January 2007


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Archive for January, 2007

Vista everywhere, but nothing to see

Posted in Geekery on January 28th, 2007

Okay boys and girls, this weekend marks the official release of Windows Vista into the common market. You’ve seen the ads on tv and in the paper, and you know there are several versions to choose from – but what should you get?

Well, nothing for now. SP1 is scheduled for a mid-2007 release, so you should just wait for that. But when the time comes, hopefully this little primer will help you decide which version to buy.

They have whittled it down from 7 versions to 4 for your average Joe or Joe Small Business, add a 5th if you’re Enterprise-class. (Ignore this if you have less than 100 pc’s to worry about.)

Oh, wait – if you live in a piss-poor 3rd World “emerging market”, they have Vista Starter Edition. Not available anywhere you can find two coins to rub together.

Common pricing available so far: (Rounded up to nearest dollar, not including sale pricing. Prices pulled from Amazon and NewEgg.)

Version Retail Full Upgrade OEM Full
Vista Home Basic $200 $100 $100
Vista Home Premium $240 $160 $120
Vista Business $300 $200 $150
Vista Ultimate $400 $260 $200

As you can see, the cheapest way to buy it is to go with an OEM copy. This version is supposed to be for System Builders (I.E., computer boutiques that build custom rigs.) According to the license, the store selling it has to sell you hardware too. Since many computers out today don’t have the oomph to turn on all of the pretty in Vista, buying additional RAM will certainly count as “hardware” and you’re covered.

So, now we know what it will cost, but which one do we choose? Here’s the breakdown of features from Redmond itself:

Vista Comparison

What that all means is that nobody will ever buy Vista Basic. It doesn’t do anything, Full stop. No backup, no media creation, no Jack. It doesn’t even have the new games, fer chrissakes. When you can get Home Premium for $20 more, spend the extra money. Premium has all the pretty and the functionality any slightly-more-savvy-than-Grandma user will want.

If you need to connect to a domain, you will have to go with Business at least. Home Premium does not have that function. The same goes for Remote Desktop. The Business Edition doesn’t have the Media Center stuff though, so if you find yourself needing any business-type functions in your home computer, skip Business and go straight to Ultimate.

So, when would the home user without business needs go Ultimate? Hi-Def movie making and built-in backup and restore. Those are the two functions Ultimate has over Home Premium. Honestly, I’m pretty sure that 3rd-party software houses will have solutions for those two points, so it boils down to what software you prefer.

For business users, only the Marketing or Graphic Design departments will need Ultimate’s media-creation features; the rest can live happily on Business. The BitLocker trick is a pretty salient point though, which means that most companies buying laptops will want them equipped with Ultimate for the extra security. Again, there will be software available to mimic that function, but sometimes it’s nice for us in the IT field to have it built-in.

There you have it kids – time to start stuffing the piggy banks.

Field Trip Fun

Posted in Life on January 23rd, 2007

You think that once you’re out of public school you are done with field trips, right? Not if you’re in IT. Here’s what fun we had today:

Blaze downtown after a quick lunch so we can get a parking space for the Microsoft Vista / Office 2007 Launch Event at the Hilton, only to discover we should have brought sandwiches to eat in the car and driven home to ride the MAX because there is NO fucking parking in downtown. Okay, we did find a spot, but it took 30 minutes of driving through THREE different garages to get it.

Hoof it back to the Hilton and trek over to the Ballroom to sign in. Grab goodie bag and hit the refreshments table for a couple cookies. The Roomie grabbed a soda, and I should have followed suit, because for the rest of the day there was nothing but diet. Not just three or four diets left after the rest of the soda was gone, but rather 3/4 of a bin full of diet soda – like all they brought was 2 regular colas, 2 lemon-limes and the rest diet. I realize we are all chubby geeks here, but c’mon. Don’t try to feed me that unleaded shit. We are the niche market that popularized stuff like Jolt and Bawls fer chrissakes.

Sit through the next 4 hours of Microsoftian propaganda. Spend the entire time making quiet comments with my fellow Linux geek and our Mac-happy sales guy. “Nice GUI – haven’t I seen that on your PowerBook?” Or: MS GUY:’Office 2007 comes with hundreds of amazing features’ – ME: …that no-one will ever use.”

I will give them one point: Microsoft has made a complete about-face on their “minimize the perceived hardware impact” strategy. What’s that you ask? Their policy of trying to squeeze you into buying an update before you realized just what it was going to cost you in hardware upgrades. Things like the published Minimum Hardware Requirements for Small Business Server 2003 are: PIII proc @ 350MHz with 128MB of RAM. (Note that ‘MB’: This was in 2003, when your average server board could handle at least 4GB of RAM.) Yeah, it will boot on that – in 20 minutes or so. And the first time you have three simultaneous logins, the thing is going tits-up. A completely factual, but completely useless piece of information, with real-world figures being a minimum of a P4 proc at 1GHz with 1GB RAM.

This time around, they are being amazingly honest. To score a “Vista Premium Capable” tag, the PC must have a minimum 1GHz 32- or 64-bit processor and 1GB RAM, Direct-X 9 video card with 128MB video RAM. To get just “Vista Capable”, the scores drop to an 800MHz ‘modern processor’ (Translated: P4 or equivalent) and 512MB RAM.

Sonofabitch. An honest, real-world answer from Redmond. Get the helmets kids, the sky is a-comin’ down. (For the non-Geeks out there, that means they admit you will probably have to upgrade the hardware in your current PC, or really just buy a new one.)

So, you’re probably wondering what was in the goodie bag, right? Let’s see…propaganda, propaganda, and what’s this? A download key for a free full-feature-not-trialware copy of Office 2007? Holy shit! They’re holding about 20 of these events, which will be attended by 1,000’s of guys like me! This is going to cost them…

…not a damn thing. This was a Partner event, which means we are all already signed up for the Action Pack, which gives us free copies already.

So, 4 hours of mind-numbing presentation that would have taken me 1 hour to read, a lousy snack table, and you’re giving me stuff I was already going to get. Gee, thaaaaanks. I could have billed this time.

A changing of the Guard in the Garage

Posted in Life on January 21st, 2007

It appears that my luck was in.

For those of you that did not know her, I present to you The Little Black Beastie that has been my near-constant companion for the past 6+ years:


While she has been a good car, it is time to retire The Beastie and move on to something a little more current. I introduce to you my new 2004 Kia Optima LX:

Optima 2

She comes complete with power windows & locks, disc brakes at all wheels, CD player, cruise control, A/C, a 2.4 liter 4-cylinder motor and 5-speed manual transmission. Oh, and most important of all:


And get this: apparently there have been far too many movies and TV shows where people get locked in the trunk. They now have glow-in-the-dark handles on the inside of the trunk lid to open it from inside. I guess the mobsters will have to keep up the maintenance on their old cars now.

I know I had originally specified an automatic trans, but they didn’t have one on a nice car in my price range. And this is by far the nicest car I have ever owned. Only two years old and only 22,000 miles from the previous owner (who traded up).

The folks down at Bob Lanphere’s Beaverton Kia made this a very simple and low-stress event. They listened to me when I told them my requirements over the phone, had an appropriate list of vehicles for me to choose from, and didn’t waste my time with bullshit. You need a car, go down there and ask for Adam.

So what did it cost me? less than I would have thought. Actual price of the car was $10,995 and I added the G.A.P. policy to bring that up a bit. The GAP policy is a kind of insurance that protects me while the car is worth less than what I owe on it. Interest rates being what they are, the first half of a loan’s life is usually more than the MSRP of the car – which means you could end up having to keep making payments if the car gets totaled. It works out to $5 a month, so I thought it would be worth it.

Okay, so that’s what the price was. With interest, the car will cost me close to $17,000 if I just make the payments as listed for the next 72 months. This works out to 18% or so. Yes, it’s high – my credit sucks. There is no penalty, however, for paying it off early or refinancing, and extra payments go straight toward the capital amount. So, come tax time I can drop a heavy payment of $1,000 or so on it and cut the interest off the back half of the loan. Do this every year and I can save myself some serious dough.

The car is as yet un-named, though several ideas have been bantered back-and-forth with Tolerant. We both thought of “Jeeves”, mainly due to this being such a nice car and it kind-of reminds me of a Jaguar. Cars and ships should have feminine names, however, so this won’t do. Tolerant’s idea of “Kitty” just didn’t seem right, and when she said “Pussygalore” I just about fell over.

She did have one idea that is growing on me: “Holly”, or more completely “the H.S. Holly”, with ‘H.S.’ standing for Highway Ship – which is kinda fitting, considering this is the second-largest car I have ever owned. (It’s hard to tell from the photos, but the new car is longer and wider than the Beastie – though not anywhere near as big as the old Plymouth was.)

Anyway, I’m starting to think that “the H.S. Golightly”, (known as “Holly” to her friends) isn’t such a bad idea. It’s early days yet though, and the car hasn’t had a chance to assert a personality.

She’s not dead yet

Posted in Life on January 20th, 2007

…but who knows how much longer she has?

The other day I happened to look down at the odometer on the Beastie and realized she had just turned over 150,000 miles. She only had 54,000 when I bought her, so that means I have put 96,000 miles on the clock in 6 years and 3 months. That’s an average of 2,000 a month! I drive way too much. Especially in a 20-year-old car.

So, a call was made, and I have an appointment to see a dealer tomorrow afternoon. I will probably end up buying either a new Kia Rio, or maybe something a little better in a certified-used model. I was planning on waiting until my tax returns come back so I can have a down payment, but the guy at the dealership says he can still get me a decent payment with no down – I can always make a heavy payment later.

Why a Kia? Simple – they’re cheap. With my credit, I will probably get hosed on the interest rate, so I need to keep the capital down.

Why new? It’s actually easier to get financing on a new car than on something like the Beastie was when I got her. Lease-return cars are much the same. With most leases having a 12,000-mile-cap, you’re still getting quite a bit of use, and someone else has already eaten the depreciation. That will be important at trade-up time.

Yes, trade-up, not -in. The new Beastie’s replacement will only be about two years down the road. This means I will be making car payments for about the next 7 years, but it is a good way to build your credit rating – something I obviously need.

So, wish me luck, kids. I’m off to sign my life away.

The phone is dead! Long live the phone!

Posted in Geekery on January 14th, 2007

So the Ratboy, after breaking his third phone, called me up the other night from CellCo’s store at the Mall.

“Hey Dad – tell this sales clerk that you agree to extend our phone contract for 2 years, and they will give me a deal on a new phone!”

“Is it going to be cooler than mine?”

“Well yeah, you just have that plain little flippy. I gotta have something cooler than that!”

“So let me get this straight: you want me to assume an extra two years of legal contract so that you can have cooler gadgetry than me?


“I think not. We’ll go down there this weekend and get me a cool new phone, and you can have my plain little flippy, which will tide you over until you can afford to buy a cooler phone.”

“Man, you suck.”

“Or I could just keep my phone, not sign a contract, and you can wait until your next payday…”

“Okay! You win.”

Woohoo! Write that down in the calendar! Rod, tell the man what he has won:

Well, I looked online first, and CellCo is hawking the Samsung T609 for free after instant rebate (why do they say that shit? If it’s free, say “free” and be done with it.) The phone includes a 1.3 megapixel cam, bluetooth and speakerphone. (It has MP3 playing power too, but who gives a rat’s ass. I already have one.) Cool, huh? Well, apparently not very, as Samsung has already discontinued that model and CellCo doesn’t carry it in the store anymore.

So, what else is there? A close facsimile: the MotoRAZR V3. No 1.3MP cam, but it has everything else, and I got it for only $30. (The V3t has the better camera, for $70 more. Not enough in the piggy bank for that.) Not a bad deal on a pretty good phone. Extending the contract was a no-brainer: CellCo has the best pricing for calling plans I have found, so it isn’t like they had to twist my arm. (So why am I obscuring their name? TANSTAAFL.)

Immediate trip-ups: Moto inverts the functions of the # and * keys while entering text, so I will be changing typing modes instead of hitting a space until I get used to it. The phone is too slim to be held to the ear with your shoulder – as B found out when he got his and dropped it in a bucket. Unlike my Sammy, the RAZR takes decent 1-inch pictures. (The Sammy took almost-viewable regular-sized ones.)

Yeah, basically picking nits here. I liked the Sammy, but now I can get a bluetooth headset, which will come in darn handy.

On a side note, I was tripping through CellCo’s website looking for a new ringtone, and I came across one from Oingo Boingo that I never thought I would see: “I love little girls”. For those of you who may not know, this song came out of Boingo’s full-on sarcastic social commentary phase and is sung from the perspective of a pedophile.

Yeah – not really the song you would think to pick as a ringtone. Unless, of course, you happen to have a phone with cutomize-able rings, and a buddy that married a gal ten years younger than him… Muahahahaha!

Of course, the EMC was sonly 18 when we got hitched, so pot-and-kettle wot?

Bored, so a-meme-ing we will go

Posted in Geekery on January 10th, 2007


Bold the ones you’ve read, strike-out the ones you hated, italicize those you started but never finished and put an asterisk beside the ones you loved.

1. The Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien *
2. The Foundation Trilogy, Isaac Asimov (Hmm…I keep meaning to…)
3. Dune, Frank Herbert
4. Stranger in a Strange Land, Robert A. Heinlein *
5. A Wizard of Earthsea, Ursula K. Le Guin
6. Neuromancer, William Gibson *
7. Childhood’s End, Arthur C. Clarke
8. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, Philip K. Dick
9. The Mists of Avalon, Marion Zimmer Bradley
10. Fahrenheit 451, Ray Bradbury *
11. The Book of the New Sun, Gene Wolfe
12. A Canticle for Leibowitz, Walter M. Miller, Jr.
13. The Caves of Steel, Isaac Asimov
14. Children of the Atom, Wilmar Shiras
15. Cities in Flight, James Blish
16. The Colour of Magic, Terry Pratchett
17. Dangerous Visions, edited by Harlan Ellison *
18. Deathbird Stories, Harlan Ellison *(Go out and get Stalking The Nightmare. Now. Really.)
19. The Demolished Man, Alfred Bester
20. Dhalgren, Samuel R. Delany
21. Dragonflight, Anne McCaffrey
22. Ender’s Game, Orson Scott Card
23. The First Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever, Stephen R. Donaldson (Gods-awful bit of crap I tried to read on a bus trip.)
24. The Forever War, Joe Haldeman
25. Gateway, Frederik Pohl
26. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, J.K. Rowling (I am what, one of ten who haven’t?)
27. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams *
28. I Am Legend, Richard Matheson
29. Interview with the Vampire, Anne Rice
30. The Left Hand of Darkness, Ursula K. Le Guin
31. Little, Big, John Crowley
32. Lord of Light, Roger Zelazny
33. The Man in the High Castle, Philip K. Dick (Boring)
34. Mission of Gravity, Hal Clement
35. More Than Human, Theodore Sturgeon
36. The Rediscovery of Man, Cordwainer Smith
37. On the Beach, Nevil Shute
38. Rendezvous with Rama, Arthur C. Clarke *
39. Ringworld, Larry Niven (No, but did read the one about the trees.)
40. Rogue Moon, Algis Budrys
41. The Silmarillion, J.R.R. Tolkien (I had an old, old copy, but no idea what came of it. I don’t know anyone who has managed to finish it.)
42. Slaughterhouse-5, Kurt Vonnegut
43. Snow Crash, Neal Stephenson (I am the Deliverator!)
44. Stand on Zanzibar, John Brunner
45. The Stars My Destination, Alfred Bester
46. Starship Troopers, Robert A. Heinlein
47. Stormbringer, Michael Moorcock
48. The Sword of Shannara, Terry Brooks
49. Timescape, Gregory Benford
50. To Your Scattered Bodies Go, Philip Jose Farmer

The Devil has a Vampire too

Posted in Life on January 8th, 2007

For those who don’t know about this, you should read The Devil’s Panties, a really funny webcomic by Jennie Breeden. Once you get done laughing your ass off at the archives, check out her gaming comic too for a light-hearted look at LARPing (and not the kind you do with your tongue.)

If you scroll down a little bit farther, you will see this link: Vampire Comic Strip!

Now, some caution should be exercised here, because the hosting website is by far one of the most worthless bits of pretentious drivel I have ever seen (that I didn’t write myself). Worst part is, I know people in the vampire scene, and they will think it is the best thing ever (shudder). Regardless, if you want to exercise your love of all things Jennie, tunnel-vision down and just read the comic.

And if your cube-mates are rolling on the floor wheezing “hairball!!!”, now you know why.

Death and taxes

Posted in Life on January 7th, 2007

Since my paycheck actually went through on a Saturday (the mind boggles at bank rules – for once, one went in my favor) I was able to run down to GeekMecca (AKA Fry’s) and grab a replacement power supply for Hyperion and resurrect the poor thing from the dead.

Has it really been two months?

Now I have the one tool I was waiting for to get some of the crap out of my at-home in-box. I need to burn some DVD’s, and I need to re-do my taxes from last year as it appears I have made an error. Ouch.

Taxes this year are going to be complicated and suckier than normal. For one, I will be getting three W-2 forms, even though I only worked two jobs. (When I started my last job, the Bossman was outsourcing the HR, which means my actual employer was someone else. Then he fired the outsource and brought it in-house, so one job = two employers of record. Oi.)

For two, the Ratboy worked, so the two of us will have to plot out who is claiming him, and three, I gotta ask the EMC who gets to claim Pookie this year.

Bleah. I have the creeping suspicion that I will be paying a pro this year, just to make sure I don’t fuck it up again.

…and now a word from our sponsors

Posted in Life on January 3rd, 2007

Some of you may have noticed that I wasn’t here yesterday. Yes, it seems that there was a problem at the hosting site, something along the lines of “a server blew up”. It took them a few hours to get things up and running again. I of course noticed this just when I wanted to post something.

Sure, I could get pissy about this. While my normal response to such an occasion would be “those bastards!”, this marks the first and only problem I have had with my host in the four+ years I have been using them, and I’m on the hobby-site plan at only $10 a month. (Okay, they call it a ‘business plan’, but it’s the ‘lite’ version, trust me.)

Pretty good track record, if you ask me.

So, here’s to the fine folks at 1and1.com who so kindly rent me server space.