Friday, September 21, 2007

Intel Finally Including an Integrated Memory Controller

It's taken what, 4 years? Intel has decided that removing the frontside bus roadblock for communication between memory and the CPU might be a good idea.

Even though Intel has been handing AMD its hat since the introduction of their Core 2 Duo processors, they've been dependent on a separate chip on the motherboard to coordinate i/o between the CPU & RAM.

AMD figured this out in 2003 by placing the memory controller on the CPU die. IBM and Sun have done the same. With their 13 or 14 fabrication plants, it seems that Intel has been only incrementally releasing the good stuff when they could be further pummeling AMD. Intel's manufacturing methods are on a process half the size of AMD's, so addtional features and power savings should be readily available to the consumer. How is all that extra die space being used? Yet another core? How about placing some real goodies on there, like embedding VMWare, increasing cache size, and adding some sort of monitoring that can interface with applications for instruction optimization over time? Intel has incredible engineers, let's see some of their innovations!

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Google Angering Mobile Phone Companies & Becoming a Giant US ISP

Whether or not Google actually ends up buying the 700-MHz band, an additional player/competitor toying with multi-billion dollar spectrum is not pleasant for Verizon, AT&T, and Sprint. Such are the effects of capitalism - go Google!

Bob Cringely puts Google's 700MHz plans in perspective in his latest post - here's a taste:
"Imagine a hybrid wireless broadband mesh network using 700-MHz connections for backhaul and some truly mobile links and WiFi for local service."

With the aggregate of personal information supplied by users googling their search terms(especially while signed in to a google account such as Gmail), Google's servers aboundeth with information as to that which is being searched, purchased, emailed(your friend's Gmail emails are indexed as well), and blogged. Google owns the servers running this blog.

Mobile internet access is about to change very quickly.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Royalty Free Music

Looking for some music to include in a multimedia project, or maybe on a telephone system? These tracks are high quality and royalty-free. The author requires Attribution under a Creative Commons license, and accepts donations.

I enjoyed the African and Celtic tracks - here's one example.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Software for Starving Students 2007.09 Released

I've been heavily involved in the Software for Starving Students project for about 2 years. I believe it's the only free collection of software available with OS X & Windows concurrent releases, and we _encourage_ folks to copy our CDs and give them away.

The cost of a college education is always increasing -- usually faster than students can earn money. We hope our efforts will help lower students' software costs.

We enthusiastically support the concept of free/open software and standards, but our primary concern is that students have access to high-quality software, free of charge. If a software title could be useful for students and is free of charge, we'll seek permission to include it even if it is not open source. We've also chosen to license our contributions to the disc (the interface, etc.) such that it must remain free of charge.

The 2007.09 release of Software for Starving Students is now available for download at: -- Software for Starving Students is a free collection of programs organized with students' needs in mind, but beneficial for everyone. Windows and Mac OS X CDs are available, torrents are live!

Saturday, September 08, 2007

2007 Utah Open Source Conference Ends Today

Jason Hall introduces keynote speakers
The 2007 Utah Open Source Conference has been an amazing experience full of geek energy and spirit. Conference attendees, keynote speakers, breakout presenters, and conference organizers have done an amazing job of creating a wonderful, fun, well executed event. Sometimes I wanted to attend multiple breakout sessions being held at the same time, but had to choose just one!

Hopefully some audio and or video of breakout sessions will be posted soon.

I fully expect that UTOSC will double in size in 2008.

Congratulations to Clint Savage on bringing his idea of the Utah Open Source Conference to fruition.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Handy Extensions for Firefox

Here's my currently installed extensions on Firefox, courtesy of Extension List Dumper.

Friday, August 17, 2007

From XP to Linux, the Ubuntu Way

I installed Ubuntu 7.04 on my work laptop that runs XP yesterday. Now I can run XP & Ubuntu on the same laptop, and it was easy!

The Ubuntu Linux installation is easier & faster than installing Windows XP.

Will Smith did a write up on switching to Linux via Ubuntu 7.04 here.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Maximum PC full issues available in PDF format for free

I subscribe to 3 printed computer magazines: Maximum PC, CPU(Computer Power User), and Linux Journal. Maximum PC is unique in that if a product is lacking, the specific faults of the product are irreverently pointed out in their reviews. Most magazines take a fluffy approach with heavy emphasis on the good points of the product - not so with Maximum PC. I find the editors of Maximum PC very knowledgable in their reviews & enjoy their insights.

And Maximum PC has finally taken the step of posting their issues in PDF format - enjoy! Try the March 2007 issue for a great article on what to have on your toolkit/bag, starting on page 20 of the PDF(page 34 in the print version).

There is an RSS feed that contains links to PDF releases and articles from the magazine as they become available.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

3Ghz for $170! Athlon 64 X2 Dual-Core 6000+ (socket AM2) Price Drops

In the beginning of 2007, AMD released the high heat, high frequency, dual core Athlon 64 X2 6000+ running at over 3Ghz. It was priced around $464 dollars at the time, and meant to compete with Intel's E6600 & E6700. On July 9, 2007, AMD decided to drop the price to $178!

I just checked Newegg - now you can get a 6000+ proc for $170!

In order to beat the Athlon 64 6000's performance on certain benchmarks you'd currrently have to upgrade to an Intel Core2Duo E6700 for $317. Intel, that's gonna leave a mark.

It is refreshing to see AMD still competing with Intel on combined price/performance.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Transformers Movie - More CGI Than Meets the Eye(or the Visual Cortex)

I went to see the Transformers Movie for the second time last night. This time I sat in the very back row of the theater. I was able to absorb more of the rendering work during the transforms and battle scenes. I previously mentioned the Linux Journal article detailing some of the infrastructure specifics used to render Shrek 3, but I'd like to know more about the Transformers Movie. The Transformers Movie has set a new precedent in terms of CGI excellence. I've not felt so impressed with the visual quality of computer rendering since movies Final Fantasy: The Sprits Within(it was amazing back in 2001), and the more recent Lord of the Rings trilogy.

The detail in Transformers seemed overwhelming at times. I wanted to be able to view a scene over and over again. My brain had difficulty believing that these scenes were being displayed at 29.97 24 frames per second - the animation seemed hyper-real. The first time I attended the movie my seat was much closer to the screen and I had difficulty processing the detail level of the animations. Get a seat close to the back of the theater when you go to the movie.

I would love to take my young children to Transformers, but can't recommend the movie for kids due to some of the sexual themes.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

16GB USB Flashdrive - $9.37 per GB

Have you ever wanted to put a full-length DVD or two on your USB key and still have room for .ISO files of your favorite bootables?

At $9.37 per gigabyte, go ahead & shell out $149.98 and that 16GB could be on your keychain or lanyard.

Here's a review of the Corsair 16GB Flash Voyager from Maximum PC - looks like the drive needs memory that is better suited to large writes, but it's quite fast in read times.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Great Windows Programs I Use Almost Every Day

I was in a class last week with several windows admins who unaware of some great windows programs, so I thought these programs used for common tasks might be worth linking to here. I use at least one of the programs listed on a near daily basis, especially VLC & PDFCreator. All these programs are free, but not all are open source.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Shrek 3: CPU Render Hours Double Every 3 Years

Linux Journal has a great article detailing some of the rendering specifics of Shrek 3. Some of the highlights include a 2Gbps network, use of NFS & LAMP, RHEL 4, use of Python, 24TB of storage, and a corollary to Moore's Law.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Gmail's Targeted Advertising Sometimes Hits Their Target Market

I just started playing paintball, and this morning I noticed Gmail was paying attention(see screenshot):

I've long been annoyed by advertisements, but when the ads are relevant to my tastes, I don't seem to mind as much. I still watch my TV shows without commercials, though. Suspension of disbelief and the viewing experience can be very negatively affected by advertisements. I've asked the ushers at movie theaters how long the ads/trailers last, and the answer seems consistent - 15 minutes. Fifteen minutes is a very long time when you're attending a show to be entertained, and also means that the cost of a movie ticket is paying in part to attend 15 minutes of advertisements! I'd pay even more to attend a theater that removed pre-feature advertisements, how about you?

Monday, April 30, 2007

Local Newspapers Dying - How Are Local Governments and Local Citizens Affected?

I was listening to AM talk radio today on the topic of the continuing reduction of local newspapers while some national newspapers are seeing new growth.

As local newspapers and local media begin to disappear, who will publicize local citizens and local governments?

Blogs & the web came to mind. There seem to be some opportunities for channeling the voice of local peoples through the web, and I hope that increased communication between local governments and local citizens will result. I fear that a continued lack of accountability(due to lack of publicity) in local government and increased abuses of power will ensue as the shift in media formats and communication continues.

It seems evident that national media outlets are less concerned with local events - that's not their market or coverage. Increased national media focus will likely further isolate the average citizen. It is much easier to affect change on the local level in the areas in which we live. Our federal government seems to be less representative of its people as our voices are squelched by the broadcasts of national and world media giants.

Where can our voices be heard? Will free speech be tolerated by national media when local views are shared? Are local views relevant to national or global media outlets? To whom are media outlets responsible?

Monday, March 26, 2007

Time Travel to the Future by Modifying Blog Timezone Settings

It seems like some folks post & edit their blogs in the future - I've set my timezone to UTC+14:00 as a test of my theory - let's see what happens.

I've also set the time of my previous post today to 11:59 PM - I'm curious to see what happens in aggregate feeds.

Adware in Windows Genuine Advantage Promotes Vista

I launched an XP VM instance this morning in VMware Server after a recent testing install, and proceeded to update the computer. After installing Windows Genuine Advantage, I received the following advertisement on my screen, courtesy of Microsoft:

It appears that Windows Genuine Advantage - the component that is supposed to fight piracy - also doubles as Microsoft-branded adware. Nobody likes adware, especially the sneaky kind. Yech.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Thunderbird vs Outlook 2007 migration in Vista

There is so much pain involved in moving to Windows Vista and/or Office 2007. I have had the opportunity to move a few computers over to Vista from XP, and I've dropped one of my monthly contracts as a result. I'll finish the migration, but I lost way too much time and money because of the following gotchas:
  1. Microsoft Outlook 2003 and earlier versions do not export data & settings properly to Microsoft Outlook 2007(specifically Personal Address Books and to a lesser degree email account settings)
  2. Vista does not maintain backward compatibility with Windows XP applications(Quicken 2005 is one of them)
  3. Dell Computer refuses to sell a new laptop to home users unless the laptop comes with Vista
  4. Hardware drivers that function with XP may or may not work with Vista(I've seen the most problems with USB devices)
  5. Vista crashes Windows Explorer frequently because of DEP(Data Execution Prevention) bugs
  6. Vista is very slow, even with new OEM hardware that has Vista pre-installed.
Here's one way to migrate from Outlook 2003 to Outlook 2007 on Vista:
  1. Connect both computers(old & new) to the same network
  2. Create an empty new shared folder on your old machine that is
    readable & writable by all users.
  3. Verify you can connect to the shared folder from your Vista
    machine.(push Winkey+R, then type
  4. Create a new folder on the share & delete the new folder as a test.
  5. Run Programs | System Tools | Windows Easy Transfer with both machines connected the network & step through the wizard.
  6. Go do something else for several hours while both of your computers are running the transfer.
  7. When the transfer is completed create a new mail settings profile on the Vista machine from control panel - enable the option to be prompted for which mail profile to be used upon Outlook 2007 startup.
  8. Start Outlook 2007 using the new profile. Manually input your email account settings.
  9. Open up the .PST file that was (hopefully) copied over from your Windows Easy Transfer. Manually copy (that's right - one subfolder or group at a time) your items from the old .PST file into your new Outlook profile. Don't try to copy the parent Inbox folder or you'll get an error message _after_ the copy fails. You'll need to _Select All_ the individual emails in the parent Inbox folder and copy them to your new Inbox folder. Afterward any child folders of the parent Inbox folder can be copied.
  10. Once you've copied over your Contacts, Calendar Items, Tasks, Notes, and emails you'll need to make sure your contacts are used as Address Book lookups from the To: field in new messages.
  11. Right Click on a contact folder >> choose Properties >> Outlook Address Book >> Show this folder as an e-mail Address Book. Repeat for any additional Contacts folders to be used for addressing e-mail.

Unnecessary complicated and painful in order to grant the user similar functionality that existed on the previous machine.

Here's how I migrated another user from Thunderbird running on XP to Thunderbird running on Vista:

  1. Download & install MozBackup on both old & new machines.
  2. On the old machine run MozBackup to create a backup of Thunderbird mail account settings.
  3. On the old machine run MozBackup a second time to create a backup of Thunderbird mail messages, address books, extensions, and other settings.
  4. On the new machine run MozBackup and choose restore. Point to the file created in step 2.
  5. On the new machine run MozBackup and choose restore. Point to the file created in step 3.
That's it. I recommend Thunderbird over Outlook 2007 for ease of migration.

I'm sure we'll see service packs from Microsoft released before the end of 2007 due to the premature release of their new office suite & operating system. Stay away until the Service Packs are available!

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

PDF Security Features with PDFCreator

Several applications will let you create PDF files in Windows for free. Many contain nagware. The Open Source PDFCreator has a version that eschews toolbars and fluff, and includes features that allow 128-bit encryption for PDF files you'd like to protect with passwords and other security options. Here's a tutorial/walkthrough on using security within PDFCreator.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

$0.28 Per Gigabyte for 500GB Hard Drives

I purchased two 500GB hard drives from ZipZoomfly recently at a cost of $139.98 each.

Maxtor 7H500F0 500GB Serial ATA HDD 139.98
shipping & handling + 0.00
÷ 500GB
=$0.28 per gigabyte

Normally I'm a NewEgg fanboy, but I read some reviews on NewEgg that cited warranty concerns on OEM drives. Here's an example:

Cons: Regarding the controversy surrounding these drives' warranty/lack of warranty, let me offer some further insight. The retail version of this drive carries a 5 year warranty from Seagate--there is no dispute here. The version Newegg sells is an OEM version, which MAY or MAY NOT carry this warranty, depending on the source of the specific drives in any given purchase. Seagate customer service maintains that Newegg obtains some product from auctions (nothing wrong or illegal about this). However, the source of these auctioned drives can be corporate overstocks, bankrupted companies, etc., which companies may have originally purchased these drives directly from Seagate WITHOUT warranties.

Other Thoughts: If the specific drive you buy from Newegg originally came from one of these "warranty-less" batches, you are out of luck as far as warranty coverage. The only way to check to see whether your specific drive has a warranty is to go to Seagate's website and check the drive's serial number for warranty coverage. I'm sure a lot of the OEM product Newegg sells is, in fact, covered under the manufacturer's warranty. However, it is an undisputed fact that some of the product sold does not have any warranty coverage. Sort of like playing Russian roulette, don't you think? The bottom line: if getting the best possible price is most important to you and you are willing to take a risk, go for it. If guaranteed warranty coverage and security weigh heavily in the equation, I would pass on this particular deal.

ZipZoomfly listed the 5-year warranty right on their product page. I received the drives today, and they were OEM versions. I immediately verified the warranties by serial number on Seagate's website(Maxtor was recently purchased by Seagate), and both drives have warranties that expire in February of 2012. I do not relish the thought of data loss - it's nice to know Seagate has me covered, and ZipZoomfly is being upfront about the warranty. Unfortunately, NewEgg isn't posting their warranty info on their pages in that same upfront way. I won't be buying hard drives from NewEgg until warranty information is posted on their product pages.

I previously suggested 4 rules when buying a hard drive - those rules still apply.