Archive for December, 2008

the disk drives of the future

Friday, December 26th, 2008

USB flash drives

Nobody uses floppy disks for anything regular and important anymore. They’re slow, they’re physically huge yet hold so little, and they wear out and die too easily. CDs and DVDs have their place, but today people mostly use USB-attached flash drives to cart their files around.

This is my newest flash drive. It’s a 4 gigabyte OCZ ATV, and it goes like the clappers. HD Tune clocks it at just under 31MB/sec for sustained reading, which is about as fast as you’ll see any USB-connected drive go on a current PC. It’s the fastest flash drive I currently own, and has now replaced my Corsair Voyager GT as my everyday bit bucket.

It’s also a bit more practical than the Corsair; that dangly thing at the back fits snugly into the cap, so you don’t have to keep track of it when the drive’s plugged into a computer, meaning you’ll never lose that little bit of protection. I have absolutely no idea where my GT’s endcap is.

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one zero five point five

Thursday, December 18th, 2008

What’s the hottest you’ve ever seen a CPU running at?

This was an Athlon XP 1700+ in a case so old it still had a turbo button on the front. The owner complained of occasional random shut downs.

Tomorrow I move the guts to a case featuring a decent-sized fan grill *within* a cubic foot of the heat sink.

Edit: It dropped to 68 in the new case, with a 90mm fan nearby. Almost a drop of forty degrees.

awesome cute.

Wednesday, December 17th, 2008

I want to work in an office with spare shuttles, dammit.

how tim celebrates a 22nd year

Monday, December 15th, 2008

#1: Crashes a car.

I made it through heavy rain. I made it through heavy traffic. I even made it through Nowra, before a telegraph pole gently shoved the bullbar into the front of a friend’s Terracan and brought us to an abrupt stop.

The impact also snapped the CB aerial. In two places. We found half of it in the grass.

Not to be outdone, two of my friends immediately set about smashing their own cars up in the following two days. God hates geeks with cars.

#2: Goes home early, bored, from a night out in Sydney.

The turning point was being served an alcoholic beverage in a sturdy plastic cup, in case I chose to be violent and glass someone with the more traditional bottle. I wasted about five seconds being slightly offended, before realising my drink was getting warm and just drank it anyway.

The train ride home was little better. I’ve never been on a train at night and NOT seen some poor git get fined for not buying a ticket. Then there’s the charming guy who speaks mainly in four letter words. And the wonderful lass from Bellambi who spat on some poor guy for the outrageous crime of air-guitaring within her line of sight.

I don’t belong in such an environment. I need a new city to play with.

#3: Rediscovers the lost art of Spending Time Reading.

In the wake of the James Bond franchise reboot, I’ve been into Ian Fleming’s old novels with a passion. There are a few lines of dialogue I flat out don’t understand – as you’d expect from books written in the 1950s – but it’s nowhere near as bad as, say, forcing high school kids to pretend to read Shakespeare.

Mostly it’s just good old-fashioned fun (“I telephoned the embassy directly I received your note”, he explained), and it’s a better way to spend your time than re-watching Moonraker for Roger Moore’s snappy one-liners (though I suspect a Pierce Brosnan marathon may be in order for the holidays).

#4: Gets thanked by complete strangers.

Currently I’m at war with my modesty complex, which seems hellbent against me registering anything but shyness in the face of gratitude, but every couple of weeks or so I get a random email from someone I’ll never meet, from a country I’ll never visit, generally in a timezone I’m barely aware even exists, just to say thanks for something I’ve put up on this site that’s helped them out with some sort of computer issue. The last one actually arrived mid-afternoon on my actual birthday, which felt pretty good.

Here’s the deal, internet: you keep googling, I’ll keep writing. Let’s do this thing.

#5: Be’s humbled by a bowl of cereal.

You poured rice bubbles into a bowl, you poured milk into the rice bubbles, you poured a big spoonful of white sugar over snap, crackle and pop, and then you downed the whole thing in four or five mouthfuls.

At least, that’s how it worked when I was seven. Age 22 I shook a tiny bit of sugar out for flavour, realised I actively didn’t want any more, and sat down to wonder when I lost my sweet tooth.

People don’t change. They just grow. 2008′s definitely the latest in a long, rollercoaster list of years that’ve been the coolest year of my life yet. It’s been a year of growing, of learning, sleeping, experimenting, winning, losing, and finding more than a few of my own limitations.

It’ll always be the year I broke Nathan’s car. And it’ll always be the year I finished Crysis a month before buying a 4870×2. And the first year I spent more money than I saved (collecting Pocket PCs is an expensive hobby – I don’t recommend it).

I’m sure I’ll accidentally destroy many more vehicles in my life, though. And spend more money on even more ridiculous toys. 2008 will still stand out as the year I grew some direction.

Merry christmas and happy new year everyone. In advance, so you don’t miss it amongst being full of ham and drinking yourselves silly. :)

stop! i said it’s happening again!

Thursday, December 4th, 2008

Doesn’t this just curdle your giblets?

I won’t be finishing Fallout 3 this weekend. I’ll be painstakingly recovering my savegame off another dying ST31000340AS.

(Yes, another; this is my second one. I won’t be buying a third.)

Doesn’t seem to be the usual problem that plagues this model, which is high temperatures (60-70 degrees, while my drives sit at 29-30 in a slight breeze) and slow transfer speeds (this poor guy got seven megabytes per second). Windows used to just pause for 10-20 seconds at a time, and vague ATAPI warnings would show up in the event log; I came home from work today to a machine that might get to the desktop, might not, and would then completely lock up.

I don’t get it. They’re not overheating, they’re not bashed with sticks or fed coke, they’re held in a cage by rubber mounts behind a giant fan. I’ve had more of my fair share of dead hardware, but I don’t actually do anything wrong to cause it. I just have the world’s worst luck with computers.

solved: catastrophic failure 0x8000ffff installing windows live mail

Thursday, December 4th, 2008

Had a fun little job at work today. Laptop with a days-old install of Vista came back because the guy couldn’t install Windows Live Mail – kept giving him a frightening “Code: 0x8000ffff, description: catastrophic failure” message.

3 minutes of googling and I had the answer, thanks to this guy: Go here and download the Windows Installer CleanUp Utility, install it, and use it to remove every Windows Live app you have. Then try Mail again… works like a charm.

emergent behaviour

Wednesday, December 3rd, 2008

Lead a child to a sandbox and he’ll dig a hole in the sand. Bring him a playmate and they’ll throw the sand around, put it in their pockets and drive trucks through it.

You get the same scary effect from putting two scripted AI characters in the same room, and making them interact. I just observed the following exchange between two people in Rivet City:

Security guard: “I’m looking for troublemakers, seen any?”
Resident: “Why don’t you look where you’re going!?”

If I hadn’t already heard both phrases before, elsewhere in the game – most of the guards state their own business, and people often complain if you push past them – I’d have written this off as a coincidence, game AI doing something that feels so out of place it breaks that precious fourth wall.

Except these two independent, randomly-governed entities got together and had a conversation – a snitchy, unfriendly conversation, and one that was obviously an accident of programming intended to look intelligent… but isn’t that what intelligence is? Two creatures coming together and becoming more than two creatures?

A lot of behaviour looks smarter than it actually is. Some of it isn’t, but my point is that AI is getting scarily real. Not necessarily in combat – tonight I killed six super mutants at once, because I sometimes hid behind a letterbox and they took too long to circle around it – but just in little interactions between well-meaning folk. It makes the game freakishly immersive.

I need to finish Fallout 3 fast. I’m starting to eye up garbage bins for precious bottlecaps.