January, 2003

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Sheep Year, Goat Year?

Friday, January 31st, 2003

Chúc mùng nam mói!
(Happy New Year!)

Tomorrow marks the beginning of the new lunar year. The notable thing about the new year is that whereas it’s the Year of the Sheep on the Chinese calendar, it’s the Year of the Goat on the Vietnamese. The only other year that I know of where this discrepancy exists is the Chinese Year of the Rabbit, which is the Year of the Cat to the Vietnamese.

As I understand it, astrologers (to whom I’ve never given much heed) believe the animal influences the traits of a person born on that year. Now, I was born on in the Year of the Tiger, so I’m all set (“Gr-r-reat!®”), but I think it would kinda suck to be born in the Year of the Sheep. (No offense to all you Sheep Year people out there…) I’d rather be born in the Year of the Goat, though come to think of it neither animal has traits that I would consider very flattering.

Also cancelled

Friday, January 31st, 2003

CNET Radio, the San Francisco AM radio station devoted to computers and technology, is going off the air today. I’ll miss having tech news waking me up in the morning and bringing me the latest information when I’m in the car.  :-(

Say hello to Inara

Tuesday, January 28th, 2003

I received my replacement CPU from AMD on Friday, and spent much of the weekend assembling, testing, configuring and my new primary workstation, which I’ve named “Inara” after the voluptuous “companion” character from the now-defunct science fiction show Firefly. Anyway it took a bit of fiddling to get everything working just right but she’s pretty much all set up now, minus a few tweaks and additions that will happen as the last few parts arrive.

For the geekily-inclined and/or curious, Inara is:

I’ve decided I hate Fox

Saturday, January 25th, 2003

The Fox television network, that is. They keep cancelling my favourite TV shows. First Futurama and now Firefly. Meanwhile the airwaves are flooded with so-called “reality” shows that pander to the (unfortunately large and vocal) idiotic portion of the American population. Aargh!

DOS attacks suck

Saturday, January 25th, 2003

If you’ve noticed that the Internet has been generally performing poorly since yesterday, chances are that it’s thanks to a widespread denial-of-service (DOS) attack that’s been ongoing. Read more about it from CNET News.com and for the technical nitty-gritty, check out the security advisory from CERT.

I for one hope that they find out who’s behind this latest attack and string them up. Well, not literally, but whoever they are, they’d better hope they never run into me in a dark alley. I really don’t understand how these people get off on screwing up everybody’s computers. Thanks a lot, assholes.

Convenient store

Friday, January 24th, 2003

Ever since moving to my new apartment, I’ve lamented having to drive a fair distance out of the way to reach the closest supermarket. As luck would have it, a new Safeway opened this week opened at the Rivermark residential/retail village that’s been under construction for the past year. It couldn’t be more conveniently located for me, as it’s about halfway between my apartment and my workplace—and therefore a perfect place for me to pick up groceries on my way home. The real icing on the cake is that the place is open 24 hours a day, a huge advantage considering the fun-tastic hours I work.

W-rated tires

Friday, January 24th, 2003

Another outcome of my trip to the Mitsubishi garage was the confirmation of what I already suspected: I’d worn out my first set of tires after only 8500 miles. It might have something to do with all those drifting turns and powerslides…

Anyway I’ve replaced the tires with a set of Yokohama AVS ES100 ultra-high performance tires. These tires are Z- and W-rated; the old “Z” designation indicating the tires are rated for speeds above 149 mph, and the newer “W” designation meaning a rating for speeds up to 168 mph.

The only way to make my Eclipse GT get anywhere close to those speeds would be to drop it out of a high-flying plane.

Nevertheless I’m really enjoying these new tires—the ride is much smoother than with the old ones, and the car sticks to the road on sharp high-speed turns very much better than before.

Now I’m starting to sound like a car geek (freak?)… though until recently I was absolutely clueless about cars. (Now I’m only slightly clueless; what’s the difference between power and torque? Uh…)

Speaking of warranty

Friday, January 24th, 2003

Brought my car in for routine service last Friday. I mentioned that I’d seen the SRS (supplementary restraint system) warning light go on a few times; they checked it out and ended up having to replace both side-impact airbags. Yikes.

Also replaced under warranty was the sunroof switch cover (which kept coming loose and jamming the switch), and a couple other parts they had to replace as a result of replacing the side airbags. I really love my Eclipse GT but it seems every time I bring it in for service they have to replace a few more parts on warranty. The quality really seems to lag far behind my previous car, a comparatively plain and modest Honda Civic.

Therefore it’s probably a good thing that I got the extended warranty option on this car—at the rate it’s depreciating there’s very little point in me selling it to get another car so I’ll probably hang on to it for a few years. (I sold my Civic after two years, for only a couple thousand less than what I originally paid for it.)

However, it bodes ill for my plan to upgrade the car later this or next year. I’ve really got my eye on the RIPP Modifications Supercharger Drive System to add a bit more “oomph” to my car’s performance… but installing it would void my warranty and make these kinds of repairs rather costly. Maybe it would only void the powertrain warranty; seeing as the engine is the only part made in Japan, hopefully it outshines the rest of the car in terms of quality.

AMD resolution

Friday, January 24th, 2003

Called AMD’s tech support and (other than being on hold several times longer than the “usual” four minutes that their hold message claimed) got an RMA for my CPU without any problems. I should have the replacement by tomorrow; let’s hope they get it right this time…

Warranty time

Friday, January 17th, 2003

When it comes to computers and technology, when it rains, it pours. I’ve already recounted the saga of how I came to discover that one of the memory modules in my workstation at home had gone bad… But when it comes to computer parts going on the fritz, that was just the beginning.

Early in December I noticed that wireless network access from my laptop within my apartment had become extremely unreliable: the network connection would frequently slow to a crawl or fail altogether. Up until that point wireless networking had worked pretty well, as I have a wireless access point sitting on top of a tall bookcase in my home office, more or less at the center of my apartment. With only a thin gypsum-board wall between said access point and my bedroom (I often use my notebook computer while sitting in bed) and an unblocked line-of-sight to the coffee table in my living room (where I park the laptop while watching television) I would normally get excellent signal strength. Now, all of a sudden, even mvoing the laptop to within a few feet of the access point would yield only the most feeble reception. Having two identical wireless network adapters for my laptop (I’d gotten two, one for my laptop and one for my “ePods” tablet computer) I tried switching adapters, and when that didn’t help it became obvious that the access point had gone bad.

Generally speaking I avoid getting warranty service like the plague. The prospect of aggravation and time wasted on the phone with tech support (have I ever told the story of when I first got AT&T cable modem service? another tech-support-hell nightmare that I shall recount another day) usually makes it not worth my time (and sanity)—easier simply to spend a few dollars and replace the broken equipment.

Anyway I’m happy to report that my dealings with Crucial‘s warranty service went very smoothly—I didn’t have to wait more than a minute to talk to tech support, and when I explained to them how I had discovered that one of the memory modules I’d bought from them had gone bad, they gave me an RMA (Return Merchandise Authorization) number—no questions asked—so I could get the memory replaced. Kudos to them.

I’ve not yet tried to get warranty service on the SMC wireless access point; I can only hope it goes as smoothly as it did with Micron/Crucial…

As I mentioned before, I’m assembling a new computer system to take the place of the problem-ridden dual-Athlon workstation. Last week I got the motherboard I’d been patiently waiting for—the Asus A7N8X Deluxe motherboard based on the NVIDIA nForce2 chipset—and this week the matching AMD AthlonXP 2600+ CPU arrived.

So last night I powered on the primary components of the system (mainboard, CPU and memory) to start “burn-in” testing (to ensure all the components are reliable), and encountered major problems trying to run the CPU at the expected speed: around 2100 MHz with a 333 MHz front-side bus (FSB) clock. Much fiddling with system BIOS settings yielded no better results. Luckily I know a number of folks at work who are engineers on the system BIOS team for the nForce2 chipset, and received much information and advice from them at lunch today.

The problem, it turns out, is much less subtle than I’d feared. Using the processor datasheet from AMD I was able to verify that the part number, AXDA2600DKV3C, I determined that the retail-boxed AthlonXP 2600+ CPU that I had bought, whose package bore a sticker claiming a 333 MHz FSB clock, was actually a 266 MHz FSB unit. Which means that tomorrow I’ll have to spend more time on the phone with either the vendor or with AMD to get the item replaced with a bona fide 333 MHz FSB processor.

The curious thing is that earlier last week I thought I had seen reports of “counterfeit” 333 MHz FSB AMD CPU retail packages, but since then I’ve been unable to find those reports anywhere. I certainly hope I haven’t fallen victim to something like that; as far as I can tell the package I received was sealed and in original packaging. Ironically I chose to shell out a few more dollars for the retail-packaged processor—rather than the bare “OEM” one—because I figured there would be less chance of me getting a counterfeit or “remarked” CPU. One other benefit of the retail package is the extended 3-year warranty; seems like I’ll be exercising that warranty especially early…