Radified News for January, 2002

Radified Tri-blade 31jan2002 - My Internet connection in the evening has been horrible. The tech support number for Cox-at-Home is constantly busy. I'll cut them some slack, cuz they've been so good up 'til now. But I hope things improve quickly, cuz this sux.

I created three more PDF files: one for the
Guide to Ripping & Encoding CD Audio, another for the Guide to ASPI Drivers, and a third for the
Intel Northwood Pentium 4 CPU guide. Each of these guides now has its own downloadable zipped PDF file, which can be stored locally, on an individual's hard drive, for quick & easy reference. A printer-friendly version (unzipped PDF) is also posted for hard-copy off-line reading.

I've been reading Jakob Nielsen's book on Designing Web Usability. Just finished another chapter. Dr. Jakob is quite the character, a rather opinionated chap. For example, here's a quote I just read:

"Some web designers avoid links to external sites under the theory that you want to keep users at your own site and not present them with opportunities to escape. I do not like this approach to linking because it contradicts the basic nature of the Web: Users are in control of their own destiny. Get over it. You don't own them. And besides, there's no way to truly trap a user because it's always possible to escape by using a bookmark or by typing in a fresh URL."

Jakob claims that every large article should have a corresponding printer-friendly version. He references statistics that illustrate how likely people are to print-out things they find on the web, and read them off line, at their leisure.

My own experience supports his findings. The PDF files that I've posted for the various guides see a surprising amount of activity .. much more than I would've guessed. Of course, I have no way of knowing if someone is actually printing the PDF, but I can see that the majority of the people who access, say the
Norton Ghost User's guide, for example, also access
the PDF file for it, and the zipped PDF.

All of the most popular guides now have a downloadable & printer-friendly PDF file available .. altho I can't seem to figure out how to make the font smaller. It looks too big to me.

Radified Tri-blade 30jan2002 - Received a note from the Dog today, in response to yesterday's post about Krish studying at Columbia University. He says:

I was just on campus the other day. When I was at Columbia, Morningside Heights (the neighborhood in which Carman Hall  resides) was very edgy, sometimes dangerous. Now it’s a full-on playground. Columbia has added many new buildings and made major improvements.

I know Carman Hall well. It was a freshman-only dorm when I was there. In my first week at Columbia, two Carman freshmen removed a rolled-up carpet from a dumpster on 114th Street (where Carman sits), and unrolled it in their room .. to find a dead body. I can only imagine the look on their faces.

New York is gearing up for major protests this weekend. The World Economic Forum (WEF) is meeting at the
Waldorf Astoria. The WEF is a group of 2,000 of the wealthiest CEO’s, presidents, etc., who gather every year to decide on how to hedge their investments against human, labor, animal, and environmental rights.

The city is buzzing, because the cops are gearing up for a fight. If the news focuses on “violent elements”, don’t believe it for a minute. Got Bail?

The Dog has always had a lightning-rod air about him. You can be sure that wherever he is, sparks will be flying. =)

Radified Tri-blade 29jan2002 - Sending a special Radified shout-out to Krish. If you're a Radified Warrior from back-in-the-day, when the site was brand-spanking new, you may recall that Krish was the one who helped design the lay-out of this page.

He whipped up some Photoshop mojo and made the Radified logo you see at the top, and many of the other images. (We tried to imitate the lay-out of Ars, which is both easy on the eyes & functional.) He also set up the frames-design of Wendy's site.

Anyway, I was in Southern California, and he was in West Virginia (isn't the 'Net great?), and in the course of things, Krish mentioned that he was applying to Columbia University (an Ivy League school).

I thought he was pulling my leg, cuz I know how hard it is to get into Columbia, and everyone I know who went there (like the Dog, for example) has an IQ of ~2000. Wendy's editing partner from the 546 semester (Geof, mega-brain) also graduated from Columbia.

Well, today I got an email from Krish .. with a columbia.edu address, saying, "Hey, wassup Rad?" I thought to myself, "Dang, I guess he wasn't kidding about Columbia."

Come to find out .. Krish is a freshman, living in a dorm on campus (Carman). He posted a satellite photo of his dorm's location (52KB, taken by Globe Explorer). He made sure that they gave him a dorm with a fast Ethernet connection. =)

His roommate is an Orthodox Jew named Josh, who goes goes by the name of 'Jish' (which rhymes with Krish). They get along great. The Big Apple is a far cry from Krish's hometown of Parkersberg, WV (Wood county). Krish was sound asleep on 9-11, when the terrorists slammed a couple of 767s into the WTC (~100 blocks away).

Krish has not yet declared a major, but is leaning toward Biology or Bio-chem. His classes this semester are:

  • Calculus II

  • German II

  • Literature Humanities

  • Logic & Rhetoric (Writing class)

  • ChemLab

Both Wendy & I are proud of him and encourage him to kick much academic butt. Go Krish!

Radified Tri-blade 26jan2002 - I took a peek at site usage stats for the month and noticed that all measurable categories have reached new highs .. & will continue to set new site records for the next 6 days .. until the end of the month. Looks like Radified has broken half a million hits & 10-gigs of bandwidth this month for the first time.

Page views have increased 10-fold over the last 7 months, since I began monitoring them. I've read a little on the subject of web usage, and heard that the 'hits' stat doesn't really mean very much. Rather it's the 'unique visitors' figure that matters most. 

Radified serves an average of 2500 unique visitors each day .. which corresponds to ~100 unique visitors each hour, for each hour of the day (24) .. or a new visitor every 30 secs. The number of total visits are ~30% higher, including return visitors.

Some hours see more visitors, some less; but that's the average. This number is fairly consistent, and growing steadily. The site record is 2995 unique visitors in one 24-hour period (so close to 3000...). The number of unique & total visitors is measured by a different program.

My web gurus friends claim that I can maximize site traffic by *not* posting my guides in PDF format, which allows visitors to easily print out or download the guides, and refer to them from their own hard drives (faster) .. making it unnecessary to return to the site. 

But I'm not so sure about their strategy. Despite the ".com" address, Radified isn't a commercial site, so I have no compelling rea$on to to entertain ploys that generate more traffic.

I've been reading my new PHP book. For learning purposes, they instruct you to download the latest stable version (v4.1.1) from php4win.de, not php.net, which is the official PHP site. I had to add '.exe' to the end of the downloaded file (rename), before I could execute the self-extracting RAR file (kinda strange).

They have you set up your system with IIS web server (Win2K), and tell you how to configure your system by copying various PHP files to various directories (/system32) and modifying the php.ini file. If you'd like this config info, lemme know. It's not hard, but I would've never figured it out myself.

Radified Tri-blade 25jan2002 - For those of you who live in Southern California, four 546-level (graduate) student films will screen tomorrow night (Saturday) at USC in the Norris theater, each 12-minutes long. They usually save the best for last. 

Wendy doesn't have any films screening, but many of her friends/classmates worked on these. Map is
posted here. Norris is labeled NCT (Norris Cinema Theater) on the map, at grid position I-10. You can usually park on-campus for $6. 

We like to go every semester, and see what the competition is up to. One time we arrived late and had to sit in the aisle on the floor (red carpet), with a hundred other people. Maybe we'll see you there. Bring popcorn.

Radified Tri-blade 24jan2002 - Been experiencing nasty Internet connection problems. My provider, Cox@home, who is normally very good, is transitioning to their own equipment, now that Excite is going bankrupt. Problems are to be expected during a transition of this magnitude.

Had to wait on the phone for over an hour, waiting for support. Kept getting the message, "We are experiencing very heavy call volume..." This was at 11PM. I made dinner, ate & cleaned-up while waiting on hold. I called last night, too, but the battery in my phone went dead while I was waiting. =(

They couldn't solve my problem, and ended up giving me a new IP address, which worked (hallelujah, praise the Lord!). Actually the problem wasn't on my PC, but on Wendy's. And she has a _very_ low tolerance for 'technical difficulties'. This is the second time this week I've had to call.

Cox sent us a box in the mail, containing a CD and booklets outlining steps to upgrade to their new equipment. But I'm waiting for everyone else to upgrade first. I'd rather let all the 'early-adapters' work out the kinks in their new system before I make the move.

For example, I noticed, while waiting on hold this evening, listening to repeated messages, over & over,  that they're having problems with their new email system ("sending & receiving messages"), and that "no time frame has been determined when this will be fixed". So if you don't hear from me for a few days, you'll know why...

Radified Tri-blade 23jan2002 - The Guide to ASPI Drivers finally broke the magical 1,000 pages per day mark yesterday, serving 1,042 copies. It's been flirting with the 1,000 mark for the last few weeks. The only other Radified feature to serve more than 1,000 copies in a single day is the Norton Ghost guide (1,754 is the current site record).

Saw the movie Amelie last night. It was painfully bad. French film with sub-titles. I've never liked sub-titled films. Some of Wendy's artsy-fartsy Film school friends said it was good. They lied. 

We walked out. I asked for our money back (I've never done that before). The manager said they refund money until 30-minutes after the show begins, and asked if we would take coupons instead. We did.

Wendy sometimes gets to see movies in class before they're released to the public. She saw
Monster's Ball and assures me that it rocks. We would've changed theaters, but Monster's Ball had already been showing for an hour, and she said I shouldn't miss the beginning. 

I've been impressed with
Billy Bob Thornton, who is in Monster's Ball (..who's married to Angelina Jolie, which nobody can quite figure out). Can't wait to see it. If it's as good as Wendy claims, I'll put it on my official 'Recommended' list.

Radified Tri-blade 22jan2002 - Posted another update of Wendy's adventures at USC Film school, the first of the semester. 

Radified Tri-blade 19jan2002 - After receiving numerous requests for a PDF version of Doc's Über FDISK Partitioning guide, I finally got around to making one. A zipped version of this file is posted here (65KB). The unzipped PDF is posted here (88KB).

These files allow people to easily download and store Doc's FDISK guide on their hard drives, for easy access, or to print-out the guide for easy reference.

Doc's guide has seen a surge in popularity recently. It jumped from an average of 100 daily requests to ~250 (over the last few weeks).

I'm always baffled by the forces that drive the popularity of the various guides. The only thing I can think of is that people received new hard drives for Christmas, and now they're looking for help on
how to partition them. Why else would it jump like that?

It used to take me a while to figure out how to convert the HTML-versions into a PDF file (so that the formatting lined up correctly), but now I'm getting pretty quick at it. 

Three other Radified guides are also available in PDF format:
Norton Ghost User's guide, the SCSI guide, and the Asus CUSL2 User's guide.

Radified Tri-blade 18jan2002 - Updated the Guide to ASPI Drivers. Nothing major. I merely tried to improve its readability & organization. It's usually easier to see where improvements can be made after I haven't read it for a few weeks.

I try to give the most attention to the guides that receive the most traffic. For the last couple of weeks, the ASPI guide has been flirting with [breaking] 1,000 page-views per day.

I suspect that the increase can be attributed to people who received burners for Christmas, or new PCs that came loaded with Windows XP and a burner. It seems that WinXP can have problems
ripping and burning CDs

It has been fluctuating between 850 and 975, but has yet to break the magical 1K-per-day mark. Only the
Norton Ghost guide has served more than 1,000 copies in a single day [the current record is 1,754].

I checked the site's
usage stats back on the 15th [halfway thru the month]. If things continue at the same pace, it looks like January will see a big jump in site usage .. a ~50% increase over December's numbers. Radified may break half-a-million hits, and use more than 10GBs of bandwidth this month. We'll see. Currently at 325K hits & 6 gigs.

Radified Tri-blade 17jan2002 - Today we saw A Beautiful Mind, starring Russell Crowe. I liked this movie .. more so than any I've seen recently. Ron Howard directed this film. It was very well made, story-wise. Russell Crowe absolutely rocked, and Jennifer Connelly was perfect for the part she played.

This movie is based on a true story.
Sidney sent a link to info about the real-life guy, John Forbes Nash, who won the Nobel Prize for Economics in 1949 for a paper he had written 45 years earlier.

The theater was packed. We arrived after the previews had already begun, and had to sit way down near the front, in the craning section. Even I was teary-eyed at the end, and I rarely cry (too macho). Wendy was balling like a baby. 

I know that movies are subjective, and that the same movie that I like, you might hate .. but I'm putting this one on my official Recommended list, which hasn't seen an addition in quite some time.

Thanks to everybody who wrote in with advice and recommendations on digital cameras. I've been reading the reviews at the links that you sent. Thanks for making my decision a whole lot harder. =) Wendy keeps asking, "When are you going to order that camera?"

How come it is that when *I* want something, it's something I (merely) *want* .. but when SHEEE wants something, it's something we *neeeed*?

Before you leave, click on the orange sunset picture at the bottom of this page, and check out the Tropical Moon of Thetis at Digital Blasphemy. That's my new desktop (select the image size that corresponds to your desktop resolution [1024x768 maybe?], then right-click on the large-sized image and select 'Set as Background' from the context menu). 

Beautiful image. I think I might've been to this place once .. back when I was a teenager. =) 

Radified Tri-blade 16jan2002 - Stayed up late last night, researching digital cameras. (My eyes are burning today.) Much as we love digital toys, I've never gotten around to purchasing a digital still camera. Wendy has always used her camcorder, whenever she needed to grab a digital still. But that's not very practical. Or we borrowed one from a friend.

Wendy wants (uh, 'needs') one for pre-production of her upcoming
thesis project film, to be shot in April. I've put off purchasing a DC, cuz their image quality has been steadily improving (dramatically so), and prices remain high .. at least, when compared to regular, point-n-shoot 35mm film cameras, which is what we currently use (el cheapo Olympus).

Seems that nothing has changed. Digital cameras still aren't cheap, especially when you consider that I'll probably need to purchase a larger
Compact Flash card (256MB), an extra battery, carrying case, lens protector, software, extended warranty, yada yada.

Everyone seems to feel that the
Canon Powershot G2 is currently the best option. But it costs more than I was looking to spend. Yet I'd rather pay a little extra and get a quality camera, than buy a 'bargain' that turns out to be no bargain at all (a piece of digital excrement .. I've made that mistake before.). Every review that I've read rates it highly recommended, and claims that it represents an excellent value.

I'm also looking at the
S30, which people seem to like, tho not nearly as enthusiastically as the G2. But it's not as expensive, either. DPReview has some great forums with good traffic and helpful, experienced people, where I've been 'data-mining'.

There is a
whole 'nuther world related to digital cameras, with its own vocabulary ( ...which is why my eyes are burning today). I have sucked up so much info in the last 24 hours that my head feels like it's about to pop a relief valve. Wait. What's that hissing sound I hear? Sounds like it's coming from .. my ears! =)

I heard that February is the best month to purchase electronics, but I don't think Wendy can wait that long. Now where did I put the

Radified Tri-blade 15jan2002 - The day after Christmas, I received an email from a reader who found my Ghost guide helpful. As a gesture to offer tangible appreciation, he asked me to create a Wish list at Amazon.com, where I gladly added 3 books, dealing with various topics that interested me .. one of which was PHP4

Yesterday my gift arrived:
Beginning PHP4. What's so unusual is that my web hosting provider finally upgraded their servers to PHP4 .. yesterday (after a year of delays).

The timing seems
synchronistic. I mean, what are the odds of these two, obviously related events (receive a book on PHP4 on the same day that my web-hosting provider upgrades my server to PHP4) occurring on the same day? In fact, they occurred in the same hour.

This reminds me of
a book by Carl Jung and an episode I saw of The Outer Limits. I don't know what it means, but I'm going to start reading the book right away. =D

Anyway, as you can imagine, we've become the best digital friends. 

Radified Tri-blade 14jan2002 - Today my web hosting provider is supposed to implement its long-awaited, and much-anticipated, upgrade to PHP4 (v4.1.0, compiled as an Apache module). Before today, they were running an antiquated v3.0.9, causing many (like me) to moan, whine & complain.

The upgrade has been fraught with problems, & beset by delays. They found it necessary to (first) upgrade all
their servers to 2GB of RAM (from 1GB) .. among other, necessary upgrades. 

I'm still trying to determine whether they *really* implemented the upgrade. I noticed that, around midnight (
Kansas City local time), my server was whacked out for a few minutes, but then things returned to normal. I hope they didn't have problems with the upgrade.

I am still in the process of
learning PHP. If all goes well, I may soon become a PHP-savvy web master.

Radified Tri-blade 12jan2002 - I learned how to code link titles today. They are small blurbs of text that pop up when you roll your cursor over a text link. 

For example, try rolling your cursor over
this link (let it rest still for a second). If you click the link, it will take you to my ASPI guide, in which I coded *every* link with its own link title (for practice). 

Link titles are easy to code. I've seen them used at other sites, and have always liked the professional effect that they lend to a page. If a web master is willing to take the extra time to code a description for a link, it implies (to me) that whatever information the site contains is probably more thorough than the average site.

Gorgeous day in Southern California today. Nothing like walking barefoot on the beach in the middle of January. Saw two whales about 100 meters off shore, spouting sprays of mist high into the air. 

I would've swam out to touch them, but I think they were feeding, and I didn't want them to confuse me with lunch. =)

Radified Tri-blade 11jan2002 - I've been reading Jakob Nielson's book titled Designing Web Usability: The Practice of Simplicity. He makes a big deal about keeping page sizes small, so that they load fast. In fact, he makes fast-loading pages an overriding web-design criteria.

He cites numerous studies where people begin to increase their opt-out rate (don't wait for the entire page to load) with web pages that exceed 35KB. That's his size-limit rule-of-thumb.

This is hard for me to understand because I've been connecting to the 'Net with a Cable modem for years, and all my pages load in a flash. But I've been endeavoring to break up larger pages into smaller ones. For example, today I broke up the page on the
Intel Northwood Pentium 4 CPU into *two* pages.

The web page itself was originally 50KB, with two 10KB graphics .. for a total page-size of 70KB (yes, a fatty, I admit). So I broke the single 50KB page into two pages: one 20KB and one 30KB. 

With the two graphics, the first page now contains a total of 40KB (much closer to Jakob's limit of 35KB), and the second page is 30KB, which is below his suggested limit. I think 40KB is reasonable. On a 56K dial-up connection, it should load in about 7 or 8 seconds.

This home page your reading now is 50KB: 25KB worth of text & links, and another 25KB worth of graphics.

Radified Tri-blade 10jan2002 - Installed a new hard drive in Wendy's PC today. I was hoping that it was only the power supply acting up, but it seems that denial is a powerful thing. I installed the new PSU yesterday - a 430-watt Enermax (beautiful-looking unit) - but the problem didn't go away. (Dang.)

That meant the boot drive was dead. I hate it when a boot drive dies. I replaced the 18GB
IBM Ultrastar 36LZX with a Maxtor / Quantum Atlas 10KIII. This will give me another drive to add to my collection of hard drive benchmarks. The Atlas 10K III is supposedly the best-performing 10Krpm SCSI drive

installed the new SCSI drive .. then partitioned the drive with FDISK (6 + 12) and lastly restored the image with Norton Ghost. The PC was back up and running within an hour of when the FedEx man handed me the box and said, "Sign here, hombre." (overnight shipping). Pretty sweet. If you don't use Norton Ghost, now is a good time to learn.

Radified Tri-blade 09jan2002 - Received a book in the mail today, from Amazon.com, titled MySQL. SQL stands for Structured Query Language. [I used to think that it stood for Server Query Language.] SQL/MySQL is a relational database management system (RDBMS).

my web-hosting provider is upgrading all it's servers (long-awaited upgrade) to PHP 4.1.0 next week (or so they claim), I want to learn about configuring a RDBMS. My web guru friends claim that it's easy, and that the best way to learn would be to start by learning SQL & MySQL, cuz everything revolves around concepts found there.

PHP is Open Source, but MySQL is not. Yet MySQL is free for most applications. I'm only beginning to learn about these two programs, which work together, and I'm actually finding them interesting. [Does that mean I'm a
geek? ]

I heard that PHP takes much of it's code from the C programming language, which I became familiar with during a Computer Science class. I'm looking forward to learning about both

Radified Tri-blade 08jan2002 - Updated the Intel Northwood Pentium 4 CPU article with the latest info, now that Intel has officially 'released' the processor, and we have benchmarks & reviews (comments) to reference.

Looks like
the Storagereview is really going to call it quits. How sad. They had a great site, with a community containing some of the most knowledgeable & helpful people. You could always get well-informed answers to your questions there. I reference SR multiple times in my SCSI User's guide / tutorial. Looks like I'll have to delete those links by the end of the month. 

More sites are closing their doors everyday. If a site is more than a mere hobby (like Radified), it's hard to make it work. You can read some perspectives on this issue
here (Ars' forum) and here

Radified Tri-blade 07jan2002 - Saw the much-hyped movie Vanilla Sky last night. Previews looked great, but we heard from many that it sucketh. Yet I still wanted to see it, even tho Wendy wanted to see something (anything) else.

The reports were true: the first half was terrible. We almost walked out a few times. Wendy kept saying, "Hey, you wanted to see it." I kept saying, "Let's wait a little longer, maybe it will get better."

Cameron Diaz was the only one doing any real acting. She rocked. The other performances (Cruise & Cruz) seemed flat by comparison. 

The second half got a little more interesting, and I'll give the director credit for having the courage to try a new idea, but the execution simply didn't work. Amazing how they emptied Time Square for the opening sequence.

If you're already at the theater, and your movie ends while Vanilla Sky is still playing, you might want to sit in on the last half, but I wouldn't pay money to see it.

Intel formally released its Northwood Pentium 4 CPU today .. the one I wrote about back in October. I'm in the process of updating that article.

Speaking of new releases, Alex van Kaam released an updated version of his popular
Motherboard Monitor (v5.1.0.4). Alex lives in from the Netherlands. I ashamed to say that only recently did I learn that the Netherlands and Holland are one and the same country. Alex has become a good friend, despite my geographical ignorance. 

Radified Tri-blade 06jan2002 - Just returned from a few days in the desert, at Two Bunch Palms, in Desert Hot Springs, near Palm Springs. If you've ever seen the movie The Player, with Tim Robbins, Two Bunch was featured in that flick. The waiter in the movie who says, "Right away Mr. M," was our waiter for dinner every night (Rick).

At Two Bunch you do a whole lot of nothing .. except soak in natural hot springs, read, sleep, get massages, & eat healthy food. Wendy loves the place. I always quit drinking coffee at Two Bunch, so I slept for most of the first two days [such an addict]. =)

No coffee, no PC. Talk about withdrawals. Heard packs of coyotes howling in the surrounding hills every night. Roadrunners motor up & down the sidewalks during the day. Ducks ate bread out of my hand, while lounging beside the waterfall at the coy fish pond.

Al Capone used Two Bunch as a hideout back in the '20's. Lots of history there (and a few bullet holes in the walls).

Radified Tri-blade 03jan2002 - Having some problems due to a 4-year old, failing 300-watt power supply. Surprised it lasted as long as it did. Ordered a new Enermax 430-watt monster.

Heading to the desert for a few days of R&R (rest & relaxation) before the next semester (for Wendy) begins Monday.

Radified Tri-blade 02jan2002 - Happy New Year. We had an uneventful New Years eve. After the big, new-millennium celebrations, these ordinary New Years hardly seem worth celebrating. 

About 20 friends met for dinner at an Italian restaurant in Laguna. By the time the food arrived, everyone was already full on bread & appetizers. Nice decor, but the food tasted bland. Stuffing myself with pasta made me want to sleep, not party.

Moral of the story: if you want to party all night, don't stuff yourself first. At least I had no hangover yesterday. Two drinks the entire night, and I didn't even finish the second. Wendy didn't have anything to drink, a first for her.

Linkage to -> [News for December, 2001]

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