01 April 2007

Random Ramblings: Congratulations, It's A ... Notebook!

Yours truly finally broke down and got himself a new notebook computer. For the past 5+ years, I've been using a Sony Vaio ultra-portable. All in all, it's proven itself an excellent tool (albeit I only use it when I travel or when I need to hunt down network problems). But it was definitely starting to show its age, viz its slowish CPU speed (Pentium III 800), its limited memory (256MB), its relatively small hard disk (20GB), its lack of a built-in optical drive, its slowish Wifi (802.11b), and its limited USB (1.1 and groan, only one of those). Anyway, you get the point ... that I'm pretty good at rationalizing things.

Actually, it's not leaving the family. Rather, my wife gets it, which sort of makes sense since she uses it as much as I do. Looking for a replacement, I first looked at getting another ultra-portable. Using an ultra-portable is always a difficult compromise. It's great to travel with, but it's also a pain to type on. I'm a fast touch typist and therefore I get easily perturbed by non-standard keyboards. Of course, all notebook keyboards are non-standard for me these days, since I hate palm rests. When I learned to type, we were always told to keep our hands raised. Thus, I've always hated that added real estate between the edge of the notebook and the start of the keys, since I have to stretch my arms out to type.

My first instincts were to stay in the Sony family, but their regular notebooks were too weighty and their ultra-portables too pricey despite their excellent features. I seriously considered throwing weight considerations to the wind and getting a MacBook so that I could run both OSX and Windows at the same time (thanks to something called Parallels). I've owned a few Mac's in my time, but I was never really enamored by them (not that I particuarly like Windows either - I still stubbornly use Windows 2000 on my desktop computer). But no, I knew I would curse the gods when I had to lug it on my first interncontinental flight.

So I waited and procrastinated. The Sony ultra-portables were always there as a fallback choice, what I would get if I couldn't bear to wait any longer. Then all of a sudden, a slew of ultra-portables started coming out of other companies: Compaq, Acer, Fujitsu, Asus, etc. (not Apple yet though). To make a long story short, I settled on a Compaq Presario B1900 series ultra-portable. It's slightly larger, slighty heavier than my previous Sony, and hardly state of the art, but at half the price of my targeted high-end Sony choice, I was quite pleased.

So this week-end was spent configuring the beast. New comptuers always take me a day or two to fully configure. Hell, Windows updates already take several hours. But now it's done and duly cloned so that I won't have to go through this rigamarole again. And just in time for its maiden journey next week to gay Paris. Welcome aboard, kid!

26 October 2005

Random Ramblings: HP Color LaserJet 2600n

Last week, I picked up an HP Color LaserJet 2600n from Panthip Plaza for use at the office. This is an honest to goodness COLOR LASER printer priced at a surprisingly low Baht 17,000 (+/- depending on which store you buy it from). I started this search months earlier, when my options were: a) a mid-range HP inkjet printer (cheap, costly ink, quality limitations), or b) an HP Color LaserJet 3550n (much, much more expensive, still costly ink, but much better quality).

As we network all our printers as a matter of policy, the 3550n was my preferred choice, even though it costed about Baht 40-50,000 Baht. But what I didn't like about it was that it used an external USB type JetDirect device (I much prefer internal ones) and that it was huge (about the size of a mini-refrigerator). And of course, there was the cost of the ink.

The advent of the 2600n changed things a bit. It's MUCH smaller, comes with an internal JetDirect device, uses less electricity, and of course, it's much cheaper. But then, it's slower (8 ppm vs 16 ppm) and has a lighter duty cycle (35,000 vs 45,000 pages/month). Probably worse of all, it's a "host based" printer. This means that it doesn't have a built-in printing language and the print image must be generated on your computer. This will slow down printing a bit and puts greater demands on your computer. But at least Windows and Mac drivers are available to do this; Linux users are currently left out in the cold.

One more cost issue. The ink cartridges - there four: black, cyan, magenta and yellow - last only about 2,000 full pages each and cost in excess of Baht 3,000 each. If you ever have to replace all four cartridges at once, you'll be paying 75% of an entire new e printer. My buddy Petch half-kiddingly suggests that we buy a new printer whenever we run out ink. This may sound absurd on the surface, but there's some truth to it. Sigh, single-shot, throw-away color laser printers?

10 July 2005

Post Database: Slow Modem Disconnects

In the July 6, 2005 installment of HelpDesk, reader Monton wrote about delays in disconnecting from a modem-initiated Internet connection. No mention was made as to what version of Windows was being used, but if he's using Windows 2000 or XP, I have a few additional ideas.

IF he's also: a) experiencing slow logins (e.g. it takes a minute or more for the login to be authenticated after the modems handshake), and/or b) he's using a large "hosts" file, there are two things he can try.

First, replace the large hosts file with a much smaller one (e.g. the default hosts file that comes with Windows, that's less than 1KB in size). Second - and this is probably the better solution, especially if he intentionally chose to use a large hosts in the first place - disable the DNS Client service. To do this, run "services.msc" from Start > Run, look for an entry called "DNS Client", double-click it, click the "Stop" button, and then in the "Startup Type" field, choose "Disabled".

If this doesn't work or if other problems arise, revert the DNS Client service back to its original settings - and alas, wait for another solution from somewhere/someone else.

07 November 2004

Random Ramblings: Power Supplies: A Cautionary Tale

Chances are, your computer power supply isn't something that you're going to think about a lot. If you buy a brand name computer or even a no-name Panthip-type computer, your power supply will almost certainly have been chosen for you already (assuming you even have a choice). And even if you build your own computer, there's a good chance that you'll just settle for the power supply that comes with your case. In fact, only if you're particularly picky or buy expensive cases that come without power supplies or build server-class computers are you likely to choose your own power supply. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

If you suspect that I'm going to theorize that there are differences in power supplies, you're right. But on the other hand, I'm also going to admit that whatever power supply you get, from wherever you get your computer, is going to last you a good many years even if you let someone else do the choosing for you - ASSUMING that your hardware needs are middle-of-the-road. On the other hand, pile on two hard disks, 2 CD drives, a power hungry 3D display, a fire-breathing CPU, or run your computer 24/7 in a non-airconditioned environment and you'd be exceedingly wise to invest in something better than the average 4-500 Baht Panthip 300 watt power supply.

The importance of an ample power supply was illustrated to me a few months back when I was upgrading a friend's Dell Optiplex desktop computer. As she was hoping to use her computer to store a lifetime of scanned photos/documents, not to mention more recent digital photographs, a replacment CD-writer and a larger hard disk were in the cards. At the time, I thought an 80GB hard disk would be a nice long term investment. The procedure was simple enough - pop out the CD-ROM drive and the current 10GB hard disk and pop in a new combo CD-Writer and the aforementioned 80GB hard disk.

Everything worked fine for about a month when inexplicably the hard disk died. I've used this brand of hard disk (Maxtor) for years without a failure, so I though it was just a case of bad luck. After a few weeks, we got a free replacement, stuck it into the Dell and thought nothing of it. A few weeks later, lightning struck twice - the hard disk failed again! Now, if you know your odds, it is simply impossible that TWO brand new hard disks could fail in such short a time - there had to be another reason. Looking inside the Dell gave me the answer, a shocking answer in fact: the computer came with a weakling 150 watt power supply!

This reminded me of a discovery I made a long time ago: all brand name computers are essentially dead-end computers. They perform fine within their factory installed limits. But don't ever hope for it to do more than it was designed for. Each computer fits neatly into a given niche within the vendor's product line and its capabilities will not infringe on the next level of computer. If you want more, be prepared to buy a new computer.

The Dell's 150 watt power supply is indicative of this way of thinking. What particularly bothers me is that this is NOT a terribly old computer - it comes with a 1 GHz Pentium III CPU. In a day and age when 300 watt power supplies are just about adequate, installing a 150 watt supply into a computer is in my opinion, a sick joke. (Or looked at another way, it's a way for Dell to save a few bucks.) Anyway, my friend's Optiplex is now doing fine, with its old 10GB hard disk back in place. Meanwhile, we built her a new computer to handle her new digital needs.

This computer, all of my ATX tower computers at home, and all our self-built servers at work use either Enlight or Enermax power supplies (300-350 watt models). These are good power supplies and will set you back around 2,000 Baht apiece. As I mentioned, if your power needs are modest, and especially if you use a motherboard with everything already on-board, you can do fine with a no-name 300+ watt power supply. But if you want superb reliability under demanding conditions, I highly recommend these brands. (Note: Enermax power supplies seem to outsell Enlight at Panthip these days.)

12 October 2004

Random Ramblings: SATA HDD's, DVD Writers

Over the week-end, Petch picked me up a Maxtor 80GB Serial ATA (SATA) hard drive from Zeer Street, the cost being a mere 100 Baht more than a Maxtor 80GB IDE model. My Windows 2000 computer now takes only 1:30 mins to boot, compared to 2:15 mins before, thanks to the SATA drive. Equally nice, adding SATA drives doesn't disable any of the IDE channels. According to the CMOS screen of my Intel 865GBF motherboard, there is now a port 0 and 1 for the SATA drives to complement the standard 2 IDE channels. With both SATA and IDE drives present, the SATA drive is the preferred boot drive. Unfortunately, there's no way for my motherboard's CMOS to choose whether to boot the SATA or IDE drive first. Petch's pretty impressed. Given the small price differential, the improved performance, the no-problem installation, and the smaller/neater drive cables, he's going to choose SATA drives from now on whenever he's asked to build a computer.

On the other side of the City of Angels, DVD-writers are blooming at Panthip Plaza! I had to go buy some monitors today and while waiting for them to cart the merchandise in from storage, I chanced to see at least three brands of 16x dual-layer, +/-, DVD-writers (i.e. Pioneer, TDK, and Lite-On) being sold in the 6,500-6,900 Baht range. Earlier this year I made a prediction that decent brands of DVD writers should reach the 5,000 Baht range by year-end. But I was only thinking about the single-layer models; apparently, the addition of dual-layer capabilities hasn't impacted the price of these drives much, if at all! Still, my prediction should still be on track.

The downside of these beauties is that you're going to have a hell of a time finding and/or paying for the media that makes the best use of these drives. While mid-brand 4x DVD-R's sell for only 20 Baht apiece, 8x DVD-R's will put you back 100-120 Baht each (they're not even sold in batches, only singly), while dual-layer DVD's will make you 500+ Baht poorer per disc. Very ouch! My guess is that these high end discs are in short supply and they're just not reaching Thailand. My guess too is that by early next year, we should see a perfect storm of great features and affordable prices for both writers and media, which may mark the beginning of the end for CD-only writers. So, unless you're in a desperate hurry to get a DVD writer now, I'd wait just a few months longer.

06 October 2004

Random Ramblings: Panthip Odds and Ends

I went to Panthip Plaza yesterday to buy some parts to build a computer for a friend. In the recent past, I'd quickly get in and out, buying only things that were on my shopping list. This time, my buddy Petch did most of the legwork, while the "old man" (i.e. yours truly) sat and waited. To while away the time, I walked around, browsing nothing in particular. A few observations worth noting:
  • Several years ago, I "rambled" about the smaller-sized A4 Tech mice that I've been using ever since. This time, I noticed that numerous stalls were selling a wide range of brightly coloured mice. A pink one caught my eye and given that my 11-year old daughter Wow loves everything pink, I decided to buy one for her. As it was in my case, I felt that it best for her to use a smaller mouse that better fits her hand (she's currently using a regular sized Logitech mouse). Anyway, this mouse, aptly named "Cool Mouse", is an optical, USB mouse and costs an affordable 350 Baht. When I got home and plugged it in, I found much to my (and Wow's) surprise, that the mouse has blinking lights (pink and purple, Wow's 2nd favourite colour) on its underside. The lights even change when the wheelie is turned. Needless to say, this is a very "cool" mouse and Wow's tickled, uh, pink.

  • When I returned to Thailand more than a year ago, I brought back some 1x DVD-R's with me. On my first visit to Panthip after a year's absence, I found a few no-name 2x DVD-R's on sale, but frankly it was difficult to tell which were "good". Anyway, I tried a brand or two, but with mixed results. Not long afterwards, low cost 4x DVD-R's started appearing. Again, it was anyone's guess which brand to choose. I had long decided to stay away from the name brand stuff (too expensive) and the mid-range brands hadn't started selling DVD-R's yet. Anyway, the brand that I've settled on is called "Konco" and at present it sells for 1,000 Baht per 50 "Professional" DVD-R's. I feel comfortable recommending it because I've burnt more than 300 of these discs so far without a single failure. Incidentally, "Princo", the brand that I tend to buy for CD-R's has started selling DVD-R's now too, and at the same price level as the Konco's. I've only tried a small number of these, but the results have been flawless as well. (Note: Different DVD writers may work better or worse with certain brands of DVD's, so caveat emptor.)

  • Recently, dual-layer DVD writers that can burn 9GB per (single sided) disc started appearing on the market. As I use a DVD writer at work to back up data, having 9GB backup/disc capability is quite attractive. Of course, I'm going to wait until the price of such drives drop (albeit I would need only one) and more importantly, until such blank discs become more widely available (they're impossible to find at Panthip as are 8x DVD-R's) and at an acceptable price. For now, I'm most happy with the 20 Baht that I'm paying per 4.7GB DVD-R.

  • This observation is Petch's actually: he noticed that IDE hard drives are becoming harder and harder to find these days, with Serial ATA drives coming on strong. No doubt this is due to the their higher performance and the narrowing price differential compared to IDE. Me, I haven't tried any of these SATA drives yet, although I hope to by year end. First though, I have to see if they make a SATA compatible removeable drive tray.

15 April 2003

Random Ramblings: Pioneer DVD Writer

The big news around the house here is that yours truly has finally entered the DVD age. I've avoided getting a DVD-ROM drive for so long, preferring to wait until DVD writers began to reach a more palatable price point, not mention some consensus on standards. But since I will be returning to Thailand for good soon and since DVD writers are still pretty expensive there, I finally splurged on a Pioneer DVR-A05, which incidentally is in the DVD- camp.

I've been waiting for a removeable 4GB+ drive for a LONG time, ever since my futile wait for Pinnacle's Apex magneto-optical drive (which finally came out years late and no longer relevant). Anyway, the Pioneer A05 is pretty nice. The speed is excellent and it works with my Windows-based Nero Burning ROM software just like with any other CD-R/CD-RW. With CD's, my preference is for CD-R's, but with the DVD drive, my tentative choice is for DVD-RW's given that there is little price difference between DVD-R's and DVD-RW's (at least with the name brand stuff). This may change though, once I get my hands on some cheap DVD-R's.

I'm also pleasantly surprised that the quality of movies is considerably better than with VCD's. Or maybe I shouldn't have, but I guess I was expecting the worse. Even with my lousy 15" no name monitor and with a slow Celeron 466 box, the picture is quite decent.

10 February 2002

Random Ramblings: Amex

A little bit of weirdness. I was browsing the Membership Rewards section of American Express' website the other day to see what I could do with my accumulated points. Interestingly, I noticed that you could use points to buy computer paraphernalia. Hmm, like what? A whole computer maybe?

Well, yes and in fact, a LOT more. Here's an interesting item: a Cisco enterprise switch. All you need are 4,681,400 points to get one. Hmm, how much stuff would you need to charge to your Amex card to get 4,681,400 points? Easy: US$4,681,400!

While this may have been the most expensive item in their list (they literally have thousands of computer items), there are nonetheless still TONS of stuff requiring 1 million or more points. I find it interesting that anyone would charge a million $ worth of stuff to their Amex card. I wonder how long the approval takes for something like that.

06 July 2001

Random Ramblings:: Vipower Removeable Drive Trays

A few months ago, when I wrote about Linux corrupting my Windows hard disk and made a joke about hiding my Windows hard disk in the closet whenever I wanted to play with Linux - Bill Thompson suggested that I use removeable hard disk trays instead. While always curious about these devices, I never tried them, partly because I always believed they were complicated contraptions, requiring a special "back plane" inside the computer. But no, they don't. Anyway, I was intrigued, but since these sold for about US$30-50 each in the U.S., I decided to wait until I returned to Thailand where I heard they were much cheaper.

During a recent jaunt to Panthip, I picked up a couple of these. The ones I bought were made by Vipower (https://www.vipower.com). The most common models are the IDE DMA 33 and IDE DMA 66/100 models. Since I have ATA/100 7200 RPM drives, I opted for the DMA 66/100 model. (Actually, there's little reason to get the DMA 33 model regardless of what type of HDD you have - except maybe to save 50 Baht.)

These are all plastic models, perhaps not with the best electrical shielding possible, but they do work fine - so far. The drives are locked into place with a sliding latch on the DMA 66/100 model and with a key lock on the DMA 33 model. I believe these are NOT "hot swappable" drives - i.e. you must turn off your computer before you remove the drives. Fine with me.

The DMA 66/100 model normally sells for about 450 Baht at Panthip, but at TV.now (get off the glass lift on the 4th floor and the store is on your left), you can get them for 400 Baht each. Some stores sell spare inserts for about 250 Baht each in case you have several drives. When I showed these to my buddy Petch, he couldn't wait to drag me to Panthip to get some for the office. We have a "floating" 45gb hard disk that we use to back up data at two sites, and these removeable trays were perfect for this.

05 July 2001

Random Ramblings: A4Tech Mice

In the past few months, I've been experiencing some pain on the top of my hand whenever I use my mouse for an extended period of time. Having short fingers, I already avoid large mice and my current mouse (a Logitech) wasn't really all that big. I suppose old age catching up on me. For a while, I was tempted to switch to using a roller ball but decided to procrastinate a bit since I wasn't terribly enthused about spending US$30 on something I might end up not using nor liking.

Anyway, upon returning to Thailand, I noticed that my buddy Petch had bought some smaller sized mice for our new branch office. While these are not in the same grade as the standard Microsoft or Logitech mice, I thought they were pretty comfortable to use - especially for smaller Asian hands - and at 520 DPI, they track pretty well. I decided to get a few since their small size also suits my children's hands better.

The mouse I'm preferring to goes by the name of "My Baby Mini Mouse" and is made by A4Tech (https://www.a4tech.com.tw). (For some reason though, the abovementioned mouse isn't shown on their website!) They're found everywhere at Panthip Plaza and I've seen them sell as low as Baht 199 the for PS/2 only model. They come in two colors: silver and green.

11 June 2001

Random Ramblings: Mini Disc Players

For a few years now, I've gotten into the habit of listening to MP3's whenever I "worked" at my computer. But while it was an incredible joy NOT to have to swap CD's all the time, playing MP3's still meant being tied to your computer. When the Rio portable MP3 player came out, I was totally enthralled. Nevertheless, I never got one, although I never missed the opportunity to fondle it whenever I saw one in a store. There were too many things that bothered me: the cost, the limited capacity, the newness of it all.

Here in the great Northwest, I exercise by bicycling. The city I'm in has over 30 miles of dedicated bicycle paths and the prospect of listening to Beethoven's "Pastorale" while riding in the woods was finally too much to bear. I decided to do something about it. No, I didn't buy an MP3 player; rather, I bought an MD ("MiniDisc") player. Despite a few shortcomings, on the whole, I'm pleased with my decision.

Unfortunately, there's not enough room to detail the in's, out's, and how-to's of MD technology here, so an article is in the offing. In the meantime, if you're interested, the MiniDisc Community Portal at https://www.minidisc.org is a good place to visit.

04 June 2001

Random Ramblings: Toshiba Libretto 50CT

This past week-end, I dusted off my Toshiba Libretto 50CT, one of the early "sub-notebooks" before the genre ended up in limbo. This is a Pentium 75 machine with 16Mb RAM - a far cry from the Athlon 750 with 128Mb RAM that I use today. Despite this fact, the Libretto is a really neat, ultra-light (2 pounds), full-blown computer - EXCEPT for the fact that the keyboard is hard to touch type on and the battery (now pretty old and decrepit) strains to hold even an hour's charge.

The machine was filled with really old software. Since I never had a floppy drive for it, I connected it to my local area network and began reinstalling newer software over the wire. First to go was Netscape Navigator v4.05 and Internet Explorer v3.0. In went Internet Explorer v6.0 beta, until IE balked at installing under Windows 95. Fortunately, IE v5.5 didn't complain. Next, I waved good-bye to Office 95 and welcomed the same Office 2000 that I use on my desktop. Would Office 2K work, would it be too slow? Nope it worked fine and at a decent speed.

What really choked the life out of computer was Norton Anti-Virus (NAV). NAV being a pretty large resident program, it really slowed the Libretto down and rattled the hard disk to no end. Weighing the consequences of operating in non-"Durex" mode (i.e. without protection), I finally decided to remove NAV. To make things a bit safer, I then reset my email program to accept only tiny file attachments and also installed DOS-driven F-Prot. I also reminded myself that this machine would only be used to read/send basic email and to compose short pieces, so I didn't need a "kitchen sink" installation.

Incidentally, while browsing the internet in search of Libretto support sites, I found several references to installing Linux on "old Tiny". Frankly, I never considered doing this, but the thought does boggle the mind. Perhaps one day ...

14 April 2001

Random Ramblings: Recent Computer Acquisitions

Grab a hold of your seats because you may end up on the floor after hearing this - in the past 9 months here in the U.S., I've already bought SIX computers. (Okay, okay, only two were actually mine.) Three of these were name brands - Toshiba, Compaq, Dell - while the rest were self-built jobs. Buying the name brands were a particularly interesting experience since they were all purchased on the internet, practically sight unseen - the first time I've ever done this.

I started off by buying a Toshiba notebook for a friend's high school daughter from PC Connection's (https://www.pcconnection.com) website. PC Connection is a New Hampshire-based mail order outfit that I've had good experiences with in the past. Also, their overnight shipping rates are quite afforadable - order something from them today and invariably it will be on your doorstep tomorrow afternoon.

Next, a "built-to-order" Compaq Presario notebook was purchased from Compaq's own web store (https://www.compaq.com). Considering that this was a custom job, it too arrived in a relatively short 5-6 days. Unlike with the Toshiba, though, which had been pre-ordained for me, I was able to choose/spec the Compaq in its entirety. Better still, I get to play with it for a few months before it embarks on a journey home to Thailand.

My final name-brand purchase was from Dell Computers (https://www.dell.com). I was looking for a low-use, low-cost server with a name brand to provide some peace of mind. What I came up with was a Dell Optiplex GX110 desktop, a model that incidentally, is also sold by Dell Thailand. Having been burned by name-brand proprietary hardware in the past, I wanted to make sure that the Dell conformed to the standard ATX specification, so that I could change mainboards and/or cases if I so desired in the future. A call to Dell Sales confirmed this and another web order was placed. Like the Compaq, it too arrived in a relatively speedy 5 days. However, upon peeking at the back of the case, I found to my horror that the Dell did NOT use an ATX layout at all. To my disappointment, Dell seems to be another of those vendors bent on locking you into their proprietary hardware.

In the blink of an eye, I called up Dell Computer asking for a refund, giving as an excuse the misinformation given to me. I must say that Dell was rather good about the return, and although the return documents somehow got lost in the shuffle (must have been one of those people recently laid off by Dell), I finally sent it back to Dell at their cost and got every $ back from them in a matter of days. (Incidentally, I ended up building that low-end server from scratch myself.) Again, live and learn.

13 April 2001

Random Ramblings: Tivo

By far the most enjoyable "toy" I've acquired since arriving in the U.S. has been my TiVo digital VCR (https://www.tivo.com). While I had promised to write this up, alas, I've been enjoying it too much - nay, the whole family has been enjoying it too much - to put pen to paper (or rather fingers to keyboard). I can't wait for this to be available in Thailand (maybe another 2-3 years?). But it's already available in at least one PAL country - the U.K. - and hacks do exist to change the input video signal from NTSC to PAL, courtesy of Andrew Tridgell, of Samba fame. As Tridge says, we don't need PAL output, since most TV's in Asia are multi-system anyway.

Anyway, a momentous occasion occurred just two days ago. My Tivo system software automatically updated itself (over the phone) from v1.3 to v2.0. This wasn't really a surprise for me, as I've been following the news of this long awaited update for months now, and I knew roughly when the update would occur. Needless to say though, the update brings with it a plethora of new features. But equally important, it brought with it speedier operations. Last October, I noted that inside the Tivo box you'll find a computer mainboard with a PowerPC chip running a customized version of Linux (for a peek inside, check out https://www.9thtee.com/insidetivo.htm and https://www.ultimateresourcesite.com/tivo/photos.htm). Given that this CPU is a mere 66Mhz PowerPC (shades of 486's in this era of 1 GHz CPU's!), I was afraid that the TiVo's performance - which was already sluggish at times as it struggled to handle both its GUI and database functions - would only get worse. Thankfully it hasn't and in fact TiVo has managed to make it faster. Kudos guys!

20 February 2001

Updates: NetGear Print Server

I just added some update notes to my print server article. I forgot to mention print servicing handled locally by network operating systems. Plus, some update notes to my Internet Sharing Solutions, Part 6 piece as well.

18 February 2001

Article: NetGear Print Server

I've just posted a fairly long article titled "An External Print Server: NetGear's PS110", which is the newest addition to my home network.

13 December 2000

Random Ramblings: Problems With CD-R Drives

Sigh, more on my trials and tribulations with CD-R drives.

29 November 2000

Post Database: FDD Problems

There was a letter in Post Database today that complained about floppy disk problems. Here are a few tips culled from experience that might help to reduce these problems.

15 November 2000

Article: Sticker Prices, Stickier AOL

I've just posted another article: "Sticker Prices, Stickier AOL". Time to start writing my Tivo article ...

19 October 2000

Random Ramblings: Tivo

For the past week, I've been tinkering with my latest "toy": a Sony SVR-2000 TiVo box. Simply put, TiVo boxes are "digital VCR's". Imagine a tape-less VCR with 10-30 hours recording capacity (depending on the recording quality you select). Imagine not having to scrounge around for a video tape when you want to record something. Imagine not having to find the end of the tape to record something. Imagine being able to rewind "live" TV. Imagine being able to issue a "global command" to tape ALL showings of The X-Files without having to specify dates or times. Now, imagine a VCR case with the innards removed and replaced with a computer mainboard with an IBM PowerPC CPU, a 30gb Quantum Fireball IDE hard disk, and Linux inside. That's what we're talking about.

The TiVo system (https://www.tivo.com) has been out about a year now (or at least that's how long I've had my eye on it), but it's NOT the only such system around. ReplayTV (https://www.replay.com) is another competing system. (Also, check out https://www.iwantptv.com for some generic private TV news). While quite useable in their current forms, both are still evolving and still have limited penetration, even here in the U.S. (sort of like portable MP3 players). As for Thailand, I don't expect it to reach there for at least another 2 years.

A full blown review is planned, although I haven't started writing it yet (I only have about 70% of its features working properly at the moment). Soon ...