Wednesday, February 25, 2009


Problems posting comments to this blog

We are aware that there are persistent, ongoing problems posting comments to this blog. Google's service is unreliable and often times-out. We apologize for the trouble. I am extremely busy at work, so I will not likely be able to find a remedy anytime soon. If you need to send feedback that you can be certain I will get and, if you want, post to this blog, you can send it to my personal email address.

UPDATE: Problems continue to persist into 2010, but Internet Explorer and Opera browsers appear to work reliably. Comments can't be published with Firefox and, ironically, Google's own Chrome browser because the comment input section is not rendered properly.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009


Asus G1S: Cold failing NVIDIA Geforce 8600GT

I’m having one of those weird nights again. I have been working a lot lately because we are testing a new part, but I was able to get home early tonight, a little after 9PM. I went to bed before 11, and woke up believing that it was morning, but only two hours had passed. Anyhow, I decided that I’ll blog a little until I get sleepy.

I bought an Asus G1S notebook about a year ago from Best Buy. I have been very happy with it other than the notebook will not boot to the desktop on cold days.

All overclockers know that the key to achieving high frequencies is keeping the part cool. Consequently, producing aftermarket computer component thermal solutions has become a sizable industry unto itself.

Less well known is that many semiconductor devices have a distinct cold limit as well. In fact, some devices will not function unless they are hot. Semiconductor device manufacturer have to ensure that these "cold failures" do not occur within normal operating temperatures.

My Asus G1S will not boot to the desktop if the room temperature is lower than 70 degrees Fahrenheit. The failure occurs when the GPU is initialized for desktop compositing engines like Vista's Aero or Compiz in Linux. Particularly for Aero, as soon as video initialization is attempted, the notebook either freezes or spontaneously reboots (Compiz might limp along for a few seconds before locking up).

If the room temperature is only a degree or two cooler than 70, the notebook will eventually warm up enough to reach the desktop, but if the ambient temperature is much lower than 65 then the notebook will enter a perpetual reboot cycle, if it doesn’t lock up first.

This is especially annoying when resuming from S3 or waking from hibernation, since rebooting totally defeats the timesaving aspects of these measures and could potentially corrupt files.

So apparently NVIDIA had, at least for a little while, a hole in their screening process that allowed for cold failure test escapes. Since the failures begin to manifest just below room temperature, it looks like NVIDIA did not test under cold conditions using a refrigerated thermal head, which is an odd screening omission.

I don’t want to infer that this is a widespread, serious issue, because there does not appear to be many cases of this failure in the wild. I’m simply recounting my personal and apparently rare experience with the NVIDIA Geforce 8600 GT in my Asus G1S.

Although I first witnessed the failure soon after I purchased the notebook, I procrastinated until my warranty almost expired before returning the G1S for repair. Best Buy provides warranty service for Asus, so after I backed up all of my data and reinstalled Vista from scratch, Kathy took my notebook to them about two weeks ago. The “Geek Squad” sent me an email last week reporting that they are currently awaiting parts. The only viable repairs that come to mind are either mainboard replacement or a new notebook. We’ll see. I miss the G1S since I used the notebook daily.

In the meantime, Kathy bought me an early birthday present -- my birthday is not until March 22, but who am I to complain? -- components for an AMD Phenom II system as an upgrade for my two year old Dell Core2Duo E6600 desktop.

Yeah, it’s not like my old reviewing days when companies would literally send me more free computer hardware than I knew what to do with. But Kathy bought a great collection of components including a Cooler Master HAF, a really fantastic case for a geek like me. The Phenom II also has exceeded my expectations, providing stout performance while consuming little power.

It’s smoothly running 64-bit Ubuntu 8.10. I’ve installed VirtualBox and will run XP from it and Vista from an e-SATA drive that I will take back and forth to work where I have an identical test system.

Speaking of NVIDIA, the economic apocalypse overtaking the world now is going to rapidly bring down broad swaths of familiar companies. The computing industry is already hurting. I made a prediction earlier this year that a major player will be on the brink of collapse by 2010. It won't be NVIDIA.

Three computer hardware vendors that will still have a pulse come next year are Intel, NVIDIA and VIA. These are times of great hardship for AMD, I am afraid. But that is a story for another sleepless night.

Friday, February 20, 2009


I can't believe the good people of Tulsa are tolerating this

The TSA has implemented full-body scans in the Tulsa airport producing nude images of passengers, and the good people of Oklahoma are accepting the outrageous indignity passively. I expected riots. Tulsa, what has happened to you? Where is your heart?

Thursday, February 19, 2009


Unemployment Benefits Paid Through Debit Cards Incur Fees

Debit Card Hell.

Sunday, February 15, 2009


Texas "Fireball"

Kathy witnessed the widely reported "fireball" over Texas around 11AM this morning. She was northbound on I-35 near Georgetown and described a persistent cloud created by the hyperbolic shaped, metallic object (this appearance was probably a result of a shockwave created by a meteor bouncing off the atmosphere). The cloud lingered for about an hour. She drove directly underneath the cloud which appeared to be centered over Waco.

Saturday, February 14, 2009


New Federal Position - National Coordinator of Health Information Technology

Congress's 700 page bill comes with some extra goodies, like this one. "This office will monitor the medical treatments your doctor is providing you to make sure that Washington agrees that those treatments are appropriate and cost effective," explains Gary Bauer.

Friday, February 13, 2009



Mockingbirds are quite a feat
Somewhat more than you'd think.
During the season that they molt,
They all seem sad in sync.

If you feed them eggs and potatoes,
They'll turn to black and white.
They'll eat fifteen to twenty minutes
All day and most of the night.

They make up most of their songs,
Yet they borrow ten percent.
Tis a shame we think they mock the songs
When they make melody as God has meant.

Flora Smith - Age 11

Wednesday, February 11, 2009


D.C. Voting Rights Passed by Senate Committee

Our visit to D.C. this summer left me discouraged. Crime, the poor success of public education in our country's capital is well documented. Interestingly, all the vendor shops around our country's grand monuments and public buildings sell exactly the same merchandise. We bought 4 t-shirts. They were all made in Honduras. The food vendors sell exactly the same "American" fare. Plan to be searched before entering all buildings. Kind-a-didn't-feel like America. Ya, know what I mean?

D.C. to have it's own house member makes me wonder what sort of grand ideas they will contribute to running the rest of the country.


NY parents grilled in 'religious sincerity test'

"Rita says the attorney concluded that her beliefs were not "sincere" enough and decided to deny her vaccine waiver." When does the state or a person acting on behalf of a public institution have the right to determine personal religious freedom?

Tuesday, February 10, 2009


Essential Free Windows Programs

Although I use Ubuntu more and more, I still have to spend a large portion of my day working in Windows, primarily because of my job. Gaming and navigation software are other reasons why I boot up Windows.

Whenever I load a box with Windows, I usually install the following programs.
  1. OpenOffice: OpenOffice 3 has become a very polished alternative to Microsoft Office.
  2. Firefox: With additional addons, Firefox is the best browser available.
  3. Irfanview: Irfanview is a great image viewer that also boasts a number of handy editing features. Be sure to also install the plugins.
  4. K-Lite Codec Pack Full: This software bundle includes a long list of useful media players and codecs.
  5. Notepad++: You will only use Notepad by accident once you try Notepad++.
  6. Filezilla: If you need a powerful and easy to use FTP client, Filezilla is a good choice. I also always install WinSCP.
  7. Lazarus: Lazarus is an Open Source cross platform version of Delphi.
  8. Peazip: Developed in Lazarus, Peazip is a flexible archiving tool.
  9. aMSN: Featuring webcam and voice support and working on Linux, aMSN is the best alternative to Microsoft Messenger -- and it is advertising free. Don't forget the plugins.
  10. Qt4: If you download the version with mingw bundled with Qt4, you'll have one of the most power C++ development toolkits around. Although Qt integrates well with the popular Eclipse IDE, QDevelop is faster and easier to use. To get debug features to work, you must install gdb.
  11. KDE 4.2: It is now possible to install the KDE 4.2 Desktop inside of Windows giving you access to a lot of powerful KDE applications.
  12. MySQL: MySQL is a rich and highly polished Open Source relational database that can be accessed from network locations. Also take a close look at the slick utilities that are available like MySQL GUI Tools and MySQL Workbench. If you plan to code and interface for MySQL, you may want the ODBC connector. And don't forget Ruby. HeidiSQL is very nice.
  13. GIMP: No, it's not just like Photoshop, but the GIMP is still a great photo editing package.
  14. Gnumeric: This is a good spreadsheet that handles data pasted from other applications very well.
  15. VirtualBox: VirtualBox is a great product for installing operating systems within operating systems. The virtualized environment can then be run on any computer powerful enough to handle it. VirtualBox is also cross platform.
  16. Thunderbird: While the editor is still clunky and primative, Thunderbird is probably the best free email client available.
  17. Komposer and BlueGriffon: These are decendents of Nvu, a WYSIWYG HTML editor.
  18. ActivePerl: This is an outstanding perl implementation for Windows.
  19. FreeCommander: FreeCommander is probably the best free file browsing utility for Windows outside of the KDE world.
  20. WinMerge: Although there are several very good, free file and folder comparison and merging tools for Linux, the Windows world is not as blessed. Thankfully, WinMerge exists and it is a super program. FreeCommander, above, also has helpful folder comparison features.
If you have any suggestions for this list, please let me know or leave a comment.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009


Children, Blessing or Burden

England's Porritt with an unapologetic "two child limit on British couples" sites the impact on the environment as the problem. United States's House Speaker, Pelosi, offers a subsidized "tax-payer child prevention" plan "... to deal with the consequences of the downturn in our economy.” Where is the population growth in both these countries? IMMIGRATION. The CIA World Factbook sites these statistics for United States immigration and Great Britian immigration.numbers. Excluded are illegal immigration numbers. So, why are two high-ranking political figures in highly industrialized democratic countries calling for government intervention to reduce their own populations?


1-ton snake ruled balmy Columbian jungle

Investigators have announced the fossil remains of an enormous snake stretching up to fifty feet long and possibly weighing as much as two tons. At its greatest girth, the slithering reptile "would have come up to about your hips," said David Polly, a geologist at the University of Indiana at Bloomington.

Living about five-million years after the dinosaurs were wiped out by an errant bolide (or, more likely, several bollides), the serpent ruled a Columbian jungle during a period when earth was much hotter than today.


Car explosion injures head of Ark. medical board

Dr. Trent Pierce, Chairman of the Arkansas State Medical Board was injured when his car caught fire. Mechanical failure of his Lexus hybrid is suspected.

Update: CNN now reports explosive device evidence has been found.


Cheney warns of new attacks

Cheney, barely out of office, is now a public figure, accessible for interviews.

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Tuesday, February 3, 2009


Two Children should be limit, says green guru

Population growth in Britain is occurring primarily through immigration. Statistics provided in the linked headline article reveal that British nationals have a fertility rate of 1.7; that's not a number that makes for growth. Fortunately, this editorial takes Jonathon Porritt, Chair of the British government’s Sustainable Development Commission, to task for the atrocious idea of limiting Brit couples to two children.

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