Saturday, March 29, 2008

Who are you people?

I'm always curious to find out who could possibly be bored enough to read this blog. So let's take a look at some of the top search keywords that are bringing people here:

"Chernobyl: Life in the Dead Zone" (and variations on that): I once wrote this was a good show, but if you are coming to my blog looking for anti-nuclear sentiment based on the show, you came to the wrong place.

"Mac Mini Power Consumption": Yes, it's true, Vista uses less power than MacOS X when run on the same hardware.

"NVidia Tesla Benchmark": We're about 6 months past when NVidia claimed these machines would be available and still no one has definitive benchmarks for these. Looks like Tesla is just a bunch of vaporware after all. I highly doubt they'll ever ship these for all of the reasons I mentioned anyway.

"Netbeans vs. Silverlight": Whoever is googling this combination is not on my list to hire.

Many Microsoft error messages end up in the keywords because i post them to my blog, so welcome Microsoft error debugging bretheren.

"Is Maggiano's Fancy?": No it's not fancy, and it sucks.

"Nvidia Hat": Hm, should I start selling some to make a little cash on the side?

"Old Windows Explorer in Vista": Sorry pal, you are SOL on that one. You're stuck with Vista's.

"Port Ellen Scotch": Whoever you are, if you have some, I'd like to buy it from you.

"pure virtual function call javaw.exe": If you need to translate this error, here you go: Sun's Java runtime for Windows sucks.

"trimbo timer": Tick, tick tick tick... boom!!

"why have i lost my sense of taste": Too many drugs.

Craigslist Response

I'm selling a computer on Craig's List and got this email.

I need it for my kid.
how about [ultra low price] for the computer, keyboard & Mouse?
Look man, I'm not trying to lowball you. Just need this for a kid.

Hey, I've got a kid too. So no, I won't give it to you for an ultra low price.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Today's Commute Shuffle

Not a single song skipped today.
  • Cake "Arco Arena"
  • Def Leppard "Pour Some Sugar On Me"
  • Tricky "Wash My Soul"
  • Luna "Orange Peel"
  • N.W.A. "If it ain't ruff"
  • Stevie Ray Vaughn "Love Struck Baby"
On Tricky for a second. Tricky and Massive Attack were insanely good in the 90s. Granted, the summer and fall of '99 were really great, and this album brings back good memories of that. I listened to Tricky's "Juxtapose" album non stop from release all the way through October of that year, if not later. I'd recommend checking out Juxtapose, Maxinquaye, and definitely the first three Massive Attack albums. Mezzanine has been completely compromised by the TV show "House" and dozens of other movies and shows that have used the music from that CD. But if you've never listened to Blue Lines, Protection and Mezzanine straight through, one after another, you should. They're just awesome.

Firefox 3's ZZ Top homage

Ok, who on the Firefox team was listening to ZZ Top when they made this?

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

The BRMC website

I wanted to look up the lyrics for a song I really like on the new Black Rebel Motorcycle Club album. Interestingly, the first thing in Google is their website.

Anyway, I love the part of the lyrics that include ™ and €. The song really starts to kick ass when it can't connect to the mysql socket.

Appropriately, the song I was looking for is "Not what you wanted".

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Vista SP1 Nightmare Update

I didn't stick around to see this, but SP1 was on pace to take 5 hours to complete the install. Then overnight it apparently decided the install failed (finally) and undid the install. So my machine was already booted into RTM this morning and works fine.

Good work, SP1 team (sort of). I only had to get past a BSOD to then complete an excruciatingly long install to then have it uninstall... but it at least left me with a working (non-updated) machine.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Vista SP1 Nightmare

I've installed Vista SP 1 once before without a problem. SP1 itself was uneventful, and I should have taken that as a sign to stay away.

Because the second time I tried installing it--on different machine running Vista Home Premium x64--it presented me with repeated blue screens of death.

Finally got it to boot by running "Safe Mode with Command Prompt" (the other safe modes did not work). Now it's been stuck in the "Installing service pack, stage 3 of 3", spending about 45 minutes to get from 42% to 53%. Let's hope System Restore can get me out of this mess. If not, I'm going back to Vista 32-bit, RTM edition.


Monday, March 17, 2008

I think my employer is trying to ween us off of junk food

They've stocked these Burger King Ketchup and Fries in the vending machines. This is quite possibly the most unappetizing sounding snack ever.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

AT&T's "More Bars" advertising

I've always wondered how AT&T is able to get away with saying they have the best mobile coverage. My experience has been that their coverage is terrible -- except at work where we have a microcell.

Ever notice the fine print on AT&T's "more bars in more places" campaign?

The fine print says "Based on global coverage".

Well, duh, of course AT&T wins over Verizon and Sprint if you count coverage in France! All cell phone providers are legally required to use use GSM in Europe. Very few overseas wireless companies use CDMA like Sprint and Verizon do here in the US.

Not that I'm defending Verizon, or any other vendor, by the way. Coverage in buildings sucks unless you have a microcell. VoIP over WiFi... it's the future.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Thoughts on shuffle during my commute

I usually just put my Zune into the mode where it plays all several thousand songs in a random order. Here's some commentary on what it played on my commute.

(In order of Zune choice -- uninteresting ones excluded)
  • Beatles "Eight Days a Week" -- yeah, never heard THAT one before.
  • Single Gun Theory "Angels over Tehran" -- I saw one of their songs on MTV's AMP and bought the CD. Forgettable.
  • Beck "Loser" -- I don't think this song has aged very well. Beck is a great musician, but i find listening to older albums of his very boring.
  • Del Amitri "You're Gone." I really loved this Del Amitri album (The Waking Hours), and I lost it about 10 years ago. While listening to this song, I realized I might have loaned it to my old boss. I'll have to ask him.
  • Nine Inch Nails "Track 9 of Ghosts I" -- there's a reason Trent Reznor made this album free. SKIP.
  • Fatboy Slim "You're not from Brighton" -- another artist that hasn't aged well, however this song is pretty good, but it reminds me of a boring time in my life where I sat around listening to Fatboy Slim. SKIP.
  • The Doors "When the Music's Over" -- why'd I bother digitizing any Doors? It reminds me of tennis camp when I was 14, which was fun, but at the end of the day you're still listening to the Doors. There are thousands of better retro bands if you need something from that era.
  • Skinny Puppy "Lust Chance" -- ah, FINALLY something really interesting that I haven't heard for a while. Then I started wondering if this album was made before or after Dwayne Goettel died. I think it was after.
  • "Track 7 of Ghosts I" -- SKIP.
  • Tal Bachman "Darker Side of Blue" -- seriously, what was I thinking when I bought this post-grunge hack's CD? Strangely, I listened to almost the whole song though.
  • Stone Roses "Love Spreads" -- All aspiring musicians should look into the Stone Roses. They weren't particuarly original... their music is derivative of 60s psychedelic rock. But still they made one of the greatest albums of all time (The Stone Roses) and a very good second album. Then their egos caused the band to implode, like all awesome bands should before they go into decline.
  • U2 "In a little while" -- SKIP. There are two good songs on this album and this is not one of them.
  • The Charlatans UK "Then" -- This is a classic example of Madchester. It's good, but doesn't hold my attention as well as Stone Roses. Charlatans are mostly forgettable. Listened to the whole song.
  • Men At Work "Overkill" -- A forgotten song by a great 80s band. Check it out sometime.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Silverlight... is..... good?

A couple of years ago I wrote a post called "WTF/E", wherein I republished a brilliant post from the Microsoft forums about the precursor to Silverlight, then called WPF/E. The author of that post went off on Microsoft because one of their devs mentioned that applications were something that "they'd be looking into". WPF/E was useless at the time, it could do some basic drawing.

Last week, Microsoft released Beta 1 of Silverlight 2. Wow, things have changed. They've really pushed forward on the ability to use this stuff in applications. Not only do they include standard UI widgets (Button, Textbox, etc) in their 4 megabyte install, but they've included:

  • Layout widgets (grid, stackpanel, etc)

  • Linq (I've decided that nothing beats this for coping with XML)

  • DataGrid control

  • Standard HTTP access, no more browser restrictions on making requests to a different domain.

This got me thinking, is WPF still driving this product, or is it turning into the other way around? WPF has not taken off at all. The interest and uptake has been less and slower than that of .NET 1.0 -- and .NET 1.0 was often dismissed as just another attempt at killing Java.

So is WPF going to re-grow out of Silverlight? I kind of wonder if this is how it will go, because look at how the community and Microsoft are rallying around Silverlight much more than WPF. Look at Mono. Those guys have pushed on Moonlight -- something creates no small benefit for Microsoft's Silverlight since they can market it to Linux and the "safety" of an open source product -- but why have they decided to do it? They must have seen the writing on the wall, or someone in Redmond might have said, "psst.. big Silverlight push coming... forget full WPF for now".

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Got DPC?

My new PC was having a problem where I'd find it spending 15% (i.e. 60% of one of the 4 CPUs) on "System" in the task manager. Installing process explorer (a must have for any Windows user) on interrupts and deferred procedure calls (DPCs).

Searching around didn't yield much, but I finally found a Japanese page that hinted at it being sleep mode. After doing a couple of tests with putting my machine in sleep and disabling drivers, it turned out that the Intel 82562 V ethernet adapter was the culprit. The Japanese page suggested setting ProcessorAffinityMask. That didn't work for me. Instead I just turned off all of the wake-on-lan abilities of the card:
  • Go to Control Panels / Administrative Tools / Computer Management
  • Click on device manager
  • Select your network adapter under the "Network adapters" section in the right panel
  • Select Properties
  • Go to the Power Management Tab and uncheck all boxes. Here's a pic of the Power Management tab.

Hope that helps anyone who has this problem. At first I had written the CPU time being sucked up to Vista's amazing indexing service. But when I woke my computer this morning and the CPU was already above 47 C, I got a little suspicious. Turned out it was Intel's wake on lan feature. By the way, this was on an Inspiron 530, for those of you looking for the answer on Google.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Bakin' Bacon

Bacon, as we can all agree, is mankind's greatest culinary achievement.

However, it's generally messy, there's a lot of grease you need to clean out of the pan, it splatters the stovetop, etc.. Along comes my brother to ask, "Have you ever tried baking it in the oven?" I had not. If you ever questioned whether bacon could be any better, this is it.
  • Get a baking sheet with edges
  • Wrap tinfoil around it (up and around the edges)
  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees. I tried 350 today, as recommended on some websites, and it just wasn't working out.
  • Cook to desired crispiness
  • Throw away tinfoil.
Alternative strategy is to use parchment paper. I'm not sure if this will give the same result of cleanup ease. Also, the grease stays on top of the tinfoil and sort of replicates how it cooks in a pan.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Gaming PCs

The Death of PC gaming has been foretold countless times -- including by myself. Most recently, it's being claimed that Flash will be the PC gaming killer.. more on that below.

But since I just bought a new PC that should play games pretty decently (specs to come, once it arrives), I thought I'd go on the side of the PC for this post. Usually people point to consoles as the medium to dispatch PCs. I've been thinking about the math of this today compared to the current generation of consoles.

Xbox 360 PS 3 PC
Typical Cost of Machine $350 $400 <$900
Cost of New Titles $60 $60 $50
Online Gaming Cost $50 $0 $0
Cost of GPU upgrade (for consoles, next one)
$400 $400 $100-$400
Email No No Yes
Continuous VOIP Yes No Yes
Significant Rate of Failure Yes No No
Expansion Packs Possible No No Yes
Keyboard Standard No No Yes
Mouse Standard No No Yes
Internet Browsing No Yes Yes
Forces Ads On You Yes No No
Downloadable NEW Games No No Yes

Developer's Section

Installed Base 17.5m 8.5m 800m-1b
Additional dev hardware required Yes Yes No
Cost of dev hardware on top of PC $Thousands $Thousands $0
Free dev tools available No No Yes
Requires royalty for publication Yes Yes No
Can distribute online, on your own No No Yes
Choice of APIs No No Yes

Based on this chart, it makes much more financial sense for developers to keep working on PC than to all move to console. Yes, consoles tend to move a lot of product, but which of the above gives you higher margins? Developers who are on a shoestring budget can develop on the PC.

And on the consumer side, in some situations it makes financial sense. You might pay an extra $400 dollars to get a PC that can play games relatively well, which is about the cost of the console -- especially if you consider the cost of Xbox Live and the extra $10 tacked onto every game.

Now on the topic of Flash games. The people who predict that Flash is the next "big platform" have a few hurdles to overcome. Like, for example, who would pay $50 for a single Flash game title, like they would for Call of Duty 4 or Half-Life 2? Second thing is that Flash can only do a fraction of what a Win32/DirectX title can do.... so Adobe better be hard at work on a 3D API if they really want to enter that space.

The major trick they'd have to pull off is finding people who would pay for Flash games. I already know the answer to this -- Flash games are great for advertised supported gaming, right? Well, how much of the games space can be supported by advertising? If we sell no games, and all games are supported by advertising, would we have enough people to spend money on advertising to make it fly? ( Right now, half of the advertising on gaming websites is for paid games). Are we expecting all entertainment to be paid for advertising commodities (oil, food, electricity) in the future? Lots of questions that need to be answered to make that fly.

But the bottom line is PC gaming is probably safe. If it was in danger, the entire PC platform would need to be in danger. Given how much prices are dropping on PCs, it's probably not a risk to consumers or developers anytime soon.