J222 – Revelation

[12/30/2008] Day behind, bleh.

So, drawing the second panel took several tries.

First attempt.

Second attempt.

I’m still not too happy with the way it turned out. Another interesting observation:

Shifted a bit:

I’m beginning to suspect that I can only draw 518 from a few angles. I wonder if it’s the same for other characters…?

Also, descent into Cerebus Syndrome seems to be complete.

dcomic 487

[081228]

487 up; 512 complete. Yes, I am 26 pages ahead and slightly pulling away. This entry actually being written a bit early. There isn’t actually an overarching theme to this entry either, just a couple of story tidbits I mulled over whilst working on the latest pages.

The first thing actually starts two weeks back at 485; there’s this horizontal line shading that comes into play and is still being used up through 512. This is, as far as I know, the most consistent thing I’ve been able to figure out with the shading business for a long time now. This in turn has given me the most consistent run of pages (with respect to drawing quality) for a long time as well.

If you go backwards in 20 page jumps, 485 is hella different from 465 which is hella different from 445 which is hella different from 425 which is hella different from 405; but I think I can safely say that 485 is pretty much the same as 505. With respect to shading that is. 485 sadly has a bit higher art quality than 505.

This story will be done by the end of 2009. This isn’t a goal. This is a fact. The current 512 is within 20 pages of the end. It’s not the end in the sense that the story could keep going, but by the end of 2009, the Directorate will conclusively have taken over the world or failed to take over the world. I think even now one can see which end is more likely.

At the estimated end of 535, the directorate storyline spans 159 pages which is (sadly again) more or less the length of a thin volume of manga. Even sadder, Starcrossed, which had a “mere” 60 pages (albeit also something on the lines of 10 slash pages) took just six months to draw. Assuming that last 535 is drawn in the next six months, the three times longer directorate storyline will have taken taken FIFTY FOUR months to complete. That’s NINE times as long.

However, if you don’t count the pages that won’t appear in the compilation (aka the pages that were re-made), it comes down to about 36 months, six times as long, but still kind of unreasonable. I mean, granted the quality is ultimately much, much better than that of Starcrossed, but I’ve still been hacking away at this thing for three years. The worst of it is that the quality jump from Starcrossed to say, 400, is a lot greater than the quality jump from 401 to 500, despite the second time gap being 1.5 times as long.

Interestingly enough, I think colored illustrations have come a much longer way in that same 400 to 500 timespan.

The last thing I was thinking about is a matter of character development; refer to C050119 and “spe1jpg”. Also illustrated by the first couple pages of part 3, there was originally supposed to be an Aerith x Derek pairing and a Chikara x Justin pairing; the former even goes back to the pre-storyline era, but that’s another entry. My point was that it’s somehow gotten switched around between now and then. I don’t really know how that happened. Aerith seems to have a tendancy to become a super-minor character here and in TIAISS.

I would also go so far as to think that Chikara is the only dynamic character in the current storyline. Jack and Tho kinda go through a phase at the start and Derek has his little change of heart, but for the most part I think end-of-story Chikara is significantly different from old Part 2 Chikara and even start-of-part-3 Chikara. Or it might just be me.

Ok I think that’s it for this one. Til next tiem.

dcomic 486

[081224]

A tad bit late here, but I haven’t had a consistent connection for the past couple days. It still doesn’t want to load NWars for some odd reason – kinda like what happened to my Comcast a couple years back. At any rate, here’s 486 and the current comic in production is 510. I’d actually wanna do a colored piece over the break, but I’m completely uninspired still. Ok, that’s it for today.

EDIT: As of now NW is actually working on my ISP. Also, 510 is done.

dcomic 485

[081213]

So I’m up to 508 now. Hope to get maybe 10-15 more done over the break.

I was going to write one last entry on buying and selling stuff (this is, ultimately, somewhat related, though), but on Wednesday afternoon, I chanced upon a really good deal on the NBR forums – and I mean like a once or twice in a few years really good deal. It was a SAMSUNG MCCOE64G5MPP-0VA00 2.5″ 64GB SATA II SSD. As you can see this is a very expensive piece of hardware, almost $100 more than my HP and just about half the price of my ’64. Why I nearly shit in my pants was because I bought one for $110, shipped to boot.

Initially I feared this guy might have ripped me since this really does fall into the realm of “too good to be true”, but my fears were quelled when this thing arrived in my mailbox today in perfect working condition. I mean, this isn’t the biggest or fastest SSD out on the market anymore, but it’s still 64GB of SLC with a good controller (as opposed to the jmicron crap you might find in cheaper SSDs) and solid IO speeds; I honestly couldn’t believe my luck – it’s usually quite bad.

And of course I took some time to put the Samsung through its paces; I pulled out the 80GB, 5400RPM Toshiba in my ’64 and loaded up XP (in 15 minutes!) on the Samsung.

As you all know, I’ve got this thing for quiet computing and this solid state business doesn’t disappoint. I’ve played with a Lenovo X300 and while it comes with a (slower – AH HA HA HA) Samsung SSD, the small form factor gives it a somewhat weaker thermal solution coupled to a whiny-ass fan – which makes it less than quiet. Despite the LV processor, that whiny-ass fan comes on even if the machine is idling.

I’m pleased to say that my ’64 with an SSD (and a smattering of AS5) is completely silent at idle and a light load. It’s not as good as my HP, but the fuckers at Intel won’t let me push the P8400 below 0.9250 volts – and the fuckers at the nVidia don’t let me touch the Quadro’s VIDs at all (or at least no one has figured out how to?). Nonetheless, it’s all very good; a definite improvement over the spinner.

Sadly, bootup times don’t really improve that much (though they did significantly on my HP when I went to CF), but the machine was definitely faster overall in loading drivers, installing/loading programs, etc. While the raw performance numbers aren’t as amazing as the $600, 80GB Intel X25-M, they are, as I’ve said, nothing to sneeze at.

http://colette.trianglesoft.net/2008/img/0812/HDTune_Benchmark_TOSHIBA_MK8052GSX.png
http://colette.trianglesoft.net/2008/img/0811/HDTune_Benchmark_TRANSCEND.png
http://colette.trianglesoft.net/2008/img/0812/HDTune_Benchmark_SAMSUNG_SSD_RBX_Seri.png

So the first graph is for the stock Toshiba MK8052GSX in my ’64; this is generally representative of the speed “curve” you get for most mechanical HDDs (the spikes are cuz I’m reading from the disk with WMP whilst doing the test). I mean this ain’t too bad; the access times are a bit slower, but the average throughput the is actually on par with the 2003-2004 era 7200RPM desktop drives I have in Colette and Motoko.

The Transcend 300x CF card I have in the HP has a slower average throughput, but due to the nature of SSD, the throughput is consistent across the entire drive. And of course, due to the nature of SSD, the access times are through the floor. 0.3ms is a full 62 times faster than the MK8052 (and it might actually be faster – I’m not sure what’s the smallest access time HDTune can accurate detect).

Of course, the Samsung has a similar throughput curve – effectively a straight line – save that’s twice as fast, averaging 85MB/s. Access times are similar to the other solid state solution, but the increased burst rate indicates that there’s probably a small cache on the Samsung drive – though I’m not quite sure of the specifics here.

But HDTune isn’t that good an indicator of overall drive performance as it only measures sequential read speeds and access times, and this is really less than half the story. The Jmicron MLCs I pointed out earlier are very good at these sequential and reading things – they just happen to fail at writing. So I’m going to introduce another set of numbers provided by a utility I recently discovered: crystaldiskmark

Sequential Read : 51.705 MB/s
Sequential Write : 51.001 MB/s
Random Read 512KB : 22.201 MB/s
Random Write 512KB : 25.963 MB/s
Random Read 4KB : 0.297 MB/s
Random Write 4KB : 0.948 MB/s

Test Size : 100 MB

Sequential Read : 94.794 MB/s
Sequential Write : 86.774 MB/s
Random Read 512KB : 92.378 MB/s
Random Write 512KB : 68.579 MB/s
Random Read 4KB : 15.583 MB/s
Random Write 4KB : 5.387 MB/s

Test Size : 100 MB

The first set of numbers for the MK8052, the second set for the Samsung. Sequential reads and writes for both drives are pretty much right on the average throughput as depicted by HDTune, 51MB/s & 51MB/s for the Toshiba and a whopping 94MB/s & 86MB/s for the Samsung. The gap really starts to widen as the SSDs negligible access time comes into play on the random reads and writes. From reads sequential to 512KB to 4KB, the Samsung goes from being about twice as fast to 4 times as fast to fifty times as fast. From writes of sequential to 512KB to 4KB, the gains are less impressive, but still in the range of 2-5 times as fast.

There you go, SSD performance in a nutshell. Til next time then.

J219 – Challenge

[12/09/2008] The previous plot page for reference.

So, sorry about missing the update last week again (and the late update this week). I’ve basically been hosed, first by a presentation I had to make, then an essay … next week is finals … orz

So, last week my dormitory had its elections for president. At the house government meeting the following day (I was there as a representative for my subsection of the dorm), the guy in charge of the polling booth mentioned that he didn’t make a checklist of all the residents so he could mark down people when they came and voted. He then said that people from other dorms came and voted, and some residents might have voted twice. Why he didn’t put a stop to this, I don’t know, but the other house government members basically decided that they would ignore this fact and not tell anyone in the dorm. I didn’t like this, but I was busy and had to leave.

So, this weekend rolls around, and it finally gets to me. I decided to email the house government list and point out that, since the election was conducted improperly, as a matter of principle, it should be rerun; I am met with a return email from the current president flat-out rejecting the proposal, claiming that the results wouldn’t change (there was only one candidate). But since the point of rerunning it was to ensure it was done properly to avoid setting a bad example, I insisted. Once again, the proposal was rejected, and this time the resulting email was CCed to the entire dorm mailing list. I then got a few emails to the effect of “If you want it redone, do it yourself, stop whining, etc etc etc”. I had been perpared to run it, but at this point I got frustrated and stopped thinking about it.

Anyway, I realized today that I hadn’t really been looking for the election to be rerun; rather, I had hoped that other dorm residents would have cared enough that they would be up in arms over the revelation that the election had been conducted improperly — come on, people from other dorms being allowed to vote for your president? But basically, no one cared, or at least not enough to respond to the emails and say so. In short, I wanted other people to care more, but that’s a personal mindset issue, and I can’t do anything if other people don’t stick to principles enough to deal with the situation. As one of my friends pointed out, “You should have been alerted [to the fact that they were apathetic] when you saw that only one candidate was running…”

So, basically, dorm residents don’t care, and house government doesn’t care (setting a bad example; not like our house government is really effective at all anyway). There goes whatever faith I had that our dorm could do anything worthwhile. Perhaps I should move?

dcomic 484

[081209]

… and the first real appearance of BKS miscellany here in 484. I’d like to point out the genuine BKS space elevator, the Comet, and the pair of Symphonia class battle cruisers XD And no, the connection between this storyline and the BKS “saga” if you will has not bee revealed yet. Nor has the summary been updated for part 6 -_- As it stands I’ve been hella busy over the last week doing my final art project and studying for effin Circuits, though I really have wanted to continue with the story.

I’m actually writing this part of the entry right after the last one, so I won’t need to write it later. For the most part I don’t think I’ll switch topics anyways, so there’s not much to be gained or lost by writing it super-early. In fact it may be easier for me since I’m already kind of in the flow of things. I left off on the last entry babbling about making some money without working too hard and ended up turning to something I wasn’t so unfamiliar with: laptop repair.

Really, I’d been thinking about it since the entry in d173 where I described jumping a burnt solder joint on a PSX with aluminum foil and performing a similar fix on a Latitude C840. That was probably the second or third machine I’d gotten, polished-up, and resold in the past couple years, but up until then I’d really only fixed up units I got for free. I’d’ never really considered buying broken laptops, repairing, and reselling, but that changed (according to my Excel’ed dates) in early July.

Initially I had considered simply buying low and selling high: I could find some machine for $200, sell it for $300, save the margin, and re-invest the rest. I’m not totally sure why I didn’t go through with that; even in the shit economy at the moment, I still believe you can make a profit doing this, but I’m guessing I eventually discovered or calculated the margins in repair to be a bit a higher – despite requiring effort other than trolling for deals and listing items.

Now I started this summer as that was when my Paypal account actually gained enough funds for me to start (having lost a lot of funds buying my TC4200 in March). Sometime in the summer I got an influx of old laptops, all Dells, an Inspiron 1150, Latitude X200 (can’t find a review or anything o_O), and a Latitude D600. The former two were from my dad, he and my sister had recently upgraded, so we were left with some antiques that were worth about $200 to $250 each. Ultimately he agreed to let me do what I wanted with ’em given that I kept a machine on hand as a backup in case someone in the family needed it.

I ended up ponying up my already unused 500m as the backup and sold the two. Then, for about a hundred, I bought the D600 from the infamous Generalachoo. It was this machine that actually proved to me that this venture could be profitable: initially it had seemed like the D600 was only missing a set of hinges which was an easy $20 fix. It turned out the sound on the board was faulty and I had to buy a new motherboard to return the machine to working condition. What I didn’t know at the time was that I could still re-sell the old board at a considerable fraction of the price of a working one – for parts, of course – and other buyers, probably more capable repair establishments, would actually buy ’em given that at least it powered up or whatnot.

Now of course, there are strategies to buying and selling the right units at the right prices, but it’d take me entries and entries to go on about it. The end result is that even in this shitty economy, which I have already aluded to, you can still get a margin of anywhere from $50 to $150 on a particular unit, sometimes completely depending on the luck of the draw. Kind of the key idea here – I think – should be that people are willing to pay a sigificantly greater amount for a completely working unit than one that is, say, completely working, minus the sound. The same is true, of course, of individual components, but the difference between the price of a fully working motherboard and a motherboard that is completely working, minus the sound, while large with respect to the overall price of the motherboard, is small relative to the price of an entire laptop.

I’m also only repairing Latitude D600s. In general I think it’s a good idea to stick with a single machine as parts from one unit can be rolled over to the next if there are broken and non-broken components that can be interchanged. In an extreme scenario you have one unit with a bad screen and another with a bad board; you can simply swap screens or boards and you’ve got a fully functioning machine and one that’s pretty much only good for parts. You couldn’t do this if one machine was a D600 and the next was a D610. why exactly the D600 is split between having some experience with this generation of machine (the 500m and 600m are actually the last Inspirons to share a common chassis with their Latitude counterparts), the abundance of parts, the fact that I had a D830 and a 500m, and the fact that three other members of my family now have D600s. I like Dell, too, possibly to the point of fanboi-ism.

So what of the actual profits? Well, again I don’t really find it appropriate to disclose that kind of information on the Internet, but let’s just say it’s positive. It could potentially be a lot bigger, but I haven’t really scaled the operation since I started; for a most part I’ve been keeping an inventory of about two to three units in part due to the weak economy actually affecting ebay sales and due to the uncertainty of each sale at a given price. Again I could probably go on about whatever strategy there is here, but I think the main point is that you probably do learn something about business by DIY.

So yeah, some obligatory pictures:

http://colette.trianglesoft.net/2008/img/0812/Dsc01232.jpg

This is a D600. For the most part, everything but the plastics are interchangeable with the 500m, 600m, and D500, though the 500m and D500 usually come with a less-featured motherboard. It can take any 400MHz FSB Pentium M and associated Celerons, up to 2GB of DDR, any PATA hard drive, and any D-Series module that’s been made between now and 2003. So yes, I could actually use the DVD drive and modular battery from my D830 if I still had it. Graphics are a “dedicated” Mobility Radeon 9000 and you can get XGA and SXGA+ screens and a plethora of shitty and less shitty wireless cards.

http://colette.trianglesoft.net/2008/img/0812/Dsc01227.jpg
http://colette.trianglesoft.net/2008/img/0812/Dsc01228.jpg
http://colette.trianglesoft.net/2008/img/0812/Dsc01229.jpg

A smattering of parts, you can see a bunch of large plastics in the first pic, a clump of internal bits in the second, and some of the more fragile, more general components in the last. For the most part the limiting reagent here are screens and motherboards, but HDDs and ODDs seem to be harder and harder to come by in parts units these days. Sometimes you can get like a 1.8GHz Pentium M in a parts unit that’ll sell for something like $60+ on its own, but fail to raise the accepted buying price of a machine by anything. Same goes for DVDRW drives and some other bits.

http://colette.trianglesoft.net/2008/img/0812/Dsc01230.jpg

Laptop bags are one item that can’t really hold their own in being sold AND don’t really raise the price of an item by much. For the most part, the extra revenue generated by adding a laptop bag to an item are offset completely by how much extra it costs to ship the damn thing. The USPS Flat Rate box is an amazing deal. $10 anywhere in the country, any weight, in 2-3 days. UPS Ground can suck it. With a bag I have to use a standard, larger box for a heavier overall package which can be up to 3 times as expensive as the flat rate.

Ok, that’s it for today. Maybe one more entry on this next time. For the record, this IS the longest entry ever at 8.5KB.

dcomic 483

[081202]

Yikes, it’s December already. I’ve drawn up to 504, so we’re back to being 20 pages ahead of the site. Technically I skipped 503 as that’s the part seven “splash” and I haven’t been doing those ’til well into the parts lately. I’ve got a lotta shit to take care of in the next two weeks, so I don’t think I can keep going until Christmas break. Nonetheless, I think I’ve expanded the buffer sufficiently for now.

Recently J inquired as to how I managed to gather a fleet of computers whose number of members is above average. I told him that it was magic, but clearly that’s wrong. I think the specifics of the come-abouts of each member of the fleet is quite clear in the previous entry – Colette was effectively a “donation”, Motoko was a “salvage”, the E6400 was ultimately largely a “gift”, and the TC4200… well I actually had to buy that.

Putting things like that may be an oversimplification. I think the general gist is that: one, I like to collect things; two, I like keeping up with technology and tinkering with computer hardware; and three, I’m not really disinclined to buy and sell, buy and sell, even on impulse. That last one may be part of a cycle – if I already have multiple machines, I’m generally not afraid to part with one for a bit to get a new one, as I won’t be computer-less for any period of time. With this in mind, Colette and Motoko are largely the result of one and two, and the latter two are largely the result of two and three.

But despite the fact that the TC4200 “only” cost me $450 (as opposed to a $600 X41T), or that the E6400 “only” cost something like $200 (over the sale price of my D830) that money’s still gotta come outta somewhere. For the most part, I’m pretty frugal with money – my parents are nice enough to give me some money for college and after like textbooks, I basically never spend many of it. Being the loner/miser I am, I never go out, never buy food, etc, etc. Money that others would likewise spend on going out or buying food, I spend on… well, electronics.

Thus I feel somewhat justified in spending this money in that respect, but as I said, I like to collect things and money really isn’t an exception. I try to save a significant portion of my “income”, whatever it may be. When I was younger, I realized that if you had X amount of money you could live off the interest given Y interest rate and Z expenditure on a daily basis. I think this idea gives away a lot: one, I’m lazy as fuck and really don’t want to work hard; and two, I really like this idea of “not working for money, but making money work for you”. So I try to invest some of my balance in the plainest sense of the word; while I think it not prudent to give away the numbers, I do have capital in both time accounts and stocks (despite the fact that the latter has lost a lot of value lately).

But time accounts and stocks are ultimately there for the long run and unlikely to make you huge gains in a few months or years (unless you have a huge amount of money with which to start) and I really wanted a way to generate some revenue for myself that didn’t involve working all that hard. And this really was supposed to be the damned point of this entry, but since I’ve spent so much time writing this “introduction”, I may as well save it for next time, lest this be the longest entry ever by some outrageous margin.