, when I scrolled in the browser, Winamp would screech. Not this time. Sweet silence, other than the music playing. Occasionally when viewing a particularly obnoxious site, I could coax a screech, but not consistently, and certainly not enough to be worth worrying about.

So, am I saying the mid-range chipsets of 1997 are better than the low-end chipsets of today from Cirrus and Trident, AGP notwithstanding? Yes I am, as much as it pains me. That’s not usually how technology works; for example, the low-end IDE hard disks of today kill even the high-end IDE disks of 1997. But I’m happy. That’s $75 I don’t have to spend on another TNT2 card.

Computer buying advice

Some sound computer buying advice. Here’s a Washington Post article on buying new PCs. Easy to understand in layman’s terms. And the advice is for the most part sound too, though I recommend always buying a good video card–a TNT2 will just add $60 or so to the cost of a low-end box and everything will run more nicely. The box I’m typing on right now has a cheap Cirrus Logic-based card in it, and the high CPU usage of its drivers hurts multitasking noticeably, even if I’m just browsing the Web while listening to music.

In a year this’ll be a moot point, as all chipsets will have serviceable embedded video. Even the enraging Intel i740, though not good for games, was great for productivity use and much better all around than this Cirrus and Trident garbage, and Intel’s newest chipsets have i740 derivatives in them. Future VIA chipsets will have S3 video in them. Same story.

I buy crap so you don’t have to–but don’t get me wrong. I buy the good stuff too. That way I’ll know the difference.

No more wimpy PC sound for me. I just connected an ancient but still awesome Harmon/Kardon 330A receiver (built in the late 1960s, I’m guessing — it once belonged to my dad) to my computer along with a pair of KLH 970A speakers I picked up for 30 bucks at Best Bait-n-Switch (unfortunately, the only nearby place that sells KLH speakers). These things are scarcely bigger than the cheap desktop speakers that came with the last PC I bought — 7 3/8″ high x 4 5/8″ wide by 4 3/8″ deep — but with the volume cranked to about 1/3 I can hear it throughout my apartment. I imagine at 2/3 I’d meet my neighbors. I won’t try that — I’m not interested in sharing my great tunage.

I can’t believe neither my mom nor my sister wanted this receiver — honestly, every time I’ve mentioned this thing at an audio place the salesperson has asked if I was interested in selling it — but hey, my dad would have wanted me to have a kickin’ audio setup for my PCs, right? This’ll work great for Royals broadcasts over the ‘Net once baseball season starts again, but not only that, this combination kicks out the jams almost as hard as punk legends The MC5, so I’m not complaining.

I’m happy enough with the results that I think rather than replacing my dying CD changer, once my Windows Me experiments are over I’ll mount my extra 15-gig drive somewhere on my LAN and put my Plextor Ultraplex CD-ROM drive to work ripping my entire CD collection, which I’ll then encode at 320 kbps. I doubt I’ll notice much difference.

If you’re like me and live with several PCs in close proximity to one another, rather than plugging an endless number of cheap desktop speakers into them, pick up an inexpensive receiver or use a castaway. You can plug a PC into any stereo input except phono, so most modern receivers should accomodate at least three PCs, and the speaker options are limited only by the receiver’s capabilities and available space. You’re likely to be much happier with such a setup than with any desktop speakers you’ll find, and a receiver plus speakers will usually cost much less than multiple pairs of any set of desktop speakers worth having would. Just be very careful to isolate your speakers away from any floppies and Zips and other magnetic media you might have. Some bookshelf speakers may be magnetically shielded, but don’t count on it.