News for February 2004


Radiation tri-blade symbol 29February2004 - Leap year. Or leap day, if you like. This is supposedly the one day when women can propose to men. Watch out guys. Note that this is *not* Sadie Hawkins day (which is November 15th). Leap year has been around since 45-BC.

Academy Awards air tonight (76th annual, at 5:30 here on the West coast). The Oscars are a big deal here in SoCal, where we live in the shadow of the Hollywood sign. Hosted by Billy Crystal. And the nominees are...

I'm not even going to venture a guess at predicting the winners this year, cuz they don't always select the best performances. I think the selection process is too political, and the Academy has been criticized for such. It takes into account what happened last year, and what other Awards one might be nominated for this year.

The remainder of today's drivel on this topic is posted here:> Oscars 2004

Radiation tri-blade symbol 28February2004 - Wiki (pronounced weekee) is a word every good geek should know. It refers to a collaborative style of web site, such as Wikipedia, where anyone, such as you or me, can edit content using an ordinary web browser. The word can also refer to the software used to create such web sites.

The phrase "wiki wiki" means "fast" in Hawaiian. And that's how web sites evolve that use wiki software: fast. When you open up the editing of content to the whole world, sites evolve quickly.

You can write anything you want, but others are free to move, edit or even delete it. And you can delete anything you want, but others may restore it just as quickly. The end result is surprisingly good. The remainder of today's drivel on this topic is posted here:> Wiki

Radiation tri-blade symbol 27February2004 - Wendy called last night to say she ran into someone in the halls of the Zemeckis Center for Digital Arts (at USC), where she's helping the BIG Woo (Eric) work on his BIG student film production. Anyway, she was approached by someone asking, "Are you the one with the Film school chronicles posted on the web?"

Long story short, he (I forget his name) had printed out all the updates and assembled them in a binder, replete with titles and organized into semesters. He had moved down to Los Angeles from Northern California with the hope of getting accepted into Film school at USC (no easy chore).

He asked Wendy to autograph his binder and said his mother would be excited to hear that they had actually met. She said the binder and its pages were worn from being read & re-read. They sat together and read a few of the updates. Wendy said, "It was like a mind-warp that instantly took me back to those days."

He said he had scoured the Net, searching for information about USC Film school that didn't come from the university itself, and that my updates were the only source he was able to find. Maybe this is why they remain one of the sites most requested features. If you search Google for the query-string: usc film school, they show up near the top.

Naturally, the university is going to tell you what they want you to hear/know. My updates represent an insider's perspective, more objective than what the university would offer. I told the bad along with the good. [Actually, I told more bad, cuz that's what was most interesting.] Film school is fraught with many trials and much tribulation.

The remainder of today's drivel on this topic is posted here:> USC Film School Chronicles Published. (By the way, this is blog-entry #100.)

Radiation tri-blade symbol 26February2004 - Been neglecting the site, spending all my free time reading The Climb: Tragic Ambitions on Everest. Whereas Krakauer's account is more polished & entertaining, The Climb is more gritty & enlightening, tho I would argue with those who claim it's not written as well.

I recently purchased a new pair of US$100 hiking boots, which I wear while reading this book .. for that "life-like" effect. I even kill myself on the stairmaster at the local gym to try to simulate the leg fatigue and body aches associated with mountain climbing.

I'm currently ~halfway thru the story. The group just reached the summit and are heading back down. But that's when most tragedies strike. The problem is that they're well behind schedule and darkness is only a few hours away. Their oxygen is running dangerously low, and they're unaware that a nasty storm is brewing. Worst of all (according to the superstitious locals) is that a bad omen has appeared in the sky: a day-star. Here's an excerpt from the page I'm on:

Lene Gammelgaard, however, saw something that disturbed her. "Before I decided to go up over the Hilary Step, I noticed a whiteout coming from the valleys, and I saw the wind pick up over the summit." Gammelgaard had witnessed the formative stages of a storm system that within a few hours would catch her and her climbing partners vulnerable and exposed, at the most dangerous part of an Everest assault: the descent.

I know from reading Into Thin Air that they're headed for a world of hurt. But it's interesting to hear the same story from another perspective (like Rashomon).

What's so cool right now is that it's stormy here in SoCal. Rains have arrived and the weather is wonderfully miserable. The wind is howling. Makes reading seem more realistic. Well, I just wanted to check in & say 'hey'. The fixed-link blog-entry for today's drivel is posted here:> Checking In.

Everyone here is talking about Mel Gibson's new movie: The Passion of the Christ, which opened yesterday. Saw a snippet of a talk-show discussing it and panel members actually seemed *angry* at Mel, suggesting a boycott. This struck me as odd because it's not like people don't already know the story. What's more unusual is that none of the panel members were film critics. Guess I'll have to go see what all the ruckus is about.

Radiation tri-blade symbol 22February2004 - A friend got a new laptop: the Dell 600m. Nice balance between the power of a desktop replacement & the lightweight portability of a road warrior. I have since retired from installing & configuring computers for friends, but this impressive piece of wireless (Centrino) technology was too sweet to pass up.

Spent the last day & a half configuring it. Re-partitioned the 40-gig hard drive into: 16+12+12. The last partition (FAT32) is dedicated solely for Ghost images. Installed Windows XP Pro & all the programs to the first partition. The middle partition is dedicated for downloads, drivers, audio, video, graphics and non-program-related stuff.

Seems like I'm coming out of a digital fog now. Only had one problem, where Windows wouldn't see/recognize a newly inserted CD. Racked my brain on that one. Finally found a fix here (after finding a clue here), which led me to edit a registry value (change from 0 to 1) for the Autorun key.

The remainder of today's drivel on this topic is posted here:> Newly-inserted CD not recognized by Windows. On a less geeky note, everyone here is excited about tonight's final episode of Sex and the City. We're going to a party where you dress as your favorite character. (I'm going as Aidan.)

Sex and the City
is *not* about sex. Rather it's about the idea that it's okay to be a single, professional woman, and the (comic) trials involved in trying to find love. Maybe not in SoCal or NYC, but in many parts of the country, single women, who don't breed, are viewed as a waste of good oxygen and other environmental resources. This validation is why Sex and the City is such a hit with single, professional women.

Radiation tri-blade symbol 19February2004 - Been off the bean for a few days, so motivation is scarce. And I keep killing keyboards. Hard to believe I used the same KB for nearly 10 years and I've killed 3 in the last month. I keep spilling things .. last night a beer (non-alc, no less, while watching the penultimate episode of Sex and the City). Seems like the littlest spill renders them unusable.

A couple of weeks ago I ordered a new keyboard. Today I checked the UPS tracking to find where the heck it is, and it says *delivered*. Upon further inspection, I noticed that it was delivered to the wrong address, in the wrong town (Laguna Hills, while I live in Laguna Beach).

So I call the manufacturer and say, "Hey! What gives?" First they say I must have filled in the order form incorrectly, because shipping is done automatically, without human intervention. But I'm looking right at the invoice (luckily I had a copy), so I know they're full of it.

When their blame-the-customer-first strategy didn't work, they said, "Oops, sorry. Our bad. You have two options (my interpretation): 1. Drive around Southern California, going door-to-door, trying to find your lost keyboard that we mis-shipped. Or 2. We'll tell UPS to retrieve the KB and send it back to us. Then, when we get around to it (maybe a week later), we'll re-ship it to you, and try to get it right this time.

The remainder of today's drivel on this topic is posted here:> One of those Days

Radiation tri-blade symbol 17February2004 - Saw Touching the Void last night, which finally opened in theaters here in SoCal over the weekend. As is the case with many of these mountaineering sagas, one person gets left for dead .. and in this case, that happened in 1985, in the remote Peruvian Andes, on a never-before-climbed mountain, where others have tried but always failed.

What makes this story so compelling is that this guy (Brit Joe Simpson) gets left for dead inside a deep crevasse, with a broken leg, which means he's unable to climb out under his own power. As he so eloquently puts it: "You don't die of a broken leg." ..

.. which leaves him two (equally unpleasant) options: 1. lay there and die, or 2. descend *deeper* into the crevasse, and hope to find a way out below. It's the only hope he has. The remainder of today's drivel on this topic is posted here:> Touching the Void (2).

In other news, movie industry group DVD Copy Control Association is suing DVD-Copying Software company 321 Studios.

"In taking this legal action, DVD CCA is turning its focus toward those who produce and broadly distribute products in the marketplace that facilitate the widespread infringement of the copyrights on motion pictures that CSS was designed to protect," said Steven Reiss, an attorney for the association. Full story posted here.

My recommendation to DVD CCA is to replace the statement-making lawyer with a non-legal spokesperson, cuz nobody likes lawyers, and everyone is skeptical of everything they claim. I got this Q&A from the Dog: Q: What do lawyers have in common with sperm? A: They both have a one-in-a-million chance of becoming human.

Radiation tri-blade symbol 15February2004 - I've been having trouble, lately, with site statistics disappearing. It you read the entry for the first of this month, you'll see that RADIFIED set a new site record last month with over 1.7 million hits. Someone, it appears, has been sabotaging these statistics.

If true, I would be greatly honored .. that someone (anyone) would care enough about the site to consider it worth sabotaging. More likely though, it's probably just a misunderstanding. But there are not many people who have access to these stats, or the utility program that generates them. The number is limited.

The remainder of today's drivel on this topic is posted here:> Site Sabotage

Radiation tri-blade symbol 14February2004 - Saw The Dreamers last night: a film by Bernardo Bertolucci, an Italian director who is no stranger to controversy. [He directed The Last Tango in Paris, starring Marlon Brando. I also enjoyed his 1998 film: Besieged.]

The Dreamers is rated NC-17 (no one under 17 allowed in), and indeed, they checked everyone's ID at the ticket counter. We caught it at the Sunflower in Costa Mesa. Yesterday was opening night, with the theater comfortably full.

Artistic film, set in Paris, 1968. The theme: Fantasy vs Reality. I think we all create our own, little fantasy worlds. Sometimes that's healthy & sometimes it's not. And that's all I'll say about the film.

I think it's a film that's best seen when you know nothing about the storyline (as are most films), so you have no preconceived notions or expectations to color your perception. Reviews posted here. The remainder of today's drivel on this topic is posted here:> The Dreamers - Bertolucci

Radiation tri-blade symbol 12February2004 - Been reading: The Climb: Tragic Ambitions on Everest. Actually, I stopped in the book store to look for Touching the Void, but they were all out-of-stock (like everywhere else I looked).

I'm enjoying this book. It offers an alternate perspective to the same story told by Jon Krakauer in his account of the mountaineering tragedy that killed 8 people in 1996 en route to the world's highest peak (Everest). I read his book: Into Thin Air back in January 2003.

The Climb is told by Russian high-altitude super-stud Anatoli Nikoliavich Boukreev (subsequently killed in an avalanche on Annapurna). His account, for me, is similar to viewing the same mountain from a different side/perspective. Even more interesting is that their accounts do not agree. Boukreev is the more accomplished & experienced climber, with a fat high-altitude resume.

The remainder of today's drivel on this topic is posted here:> The Climb: Tragic Ambitions on Everest

Radiation tri-blade symbol 10February2004 - The boyz at Intel have released their next-generation CPU for desktop computers, code-named Prescott. If you want to read all the geek-speek, a Google search pre-configured for the terms Intel Prescott is posted here. But most folks simply want to to know the answer to two questions:

Do I want one? and How much will they cost? The answer to the first is: not yet. Right now, Prescotts run a little slower than a similarly clocked Northwood (due to a longer, 31-stage pipeline). Prescotts will sell for the same price as their Northwood cousins at identical speed-points.

You will recognize PrEscotts by the addition of the letter 'E' to the CPU name, such as P4-3.2E. I looked at Newegg and you can find them there already, but only at the lowest, 2.8-GHz speed. The rest of the speeds are scheduled to ship next quarter. Note that this is NOT the same as the 'EE' outrageously expensive Extreme Edition CPU, based on the Northwood. You might also try Atacom.

This is Intel's first major CPU re-design since the release of the Northwood CPU some two years ago on January 7th, 2002. Note that the current Northwood P4 max'es out at 3.4-GHz. The Prescott will initially release at the following (GHz) speed-points: 2.8, 3.0, 3.2, & 3.4.

Note that these new Prescotts are rated no higher than current Northwood CPUs. In the third quarter we will see speeds of 3.8 & 4.0-GHz. This would be the time to get a Prescott, since they need the higher clock-rates to make the longer pipeline worthwhile. All Prescotts run at 800-MHz FSB (only). The remainder of today's drivel on this topic is posted here:> Intel Prescott CPU in a Nutshell.

Radiation tri-blade symbol 07February2004 - Speaking of yesterday's dysfunctional keyboard, I usually keep a supply of spare parts on hand. For example, somewhere here I have a spare mouse, a few floppy drives, and a power supply or two. I usually have a spare keyboard, too, but I keep spilling things of them.

All these components are fairly inexpensive, and don't change very much over time, unlike CPUs and hard drives, which continually get bigger & faster & cheaper. I've never had to replace a dead CPU (knocks on wood), but just about everything else has needed replacing at one time or another. Sometimes you don't have time to run down to the local CompUSA for some small part.

The remainder of today's drivel on this topic is posted here:> Spare Computer Parts.

Radiation tri-blade symbol 06February2004 - Spilled coffee on my keyboard today (for the second time). Now only about half the dang keys work, and every time I hit the space bar, the cursor jumps back to the beginning of the line. This would be a good torture for people in hell.

Anyway, I ordered a new keyboard today: the *backlit* Sapphire model by Eluminx. This way I'll be able to work at night without having to keep a light on. When it arrives, I'll let you know if it's as cool as it looks/sounds. Newegg has it here, but they are out-of-stock. The local CompUSA is also out-of-stock on this model. Blogged hard-link posted here:> New Keyboard (backlit).

Radiation tri-blade symbol 05February2004 - Updated the Guide to Norton Ghost: the site's single most popular feature. Been meaning to do that for some time. It hasn't been updated since last September. Mostly added reader comments & clarifications. Nothing major. Also updated the accompanying PDF files: both the downloadable (93-KB zip) & printer-friendly (152-KB, not zipped) versions.

For those of you who live here in Laguna, don't forget that today/tonight is the First Thursday Art Walk.

Radiation tri-blade symbol 04February2004 - I'm researching notebook computers, and the new technologies they offer, such as Intel's Centrino, which debuted last March. This mobile technology claims to use less power, while integrating wireless networking. Official Intel press release is posted here.

Things get confusing when you consider that the highly-coveted Pentium M processor (note the *absence* of the number 4), which sits as the centerpiece of the Centrino technology, max'es out at 1.7-GHz, and contains a 1-MB L2 cache, is NOT THE SAME as the (older, less-coveted) Pentium 4-M chip (note the *presence* of the number '4' there), which max'es out at 2.6-GHz & contains only 512-KB cache ..

.. which is still different from the regular Pentium 4 chip, which is designed for desktop computers (max'es out at 3.2-GHz). Easy to confuse them (thanks to Intel's naming scheme), but they are all very different animals.

I was surprised to learn that the performance of these different chips do NOT compare on a 1:1 basis. For example, the 1.7-Ghz M chip is slightly *faster* than the 2.6-GHz 4-M chip .. or so says benchmarks offered by Intel.

If you are not confused yet, consider that Intel will release its next-generation 'M' chip, called Dothan, in May. It will come with *twice* the L2 cache, and be based on a smaller manufacturing process (90-namometer). Current chips use a 130-nm manufacturing process. Smaller is better. More Dothan info posted here.

The remainder of today's drivel on this topic is posted here:> Centrino-based notebook / laptop computers.

Radiation tri-blade symbol 03February2004 - Intel cut prices of their CPUs. Newegg has the Pentium4 3.0C for US$229, which is a pretty good deal. I updated the Black Beast to include this chip. The 2.8-GHz CPU goes for a measly $189. The flagship 3.2-GHz chip is still pricey at $289. Newegg's impressive reseller-rating is posted here.

If you decide you want one, make sure you select a chip that corresponds to the bus speed your system runs at. CPUs ending with the letter "C" are designed to run on an 800-MHz system bus. The letter "B" indicated 533-MHz, and the letter "A" means the chip is designed to run at 400-MHz. These bus speeds are determined by your particular motherboard. My links above all correspond to chips designed for a system bus running at 800-MHz.

I've always heard that February was the best month to buy electronics. If you like deals that save you money, my buddy Apex & his posse spend hours each day scouring the Net to find the best ones. If you want to learn more about CPUs, check out the RADIFIED guide to the Intel Northwood Pentium4 CPU. [Blogged hard-link here]

On another note, check out Julia fractals and the power of Google to overwhelm (kill) a server. Here is search pre-configured for the terms Julia fractals, and another for Quarternion fractal. I currently use "Fractal Explosion" for my desktop (1152x864, 474-KB, center it, don't stretch, use black background, I use 1280x1024 screen resolution). More info posted here. If you've never heard of fractals before, see "fractals for beginners".

Radiation tri-blade symbol 01February2004 - RADIFIED set a new site record last month with over 1.7 million hits. See here. Seems pretty close to 2 million hits per month. The site continues to grow in popularity.