There’s been entirely too much seriousness this week. It’s Friday, time to unwind with some trains. In light of that, I picked up some dilapidated postwar American Flyer wheels at the local train store this afternoon to fix up some stuff from my junk box. The wheels were covered in milky white goo/powder/gunk/residue/stuff–whatever you want [...]
A coworker called me in a panic on Valentine’s Day. He’d bought some Tamiya model kits for his son, and quickly found they were in over their head. Would I build them for them? I finally got started today.
I spent the afternoon putting plastic film on my windows. It was supposed to be a short project, and I do get better at it every year, but it still ended up taking about an hour per window.
I think it’s time well spent. According to one article I read, it can cut your heating bills by 30 percent. That’s some serious money.
We had a day last week where we topped 80 degrees and set a record, so small wonder I never thought winter would actually get here.
But we’ve had our first good freeze and it looks like that’ll be a weekly thing from here on out (assuming we don’t get multiples every week), so it’s time to winterize the house.
THe BBC has a feature story on data destruction. Of course I can’t let it go by without comment.
The sidebar provides the tastiest tidbits.
Two weekends ago, I headed back up to Bethlehem Lutheran Church to rebuild the computer lab I had set up for them a few years ago. Built on P3-based Compaq Deskpros and Windows 98, it had held up, but was desperately in need of repair.
The vision of this project was to set up a lab in a declining neighborhood, where kids could come to do their homework and adults could come to learn computer skills. The lab is run under adult supervision, and outsiders with teaching and/or training experience come in occasionally to teach computer literacy classes.
Ultimately, I want this project to produce some sysadmins in North St. Louis. Years ago, when this was in the planning stage, I told Pastor John Schmidtke that I wanted to see some Mercedeses and BMWs in that neighborhood, purchased with salaries earned from skills picked up in that lab.
Well, that hasn’t happened yet. But there’s still time. In the meantime, how about if I talk about what I’ve learned from three years of operation?
I’d forgotten about this resource. If you tend to burn through a lot of AA or AAA batteries in a digital camera, portable MP3 player, PalmPilot or PocketPC, video games, or CD player, look into NiMH rechargable batteries. Bob Thompson mentioned Thomas Distributing ( www.thomas-distributing.com ) on the backchannel. I went to see what the price difference would be between NiMHs and standard alkalines. There, you can pick up a GP Batteries charger with four low-end 1300 mAH batteries for $15. If you don’t feel like wasting your time with the low-end stuff, a pack of four GP 1700 mAH batteries runs $17 and a compatible charger manufactured by MAHA runs $8. For the sake of comparison, a four-pack of disposable Duracell Alkaline batteries runs $5.15 at Staples. A NiMH battery can be recharged 500-1,000 times, and its running life per charge is longer than that of an Alkaline battery.
And for environmentalists and cheapskates, you can even get a solar-powered battery charger for $18. Free energy. The only drawback is you need two or more days’ worth of sunlight to fully charge four AAs.
We go through AAs at work like nobody’s business, thanks to our pagers and PalmPilots, so I ought to mention this stuff to our administrative staff.
The advantages of NiMH over the NiCD batteries that have been available for about the past 15 years is basically longevity and memory. NiCDs develop memory over time, so their capacity drops. NiMHs have minimal memory effect, and their capacity drop-off is much less steep. And their life expectancy is longer. Newer laptop batteries use NiMH instead of NiCD, because now that people expect their laptops to be not just computers, but also personal stereos and portable DVD players, there’s no way you could get any kind of useful life expectancy out of NiCD cells. The disadvantage is cost; a NiMH pack for most laptops will cost a minimum of $100 and $200 isn’t unheard of.
With AA cells the cost isn’t as much of a factor. The individual battery costs $3.50, but since you’ll recharge it 500 times, it doesn’t hurt so much.
And by the way… I’m finished with that Computer Shopper UK article. Among other things, I advocate a hair dryer and nail polish as two useful tools for a PC tech. Hey, it’s an excuse to speak with the ladies, although I am debating in my mind what kind of an impression borrowing those two particular items might leave, particularly to work on computers… I’ll have to ask my sister.
~Mail follows today’s post~
A failed review of McAfee Utilities 2000. I was going to write about the successor to Nuts & Bolts, the utilities suite that could have been so good, except parts of it were so bad. It was never second-best of the three I looked at in Optimizing Windows. It was sometimes the best in a particular category, and often the worst. I was hoping the new version would fix some of the shortcomings–add the launch acceleration features of Speed Disk, Fix-It, and Windows Defrag to DiskMinder and it would be the best of the bunch when configured properly.
It’s bloated. While Fix-It is clean and simple and NU is getting there, McAfee still insists on throwing in the kitchen sink and a hair dryer. Never mind that’s a particularly dangerous combination. You can’t de-select some of the kitchen sink or hair dryer features either. Worse yet, the installer missed installing at least one critical DLL, so it doesn’t run. At first I figured it was incompatible with Windows Me, so I tried installing it on a 98SE system. It had the same problems there too–and this was a fresh install, with no special trickery. So I can’t tell you how good the good parts are because I don’t know.
I should probably look into getting a retail copy of it, because it’s presumably more polished (I sure hope so–imagine not even being able to install something, but not being able to return it!) but I’m less than hopeful. The reasons are obvious, I hope.
Time for a new system. A friend and I are spec’ing out a system for another friend. We’re having fun spending someone else’s money. So far, we’ve managed to run up a $10,092 tab, but my friend was slacking. For one, he forgot the second 21″ NEC flat-panel display and TNT2-based PCI video card. We want him to be able to watch IrfanView slide shows on his second monitor while he plays Quake full-screen. (IrfanView doesn’t require the greatest of available cards, but we want like manufacturers since that works better for multi-head displays. And never mind that Tim doesn’t play Quake.) And he went with a TNT2 card for the main display. What’s up with that? Why would they make $400 64 MB GeForce 2 Ultra cards otherwise, except for Tim to buy them? But I approved a PCI-based TNT2 for the secondary display because I didn’t want to look too extravagent.
So we’re not done yet.
He’s been sending me specs and I’ve been telling him what’s wrong with them. I’d be great in upper-level management.
I’ve even got a Plan B. If what we come up with is too much, I’ll admit to Tim that The Gator’s being too extravagent. “Yeah, he insisted on putting a second floppy drive in there, in case you needed to copy disks. ‘Who copies disks?’ I asked him, but he insisted. So I humored him. You and me, we both know you can copy disks with a single floppy drive. So we’ll nix that drive, cut the bill by 15 bucks and everything’s perfect. There. Now THAT is a practical system.”
From: Dan Bowman
Subject: RE: Whaddayadoin?
Fun with electricity. I’m trying to figure out if I’m overreacting or not. What really scares me is that this journalist seems to know a whole lot more about electrical safety than some other people working in an IS/IT department.