Friday, April 6. 2007
Aside from a note ducking Jazz Prospecting this week, I haven't posted anything to the blog since March 28. Posts have been spotty before then, too, although I did manage a burst in mid-March, partly fueled by book reports. I thought it might be time to offer a status report. Aside from the physical and mental stresses, the robbery five weeks ago resulted in a long list of things to do which I have been moving through rather slowly. For instance, we have a plan for various home improvements -- mostly relating to security, but that's also scratched a long-time itch for better network wiring. So I've been chasing down information, talking to contractors, trying to figure it out, and all that takes a lot of time. We've installed some lighting that still has some problems, ordered some doors that haven't arrived yet, and are getting close to settling on other bits and pieces.
Even worse has been the computer problems. Two machines that I bought in late 2005 were stolen and needed to be replaced: a Linux box that I was doing most of my work on, and a Windows box that I sometimes had to resort to for their proprietary file crap. In the meantime, I've fallen back on two older machines, which are slow and increasingly crash-prone. I've limped along with them, but one effect is that I've cut way back on my news browsing -- hence, I've lacked the stimuli that kick off most of my posts. I've been slow replacing them because the technology has moved on quite a bit in two years: dual core 64-bit hacks (AMD 64, Intel's EMT64) are now standard in my price category, DDR2 memory is up to 800 MHz, PCI Express x16 has obsoleted AGP, SATA has reduced PATA down to one connector/two devices on most motherboards, video cards compete more and more on things like hardware shading, TV tuners have become commodity-priced, and the political economy of operating systems has shifted. The latter has been particularly annoying: I've noticed that it's become much harder to find compatibility information on Linux than it used to be. To some extent this may have been because Linux support has become routinized, especially if you're willing to compromise and use closed source drivers for ATI and NVIDIA. But it may also be that since DOJ caved in on the Microsoft antitrust suit, Microsoft has been able to muscle the hardware companies away from public support of Linux. In the end, I wound up just throwing my hands up in the air and ordering a bunch of hardware with no real guarantee of support. It may be that it will all run out of the box fine, but if so that will be a first in my experience, and I've never felt more alone. We'll see: I have parts on order for an AMD X2 2.8GHz, ASUS motherboard, 2GB RAM, 2 320GB disks, NVIDIA 7600GT video card, DVD-ROM and DVD burner. Will know more next week.
As for the Windows system, I'm still researching that. Everyone says the Intel Core 2 Duo processors are much faster than AMD X2s, but the LGA 775 motherboards look less impressive -- especially the ones with Intel P965 chipsets. (On the other hand, the rule of thumb with Intel processors is to go with Intel motherboards, so you see my quandry.) Then there's the new, no doubt buggy, Windows Vista vs. the old, still buggy, Windows XP. And within that the question of 64-bit vs. 32-bit. I think the answer for my needs is to go with Vista 64-bit and ride it out. It's not a critical machine for me, so I figure I should look forward. But it winds up being a more expensive machine for less utility, so, well, my ingrained sense of cost-effectiveness is taking a beating. That's true on all these shopping issues, but we're feeling lucky to still be here.
I'm close to figuring this out, at least well enough to order. I'm not worried about Windows compatibility, since that's what everyone builds to, so the Windows machine will be more advanced. Also, given $200 for Vista, more expensive. But eventually Linux will run on it too, and in a better world that would be sooner. The other shopping issues are also coming to a head, although as David Owen points out, you never really want home projects to end -- otherwise, you'll have to think of something new. I still want new siding and a better kitchen and maybe a second bath upstairs, so I have fallback options.
On the writing front, the April Recycled Goods is done but as I understand it won't be posted until this weekend. I'll post on that when it happens. Only started jazz prospecting yesterday, so next week will be short but at least there'll be something. Most of the website-related work I've been doing has been in the Books section. I'm going through all the old notebook entries and pulling out scraps I've written on books since 2001. I've found over 100, so next update there'll be a lot more there. In doing so, I've skimmed through and started to think that it might be possible to edit that stuff down to a useful and interesting chronicle of the Bush era. I'll write more about that and the book project(s) when I finish scrounging.
For those readers in Kansas, KSN has shot a "Crimestoppers" sequence on our incident. This will air on Sunday, and I guess will be on their website later on. There's been little or no progress on finding the criminals, so the police hope this will generate some fresh leads. I dodged the thing, but Laura talks off camera, and they took a lot of video of the inside of our car trunk. I'm not optimistic about what they've done, but it's not our place to tell them how to do their jobs.
Weather has been weird here in Kansas. Had three weeks with overcast skies and rain almost every day, followed by a little sun and an explosion of pollen and histamines. Temperature got up into the 80s, with everything bright and green, then yesterday it got cold, clouded up, and snowed. Very strange to see white snow on top of so much green.
Otherwise, we keep on keeping on, and some of these problems will get worked out before too long.