Why aren’t I producing more?!

November 8, 2008

This blog means a lot to me, believe it or not.  I can express my thoughts here and actually find an audience.  In real life, my audience pays me to talk about stuff that isn’t really that fun, but that is important to those who employ me.  I’m not complaining about it, it’s part of my living.  However, my job is all consuming and it takes me away from creative fun stuff.  So my videos suffer and Friday Night Party Line goes on hiatus.

The end is in sight, however, for this year at least.  By the end of next week, my travels will be over for this year.  This means I can spend more time doing fun internet stuff.  I have an idea for a video involving moding a broken laptop using power tools!  I also have 3 computers I want to build  And of course FNPL will be back.

So it’s just a matter of time really and then I’ll be having fun again.

Thaed’s Video Review of the Amazon Kindle.

October 26, 2008

I’ve reviewed the Kindle before, but I’ve always thought it would make a nice video.  So months after I wrote the original post, here’s the video:

Kindle: Amazon's Wireless Reading Device

Friday Night Party Line #36.

October 25, 2008

We have a full house with David, Viga, Scott, Rym, Timo and Thaed.  Here are the topics:

–Is it best to live as close to reality as possible?  Should you lie to yourself or believe things because you like to believe them just to get yourself through the rough spots?  If you don’t like your personal history, should you rewrite it in your mind?
–Is monastic life desirable?  Does it allow for greater focus on intellectual pursuits?
–How much of randomness in life can be controlled, influenced or avoided?
–Is fantastic wealth a form of death?  If you eliminate the pursuit of wealth from a person’s life, does it kill motivation and purpose in that person?
–Is it ever possible to step outside one’s self to see ourselves as others see us?  If you could, would you?
–If you were a pig farmer, how would you run your business?
–Ask the economist and physicist.

Sites where you can find more information about Scott, Rym, and Viga Thaed:


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Direct download: FNPL_36_final.mp3

Always impressed by Neal Stephenson.

October 19, 2008

I’m just back from a trip and many notable things occurred.  In no particular order:  I bought and read Anathem on my Kindle; I gave a 3 ½ hour presentation and I met someone in person whom I admire hugely.  Thus the last 4 days have been eventful.  This is meant to be an introduction to some thoughts rather than a dear diary.

Every time I read Neal Stephenson, I am brought to face my own intellectual shortcomings.  He is a true mental giant.  His books show that he thinks more productively in a day than I do in a year.  It is a tough reality to face.  Reading a 900 page book like Anathem requires commitment from even strong readers.  Writing it is unimaginable to me.

His work entertains me but more importantly, it inspires me to work harder to know more.  His online acknowledgment list provides a great place for me to start.

He’s going to be in Toronto on October 30th.  If I weren’t so busy right now, I would go.  I wonder what it would take to bring him to Cleveland?

New KVM Goodness.

September 30, 2008

I ditched my old KVM and looked around for a 4 computer model that would work with my 30″ monitor.  I’m trying maximize the surface area on my desk.  Happily, I found one:

Here it is in action:

Right now, I only have one computer plugged into it.  The plan is to slowly build 2 more and perhaps buy a Mac Pro for the 4th.

I’ll do a follow up review on this in the future.
(Oooh, cheaper here)
IOGear GCS1204 4-Port Dual Link DVI KVMP with 2.1 Audio

Friday Night Party Line #35.

September 27, 2008

Hmmm, it seems that I have not blogged in 2 weeks.  Ah well.

Timo the Physicist is our special guest!  David, Scott, Rym and Thaed round out the cast.  This show is devoted entirely to science and economics tonight.

Here are the topics:

Ask the Economist:  new ideas on alternative currencies

Update on the Large Hadron Collider from someone who knows.

Should the government fund pure science?

Is the Black Swan concept important to theoretical modeling?

Sites where you can find more information about Scott, Rym and Thaed:


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Email Thaed at thaed@cox.net
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Direct download: FNPL_35_final.mp3

Friday Night Party Line 34.

September 13, 2008

David, Scott, Rym & Thaed appeared tonight along with special guest Len from Jawbone Radio.  Here are the topics:

—Do people interact with their neighbors anymore?  Is is seasonal? Does the internet allow like minded people to seek each other out to a greater level of articulation than ever before?  Does that destroy the idea of local community?  Was there ever such a thing as local community?
—Cool robot videos!
How far away are we from having robots that do our household chores? What are the major hurdles remaining?  If you could have a multipurpose humanoid robot, what would you make it do?
—Creating artificial life
Is this something that is helpful to humans?  How far away are we from doing it?  Is there any real danger?
—Does Twitter just distract and annoy?
—Do kids need to take happiness lessons?
—Ask the Economist.  (please think of something to ask David about, if nothing else we’ll talk about Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae).

Sites where you can find more information about Scott, Rym and Len:


Subscribe via iTunes.

Email Thaed at thaed@cox.net
Follow Thaed on Twitter.
Direct download: FNPL_34_final.mp3

Building a PC: Tall or Wide?

September 6, 2008

As I see it, anyone who wants to build a computer today needs to make a choice:  should it be built to be as fast as possible without regard to the number of cores or should it have as many cores as possible without clockspeed being a priority?  In other words, should it be tall or wide?

If you want to go tall, it seems to me that you should buy the most expensive dual core chip you can find and then overclock it as far as it will go.  If you could get a dual core up to 4.6 GHz you would have a fast machine indeed.  Couple this with fast memory and a Raptor RAID 0 set up or even a flash drive and you have raw speed.  Of course with only 2 cores, it’s not wide.  But do you need it to be wide?

On the other hand, if you buy a Skulltrail motherboard and put 2 quadcore chips on it, then you’ve got something that’s wide.  You have 8 cores!  Even with overclocking, you probably won’t be able to get to the same speed as the overclocked dual cores.  However, if the software you’re using can handle multicore processing, this computer with smoke the dual core system using that application.

But there aren’t that many programs that can use quadcore chips effectively.  Today, it would seem that you’re better off with a fast dual core than spending crazy money on a quad or dual quad system.  This won’t always be the case, but for probably the next 6 months.  It’s true.

Expensive PC chrome.

September 1, 2008

I like reading both CPU and Maximum PC because I’m very much into computer hardware.  Some people like messing with cars; I like messing with computers.  Some people will pay more for chrome, I’ll pay more for GHz!

In its September 2008 issue, CPU featured some tricked out computers that sell for around $15,000.  That’s the price of a car.  If I were rich, would I buy such a thing?  Because I like building PCs, I probably would never buy a PC like this because I’d rather have the fun putting it together.

Let’s look at one of these.  The Biohazard Rapture impresses me because it uses “multiple evaporator phase-change cooling systems.”  This system allows Biohazard to overclock two QX9775 systems to 4.6GHz on a Skulltrail motherboard.  Whoa.  I mean, daaaaaaamn.  The cooling system brings the processors down to – 20 degrees F.  It’s very difficult for a hobbyist to do something like that.  So here, you’re getting something for your $15k that you can’t really do yourself.

Of course by studying these supercomputers, a hobbyist can see how the big boys do their tricks.  I picked up how to set up Raptor drives in RAID zero from reading about these machines.  I  also got into water cooling this way.  If I bought a Skulltrail mobo and some high end cooling equipment, I could probably create something faster than anything a person could buy at Microcenter.  But there’s no question I could not equal what Biohazard has done.

Could it be done more cheaply?  Relatively speaking, yes.  In this neighborhood of performance the mobo and the chips alone come close to $4,000.  Thus, even if you do it yourself, you’re talking about spending 5 grand.  Now that’s a third of the price of a Rapture, but the performance would be closer than that.  I’m confident that I could get it up to 4 GHz.  I’ve done that with lesser chips.  So while I’ll stipulate that I can’t match the Rapture for $5,000, I can get to 87% for 1/3rd the price.  Moreover, considering the level of diminishing returns right now on using an 8 core box, what difference would it really make day to day?

Sadly, that cuts both ways to me as a computer enthusiast.  You could say to me, “but Thaed, I can buy a Dell for $1000.00 that gives me comparable performance for 1/5 of your $5000.00 price that will be great for Office, Firefox and maybe a little Photoshop.”  And what do I have to say to that?  Well, yeah, but look at the chrome!

Building a 32 TB Server: a thought experiment.

August 31, 2008

Daniel Gimpelevich and Holden Aust built a 16 TB server for Christian Einfeld and his Digital Tipping Point Project.  See Linux Journal, Issue 173, September 2008.  I am impressed that these gentlemen built a server with four times the capacity of anything that I have ever attempted.  It’s funny because in Einfeld’s article he mentions it almost in passing.  My jaw was on the floor.  Also I think it’s cool that he’s a lawyer who is also very much into technology.  Moreover, his philanthropic efforts in San Francisco are admirable.

The server they built motivates me to try to build a 32 TB server.  There are three problems that I have not worked out.  One: fitting 16 drives in one box.  I would wait to build the server when 2 TB drives are obtainable.  I am assuming that I can find a case somewhere that will hold 16 drives.  If I can’t, I would have to have some sort of an external enclosure and run SATA cables to it.  Two: I don’t know if FreeNAS can handle 32 TB of storage.  If not, I’d have to use some other platform, but I suspect it could do it or could be made to do it.  Three: I don’t know if you can put three or four SATA cards on one motherboard.  Obviously these gentlemen figure that part out.  It must be possible, I just don’t know how to do it.  It may be as easy as plugging them in.

If I were to succeed, a RAID 5 FreeNAS server would provide 20.8 TB of usable space out of the 32 TB available.  Since you have to do backups anyway, it almost makes sense to have two raid zero 32 TB servers as you would get 27.73 TB of usable space each and faster performance.

At this point, this is just a thought experiment.  In terms of money, when the drives become available, we’re not talking about that much compared to other types of extreme computing.  For example some people will spend in excess of 14 or $15,000 buying an overclocked “ultimate” machine.  A 32 TB server would probably only cost $2-$3000 to build.

I have to admit it is exciting.  I don’t know what I would use it for.  I still have plenty of space on my 4 TB server that only has 2.6 TB of usable space.  Even with an HD TiVo and pulling HD content off of it and putting it on the server, I don’t think I would need anything close to 32 TB of space.  But it would be fun to build.