Monthly Archives: August 2004

Windows XP sp2 is here…

If you’ve been getting xp auto updates, it will start to download itself automagically in the background. Supposedly, this is supposed to not interfere with general operations, but it ground my desktop here to a halt during the process. The download is 75Mb to 225Mb depending how up to update your machine is already (takes about an hour or so on a broadband connected idle machine).

When you start the install it, it grinds away for a moment, then tells you that it will complete the process in the background. Yeah right, my desktop here was pretty much unusable as it did its work under the hood. It appears to backup up everything in case you need to undo the update, but that seem’s pretty scary to me.

I’m on my 4th sp2 rollout (new desktop at home, old desktop at home, laptop at home, and desktop at work). Initial observations and thoughts:

1. New Security Manager. After rebooting into sp2, there’s a security console that nags you about automatic operating system updates and making sure you have firewall and antivirus.

2. New xp firewall. xp had a firewall before, but it was not enabled by default and buried in network configs. Now, its front and center in the security console and turned on by default. As far as I can tell, its just like zone alarm in the way that it plays traffic cop. Unfortunately, if you turn the new firewall off, xp nags continually you about not having a firewall. So, I’m giving the xp firewall a shot here on my desktop and seeing what havoc it wreaks. It appears to leave windows file/printer sharing open by default.

3. New pop up blocker. sp2 adds a popup blocker to IE, that’s turned on by default. It appears to work pretty well, but it has some contention with other blockers (ie, google and myie2 (aka maxthon)). I’ve found that personally, the best option is to turn off sp2 blocker off and turn google off and just use myie2’s).

Note: in the might cause web developers grief dept. The sp2 popup blocker considers the old download via javascript redirect trick (ie, load a page then change the document.src to the item to be downloaded) to be a blockable action (it reports a security issue with downloadable file) and gives an option to continue the download (though the placement on screen makes it easy to miss.)

4. Misc. dept: there are other more subtle changes. The control panel applets have been rearranged a bit around the new security settings, etc. Web developers may want to spend a little time getting familiar with the firewall settings, in case clients start having problems.

5. Good News department: I haven’t messed around too extensively yet, but I haven’t found any applications broken by the update, phew! There’s incompatibility list of about a zillion programs making the rounds. I haven’t hit on any of those yet.

6. In the ‘eh?’ department. I noticed on reboot that my xp welcome screens no longer say ‘home edition’. wonder wassup with that…

Doom 3 Speed Up

After trying Doom 3 on my new Dell, with an almost twice as fast CPU (2.8Ghz), 25% more memory (1Gb), and a fresh Windows XP install, I was pretty disappointed with the performance. It was playable, unlike my old PC, 1.5Ghz and 768Mb of RAM, but still very choppy at the lowest resolution and graphics quality settings.

So, I messed around a bit. First, I updated the drivers for the video card (NVidia FX 5200 128Mb). Next I updated to MS DirectX 9.0c. A few reboots later I was back at the desktop and ready to double click the the Doom 3 Pentagram icon…

Wow, what a difference! Low quality now flies (kinda like playing the original Wolfenstein on a Pentium PC, after all those years on a 486). So, I upped the ante and bumped things up to the next resolution and quality level and surprisingly, it still flies. Kind of a drag that you have to quit of Doom to change these the qualities settings, but I guess after you find you like, you don’t change very often. Anywho, graphics are very detailed and smooth.

Unfortunately, I was so excited to actually be able to play the game at this point, that I didn’t get around to testing the next graphics level. I’ll try that next time. Back to blasting those damn imps.

Operation: Morning Run, Day 2

Some people think running 5 miles is crazy. Some people may think that running 5 miles before work is crazy. Some people thinking running 5 miles before 6 AM is crazy. Seems just right to me.

Nothing too eventful in this morning’s run. Even though it was pretty cool (about 65) it was very humid; surprised it wasn’t more foggy. I’m getting more comfortable with running at this time of day. I was tempted to bring some music, but I didn’t want to spend the time fumbling around my computer room find my Ipod and headphones. Maybe I’ll add the music gear to my pile of gear that I try to lay out the night before a run.

I’m considering getting one of those hyper-reflective safety vests. I’m guessing there’s only 2 kinds of drivers on the road at 4:45AM: those just getting home after a late night, and those just getting up (probably before they get that glorious first cup of coffee). Better safe than sorry.

What the Dell?

My new Dell Dimension 4600 (2.8Ghz P4) desktop showed up yesterday. Picking up the shipping box, I was pleasantly surprised that the case is much lighter (a bonus when I need to shlep it from my office to the car, two blocks away.) Unfortunately, upon opening the box I was disappointed to see a regular style case, as opposed to the slick tool free cases that I’ve become used to from Dell. Guess its not too big a deal, since I don’t open up my case all that often.

The power supply and CPU fans are much quiter than in my Dell 4300 that’s being replaced. Doesn’t have that strange CPU air scoop that acts like an amplifier for fan noise; much nicer! Unfortunately, the hard drive is pretty noisy.

Everything worked fine on first boot up. Windows XP rebooted a few times after the regular setup and configuration process. After a few more reboots for Windows Update (random note: after the first batch of critical updates, the pc now goes to the v5, aka SP2, version of the update site. Just more eye candy, as far as I could see.) and an update to the provided Antivirus software, I was able to actually do something for real.

Of course, by this I mean, fire up Doom3. Amazing what a difference doubling your processor speed and adding 25% more RAM can have on your gaming experience. A newer video card also probably doesn’t hurt. Previously, the game played so slow, you couldn’t return fire. Nice to able to shoot back at all those nasty imps.

Next on the list is to install all my normal apps (requiring about 47 more reboots; Linux looks better and better every day) and move a bunch of data over from the older machine.

Operation: Morning Run, Day 1

After much procrastination, I’ve decided to try to get back into the running habit. So, Saturday, I dusted off the old running shoes and headed out for a 6 mile jaunt. Did pretty good, but started off a little late in the day for me. Dehydration set in about 5.5 miles in, so I walked the last half mile in.

Today, however, was the big day. I started what I hope to make a trend; the pre-work morning run. Yep, breaking my habit of getting up, eating some breakfast and putting together a lunch, then going back to sleep, I got suited up and headed out for a quick run. I intended to do a 3 mile loop, but missed the turn I wanted (hey, it was 4:45am, maintaining verticality at that hour is normally challenge enough for me) and ended up doing a 2.75 mile out and back.

Since I’ve never run at this hour before, here are a few of my observations:

  1. Its freaking dark. Hmm, never occurred to me that it would be dark. Tried to be a little more careful than usual avoiding craters and road debris.
  2. There are lots of animals out at that hour. Counted 5 rabbits, 2 skunk, and some other critters too fast for me to identify.
  3. Its real quiet. The last few times I’ve been running, I’ve been listening to music (via an Ipod Mini) to help me concentrate on my rhythm and make the runs go faster. I didn’t bring music today and it was weird to hear myself huffing and puffing away.

Gonna try the same plan again tomorrow and see if my body likes it. Maybe stretch out to a little longer run.

My buddy Larry pointed me at a really cool mapping tool over here: Kinda like MSN maps, but it lets you pan and zoom in real time. Best of all it has a tool that allows you measure distances on the map interactively. So, with minimal hassles, you can get accurate measurement for runs. Definitely worth a look.

On my list of a million little tech thingies I’d like to do, I’d like to make an online version of my running log. My main reason is that no matter where I keep my master log, either at work or at home; it seems I’m always at the other when I remember to make an entry. If I put it on a website, at least I’ll be able to mitigate that excuse. I can also make some pretty cool graphs. Oh well, maybe some day.

John Mayer / Maroon 5 Concert

Saw a John Mayer / Maroon 5 / dj Logic show Tuesday night at Darien Lake.

The show was great. We missed most of the dj logic show due to late arrival. Not really my kind of music anyway, so no tears shed. Maroon 5 was very entertaining and did a good job getting the crowd revved up. They basically played their whole album (I guess that’s what you do when you have only one album).

The John Mayer show was really good; far better than when we saw him last year. I like both his folky acoustic stuff (kinda Dave Matthews-esque) and blues/rock electric stuff. This show was about 40/60 between the two styles. He normally works in little snippets of Stevie Ray Vaughn electric blues in a few songs, but in this show he played a whole SRV song, ‘Empty Arms’ (not sure if it was an SRV original either, but he had success with it). He did stevie proud with his rendition, especially with contorted facial grimace’s during the complicated solo parts. I was plesantly surprised to see how much the crowd enjoyed it as it wasn’t his normal subject matter and most of the crowd probably never heard of SRV before. Its great to his legacy live on in many younger players (like John Mayer, Johnny Lang, Kenny Wayne Shepard, and many others.)

John Mayer also brought dj Logic back out for another super jam session. I think it might have pop r/b classic song, but I wasn’t familiar. It ended up with a 10 minute fusion jazz funk solo trade off between John and dj. Uniquely entertaining.

The one odd ball part of the show was that during Maroon 5 and John Mayer’s performances, they had a person signing for the hearing impaired. Haven’t seen anything like that before.