News for January, 2003


Radiation tri-blade symbol 30jan2003 - Dolphins! Saw at least three different schools while running the beach at Crystal Cove just before sunset today. I've never seen them so close. If I would've jumped in, they were no more than 5 or 6 swimming strokes away. They were also racing up and down the shore, jumping completely out of the water. I've never seen them do that before either. Usually they swim slowly. Three of them raced up and down the shore and jumped in unison.

I thought they were playing, but I overheard people saying that they thought this was mating behavior. It never ceases to surprise me how everyone loves dolphins: old people and young kids alike. Even runners with headphones stopped their daily jog to watch the animals. People ran to their cars to grab their cameras and camcorders. Dolphins always make the day seem magical.

Whales should soon be passing by, on their was back from the warm waters of Baja, Mexico.

Radiation tri-blade symbol 29jan2003 - Looks like January might be another record-setting month for the site, in terms of usage statistics. We'll have to wait a few more days to know for sure how the numbers fall, but (so far) it looks like we might break 900,000 hits. My goal is to break the magical 1 million-hits-per-month mark. Not that it means anything, other than the phrase has a nice ring to it.

I was surprised to see so many Radified readers are into mountain-climbing and mountain-climbing books [see post dated 24jan]. Thx to all who have written to send in their favorite titles. Of the bunch I received, this one, titled Touching the Void, seems most interesting [from Rick Sheffar]. I've added it to my list. Already on the way from Amazon.com is one titled: Moments of Doubt.

Radiation tri-blade symbol 28jan2003 - Plextor Europe announced the release of their first DVD burner: the PX-504A. The first incarnation of DVD discs hold ~7X the data [4.7 gigs] contained in a standard CD [650MB]. Later incarnations will hold 17 gigs [that's a lot of MP3s]. The first incarnation = single-layer, single-sided. Next comes: single-layer, double-sided [9.4 gigs]. Finally: double-sided, doubled-layered [17 gigs].

I'm a big fan of Plextor drives - still using an old, 8X SCSI burner that I bought about 4 years ago. Still works great. I've gone thru more than a few 50-disc spindles. I also noticed that Plextor has announced a new SCSI 40X CD burner: the PlexWriter 40/12/40S. I thot Plextor wasn't making any more SCSI burners. They claim this new puppy should be available in January, 2003. Hmmm. That would look nice in my system.

Anyway, I don't know very much about DVD burners cuz I don't own one yet. I know they used to be prohibitively expen$ive [thousand$]. But prices have recently become more reasonable [the DVR-105 from Pioneer is only US$249]. The media situation looks confusing. I see four different kinds of DVD media: DVD-R discs, DVD-RW, DVD+R, and DVD+RW. The RW is obviously ReWritable.

I wouldn't buy *any* new piece of hardware without first talking to people who actually own the thing. But if I was in the market for a DVD burner, I'd look long and hard at this new puppy from the boyz at Plextor. I think this is a Europe-only unit. If it does well there, they may offer it here in the States.

Radiation tri-blade symbol 27jan2003 - Here is a neat optical illusion [compliments of Doug]. Hard to believe squares marked A and B are the exact same shade of gray. I couldn't believe it, so I busted out me trusty Photoshop [which doesn't lie] and sampled each square individually. Sure are shit: they're exactly the same.

The trick must have something to do with the shadow. Cuz when you isolated the squares, away from the checkerboard, they both look dark--like square A.

I've always enjoyed brain tricks. Reminds of when I was in 6th grade [many moons ago]. They stuck me in a new program [called Project Improve], where I was bussed, along with a group of other kids who were good in math, to the high school, twice a week, for half day each day, for advanced math. It got me out of class, so I went.

One of the problems they gave us was the infamous Koenigsberg-bridge problem. This is a real place in Russia [called Kaliningrad now, annexed from Germany after WWII]. The problem, posed by the Germans/Prussians who liked to walk their town, was:

Is it possible to walk across all seven bridges once, and not cross any bridge twice?

The answer, solved by the Swiss math genius Leonhard Euler [pronounced 'Oiler'], was: No. But it's fun trying. Other than that topographical problem, the other thing I remember was that the school bully wanted to kick my ass cuz his girlfriend started liking me in that program.

Radiation tri-blade symbol 25jan2003 - Was going to post yesterday's update last night [at 9:30PM Pacific time] when I found the site slooow as molasses. I was the first to post a message at Communitech's web site [my web hosting provider, based in Kansas City], complaining of the problem. A bunch of folks chimed in right afterwards, saying their sites were also crawling.

This morning I learned that the slowdown was due to a global DoS [Denial of Service] attack beginning at that time. CNN posted this news update at 9AM, EST today:

"The virus-like attack, which began about 12:30 a.m. EST, sought out vulnerable computers on the Internet to infect using a known flaw in popular database software from Microsoft Corp., called "SQL Server 2000." But the attacking software code was scanning for victim computers so randomly and so aggressively -- sending out thousands of probes each second -- that it overwhelmed many Internet data pipelines."

RADIFIED uses a Sun Enterprise server that runs the Unix-based Solaris operating system -- not Microsoft's SQL Server. The problem lasted for ~9 hours. Everything seems to be back to normal now.

Superbowl Sunday tomorrow. Oakland meets Tampa Bay right down the road in San Diego. [Didn't Tampa Bay suck really bad only a few years ago?] I always like to see the Superbowl ads. It will cost ~US$2M for a 30-second commercial. That means, if you blink for half a second, you will miss $33,000 worth.

Radiation tri-blade symbol 24jan2003 - Finished the book I've been reading: Into Thin Air - A Personal Account of the Mt. Everest Disaster, by Jon Krakauer (copyright 1997). Was sitting in a Mexican fast food joint [Baja Fresh], eating a chicken enchilada, reading the final chapters, when I came to the part [in chapter 19] where a guy who they left for dead [twice!] suddenly walks into camp like a frozen zombie. [You figure he was a little pissed at being left for dead?]

With a spoonful of black beans before my mouth, I guess it surprised me so much that I exclaimed, "Oh my gawd!". Everybody in the restaurant turned. "Good book," I said, waving it. An excerpt:

Both bodies were partially buried," Hutchinson recalls. "Their backpacks were maybe 100 feet away uphill. Their faces and torsos were covered with snow; only their hands and feet were sticking out. The wind was screaming."

The first body he came to turned out to be Namba, but Hutchinson couldn't discern who it was until he knelt in the gale and chipped away a three-inch-thick carapace of ice from her face. Stunned, he discovered that she was still breathing. Both her gloves were gone, and her bare hands appeared to be frozen solid. Her eyes were dilated. The skin on her face was the color of white porcelain. "It was terrible," Hutchinson recalls. "I was overwhelmed. She was very near death. I didn't know what to do."

He turned his attention to Beck, who lay twenty feet away. Beck's head was also caked with a thick armor of frost. Balls of ice the size of grapes were matted to his hair and eyelids. After clearing the frozen detritus from Beck's face, Hutchinson discovered that the Texan was still alive, too: "Beck was mumbling something, I tried to get him to sit up but he couldn't. He was as close to death as a person can be and still breathing."

Horribly shaken, Hutchinson went over to the Sherpas and asked Lhakpa's advice. Lhakpa, an Everest veteran respected by Sherpas and sahibs alike for his mountain savvy, urged Hutchinson to leave Beck and Yasuko where they lay. Even if they survived long enough to be dragged back to Camp Four, they would certainly die before they could be carried down to Base Camp."

Hutchinson decided that Lhakpa was right--there was only one choice, however difficult: let nature take its inevitable course with Beck and Yasuko. It was a classic case of triage.

Beck is the guy who later walks into camp.

Speaking of books, several publishers have listed [online] what they consider to be the 100 greatest novels of the 20th century, such as this one by Radcliffe [Random House]. They also posted this one comparing the Board's list with The Reader's list. [Seems that everyone has a list, or at least comments about one.]

Some people, like Orrin, for example, have taken the time to read all these books and post online reviews [NY Times did this one]. Doug Shaw is yet another. Funny how different people can have such different views of the same book. For example, for the novel by W. Somerset Maugham: On Human Bondage, Doug says, "One of the best novels of all time," while Orrin implores, "Burn this book. Grade: F," [scroll down to #66].

Radiation tri-blade symbol 23jan2003 - A friend called this evening, looking for guidance on purchasing a laptop. We went to the Dell site and ended up ordering an Inspiron model 8200. After configuring that badboy with extras/options such as Windows XP Professional, 512MB RAM, a 40-gig hard drive, a CD-RW/DVD combo drive, and a Radeon 9000 gfx card, we spent ~ US$2K .. what I expected to pay for a loaded notebook. If you call 800.695.8133, you can get a 10% student discount.

It came with a 1.8GHz Pentium 4 CPU and a 15-inch screen. I steered them away from expensive options, such as a faster CPU that won't yield any noticeable difference, except increasing the bottom line. The unit should ship by the end of the month. Then they'll bring it here to 'configure' it .. the Rad way.

We'll probably have to shrink the partition, cuz those know-nots at Dell don't like to ship a unit with anything except a single-partition drive. Then we'll create a second partition .. for things such as dual-booting and storing Ghost images.

I bought a laptop about 5 years ago. It's a piece o' crap now: P166. Makes a good doorstop. Paid a small fortune for it, too. Came with a 2-gig hard drive, 12-inch screen and 32MB RAM. Remember those days? My how times have changed.

Radiation tri-blade symbol 22jan2003 - Much debate has raged across the Net regarding the use of (fast) SCSI hard drives in concert with Windows XP: Microsoft's latest version of its market-dominating operating system. Since I am such a big fan of SCSI hard drives [the Radified Guide to Booting from a SCSI drive is one of the site's most popular features, and my personal favorite], I've been watching the debate closely and have avoided installing Windows XP, even tho I like it a lot [still using Windows 2000].

Much has been learned by people much smarter than me. At this thread [StorageReview] you can find the low-down on the situation. To save you some reading time [my eyes started burning halfway thru], I'll post a brief synopsis.

1. It's okay to install and run Windows XP on/from any SCSI drive.
2. You will experience slower file transfers [~ 50% slower, compared to Windows 2000] in WinXP when using Windows Explorer.

3. The reason for #2 above is because WinXP's Explorer transfers files in a more secure method [using something called a WRITE_THROUGH file flag].
4. The phenomena is only seen in SCSI drives cuz IDE drives [which most people use] don't include the WRITE_THROUGH flag in their command set. It's scheduled to be included at some later date.

5. Windows 2000 has a minor bug that ignores the WRITE_THROUGH command and writes the data to the (faster) cache instead of to the (slower) disk, even if the application asked it not to.
. You could lose data in Win2000 if you lose power while transferring a file. [I use the APC Back-ups 650.]

. This phenomena does not affect all file transfers in WinXP when using SCSI drives - only those that use the WRITE_THROUGH file flag [such as Windows Explorer].

If you want more info, have a peek at the entire thread. StorageReview has one of the Net's better forums. One of the guys who hangs out there [Cas, from Pittsburgh] wrote a little utility that that returns the superior performance of Windows 2000 to Windows XP, at the expernse of some reliability. See here for the low-down.

While you're there at the StorageReview forums, this thread on "Interesting ways to lose your data" makes for entertaining reading. Now where did I put that Windows XP CD?

Radiation tri-blade symbol 21jan2003 - Google posted its Zeitgeist page for the year 2002. Find out which searches represent last year's most popular queries.

Radiation tri-blade symbol 20jan2003 - JVC has announced a High Definition camcorder that uses MiniDV tape. Today, "definition" is the only advantage film holds over digital technology. Digital Video is way cheaper and much easier to work with (edit, apply effects). It will take a while [several years or more] to hit the main-stream, but Hi-Def is coming. It's inevitable when prices drop [still too expensive].

Until then, regular digital video (PDF) is still the way to go. I did considerable research and found that Canon made the best digital camcorders, cuz their particular version of technology produced a 'softer', more film-like picture. Canon has always been a camera company, which is naturally concerned with image quality.

Sonys are still the most popular brand, but their pictures tend to look harsher. Admittedly, this judgment falls under the heading of personal preference, tho I'm not the only one who feels this way.

If you're in the market for a digital camcorder, I recommend getting one that uses MiniDV tape. This alone will make your life easier and give you respectable image quality. After that, let your wallet be your guide. The next question is usually: do you want a single-chip or 3-chip camcorder?. Personally, I like the GL2, if you don't mind a camcorder with a some size to it.

Expect to hear more about High Definition recording technology in the future. This will be one of the more decadent ways to indulge your technolust.

Radiation tri-blade symbol 18jan2003 - Saw the movie Chicago today. Actually it's a musical. Walked away a little disappointed. Maybe I expected too much. Heard lots of good publicity about it, which made me wanna see it. I thot Catherine Zeta-Jones gave a great performance, but no one else did much for me, except maybe Queen Latifah [surprisingly enuf].

Richard Gere isn't slimy enuf to play a lawyer. Rene seemed a little bland for the lead part, especially compared to Zeta-Jones. Worth seeing, as it tells its story in a unique, interesting way, but definitely not in the same league as Gangs of New York.

Radiation tri-blade symbol 16jan2003 - The boyz at Intel have released a new chipset [code named Granite Bay]: the E7205: [How do they come up with these odd number designations?] Tho I don't believe there are any motherboards actually available for sale on the market with this new chipset yet.

It sports a dual-channel DDR RAM design. I'm trying not to research it too much, cuz then I'll want to buy one, and build a new Rad Rig based around it. This always seems to happen.

An instructor in one of my Computer Science classes made a big deal about saying that the chipset is the single most important component in a PC, cuz it limits all other features & components a system can use, including the more popular CPU.

My current system is based on the Asus P4T-E motherboard, which sports the [RDRAM-based] Intel 850 chipset [overclocked to 534 MHz system bus], with a 1.6GHz Northwood CPU running at 2138 MHz. I'm still very happy with it. It's the most stable system I've ever built/used.

When designing a new Rad system, I always start with the chipset and proceed from there. This strategy has worked well over the years. Speaking of chipsets and system stability, you might enjoy this article on PC Stability Factors. [I rate the chipset #2 in importance, second only to the Operating System.]

Radiation tri-blade symbol 14jan2003 - The kindly folks at Passmark [David Wren & Fergus Deffely] sent me a license key today. They make a nice suite of Benchmarking software. I receive many such keys to test various software programs, seeing that I host one guide discussing The Best Software Programs & Applications, and another that deals specifically with PC Benchmarks & Benchmarking Software.

Both guides have become surprisingly popular. Try searching Google for either PC Benchmarks -or- Best Software Programs and you'll see what I mean. [Amazing, ain't it?]

Benchmarking is a tough game, cuz it tends to be arbitrary and open to interpretation. Yet I like benchmarks for making rough comparisons. For example, the mighty Rad Rig scored a blazing 272.1 on the complete Passmark test suite. How does your system fare?

You can download a free 30-day demo here [3rd item down, listed under Major Products: Performance Test v4.0, 759KB].

Radiation tri-blade symbol 13jan2003 - I'm baaack. Missed having an Internet connection and being able to contact friends online. After two weeks of down time, my in-box looks scary. It'll take a few days to wade thru the mess of mail. The Cable guy finally came out today and hooked me up. Bless his soul.

Started reading a great book at Two Bunch: Into Thin Air - A Personal Account of the Mt. Everest Disaster, by Jon Krakauer (copyright 1997). Easy to recommend. Makes you want to quit your job, sell all your earthly belongings, purchase a plane ticket to Nepal and take up mountain climbing. Currently about halfway thru. The books begins like this:

Straddling the top of the world, one foot in China, the other in Nepal, I cleared the ice from my oxygen mask, hunched a shoulder against the wind, and stared absently down at the vastness of Tibet.