Hear Ye! Since 1998.

Archived Posts for January 2002

Please note: The posts on this page are at least 3 years old. Links may be broken, information may be out of date, and the views expressed in the posts may no longer be held.
31
Jan 02
Thu

“Was it a good idea to hire a hacker?”

This definitely deserves a link: Hacker FAQ. {src: Fuzzy}

Hardware Reviews

Ok, time for a little rant on the glut of bad hardware reviews I have come across lately. There are hundreds of sites reviewing PC bits and pieces all around the net. Hardware reviews are meant to provide multiple perspectives on the pros and cons of the device in question. The information provided in these perspectives would otherwise be unobtainable without purchasing the device (and where company propaganda provides insufficient information). Bad reviews don’t achieve this. Here’s a few things that I have found annoying and unhelpful with a lot of sites attempting to review hardware:

1. Regurgitated specifications. When listing a device’s features, more and more sites tend to just do a cut and paste job off the device’s product website. Look, if I want the spec sheet for hardware, I’ll just visit the company web site myself. In fact, that will normally be my first stop. I want to know what those specs mean, anything particularly noteworthy about them and how they compare to the rest of the market. Look at this review comparing two i845D motherboards. The specification listings are dumped straight from website. The worst thing is, the review is meant to be a comparison, and because the spec lists are mismatched, you can’t compare the two motherboards! (You can’t tell if Abit board has USB 2 ports from that list, for instance.)

2. Regurgitating company propaganda. A lot of reviews kick off with a couple pages paraphrasing company propaganda: “This card has a HyperTurbo Z-Buffer Engine and Quadlinear Inversion which kicks ass because it is good and makes the card go Really Fast.” Again, rehashing what is written on the official product web site is a waste of time if you don’t expand on it. Think I exaggerate? Look at this. You’d think the guy was Seagate’s incarnation of Goebbles.

3. Benchmarks, benchmarks, benchmarks. Straight after the “it goes really fast” bit, many reviews launch into pages and pages of benchmarks. We won’t get onto the validity of testing methods. Nor the fact that a lot of reviewers list all test system specs regardless of the fact that their T3 connection to the net has nothing to do with the performance of their sound card because they want to show off how l337 their test systems are. The benchmarks in many cases means nought, because they conflict with other sites’ benchmarks, yet there are pages and pages of them scrutinising those minute 2-3% performance differences over competitor products. You see, benchmarking requires little creativity. Sure it’s hard boring work, but it’s a testing formula and you follow it.

4. Misdirected reviews. Partially to do with the benchmarking preoccupation, very little information is provided on related topics or aspects of the product that can’t be benchmarked. Look at this ATI Radeon 8500DV review. I wanted to find out information about the All-In-Wonder aspect of the card – how good it was for capturing from analog and digital sources, for instance. Even small details about whether the 1384 port had a power load limit. Instead it breezes over those things and skips straight to pages of graphs and numbers (they might as well have just reviewed the vanilla version of the 8500).

5. Inexperienced reviewers. When the reviewer doesn’t have enough knowledge and experience with that type of product such that the review produced is woefully inaccurate or just lacking in depth. Many multimedia speaker reviews are guilty of this. (Hi-fi speaker reviewers on the other hand tend to be audiophiles.)

Easy way to tell if a review is bad: When you could write a review that says just as much (minus the benchmarks) by just reading the official web site and not actually using the product.

Still, there are many good review sites out there. Eg: DPReview is incredibly thorough and consistent in its reviews. Dan’s Data is also exceptional because he chats a lot about using a product and goes through all the possibilities. He also sidetracks a fair bit, but those sidetracks are interesting. You’ll also notice that he only uses benchmarks to illustrate a point. Anyway, with experience you get to learn which sites are good for doing reviews of what devices.

Riding in Cars with Boys (Open Air)

Went to the Open Air cinema last night at Mrs Macquarie’s Chair. Beautiful atmosphere with the opera house, coathanger, and lights of North Sydney forming a picturesque backdrop amidst a temperate Summer evening. The rain held off, luckily, and it was an enjoyable movie. The screen was huge, suspended over the water, and the sound system sounded pretty damn good for a non-enclosed space. At $17.60, it wasn’t priced too badly. The movie was better than I expected. (Hey, with Drew Barrymore could you blame me for going in with reservations?)

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Enterprise: Dear Doctor (Ep 1.13)

Personally, I think this is the best Enterprise episode that has so far screened. Doc Phlox finally gets a proper role in 13 episodes. The thing that has impressed me about Enterprise is the astuteness of the writers in noting small but important details, this episode especially (eg: A few lines between T’Pol and Archer gives meaning and complexity behind the Vulcan-Human relation which up until now, seemed to merely imply the Vulcans were being tight-asses.)

Apart from T’Pol, Phlox is the only alien on board, and to see how he culturally fits in is refreshing. His character is finally fleshed out, and he actually gets to act like a real doctor this time: with all the stress and baggage that comes along with being a medical practitioner. His job is unique in that everyone on the ship eventually comes to see him – he has contact with everyone from Captain down to Ensign, and of course, Porthos (that dog is really cute. Just a bit more personable than Picard’s fish Livingstone :).

Phlox makes some particularly keen observations about human compassion – especially the double standards Cutler shows when judging cultures. Ultimately this episode is about the Prime Directive, or how such a rule was developed. Ah yes, the Prime Directive, one of the most contentious attributes of the Trek universe. Yes, it was abused by Kirk when he saw fit, and yes its always bent, but after an episode like this, you can really understand the reasoning behind it. There needs to be some direction on interference with alien cultures. In the end, Archer overcomes his human compassion and effectively hands a death sentence down – this is no small decision. The only flaw I can really point out about this episode is making it painfully clear Archer is talking about the development of the Prime Directive (especially when he specifically says “directive”). It would have been interesting to let the viewer ruminate over the episode and see what conclusions they drew from it themselves – more so for those who haven’t watched Trek before.

30
Jan 02
Wed

Serial ATA

Read about Serial ATA. I wonder when we’ll start to see Serial ATA hardware in the marketplace?

29
Jan 02
Tue

Plastic Computer

How-to guide: Make a computer case entirely from Plexiglass.

Couloir

Not sure if I’ve linked this before, but Couloir has some vey nice hiking photos.

New Palm PDA

Palm has a new wireless PDA: the i705. But you need a Palm.net subscription.

IR Remote control using your PC

This page features the circuit schematics and instructions to creating infrared remote control emulation and sampling circuits, controlled from your PC.”

Panic PIN

I think this Panic PIN idea is a damn good idea.

Enterprise: Silent Enemy (Ep 1.12)

I thought the A-Plot of this episode was rather pointless. An enemy that doesn’t talk, and above all acts irrationally. Its guerilla tactics were a little puzzling, but at the end, they practically allow themselves to get shot up by Enterprise. The only real outcome of the whole encounter was to point out that yes, the Enterprise is woefully equipped and armed to deal with the hordes of aliens out there that all seem to have better technology than them. That this is explicitly acknowledged is commendable.

This episode, and those leading up to it, also provide a reason for why humanity seems to have accelerated in its technological development so rapidly. In TNG they are one of the more advanced races whereas in Enterprise they are effectively space newbies. The reason seems to be the extroverted and social nature of Captain Archer, and one would expect, all Starfleet captains, given Starfleet’s charter. Their willingness to chat to absolute strangers and invite people onto the ship (as in Cold Front). I suspect that in future episodes, some diplomatic alliances will be forged that provide tech upgrades to Enterprise.

The B-Plot is somewhat amusing, but really just a bit of fluff. Finding Reed’s favourite food doesn’t let us know him better, it just provides another trivia question to ask fans at the next Trek convention.

Enterprise premieres in Australia in February.

Enterprise: Cold Front (Ep 1.11)

Obviously an episode for Bigger Things To Come. By using a temporal cold war as one of Enterprise’s arcs, the writers are opening up a bit of a Pandora’s box. Actually, any episode to do with time travel is asking for trouble – a whole arc is crazy. Anyway, this episode exposes Archer to two sides of this war – humans (“more or less”) from beyond the year 3000, and mysterious guys from a little before that who haven’t yet perfected time travel. Given that a recurring theme in time travel in previous Trek series is to give those living in the past as little information as possible (stemming from the “temporal prime directive”), it’s a little strange how forthcoming Daniels is with providing info. He also shows off an array of magical gadgets, including the phase-shifting walk-through-walls device which conveniently gets lost by the end of the episode. Ultimately, the episode resolves little, so we will all just have to wait and see what develops. How it fits in with the entire Trek universe will also be interesting, and most probably, contentious.

Cricket

Ok, talk about comebacks. At one stage down 6/82 chasing 245, Australia beat NZ with 3 balls to spare. Extremely entertaining cricket last night.

28
Jan 02
Mon

Long Weekend

Was pretty relaxing. Movie and a 21st on Friday, a small LAN party on Saturday through Sunday (network hooked up to freshly installed Optus cable still on its 14 day grace period… the modem was smoking after we had finished with it), tennis on Sunday, down to the beach yesterday. Makes me wish I was still on uni holidays and not working…

Amusing News

Reuter’s Oddly Enough area is another good site if you like reading Ananova’s Quirkies.

This is an interesting snippet – a Nokia senior exec was fined over $100,000 (US I’d assume) for exceeding the speed limit by about 25km/h. That’s because in Finland, those fines are based on your average income. Ouch.

4th Anniversary

That’s right, today marks four years of Hear Ye! That’s 1461 days…

Well, as you can probably tell, my posting rate dropped off somewhat last year but infrequent posts is more due to lack of time rather than lack of motivation. This year is fairly big for me, being my final year of uni. The Great Job Hunt starts in a couple months and the industry is not looking flash… Nonetheless, you’ll be reading about it all in due time. So, on to the 5th year. Gee, this site sorta feels ancient!

Happy Birthday!

My girlfriend turns the big 21 today. A huge Happy Birthday to you Soph!

Photos

National Geographic 100 Best Pictures. Features some incredible photos, including the world-famous Afghan girl. Such piercing eyes… I think I’ll buy this issue.

27
Jan 02
Sun

Hard Drive

This does not fill me with confidence, but we will see how my Seagate fares…

I just bought one of those 80 GB Seagate drives myself. However, I’ve been having problems
with it not wanting to run 100% of the time. I leave my computer on always, and every few
days or so, I’ll wake it up from sleep and the system will hang. Reboot, and the 80 gigger
is gone. Leave the machine offf for fifteen minutes or so, reboot, and they come back.

Needless to say, it made me very nervous the first time it happened. Of course, my
situation could be different because:

a) it could be just a bug with my drive (doubtful)
b) i’m running an ATA100 card to which is connected, which could have a bug with drives
that size (doubtful)
c) i’m running Mac OS X (doubtful)
d) i’ve got bad ventilation to the drive, so it may be overheating at regular intervals
(best guess)

Advice? Make sure it gets good ventilation. Or turn off your machine every few days and
let it sit overnite.
-wrongforum

Thanks Jeff!

DVD Recordables

DVD Recordable drives are now in the $1000 price range and are becoming more and more affordable. There are, however, a variety of standards still vying to be for the DVD-R world what VHS is for the video tape world. Here’s a brief summary article on DVD-RAM, DVD-RW, DVD+RW etc.

Lookalikes

Patrick Stewart with hair looks like Richard Gere. I kid you not. If you ever see the miniseries I, Claudius, you’ll know what I mean.

Jay & Silent Bob Strike Back

Filled with in-jokes, you’ll probably want to watch at least one of Kevin Smith’s earlier movies (Clerks, Mall Rats, Chasing Amy, Dogma) before this one. Funny shit with a ton of cameos, including Mark Hamill as Cockknocker.

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24
Jan 02
Thu

Nanochips

HP has taken out a few patents related to nanochip manufacturing techniques. For us, it means smaller chips for the future.

Heads Up!

Virgin Blue has this offer:

More than 10,000 $1* one-way flights will be made available in Virgin Blue’s largest and lowest ever special fare offer, as part of this weekend’s Australia Day celebrations.

Australia’s only low fare carrier has over 10,000 seats up for grabs, for flights departing Virgin Blue’s home base of Brisbane to Adelaide, Cairns, Canberra, Darwin, Mackay, Melbourne, Sydney and Townsville.

Obviously you need to purchase a return ticket (so in effect, it’s a half price return flight) and the valid departing times are only available during offpeak mid-week days (Tues/Weds/Thurs), and it’s not as useful if you’re not a Queenslander, but if you are, it’s a good deal. Too bad I have to work during the week. Thanks Denise for the alert.

Question

Does anyone know where I can obtain a thermometre or light meter that can be connected to the computer? Mail me. I used to have this neat science toolkit for my old Apple II C which had light sensors and thermometers – you could use them to do all sorts of tricky stuff with (like building a seismometer). The kit was put out by the now-defunct Broderbund software.

Responses:

A light sensitive resistor or diode might be what you want, though I cant say for sure not knowing what you want to do with it.

Try Jaycar, if you have any around Camden… I believe there’s a Dick Smith in Liverpool, Campbeltown and Penrith (from memory… I live in Melbourne though :)
-Zero

—–

How much are you willing to spend? http://www.ambientsw.com/Specifications.htm
-Victor

Well I also did a bit of poking around. Vernier makes all sorts of measurement instruments that can be connected to the computer. Lares also does temperature probes. All these were a bit more expensive than I was hoping for… after all, how complex is it to make a device which reports temperatures to a computer? Motherboards can have several temperature and fan RPM headers on them, and they don’t cost $500… (RPM monitors btw, calculate fan rpm by counting the electrical pulses sent through to the fan – I think its two pulses per fan revolution). Hmm… how about Bluetooth enabled thermometers? :)

23
Jan 02
Wed

Here’s an amusing old MediaWatch transcript I randomly stumbled across, which ascerbically criticises Channel 9’s current affairs program – this time over the Robert Bogucki incident in 1999.

Nikon Coolpix 5000

DPReview has posted their Nikon CP5000 review. I came this close to picking one up in Singapore for a dirt cheap S$1500 at the beginning of this month… decided that the money could be put to better use in other pursuits. My cousin picked one up, however. Nikon’s digicam range is very well known for its exceptional macro shot ability. The 5000 also has a boatload of features and manual settings. Its interface isn’t the most intuitive, however, and often requires two hands to change some of these settings. In the same class, the Sony DSC-F707 seems to produce better images (thanks to its Zeiss Lens), but is constrained by the need to use proprietary, expensive memory sticks.

Kiwi outrage over SMH opinion article, “Lord of the Rungs: so that’s a fulm about modern times, eh?” Bloody hilarious, all of it. {src: Natter}

21
Jan 02
Mon

Cricket

Australia is currently staging a demolition of South Africa. SA all out for 106 (38.3 overs).

20
Jan 02
Sun

Materials

Ultrastrong spider’s silk no longer a huge stretch. Replicating spider silk is something that has eluded scientists for decades.

VB Series

Australia finally wins one-dayer vs SA. I wasn’t sure that 241 was a large enough total (especially since Gilchrist didn’t bat, which the commentators kept incessently lamenting about throughout the entire match). However, a couple key wickets falling quickly earned the Aussies victory.

18
Jan 02
Fri

GPS

This is just what you need for the 18 holes: GPS for the golf course. (But even though you may know the exact distance, making the ball go that far is another matter entirely…)

17
Jan 02
Thu

Gravastars over Black Holes

New Theories Dispute the Existence of Black Holes.

China, the United States and Democracy

This piece of writing makes for good reading. It’s mainly a critical analysis of China’s structure, and a well argued one. The stimulus for the article is an e-mail written by an 18 year old American girl who seems to believe that the differences between American government and Chinese government are not as large as may seem, coming close to calling the US government hypocritical (and at times it is, but not in the way she connotes). Her argument, however… well, you can’t really call it an argument – it doesn’t make any points… is addressed thoroughly.

bbs.solosier.com

Telnet to Solo’s BBS. Wow, brings back the memories. Of course, in this day and age, you don’t have to contest with busy ring tones, 9600bps modems, (and with Solo’s BBS) 30 minute guest time limits and monthly registration fees. He has a bunch of Doors games running there, good way to pass the time.

The One

Well… a bit of mindless, fun entertainment.

Cricket

Australia goes down to NZ for its third loss in a row in the VB series.

16
Jan 02
Wed

The Most Amazing Story Ever Told (Flashfest)

You gotta watch all these episodes. All the good animators (camp chaos, killfrog, joe cartoon, jay donaldson…) have got together and each makes an episode (you know kinda like you write a paragraph, them the next person needs to continue on the story)… anyhow, have a look.

http://www.campchaos.com/cartoons/tmaset/index.html

Another link from Pro! I found eps 5 and 6 the funniest.

15
Jan 02
Tue

Xerts

I got this email from an employee at Xerts:

Hi, You have a editorial on your website which is a bad one, as this was over 1 year ago, we would please ask that you please remove this editorial from your website. If you would like to come back in and experience Xerts so that you can write another fantastic editorial we would be more than happy to accomodate you. You can contact me on the above email address. Thank You

The post she refers to is here. The post is dated as over a year old, so there it will remain. I wouldn’t visit that place again unless it was free – bad impressions last. Why revisit a bad restaurant when there are so many good unvisited ones out there?

Finally, my web host has upgraded and compiled PHP4 into Apache. I hope nothing breaks.

Corporate Policy

A Scientific Experiment that Demonstrates Corporate
Attitudinal Development.

Start with a cage containing five monkeys. Inside the
cage, hang a banana on a string, and place a set of
stairs under it. Before long, a monkey will go to the
stairs and start to climb towards the banana. As soon
as he touches the stairs, spray all of the other
monkeys with cold water. After a while, another monkey
makes an attempt with the same result, all the other
monkeys are sprayed with cold water. Pretty soon, when
another monkey tries to climb the stairs, the other
monkeys will try to prevent it.

Now, put away the cold water. Remove one monkey from
the cage and replace it with a new one. The new monkey
sees the banana and wants to climb the stairs. To his
surprise and horror, all of the other monkeys attack
him. After another attempt and attack, he knows that
if he tries to climb the stairs, he will be assaulted.

Next, remove another of the original five monkeys and
replace it with a new one. The newcomer goes to the
stairs and is attacked. The previous newcomer takes
part in the punishment with enthusiasm!

Likewise, replace a third original monkey with a new
one, then a fourth, and then the fifth. Every time the
newest monkey takes to the stairs, he is attacked.
Most of the monkeys that are beating him have no idea
why they were not permitted to climb the stairs, or
why they are participating in the beating of the
newest monkey.

After replacing all the original monkeys, none of the
remaining monkeys have ever been sprayed with cold
water. Nevertheless, no monkey ever again approaches
the stairs to try for the banana. Why not? Because as
far as they know that’s the way it’s always been done
around here.

And that, my dear friends, is how company policy begins.

Thanks Pro!

Sydney Infrastructure

It took me 45 minutes to drive to work today. Chiswick is about 17 kilometres from my apartment in Kingsford. I can drive home to Camden in 50 minutes from Kingsford. Camden is 65 kilometres away. The difference is, there are no expressways between Chiswick and Kingsford. Kev pointed out to me last night that you can drive from North Sydney all the way down to Victoria and hit only one traffic light (the one on the M5). For a city as sprawling as Sydney, its road system is quite decent. Australia has among the highest car ownership per capita figures in the world. What Sydney is lacking, however, is a comprehensive inner city transport infrastructure. Sydney doesn’t have a dense inner city network of public transport. Rail stations are spaced far apart (compared to New York’s subway, Paris’ Metro, or HK’s MTR system, for example). Our light rail and monorail are more like novelty rides given their price. (By car, finding parking in the CBD is a bitch.) However, I guess such a transport system is not that necessary. The actual CBD is relatively confined and Sydneysiders are so conditioned to walking to get to where they want to anyway.

Computer & Phone

I bought an 80 GB Seagate Barracuda 4 hard drive. Of course, my computer is still down, so I have nothing to install it into, and I don’t want to open up my server in case something decides to bite the dust with that machine. I’m thinking of upgrading some time this year. I only need a few components:

– Case: Perhaps a Lian Li PC-70 (I like full towers)
– PSU: One of those high-wattage Enermax units
– CPU: Something Intel
– Mobo: Something with DDR Ram support
– RAM: 512MB DDR

Finding the right price point and time to buy a CPU/Mobo combo will be tricky. Northwood cored P4s are due out this year with higher 400 and 533MHz FSBs. Athlons are also a possibility, but I’ve always been an Intel person myself. I keep hearing stories about Athlons and compatibility issues.

In other news, I lodged the insurance claim to Vodafone for my 6210 (claim reason: “Phone irreparably damaged due to owner being thrown into swimming pool at party”). They said they’ll send me out a new phone, should be here in 5-10 working days. The excess is $125 unfortunately. My contract expires in about 5 months, maybe look at getting something with Bluetooth then. Doesn’t look like the 6310 will be out for a while here. I haven’t even seen anyone holding an 8310 in Sydney yet, but I do know they’re available in Singapore.

Headlines

I only just noticed, but Google has a news headlines page off their news resources page.

14
Jan 02
Mon

Bored

SQL Server Analysis Services, Excel VBA Programming… man, I am beyond boredom right now.

Geez RAM prices have catapulted again. There’s been more than a doubling of price over the last half year. Crazy.

Link Trawling

* AD&D Stats in Real Life. (Str: 9, Int: 13, Wis: 16, Dex: 14, Con: 8, Chr: 12)
* Pres Bush chokes on pretzel and faints
* Discovery.com looks at defending against ICBMs.
* Warcraft 3 beta applications close. Only US and Canada residents were eligible to apply. A few more months to wait…
{srcs: /u/b/g, EBG}

13
Jan 02
Sun

My computer is down. It has either blown its power supply, or its motherboard.

Work starts tomorrow at OneSteel.

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7
Jan 02
Mon

I’m back in Camden. Yet to unpack, yet to drive all the loot back to my apartment. I got to sort out all the crap with my hard drive and mobile phone soon. Need to figure out a thesis topic. Recruitment from April onwards. Work starts next Monday. It’s going to be a very busy 6 months.

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4
Jan 02
Fri

Misc

Something weird happened and all the permissions on the Hear Ye! directory got cleared somehow, which is why that permission denied page has been coming up (I only just found out). Anyhow, yesterday I got back from a rather ordinary cruise. Doing a bit of last minute shopping today, and I’ll be back in Sydney tomorrow night.

I did send a Happy New Year sms to the page on the 1st, but the sms gateway is a little tempermental…



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