May 2003 Archives
I meant to say this a while back: I am deeply ashamed of the actions of the Government of the Republic of Ireland in refusing to allow Hong Kong's Special Olympics athletes to attend the Special Olympics being held in Dublin, while allowing businessmen form SARS affected regions to come and go. Did someone put Aine Ni Chonnail of the Immigration Control Platform in charge of the country?
I'm annoyed. I started making bread tonight in my usual fashion and the dough has refused to rise. I even tried adding some extra yeast to the mix. My bread making powers are gone! Must be all the Red Kryptonite at work!
In other news, I note that the US is planning to build execution facilities at Guantanamo Bay, so that they can execute the prisoners they've held there in contravention of the Geneva Convention. And we still haven't seen any Weapons of Mass Destruction.
There can be only one thousand! I spotted the newest Terry Pratchett book in Dymocks in the IFC the other day, not very far from Prêt A Manger, which is where I usually go for my sandwich at lunch. (If I have much more than a sandwich for lunch, I'll spend the afternoon asleep in the office.)
This new book, The Wee Free Men is the tale of what growing up to be a witch is all about. Terry Pratchett doesn't write children's books where "Dick sees Jane, sees Jane run!", he writes children's books where the heroes just haven't actually finished growing up yet. I've always felt very insulted reading a children's book where the author obviously thinks that children are some sort of mentally retarded adult. pTerry doesn't do that:
'Zoology, eh? That's a big word, isn't it?'
'No, actually it isn't,' said Tiffany, 'Patronizing is a big word. Zoology is really quite short.'
And that immediately tells you plenty about young Tiffany, who's as much a witch as Esmeralda Weatherwax.
Also, it has The Gonnagle as a war poet, and if you know anything about Scottish culture at all, you'll snort beer out your nose when he does his thing.
Beautiful Railway Bridge of the Silv'ry Tay!
Alas! I am very sorry to say
That ninety lives have been taken away
On the last Sabbath day
Which will be remember'd for a very long time.
(For more of the un-surpassed poetry of William MacGonagall, please see http://www.taynet.co.uk/users/mcgon/).
I just had a letter today from Windsor Life Assurance Company Ltd saying how they think I might have moved from the UK and might not actually be eligible from one of the schemes I have with them. Considering that I moved from the UK Six Years Ago!, I am very annoyed about this current turn of events. It seems like whenever I send get a letter from them, yet another different person is involved. Do they have a revolving door policy of firing people who've worked there for more than a few weeks? Is the company so badly run that no one wants to spend more than a few weeks working there? They might now be in a position to refund GBP 10,000 plus of my money which they've been taking from me every month even though they knew I was not in England. (They were sending regular post to my addresses here in Hong Kong.) I sure hope they do, because, from the last statement of my accounts they sent me, it looked like I would have been better off putting the money in a biscuit tin and not investing it at all. Still, I guess it could be worse, I could be poorer for having tried to invest my money, and many people have been.
I guess the moral of the story I'm currently hearing is that big financial firms do not give a Gosh-darn Flying Futz (hey, my mother reads this, ok?) about the people whose money they obtain via high-pressure sales techniques.
I've just been watching the Life of Mammals with my daughter Roxanne. She's fascinated by the animals. Me, I'm absolutely gobsmacked by the photography. The series is the latest work by Sir David Attenborough, and it's an incredible exploration into our mammalian history, from shrews to the Blue Whale and from the Loris to us. The imagery is nothing short of stunning, and there are many new techniques used to film, including fiber-optic cameras to film inside tiny burrows and infra-red to film at night.
The Blue Planet has just finished showing here also, although that's a rerun. That is also immensely fascinating.
The most obvious thing, though, is that Sir David Attenborough is still completely fascinated by the natural world after more than fifty years of making natural history programs. You can see his enthusiasm in his face when looking at things, or observing some new animal, be it a squirrel or a gibbon or even a Blue Whale. And he's up in the trees, scooting along on the water or saying "Boo!" to a sloth. Well, he's only 76 years old, I'm sure he's got plenty of excellent series in him yet. His hobby is natural history. His overriding passion is natural history, and it's also his job. I hereby nominate Sir David1 for the award of having the best damn job on the planet.
1. I wouldn't normally bother with titles like that, but Sir David has made many, many wonderful documentaries showing the wonder that is the natural world and he's brought that into my (and your) living room. I remember watching Life on Earth when I was a young lad and staring open-mouthed at the wonders he was showing us. I'd certainly say that he's earned every title ever bestowed on him. Sir David's Autobiography.
My SARS graphs are now being used on the SARSWatch.org site after some negotiations with Tim, the creator of the site. Tim's been asking me for a certain subset of data with certain annotations to fit in a precise size and I've been able to accommodate him. Its been fun pushing RRDTool to generate a graph to someone's precise specs. Because I use the beta version of RRDTool, I've been able to match the fonts and the colours to blend into Tim's site so that it fits into his navigation bar quite nicely.
Hmmm, maybe I should have a Make Dave Happy! link too. OK, Dave's Wishlist!
I had to back off the overclocking a little: 120Mhz FSB was a little too fast for the Celeron to be stable. Now, it's running at 117Mhz FSB, with 1.6v Vcore. Seems to be solid enough.
$ cat /proc/cpuinfo processor : 0 vendor_id : GenuineIntel cpu family : 6 model : 11 model name : Intel(R) Celeron(TM) CPU 1300MHz stepping : 1 cpu MHz : 1524.039 cache size : 256 KB fdiv_bug : no hlt_bug : no f00f_bug : no coma_bug : no fpu : yes fpu_exception : yes cpuid level : 2 wp : yes flags : fpu vme de pse tsc msr pae mce cx8 sep mtrr pge mca cmov pat pse36 mmx fxsr sse bogomips : 3040.87
So, not quite so throbbingly macho, but still more than 50% faster than the PIII that was there before, and the temperatures are much more consistent: CPU temp doesn't go flailing towards the meltdown point whenever the CPU gets busy. I'm getting CPU temp around 45-50 C, and that's with the additional voltage on Vcore (1.6v vs a stock 1.5v). I could probably lower that, but tuning an overclocked machine basically consists of adjusting things until everything breaks and using the setting before that, and thats just far to much trouble.
The PIII would leap from 40-45 C at idle to 55+ under full load, and those thermal stresses did worry me: I don't want a kernel compile to start a fire in the same flat my wife and kids live in. Also, coming into the summer here, the ambient daytime temp is going to be 30+, which could conceivably push a hot processor over the 60C mark and into thermal shutdown. If I want to do some silly overclocking, I'll go back to my slockets and the P2B board. Rated Max is a PIII 550. I've got a 1Ghz running in it.
And, by the way, glxgears is giving me about 700fps through a G400, so that's ok — my screensavers are running full throttle.
OK, I've replace the PIII with the Celeron and bumped up the FSB speed a bit:
processor : 0 vendor_id : GenuineIntel cpu family : 6 model : 11 model name : Intel(R) Celeron(TM) CPU 1300MHz stepping : 1 cpu MHz : 1564.721 cache size : 256 KB fdiv_bug : no hlt_bug : no f00f_bug : no coma_bug : no fpu : yes fpu_exception : yes cpuid level : 2 wp : yes flags : fpu vme de pse tsc msr pae mce cx8 sep mtrr pge mca cmov pat pse36 mmx fxsr sse bogomips : 3119.51
That's a 20% increase in speed from the stock speed, and it's close to 56% faster than the PIII!
Well, I put a Pentium III 1 Gigahertz processor in Gizmo (the web server box, and currently my main workstation), because I assumed that, at something like three times the price of the Celeron 1.3 I had in there before, it would be a faster chip. I looked at the 133 Mhz Front Side Bus (FSB) and concluded that memory access would be faster and overall performance would be more solid. It was certainly like that on my Windows box, when I had two of them. However, what has really happened is that the system feels more sluggish (only slightly) and the total heat output has gone way up. The CPU temp, which used to hover around 40 C, has gone to 55+ when working hard. The SouthBridge Temp has gone up too. I'm going to put the Celeron back in, and overclock it to about 115-120 Mhz FSB. I had it there before. That's about 1.5Ghz overall. The SDRAM is all p133, so is fine and stable at those speeds.
Well, I've pretty much given up on resurrecting Mojo for the moment. For the last few weeks, I've only had a functioning Linux box at home. The only thing I really needed from my Win2k box was all of my spreadsheets and documents. However, I moved the hard disk from Mojo to Gizmo (sacrificing one of the CDs) and I now can read all of the stuff that was on my Win2k box. Even better, OpenOffice can read Excel Spreadsheets! And understand the macros! RedHat 9: go get it now!
Well, the new Terry Pratchett is out (Wee Free Men), and I've been scouring the local bookshops looking for it. So far, I've checked Dymocks, Page One, Swindon, Bookazine. They're all the most likely places to find a new book, and none of them have it.
I decided to look online, and decided to compare prices between the various online booksellers. As it's generally better, in my experience, to order a few books at a time when ordering online, I decided to do that. I priced buying and delivering three books, one of which is a new hardcover, and two are mass market paperbacks. The three books were Wee Free Men (Pratchett), King Rat (Miéville) and The Curse of Chalion (Bujold). The results were somewhat surprising:
|Amazon.com||USD 52.31 (HKD 407.08)||The basic deal, and probably the first place anyone thinks of when buying a book online.|
|Amazon.co.uk||GBP 32.19 (HKD 402.56)||Slightly cheaper and a somewhat better range of books. If you have an existing Amazon.com account, it'll work on the uk one too.|
|WHSmith.co.uk||GBP 31.64 (HKD 395.68)||Always useful for a comparison.|
|BarnesAndNoble.com||USD 44.88 (HKD 349.26)||Never used them before, but I sure will now. The only problem is the ugly as sin covers that Pratchett books get in the US.|
|Dymocks.com.au||AUD 108.00 (HKD 542.35)||Chuffin' 'Eck! Buying books in Oz is expensive!|
(The currency rates were taken from the SCMP Currency Converter.)
Now, the question is: am I willing to pay an extra fifty bucks (Hong Kong dollars) for the UK cover below? Yep, you would too, huh?
(See what I mean about ugly as sin? And that's one of the better USA covers.) Both images are, of course, copyright by the artists involved (although I use the term very loosely in the USA cover) and their use here should fall under fair use. If that's not ok, let me know and I'll sort something out. The UK cover is by Paul Kidby, more of whose work can be seen at paulkidby.com. Paul is an excellent artist and has a great view of what the characters form the Discworld really look like. Go buy his stuff! Now! (I have a set of his Hogswatch Cards (The bottom four on that page), and they are truly wonderful. Just looking at his site now, and he has t-shirts, mouse pads, mugs, everything. Check out the mousemats!
In the end, I decided to wait until the end of next month, the Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix comes out. It's been a long wait for that, and the hype has been tremendous, but I realy liked the last one (Goblet of Fire) and I'm looking forward to the next one. I think it'll get very, very dark.
One of the really nice features about Mozilla is that you can block those irritating pop-up windows from some web sites. simple right-click on the window and you may see an option right at the top: "reject popup windows from this site". Click on this and that's one less annoyance while browsing the internet.
I'm still trying to get my windows box back on its feet. It turns out that the PIII 1Ghz won't stay running for more than a few minutes and the motherboard can't reliably detect all the RAM. I guess the first problem is due to overheating (there's no thermal paste on the processor, and it's not one with a heat spreader. Also, there's no thermistor, so I have to sort out a P2T at some point to see what that thing actually runs all.), but the second problem is much more serious and indicates that the BX chipset is not stable enough at 133Mhz FSB. That is a very old motherboard (Rev 1.04, dating from mid 1998), so I shouldn't expect miracles from it. I guess my best budget is still to find a S370 motherboard somewhere. With that in mind, Mojo is now running the PII 350 again. This is still the most stable processor I've ever encountered. Even at work, my main Linux box is a dual PII 450, which just bloody runs and runs and runs. Hmm, I just had a though that I have a few spare Celeron chips, which have a 100Mhz FSB, so they wouln't be affected by the RAM issue.
Meanwhile, I started attempting to revive the Win2k installation on the box. Forget it. An SMP (multi-processor) Win2k install barfs when finding only one processor. Digging out the CD revealed the world of pain which is a windows install. Honestly, I don't know what people are on when they say that Linux installs are too difficult when compared to Windows. I know that they've certainly never installed Win98, and probably never installed Win2k.
I gave up on the enormous pain in the butt which is installing windows, and decided to install RedHat 9 on one of the spare SCSI disks in Mojo.
- Put CD in drive
- Answer a few simple questions (Workstation? Server? Which Disk?) and sit back and watch it.
- Reboot when finished
And it doesn't look as if the guy responsible for the CGA card colour scheme was in charge of the graphic design of it. The last few RedHat installs (since about 7.0) have been bright and colourful, or have a text only option, because almost anyone with a video card has more than 16 colours. And if they don't, they're going to choose the text install anyway. With a Windows installer, on matter what video card you have you get the same 16-colour display. Reboot into safe mode, if you want to see how it works. Or, alternatively, smack yourself in the head a few times, shoot yourself in the foot, and ring up Bill Gates and get him to come around and insult you for a while.
At work, all I have to do is copy the RedHat install CDs to a network drive, make some boot floppies and I can install RedHat at the speed of the Network card. Takes about 30 minutes for a full install, plus some post first-boot configuration. (Then there'll be some local configuration issues, like which NIS server to use, that sort of thing), but even most of them get picked up when doing an upgrade.
I've been making changes to the SARS Graphs, so check it out and let me know if they look ok, or confusing to you.
I've managed to get Mojo started up again. I've put one of the PIII processors into the old Asus P2B board which used to have a PII 350 in it. The PIII runs at a faster FSB too, so there's probably going to be a lot of heat generated. There's no thermal sensor on for the CPU on the P2B board, but there are headers for them. I may be able to make some from one of the little electronic thermometers I have lying around. Are thermal sensors a standard part? Will I need to calibrate it? I've seen some P2Ts for sale on the web for US$6, but the shipping costs to here are silly.
The trick to getting a fast PIII to work with the P2B is to set the CPU core voltage (Vcore) to 1.8 on the slot1-S370 converter (Slocket). This is as low as the Voltage generator on the motherboard can handle. This is slightly too high for a PIII 1GHZ, but only by 0.05 volts, so I'm not too worried. I used an Iwill Slocket II, mainly because I had one lying around.
Having the latest BIOS probably helps too - Asus Web Site has plenty available for download, and I'm using a recent beta 1013a7. There's a 1014b3 out, which may or may not be any better. Haven't installed it yet as I don't seem to have any functioning floppy disk drives!
The latest in a long line of websites who think they can use my images without bothering to ask me is http://coldfusion.today.com.sg/index.htm. As you can see, if you visit the link, they're blocked from using my images.
I was browsing some blogs earlier on and came across a post suggesting that the British Military were the best thing since sliced pan.
Now, I just can't agree with that. I have been abused and threatened by moronic thugs from the Black Watch. Friends of mine lived in a place (Aldershot) where they couldn't leave their flat at night because the local military liked to beat up everyone. (I used to shop in a motorcycle shop in Aldershot where they were glad when they heard my accent: it meant I would actually pay for what I wanted and I wouldn't trash the place.)
Of course, that's the current Military. When I was living in London, I met very many men who'd served in the Second World War, or Suez or even the Gulf. I remember talking to men who'd flown Spitfires in WWII or even just laboured in London, cleaning up the aftermath of the V2s. Without exception, they were Good Men; they fought when required but they didn't think that it was required of a man to always be at war. "We fought against that Mr Hitler until we beat him", said one man, "and then we went back to our normal jobs, because, letting him make us into non-Englishmen meant that we lost the war".
Sure, "Dad's Army" is funny, but it's also very serious: Fat bank managers were fully prepared to fight Hitler on the beaches and on the street corners, with whatever help they could get. The Nazis would never have conquered England. At most, they would have killed everyone in it, but they would never conquer it.
It's kind of hard to respect a military when they are barred from most pubs for fighting. It's hard to respect a military when they have a reputation of being racist. It's impossible to respect a military when, the last time you met one, he had to restrained from killing me because I sounded Irish.
Really, there's a very small subsector of English society which is extremely racist and arrogant. These guys almost always colour the impressions of everyone else no matter where they go. Most people aren't like that - it's only a very small minority, but they all colour the view of outsiders. And being the arrogant twits that they are, they usually don't see that their actions have any effect on others. They are true sociopaths in every sense of the word.
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