04/04/2001

A great hardware site. I found this yesterday when I was searching in hopes of remembering a long-departed name of a hard drive manufacturer. The name I couldn’t put my finger on was Miniscribe. The great site, http://www.redhill.net.au/ig.html , is a hardware guide, written by an experienced Australian clone shop, that’s unusually straight-shooting. It’s the only mention I’ve seen on a hardware site of the Gigabyte 7IXE4, a low-end Duron/Athlon board that sells for about 80 bucks.

Especially interesting to me is the history. They discuss drives in detail, and though it’s hardly a complete memoir of every drive that was ever on the market, it hits the common ones. Want to know where Western Digital got its sterling (and not very deserved) reputation? Read on. I’m not so sure of their statement that Maxtor was bought out by Hyundai (Maxtor certainly never mentions that), but their history seems about as complete and accurate as any other I’ve seen, and it’s interesting to read the reviews of ancient hard drives. At least to me.

Motherboards and CPUs get a similar treatment. Good stuff.

Monitors. My NEC FE950 finally came in yesterday. It’s gorgeous, and takes up the same amount of desk space that early 17-inchers took. Mine looks like it got pretty banged up either in manufacturing or shipping though, so I’ll have to arrange an RMA. I hate to be picky, but after spending $400 on a monitor, I don’t want something with a beat-up case. It could be a cosmetic flaw, or it could be an indication that this monitor had an incident with a forklift. I’m not taking that chance.

The vendor will advance me a replacement, which is good. I’ll probably opt for that. I hope I don’t get nailed for shipping, but I suspect I probably will. Lesson learned: Order from Staples.

As for the monitor, I can’t tell much difference between it and a Trinitron. I’m not sure if it’s using a Mitsubishi DiamondTron tube or something of NEC’s design (NEC and Mitsubishi merged their monitor operations last year), but whatever it is, I like it. Fabulous monitor, and great value for the money. As far as I can tell, it’s indistinguishable from the FP series other than the FP’s higher maximum resolution, which isn’t comfortable for the monitor’s size anyway. The only fault I can find with this FE is what appears to be an incident with a forklift or some other heavy machinery.

Once again I should emphasize this point: never ever scrimp on a monitor. It might be tempting to get a no-name monitor so you can afford more memory or a faster CPU, but memory and CPU prices drop much faster than monitor prices, and they always have. Plus, their useful life is much shorter. A good monitor can outlive two or three computers, so in the long run, you save money with a premium monitor.

Why was I stumbling over the name Miniscribe? I was recalling my first-ever building of a PC. I was salvaging parts from a 286 with a blown power supply. I couldn’t get a replacement power supply because it was a Samsung PC, largely proprietary. The power supply had cooked itself because a poorly placed IDE cable totally blocked its vents, so it never had proper cooling. This was 1993, my first year of college. The PC was owned by my fraternity. We went and bought a barebones 386DX-25–just a motherboard in a case–and went to work. The video card and floppy drives and I/O cards moved without a hitch. But the Miniscribe 40-meg IDE drive gave us problems. I couldn’t get it to work, and I doubted I had much future building PCs. I took it into the shop, and they couldn’t make any sense of it either. Their most experienced tech remembered that Miniscribe had been bought out by Maxtor, so he called a contact at Maxtor. The drive turned out to be an 8-bit IDE drive that worked on some 286s but would never work in a 386 or better. They took the drive in trade for a used 40-meg IDE drive using the more conventional 16-bit interface and transferred the data for us. We got a couple of years out of that PC, though it was never a speed demon. But it was functional and cheap.

Of course I recovered from those early stumbles. Within a couple months I was selling PCs, and a couple of months after that I was working as a tech myself.

The wages of spam. And finally, I saw yesterday that Nasdaq suspended trading of PSInet and the company is considering bankruptcy. Excellent. During its not-troubled-enough life, PSInet was frequently accused of operating a safe harbor for spammers, and back in the days when I bothered to try tracking down spammers, I traced large percentages of it to PSInet.

I do not like green eggs and spam. I do not like them, Sam I am.

Hopefully this is the start of a trend. I’ve seen estimates that the traffic generated by spammers increases the costs you and I pay for Internet service by a full $2 per month. That’s just the infrastructure costs our ISPs have to bear and pass on to us. And of course it’s a huge waste of time.

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