December 30, 2001

I am back from three exhausting days of staying at Josh’s in Rochester. We spent a lot of time playing video games and watching movies. Josh played a bit of Final Fantasy X on the PS2 while I worked on Call to Power II that I just got. C2P2 is not nearly as good as AoE2. I wouldn’t recommend getting it unless you manage to get a really good deal on it or something. It is turn based and that just is not very exciting. I am sure that lots of people out there really enjoy turn based strategy games but I find them rather slow and uninteresting. It is also pretty confusing to play. The slow game play makes the game not nearly as exciting as some other strategy games that I have played. We also watched Mad Max I (the one that no one knows from 1978), Running Time (with Bruce Campbell, only the second movie ever shot as one continuous scene with no break in the film), Rumble in the Bronx (did you really think that we could avoid watching a Jackie Chan flick?) and the Moulin Rouge. Moulin was really good, we are thinking about adding it to the WHAT!?! movie list. It is a really strange movie. Josh and I really liked it. Especially chapter 19. Altogether, I picked up ten new DVD’s over the weekend and I think that Dominica got six. I should also point out that Running Time became the movie that had the 1000th viewing out of the Scott Miller Cinema Collection. It is hard to believe that a movie out of the collection has been pulled down and watched so many times. The last 100 views have come very quickly as there are so many people living in the house watching them all of the time. Especially with two main house entertainment systems and one in each roommates’ bedroom. Plus my parents and friends borrow movies all of the time and that adds to the views quickly as well. There are, in fact, close to 100 movies in the collection that I have never actually seen myself, which is kind of funny, I think.

Canadian FlagNatalie and Miranda, our Canadian contingency, arrived in the States today, meeting Josh, Dominica and I at Nick Tahou’s in Rochester. Josh tried to eat a plate and failed miserably while I actually managed to put one down, who knows how that happened. Min chickened out today. Natalie and Miranda got a plate but took one bite each and abandoned any hope of eating the rest of the day. I guess that they are not going to be joining us for Thanksgiving Dinner next year. They have come down to the Llama house now and are here along with Ryan and Jill from the Big Apple (yes, once again exiting the city on its biggest night of the year) and Matt who are all crashing here tonight in preparation for the big party tomorrow. Loopy has managed to do his traditional pre-big party drinking so we will see if he is going to be ready to party down tomorrow.

While I am writing today’s update, I am working on installing new hardware and software on Dominica’s computer. She got a new graphics card, the PNY nVidia GeForce III Ti 200, for Christmas and I have just gotten it into her computer. It is working under Windows 2000 but that is just the first piece of the equation. In addition to the new hardware (which is working just fine) I am also installing her new operating system, Mandrake Linux 8.1 Gaming Edition which is replacing the Red Hat 7.2 that was on there before. Let me tell you, there is a reason that Loopy and I hate Mandrake. Red Hat and SuSE do such a good job with making Linux so user friendly and easy to install but Mandrake goes through so much effort to make everything idiot proof that only an idiot could ever hope to get it to work. I would never install Mandrake if it wasn’t the only Linux version that supports (currently) The Sims (which also doesn’t work on Windows NT 4, 2000 or XP) so, since Dominica wants to be able to play the Sims, it is about the only choice. If you can live without playing the Sims, please avoid Mandrake at all cost, they give the open source software industry a bad reputation. SuSE is the only distro that I have been really happy with. I have used their Advanced Server 7.0, and their Pro Distros 7.1 and 7.2 and only had the best luck with them. I have heard very good things about the new 7.3 too.

While I am talking about computers (I have time to write since I am waiting for the install to finish) I might as well tell you that I am now working on building (from total scratch) my own computer at home. I bought the new case on sale at CompUSA yesterday. I got a nice Antech case with eight drive bays and a 350 watt power supply for $100 and I am very happy. That is all that I have purchased so far but I will keep you up to date as I build the system. This new computer is going to become my main machine, dual booting to Windows 2000 Pro and SuSE Linux Pro (version 7.4 most likely by that time or maybe 8.0 if we make it that far) with all the cool stuff for gaming. This will be my third computer with full 5.1 channel digital surround sound and the first one to get a really top notch 3d graphics accelerator. I am very excited. It is going to take me a while to get this all built though. So, keep up with me at home if you can and you will have an amazing machine by the time that we are done. I am aiming for a reasonably priced, outrageous performance machine running on a Soyo mainboard with an AMD Athlon XP 1900+ or better processor. The estimated cost to completion is around $1600. That does not include the operating system and software but if you are going to use the system mainly for Linux, like me, then let me know and you can borrow my Linux to install, I have SuSE, Red Hat, Mandrake (ugh), Storm, Slackware and Caldera distros so pick what you want. I have FreeBSD and OpenBSD as well which both really rock. So that shouldn’t cost you any extra unless you are going for a Windows system and why bother with that if you are going to make the ultimate machine? Lots of great Linux games are available at Electronics Boutique for only $10 each. Go buy some and support Linux games (especially things like Quake III and Railroad Tycoon!) I am also planning on installing three hard drives since I am going to dual boot. You can easily save $100-$200 if you were going to skimp on the drives. And I plan on spending almost $300 on the graphics card. You could get an amazing card that is almost as powerful for $100-$150 less easily. Another $50 can be saved on the sound card and still have great, well supported surround sound. And you can save $250 or more by not installing a DVD-RAM drive. So, you could build an almost as amazing system along with me for closer to $1000 if you chose to. As I build the system, I will keep notes in italics so that it is easy for those of you who are interested to follow along. I already know that John and Josh are going to be building the systems along with me so maybe there will be some others. Today will be the first installation. It would be good to keep up with me because that way you can get the benefits of my research into prices and performance of the products.

Stage One, The Case: CompUSA currently has their cases on sale (at least the CompUSA in Rochester, NY does) and some of the deals are pretty good. There are Antech cases available which, as far as I am aware, are a very good case. I picked up the Performance 635 model for myself which has a lot of inside working space, eight drive bays and a 350 watt power supply. Don’t skimp here, get at least 300 watts power and plenty of space to work inside. There was at least one nice case at CompUSA for around $70 that would work just fine and save $30 right off the bat. Make sure that whatever you get has at least three external 5 1/4″ bays because you need at least one for your CD/DVD drive and most of us are going to want one for a CD/DVD writer as well. Plus, the mainboard that we are going to look at uses one and so does a sound card that I will tell you about later. That is four bays right there. I am only planning on using three at most so I am going to make due with a lower number of open bays so that I can afford a good case. Few people ever need more than three. I think that I am most likely safe. I am looking at picking up the Soyo motherboard sometime in January. Soltek, Abit and Asus have some decent options too. But it looks like Soyo is the way to go. Figure around $150 for decent MBoard, just so you can plan ahead. The Mainboard is one of the most crucial pieces of your system, so don’t try to save money here. Get a good board. You don’t have to get the coolest features (I do, but you don’t) so you can save money there, but stick with a good quality board from a known manufacturer. You will be much happier in the end. And really, how much can you save here anyway.

Today has been quite the computer update day. You will have to forgive me, it is very late at night and I am working on fixing a computer so that is what I am talking about. Oh yes, I did well on my test on Friday and I now have Microsoft’s SQL Server 7 Administration MCP test (70-028) under my belt and that finishes me off for Microsoft’s highest certification, the MCSE+I. I have been working on that one for quite some time. I am planning on working on the CompTIA Server+ soon, maybe in a week or two. I need to keep taking tests or I get lazy. It is good for me personally and it doesn’t look too bad on the old resume either. It keeps me motivated. Real, physical proof that I am getting something done.

You will have to excuse the unbelievable length of today’s update. I have been away for a couple of days and I am stuck, alone, waiting for a computer to finish installing an operating system and it is now 3:10 in the morning. It is amazing how much one is able to write about nothing so early in the morning. I am looking forward to going to bed quite soon. I am giving up, shortly, on the operating system installation. It is driving me crazy. I almost forgot to mention that Josh and I shaved my head on Friday night. It is a different look for me but I think that it is growing on everyone (but not on me, ha, ha 🙂 so maybe I will keep it for a little while. It is sure a lot cooler. I picked the wrong weekend to try it as the weather finally turned quite cold.

Ok, I am calling it a night. The Mandrake install does not work. There is no information in their manual about any potential problems that one might have. I even went to their website and found this exact problem listed on their site and managed to follow their directions exactly to fix it. But nothing works. In fact, their on screen info, web site and manual all have incorrect information about how their installation process works. And then on top of it all, under troubleshooting in the manual, it says RTFM as the first step. Let me tell you, I don’t appreciate it now. I think they need to think better about how they WTFM! Not a happy camper, let me tell you. No more Mandrake for this kid. I will have to call them to get installation support. This is really ridiculous. Well, hope everyone is having a better night than me. Happy New Year’s Eve. See you all at the party.

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