My UPS started squawking one Friday evening, the tell-tale sign that the battery was dead or dying. When that happens, it’s time to either replace the UPS battery, or replace the entire UPS. Hopefully you can just replace the battery. Here’s how to replace your UPS battery.
On Monday, March 13 at approximately 10:30 AM CST, I will be appearing on KFUO Radio’s Faith and Family program to discuss home computer security with host Andy Bates. One of the questions he’s planning to ask: How can I know how secure my home computer is? Or, to put his question another way, how safe is my computer from hackers?
I’m going to use this space to elaborate ahead of time on some of the things we are going to talk about. We could talk for an hour on any of the questions he’s going to ask, and he gave me three questions and 25 minutes. This is my workaround.
The Digiland DL718M tablet is an inexpensive (sub-$40) tablet sold at consumer electronics stores like Best Buy. Make no mistake, it’s a basic tablet for basic needs. But given reasonable expectations you can buy one of these and be happy with it.
This isn’t a new market by any stretch. But it seems like tablets in this price range are usually Black Friday specials, or only available on online marketplaces far abroad. The Digiland DL718M is one you can get today if you want.
I hear the question from time to time what the advantages and disadvantages of Windows 3.0 were. Windows 3.0, released in May 1990, is generally considered the first usable version of Windows. The oft-repeated advice to always wait for Microsoft’s version 3 is a direct reference to Windows 3.0 that still gets repeated today, frequently.
Although Windows 3.0 is clumsy by today’s standards, in 1990 it had the right combination of everything to take the world by storm.
What should you do when someone hands you a computer, tells you they think it has a virus, and asks you to clean it?
Proceed carefully, that’s what. You don’t want to infect your other computers with whatever it has.
To get it gone safely and effectively, you really need two things: an antivirus live CD, and a spare router.
I’m ashamed to say I own one Monster cable. Hopefully if I tell you I bought it at a garage sale for $2, I’ll regain your respect. But there’s an easier way to save money on cables than buying at garage sales.
Unless you need it immediately, there’s no reason whatsoever to buy Monster and other overpriced cables at big-box consumer electronics stores. Profit margins are really thin on most electronics, even the big-ticket items, and they use the cables to make up for that. That’s the reason nobody includes cables in the box.
You’re always better off ordering cables online. Then you can get that $20 cable for much closer to its wholesale price, which will be single digits. If that.
Places like Newegg.com and Mwave.com sometimes run specials on certain cables (dealnews.com is a good place to look) but if you can’t snag a special, check pricing at Monoprice.com and, if you don’t mind futzing around with a wonky search engine and waiting a few days extra for shipping straight from Hong Kong, Dealextreme.com. For that matter, good old Ebay usually has a good selection of inexpensive cables too.
For example, I priced a 6-foot HDMI cable. At the home of blue shirts and extended warranties, you’ll pay $13 for a low-end, house brand cable. A “premium” house brand cable will run $40, and a Monster cable runs an insane $99.
There’s no reason to buy any premium HDMI cable. But even $13 is too much, considering something virtually identical will set you back 3 bucks from Monoprice, and about $6 from Dealextreme. Generally speaking, if you’re ordering one cable, Dealextreme may end up being cheaper. If you’re ordering multiple cables, Monoprice will probably be cheaper.
And if you think that price differential is crazy, try pricing Ethernet cables. At Monoprice, Ethernet cables are cheaper than garage sale prices.
There’s little, if any, truth to the claims you find on Monster packaging, especially when you’re dealing with digital signals. The only claim that has any validity is that gold oxidizes more slowly than other metals, but guess what? I have cables from the 1980s that still work just fine, including the cable connecting the very keyboard I’m typing on now. If they were oxidized, unplugging them and plugging them back in is usually enough to knock the oxidation off and get them working again. Failing that, a blast of De-Oxit will do the trick.
I keep a can of De-Oxit on hand, but I can’t think of a time that I’ve needed to use it on a cable. Keep in mind I live in St. Louis, and if there’s one thing St. Louis is known for, it’s humidity. If my cables can go 25 years here without getting oxidized, yours can too.
This weekend I found myself in search of a power cord for an original Playstation. It’s the same plug that the Sega Dreamcast and Saturn and Sony PS2 use, but it seems like online almost everyone wants $10 for a suitable replacement. I learned how to replace your video game system’s power cord cheap, and I’ll share the secret with you, too.
I found out by accident that the local Game Stop sells them for $4.99. I had to run an errand about four doors away from a Game Stop anyway, so I dropped in. It took me a little while to find, but I found the cable.
It’s not the same. What they sell as a “universal” AC power cable has two round sides on the plug, not a round and a square like the original Sony cable. I knew I’d seen the connector on the end of that Gamestop cable before, so I didn’t pay $5 for it. It turns out it’s universal because it also fits the original Xbox. An Xbox cable works on a Playstation but not the other way around.
I did some digging, and I found that the official name for the connectior the Playstation uses is IEC 60320 C7P. The “P” stands for “polarized.” The “universal” connector on the cable Gamestop was selling is the IEC 60320 C7. The nonpolarized plug fits the polarized connector, but not the other way around.
A ton of home appliances use the IEC 60320 C7. Every tape recorder or boombox I ever owned, for instance. It’s the most common connector used for devices that draw 2.5 amps of current or less. Well, my boomboxes are long gone, so I raided my wife’s. Hers just happens to be different. Rats. I ended up swiping the cable from a dead laptop AC adapter. Wouldn’t you know it, it plugs right in to the Playstation’s power port. That old laptop cable was probably made in the same factory as the cables Gamestop sells as universal video game power cables.
I’m happy. I saved five bucks. (The wasted trip to Gamestop doesn’t count because I walked there from someplace I had to go anyway.)
It wasn’t long ago that you could find this type of AC cable anywhere for a two or three dollars, tops. By anywhere, I really do mean anywhere–discount stores, Radio Shack, consumer electronics stores, maybe even dollar stores if you’re lucky.
Cables are high markup items, but even at $3, these things offer a healthy profit margin, so they should still be readily available at something near that price. I know sometime in the last decade I’ve bought one of these things at Kmart.
So before you pay even $5 for a replacement cable, raid the drawer where you keep all your stray electronics wires and see if you can find one that fits. Failing that, look around for something else around the house, like a boombox, VCR, or DVD player, that has a power cord that will fit. If not, hit the electronics section of your local discount store. Odds are it’s closer than the closest game store, and a suitable cable should cost less there too.
Don’t go into a store asking for an IEC 60320 C7 because they won’t know what you’re talking about, of course. The name may be listed on the packaging. The United States doesn’t require that name to be molded onto the cable, although some countries do. Study the image above and you should recognize the cable on sight in a store. If worse comes to worse, print out the picture above and bring it with you to compare. Miguel Durán drew it to be helpful, so let it help you.
So why does Sony use the polarized connector? Probably to fool people into buying a replacement cable from them at an inflated price to replace a lost cable. They fooled me, and I should know better.
I take issue with this Register story, which says Veritas has a better name in the storage arena than Microsoft.
Enron has a better name in the storage arena than Veritas. Ditto BALCO and FEMA and Michael Jackson and Martha Stewart.
So Microsoft wants to get into the backup business? Good.I gave three of the best years of my life to the shrink-wrapped stool sample that is Backup Exec. I believed, wrongly, that the Constitution protects sysadmins like me from that piece of software in the clause that mentions cruel and unusual punishment.
After that last job put me out with Thursday night’s garbage, one question I always asked on job interviews was what they used for tape backups. Had anyone said Backup Exec, I would have walked out of the room immediately.
Nobody did. That was good. There are still some smart people in the world. My confidence in humanity was somewhat restored.
Microsoft’s offering will no doubt have problems, but when batch files and Zip drives are more reliable than your competition, who cares? Backup software is one area that desperately needs some competition. Microsoft entering with its usual less-than-mediocre offering will force everyone else with their less-than-mediocre offerings to either improve or die, because Microsoft’s offering will be cheaper, and there will be people who will assume that Microsoft’s offering will work better with Windows because nobody knows Windows better than Microsoft. (In this case, that assumption might actually be true.)
What’s wrong with Backup Exec? Ask your friendly neighborhood Veritas sales rep what they’ve done about these issues:
If a Backup Exec job backing up to disk contains both disk and system state data and it’s the second job to run on a given night, it will fail just as certainly as the sun coming up the next morning. Unless they finally managed to fix that bug, but I doubt it. I sure reported it enough times.
Remote backups happening over second-tier switches (D-Link, Linksys, Netgear, and other brands you find in consumer electronics stores) usually fail. Not every time. But more than half the time.
Those are just the problems I remember clearly. There were others. I remember the Oracle agent liked to die a horrible death for weeks at a time. I’d do everything Veritas support told me to do and it’d make no difference. Eventually it’d right itself and inexplicably run fine for a few months.
Maybe competition will fix what support contracts wouldn’t. And if it doesn’t, maybe Backup Exec will die.
And if Backup Exec must die, I want to be part of that execution squad. Remember that scene in Office Space with the laser printer and the baseball bat?
I never thought I’d say this, but now I’m saying it.
The urban legend says Gary Kildall snubbed the IBM suits by making them wait in his living room for hours while he flew around in his airplane, and the suits, not taking it well, decided to cut him out of the deal and opted to do business with Bill Gates and Microsoft, thus ending Digital Research’s short reign as the biggest manufacturer of software for small computers.