News for August 2003


Radiation tri-blade symbol 31August2003 - Went to a garden party last night. Noticed lots of digital cameras there, but no film cameras. Saw some Canons (I own a G2), some Olympus, and a few I didn't recognize. But this is the first time I can recall not seeing a single film camera. Have they gone the way of the dinosaur? Or was this party merely an anomaly?

I also noticed people taking a lot more photos with their digital cameras. Flashes were popping off everywhere. I saw stars half the night. Do people take more photos with digital cameras because they no longer have to buy film or pay to have it processed? Several (kind) folks commented that they thought I'm photogenic .. which I think means: 'You look better in photos than you do in real life.' =)

Radiation tri-blade symbol 30August2003 - The site broke some usage records a few days ago. See here. Almost 8,000 visits per day. One site goal is to break 10,000 visits per day .. still a ways off. RADIFIED continues to grow in popularity.

Radiation tri-blade symbol 29August2003 - Being Friday, today might be a good day to pull some mail out of the in-box. I'm continually flattered by readers the world over. My ego loves these letters. Here's the first:

I don't usually do this, but your guides are excellent! I recently built a computer with a 120-GB Western Digital hard drive and was unsure about the best way to partition it. I searched Google and found your site. After reading your guide, I decided on the following scheme:

40-GB NTFS (System partition for WinXP)
40-GB FAT32 (User data files)
40-GB FAT32 (For Ghost image backup of system partition)

I admire your dedication to helping others. Such a wonderful source of knowledge deserves high praise. You rock. Kudos and other gratifying compliments. #:O)

Mike C.
IT Manager
Sanford, Maine

I just read your Guide to Ripping and Encoding and wanted to say thanks! I've collected MP3's for years and never realized how complicated the issue of audio fidelity was. They're almost all 128-kbps. Thanks for presenting this info in such a clear, concise way!

I downloaded EAC and RazorLAME, and they both work great! It's taking me a while to re-do my whole collection, but well worth the increased quality. Thanks bro!

Brian Z.
Iowa State University

[Rad note: Perhaps I should mention that audio quality does not improve by re-encoding a lower bit-rate (e.g. 128-kbps) MP3 to a higher bit-rate (e.g. 192-kbps). You must re-rip the song from the CD and encode the original wave file. MP3 is a lossy encoding format, and you can't retrieve bits (quality) once discarded (encoded). It you've ever blown up a small photo, you understand the principle.]

Hello. I found your site searching for info on Yosemite. Your description--with photos--of climbing Half Dome was fascinating. I want to do it this fall, but that is one steep rock! I'm 42, in decent shape, play basketball once a week and run 3X a week.

Will I be able to make the climb? Are there steps built into the rock on the way up? Or is all cable and rock? I don't have the strongest upper body and I'm not the best with heights. (Maybe I've answered this one myself.)

We're heading to Yosemite mid-October. I'd appreciate any advice or warnings. Your site is great. I'd love to have made half your hiking trips.

Steve T.
Washington, DC

G'day Rad. Your site is intelligent and informative. Your Ghost guide is right on the money. I've gotten into the habit of creating an image of my partition before loading new drivers, so the occasional foul-up is only a temporary setback.

Love the cat photos. Why is it cats enjoy lumpy surfaces like mixers or keyboards to parade around on? There's nothing like the 'chord of death' kitty can produce when you leave the synth on. Of course, the sound will startle him, so he'll spring off. Very avant garde.

I don't encourage my cats to sleep on the monitor any more, because at some fatal juncture in a game, a big fluffy tail swishes across the screen & comes to rest right over the enemy's gun emplacement .. happened once too often.

My cats
Tony L.
Sydney, Australia

Mr. Rad, Great website. Excellent job at organizing an amorphous and confusing mass of info. The ASPI guide is priceless. Thanks for the effort.
W. Hartman

Hi. I found your site searching the Google Directory for info on backing up a partition: Computers > Software > Backup. I especially like your combo of technical info and personal philosophy. Thanks for really useful, low noise site.

Kip W.
Montague, Massachusetts (North of Amherst in the Connecticut River Valley)

Thanks for the excellent guides. I found them useful and easy to read.

Dave E.
Client Software Development, Thus PLC,
Dorking Business Park, DORKING, Surrey, UK. RH4 1HJ

Good day. I was having a strange problem with my hard drive. PowerQuest Drive Image Pro went nuts because of a Driver Overlay on my Quantum Fireball. I sent a request to Maxtor support, but they were unable to help.

I got tired of trying to get assistance from people who know IT only a little better than me. I started researching the problem myself and discovered your page on deleting hard drive partitions. Wipe worked perfectly. Even though it appears I have a very particular case, it solved my problem. No one else could help.

Many thanks
Parlavecchia Gaetano (Mad Gus)
Milano, Italy

Radiation tri-blade symbol 28August2003 - Watched the beginning of FeardotCom last night. As you might know, this movie is about all the bad things that happen to people after they visit the titular website. The first malady is that their eyes bleed .. which I thought was stupid.

So I left the TV on and sat down at the PC to update the site .. when my eyes started burning. I mean, it felt like somebody rubbed them with 400-grit sandpaper. They started burning so bad I had to drive to the store at 11PM and pick up some Visine. They feel better now, but are still bloodshot. Half the bottle is gone already. (I keep it in the fridge.)

That was weird. Maybe it had something to do with the power of suggestion. Needless to say, I didn't watch the rest of the movie.

Radiation tri-blade symbol 27August2003 - Our seats to the Pageant were in the 3rd row (!), not the 5th, like I previously thought (mistook the 5th *seat* for the 5th row). This was its 70th year/season, and they made a big deal about that. 70 years is a long time. I was surprised to hear of only one rain-out in the last 20 (considering the outdoor amphitheater).

I played Mr. Snoopy Private-Eye with the folks sitting near us and learned that you have to know someone who works for the city to get these premium seats. I have ordered tiks in the past thru the usual channels (box office) and told them to "give me the best seats you have", and still wound up in the nose-bleed sections.

The Pageant keeps getting better. This year they added a four-man barbershop quartet-like group to sing some of the songs that accent some of the displayed artwork. The theme for this year was Seasons. But they mixed it up: summer, spring, fall, winter. In other words, they didn't lump all the "winter" works together.

They also let you see how they create more of the works. Everybody seemed to enjoy this, because it seems like magic. In the past, they used to close the curtain between each work, so you coldn't see them changing the set .. except for one piece, where they show you how they do it.

A 25-person orchestra plays accompanying music. First class operation all the way. I liked when they had fake snow fall from the sky.

My favorite was a 4-panel Japanese geisha-girl-in-landscape. Each panel represented one of the four seasons. Jaw-dropping. Several others featured nude women painted silver and gold. They were also remarkable. I would go every night if someone would give me tickets.

Everyone agrees that the Pageant is hard to describe. "They use real people to re-create art on stage" is the usual explanation. But what is so impressive is that, even tho you *know* that the people are real, they still look like inanimate art. Some claim that "it's all in the lighting," but it's more than that. In the end, no explanation can suffice: you simply have to see for yourself.

You could see some people move slightly, especially if they had to hold awkward poses. And scenes that contained children were easy to see them blink. But most remain perfectly still and you can't even see them blink. Everybody brings binoculars to see if you can catch them blinking. It's hard.

Anyway, I love the Pageant. It got out late, and I was pretty tired yesterday. Hence: no update. Before the show, we went to the Royal Thai (in Laguna) where I had yummy duck with basil, mint and other Thai spices. There goes my girlish figure.

Radiation tri-blade symbol 25August2003 - Saw Le Divorce last night [trailer], a romantic-comedy-drama starring Kate Hudson (Goldie Hawn's real-life daughter). This movie has "chick-flick" written all over it, but I still enjoyed it. I expected the story to be light-hearted and silly (like Goldie), but it was actually more brooding and serious (engaging). This makes two French films in a row I have seen .. a personal record.

Tonight we're off to the Pageant of the Masters .. one of my favorite entertainment venues (second only to Cirque du Soleil). These are the best tickets I've ever had (5th row), which we received from (the wife of) a local government official (friendz in high places).

Seems like you have to know someone to get decent seats. Usually I have to sit up in the nose-bleed section, cuz it's so hard to get good tickets (any tickets). I discussed the Pageant back on August 5th. The last show is Saturday (the 30th). They've been performing every night, all summer long.

The Pageant is what Laguna is known for. When you enter the town on Pacific Coast Highway (PCH), a sign reads: "Welcome to Laguna Beach: Home of the Pageant of the Masters".

Radiation tri-blade symbol 23August2003 - Alex sent word (from the Netherlands) that he released an updated version of Motherboard Monitor: v5.3.4.0. Download it here.

He also mentioned receiving 1057 virus-containing-emails yesterday .. "and those are the ones that got thru my spam filter" .. which means a lot of people aren't using virus protection. "No Radified readers" I assured him. =) He's using Norton Anti-Virus, so "none got thru".

Radiation tri-blade symbol 22August2003 - Being Friday, I know the big question on everyone's mind: Who will win? Freddie or Jason. Here in Laguna, it's being discussed all around town. While standing in line at the grocery store today, I heard groups of people taking sides. A scuffle broke out behind me. Before I knew what was happening, a Freddie fan started pummeling a Jason fan.

My money is on Jason. But the kids all say I'm crazy. They think Freddie is too smart for Jason, and that he'll slice dumb-ass Jason to ribbons. "Brains always beat brawn," they say. But you know Jason: he keeps on coming .. cuz he just doesn't know when to quit.

Might have to load up all the neighborhood kids this weekend and take them to the movies (late, when it's dark out), and settle this once and for all. Go Jason!

The computer? Ahh, don't ask. But thanks for all the letters of encouragement .. and the suggestions. Anyone know where I can find a good sledgehammer?

Radiation tri-blade symbol 21August2003 - Bad news on the new system-build. It was working fine .. for a while. But, in the middle of installing Windows, it crashed and died. Could not even get it to POST afterwards .. no matter what we did.

Noticed that the power supply unit was unusually hot. Suspect it may have cooked the motherboard. This is similar to the same thing that happened to that last system this PSU was in (system got very hot and died).

I recommended purchasing a new PSU with the new system. They are so inexpensive these days and can save you so much grief. And it's very hard to trouble shoot bad PSU's. The old one is 300-watts. It feels light and cheap, with a brand I never heard of before (ACME?).

I use an Enermax-430 myself, and like it. I recommended this unit, but he tried to save money, saying, "The old one *should* work, right?" I said, "Yeah, it *should*. But you don't have to use PCs for very long to know that things don't always work the way they should." (Can I get an Amen, somebody?)

Doesn't make sense to spend all that money on a sweet system, with the best motherboard, CPU and RAM, and then skimp on a measly PSU. I even use a UPS on my system, because California power is not the best in the country.

Anyway, we have a few more tricks up our sleeve, but it looks like we're going to have to box up the motherboard and send it back. We have no POST .. only an illuminated power light on the mobo and the CPU fan runs. Nothing shows up on the monitor. No beeps. The parts are listed in the post for 14 August. The bottom line is: WE DON"T KNOW what is wrong. Can you say, "frustration"?

Radiation tri-blade symbol 20August2003 - I was having trouble with the Windows Update service (using XP-Pro). I could connect to the Update site fine, and Scan for Updates. I could even review selected updates. The service would prompt me to Accept the agreement and begin downloading.

But it would quit after downloading only a small part with an error that said: "The following items failed to install. Try installing them again."

At first I thought the MS site was overloaded, but after a few days of the same thing, I searched the Net and found this to be a common problem. Seems that MS incorporates many checks and balances into their Update service, which makes it easy to flag a problem and terminate the update.

Long story short: I resolved the issue by re-naming the directory CatRoot2 (not to be confused with a similar directory named simply CatRoot) .. to CatRoot2_old. This directory is located windows\system32. I rebooted and the problem was gone. Since Windows can't find the CatRoot2 directory, it creates a new one.

So I updated the operating system with all the latest security patches, downloaded the latest drivers,.. defragged and created a Ghost image. Ah, peace of mind.

Radiation tri-blade symbol 19August2003 - In reference to yesterday's post, Alex sent word about the Heat Up utility that comes with his Motherboard Monitor:

Hi Rad.
A small flame appears in the system tray when the program (MBM5HU.EXE) starts. Clicking that icon will stop the program. The code is very simple:

procedure THeatupThread.Execute;
X: Real;

if Terminated then Exit;
X:=X /
until 1=0;

There are no menus or settings for it. Tis an endless calculation that goes on and on. It's not perfect in that it will run only 1 CPU on a dual-CPU machine. Feel free to publish the code. It could turn into a nice project as I am sure others could create even bigger CPU hogs.

Regards, Alex

Joshua posted a follow-up about Prime-95 vs Hyper-Threading.

Radiation tri-blade symbol 18August2003 - Regarding yesterday's post, I received mail from Joshua this morning, who says:

The rig you’re building excites me. I read where you plan to use Prime-95 to stress-test the system. Funny thing about these new P4 HT chips is that Prime-95 only runs the CPU at 50%. Since the program doesn't take advantage of Hyper-Threading, and the P4 HT chip effectively has 2 CPUs on the die that share a common instruction bank, older programs such as Prime-95 only use half of the CPU’s power.

If you want a good stress-test, I suggest running both Prime-95 and
Motherboard Monitor’s Heat Up utility together, which is enabled via MBM's Launcher. Simply click on the little "+" sign and navigate to the Heat Up directory inside MBM5's program folder. That will run the HT CPU at 100%, and give you a worst case heat scenario .. and a good test environment.

I wrote to George, who is in charge of Prime-95, and asked if he planned to modify the code to take advantage of Hyper-Threading. His response:

In short, no. Hyper-threading is not really 2 CPUs on one die. Prime95 uses the chip's one floating point unit so much that a second Prime95 would not find many FPU cycles to use. You could run a second Prime95 in another directory, but to put a higher load on the chip try an app that runs primarily integer operations.

Radiation tri-blade symbol 15August2003 - The new computer parts arrived today! [See yesterday's entry for details.] Everything was ordered from NewEgg. We're reading the motherboard manual first, to learn what each connector and cable is for, and to see which PCI slots share IRQs.

This mobo came with *black* IDE and floppy cables. I've never seen black cables before. Very cool looking. Little things like that really get me excited. I also noted that the Intel memory controller hub chip [on the mobo] came with it own installed heatsink.. a fairly large headsink. That also impressed me. It also supports Serial-ATA hard drives.

Anyway, we're going to try to assemble this badboy without breaking anything. When it's all said & done, we'll run Prime-95 over night to test the system's stability.[P-95 runs the CPU at 100% power.] If we wake and the PC is still running .. we're golden. It's exciting.

Radiation tri-blade symbol 14August2003 - The parts are ordered and on their way. Might even arrive today (fingers crossed). Not for me, but I'll get to help build it. Asus P4C800-E motherboard. Comes with the Intel 875-P chipset and sells for ~US$195. 2.8C-GHz P4 CPU (800-MHz system bus). 2x256 Corsair XMS DDR.

I hope everything goes well, since I recommended the components. I haven't built a system in over a year. Should be fun .. if all goes well, that is. If not .. weeping & gnashing of teeth .. or worse.

Radiation tri-blade symbol 12August2003 - Saw the French foreign film And Now Ladies and Gentlemen last night .. at the Sunflower on Bristol in Costa Mesa .. starring Jeremy Irons (British jewel thief ) & French jazz singer Patricia Kaas. Two people with brain tumors find each other in Morocco .. but they don't know they have brain tumors. Directed by Claude Lelouch. Great soundtrack.

Radiation tri-blade symbol 11August2003 - Traffic to the ASPI guide jumped. Google raised its ranking of this guide to the #2 position for the search term 'ASPI' .. ahead of even www.aspi.com and Adaptec, who writes these ASPI drivers.

I remember when I first posted the guide, two years ago. It debuted way back on page 8 (position #80). Each month it slowly worked its way up the rankings. About six months ago, it hit the first page (top 10 results), and requests for the guide soared.

As it climbed from the bottom of page #1, the guide became increasingly popular. Amazing how much of a difference Google rankings can make on a site's popularity. It began as a meager email to a friend who was having problems ripping CDs.

Google keeps the details of their ranking system a secret, but we know it's based on the number of referring links. Whatever the specifics of Google's inner-workings might be, I try to concentrate on providing the most helpful and well-written guides on the Net (content). I update them frequently and incorporate reader comments.

Google software engineer Matt Cutts seems to agree when he says, "The best use of a webmasters time is building good content." [from the paragraph titled "How does Google Rank Web Sites"]

People who run other sites have seen fit to link to my guides, and include them in their FAQs,.. Knowledge Base,.. Resource pages, and Tech support forums. Even foreign language sites link to them. Supposedly Google sees these links and consequently raises its ranking of my pages. I do no self-promotion .. beyond what you see posted here.

The Ghost guide is still more popular, tho. Try searching for 'Norton Ghost' and see what you get.

Radiation tri-blade symbol 10August2003 - Hot. The hottest it's been all year. I stepped out of the shower and started sweating all over again. Received an email this morning from a friend in Brighton Beach, England (East Sussex). She says it broke 100-degrees there for the first time in history. She signed her message: From the hottest place on earth.

I know people who modified their PCs by cutting a hole (Dremel) in the side of their cases, and connected rubber-insulated hoses (1 supply and 1 return) to a mini beer-fridge. It keeps their system components cool and running stably. Computer electronics don't like heat. The trick is to avoid condensation.

Speaking of stable systems, a buddy is designing a new system around the Asus P4C800-E motherboard. It comes with the Intel 875-P chipset and sells for ~US$195. He's looking to power it with a 2.8-GHz P4 CPU (800-MHz system bus). He might call today and order the parts. Joshua recently did something similar. S'cuse me while I get back to perspiring. Might listen to Music in the Park tonight.

Radiation tri-blade symbol 08August2003 - Whilst hiking in Yosemite National Park last week, we ran into a kindly gent atop a 9,000-foot peak near Lembert Dome. The views up there were spectacular and he forgot to bring his camera. So he asked us to take some photos of him & his family and email them to him.

He gave us his card, which contained his email address .. and a gold seal beside the title State Senator. I probably should protect his privacy, but I can say his state is north of the Mason-Dixon and east of the Mississippi. It's also Sharon's home state, so they had plenty of common ground to discuss.

Being the skeptic I am, I looked him up on the Internet, and, sure enough, that's the guy. He seemed like a regular chap .. huffing & puffing in the thin mountain air .. just like me. His wife was down to earth and we even liked his son. In fact, the Senator took this photo of us.

If I remember my US Government correctly, each state has two senators. Anyway, I received a note from him today, thanking us for the pics. Maybe someday he'll return the favor by taking care of a parking ticket for me.

Radiation tri-blade symbol 06August2003 - Those of you who remember the days when we used to post weekly updates of Wendy's adventures at the world's finest Film school might appreciate this [forwarded] letter:


In a few days, I'll be leaving the safety of the hometown I grew up in to enter the great unknown of Los Angeles. In May, I graduated from Boston College and was shocked to learn I got into the graduate program at USC.

Though I have made a few films, most notably a 40-minute documentary about AIDS in South Africa, I've been terrified about going to USC. The detailed account of your experiences there however, has pacified my fears considerably (though some of your stories are reason for even more concern!). I know I won't be the most artistic filmmaker there, but I also know I won't be outworked by anyone. Your story made me confident I can do it.

I know you get tons of these, but I just wanted to say thanks for opening your life to the world. It has helped greatly.

Thanks and best of luck!

Dave LaMattina

We get lots of letters from people who are inspired by the chronicles, and even from those who apply to graduate Film school at USC. But it's a rare treat to get a letter from someone who has actually been accepted.

Note his mind set: I won't be outworked. That's the right attitude. Filmmaking involves more perspiration (sleep-deprivation) than inspiration. Even a bad film requires a lot of work. We expect great things from him. He has an advantage over students who don't know what to expect. Some day, when Dave is a famous director, you'll be able to say, "I knew him when..."

Radiation tri-blade symbol 05August2003 - Folks who live here in Southern California might want to consider attending this years Pageant of the Masters. It's been going on every summer for 70 years now. They use real people to depict classic art. Extraordinary. A narrator describes both the art and the period the art if from. So it's a cultural experience. Held outdoors, at night, here in Laguna, under the stars. Beautiful.

The whole season, which lasts all of July & August, with performances every night of the week, sells out before the first show. You have to know someone to get the good seats. But decent seats can usually be had from scalpers out front.

Another trick is to line up at the box office an hour before they open. There you can purchase cancelled tiks for face value. The night before, they will post [on the box-office window] how many will go on sale when they open [9AM, I think]. Limit 2 per person. So if they have 10 tiks available, and you see 5 people waiting in line, you're too late. Most people bring a chair to sit in, along with a copy of the LA Times.

Last show is August 30th. Bring a pair of binoculars .. to see if you can catch one of the performers blink. Hard to believe they're real people on stage .. until they step down and walk off.

You want a nice restaurant before the show? I can recommend Sorrento Grille. [My favorite] It's walking distance from the Pageant .. which always concludes with da Vinci's The Last Supper. If you know someone in the show, you can get tiks for free. I wonder who is playing Christ this year.

Radiation tri-blade symbol 04August2003 - Saw Seabiscuit last night. Great flick. Putting it on my official Recommended list. Good casting. Well acted. I especially liked the historical perspective. Both the horse and era [Great Depression] come out of early-30's lore. The horse was a bright spot at a dark time in the country's history. I also liked the narrated voiceover: used sparsely but effectively. It added a folksy feel.

Radiation tri-blade symbol 03August2003 - Picked up a new laser printer today: the Brother HL-5040. Lasers are so cheap these days. They offer much for the money .. in terms of print-quality and page output. This puppy is rated at 17-PPM. It's rated resolution of 2400x600 tho, is weird. I set it to 600-DPI for normal text printing. Any of the popular brands [HP, Lexmark, Canon] would've worked fine.

I previously had an old, clunky Epson ink-jet that was noisy and slow. It finally quit after several years as my primary workhorse. The Brother was up & running in minutes. Simply install the toner cartridge, fill the paper tray [with 250 pages], load the drivers, and you're good to go.

I run mine on the printer port, but this model also supports USB 2.0. Comes with 8MB RAM and a standard 1-year warranty. Got mine at a local OfficeMAX for US$229 [minus $50 rebate = $179]. The persistent check-out girl tried to work me for the $29 extra year of warranty. I declined .. about 10 times. A 6,500-pge replacement toner cartridges goes for $65. That's a penny a page.