Monthly Archives: January 2006

Pimp my hard drive

Tim took me to the UW Mens Hockey game Friday night vs. Denver, which was an excellent time; I should look into hockey tix for next year. Unfortunately I think Tim was the only fan who walked out a winner, mostly because he couldn’t have lost. The Badgers did lose, 0-1.

Before the game, Tim gave me a free PC noise consultation for my Myth box. Besides reproaching my whiny 60mm CPU fan, he recommended suspending the hard drives, which had previously been screwed directly to a metal 3.5″ enclosure. By his direction, I now present my (significantly quieter) MythTV hard drive rig, complete with Singer elastic (available at your local Walgreens, near the shoe polish) shocks:

How many is too many?

How many cables is too many?
I know I haven’t put anything up here in a while… Mostly that’s because I haven’t finished unpacking here in Madison yet. Here’s one of the reasons why I’m not done:

[click to enlarge]

That was taken at 12:30 the night before I came back. I didn’t get to bed ’til about 3:30, slept to 8:00, then got up and finished packing. After taking that picture, I went back up to my room, realized that I had forgotten, among other things, my good keyboard and mouse, my subwoofer, the towers for both my computers (rather important), and all my clothes. I had a bit of work to do. Start packing earlier than I, folks.

How many courses is too many?
I had my first and last CS 537 (Operating Systems) lecture of the semester today. I would love to take that class, because operating systems really interest me, but unfortunately I am not going to have time. With it, I would have 5 classes and a lab for 17 credits. Plus having to basically teach myself CS 577 (Algorithms) for the ACM ICPC. Not going to happen. Without it, I have 4 classes and a lab for 13 credits. A lighter load than what I can handle, but factoring in the programming competition, I think it’s the way I need to go. On the upshot, that leaves me with only two classes per day, plus a lab every other week. So I should have enough free time to make some progress on things like the fountain server.

I have more stuff I’d like to put up here, such as the picture below of an impressive design/marketing feat Ziploc thought up to decorate my ham & scalloped potatoes from Mom. Hopefully I’ll get around to that in the near future, but first I need to finish unpacking so it doesn’t take 3 weeks like it did last semester. . .


Apple unveiled their next generation of laptops today, based, for the first time, on Intel processors. The new “MacBook Pro” looks pretty slick. Upgraded features: 1.67 or 1.83 Ghz Intel “Core Duo” (what a dumb name) processor, dual core, 667 MHz FSB with matching DDR2, SATA hard drive, ATI X1600 Graphics chipset. New features: built-in iSight in the top bezel, Apple Front Row (think Windows Media Center Edition) with a builtin (infrared, i think) remote, iLife ’06. Very impressive package all around. Makes me wish I would have waited before buying this PowerBook.

So I had a dilemma tonight: I could drive down to Madison tomorrow and return this PowerBook, receiving back $1615 of the $1900 it cost me (15% restocking fee). Tomorrow’s the 30th day since I purchased this laptop. I could then wait until February, when the new laptops begin shipping from and buy a new one with Apple’s standard 10% education discount, at $1800. The net cost to me would then be $185 and a trip to Madison to upgrade my laptop in a couple weeks. (Also leaving me without laptop for a few weeks.) So I thought about it and bounced ideas off my roommate, and decided it wasn’t worth it. The rationale: A) This is definitely not the last word on Apple/Intel laptops. There will be more, and they’ll be even better later. B) Seeing as the Intel architecture is a major transistion for Apple, there’s bound to be hiccoughs in the next few months, as third-party developers have to start testing their applications against x86 and ppc. C) The primary purpose for my laptop is to be an “always-works” machine that I don’t ever have to mess with to use. That was a major headache for me with my desktop: I reinstalled OS’s so often that nothing ever just worked. So, though I have every confidence in Apple to release x86 software on par with their PPC versions, I don’t want to have to deal with third-party software issues while they work out their bugs. (Not on my laptop anyway.) Plus, for $185 I can buy some cool electronics stuff like a better soldering iron and multimeter. That and I probably shouldn’t spend the $185 anyway. And finally, there’s nothing wrong with the laptop I have.

So, tip of the hat to Apple for their Intel switch- from what I hear, Intel dominates the mobile chip market while AMD is leading the desktop. Now if they would just work together again, as I just learned from Tim tonight that they did once, long ago…

In my inbox

Here are some humorous or otherwise interesting tidbits from my inbox and aggregator this morning:

From the national headquarters of Tau Beta Pi, the Engineering honor society, in their Welcome email:

For job seeking assistance, post your resume anonymously and browse through hundreds of current engineering job listings at our job board

Uh… anonymously? My brain hurts.

From the Official Google Blog: Women and minorities entering their senior year of undergrad or any year of graduate school in technology are eligible to apply for a scholarship sponsored by Google. The scholarship is called, I kid you not, the Anita Borg Scholarship. How awesome is that?

From the New York Times: 1 in 8 New Yorkers is diabetic. Holy crap. That’s way higher than I had imagined, as well as way higher than the national average (7% according to The American Diabetes Association)


CAPE CANAVERAL – About three dozen people assembled at the spaceport Saturday to protest this month’s planned launch of a plutonium-powered space probe bound for Pluto.

36 people? Are you kidding? The protest is over the use of nuclear power for spacecraft, which carries a 1 in 350 risk of distributing nuclear material in the event of a launch vehicle explosion during takeoff. I get that people are concerned, plutonium being released into the atmosphere is no light matter, but come on. 36? That probably isn’t even enough to form a picket line all the way across the gate they set up camp by. I don’t think NASA is going to be overly moved. Stay tuned Jan. 17 for the launch of the Pluto mission.

Google Pack

Hot off the presses:

Tired of installing all the essentials of a modern virus-free, spyware-free, multimedia-capable internet-connected PC every time you buy/set up one? Things like Ad-Aware, Acrobat Reader, Firefox, etc? Check out the Google pack, a prepackaged suite containing most of the essentials and a bunch of other neat software.

My take: Sounds pretty cool, and even gives you a free 6-month version of Symantec’s virus scanner (though the marketing implications of that are a little underhanded). I’m glad to see that it installs Firefox, though I could do without Trillian and have never heard of GalleryPlayer HD. I know Google Talk will soon connect with the AIM network, if it doesn’t already, thanks to the new Google-AOL partnership, and it’s made by Google so I get why it’s in the mix, but how about Gaim as an alternative to Trillian? Oh, and what’s with RealPlayer? Yes, I know you need it, but then why not QuickTime? You need that just about as often. Or better yet, include a stripped-down, legal-codecs-only version of VLC or something.

Still, looks like it could be pretty handy at getting a new installation off the ground in a hurry, and according to the website, you don’t have to install any parts that you don’t want.

Here’s the complete list of included programs:

Google Software

  • Google Desktop
  • Google Earth
  • Google Pack Screensaver
  • Google Talk
  • Google Toolbar
  • Picasa

Other Software

  • Ad-Aware SE Personal
  • Adobe Reader 7
  • GalleryPlayer HD Images
  • Mozilla Firefox
  • Norton AntiVirus 2005 SE
  • RealPlayer
  • Trillian

In the pipeline

  • I had a job interview today with Heartland Business Systems in Little Chute (just north of Appleton). The interview went very well and the internship opportunity available at Heartland sounds very cool. I’m hoping to hear back within a few weeks on whether they will take me on this summer. It would be awesome if they did; the stuff I would be doing and getting to learn would be awesome.
  • Tim and I are working out the details of a Bluetooth SNES Controller. We found a Bluetooth chip from National Semiconductor, the LMX9820A, which will perform the conversion from UART to Bluetooth.
  • I’ve rebuilt my MythTV computer from scratch over the past few days, and plan on finishing up the software installation and configuration tomorrow. It’s looking better than ever, and will hopefully now include support for ripping DVDs and CDs automatically, and emulating everything under the sun for some retro gaming with the SNES controllers I just bought. (Did you know you can wire those directly into your computer’s parallel port, as well as PSX, Genesis, NES, and a whole bunch of other controllers?)
  • Along with rebuilding that MythTV computer, I’m planning on setting it up as my primary server. Maybe I’ll actually host something at for a change… I’ve had that domain name quite a while without really using it for more than DNS resolution. Look for my blog to move over there in the future- I played with WordPress 2.0 a bit, and it looks really slick.

I got a dollar!, I got a dollar!…

Quick, what’s the number for 911?

No? :shrug: Sorry.

I made $75 and a box of chocolates today. It’s nice to live in a digital world where 95% of people don’t know IDE from USB from PCMCIA (People can’t memorize computer industry acronyms…). Nice because people will pay you if you do know and can explain things to them in English.

I fixed up my old drumming instructor’s laptop today, got his daughter’s Sandisk PlaysForSure MP3 player set up for him, reenabled Autoplay for his CDROM drive (How the hell did that get turned off? Note to geeks: Don’t forget TweakUI in your toolkit.), repaired a failed Juno (eww) upgrade which left his desktop “Juno Internet” shortcut pointing to “C:Documents and SettingsSteveLocal SettingsTempPleaseWait.exe” (and doing just that), checked over his Dell Jukebox synchronization, freed up some wasted clock cycles with HijackThis (The only anti-spyware, anti-msmsgs.exe, anti-qttask.exe, anti-bullshit tool you’ll ever need, except for Rootkit Revealer in the future), and generally tidied up. Then we walked through the process of picking out a new Dell desktop for his home office. It was nice to talk with him again and see how the world is going. He’s an amazing guy.

On a completely unrelated topic, the human brain is mind-boggling. (lol, that’s weird to think about.) I was driving to Wal-Mart to negotiate a CD exchange when U2’s “Where the Streets Have No Name” came up on the radio. I’ve heard the UW MadHatters’ version of this song before on the CD I bought my sister for her birthday, but I’d never heard the real U2 version. If you’ve never heard the song, it has this really long intro before the vocals come in. Well, I didn’t immediately recognize it on the radio because it was different enough from the MadHatters’ version, so I was just driving down the highway trying to figure out what this song was. Then my brain jumped ahead to the vocals and the first couple bars of that were going through my head against the instrumental intro on the radio. Then the vocals started on the radio and I suddenly realized what my brain was doing… even though I was consciously still trying to figure out where I knew the song from, subconsciously my brain knew the answer and was already running through the lyrics. To the point that hearing the lyrics on the radio gave me a brief sense of deja vu. It was weird, but really cool to have this sudden :snap: when my conscious realized what my subconscious was doing and the two shared some information for a change.

I don’t know if that made any sense, but basically the human brain is an amazing analytical machine and I was awed by it today.

Preservation of Genius Vol. 1

Featuring Mark VanDeWeghe’s away message:

"Nintendo support. This is Bob"

"Yes. I'm calling about Pokemon. I was playing Pokemon and when I went to save my game it erased it."

"Yes, we're aware of this problem. But at this time..."

"I'm not sure if you understand. I had caught them all."

Edit: Seems I should do a little more background checking… Kudos to Jeni’s comment for the Penny Arcade comic which is the real source of the above. Still funny though.