dcomic 524

[091101]

So J and I had a couple of discussions about space battles and whatnot given BKS/Confederate League technology this summer. I was making him recall some of the decisions we made, and then I decided that I should take an entry to talk about some BKS technology and battleships.

The power source of all BKS/CL ships is plain old nuclear fusion. I think we assume that antimatter just isn’t available/produceable in significant quantities to make antimatter powerplants practical. Founder reactors in the early stages of BKS history can do “higher order” fusion (that’s a page taken out of Larry Niven’s works), but this technology is lost before the BKS Civil War. The government now keeps a tight grip on all these early reactors and they are generally only used in military ships.

Hyperdrives allow ships to travel one lightyear in three days (Niven’s figure again). Ships in hyperspace don’t cast a “shadow” in real space, but masses in real space will cast a “shadow” in hyperspace. This is important because ships in real space can’t detect masses in hyperspace, while ships in hyperspace can detect masses in real space. This in turn is important because ships that venture too close to large masses in hyperspace can be lost in hyperspace.

Messages cannot be sent through hyperspace. You need a ship, and at 3 days to the lightyear, it can take months for news to travel across the empire. Else, you’ve got lightspeed communication via radio, etc.

Most BKS ships are made of some sort of superstrong, lightweight carbon-based material. I’m assuming this material can’t be welded or something, which explains the multitude of rivets we find on a lot of BKS craft.

Anti-gravity technology is available and very efficient. Steam-electric barges can easily generate enough power levitate themselves and propel themselves forward. I would think that the technology isn’t too expensive either.

Particle shield technology is also available. It can be made to conform to the shape of a ship, and takes the energy from moving particles and coverts that energy into heat. Space battles are thus largely about dumping heat from your shield generators really really fast. I’d assume that electro-magnetic shield technology is also available, but we haven’t decided on anything concrete in that department (that I can remember).

So there are exactly 130 super-heavy battleships built between BKS 1770 (start of empire) and CL 2251 (confederate present). These are divided into five classes, Symphonia, Ultima, Dogma, Enigma, and Enigma II. 82 are still in existence in 2251 and 22 of these are operational.

Alright, enough of that.

This weekend I took the plunge and moved Motoko to Windows 7. It’s the $29.99 version you can get if you’re a student with a .edu email. If you have multiple .edu email accounts, you can get multiples of ’em! The Home Premium version is advertised, but you can get Professional if you click the right options. You can also gete 32bit and 64bit versions; I’ve opted for the 32bit version since I’m not running more than 4GB of memory and I actually don’t know if any of my stuff (like Transport Tycoon) will work on 64bit. I need professional as I need Remote Desktop as RDC is the best thing since sliced bread.

I wasn’t planning on making any jumps to 7 until general support for good old XP became nonexistant (like how I finally couldn’t find Win98 drivers for my 500m in 2004 XD), but I changed my mind. For one, the $30 offer only lasts another month or so. Second, Motoko for one has kinda been in a licensing snafu that I’d like to amend, and this really is the perfect oppourtunity. Furthermore, friend of mine in Ohio (who also has an E6400 and a C2D desktop… FOR THE WIN) has been using Win7 for months now and has not had a problem. On the other hand, a certain Mr. Tsui bought a Vista laptop near launch (late 2006?) and has had nothing but problems, even after SP1.

So I bought my key from MS and built an AIO image and loaded it on a DVDRW, waited a while and all that good stuff. I’d already installed Win7 on some old Dell D600s and D610s, so I kinda knew what to expect, but there were a couple things that still blew me away. Setup was seriously like less than thirty minutes from the time I put in my disk to the time it loaded my desktop; seriously XP can take up to an hour on some machines. And then. And THEN. I put in my wireless driver for my cheapo wifi card, ran Windows update, and WHAT DO YOU KNOW, it took care of the rest of my drivers! I only had to install [i]one[/i] driver, and that may have been because I didn’t have an Internet connection before installing my wifi stuff. That’s fairly impressive, considering I’ve got this antiquated, obscure TV tuner as well as a fairly obscure GPU.

Also surprising was that it enabled aero without me having to mess with it. My GPU only has 64MB of memory, which is definitely grounds for it to complain… but it doesn’t. Remote Desktop connection is also backwards compatible as a client AND server. Then there’s the fact that all my applications worked right out of the box as well. We’re talking OpenCanvas 1 (2003), Paint Shop Pro 7 (2001), MS Word 97 (1997), Transport Tycoon (1995)… and I think the rest of my apps are all probably fairly recent. But still, quite an accomplishment, Microsoft. Everything just worked. I was able to crash a Win7 installation on a D600 by not setting the wifi to automatically connect and logging in via RDC, but that’s another story.

Anyway, obligatory new desktop shot:

And probably a little more on Win7 and shit next week.

dcomic 508

[090703]

My biggest qualm with Win7 (at least with the RC) is that it still takes up more than 7GB on disk (as measured by the size of the Windows folder). I do believe that a large portion of this 7GB is taken up by legacy drivers and whatnot, but it’s still about three times the size of even a year-old XP installation (as measured on my desktop) that has taken up a bit of bloat. I’m fairly certain there will programs like nLite or vLite that can reduce the on-disk footprint, but it’d be nice if Microsoft could do something about this 7GB, which doesn’t even consider programs, page file, system restore, etc.

Other than the disk footprint, the RC doesn’t really seem to eat too many resources, though benchmarks across the web have shown it to be slower than XP in some scenarios. The Pentium M 740 on my TC4200 is just able to playback 720p video without lagging, so the Pentium M 750 on the test machine should be able to do the same, especially since its about a hundred MHz faster. Such is indeed the case, but opening things like task manager whilst a video is playing will cause it to stutter a bit; this doesn’t happen on the 740 with XP Tablet. So the processor takes a bit more load, but the memory usage isn’t out of the ballpark and I think the RC is reasonable in both these regards.

I’m also not too fond of how Vista and Win7 have tried to shuffle a bunch of folders and control panel all over the place to “simplify” the layout of the OS. I’m fairly certain you can probably mess with everything so as to layout the OS like XP, but I’ve been trying to use 7 as it would be out of the box, so I don’t have to tweak it everytime I do a clean install. It’s not too hard to get the general gist of things, but yeah…

Ok, that’s enough about Win7 for now. The really good thing that happened to me is that I finally figured how to make my TC4200 read SDHC cards. Way back in d209, I commented about the fact that, with my CF-SSD setup, I got a meager 6GB of overall storage, with an effective 3.5GB of usable storage. Well, that figure has gone down to like 2GB in the past couple of months, as I’ve loaded a couple more things onto the main drive and as half of the SD cards is full of music.

Because I don’t like to store media on the main drive; this whole business boils down to the fact that I have < 1GB of usable space for anime and whatnot and this has really been getting annoying these past couple months. It means I have to reload the card after I watch two or three episodes and I don’t really have any flexibility in what I can watch without reloading the damn thing. I originally bought a 16GB SDHC with the 4GB CF in anticipation of such a problem, but as I’ve said… SDHC didn’t work.

In December or so, I tried using one of these Addonics dual-CF adapters and a slower 16GB CF along with my 4GB main drive, but the HP BIOS sucks balls and can’t address two physical drives in the single HDD slot, so teh 16GB drive was forever stuck in PIO mode, which is a bunch of fail. Still using the dual-CF adapter since it’s a better fit than my original adapter, but I had to return the 16GB CF.

More recently, someone pointed out that HP had released an updated driver for the Texas Instruments card reader than comes on the TC4200. This driver revision was released in June of 2008, meaing that I didn’t know about it at all, because I bought the TC4200 in March of 2008, and downloaded all my drivers in early April. I used that same set of drivers for my CF reinstallation since they all worked fine. Furthermore, I didn’t expect HP to release a new driver almost three years after the TC4200’s original release.

Now, the guy and HP’s site said the new driver would fix the fact that “The notebook PC does not recognize 4GB SDHC (Secure Digital High Capacity) from SanDisk, Panasonic, Toshiba, etc. when inserted”. Since they only mentioned 4GB SDHC cards, I figured that the original 4GB limit of the SD format would still apply and that SDHC cards greater than 4GB would still not be recognized, so I actually didn’t bother looking into the driver for a while.

Regardless, I ultimately installed the new driver and discovered that it did work with 4GB SDHC and my old 16GB SDHC and that really made my week. No more pokey 2GB crap.

Ok, that’s it for now.

dcomic 507

[090629]

It’s done.

541 puts an end to something like five years of work. I’ve got mixed feelings about the ending, but to preclude any spoilers, I won’t say anything. The story will have been completely posted by the end of the year, as scheduled. I will most likely do a few double updates if necessary. But I mean… what the fuck am I going to do now?

I could go on about my plans for the next story arc (is that supposed to be two words?), but I think I’ll talk about some computer stuff for this entry.

I’m writing this entry from a week old Windows 7 RC installation loaded onto a Latitude D610 that I acquired in my travels in the land of eBay. The machine has a Pentium M 750 (1.86GHz, 2MB L2, 533MHz FSB – I think it’s kinda interesting that these Dothan Pentium Ms actually have just as much L2 cache as my E2140…), 1GB of memory, and an 80GB, 5400RPM HDD; the Windows 7 RC is build 7100, released on May 5th of this year.

I actually took build 6801 (and then very briefly, build 7000) for a spin late last year on one of the many D600s I’ve handled in the past year, but I don’t think I ever wrote about my experience. The one thing that stands out from my original trials was that the Windows 7 installer doesn’t run on 128MB of memory. Just FYI. I think 512MB is supposed to be the minimum…

I got my RC key straight from Microsoft using my Hotmail (or as MS wants to say, my Windows Live login) login, but I ended up downloading the actual ISO via torrent just because I didn’t want to deal with the Microsoft download manager. The image was just under 3GB and I put it on a DVDRW using ImgBUrn. The installation on the D610 was a breeze. This has already been done in Vista, but the Windows 7 installer only asks u for input at the very start of the installation, so you can just set it and let it go do it’s thing. The Windows XP installer asks u for like three prompts right in the middle of the install, which can be a pain in the ass. I set off the installer before I napped, and it was done when I woke up, about thirty minutes later.

I’m fairly certain (though my memory is a bit hazy) that Windows 7 took care of all of my drivers save for those of my audio device and modem (but who the fuck uses a modem these days? Why the fuck does my E6400 even come with one?). Windows 7 also did not by default install a WDDM driver for my video device, the ATI mobility Radeon X300, which allows you to turn on fancy shit like Aero. One of the reasons I tried this on the D610 was because this laptop is just about the oldest thing on which I’ll be able to run 7 with all the bells and whistles (… like aero); very few video solutions older than the radeon X-whatever series will offer hardware support for the feature. Everyone also knows that 8 will run great on the latest and greatest computers, so I’m really trying to look at baseline performance here.

I jumped through a couple hoops trying to figure out the WDDM mess and finally solved it by downloading an update from Windows Update. Honestly the first time I’ve ever used Windows Update. Somewhat surprised it worked o_O. I’d also like to note that my audio and modem drivers were the Windows XP drivers straight off Dell’s site. Just FYI.

With all that boring shit taken care of, I went along and tried running some utilities and applications. Between OpenOffice, Firefox, shit like HWMonitor, CPUZ, RMClock, my anime, my music, thumbdrives and whatever, the one other hoop I’ve so far had to jump through would be in getting mkv files to play with their subtitles. It was a simple switch in my MPC settings, but still annoying and an associate of mine had to tell me how to fix it.

SO. Cool shit in Win7?

My favorite thing is actually a GUI thing, believe it or not. There’s a lot of times when I want to open two or more things like right next to each other on a screen (like a webpage and a word doc, etc), and I hafta spend a couple seconds resizing all the shit such that they fit together. Well, in Win7 you get to drag your window past the edge of the screen and it’ll resize the window for you automatically! If you drag a window past either side, it’ll resize the window to fill half the screen; if you drag a window past the top, it’ll fullscreen the window! Why the fuck didn’t anyone think of this before?

Right clicking on the taskbar also gives you a couple more screen sorting options. You can cascade your windows, show them all side by side, or show them stacked (resized accordingly!). Not quite as helpful as the dragging mess, but still clever. The show desktop button is a little bar on the right side of the taskbar and hovering your mouse over it previews the desktop. This one’s kinda useless, I daresay…

Ok, this dragged a bit longer than I’d have liked. Will continue next time.

dcomic 463

[080427]

462 up, 481 drawn.

So Colette had an interesting hiccup this weekend (something to do with the Apache server, though I have no idea what; all I know is that it made a log file 9GB long o_O It looks like it decided to keep reporting some error over and over and over again…) so I rebooted her for the first time in about a month (about 24 days online!) and decided to install XP SP2. For the first time ever, all my computers are running “up-to-date”.

Honestly I never had a problem with SP1 and since the Dell OEM cD I usually do installations with only came with SP1 I didn’t bother to update for the majority of the past two or so years. Plus, SP2 used to crash my 500m in standby so naturally I’d try to steer clear. There are other reasons which are shadier, so I don’t think I’ll mention ’em.

Like a good friend of mine is considering switching to Mac for the duration of his college whatever-it-is-you-do-at-college for the increased “stability” and “security” of the Mac platform over Wintel (specifically XP). Now I don’t really like the Apple company for a variety of reasons, but I will tell you that you should probably buy their stock because it will probably go up as Vista seems to be pushing John Does away from the Wintel platform. I don’t really like the direction M$ is going either; I think they should stick with their core competency. Software dammit. They need to get off Google’s ass and show those Leopard and Penguin people a real OS.

They say the introduction of Vista parallels that of XP and I will agree to an extent. I myself ran with 1998 (and not even SE) up through the prototypical days of the NWars site (2004ish?) before 98 really didn’t want to work with my (new at that time!) 500m. I mean, XP was indeed bloated compared to 98. The reactionary in me didn’t let me switch until I had to. It’s hard to tell if the general resistance to Vista is comparable or greater than the general resistance to XP, but whatever.

But I’ve had a good experience with XP these past 4 years. By the time of the 500m, something like two years after the release of XP, it was already pretty good. I didn’t really mind switching (we’ll see if that’s the case with Vista in 2009!). Besides my SP2 standby BSoD (arguably caused by crappy Intel 855GM drivers) it was pretty stable too. I mean, I’ve had a BSoDs since then, but the vast majority have been due to overclocking/undervolting tinkering rather than anything to do with the OS itself.

And security? I’ve been adamant that viruses can be prevented solely by means of smart browsing and so far the theory hasn’t failed me. I’ve never touched a piece of antiviral software (save for the good old HiJackThis) in all my years of running XP and I’ve gotten maybe 1 or 2 infections that warranted a reformat. Call it luck, but I think there’s a degree of truth behind the theory if it’s been generally holding water for the better part of four years.

XP SP3 was released to manufacturers last a few days ago. Various flavors will be available to the public in a matter of days as well. I was using a beta on the 500m before I switched over to the TC4200 and there wasn’t anything terribly special about it. It was hard to verify the existence of the mythical 10% increase in performance when your computer is only used for word processing and internet. I’d also upraded the 500m to a 5400rpm drive in the middle of last year so any previous experience with the machine isn’t terribly comparable.

I recently noticed that some of my XP installations didn’t like to boot with a flash drive plugged in. This used to happen to me all the time when I first moved up to XP, but somewhere along the way it stopped happening or I stopped noticing. The issue arose again when I switched to a phone that could be charge by USB and act as a USB flash drive thanks to the installed MicroSD card (which is hella slow I might add). Maybe it’s just because of my extensive use of standby these recent years.

The inconvenience of shuffling large amounts of data between Colette and either of my two laptops via network, internet or 1GB USB stick finally became great enough such that I invested in a USB HDD enclosure. I used the Hitachi drive which I pulled from the TC4200 (though I might switch back; the Fujitsu drive makes a lot of noise, and the battery increase isn’t significant) and a cheap (but nice looking) Coolermaster enclosure. The drive will usually run with a single USB jack which is real nice. Previously any large file transfers I did were with an old 12GB IBM desktop drive using an IDE/USB adapter and (yet another) power supply.

This led me to move a lot of unused and yet-to-be-archived stuff off my D830 and Colette, leading to my now having nearly 60GB free on the former machine. That’s pretty slick. It also finally prompted me to rearrange my anime music collection which has been on my to-do list for a very long time. I finally standardized it such that one playlist will work on any computer with the same music file structure (assuming the actual music structure components are there) which is nice.

Ok I actually wasn’t going to write anything this time, but look what happened.