Friday: 28.October.2005

CD/DVD drives disappear: Device Manager Error code 39

Had a problem with my optical drives, both CD and DVD drives, suddenly disapearing from "My Computer" (in WXP SP2). The device manager shows yellow exclamation points beside each drive, noting error code 39: Windows cannot load the device driver for this hardware. The driver may be corrupted or missing.

Nothing I did would get the drives back. So I googled the problem and discovered many who were experiencing the same problem. They reported a solution by editing the registry, to remove UPPER & LOWER FILTERS. See here.

••• continued •••

Worked like magic, even tho the problem description did not specifically apply to my system. (I didn't remove Easy CD Creator.)

Not sure what caused the problem. I suspect it began after a Windows update session, cuz that's the only thing I recall changing. Not sure, tho.

Appears third-party software (e.g. burning programs) install these filters. So you might have to re-install your burning programs afterwards.

For more info, here is a Google search pre-configured for the query terms: cd dvd error code 39 device manager yellow windows xp

Posted by Rad at Friday: 28October2005

Thursday: 27.October.2005

AGP Graphics card died

My dang gfx card died today. I have (had) the Radeon 9600 (AGP). Got the message:

VPU Recover has reset your graphic accelerator as it was no longer responding to graphic driver commands. VPU Recover was unable to recover from a hardware deadlock and has switched to software rendering. To restore hardware rendering you must restart your computer.

Upon subsequent reboot, I got dreaded blue-screen-of-death. Forget the exact words, but in essence it said my gfx card was likely dead, and referred to a file used by the gfx card (ati...).

••• continued •••

Yanked the case cover to peek at the card. Pretty dusty. Maybe the fan on the chip-cooler quit running.

Fortunately, I keep a PCI gfx card handy .. for times like these. Popped out the old-dead-dusty-AGP, popped in the shiny-new-PCI. Took a little finagling to get the system to to realize we had switched from AGP to PCI video. I also made this change in the mobo BIOS.

Anyway, I'm back up & running. I hate when things die. But at least I knew what component to replace. The worst is when you don't know what is causing the problem.

For more info along these lines, here is a Google search pre=configured for the query: dead graphics card

Posted by Rad at Thursday: 27October2005

Tuesday: 25.October.2005

RMA Seagate Hard Disk Drive

In other news, I had to RMA that hard drive I bought last month (on the 6th). It kept locking up, with no distinguishable pattern.

Every once in a while I would click on the drive to access data stored there and the computer would freeze .. leaving me no option except a hard reset (push the button). That suks.

I dealt directly with Seagate, not Newegg, who I bought the drive from. I like that Newegg includes all necessary info (product #, serial #) in the invoice-email they send .. so I didn't have to yank the drive.

My RMA experience with Seagate was surprisingly good .. considering I hate having to RMA anything. Such of waste of time.

Most manufacturers want you to run various drive-fitness tests. They send files, saying "Run this utility and send us the results." Seagate technical support said, "Yeah, it sounds bad. Here's your activity number."

In their warranty dept, I talked to a girl who was a little hard to understand (Indian?), but very polite and professional. She even agreed to advance-ship me the new drive first.

For this convenience, Seagate normally charges $24 .. which I protested as absurd. (The dang drive only cost $97 and Newegg shipped it for $2.99.) She put me on hold while talking to a supervisor and was able to get the fee waived.

I was also surprised she didn't require a credit card number .. in case I failed to return the defective component.

The drive is only intermittently problematic, so I want to leave it in the system until I get the new one. My boot/system drive comes *after* the defective drive .. so, I would have to edit the boot.ini file in order to boot, if I yanked the defective drive first and had to wait for a replacement.

I select hard drives based on *reliability* .. since all current-generation drives in a given class (e.g. 7200-rpm IDE) will perform similarly. I doubt you would notice a real-world difference between the best- and worst-of-class.

So when this drive started acting up (a couple of weeks ago), I was disappointed. (Sometimes they get knocked around in shipment.) Seagate drives are known to be the most reliable. I believe Seagate is the world's largest manufacturer of disk drives.

Earlier this month, they released their 9th generation 7200-rpm drive: the 7200.9 .. which I am spec'ing into the new beast. (See here for their 2-page PDF.)

Something I found interesting: only their 80 and 160-GB drives (7200.9) use their bleeding edge 160-GB-per-platter technology. All other drives use older (less dense) platters (typically 133-GB-per-platter). See here.

Seems they're more interested in marketing the perfect size-capacity drive than employing the latest bleeding-edge technology .. which seems foolish to me. I don't care if a drive is 480-GB (3X160) vs exactly 400-GB (3X133) or 500-GB (4X125). They need to get over that. Stop letting the bean-counters make technical decisions.

Seems deceptive that the newest drive (7200.9) doesn't always come with the latest technology (160-GB platters). For techies like me, it seems downright immoral. This is why I selected the 160-GB 7200.9 for the beast's "storage" drive, and not one of the other bigger ones (200, 250, 300, 400, 500).

By the way, I couldn't help but notice Seagate's home page (like Radified's) uses the word indulge: More ways to indulge your growing appetite for storage. Not a very common word. My ego is convinced they got the idea here. Nothing wrong with a healthy ego, right? =)

The end.

Posted by Rad at Tuesday: 25October2005

Saturday: 22.October.2005

Designing New Black Beast - 2006 version

Readers have long been requesting an updated version of the Black Beast. It's the site's #1 request. And I've been meaning to do that for some time, bit I kept getting distracted.

After much research (my eyes are burning), I have a new system pretty-much spec'ed out. Just need to do the dirty work of creating a new page where I can link to all the beautiful new components. Coming soon.

The 2006 version of "the Beast" will be based around the Intel 945P chipset, found on the Asus P5LD2 motherboard, with a dual-core Pentium D.

••• continued •••

Always fun to design a new system. Generates lots of creative juices. But inputing the data is tedious. So this tends to be one of my most and least favorite things to do.

System stability is always a primary concern. Future-proofing comes in a close second .. to protect our precious investment. And, of course, is must *look* cool (aesthetics).

While researching the new BTX form factor, I read it could take some 7 years or so to reach a majority of PC users. So ATX is still the way to go .. for many years. Nobody wants to buy something today that will be obsolete tomorrow.

Regarding longevity, the last Beast (circa 2003) did quite well. If you look around the 'Net, you'll find many who are still using a similar system (based on the 865/875 chipset).

The end.

Posted by Rad at Saturday: 22October2005

Tuesday: 18.October.2005

Updated the Guide to Norton Ghost

Updated the Ghost guide .. minor update .. included links to additional alternatives to Norton Ghost, one of them being free for home users (DriveImage XML).

Everybody likes freeware, but I feel the ability to restore your system (should anything tragic befall your hard drive) comes with such grave consequences that co$t should not become much of a factor in deciding which imaging application to use.

Nevertheless, everyone agrees that *any* imaging solution - no matter how rudimentary - is still far better than no imaging solution.

••• continued •••

Obviously, I feel Ghost is the best choice for an imaging program (for some of the reasons detailed here) .. as it has saved my bacon dozens of time .. and never once failed me .. but I am not dogmatic about using Ghost.

[Now, if those boyz at Symantec would send me a fat check every month, I might be persuaded to wax dogmatic. =) ]

I do however, feel it foolhardy to operate your system without the protection of *any* back-up imaging solution .. which is why I include links to every alternative I'm aware of.

If there's *one* thing you should get from this site, it should be the awareness that using an imaging solution today can save many tears tomorrow. I hate to see grown men cry.

Notice how prominently the Rad Ghost guide ranks in a Google search for the query-terms: Norton Ghost. It is over 5 years old, and still the site's most popular feature.

Gents who frequent the forums have much experience with every version of Ghost out there, and can help with any problem you might have.

In other news, Frontline is broadcasting a special tonight on: The Torture Question. Should be interesting.

Frontline is one of my favorite shows. They're not afraid to shine their investigative light on subjects others prefer to avoid. They ask tough questions and dig deep for answers. I also like the understated manner in which they present their findings.

Monday: 17.October.2005

Films & Movies Screened Outdoors at Heisler Park in Laguna Beach

Saw the classic surf flick Five Summer Stories (1972) this weekend. The venue is what made viewing this flick so special. It was screened *outdoors* .. at Heisler Park (here in Laguna) .. while waves could be heard crashing on the beach below.

This picture shows the place where the screen was positioned .. on the walkway, between the grass and railing in the distance. It measured ~10-feet square (3-meters tall): plenty big for all to see.

The watery horizon in the far distance seemed to magically divide the lower half of the screen from the upper. Behind the lower half: the ocean. Behind the upper half: sky .. which continued to darken until the show began (7PM).

••• continued •••

They used a Sanyo digital projector. Image quality was spectacular. Colors > super-vibrant. A speaker sat on each side of the screen, delivering surprisingly robust sound from atop their chest-high pillars, where each was mounted.

The only bummer is that this was the last such screening this year. I heard (from Keiko) that previous screenings this summer included two other classics: The Sound of Music (1965) and The Wizard of Oz (1939).

Five Summer Stories is produced by MacGillivray-Freeman films .. based locally here in Laguna. You can usually run into Greg MacGillivray at the Orange Inn, getting a cup of coffee. His company has produced many of the popular IMAX films you've seen.

It's impossible to describe how cool it was seeing a film here. Downright magical. It reminded me of seeing a concert at Humphrey's (another outdoor venue). Except the backdrop at Heisler is even more dramatic.

Did I mention it was FREE? Local businesses donated the funds to rent the projection equipment. I think the City also cut a "visual arts" grant. Somebody told me Nikolai was there, but I didn't see him. (It was dark.)

Viewers brought their own chairs to set on the lawn. Some also brought along a bottle of vino to share. Lots of kids were there, enjoying the grassy, coastal entertainment. Nothing like watching a classic surf flick with the smell of salt in the ocean air and the sounds of waves crashing on the beach nearby.

Can't wait for next year. My vote for a film: Raiders of the Lost Ark. I also think it would be cool to screen a scary one around Halloween.

For more info, here is a Google search pre-configured for the query: movies films heisler park laguna beach

Posted by Rad at Monday: 17October2005

Wednesday: 12.October.2005

E=mc² Einstein's Big Idea

E=mc² .. this famous equation was the subject of last night's PBS special, titled Einstein's Big Idea. I enjoy pondering concepts that torque the brain. You've probably heard the classic question: if you drive your car at the speed-of-light and turn on the headlights, will they work?

Albert's surprisingly simple equation states that Energy (E) and mass (m, sometimes called "matter") are actually different manifestations of the same thing.

The letter c represents the speed-of-light (some 670 million miles-per-hour). Because it's found on the m side of the equation, it indicates that a little bit of matter can be converted into a *lot* of energy. Your 99-cent ballpoint pen contains the atomic NRG of a nuclear explosion.

••• continued •••

This is the principle behind how a reactor works, which produces energy (in the form of heat). When splitting the atom, we find that the resulting fission-fragments actually WEIGH LESS than the original atom (typically Uranium, altho bombs prefer Plutonium).

So what happened to the missing matter? You guessed it: >> converted into NRG .. similar to what happens when you go backpacking for two weeks in the Sierras (your mass gets converted into NRG).

And if you multiply the amount-of-mass-lost times the square of speed-of-light (), you can accurately calculate the amount of NRG (heat) generated per fission (some 200 million electron-volts, if memory serves me correctly).

In the military (where I had some wonderfully brain-torque'ing courses, such as Reactor Engineering, and Nuclear Physics), we had an instructor named Dr. Wolf, who taught Math at the Navy's Nuclear Power school there in Orlando, Florida (now moved to Charleston).

The Doc was from Brooklyn, with a PhD in Mathematics. With a bushy salt-n-pepper beard, he oozed cool, cuz he was so not-military and entertaining .. in an East-Coast kinda way.

At the end of each class, he'd check his watch and say, "Okay, close you books. You don't need to know this." Then he'd spend the last few minutes sharing with us wild, cutting-edge stuff that made heads spin.

Those were the best parts of the class (*any* class). Guys would even skip break to hear what the Doc had to say. I remember feeling dizzy, like on a rollercoaster, while listening to some of the concepts he presented.

I remember how he explained that Western physics, when observed on a subatomic level, had much in common with Eastern Mysticism. There are many books available on the subject, the most popular of which is probably Fritjof Capra's THE TAO OF PHYSICS. Another is The Dancing Wu Li Masters (thx Scott).

Anyway, I wouldn't mind watching that PBS special again. You can hear Einstein himself explain his famous formula here. Hear top physicists explain E=mc² here.

Len sent this very cool link to Einstein's Archives, which contains digitized copies of many of his manuscripts and papers, both scientific anfd non-scientific.

For more info on the subject, here is a Google search pre-configured for the query: E=mc² einstein

Posted by Rad at Wednesday: 12October2005

Friday: 07.October.2005

Radified guide to Writing Radified guides

Began work on a guide to .. writing Radified guides. The guides here represent the site's most popular features. I'd like to think most of the site's 10,000 visitors come each day to see what interesting things I have to say .. but alas, statistics reveal the majority of visitors come for the guides.

The Ghost guide has historically been the site's biggest draw. Followed by the ASPI guide, the FDISK guide, the Guide to Ripping & Encoding CD Audio and the Partitioning Strategies. Oh yeah, and the Guide to Installing Windows XP.

••• continued •••

A good guide on a particular topic will drive much traffic to the site from all over the world. While search engine results definitely play a role, it's really word-of-mouth (via online forums) that really sends the hit-meter spinning. Cuz people tend to trust other users more than search engine results.

And now that the site has begun hosting (and paying for) guides written by former readers, I've begun to document the things I've learned over the years. Most of this info currently resides in the form of emails written to others. Indeed, this is how *every* Radified guide began.

But it gets tedious, writing the same things over & over. So, I simply copy-n-paste the info contained in emails into web pages, post them online, and *presto* .. instant Radified guide.

Search engines soon find them .. visitors start dropping links in forums all over the 'Net .. next thing you know >> traffic ^^^.

The site currently hosts the following guides (in order of publication):

• Magoo's BitTorrent guide
• NightOwl's Guide to Creating Bootable CD/DVDs
• Magoo's Guide to Eliminating Spyware
• Wizard Prang's Guide to Buying & Selling on eBay

It's impossible how to predict how a particular guide will do. For example, I thought NightOwl's guide seemed the niche-i-est, so I figured it would generate the least appeal, and therefore see the least traffic. I almost discouraged him from writing it. But, turns out, I was wrong. It is currently most popular of the four, generating nearly 1,000 page-views daily. Go figure.

I try to be a good host and periodically pimp the guides hosted here, and share with their authors the things I've learned, regarding how to improve them, and help them generate more traffic (which helps them earn more ca$h).

I've found that it generally takes ~18 months for a guide to reach maturity, during which time traffic will continue to grow, long as the guide stays current and doesn't look neglected (dead links) .. as search engine rankings rise, and readers drop links in forums around the 'Net.

Posted by Rad at Friday: 07October2005

Saturday: 01.October.2005

A History of Violence: A Rad Film / Movie review

Saw A History of Violence last night, up the road at the Big Newport, on the giant screen there. Opening night. Theater not very full. Stars Viggo. Little Nik said, "Vee-go. Now *that's* a cool name!"

Despite strong reviews, I was disappointed. Maybe because of them. I mean, Rotten Tomatoes selected it as its Certified Fresh pick-of-the-week. Maybe my expectations were too high. This is the first Certified Fresh flick I found disappointing.

Violence starts painfully slow (almost boring). Story-telling, especially in the first half, is labored and unnatural. The dialogue comes off as mechanical.

A review I read said: A History of Violence is character-driven, not story-driven. What that means is, it has great characters (Ed Harris plays a very colorful mobster from Philly) but the story-telling suks.

You might know somebody who's a good storyteller, somebody who can make even a mediocre story sound enchanting. Whereas a bad storyteller can ruin even the best story. I feel that's what happened here. At least in the first half. (Second half is better.)

I felt drawn to this flick cuz of the recent accusations of violence filed against me. Indeed, Maria Bello, who plays Viggo's attorney-wife, gets a Restraining Order against bad-guy Ed Harris and his henchmen. To which Viggo responds (rolling his eyes), "A lot of good *that'll* do."

••• continued •••

Speaking of Maria Bello, I was unprepared for the s-e-x scenes, finding them uncomfortably graphic. Interesting how the filmmakers tied violence to s-e-x. Some claim both impulses share a common origin (which might be why women sometimes find themselves attracted to "bad boys").

The buzz on this flick is: it raises compelling and thoughtful questions about the nature of violence. I did not feel this movie tried to offer any answers, tho. Certainly, I did not walk away with any enlightening insights into the nature of its subject.

The first question raised: Once violent, always violent? Viggo's character (a cross between Mr. Cunningham & Rambo) says, "I went to the desert and spent three years there killing Joey" (his violent alter-ego).

Christians - more than any other group - seem to embrace the notion of dying to the old-bad-self and being re-born as something better. For example, bad-boy Saul was transformed on the road to Damascus into the apostle Paul, who ended up writing 2/3rds of the New Testament. Bad-boy George gave up cocaine & bourbon and eventually became the 43rd POTUS.

Next question: how do we know these self-professed conversions are genuine? Some claim George hasn't really found God, but rather the party of God. And even if these conversations are "genuine," it can still be difficult to avoid falling back into old patterns .. as Viggo's character makes plain .. since the old hard-wired circuitry apparently remains after "conversion".

Another question: Can we really trust someone who says, "I'm not like that anymore..." ?? In the film, Viggo's family initially rejects his claims that he is no longer a mobster. (I found their initial response unrealistic, since he had already proven his loyalty.)

Viggo does a great job at playing a character who is believable as both warm-hearted and cold-blooded, capable of both tender compassion and comfortable with dispensing large quantities of violence in a small amount of time. And therein lies the movie's primary sticking-point, for we are all capable of both kindness & violence .. given the right situations.

Who would not find it within them to wax violent .. if their life, or the lives of their family were threatened?

The movie also makes the point that proficiency in dispensing violence can be a valuable thing. In the case of Viggo's character, it saved his life and the lives of those around him. How about our soldiers in Iraq? Do we-taxpayers not spend much money training them to respond to violence (and perceived potential-violence) with even greater violence?

And what is violence anyway? What one person considers "violent," might not ring true as such with another. This was a point of contention at my recent court case. If someone took your keys, and you took them back, hurting their pinkie in the process .. would that be abusive? (The judge didn't think so.)

In this movie, I hoped to find something I could relate to, and maybe even come away with an answer that might offer consolation, since I felt attacked (legally) by recent accusations .. which separated me from my son .. for more than 40 days & 40 nights.

I walked out of the theater frustrated, thinking I could've made the flick much better, by asking better questions .. in a better way .. using more natural dialogue. I also think William Hurt's character was mis-cast. Here's where I think the filmmakers and I agree:

• we live in a world where violence (unfortunately) exists
• we cannot control how or when violence visits us
• when violence threatens to rear its ugly head, it's best to stay cool and focused (and whack 'em with the coffee pot)
• we may each find ourselves in situations where violence becomes necessary
• a troubled (violent) past can affect our future, no matter how far we run, or how well we hide
• to be truly free from the "bad-guys" of our past, we must muster the courage to confront them on their own ground (best part of the flick)

Movie's key line: "I shoulda killed ya back in Philly."

Walking out, I overheard a couple discussing the film. She liked it. He did not.

Final thoughts: Maria Bello's legs are worth the price of admission.

For more info, here is a Google search pre-configured for the query-string: history violence film movie review

Posted by Rad at Saturday: 01October2005