12/12/2000

~Mail follows today’s post~

Mailbag time. I had things to say, but after cranking out the first 700+ words for my next magazine article in a span of a couple of hours (it was slow going), I’ll just let the audience determine my direction.

First, Chris Miller, whose mail has stirred up so much activity around here of late (and that’s a good thing).

Hi Dave

A quick response to my critic John Braue who questioned my use of the phrase “bending the rules for the greater good” and then (perhaps inadvertantly) appeared to compare Lincoln and Roosevelt to Hitler and Stalin. I take the point to some extent, but in a way, John, you have answered your own criticism by adding the proviso “and indeed, smash [the rules] all to pieces”. Of course there is a difference between “bending” and “smashing” rules.

Regardless, it is problematic and ultimately futile to make the comparison – and not only because of history, as Lincoln’s reforms led the US out of the age of slavery and FDR’s New Deal arguably saved the nation, while Hitler and Stalin led their countries to turmoil, war and near-destruction. The main difference is that, while all were originally placed in power by the people, the US presidents, unlike their European counterparts, remained accountable to the people. If the people didn’t like Abe’s and FDR’s policies, they could simply vote them out. And, of course, neither was defeated in an election; both died in office.

Thanks for your comments about Shopper, Dave, and I hope we continue to do a good job with our new design in place. I also hope we can continue to celebrate (if that’s the word) the cultural differences between our countries and, indeed, all the English-speaking nations.

A note on usage: both ‘-ise’ and ‘-ize’ endings are acceptable in British English, although misguided UK traditionalists insist on ‘-ise’ as they see ‘-ize’ as ‘American’. In fact, it is British in origin. Of course, reactionary xenophobic fools never let facts get in the way of a complaint. We use ‘-ise’ and avoid ‘-ize’ in an attempt to be consistent, but it could just as easily be the other way round.

I’m aware that the names of pop bands function as plural here and singular over there, which is a strange one. Perhaps it’s because so many of our early pop groups had ‘plural’ names (the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, the Kinks etc) and it has stuck. Having said that, the great 60s and 70s US soul bands usually followed the same pattern (the Supremes, the Temptations etc). Would you, then, say, “The Spice Girls is one of the most successful female bands of all time”?

No, you would probably say “The Spice Girls is terrible” if you are a Joy Division fan…

All the best
Chris

There is a difference between the likes of FDR and Lincoln and the likes of Hitler and Stalin, certainly. Neither FDR nor Lincoln attempted to disrupt the due process of elections and thus remained accountable, yes. Nor did either kill their political opponents. I have a real problem with FDR trying to pack the Supreme Court to make some of his blatantly unconstitutional policies stick, and while the New Deal made the people feel better, World War II had much more to do with pulling the United States (and the world) out of the Depression.

Both men, however, walked a dangerous line. They had the integrity to walk it without stepping too far out of bounds. Hitler and Stalin were the closest things the 20th Century ever saw to the embodiment of pure evil; I believe that the idea that some things are absolute–these things you always do, no matter what, and these things over here you never do, no matter what–can help serve to keep men like them in check.

Even more so, providing a safe environment for your political enemies is a must, and that’s something the United States has lost sight of. To hear our politicians speak, today’s opponents are just a notch or two away from a Hitler or a Stalin, and the stakes of winning and losing are growing ever higher. If we reach the point of persecution due to election results, then it’s time to really seriously think about getting out of here. And I say that in all seriousness.

And come on: You and I are, from what I can gather, politically more distant than Bush and Gore. But we’re civil towards one another and even work together. Difference of opinion is a good thing. If you and I know that, why can’t they?

When we lose sight of that idea, then we slide down a very slippery slope. We had a somewhat similar situation to this many, many years ago, when Aaron Burr more or less murdered Alexander Hamilton. Fortunately for the United States, other men in Burr’s party recognized him for what he really was after this sad incident, and Burr’s political career came to a rapid close. I don’t know if the political parties of today have that kind of restraint–we’ll start to see later this week–and I think that fear is the reason why the names Hitler and Stalin come up.

As for Shopper, I’m mostly thrilled to see there’s still a staff somewhere that gives a rip about producing a quality computer magazine. I see things in Shopper that I haven’t seen anywhere in a U.S. magazine since the late, great Compute folded in the early ’90s. So when I find something good, I feel obligated to say something about it. It’s just too bad it’s so #$%! expensive to ship it across the Atlantic.

And as for the language, your question of “The Spice Girls is” vs. “The Spice Girls are” would raise a major debate in the editorial office. Chances are, “is” would win out, as the band is a singular entity, but it sure sounds illiterate, even to my American ears. So I cracked out Working With Words, the best practical guide I can find to US English grammar, and the way I read it, yes, the singular is correct, but sounds so bad that you should write around it, e.g. “One of the most successful female bands of all time is The Spice Girls,” or “A great example of a terrible band is The Spice Girls.” Because, let’s face it, “The Spice Girls is terrible” sounds like it should be followed by, “Hank Williams Jr. kicks #*%!” No wonder you think we’re all cowboys over here…

An interesting passage from Working With Words, page 28:

The jury was unanimous. But The jury were split. (Sounds odd, but you can’t always trust your ear when it comes to traditional grammar. To avoid the obvious ugliness of The jury were split, it it possible to add the word members after jury, or, better yet, to substitute the word jurors.)

I’m trying to figure out if it should bother me that I’m amused by this…

This doesn’t really need any comment, other than the observation that a popular t-shirt in the crowd I ran around with when Dubya’s dad was running against Bill Clinton read, “Tanned, Rested and Ready: Nixon ’92.”

From: Dave Wootten

WE NEED A RICHARD NIXON

(to the tune of “We Need a Little Christmas” from “Mame”)
(with apologies to Jerry Herman)
 

Throw out the lawsuits;
Decide the vote before the market falls again.
Fill in the winner,
I may be rushing things,
But close the ballot box now!

For we need a Richard Nixon
Right this very minute,
Before a re-count kicks in,
And nobody will win it

Yes, we need a Richard Nixon
Right this very minute.
The ballot cards are getting blurry,
The nation, Dick, is in a hurry.

So calm down Dade County:
You had the biggest string of lies I’ve ever seen.
Fill up the courtroom;
It’s time we Gored-whom-ever, steals the vote from us now.

For I’ve grown a little meaner,
Grown a little colder,
Grown a little sadder,
All this on my shoulder,

And I need a little angel
Telling me “I-told-ya”
Need a Richard Nixon now.
 

Call off the hand counts:
If you demand counts – you are, losing anyway;
Stop the election,
But Leave-her-man, it’s four weeks
Past Election Day now!
 
But we need a Richard Nixon
Right this very minute,
Bush and Gore are losin’
No matter how they “spin” it.

Yes, we need a Richard Nixon
Right this very minute.
Electors might just have to scurry
Or this might go down to a jury.

So tone down the media:
Or they’ll concede ya’ – lost it – on Election Day
Slice up the precincts:
It’s time we hung some neo-politician right now!

For we don’t need Thomas Brokaw,
Don’t need Daniel Rather,
Don’t need Peter Jennings,
Spewing out their blather.

And we need a little snappy
“Happy ever after,”
Need a Richard Nixon now.

Need a Richard Nixon now.

~~~~~~~~~~

From: David_Blodgett@doh.state.fl.us
Subject: >8GB Hard Drives
I just read today’s post and say your problem getting 8.4GB HD to work.  I almost hesitated to mention this, but do you have the latest BIOS for your motherboards?  As I’m sure you know, in the past we’ve gone though many hard drive BIOS limitations, first around 500+ MB, then 2GB and most recently just over 8GB.  Even a year old MB that has not had a BIOS update might have problems with the bigger drives.

Also, if you’re dual booting, make sure the partitions that could be active for booting an os are totally with in the first 8GB.  Most MS os’s have problems if the boot partition (or system partition for NT) crosses that line.  I believe Win2000 is not affected by this, but I could be wrong (I’ve seen NT blow up).

Good Luck, and I love the site

David J Blodgett
~~~~~

I have very recent BIOSes in all of them (I had a problem with the latest BIOS on one board so I went back one revision). Can’t check right now for the very latest because my ISP’s having problems. The BIOS is always the first thing I suspect.
 
The drive does work, for the most part–I can see all of it. But the BIOS is reporting a 500-meg drive, and some utilities see the contradiction and squawk about it, as they probably should. Then some of them refuse to work, as they probably shouldn’t.
 
Thanks for the warning on the OS. I generally install each OS on a dedicated 2 GB partition, then put apps and data on separate partitions. By that design, I’m not too likely to go past that 8 GB. I think that’s less of an issue with Windows 98 and on, but it’s a good thing to keep in mind. I might as well test it while I’ve got a system torn down to that level so I can say with authority. (This is a Windows 9x-oriented article anyway, but I might as well throw NT and 2K into the mix if I still have the space.)
 
I’m glad you enjoy the site. Thanks!
~~~~~~~~~~

From: “Jan Swijsen” <qjsw@nospam.oce.nl>
Subject: strings

DF>Strings are good for guitars, not computers.
<g>And I thought that Perl was fantastic with strings.

 

DF>Computer Shopper is every bit as well-designed.
<g>Not just well-designed. It packs loads of between the lines hinted humour. Real British.  American mags are way to ‘business’ oriented, there is no fun in them.

~~~~~

I should know better than to make puns with you watching; you’ll come in and out-do me every time. Though a non-programmer will get mine…

I was talking with Di (my sister) about writing for a British magazine, and I mentioned the stereotypes. Americans tend to think of the British as overly stuffy and formal; the British, from what I can tell, think we’re all cowboys. Shopper’s definitely not overly stuffy and formal (unlike US computer mags, none of which I bother to pay for anymore and I’ve been trying to let my InfoWorld subscription lapse for well over a year and THEY WON’T LET ME!), which blows that stereotype, and in my upcoming article I talk about listening to the British New Wave bands Joy Division and A Flock of Seagulls, which should establish me as something other than a cowboy.

I noticed their humor in the selection of the art for this upcoming article.  I probably laughed for five minutes after I saw it in PDF form.
~~~~~~~~~~

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.

~~~~~~~~~~

 

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.

HappyThanksgiving, 2000 edition

Happy Thanksgiving. Mail and everything will wait. I just got home from Thanksgiving Eve services and I’m getting ready to hit the road. I’m not taking a computer with me. Not sure yet what day I’m coming back. Bad for readership, I know, but it’s not like there’ll be much these next few days to write about anyway.

Expect me back in full force Sunday. I may do a short shrift Saturday. I’ll part with a paraphrase from pastor: If you’re grateful, you’re rich, no matter what you have or don’t have.
So, on that note, may God grant us grateful hearts for this great day. Enjoy it, and I’ll be back with you soon.

AMD roadmap and analysis. Finally! Something to analyze. AnandTech posted AMD’s roadmap for the next couple of years sometime yesterday (I missed it). With AMD saying again and again that they aren’t a chipset company, I’m starting to wonder… Why not bring in the necessary engineers to make good, really good chipsets, then outsource manufacturing to NatSemi and/or IBM? That saves AMD’s precious fab capacity–capacity that’s sorely needed to produce profitable CPUs and flash memory–and reduces their dependence on VIA, SiS and ALi, of which only VIA has any kind of a decent track record of late.
Of course, this arrangement would make chipsets even less profitable, which is one of the reasons AMD tries to stay out of that business, but the better your chipsets, the more CPUs you’ll sell. AMD’s currently selling every CPU they can make, but that won’t necessarily last forever. They need to build another fab, and they need to start taking measures now to ensure that there’ll be sufficient demand once that fab is up and going to sell every chip the new fab is capable of producing.

Nothing happened yesterday for me to analyze? That sure doesn’t happen often. I still remember a personality test I took a couple of years ago (I have a friend to thank for reminding me of that test). At my worst, I can be described in two words: overdominant overanalysis.

But yesterday provided next to nothing in the way of analysis fodder. Slow news day. At work, I planned upcoming projects with some higher-ups. And I built shelves. Hey, mindless work is good for you occasionally. One of the women in the office walked by as we were assembling the shelves and said, “I’ll bet you guys love Christmas.” Heh. Except for one thing. I’m single, and the guy I was working with is married but hasn’t started his family yet. So Christmas doesn’t consist of building all that much stuff. But it made me wonder. Do guys start families for the sake of starting families, or to get an excuse to put together and play with toys?

There’s mail. But I’m out of time this morning. As some of you know, I hand mail off to my sister to post, in order to cut down on my keystrokes and mouse movements and give my wrists a break. I suspect Di’s left town for the holiday already, so I’ll see about handling the mail myself tonight, before I skip town for a couple of days. I’ll try to post something while I’m gone, but I won’t have any way of reading my mail on the road.

Impressions of Windows Me

Afternoon: Short shrift thoughts on WinMe. I’ve got it running on a Celeron-400. I installed a 15GB Quantum Fireball lct I bought some time back and never used for anything, so as to preserve my existing Win98 setup. I see little difference between WinME and 98SE, with a few exceptions:

Improved Defrag. Defrag’s speed now rivals that of a third-party package. It still won’t give the results that a well-tuned Norton SpeedDisk will, but at least the days of 18-hour defrags are over.

Improved boot times. When I saw people bragging that WinME made their systems boot in a minute and a half, I was hardly impressed. I can get even Win95 to boot many systems in under 30 seconds. WinME booted this C400 in 15 seconds. I did the boot speed tricks out of Optimizing Windows, and got the boot time down to 14 seconds. So Microsoft has obviously streamlined the boot process considerably. The old tricks still work, but don’t give much improvement. But what would you rather do, pay $50 or $90 for a faster boot time, or spend 5 minutes streamlining your MSDOS.SYS file?

Stability. WinME is a bit more solid on this C400 than vanilla Win98 was. I’m currently serenading my neighbors with an MP3 tune from A Flock of Seagulls (I’m sure they appreciate it) while I’m on the Web. That was a great way to make the system bluescreen before. Of course, that could just be due to a fresh installation as well. That 98 installation is about 14 months old, so it’s due for a scrubdown.

Speaking of sound… I bought the SB Live! card in this machine mostly for its voice recognition abilities, but the sound quality coming out of this thing is far greater than any other sound card I’ve seen. If you’re in the market for a sound card, give Creative’s SoundBlaster Live! series a long, hard look. Now that their main competition is buried I don’t know how long they’ll keep making good stuff, but this card is something else.

Morning: I finally did it. I did what I recommend no one do. I bought a copy of Windows ME last night. I’m making a bit of a living writing about 9x, so I had no choice. I’m writing a Windows optimization series for Computer Shopper UK, and I have to cover ME because that’s what an increasing number of people have.

I could review it here but I doubt I’ll bother. I can’t imagine anyone would be interested. The best advice for any Microsoft 9x product is to not buy it unless you buy a new PC that comes with it. That was true for four years, and with ME’s lack of backward compatibility with DOS, it’s probably even more true.

My new project is starting to rival the ramdisk project in difficulty. Windows ME appears to be faster and more stable than its predecessors but I don’t like the installation program. It seems to take liberties I wish it wouldn’t with the existing Windows directories it finds. Why do I care about that? You’ll find out if I’m successful — I don’t want to get anyone’s hopes up yet. Plus a little air of mystery is always a good thing.

~~~~~~~~~~

From: “Dustin D. Cook” <dcook32p@nospam.htcomp.net>
Subject: Memory Brands
Dave,

First let me say that I’m probably not the first person to question your choice in memory, and I probably won’t be the last.

Have you ever heard of a company called Mushkin, Inc.? They were just purchased by Enhanced Memory Systems (the fine makers of the first PC-150 SDRAM chip and HSDRAM modules). I have used Mushkin’s memory modules for a little over one year now, and I must say that I have been very pleased. Out of several hundred of these parts that I have sold to my clients, only one such module has ever failed. The best part: it worked fine until their building was directly struck by lightning.

Read Anand Tech’s “PC133 SDRAM Roundup – April 2000” here http://www.anandtech.com/showdoc.html?i=1213 . You’ll be amazed at the performance of the Mushkin modules. Unfortunately, this performance comes at a cost. Their 128 MB High-performance revision 2.0 modules cost $166.00 each. (I get a small discount since I’m a reseller, and I order in large quantities. This price is retail.)

These modules are also very stable. I’m using mine with my timings set for “Turbo”, my CAS Latency set for “2”, and my memory clock at “133 MHz” in the CMOS setup. Using both Windows 2000 Professional SP1 and SuSE Linux 6.4, I have not yet had a lockup or error. The system has been running stable for almost three months.

I have used Micron memory in the past, and I will probably use them again. If a customer either does not want to pay the price for the Mushkin parts, or they simply don’t believe me when I tell them that those few extra dollars almost guarantees a more stable and higher performing part, then I will gladly sell them the Crucial/Micron memory. I don’t want to keep pushing something that I know my customers won’t buy.

My point is this: since you’re recommending parts based on “money is no object” then you should go with the best parts available. I believe Mushkin fulfills that role.

Sincerely,

Dustin D. Cook Campus Computers Stephenville, TX – USA

PS: I really enjoyed your book on optimizing Windows. I have used many of those tips to enhance my Windows 98 machine at home. Thanks for the great information!
~~~~~~~~~~

Subject: (no subject)

Well, all this time of posting that picture of your book “Optimizing Windows” paid off. I saw it in the store today and bought a copy.

I don’t know if it’s such a good idea to post a picture of yourself, though: I have vinyl records older than you.
(What are vinyl records?)

~~~~~

Thanks! I hope you enjoy it and find it useful.
 
Hmm, vinyl records. LPs spun at 33 1/3 rpm; singles came on smaller discs that spun at 45 rpm. Older records spun at 78 rpm. You had to put little plastic inserts in the holes in 45s so you could play them on most turntables. I read about them in history class.
 
Actually, I bought records in the early 1980s. I think CDs became commercially available in 1983 but they sure weren’t commonplace until later–I know the first recording to sell a million copies on CD was U2’s The Joshua Tree, in 1987. I didn’t get a CD player until 1989, so until then I was buying records and tapes. I know around here somewhere I have vinyl records older than me too.
 
Not sure if my age is a disadvantage or not. I frequently tell people that computers are the only thing large numbers of people want a 25-year-old’s opinion on. I spend enough time talking about Amigas that people probably figure out pretty fast that I didn’t become interested in computers in the 1990s. I was always fascinated with them (I first saw one in 1981) and from second grade on, we had them in school. I was writing simple programs when I was 10, and by the time I was 15 I had enough confidence to take them apart and work on them. There are plenty of writers with as much or more computer experience, but there won’t be very many who’ve spent as great a percentage of their lives with them.
 
I know when I was selling the things, the younger you looked, the more credibility you had. Then again, people equate age with wisdom, and I grew a beard mostly because it gives me a few years and I notice the difference at work. I’ll probably change the photo at some point, but for now I’ll see how this one flies.
~~~~~~~~~~

From: Dan Bowman <DanBowman@nospam.worldnet.att.net&gt;
Subject: Okay, I’ll parallel you…

I picked up a Compaq on clearance at Office Depot as a kid’s present for Christmas. I’ll be firing it up this week to see what I can see. “Me” is the base install.
 
Off to sing and learn and have a good time,
 
dan
~~~~~

Cool. So far I don’t see anything in WinMe that I object to, and maybe, just maybe, there’s enough in it for the $50 “limited time” step-up from 98/98SE to be worth it (especially if you can get it at a slightly discounted price). If your system is old enough to be running Win95, however, I see no use for it. There aren’t enough new features to be worth the $90 going rate and the system is likely to be marginal enough that WinMe will be a slug on it.
 
The Zip folders feature is nice, making working with Zip files in Explorer just like working with any old folder. That saves you whatever WinZip costs and I think I like it better. Internet Connection Sharing, of course, is a must for some people. Those two make it worth upgrading from vanilla Win98. I can’t comment yet on stability or compatibility.

Christmas presents you want, and don’t want

Evening update. I came home to a non-working phone and CD player. The phone’s working again. I’m thinking Southwestern Bell really doesn’t want me to like them. As for the CD player, I unplugged it for 10 seconds and plugged it in–first thing I do with any piece of electronics. That brought it back from the dead, but as I was listening to U2’s All That You Can’t Leave Behind, I noticed some crackling in the audio. I’ve been listening mostly to really synthy New Wave music lately and the crackling can blend in with the synths, but on the more organic-sounding tracks in the middle of ATYCLB, there’s no place for the crackling to hide.

I ought to open it up and see if the problem isn’t just an overly dirty lens. That’s nothing a foam swab dipped in a little isopropyl alcohol can’t fix. Otherwise, I may have to start shopping. That’s what www.audioreview.com is for. The JVC XL-MC334-BK looks good for the money.

I’ll also have to resist the temptation to get a second pair of speakers. The KLH 970A speakers are dirt cheap ($20-$30) and reportedly sound really good for the price. There are better speaker brands than KLH, but these would be secondary speakers and if I don’t like them on the stereo, if paired up with an inexpensive receiver they’d make a very nice computer sound system.

An early Christmas present you don’t want. Another e-mail worm is making the rounds, this one called Navidad.exe. Navidad.exe es muy mal para su computadora. Sorry. Couldn’t resist.

What it appears to do is reply to all messages in your inbox containing a single attachment, attaching itself in the process. The really nasty part is that the worm contains poorly written code, causing your system to be unstable.

I’ll continue with my standard advice. Don’t open unexpected executable (.exe) attachments. If you can’t tell the difference, don’t open unexpected attachments at all. It’s better to miss the joke than to have to reinstall Windows yet another time. Keep in mind that the people who are most likely to fall victim to such things are also the least likely to have any backups.

You can get details and a repair tool from Symantec.

A friend got a hysterical phone call at midnight last Thursday from another friend whose system was exhibiting behavior similar to this. He eventually calmed her down enough to walk her through reinstalling Windows, which restored her system to a bootable state.

If a system will no longer boot, it should be possible to bubblegum it back together with Windows 98’s scanreg tool. Boot to a command prompt by holding down the control key, then type scanreg at the C:> prompt. Restore a recent backup (preferably the most recent or second-most recent). Once you boot successfully, immediately update your virus signatures and run your anti-virus program, or download a repair tool to do a full repair.

This trick fixes many, but not all, recent viruses.

AMD, hoaxes, and trends

There are reports of problems with the AMD 760 chipset. The Register reported this week that Gigabyte ran into problems with its AMD 760 design, and as a result there’d be a delay in the release of 760-based boards. AMD and Gigabyte are now denying this and saying there’ll be 760-based systems in time for Christmas. The Register seems to get it right (and before most others) more often than not, so this is probably a story to watch. Problems with the 760 aren’t inconceivable, but then again AMD is really on a roll lately.

Five bad Web trends. I think John Dvorak pretty much has it right here.

I think I need to do some cleanup to the left. People don’t want a portal from me, they want questions and answers and useful tidbits, and if I can manage to be entertaining occasionally that helps too. I’ll leave the “news from around the Web” to others. This isn’t a portal but I’ve probably got more stuff there to the left than I need. (The book cover stays; this is, indirectly, an advertisement for the book. I notice when I’m keeping up my notes, book sales are about double what they are when I’m not.)

On to Dvorak’s other points: I’m not for sale, nor do I lock you into frames, nor do I plan to go anywhere. Traffic isn’t an issue now either; I run maybe 1,000 hits a week. So I go 4-for-5. Not bad but I want better.

I wonder how many will fall for this Internet hoax? One of my coworkers received e-mail to the following effect:

Due to an expected unusually high turnout this year, election day will be split into two days. Republicans will vote on Nov. 7. Democrats and independents will vote on Nov. 8.

I don’t know where that leaves Libertarians and Greens and Reforms. This is the biggest load of bull ever (and not just for that reason), but it’s curious. One could argue that this mail will do no harm, since if anyone who’d fall for that line is probably too ill-informed to have any business voting anyway, but…

I finally got my registration card in the mail today, so I finally get to go vote against Dick Gephardt next week. I can’t wait. (One of the best things about living in South St. Louis is that every two years you get to tell Dick Gephardt he should retire.)

And the ACLU says it’s OK to sell your vote… As long as you’re just swapping Gore votes for Nader votes. Hey, it’s the ACLU. This needs no comment from me.