J273 – Bad Apple; Equivalent Exchange

[3/25/2010] Hi everyone! Preparing for Anime Boston has really eaten up my time; I’ve been spending much of the past few days editing, as I’m the editor for our doujinshi circle. Our doujinshi is coming along slowly but surely; I’ve finished the editing for one of the artists, and I’m waiting on the other two, who are somewhere between pencilling and inking. Basically, this all has to be done by Monday, so that we have time to print and bind everything before the convention D:

Anyway, I decided to draw this week’s update the same way we’ve been doing the pages for the doujinshi: Draw using red or blue pencil, ink, scan in the page, then remove the colored pencil digitally using a filter. I decided to grayscale-bucket-color the comic for the heck of it. I actually came up with the ideas for these 4koma a while back, but I didn’t actually have time to make them until now. By the way, if you didn’t know, Red Delicious is a type of apple, not describing apples that are red and delicious in general. Personally, I don’t find them particularly delicious … hence the comic (I tend to prefer Fuji apples).

Anyway, see you at the con, if any of you decide to go!

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dcomic 537

[100321]

Hmm, I didn’t realize this until I uploaded the comic; the BKS Ultima of Starcrossed fame makes a cameo appearance here.

Ok, so I had a post for last week, but since J didn’t put anything up, it didn’t go up. But this week I’ve got a couple other tidbits, so that entry will get postponed until I don’t have anything else to say (aka soon[?]). I was commenting to J that these days, NW is more like “my blog with a webcomic on the side”… how true that is, well…

Anyway, this week is two years with HP TC4200. At this point, I have owned this thing longer than the original owner, and the machine itself is going into its fourth year. That’s pretty old for a computer, but with basic computing having reached relatively – er, I couldn’t figure out how to end this sentence; I want to say that since the system requirements for basic computing plateaued a long time ago, I think we’ll start seeing more systems that’ll last many, many years as they do everything needed of them.

I think I’ve mentioned it before, but the Dell tower in my dad’s office hit ten years in December of last year. I think only the case and motherboard are original components in that system, but such is the case with Colette as well. In any case, I don’t really see either getting replaced anytime soon, so my point stands…

The ViewSonic a75f CRT that I still use for testing is also hitting ten years real soon.

At any rate, I’m still very happy with the TC4200. To the extent that if it broke beyond reasonable repair, I would still go back to eBay and buy the same damn thing. There is still nothing on the market that catches my fancy or ticks all the boxes I talked about when I blogged about HP 2730p. The x201t is now out and shipping and if TPFanControl still works, and if it still uses a Wacom digitizer, I will consider trying one… in a few years.

So at minimum it looks like I’ll be holding onto TC4200 for another year or two.

It looks like it’s holding up well, though. The keyboard is finally starting to look pretty shitty now, and a couple posts ago, I mentioned what might become a problem with the display wiring, but overall, no real problems. I think I’ve taken pretty good care of it, though. At the very least, I haven’t dropped it; my sister admits that she’s dropped her ThinkPad X300 off her bike at least twice… but it’s a ThinkPad.

I did a full battery rundown recently on a long day… capacity has finally started dropping. 44WHr became 39WHr. Still pretty damn good for four years. As much as I hate to admit it, Dell batteries are pretty shitty compared to this.

Alright, short this week, I don’t think I have anything else to cover. Should get working on the comic or something…

J272 – Sketch: Nostalgic Lunch

Written March 7th, 2010

I decided to eat something nostalgic for lunch today.

I had showered in the morning for a change, so I tied up my still-damp hair and headed out of the dormitory. I stared at my feet as I walked down the three flights of stairs to the ground level (Was I actually concerned as to where my feet were landing, or did I not have anywhere else to look at? I’ve found that I usually stare at my feet when I walk; I should make a conscious effort to look up.). It struck me that I’ve basically gone up and down the same flights of stairs at least once a day for nine months out of the year these past three years.

I passed the soda machine in the hallway — SOLD and OUT still flashed on its display. I suppose that’s only to be expected; no one really sells 50-cent cans anymore.

As I walked down the street, it didn’t feel much like winter. I suppose it’s March now, but that doesn’t mean that it should seem like the midmorning of a day in summer vacation either. It’s probably the sudden reappearance to sun after several weeks of half-cloudy, rain-and-snow-y weather. We’ve had disappointing weather the past few weeks: A sort of noncomittal snow that fell from the sky but never piled up, ordinary rainstorms neither misty nor dramatically falling out of the sky. I fixed my hair using the the shadow of me the sun cast on the ground — a small tuft of hair had escaped being pulled into the ponytail.

I arrived at the sandwich counter in the convenience store in the student center. Not too many weeks ago, they had changed their menu, paring down the items and probably improving the graphic design — the old menu had been lists of meats and toppings you could place on your sub, somewhat confusing. I’m not sure I actually really remember what it looked like, despite seeing it several times each week in the two years prior.

The sandwich counter had switched to having little paper slips you could fill out with what you wanted to order, probably after several complaints of customers receiving the wrong thing. I decided to order my sandwich by talking to the sandwich counter guy directly anyway. Ham sub, lettuce, tomato, a little bit of mayo, american cheese, on wheat. I usually get hot sandwiches, but I was in the mood for something a bit nostalgic. And cold. I don’t think I’ve really had a ham sandwich like that since high school. I tend to forgo condiments of any sort — they’re sort of empty calories, though I’m not sure why I bother thinking about that — so I don’t know if really remember what mayo tastes like anyway. Before he actually put it together, the guy checked with me to make sure he got the order right. Ham, lettuce, tomato, little bit of mayo, american cheese, and wheat right? Yeah.

While I waited for the sandwiches I inspected the chips. Baked chips, classic chips, ruffled chips … I inspected the packages. Like I thought, the baked chips weigh less. The package is smaller too. I turned them over, and inspected the calorie information. I don’t know why I did that. I suppose it’s a good thing to shave off excess calories when you can. I know I didn’t want the baked ones; those are a pretty recent innovation, as far as I can tell, riding on this new trend towards “healthier” food. I’m not sure if attemting to make empty calorie snack foods healthier is some sort of lost cause. At any rate, I picked the “classic” chips. Maybe it was because they had less sodium than the ruffled cheddar ones?

Something to drink. I passed the cans of soda by — at a dollar each, the price gouging was clearly visible. The plastic bottles of major brands I also ignored. Whatever happened to the days when you could get a 20-ounce bottle of soda for a dollar? I guess I sound like an old man sometimes; I do sometimes prefer older things to new ones. (I’m typing this on a computer, but I wish I had a typewriter. A kind old man down the street gave me his hundred-year old one as he was moving out, but it’s nowhere near working condition.) I grabbed a glass bottle of root beer and headed to the counter.

I checked out, and left without taking a bag for my food. It’s not like it’s particularly difficult to hold a sub, a bottled soda, and a bag of chips. I scurried through the crosswalk before the light changed, climbed the stairs to the campus buildings, then headed to the room where I was meeting my group for a class project.

It took me three swipes with my ID card before I actually was able to get into the room. One of the group members was later than I was; whatever.

I opened the sub. White bread?

The sub hadn’t been cut either; just one massive roll of bread, with ham and tomatoes poking out the side. When the root beer ran out, I was only three-quarters of the way through, and too full for any more. There were still chips left too. The bags sure are a lot bigger than when I was in elementary school — and the price tag too, as the large “99” on the bag reminds me. The sandwhich and chips are too big, and the soda is too small.

That’s not right. When you grow up, isn’t everything supposed to shrink relative to you? I folded up what was left of the sandwich in the foily paper it came in and left it alone during the meeting.

And so, I had nostalgia for lunch, and leftover nostalgia at dinner. But not quite.

[3/10/2010] Was pretty busy over the weekend and was pretty stressed out, so I decided to write something. Basically, I woke up on Sunday and basically went, “Huh, I’m a college student now.” I drew this pen sketch to go with it; I think I rather like the effect I get with ball-point pens; I probably should buy some more. And a sketchpad.

Also, I will be present at Anime Boston this year! A few friends and I are joining together to make a Vocaloid doujinshi; come look for us at Artist Alley!

… And we only have until the end of this month to finish our artwork! D:

dcomic 536

[100308]

So today, my biggest gripe with the E6400 goes away for good!

My biggest concern with computing these days, and probably for a good year or two now, has been with power consumption and noise. Back in the days of my CpT C and 500m, it really wasn’t a big deal, cuz the processors didn’t dump much heat and the fan(s) rarely, rarely came on. Hard drives were kind of annoying, but 4200rpm drives are pretty quiet on the whole (unless you get some old clunker with a dying bearing or something silly).

I really started noticing all the noise computers made when I put the old Dell tower in my room. I don’t quite remember the rationale for that (except that it was for the lulz), but soon the Dell tower wasn’t good enough and I got Colette. In the original configuration, Colette was pretty noise, with a cheapo case and a bunch of 80mm (and smaller fans) running at full tilt. Over the next year or two, I spent considerable time and effort quieting her down, and I’ve detailed that in the past (too lazy to go reference older posts at the moment).

That being said, it gradually came to be that the most important thing in a computer was pretty much it’s power, and subsequently, noise footprint. Power’s not the whole story, as many computers these days seem to have really aggressive fan profiles, but I’m not going to get a laptop with a hot processor, a noise fan, and then active noise cancelling speakers in order to make it inaudible. That’s clearly inelegant, and that kind of thing matters to me.

The opposite side of the coin is passive cooling. Whenever someone asks me about netbooks or something, I always volunteer the (few) that have passive cooling. Considering the low power consumption of the Atom, it’s the perfect candidate for such a thing, but so many manufacturers insist on putting a shitty, whiny fan into their chassis and keeping the whole thing at 32C, whereas I’m pretty sure filling up that fan space with a bigger heatsink would solve the cooling problem just as well.

Of course, that’s ultimately speculation, but if the mini 9 can passively cool a 9″ chassis, there’s no way, it’s ridiculous that some of the bigger 10″ and 12″ netbooks can’t.

But I digress. The HP TC4200 really opened my eyes to what kind of noise profile was possible even in a small notebook with a mainstream processor. While my D830 ran it’s fan most of the time, the TC4200, undervolted and all, would only crank it up after long periods on my bed or under full load. The fan consistently came on at 60C and shut down at 50C, and thus never ran long.

If every notebook had such a nice and simple fan control, I wouldn’t be making this post. Undervolted, the P8400 in my E6400 and the Pentium M in my HP both put out what seem to be similar power figures under light to mid load. The P8400 tops out at a higher wattage, but I don’t really mind running a fan if I’m playing SC2 or something. The problem has always been the shitty fan control on the E6400.

I don’t want to go into the details, but it pretty much sums up what I hate about “modern” fan control. It turns on at a low, low temperature, and runs forever. It isn’t even controlled by a temperature sensor that’s picked up by HWMonitor, so it’s very, very hard to work around. I can’t just lower the temperature and get less fan noise and that is the crux of the issue.

So after the owning the machine for about a year, it began to dawn on me that what I wanted to do was get rid of the damn fan altogether.

The first thing I did was an experiment. I unplugged the fan, booted the machine, and used RMClock to lock my P8400 to its lowest multiplier (for a speed of something like 1600MHz). Then I loaded up the CPU and let it run. I wanted to see if Penryn-based processor running at a lower clock speed would generate enough heat to saturate the passive cooling capabilities of the E6400’s stock thermal solution.

It almost did. At 1600MHz and 0.8750v, the temperatuers topped out a bit above 60C, which isn’t dangerously hot, but fairly hot. Given that was a full-load speed, it’s not that bad, but still a bit hotter than what I’d like. Furthermore, a software solution like this is a little dangerous. If the machine freezes for some reason or another while I’m not at it, the software cap will go away, and the thing will try to run the P8400 at full speed, stock voltage, without a fan. That’s a fairly dangerous situation I’d like to avoid.

So what I needed was a processor based on the same Penryn core, but hardware-capped to somewhere around 1.5GHz. Intel doesn’t actually make a standard socketed processor like that. The slowest Penryn is a 2.0GHz T4200, which is definitely not going to work here. Older Socket P processors are capped at lower clock speeds, but they are also based on older cores that dump more heat per clock.

But there is a niche market apparently just for this. Intel’s ultra-low voltage processors are based on the same cores as their full-power counterparts, but capped at lower clock speeds and rated at lower TDPs. They are also typically soldered to motherboards, and you subsequently can’t drop them in a typical mainstraight notebook.

I don’t remember why I first looked into this, but for the longest time, there have been a small number of PGA-modded ULV processors on eBay. This means that the ULV processor has been soldered to a PCB with pins on it, such that you CAN put it in said mainstream motherboard. It’s a little bit thicker than a standard Socket P part, but thankfully in the case of the E6400, it doesn’t matter. I got an SU9300 for just over $100.

Yesterday, it arrived. Today, I put it in.

I ran the load test again, and they were very good. At stock speeds, it stayed under 60C on my desk, and I went so far as to put it on my bed, where it gained another 5C, but 65C isn’t too dangerous. Undervolted, I dropped 5C off both of those figures, and the best part is, I can still play Starcraft II! What an victory for silence.

Alright, that’s probably it for today.

J271 – Exquisite Corpse #1

[3/4/2010] Late as usual…

So, today’s update is an example of an exquisite corpse. Essentially, each person in this drawing group I’m in drew one panel, then passed the paper on to the next person who drew the next panel. Sometimes, you get exactly what the first person was intednding. Other times…

In this case the participants were as follows:

The one on the left was done in December, whereas the one on the right happened this past week. I feel that the one on the left is a great example of an exquisite corpse that slowly gets crazier and crazier until the killer final panel, whereas the one on the right is an example of an exquisite corpse with a hilarious subversion at the end.

So I guess I only did 1/4 of an update then, since I only drew 2 panels? It’s been crazy for me lately. A paper due last Tuesday, a paper that was due this Tuesday, and another one due next Tuesday … aiyaiyai.

Okay, collapsing now. Until next we-zzzzzzzz

dcomic 535

[100221]

Well first I guess congrats to J for actually posting something. I didn’t actually think he’d do it even after I was like “aye, just post something… anything”. So gg. Anyway, onto what I’ve written.

So for the last two weeks, I’ve touched upon the untimely death of my WRT54G (so well known it has its own Wiki page!). I don’t remember how long ago I bought the thing, but it must have been at least three years ago, as I remember setting it up with my old 500m.

Back then, the relevant network was using an old Netgear wireless router, and it would crap out under heavy loads (“heavy” is really relative here; even a couple hundred kb/s of torrents would often be enough to take it down – but most torrents were so slow back then that this was still somewhat rare. I could go on and on about downloading Cowboy Bebop for 2 weeks at 5kb/s, but I digress…), and I finally got fed up.

The infamous Generalachoo, staunch defender of ThinkPads and messy rooms, recommended that I pick up the WRT54G, which was supposed to be pretty much the best wireless router money could buy.

And so I’m sure I went down to Frys and picked this thing up; I’m guessing it was probably $50 to $60, but that isn’t bad if it’d just freaking work. If you work the numbers, that comes out to be 5.4 cents per day over the device’s three-year lifetime. I think it’s been worth it for the most part. There were initial hiccups (like the stock firmware not supporting some what I thought were basic features), but after flashing DDWRT shortly after purchase, it was doing great…

Until early last week.

I guess it might have been Monday, as I lost access to Colette on Monday. I initially assumed it was the ATT modem in front of the WRT54G that was having issues; it’s been pretty good for now, but at one time it was notorious for dropping the ball. Strange things like disconnecting and reconnecting the cable between it and the WRT54G usually fix its issues… but when I saw the two boxes on Wednesday, everything looked normal.

The WRT54G was still broadcasting, but I couldn’t connect to it. So it looked like that was the source of the problem. I power cycled the device… and it didn’t work. It looked like it was booting properly, but all of the status lights would stay on, and it just didn’t do anything. And it dawned on me then that I was probably looking at yet another fancy paperweight.

I could’ve temporarily setup all my infrastrucutre to use the old Netgear router, which is now upstairs connected to the Comcast line, while I looked around for a good deal on another WRT54G, but it’s kind of a pain, and I didn’t think it worth it. So I poked around online, and on Saturday, I drove to Frys and bought a WRT160N (which is not special enough to have its own wiki page). It was expensive. $75. I’m still debating whether or not that was worthwhile, but I wanted a replacement fast…

But the WRT160N is called the WRT160N for a reason. Obviously it supports wireless N. Which is great. No more silly 1mb/s transfers across the wireless network. Except that none of my infrastucture supports wireless N. Drop in cards for the desktop(s) are about double the cost of PCI G cards (though that’s still “only” about $25 for a generic device), and the TC4200 will probably never support it. I have picked up an older Dell 1500 draft N card in my eBay travels which will most probably work with the E6400, but that’s one of four.

So I suppose it’s in the cards now to eventually upgrade those desktop cards… eventually. It really will be nice to have those faster transfer speeds. I really wouldn’t care if our house had built-in Ethernet, but what do you expect from something built in the early 70s…

So far the WRT160N seems to be working great. Even with the standard firmware and without and silly tweaking. So I’ll leave it at that for now…