people have lunch in a restaurant and the bill,
including tip, comes to exactly $30
Thanks Seagate. A relatively new 73GB SCSI drive (not one of those mentioned here) was rather unreliable. I persisted with it so long that the shop guarantee ran out. I filled out the forms on the Seagate web site and they sent me a replacement last week. No quibbles. All is apparently well. My old (now ~4 years) 36 GB Maxtor drives are currently the winners for SCSI reliability (and low temperature and low noise). IDE winners are a pair of 10 GB IBM UDMA33 drives. Still no problems after ~9 years (of course IBM's drive division self-destructed soon after these were made so I have a couple of newer drives that died after only 1.5 - 3 years). I also have some dead WD Caviar drives from when WD went through their bad patch (sticky lubricant?). Hopefully the recent proliferation of cheap storage doesn't mean that quality will take a dive. Hopefully.
The local library is cool. They have a copy of Revolution OS in the DVD collection. This is either apt or ironic as one of the major events for Windows Refund Day took place only a few hundred yards away.
Having said that, if you want an overview of 1950's - 1980's hardware, computer languages and system software it is a nice book.
(Where will I be able to post my "I was an idiot" confessions if Advogato goes away?)
I had the chance to play with Visual Basic 2005 Express (VB .NET 2.0) and was aghast at the tortuous development environment and at the COMPLETE and TOTAL LACK of ANY resemblance to BASIC. An accompanying text indicated that Bill Gates had written and popularised BASIC many moons ago which legitimises Steve Ballmer's vision of allowing them to rewrite BASIC to allow it to be more modern. The mantra is "to allow refactoring" and this is intoned at regular intervals. I don't particularly care about any of this, apart from the bastardisation implicit in calling the resulting language "BASIC". The book insists that VB6 people are behind the times and everyone needs to switch to this Java- and C++ -like language. Just to show that they can be humorous as well they noted that 64-bit integers were supported "so that Bill Gates can properly record his net worth". Hints of how that net worth came about are probably given in the amount of text devoted to Source Safe, which should apparently be used to store all of your intellectual property to keep it safe from prying eyes (and presumably to stop you wasting it by sharing it with others). VB must be really on the way out if they are working so hard to alienate the original users. I haven't written any kind of BASIC code in 10 years but I liked the PowerBASIC dialect, and the creators of True BASIC are the ones who should be deciding the direction the language should take.
I was helping a friend install a new DVD drive recently (along with the associated software). I also tidied up some of the configuration on their WinXP box (some of which required reinstallation). I find it especially depressing about the general trend towards compulsory installation of extra software on top of even the most basic drivers. Most of the software is intended to take control over the media files and the users' browsing habits. Software writers have moved their junk from dialogue boxes to Windows services to the registry to make it increasingly more difficult to control, let alone remove. There's also a tendency to ride roughshod over existing configuration, even when this makes the setup less secure (for example many programs will switch Autoplay on for all media, even if it was previously disabled). The Roxio DVD software installation was mockingly nasty as the install shield screen had entries for a number of useless "accessories" but there was no way to disable their installation (I have heard that Nero is much better behaved). Other offenders were Acrobat (installs a toolbar in Office that reactivates itself every time you disable it within Office), QuickTime/iTunes (wants total media control), RealPlayer (ibid), ShockWave (ibid) and of course Windows itself. Mercifully they had an old copy of Win2k so I was able to take the CD Player from that so the user didn't have to be submitted to Windows Media Players compulsory "visualisations".
As these annoyances become more and more intrusive it is increasingly easy to bring up the subject of an alternative operating system. One where the configuration is generally through files you can read in a text editor. One where you can actually look at the code to make sure it will not ransack your computer and send the data back to the mothership ("you explicitly allowed this in the section of the EULA that had scrolled off the screen"). One where you can see and control and kill running processes.
Another mistake my friend had made was to order a PC from Alienware. The specifications were actually very good for the money (especially the CPU, motherboard, video card and a full copy of WinXP with latest security patches) but the system arrived in an unbootable state and with missing parts. While Alienware's phone support staff sounded very polite and knowledgable they are apparently controlled by insane people who will do anything rather than refund money (or talk directly to the customer). The telephone support people did arrange to send the missing parts and talked my friend through a reinstallation but the Alienware backup disk image (Norton Ghost) for the system was the same unbootable one on the machine as it arrived and Alienware refused to refund the money for this even though the lower level phone people were sure that this was possible. Telephoning and emailing resulted in nothing. My friend is warning everyone against buying Alienware and suggesting Falcon Northwest instead (althought they sound overpriced - I can't get through the flash animation on their website to actually check the prices). Ah, I forgot Dell bought Alienware so the quality control and customer support can only get worse... Thankfully my own homebrew box is running nicely.
New HTML Parser: The long-awaited libxml2 based HTML parser code is live. It needs further work but already handles most markup better than the original parser.
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