Archive for the 'Microsoft' Category

Owning both a PS3 and an Xbox 360

July 11, 2007

Playstation 3 40GB
Xbox 360 Elite System Console Includes 120GB Hard Drive
Say what you will, but when Sony dropped the price on the PS3, I hauled my butt down to the Best Buy and bought one. Actually, I bought the last one on the shelf. I brought it home and set it up and then I just sat there and looked at it and at the Xbox 360. I now have two pieces of consumer electronics that essentially do the same thing.

If nothing else but to justify this in my own mind, I want to talk about these units together. The style points definitely go to the PS3. It’s black sleekness is evil! The 360 looks like the toy that it is next to it. The PS3 is a computer. You can plug in a USB mouse and keyboard right into it. You can also plug in media cards. I ran the PS3 all last night because I wanted to charge the Sixaxis controller. I didn’t worry about that at all and I made sure I ran Folding at Home. I wouldn’t dare waste precious 360 burn time by keeping it on all night. A 360 is like a light bulb. You’ve only got so many hours before it burns out. My original PS2 is what, 5 years old? I have no doubt that in 5 years the PS3 is going to be going strong. I’ll probably have gone through a half dozen 360s by then.

But I sound like I’m ragging on the 360. The fact is, right now, the PS3 can’t touch the Xbox as a gaming system. There are tons of great games out for the 360 and not so much for the PS3. Everyone knows this. Moreover, the 360 has movies you can download. The PS3 has a couple of trailers and a few demos and games, but nothing like the 360. The 360’s software is superior. The PS3 isn’t bad, but applications launch in a kind of clunky way compared to the 360. The 360, while it’s running, is awesome!

But as I sit here and watch coverage of E3 it’s clear that the games for the PS3 are coming. The PS3 has so much potential, it’s almost painful to see it in its current state. From a hardware perspective, the PS3 is an impressive machine. It’s significantly quieter than the 360. When I watch HD DVD movies on the 360 with it’s separate drive, it’s noisy enough to be distracting. The PS3 is quiet enough to be a real piece of home theater equipment. In fact, the real reason that I bought it was that I wanted a Blu-Ray Player. The PS3, in my opinion, up-converts slightly better than the 360. Watching movies in 1080p is something that once you experience it, you don’t want to look at anything else and now I have the player of the standard that is poised to win the format war.

The 360 streams video from your computer quite easily. I did it once just to try it. I really don’t have much use for it beyond that. I believe you can get the PS3 to do it as well although I’m not sure as easily. For me, the media card support is more important.

So yes, in the end is it overkill to have both a 360 and a PS3? Of course! Is if fun, absolutely. I have the best game system available right now in the 360 and a terrific Blu-Ray player in the PS3. I can tell you though, that as games come out going forward, I’m going to look for them first on the PS3 and only buy the exclusives on the 360. The last thing I want to do is get half-way through a game and have to send the 360 back to Microsoft because it has given up the ghost.

RAID 0 and Repairing Windows XP.

May 29, 2007

I can be impatient with computers.  When they don’t shut down quickly enough, I’ve been known to hold down the on/off switch causing them to shut down prematurely.  Or I just unplug them.  What the heck, right?  If it causes a .dll problem or some other windows problem, just copy the file to the hard drive and you’re back in business right?

Not if you have your boot drive set up in RAID 0.

I get impatient, right?  I like a machine that boots fast because I don’t like to leave my computers on when I’m not around.  People like to try to hack my boxes.  Or put spyware on them or whatever.  So I turn my computers off when I’m not using them.

Well if you get two Raptor hard drives and you set them up in a RAID 0 format, your machine will boot really fast.  Great for me, since I’m, well, you know, impatient.

Unfortunately, if you corrupt these drives like I did last week by forcing an early shutdown, you’re screwed.  I couldn’t get XP to recognize the partition because it was corrupted.  I lost everything.  Which is to say that I didn’t lose much.  I keep most of my important stuff on a non-Raptor drive.  I just use the Raptors for XP.

But it was still a giant pain.

Extra cables to make Hi Def TV work.

April 15, 2007

Time was that normal television was enough.  I’ve watched television my whole life and the tube hasn’t changed much.  Now I’m spending every free dollar to migrate to HDTV.  It’s crazy how complicated it is.  There are so many different ways to get signal to the television.  My plan has been to use an Xbox 360 with Xbox Live and the HD DVD drive in addition to the cable company’s box to get content into the TV.  It turns out that, right now anyway, the Xbox needs a VGA cable to send 1080p signal to the TV and not all TVs do well with this.  It looks like mine will.  We’ll see.  The cable company provides component cables but also will accept HDMI.  For neatness sake, I’m opting to buy the HDMI cable.

Not only did I have to do intense research just to pick out the right TV, but I had to dig deep into reviews on my planned set up just to get the most out of it.  As it is, the cable box won’t do any better than 1080i.  I have been on an irrational quest for 1080p.  We’ll see if I can tell the difference.  Also, we’ll see if these exotic cables are really better than the component cables I already have.  At worst, I’ve spent an extra $50.

Had I gone the PS3 route, much of this heartache would be unnecessary.  I can add the PS3 later if I want.

Of course, the TV won’t be here right away.  I have nothing else to do except be patient.  Books help.  Arguably, if I just stuck with books, I’d be better off and I wouldn’t need to spend money on silly television paraphernalia.

The Blackberry 8703 e: Further Thoughts.

October 18, 2006

I wish I had gone this way a long time ago.  But 2 ½ years ago I was seduced by the alleged multi-functionality of the Treo.  I saw people using Blackberries and raving about them, but I scoffed at a device that was essentially just good for email.  I had been a Palm user, an iPaq user and other Windows based pdas.  The Treo seemed to be the way to go.

The Treo, however, failed to live up to its promise.  I didn’t use the SD card expansion because it made the device less stable.  I didn’t run 3rd party programs because they were usually buggy and crashed.  The Treo email program was a joke and insecure as heck as far as the data was concerned.  To make matters worse, I couldn’t get the palm software to work reliably with Outlook for my calendar.  This led me to use the Treo merely as a cell phone (an occasionally, a flashlight).  In a way, I felt like I’d lost an electronic limb.

The Blackberry, on the other hand, just works.  Yes, the email is awesome, but it also handles the Calendar quite nicely.  The Treo destroyed my interest in using electronic to do lists.  I’ve gone back to paper, but the Blackberry does that too.  I’ve been skittish as far as trying any third party software.  I suspect that around the holidays, I’ll get around to that. 

In short, I’m overjoyed with the Blackberry.  It’s is a very effective business tool that genuinely increases my productivity.  I coupled it with a Motorola Bluetooth earpiece and that’s been fun too.  So far, there’s been no downside to the Blackberry.  I feel like I’ve been given back the use of a virtual appendage.

AMD: Never Again.

October 15, 2006

I just put to rest my second AMD machine in 3 months. I’ll grant you that I had both machines for more than 3 years. However, I have Intel machines that are far, far older (including my original IBM XT) that still work. I believe both motherboards were ASUS. Both machines have the same problem. They won’t boot no matter what I swap out of them. I’ve spent the entire day dealing with these shenanigans. I’m done with AMD.

Thank God Intel has it’s act together on speed again. When the quad core chips come out later this year, I’m going to build a flagship machine around one. I think I’m also going to get a 30” monitor to go with it. I’m not even going to keep it on the KVM. It’s going to be all on it’s own.

Speaking of the KVM, despite the casualties, it’s rocking more than ever. I’ve added a machine that dual boots Linux and Win2k in the mix. It’s also sporting an old All-in-One-Wonder from many years ago. It has a DVD drive and a CD burner and access to 800 GB of hard drive space. It’s also my music server. All this is packed into a 1GHz PIII. This is why people say they don’t need new computers.

So in the KVM I now have all Intel machines: 1 Pentium D, 1 2GHz Pentium 4, and 2 PIIIs. Life is good. One thing the PIIIs won’t do is play Oblivion (not that I have time to play Oblivion). But I still have my Pentium D machine if I ever get any time. In 2007, it’s going to be all about Spore.

Microsoft Rebooted My Computer While I Was Away.

July 13, 2006

Before my trip this week, I wanted to do some work on my computer that required overnight processing.  Before I set everything up, I clicked on install updates because it was flashing.  It did its thing and then told me it needed a restart.  I put it off because it was late at night.  I figured I would restart it the next day.  Normally, it just pesters me until I click ok, but it’s always required my assent to reboot.

The next morning, I came downstairs to find that my project was trashed.  There was a little message on the bottom right of my screen that said that an installation had taken place that required that my computer be rebooted.  In other words, it did it by itself.  I’ve never had that happen before and it really irritated me.

Like most computer users, I want to have 100% control over my computer.  In hindsight, I wished I’d taken the time to reboot the machine, but again, it was late and I wanted to go to bed.  Microsoft seems to be trying exercise more control over the machines that run it’s operating system.  It’s had a lot of scrutiny recently with it’s verification program that frequently calls home.  This is heavy handed.

It’s not going to take much of a heavy hand from Microsoft for me to switch to other operating systems.  I have an iMac and I have a machine running Ubuntu.  I’ll grant you that neither of those operating systems do everything I need them to do right now.  But it’s things like this that gives me the incentive to learn how to make the other operating systems do what I need to do.  I own many copies of Windows, but I’ll migrate away from it if it starts getting in the way of the work I need to do.

Topics for Friday Night Party Line for July 7, 2006

July 4, 2006

Here are the topics for this week’s FNPL.  We didn’t get to two of the topics last week, so we’ll try to work them in on Friday.  It looks like we might have a big crowd this week, I hope you’ll join us!

–What is the hardest physical labor job you’ve ever done?  Did you enjoy it?  How did you get the job?  Why did you leave?

–What is the nature of motivation?  Is it genetic?  Does the environment cause it?  Why do we like to do the things we like to do? Why do we like to do some things and then move away from them and on to other things?

–Schadefreude means taking delight in the misery of others.  Have you had this experience lately?  Tell us about it.

–Planes, trains and automobiles (and also bicycles, snow mobiles, etc.)  Given all the time in the world, what’s you’re favorite mode of transportation and why?

–Speaking of transportation, China launched it’s Sky train this week connecting Bejing to Tibet.  At some points, it is 16,000 feet above sea-level and rests on permafrost.  What great engineering projects would you like to see the U.S. government undertake?

–Did you see fireworks on the 4th of July?  Did you light your own fireworks?  Do you like fireworks?  What’s you’re favorite?

–According to O’Reilly radar People like Mark Pilgrim and Cory Doctorow are switching from OSX to Ubuntu.  Is Ubuntu the operating system to rule them all?  Will security threats to Windows drive everyone to Ubuntu?  (Co-incidentally, I’m setting up an Ubuntu box this week).

–YouTube = star maker?  I heard on Cranky Geeks that NBC gave a consulting deal to a girl they found on YouTube that recorded herself doing the Numa Numa dance.  Is this the new reality tv?  If you want to be a star, should you just put yourself on YouTube?  Should we all shoot ourselves now?

–Home improvements revisited:  If you could do one thing to your house or property (or apartment) and you had a $150,000 budget, what would you do?  Why?  Would you do it yourself or hire people to do it?

–Poolside reading (or just summer reading in general).  What’s on your list?  How are you making time to keep up on your reading?  What have you read so far?

Ubuntu Part Two.

July 3, 2006

A few months ago, I downloaded Ubuntu and I had trouble with the download right off the bat.  I ended up going with a Debian distro.  I played around with that for a while, but it really didn’t give me what I was looking for at the time.

Last week, I picked up a book on Ubuntu that came with a distro disk.  I’m going to install it on a computer and since I have entirely different reasons this time for using Linux, I suspect I will stick with it for a while.

You see, I’m having security problems with my Windows machines.  I’ve had two worm attacks in the last two months.  I took care of both worms, but the last one has damaged the infected operating system so badly, that I’m going to have to nuke the drive and do a fresh install.  I should have no data loss though, just time. 

This brings me back to Linux.  If I can get proficient enough with it, I’ll try to set up a box as a firewall coming into my network.  In the meantime, though, I just want to have a box I can use in case I have some sort of Windows Armageddon where all of my Windows boxes go down at once.  That would be crazy bad.  At least if I have one Linux box and my iMac upstairs, life will go on.  For example, I could still do Friday Night Party Line by hosting Skype on OSX and recording it the Linux box in Audacity.  Email, word processing and everything else is a piece of cake!

Of course it probably won’t play Oblivion.  Curse my moment of weakness in picking up this beautiful game. 

Pentium D 805 Overclocked to 4.05 GHz Benchmark.

May 28, 2006


Pentium D 805 Overclocked Benchmark

Originally uploaded by Thaed 3.

It's finished. You can see by the pic, that I now have a computer that performs like the expensive computers with a CPU that's 30% of the cost. Was it easy? Not really. Even last night, I had rock solid stability and I was doing bench mark testing. This morning, it was flaky. I tweaked it some more and now it's stable again.  For a hobbiest like me, that's fine. I've got 3 other computer that sit right next to it that I can switch to if there are problems. I'm confident that I can iron out any issues it may have. But this just illustrates how overclocking is not for everyone. If you don't love messing with your computer all the time, forget it. Also, if you only have one computer, for God's sake, don't do it. You could spend long periods without a computer at all. Oh, the humanity!

I do want to pass along some practical things I learned to other overclocking newbies. First, load your operating system with the computer set at it's system defaults, then overclock after you have a stable OS in place. I spent hours trying to get a version of windows on the machine with it being overclocked. I had an old copy of XP Professional that I was trying to load that I could not get to function no matter what I did. Later, I managed to get Win2k on it. Later today, I am planning on getting a copy of XP Home. I prefer Win2k in a lot of ways, but Age of Empires III won't run on Win2k. There are a lot of multimedia programs that seem to require XP too. People wonder how Microsoft will get people to switch to Vista? It's easy, they'll make software you need that won't run on XP or Win2k.

The other thing I learned is that when I visited the Extreme Overclocking forum to check some things, I found out that there are a lot of people much more into this than I am who have done some pretty crazy stuff with overclocking. I also learned that while the Pentium 805 D is fine for overclocking, it is hardly the darling of enthusiasts.

Finally, I want to pass along the fact that high speed computing is addicting. With the Raptor hard drives set at RAID 0 and with the high speed memory and overclocked processor, this computer is fast. Even doing stupid stuff like browsing, it's fast. Right down the line, everything you do is faster than on other machines. Impatient people like me, love that. But I know what's going to happen. I'm going to want all my computers to run that way. I'm going to want blistering speed for all four of my main machines. So don't go down this route unless you can resist speed addiction. It's too late for me now.

Digitizing Your Life.

May 20, 2006

On the plane back from Las Vegas last week, I was reading the June 2006 Popular Science and I came across Michael Myser's article entitled "You'll Enjoy Total Recall."  Myser discussed Gordon Bell and how he's been recording his whole life digitally for his MyLifeBits project.  The article left me open-mouthed and gave me one of those "hey, I've thought of doing that before" moments.  So I dug deeper.  Much of this concept comes from a guy named Vannevar Bush who wrote in 1945 about his Memex concept of supplementing one's memory.  Bell has worn a prototype camera called a SenseCam that takes thousands of pictures a day of whatever he's involved in.  Presumably, there is a microphone as well.  He's also manually digitized books and photos and other things concerning his life. 

I recommend reading some of the files associated with these links and watching the video"MyLifeBits a personal database for everything" is particularly interesting.  Not only is this a system for capturing all the events of one's life, it's also an organizational system.  It takes the data coming in from cameras, microphones, keyloggers, screen captures and what have you and automatically meta tags it so you don't have to.  The goal is to avoid having an individual become his or her own file clerk, curator or biographer.  The key is being able to review the information you capture quickly and easily.  If you can't do that, what's the point?

While this technology is thrilling, it is also plain scary.  How many things do you do every day that you don't want to be recorded?  I can safely say, in my case, every single trip to the bathroom.  Plus, if you do work that is confidential, this is practically impossible to use.  Loved ones aren't going to be too crazy about it either; especially the ones you go to bed with at night.  Law enforcement would love for everyone to wear a SenseCam.  While it would be the end of privacy, it would also solve a lot of crime. 

Something like this is coming, however.  It's inevitable.  Microsoft is funding MyLifeBits and the SenseCam.  I have strong yet mixed feelings about it.  It would be very useful to someone who is as forgetful as I am, but it would also be invasive.  I'm willing to bet that just as we see soccer moms with Borg like blue-tooth headsets flashing in their ears, so we will see them soon, smiling at Starbucks with SenseCams around their necks.  Smile for the camera, honey!

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