12/11/2000

Hardware upgrades. CPU prices are pretty flat, while memory prices are still under $1/MB, even for Crucial ($92 with free shipping as of last night). The Mushkin 222 memory, recommended by some enthusiasts as faster and more stable still, is $114 for a 128-meg stick. They’ve just revised the design; this is the pricing on the older 2.0 revision. I’m guessing that’s a “while they last” price. The rev 3.0 is $133 for a 128-meg stick.

While I used Mushkin memory years ago and had no problems with it, I haven’t used this stuff. I’m just going by what people are telling me.

If you’re looking to get something immediately, this is a good time of course. Prices are pretty steady on CPUs, memory and motherboards. But if you can wait a couple of months, it’d be a good idea to do so. You’ll get better performance out of DDR and an Athlon with the 266 MHz FSB. The FSB and memory bandwidth are much, much more important to overall system performance than raw clock speed. Buying a 1.2 GHz system right now is comparable to what buying a 66 MHz 486 with only ISA slots would have been in 1993. The CPU just isn’t the bottleneck anymore. DDR will help some.

How to buy memory. Whatever you do, please don’t buy commodity memory. Don’t just go to PriceWatch, search on RAM, and buy the cheapest stuff. You have no idea who made the module, who made the chips, what grade the chips were (some chips that get put onto commodity modules were never certified for use in PCs and were only suitable for use in other devices like pagers), whether the module may have been repaired… A lifetime warranty is no insurance. Bottom-feeder dealers know the majority of users will never trace problems back to them and exchange the memory. Buy name-brand memory, please.

If you’re in the shop and you’re buying loose sticks, here’s what to look for. Look for a sticker or silkscreen on the board that states the manufacturer. Make sure it’s made by a company you’ve heard of. Make sure the RAM chips are all made by the same manufacturer, and that they actually have a manufacturer’s name on them. Chips that only have a country of origin on them should have never gone onto a PC memory module. Mismatched chips are a likely sign of after-the-fact modification. Don’t buy.

If you want to get really sneaky, check the dates of manufacture on the chips. It’s a 4-digit code. A chip manufactured today would read 0050 (read year 2000, week 50). If the chips don’t have the same date, don’t buy. It’s probably refurbished. If the date isn’t very recent, don’t buy. It’s probably used. Dealers generally don’t keep huge inventories of memory because it’s not profitable to do so–memory prices are just too volatile.

Yes, the Cubs’ fans deserved Mark Grace. I agree with Frank McPherson on that. Cubs fans deserve Joe DiMaggio, for that matter–not that there’ll be another Joltin’ Joe. I guess I understand the fans putting up with the crap Cubs management unleashes on them, because I put up with the Royals’ lunkhead moves, but at least the Royals value loyalty. Then again, my clan’s motto is “fide et fortitudine” (fidelity and fortitude in Gaelic) so maybe I value loyalty more than most people do these days.

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