Some things are beyond politics

You may have read that Senator Edward Kennedy had a seizure over the weekend and was taken to the hospital in Boston.  And now we find out why:  he has a malignant brain tumor.

I just lost my mother-in-law to an aggressive angiosarcoma seven months ago and it was a fast, nasty, painful, and horrific five-month ride from diagnosis to death.  Cancer is not something that I wish on anybody–regardless of how virulently I oppose their political beliefs or what I think of some of the things they’ve done in and with their life.  This transcends politics and moves into the realm of simple humanity.

This is one hardcore conservative who will be praying for Teddy Kennedy to make a full recovery.


Because terrorists can’t copy and paste

Rest easy, folks.  Your government knows how to handle “sensitive” redacted data.


Yes, they really are that fast

The new computers are both officially up and running.  Some random notes from two days of building, installing, and downloading…

– Technology does not necessarily make things get smaller.  When I built our old systems in 2003, it was easy.  Put the CPU in the socket, swing the lever down gently, clip the cute little heatsink and fan on top of it, slam in the memory, bolt it in the case, rock and roll tiemz.  Graphics cards were small and had tiny little fans on them.  Contrast that with our 2008 systems.  The heatsink/fan combo I bought for these Core 2 Duo CPUs is almost the size of my closed fist–a machined hunk of aluminum and copper that’s got 4700 square inches of finned surface area and a 4″ 1800 rpm fan to blow air across the fins.  The video card is 9″ long, completely covered in a plastic shroud, takes two slots (one for the card, one for the shroud) and is so big that it blocks one of the hard drive slots in the case.  The internals are one hell of a lot more crowded then they used to be.

– I want to find the sadistic bastard at Intel who designed the mounting method for the socket LGA 775 heatsink that goes over the CPU, and I want to gouge his eyes out with a spork in front of his horrified family.  If you’ve never seen one, I can’t do it justice with a mere physical description, but basically it’s four plastic push-clips that fit through holes in the motherboard.  Mounting requires that diagonally-opposite legs be pushed through the holes, then black plastic plungers be pushed down to spread the legs apart and click them into place.  It’s complicated (especially when the directions are in Engrish), and it requires a hell of a lot more force to seat the plungers than anybody is going to feel comfortable with around a $200 CPU and a $90 motherboard.  I can’t even imagine doing it with the motherboard still in a case.

– Microsoft Vista thinks you’re an idiot by default.  You can make it think you’re not an idiot, if you know how to Google “disable UAC”.  If you don’t, Vista keeps asking you “Are you sure?”  “Are you really sure?”  “Are you REALLY REALLY sure?”  “Are you REALLY REALLY DOUBLE EXTRA SPECIAL sure?” whenever you do horrible and controversial things like, say, create a folder anywhere else other than under “Documents.”  It’s a ridiculous bloated pig of an OS, but, eh, I need Microsquish for gaming.  If Windows is inevitable, lie back and make the best of it.

– 60 frames per second in World of Warcraft with all the graphic sliders maxed, on the Isle of Quel’danas, during peak hours, in widescreen 1680×1050 resolution, is sick.  My raid is hitting Serpentshrine Cavern tonight, and I can’t wait to see the trash pulls along the bridges that used to bring my ex-machine to its knees at 7 frames per second.  I may still suck as a tank, but at least I’ll have one less excuse.

Now playing…

One of the greatest songs you’ve probably never heard. Australian ’70s-’80s supergroup Cold Chisel in a 2003 reunion concert, doing their signature 1978 song “Khe Sanh”. I just love this song lyrically. Not to mention the fact that Jimmy Barnes, the lead singer, is 45 years old in this clip and still has one hell of a voice. (Dig around YouTube for some of his 2008 concerts…52 years old and coming off heart surgery and he can still out-scream-sing guys half his age. Dude’s unreal.)

I left my heart to the sappers ’round Khe Sahn
And I sold my soul with my cigarettes, to the black market man
I’ve had the Vietnam cold turkey, from the ocean to the Silver City
And it’s only other vets could understand

About the long forgotten dockside guarantees
How there were no V-day heroes in nineteen seventy-three
And how we sailed into Sydney Harbour, I saw an old friend but I couldn’t kiss her
And she was lined, and I was home to the lucky land

She was like so many more from that time on
Their lives were all so empty, until they’d found their chosen one
And their legs were often open but their minds were always closed
And their hearts were held in fast suburban chains

And the legal pads were yellow, hours long, paypackets lean
And the Telex writers clattered where the gunships once had been
And carparks made me jumpy and I never stopped the dreams
Or the growing need for speed and novacaine

So I worked across the country from end to end
I tried to find a place to settle down, where my mixed-up life could mend
I held a job on an oil rig, flyin’ choppers when I could
But the nightlife nearly drove me round the bend

And I’ve traveled round the world from year to year
And each one found me aimless, one more year the worse for wear
And I’ve been back to South East Asia, you know the answer sure ain’t there
But I’m driftin’ north to check things out again

Well the last plane out of Sydney’s almost gone
And only seven flyin’ hours, till I’ll be landin’ in Hong Kong
And there ain’t nothin’ like the kisses from a jaded Chinese princess
I’m gonna hit some Hong Kong mattress all night long

Well the last plane out of Sydney’s almost gone
You know the last plane out of Sydney’s almost gone
And it’s really got me worried, I’m goin’ nowhere and I’m in a hurry
The last plane out of Sydney’s almost gone

Well the last plane out of Sydney’s almost gone
You know the last plane out of Sydney’s almost gone
And it’s really got me worried, I’m goin’ nowhere and I’m in a hurry
The last plane out of Sydney’s almost gone

New computer tiemz!

I don’t replace computers very often–after all, they’re fairly big-ticket items, and money’s been tight the past few years.  The systems that Wife Unit and I both run are five years old and close to identical:  Athlon XP 2500+ processors on Asus A7N8X motherboards, 1 GB of RAM, and currently, Geforce 6600GT AGP video cards.  Mine has 100GB and 40GB hard drives; hers has a 70GB hard drive.  Both have floppies salvaged from our old Gateway Pentium III boxen, and both sit in attractive Antec Sonata gloss-black cases.

These are basically the computer equivalents of a ’72 Dodge Dart.  They work…barely.  They weren’t even cutting edge five years ago when I built them, and nowadays, they’re so far behind the curve that they’re off in the median somewhere.  Both of them are having significant issues.  Mine doesn’t like to reboot.  My wife’s won’t power off.  Both of them will frequently drop ground textures in World of Warcraft, and screw up running other games.  My main 100GB hard drive is down to 4 GB of free space.  Hers has eaten its BIOS settings a couple of times.

Well, thanks to the magic of having a daughter and getting those tasty child tax credits (om nom nom nom), plus the $1500 stimulus payment we got back last week, our computer problems are, hopefully, about to be over.  I’m building us two new machines this week, out of these bits:

– Motherboard:  Gigabyte GA-P35-DS3L.  A cheap, reliable, simple motherboard for those of us not really interested in running SLI/Crossfire.  This seems to be a frequent hobbyist and overclocker choice.

– Processor:  Intel Core 2 Duo E8400 “Wolfdale”.  The E8400 was the first of the new 45-nanometer process line of Core 2 Duo chips.  I don’t know what that means, except it runs cooler and pulls less power than the previous Core 2 Duos, and is supposed to be one mother of an overclocker.  Even if I don’t overclock, it’s an excellent gaming chip, and at $200, is cheaper and easier to work with than the quad-cores that start with the Q6600.  I ordered them with the stock heat-sink and fan, but then decided to add an Arctic Cooler Freezer Pro 7 CPU cooler on.  Cheap at $26, and very good for the price.  And if I have trouble fitting it in the case, I can always go back to the stock fan.

– Memory:  4 GB (two 2 GB sticks) of G.Skill DDR2 800.  Relatively inexpensive yet solid memory that’s gotten good reviews, is supposed to work well with the picky Gigabyte motherboard, and still lets me push a 20% overclock out of the E8400 if I feel frisky.  Plus, since I’m getting 64-bit Vista Home Premium, I definitely want at least 4 GB and the ability to go to 8 GB later–hence, 2 GB sticks.

– Video Card:  ECS Geforce 8800GTS 512MB PCI-E x16.  I was originally going to get one of Geforce’s newest cards, the 9600GT, but users on Tom’s Hardware Forum convinced me to go with the 8800GTS; same core processor, slightly more oomph, and better cooling.  The ECS is a brand I’ve never heard of before, but good Lord, I couldn’t ignore the price–$219, and a $50 mail-in rebate on top of that?  Yes plz.  The only thing that scares me is that this card looks bloody gigantic, as all the dual-slot 8800GTSes do.  I sure hope it fits.

– Hard drive:  Seagate Barracuda 7200.11 500GB SATA.  500 gigs should hold me for a few months.  I think.

– Optical drive:  Asus DRW-2014L1T SATA DVD burner.  I know damn all about optical drives.  It’s SATA so it should be fast, and it’s fairly cheap.

– Case:  Antec Sonata 550 Plus.  The current rage is what I call “riced-up” computer cases–lots of clear side panels and blue LEDs and stripes and weird shapes and whatever the geek equivalent of “GT-R” stickers are.  The Sonata is the antithesis of that.  Deep gloss black on the sides and top, brushed metal on the front with copper highlights around the bezel and the drive bays.  And it’s built like a tank…cold-rolled steel and heavy as hell.  It’s an S-class Mercedes in a world of Honda Civic DXes with coffee-can fart mufflers.  Plus it comes with a good quality 550-watt power supply already installed.  That’s more than enough oomph to run all this stuff, and I’m adding on one or two extra fans in the front for better cooling.

– Monitor:  Chi Mei CMV221D 22″ widescreen LCD.  I’ll admit, I’d never heard of Chi Mei before.  And color me skeptical about cut-rate monitors, especially if I’m going to be spending a few hours a night staring at it.  But those reviews on Newegg are awful positive, and the price is hard to ignore.  $240 for a decent 22″ widescreen monitor is mighty hard to pass by.  If I had unlimited money I’d think about one of the Samsungs that get absolute raves, but this looks pretty good for now.

Hopefully all this stuff will be arriving at the Landfill of Love tomorrow.  I’ve already asked my boss for Wednesday off…I expect I’ll need it, since I’ll be up half the night assembling my machine, and will need some sleep before I tackle my wife’s on Wednesday.  Watch this space for updates.