May 2008 - Posts

Hard Drive 'End of days'

Was it really only April when I last had to talk about drive failures and backups. Well here we are in May its happened again. Different machine, different hard drive and a more spectacular death.

Yesterday afternoon I had several very odd 'hangs'. IE would just stop responding and lock up for several minutes. Outlook emails would pause for a couple of minutes before they would send and downloading new email was taking forever. I rebooted a couple of times to try to clear it and it kept happening. I did notice on reboot I would get a strange 'strangulated' noise from the computer. I tried to listen to where it was coming from but it would last less than second and everything was working.

Finally last night it just got crazy. Nothing was working. Everything was hanging and I couldn't open the Storage Manager to see if there was a hard drive problem. So I opened to case up and pulled the drives out and rebooted. No noise... dammit not sure which drive is failing. There's no clicking or ticking that I am used to but then a sudden thump and the machine hangs. Won't reboot properly either. So I pull the power on the data drive and now it reboots. Dammit.

So once the traffic cleared this morning I headed off to Fry's again to get me a new drive. While I was waiting I took the opportunity to reinstall Vista as I had hit my limit of OS crap. Right now I'm copying all the files from my server backup to the new drive. 138,578 items - 3 hours it says!!! Man I have a lot of stuff.

My backup software doesn't cope with open files and I don't always remember to close outlook when i go to bed so I think my email backup is a couple of days old which is a big shame. The old drive is deader than a dead thing. It doesn't even appear to spin up. So time to try the quick feezer trick to see if I can get that one PST file. Otherwise I can live with a few missed emails.

Suppose I need to check if the drive is under warranty too. At least I might get a spare out of the deal.

Where do they put all the bits?

I got a new GPS unit last week in the REI sale. It came with a DVD of all the TOPO maps of the USA and a 128Mb microSD card. Well that's pretty small these days so I popped down to Fry's to get a bigger one.


Its simply stunning to think that this has 4Gb memory. I don't even see the point of buying anything less than 4Gb at the moment because its so cheap. When I think of all the 16K ram packs from the ZX81 days its really quite stunning. J was equally impressed and its not like her to be impressed by small things Surprise. I feel like I could be a spy or something and fill it with secret blue prints and then smuggle it inside a button or something very James Bond. Heck its totally swallowable though I don't suspect the manufacturing covers stomach acid and I don't facy the idea of finding it.

The real problem now is what the hell do I do with the 8Mb, 16Mb CF cards I have sitting around. I think I have a 512Mb microdrive that I paid a small fortune for 10 years ago. I need to find a hobby where the price of things goes UP not down.

Posted 13 May 2008 02:06 PM by zman | 1 comment(s)
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DRM vendors thanks for shutting down...

[Wow 2 posts in one day and neither about running!]

There are a lot of people out there who hate DRM with a passion. I'm not one of them. I understand that its a necessary evil in a world where most people will get something for nothing if they possibly can. Though I disagree with some of the high profits and salaries that some entertainers and entertainment companies get there is a reason we all lock our doors at night - to stop people taking what is not theirs. The entertainment industry is no different other than its far easier to steal content than it is to take my TV.

However this doesn't mean there are not some parts of DRM that annoy me and I just had to spend my valuable time working around some of this. You see I supported MSN Music when they first went live and I purchased my 99c tracks from them. I was a bit annoyed when one day I tried to go to the site and was told they were shutting down. They sent me over to Urge which was mildly annoying. They promised that the DRM validation that happens would continue to work... but for how long? Since Urge is owned by MTV I figured they were a pretty safe bet for the future. Of course I was wrong and at some point Urge was shut down and we were all sent over to Rhapsody. At least my login from Urge works there but wait a moment whats this? I need to download the Rhapsody player? I cant use them in Media Player where all my other music is. No I don't care if there are workarounds.... you just lost my business.

In the last month I got a Zune - mainly to try out the XNA Game Studio development platform but since I've never had an Ipod it was an opportunity for me to join the cool kids. Zune software has to be installed to sync which is pretty annoying again but at least it picks up my media library.... well almost. Ripped CDs are there but nothing from MSN Music or from Urge. Woo hoo for DRM. So I can't sync my DRM songs to the Zune from Media player because the Zune team and the Media Player team have some sort of ongoing feud to ensure there are multiple ways to do everything in Windows. AND I can't sync my songs from the Zune software because it doesn't understand any DRM other than the Zune store stuff.

Now I could spend half a day finding out if I'm an idiot and there is a way to do this but the easiest way was to burn all the DRM music to multiple CDs and then rip them all back in. Now Zune is happy and all works again with my songs.

Of course the chance of me buying stuff from Zune Store is pretty low expecially since Amazon appears to be happy to sell me unprotected MP3s and I suggest you do the same. The Zune pass stuff is vaguly interesting but there are so many 'just another $9.99 a month' things out there for me to spend my money on and thats more then I generally spend on music anyway.

Digital paper still isn't good enough

Today I got an email from the ACM regarding the ACM queue magazine I get as part of my membership. Seems that they are not going to print the paper copy any more. The reasons they give sound like they paid a marketing consultant to come up with them:

  • "In response to a growing demand to offer a richer, more robust online presence"
  • "in response to a changing business environment for specialized print magazines"

Whilst I can appreciate the first point its certainly no reason to drop the print issue. The second point I suspect actually means "we are not making enough (any) profit on this 'free' magazine even though its usually full of paid ads". Now I certainly don't see why any business should continue to make a product if there is no money in it for them but this is one of those times that you should just come out and say it.

The problem, for me, is that for me magazines are some of the few times I am away from the computer. I spend most of my day in front of one of my machines so in bed, in the little boys room, on a plane etc are the places where I catch up. Whilst I could take my laptop to those places its not as portable as a paper magazine (and you can't tear it up into little square if you are out of toilet paper!).

I've seen a couple of magazines go this way in the last few years so I suspect its a trend which is going to catch on. Several of the magazines I read regularly are already offered in a digital version though oddly enough like e-books very few of them are offered cheaper.  For example Reader Digest Paper costs $1.25 per issue. Readers Digest Kindle Edition costs $1.25 per issue. I doubt if electronic delivery can be more expensive that physical delivery and I'm sure that the electronic copy has all the same ads so where is the savings to me? Come on Amazon make it worth my while if you want me to pay $400 for your Kindle.

Even worse it appears that every magazine publisher wants you to read the magazine THEIR way. Some I have tried have their own viewer applications, others let you download PDFs of the magazine which are great if you have a 17"+ monitor to read it on. Amazon appears to have a proprietary format which means that right now there is almost no magazines or newspapers available. I suspect the range of books is equally a small percentage of the total out there though it looks like they are somewhere around 80k books which should be enough to keep people busy for a while.

The final failure point for me is a lack of color. Magazines add a lot of value with diagrams and images and right now there's no color devices out there. Hopefully this will change soon - there is speculation on several. Sadly its hard to see all of these in one place to know what form factor is good and what display size will work for you. Resolution and contrast are improving over older models but we are still a long way from the paper printing so having a screen that is smaller than the average current book doesn't cut it for me. I'm so tempted to order a Kindle but my gut feel is that it will annoy me and not give me $400 worth of value.

A quick trip to Vancouver

Time for another running story - with tales of lycra and nasty smells abound.

For the second time my running group headed North from Seattle to the frozen wastes of Canada and a the city with one of the worst traffic systems I have ever seen. I swear that they randomly change which streets are one way and which are not every time I visit and with no turn lanes and badly synchronized traffic lights you need to ensure you are on the correct side of the street if you intend to get anywhere.

For those long time readers you may remember that Vancouver was the site of my 1st marathon 2 years ago. Yesterday I was running the shorter half marathon. Its only been 3 weeks since my 50k and although I am recovered well day to day pushing my legs too hard in a race increases injury risk and, as I found, finds all the aches and pains that are not really recovered.

Last time in Vancouver it rained heavily but we awoke Sunday morning to a clear sunny day. As usual an early start so we walked down to the start around 6am and checked our bags and went to the start line. Vancouver is a nice race and generally well organized but they have no pace markers at the start line so everyone including the walkers decides its OK to stand near the front. It took me 6 minutes to cross the start and I was passing walkers for 2 miles. Come on marathon organizers PLEASE put up big signs asking the walkers to start from the back.

Considering the potential of tired legs I was not sure if I should go for it on this race but after the 1st mile I was doing pretty well so I figured I'd just keep going. The sun was out and directly on us so it was warming up. But the really odd thing was that I could still see my breath and the air seemed chilly. Lots of twists and turns so sunglasses on and off and on and off again. My pace started well and seemed pretty even for the 1st half of the race 9:38, 9:05, 9:08, 8:59, 9:07, 9:04 and hitting the half way point at exactly 1 hour. I was quite surprised that it had gone so well. If I could keep up this pace there was a pretty good chance of running sub 2:00. I'd not got to the only hill yet but things seemed to be going well. But it seems that my body had some other ideas. Right after the half way point my legs seemed to remember the 50k.... it would seem that an hour was all they were prepared to give me for free and they started feeling heavy and I started to slow. Miles 7 and 8 were 9:30 and 9:58 (though mile 8 I think had a water AND gu stop in there so its not quite as bad as it looks).

Right after mile 8 begins the slow climb up and over the Lion's Gate bridge. Exactly at the time my legs need something more optimistic. Oh well - its not that big or long so I shorten my strides and use my considerable marathon experience to get me up there... you know what this means right? Yes its time for more "ZMans's rules of Lycra"....

From Seattle 2007 we already have one and the hill in Vancouver has contributed 3 new ones...

  1. Underwear: There are 3 kinds of underwear allowed under lycra shorts - granny/big pants, thong/g-string, nothing! If you must wear regular underwear that cuts your buttocks in half remember that whilst its tough to see the problem in jeans or a skirt the lycra shorts will accentuate your now very visible 4 butt cheeks and anonymous marathon runners will mock you. This shall be known as a muffin-butt.
  2. Color: Grey/Silver looks the best if you can pull it off. Black is best if you shouldn't be wearing lycra but insist on it
  3. Gender: If you have the ass of the average 55 year old guy  then you need to switch from lycra, lose some weight or wear a longer shirt. Dude you got me moving up the hill faster than any of the cute lady bottoms today just so I could be past you!!!
  4. Length: Shorty short lycra pants are a little 'cheeky' but can be quite hill inspiring on the right people. Sadly it appears that not many of those people run at my speed in races. Folks not everyone can be Daisy Duke. Here's the test: Wear your shorts one day and show 3-4 of your close male friends. Watch their reactions.... it should be pretty obvious if you should inflict that on several thousand people.

So back to the hill. I'm huffing and puffing my way up and seeing my sub 2:00 race disappear and coming to terms with it when I hear someone call my name. Its S from my running group who is having an awesome run. She seems as shocked to see me as I am to see her. After a pretty breathless conversation about being close to 2:00 pace (a HUGE PR for her) I let her know that my legs are very heavy and I am going to be no use to help pace her in to the finish and tell her to get on and go for it and off she goes. My legs are very jealous. Approaching the top I see she has taken a short walk break and I am catching up. I'm glad of someone to chase to take my mind off things so as we go down the hill my extra weight gives me a bit of an advantage and I catch her around mile 9.5 after putting in a 10:11 mile - my slowest of the race.

The down hill has been very kind to me and I'm feeling pretty good again. We are slightly off 2:00 pace but I start to convince myself that between the two of us we can do it. So I keep up the pace and S comes with me and we hit mile 10 in 8:32. Everything is looking good and we need to run a 27 minute 5k to break 2:00 which means its going to be close. Then the flat runs out and the very slightly up hill whips my legs into submission once again. I can tell I'm slowing so I tell S to run her race and go break 2 hours while I start to play those mind games that happen at the end of a race.

I keep her in sight for a short time and then I blink and she is lost in the crowd. Mile 11 is 8:51 and mile 12 I slow back to 9:30 when I take a slightly extended water stop. At mile 12 I decide that if I REALLY push it I can still do a respectable time so I ignore the heavy legs and knock out an 8:08 and scream down to the finish. It feels really good passing lots of people and for a minute I wonder if I will catch S but I never see her till after the end. My final time 2:01:06 which I think is my 3rd fastest half if you don't include my crazy split in Seattle. (S by the way was just slightly over 2:00 - an awesome time and 10+ minute PR for her).

We head off to meet the crew. D finished his 1st 8k and got 2nd place in his age group! Out come the cow bells to cheer in the rest of the gang. 1st half marathon finishes for A, C and M - 2nd half and a PR for J even though she's not been feeling great all week. I think a PR for M (a different M - there are too many people I run with called M) too. Finally Coach N running the full and finally finishing Vancouver which for various reasons has eluded her. She ran the 50k with me 3 weeks ago so no surprise she found this one quite hard. I'm glad she recommended I only ran the half!

After the race some beers and great fish & chips at an English pub and a chocolate waffle for dessert afterwards. Mmmmmmm

Oh and I missed blogging about the smells. I passed a couple of guys who just stank.. now I'm not one who thinks you should shower BEFORE a half marathon but jeez people there's no need to hold off for a week. This is a crowded sport near the start. J also found a couple of stinkers on her run.

And finally my favourite guy was a guy who had 'Happy Star Wars day - May the 4th be with you' on his T-Shirt. (For those who didn't click the link its goes to 'Wookie-pedia')






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