OK, U2\’s still got it

Last night (December 13, 2005) I saw U2 play in St. Louis at the Kiel, er, Savvis Center. It was the third time I’d seen them, and probably the best.The first time I saw them, they played Busch Stadium in 1992 on the Zoo TV tour. The band was very much in its self-parody phase. The second time I saw them, in 1997 at the Kiel Center, they were promoting their not-so-successful album Pop and winding down that self-parody phase.

I didn’t see them when they toured in support of All That You Can’t Leave Behind. There was no good reason for it; I just didn’t get tickets and go.

Longtime U2 fans complained about the two tours I had seen. Seeing them on the Joshua Tree and earlier tours was like a religious experience, they said.

Compared to the other two I’d seen, this was a stripped-down show. No three semi trailers full of TV screens. No giant lemon descending from the ceiling. They had some screens up, which seemed to be mostly for the benefit of the people behind the stage or up in the nosebleed seats.

Rapper Kanye West opened. I appreciated his use of symphonic instruments in addition to samples. But unfortunately the bass was turned so high I couldn’t understand a word he was saying. Bono came out and introduced him personally. I’ve never seen anyone come out and introduce the opening act before. I’ve only ever seen someone acknowledge the opening band one other time before (I’d rather not say who that was, because that would be admitting I saw that band live).

U2’s set opened with “City of Blinding Lights,” accompanied by a light show, which seemed like a good set-opener, and is probably my favorite song on the current album. The set was heavy on songs from the current album, of course, but a number of staples of the band were missing.

No “New Year’s Day.” No “I Will Follow.” No “Even Better than the Real Thing.” No “Desire” or “All I Want is You” or “Angel of Harlem.”

For that matter, there was absolutely nothing from the albums Zooropa, Pop (their experimental stage in the late 1990s), or Rattle and Hum (the height of their commercial success on the coattails of Joshua Tree). Those were good albums, but, admittedly, not up to the standards of most of U2’s catalog. They also didn’t play anything off their outstanding 1980 international debut, Boy, which I missed, but didn’t expect.

But when a band spends a quarter century making music, something inevitably has to be left out or else the band ends up playing for three hours.

Sometimes because of what was left out, but mostly in spite of it, it was an amazing concert. Some nights, Bono’s voice is so weak that either he has to appeal to the crowd to sing over him, or, in extreme cases, The Edge has to sing. This most infamously happened when the band played in Sarajevo, and Edge had to sing “Sunday Bloody Sunday.” Not on December 15. Bono’s voice was clear and strong. When they sang “Gloria,” a raw number from way back in 1982, sounded almost like the studio recording.

Here’s the set list as I recall it:

City of Blinding Lights
Vertigo
Elevation
Gloria
I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For – In a Little While
Beautiful Day
Original of the Species
Sometimes You Can’t Make It On Your Own
Sunday Bloody Sunday – Rock the Casbah
Bullet the Blue Sky
Miss Sarajevo (from the “Passengers” side project with Brian Eno from the late 1990s)
Pride (In the Name of Love)
Where the Streets Have No Name
One
Until the End of the World
Mysterious Ways
With or Without You
Stuck In a Moment You Can’t Get Out Of
Yahweh
40

The socio-political messages of old, largely missing from the tours of the 1990s, were back. (Like I said, I missed the previous tour–for all I know, this mode of U2 has been back for four years.) Bono urged the passing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which the scrolled on the screen. I know there isn’t a lot of support for it in the United States, certainly not from the political party currently in power, but frankly it read a lot like the American Declaration of Independence. “We must not become a monster in order to defeat a monster,” Bono urged.

While Bono’s political leanings are traditionally far to the left of my own, what he was saying sounded perfectly reasonable to this registered Republican.

And although “We must not become a monster to defeat a monster” may sound like an anti-war stance, he dedicated “Bullet the Blue Sky” to the members of the U.S. military serving overseas.

Bono also urged joining an organization intended to end poverty. I’m not going to blindly join an organization just because some rock star tells me to without knowing something about it, but the guy’s sincere and his intentions are good.

The most important thing, agree or disagree, is that U2’s message made the crowd (or at least two of the people in it) think.

Religious experience? Well, maybe not quite, but awfully close. Unforgettable? Absolutely.

The youngest two band members are both 44, but if last night was any indication, U2’s not showing any signs of slowing down yet.

When in St. Louis, don’t miss the City Museum

So, not wanting to celebrate the Anheuser-Busch-mandated holiday of New Year’s Eve but not wanting to sit around at home on a Friday night either, a good idea came up: Go to the City Museum.

It claims to be unlike any other museum you’ve ever seen. While that may be debatable, it does have something for everyone.It’s a very hands-on museum designed for exploration. The first level is almost like a catacombs, with secret passages and the like. Wear comfortable tennis shoes. You’ll need them.

The other two levels are a bit more museum-like but still hands-on. Each level has a large slide that goes down to the lobby. Yes, adults can fit in the slides too. I know because I went down each of them about three times.

You’ll find a level of art and artifacts and various activities. Included is a very large, elaborate, and critically acclaimed HO-scale model railroad that was built by St. Louisan Pete Fordyce in the 1950s. Fordyce was a frequent contributor to Model Railroader magazine and the layout is reasonably famous, as far as model railroads go. Anyone who ever built a plastic model kit as a child will be impressed with it; a model railroader could probably stand there for hours studying the techniques.

The top floor has a very large exhibit dedicated to architecture. The artifacts include doors, windows, cornices, and even entire storefronts. Most artifacts have signs telling where they came from and why the building was demolished–sadly, usually for something stupid and generic like a chain store or a gas station. There are exhibits about the histories of door hinges and doorknobs. How can hinges and knobs be interesting? They weren’t always the boring, bland mass-produced affairs you see at Home Depot today.

Outside, there are lots of things for kids (big and small) to climb on. I didn’t climb much; as much as I would have liked to climb up to that airplane and go inside it, climbing up three stories on semi-open girders to get there is more than my nerves can take. Judging from the number of people climbing on it, I’m in the minority and that’s a good thing.

I absolutely recommend it. At night when the admission is only $5, not only is it cheaper than going to the movies, but you’ll get some exercise and if you’re not careful you just might learn something. During the day it’s far less expensive than going to an amusement park.

Incoming link: http://trainboard.com/grapevine/showthread.php?t=56703

How to get that dusty old train running again

How to get that dusty old train running again

It’s the weekend after Thanksgiving. The time of year when nostalgia runs high and ancient toy trains come out of the basement or the attic and get set up again until sometime after the new year.

Well, hopefully they make it that long. Here are some tips for getting old Lionel, American Flyer, Marx, and similar electric trains running again.

Read more

Upgrade diary: Compaq Presario 7360

Last week, I talked about my plans to upgrade a Presario 7360. I can now present you with the executive summary.
This isn’t a project for the faint of heart or the inexperienced. Upgrading is certainly possible, but this is one of the most difficult upgrade projects I’ve ever done, and this is coming from a guy who’s done a lot of upgrades. I can honestly say that for every soda I’ve drunk over the past seven years, I’ve probably serviced one computer.

With today being New Year’s Day and me having the day off (mostly), I decided to tackle the project. If you’re stuck with doing major upgrades to a 7360, make sure you’ve got a long block of time where you won’t be interrupted.

Caveat 1: The first question is how to get the old motherboard out in order to do anything. You’ll have to, unless your hands are about half the size of mine (and my hands are smaller than average). Remove the two screws from the underside of the motherboard, then find a couple of convenient spots to grab onto, and pull the assembly toward the front of the case. The board will then fold out, like a door.

Caveat 2: The factory power supply is woefully underpowered. It might very well fail if all you add to the system is a CD-RW drive. And there’s no way it’ll work with a modern Athlon or P4 motherboard. Fortunately, 200-watt SFX power supplies, while not necessarily something every streetcorner computer store carries, are much more common today than they were even two years ago. Newegg.com carries a suitable replacement for around $25. Look for an Allied AL-B200SFX. Not only is it 200 watts, it’s also certified for P4 and Athlon use.

Caveat 3: If you haven’t yet gotten the idea that this case is crowded, the position of the drive bays makes it difficult for a modern Socket 478/Socket A CPU fan to fit without moving the hard drive. After replacing the motherboard, I had to bust out the hard drive, open up the slot intended for a Zip drive, and slide the drive in from the front in order for it to fit, then bolt the drive into place and replace that slot’s front cover.

Caveat 4: The front panel. Like many brand-name PCs, this Presario puts the front power button and all the LED leads in one easy-to-plug-in block. Unfortunately, there’s no industry standard pinout for that front panel. I happen to have two Compaq Socket A motherboards purchased from various closeout joints. Those two boards, and the Socket 7 board that originally came in this Presario, all have different pinouts. You’ll have to rewire that block, and it’ll involve some trial and error. Assume this part of the job will take an hour or two.

Caveat 5: Airflow. Add a second optical drive or hard drive or both to this thing, and there’s not going to be much room for airflow. Don’t upgrade with a high-end CPU.

Caveat 6: Clearance. The first HSF combo I tried was 2 inches tall. It didn’t fit, and there was no way to make it fit, unless I permanently removed the drive cage that holds the floppy and hard drives. I replaced it with a Speeze 5C12B3, which fit. The first memory stick I tried was 1.375 inches tall. It didn’t fit either–I had to locate a shorter one.

Overall recommendation: If you can upgrade this thing, you have my respect. I got one working, but mainly because I had a larger-than-usual selection of parts on hand. If this had been my first attempt at doing a motherboard swap, I would have sworn off the practice forever.

Chances are, if you’re reading this, you’re much better off buying an inexpensive replacement computer and relegating your 7360 to Web browing/e-mail duty, or donating it to a charitable organization that gives computers to the needy if your community has one (St. Louis does–Web Innovations and Technology Services, at 4660 West Florissant Avenue). Unless you tear into computers for a living, I wouldn’t recommend attempting a motherboard swap in this computer.

Happy New Year!

The way the ‘Net oughta be. I finally broke down and bought a VCR yesterday. It’s hard to do video work without one, and you want to give people drafts on VHS. When it comes to consumer video, there are two companies I trust: Hitachi and Hitachi. So I went looking for a Hitachi VCR. Their low-end model, a no-frills stereo 4-head model, ran $70 at Circuit City. I ordered it online, along with 5 tapes. Total cost: 80 bucks. For “delivery,” you’ve got two options: delivery, or local pickup. I did local pickup at the store five miles from where I live. You avoid the extended warranty pitch and trying to convince someone in the store to help you, and you just walk into the store, hand the paperwork to customer service, sign for it, then go pick it up. Suddenly consumer electronics shopping is like Chinese or pizza take-out. I love it.
The VCR’s not much to look at and the $149 models are more rugged-looking and have more metal in them, but this model is made in Korea so it ought to be OK, and the playback’s great on my 17-year-old Commodore 1702 (relabeled JVC) composite monitor. For what I’ll be asking it to do, it’s fine. In my stash of Amiga cables I found an RCA y-adapter that mixes two audio outputs, which I used to connect to the monitor’s mono input.

Desktop Linux. Here are my current recommendations for people trying to replace Windows with Linux.

Web browser: Galeon. Very lightweight. Fabulous tabbed interface. I hate browsing in Windows now.
Minimalist browser: Dillo. Well under a meg in size, and if it’ll render a site, it’ll render it faster than anything else you’ll find.
FTP client: GFTP. Graphical FTP client, saves hosts and username/password combinations for you.
PDF viewer: XPDF. Smaller and faster than Acrobat Reader, though that’s available for Linux too.
Mail client/PIM: Evolution. What Outlook should have been.
Lightweight mail client: Sylpheed. Super-fast and small, reasonably featured.
File manager: Nautilus. Gorgeous and easy to use, though slow on old PCs. Since I use the command line 90% of the time, it’s fine.
Graphics viewer: GTK-See. A convincing clone of ACDSee. Easy-to-use graphics viewer with a great interface.
News reader: Pan. Automatically threads subject headers for you, and it’ll automatically decode and display uuencoded picture attachments as part of the body. Invaluable for browsing the graphics newsgroups.
File compression/decompression: I use the command-line tools. If you want something like WinZip, there’s a program out there called LnxZip. It’s available in RPM or source form; I couldn’t find a Debian package for it.
Desktop publishing: Yes, desktop publishing on Linux! Scribus isn’t as powerful as QuarkXPress, but it gives a powerful enough subset of what QuarkXPress 3.x offered that I think I would be able to duplicate everything I did in my magazine design class way back when, in 1996. It’s more than powerful enough already to serve a small business’ DTP needs. Keep a close eye on this one. I’ll be using it to meet my professional DTP needs at work, because I’m already convinced I can do more with it than with Microsoft Publisher, and more quickly.
Window manager: IceWM. Fast, lightweight, integrates nicely with GNOME, Windows-like interface.
Office suite: Tough call. KOffice is absolutely good enough for casual use. StarOffice 6/OpenOffice looks to be good enough for professional use when released next year. WordPerfect Office 2000 is more than adequate for professional use if you’re looking for a commercial package.

Plextor bargains, and Year 2000 in review

A bargain Plextor CD-RW. I just spotted this great tip in a link to a link to a link in the StorageReview forums. The Iomega ZipCD 12x10x32 appears to be a relabeled Plextor drive, and it sometimes sells for around $100. So if you’re looking for the best CD-R on the market at a great price, go get it.
Details are at www.roundsparrow.com/comp/iomega1 if you want to have a look-see.

The $99 price seems to be a CompUSA special sale. Check local availability at www.compusa.com/products/product_info.asp?product_code=280095 if you’re interested.

Incidentally, the IDE 12x10x32 drives from TDK and Creative are also reported to be re-branded Plextors. Regular retail price on these four “twin” drives is similar, around $300. The TDK and Creative drives come with Nero Burning ROM, however, making them more desirable than the Plextor model. Iomega bundles Adaptec’s CD suite.

Happy New Year. An ancient Chinese curse says, “May you live in interesting times.” Well, 2000 certainly was interesting. So, my toast to you this year is this: May 2001 be less interesting than 2000. Boring isn’t always bad. Just usually.

Linux 2.4 almost made it. Yesterday, Linus Torvalds released linux2.4-prerelease and vowed there won’t be a prerelease1, prerelease2, etc.–this is it. Bugs get fixed in this one, then the final 2.4 comes out (to be immediately followed by linux2.4ac1, no doubt–Alan Cox always releases a patched kernel swatting a couple of bugs within hours of Linus releasing the new kernel. It happened with 2.0 and with 2.2, and history repeats itself).

Anyway, the 2.2 prerelease turned into a series in spite of Linus’ vows, so Linus isn’t always right, but I expect 2.4 will be out this month, if not this week.

Linux 2.4 will increase performance, especially on high-memory and SMP machines, but I ran a 2.3 series kernel (basically the Linux equivalent of an alpha release of 2.4) on my P120 for a long time and found it to be faster than 2.2, even on a machine that humble. I also found it to be more stable than Microsoft’s final releases, but hey.

I ought to download 2.4prerelease and put it on my dual Celeron box to see how far it’s come, but I doubt I get around to it today.

Other lowlights of 2000. Windows 2000 flopped. It’s not a total disaster, but sales aren’t meeting Microsoft’s expectations. PC sales flopped, and that was a disaster. The Pentium 4 was released to awful reviews. Nvidia bought the mortal remains of 3dfx for a song. Similarly, Aureal departed from this mortal coil, purchased by longtime archrival Creative Labs after bankruptcy. (In a former incarnation, before bankruptcy and being run into the ground, Aureal was known as MediaVision. PC veterans probably remember them.) A federal judge ordered the breakup of Microsoft, but the appeals process promises to at least delay it, if not prevent it. We’ll hear a lot about that in 2001, but 2001 probably won’t bring any closure.

Hmm, other highlights. Apple failed to release OS X this year, and saw its new product line flop. Dotcom after dotcom shuttered its doors, much to Wall Street’s dismay. Linux companies didn’t topple MS, much to Wall Street’s dismay. And speaking of Wall Street, Larry Ellison (Oracle) and Bill Gates (Microsoft) flip-flopped in the rankings of richest man in the world several times.

And two of my favorite pundits, Bob Metcalfe and G. Burgess Alison, called it quits last year. They are sorely missed.

And once again, 2000 wasn’t the year of the NC.

I know I missed a few. But those were the highlights, as I see them.

01/01/2001

Mailbag:

Partition; IDE/SCSI; Lost CD ROM; Optimizing ME; Win 98/ME

A bargain Plextor CD-RW. I just spotted this great tip in a link to a link to a link in the StorageReview forums. The Iomega ZipCD 12x10x32 appears to be a relabeled Plextor drive, and it sometimes sells for around $100. So if you’re looking for the best CD-R on the market at a great price, go get it.

Details are at www.roundsparrow.com/comp/iomega1 if you want to have a look-see.

The $99 price seems to be a CompUSA special sale. Check local availability at www.compusa.com/products/product_info.asp?product_code=280095 if you’re interested.

Incidentally, the IDE 12x10x32 drives from TDK and Creative are also reported to be re-branded Plextors. Regular retail price on these four “twin” drives is similar, around $300. The TDK and Creative drives come with Nero Burning ROM, however, making them more desirable than the Plextor model. Iomega bundles Adaptec’s CD suite.

Happy New Year. An ancient Chinese curse says, “May you live in interesting times.” Well, 2000 certainly was interesting. So, my toast to you this year is this: May 2001 be less interesting than 2000. Boring isn’t always bad. Just usually.

Linux 2.4 almost made it. Yesterday, Linus Torvalds released linux2.4-prerelease and vowed there won’t be a prerelease1, prerelease2, etc.–this is it. Bugs get fixed in this one, then the final 2.4 comes out (to be immediately followed by linux2.4ac1, no doubt–Alan Cox always releases a patched kernel swatting a couple of bugs within hours of Linus releasing the new kernel. It happened with 2.0 and with 2.2, and history repeats itself).

Anyway, the 2.2 prerelease turned into a series in spite of Linus’ vows, so Linus isn’t always right, but I expect 2.4 will be out this month, if not this week.

Linux 2.4 will increase performance, especially on high-memory and SMP machines, but I ran a 2.3 series kernel (basically the Linux equivalent of an alpha release of 2.4) on my P120 for a long time and found it to be faster than 2.2, even on a machine that humble. I also found it to be more stable than Microsoft’s final releases, but hey.

I ought to download 2.4prerelease and put it on my dual Celeron box to see how far it’s come, but I doubt I get around to it today.

Other lowlights of 2000. Windows 2000 flopped. It’s not a total disaster, but sales aren’t meeting Microsoft’s expectations. PC sales flopped, and that was a disaster. The Pentium 4 was released to awful reviews. Nvidia bought the mortal remains of 3dfx for a song. Similarly, Aureal departed from this mortal coil, purchased by longtime archrival Creative Labs after bankruptcy. (In a former incarnation, before bankruptcy and being run into the ground, Aureal was known as MediaVision. PC veterans probably remember them.) A federal judge ordered the breakup of Microsoft, but the appeals process promises to at least delay it, if not prevent it. We’ll hear a lot about that in 2001, but 2001 probably won’t bring any closure.

Hmm, other highlights. Apple failed to release OS X this year, and saw its new product line flop. Dotcom after dotcom shuttered its doors, much to Wall Street’s dismay. Linux companies didn’t topple MS, much to Wall Street’s dismay. And speaking of Wall Street, Larry Ellison (Oracle) and Bill Gates (Microsoft) flip-flopped in the rankings of richest man in the world several times.

And two of my favorite pundits, Bob Metcalfe and G. Burgess Alison, called it quits last year. They are sorely missed.

And once again, 2000 wasn’t the year of the NC.

I know I missed a few. But those were the highlights, as I see them.

Mailbag:

Partition; IDE/SCSI; Lost CD ROM; Optimizing ME; Win 98/ME

12/30/2000

Mailbag:
The NOW Generation; VCache
Internet Explorer caching. Internet Explorer’s cache has always been out of control. Reader Andrew Leonard wrote in with CacheSentry, a TSR that uses a scant 58K of memory and corrects some caching bugs in IE 3.0-5.5, including keeping your cache size under control. I’ve been using it for a couple of days and love it.
A link. Long-time reader Pete Moore is trying his hand at Daynoting. He’s over at www.peteranthonymoore.com.
Overheard: One of my readers included me in his mass “Happy New Year” mailing this week. Since this is the real beginning of the century and millenium, he included that as well. One of his friends responded back. Accidentally or not, he hit reply all instead of reply, and he said: It won’t be a happy new year, decade, century, or millenium if it’s anything like the last year, decade, century or millenium.

So cynical, yet so true. I know I sure don’t want a repeat of any of the above.

God, hurry up and make me patient! I uttered those words last night, sometime after having mentioned that my intention in life when I was 21 was to be a famous author, and everyone just looked at me. “That’s a great title,” someone said. “You gotta write that book,” someone else said. And no one would disagree. (Rats!) “You might be famous after all,” yet someone else said. “I need that book,” another someone else said.

“But I’m not qualified to write it!” I said. I should know. Does anyone realize how impatient I am with myself?

Let’s check what’s going on inside Dave’s head: Look at this post! Has Dave ever written anything so worthless in his life? Nothing to say! Nothing! He’ll never attract readers with that. And on a good day he only gets 400 page reads. What’s up with that? He should be up to at least 1,000 by now. Pournelle gets 10,000. Dave would be up over 1,000 if he had anything useful to say.

Okay, my self-talk isn’t that bad–I’m exaggerating some–but you get the idea. I can be patient with actual or potential girlfriends–patient to a fault, sometimes–but outside of that, I’m incredibly impatient. Especially with God, who always seems to have His own ideas about how things are going to go (the nerve of Him! (I hope you recognize sarcasm (and I hope you don’t mind nested parenthesis (aren’t they annoying?)))), and they’re always so different from mine. So I’m supposed to write a book about patience?

Then I remembered a couple of things. Sometimes the least-qualified people are actually the most qualified. And even if that’s not the case here, authors frequently know less than nothing about their subject matter before they take it on. It shouldn’t be that way, but hey, no one said the publishing industry made any sense whatsoever.

Umm, that could be bad, taken out of context. I learned a lot when writing Optimizing Windows, yes, but that was pretty much my specialty even before I started writing it. I wrote the book that I needed/wanted in 1996 when I started learning how to push Windows PCs for all they were worth–I already knew how to push an Amiga or an OS/2 box. I tried once to write a book as I learned the subject matter. I won’t do that again. You were spared, some say mercifully, others say regrettably, from the result of that endeavor.

I do realize most of my generation is very impatient. And it’s getting worse. If I had to sum U.S. culture up in one word, I’d choose the word “Now!” and I’d find some way to emphasize it. So, maybe I do need to explore this subject matter. Assuming 47 others haven’t already.

Mailbag:
The NOW Generation; VCache