I’m Rebuilding A Quieter PC

I’d be lying if I didn’t say I was worried how it will all come out. I always am when it’s PC build time.

I’m writing tonight in case I can’t write this afternoon! I’m about to make modifications to my desktop PC, always a little chancy. That’s especially true this time. To install the new component I bought this computer’s motherboard must be removed!

I built the computer myself. It’s got a beefy quad core AMD Phenom II cpu. The cpu came with a heatsink and fan which I mounted directly onto the chip itself.

It works well, but it’s NOISY!

For most common applications the computer chip throttles back and the fan slows down. The noise is there, but not too bad.

When I’m transcoding video or working with large Photoshop files it’s the opposite. The cpu gets busy which makes it hotter (a little over 100&#176 Fahrenheit). The fan responds loudly.

My purchase was a Cooler Master Hyper N520. It’s a huge cooling structure with two fans that circulate air past copper tubes surrounded by aluminum fins. This massive heat sink and slower running fans should cut the noise to a whisper… at least that’s the claim.

In order to do this the computer itself will have to be dismantled. Though the N520 sits on top of the cpu it is screwed to a bracket underneath the motherboard–inaccessible without disassembly!

This is a little nuts. I know!

I’d be lying if I didn’t say I was worried how it will all come out. I always am when it’s PC build time. Usually my fears are unwarranted. That doesn’t reduce the tension.

I will report back after the job is finished. It’s not the kind of task historically undertaken by “all thumbs” guys like me.

Where Is My Tablet?

Nothing against the iPad, but I chafe at the thought of owning another device which needs Steve Jobs’ approval for me to use as I wish.

I want a tablet computer. Please don’t ask why. I’m not sure I can explain why. Must I?

Think of it as an obsession. I’m talking to you shoe lovers!

The whole tablet genre has been around for awhile, but it wasn’t until Apple produced the iPad that anyone really cared.

Sorry Microsoft. Earlier Windows based tablets were pretty much non-starters. That’s gotta sting in Redmond!

As CNBC reported last fall:

Big news for Apple and Apple investors: The iPad is the highest-scoring product that a leading consumer satisfaction index has ever tracked.

It’s just I don’t want an iPad!

Nothing against the iPad, but I chafe at the thought of owning another device which needs Steve Jobs’ approval for me to use as I wish. That’s why I already have a love/hate relationship with my iPhone. It’s the geek in me pushing back.

After the Consumer Electronics Show I expected a boatload of new non-Apple tablets running Android, the Google produced operating system. Over 100 were introduced at the show. Few have appeared.

Motorola is unveiling it’s new Xoom tablet tomorrow. It’s too pricey.

There are tablets from Huawei and eLocity that look promising (though a friend from PCMag.com said of the Huawei, “Looks like another lousy low-end tablet to me.”).

Here’s what I’m looking for:

  • Capacitive touch screen
  • SDHC card slot
  • Front facing camera for video chatting
  • Android operating system
  • Wifi and Bluetooth. Cell connectivity not necessary
  • USB connectivity

I’d like to use a tablet computer with my camera, but at the moment there are no Android apps which recognize the RAW formats my Canon delivers. I expect that itch will soon be scratched. The same goes with apps to play poker online.

When a tablet that fills my needs comes out and costs less than $400 I’ll be ready to buy. It hasn’t happened yet. It will.

What’s taking so long?

Is Our Superiority Over Computers In Jeopardy?

At some point we’re going to need to reevaluate how society benefits from technology.

In what will surely be the most watched Jeopardy series in recent memory Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter take on IBM’s Watson starting Monday evening. Man, actually men, versus machine. It’s not as easy as it seems.

Watson, a supersized array of computer processors, memory and storage, will not have access to the Internet. No googling for answers!

It will also have to make sense of Jeopardy questions (really answers) which are often punny, obscure and related to equally punny and obscure categories! In other words Watson will have to reason to derive the correct response.

Last night Helaine and I watched NOVA on PBS which had a “Making Of” hour about this challenge. It’s online and worth watching.

“I think what’s making Watson successful is its internal architecture. It’s looking at so many different algorithms—thousands of different algorithms—some of them focused on understanding the question, weighting the various terms, looking at the grammar, the syntax, finding the phrases, the keywords, the entities, the dates, the times, trying to understand what it is being asked. And this, in itself, is a big challenge, where we use a variety of different technologies. But ultimately, what’s exciting about it is how it looks at many, many different possibilities and assesses them and builds confidence in a final answer to decide whether or not it’s correct and whether or not it wants to risk buzzing in on Jeopardy!” – David Ferrucci (Research Staff Member and leader of the Semantic Analysis and Integration Department at IBM’s Thomas J. Watson Research Center)

The computer is pretty good. It’s got more than a fair chance. It very well might win. I’m worried about the implications.

It is easy to become a Luddite&#185 in matters of advancing technology. So many jobs have been eliminated by labor saving advances. From the worker’s standpoint it’s easy to think the vast majority of benefit has gone to their bosses.

Much of what’s now done by machine used to be unskilled or semiskilled labor. Robots do the manufacturing, run the elevators and route your phone calls (which are very important us). All that used to be done by people. Robots could fly our airliners if it we’d let them!

Business benefits. Former workers sit on their hands.

Now with Watson’s leap forward into reasoned intelligence the scope of which jobs will be eliminated expands.

At some point we’re going to need to reevaluate how society benefits from technology. If there’s more productivity and less human performed work to be done maybe the concept of an eight hour day, forty hour week and two weeks of vacation should be reconsidered?

Will anyone benefit if business becomes so efficient it no longer needs or pays workers? To whom will business sell?

What Watson does on Jeopardy is only the beginning.

&#185 – The Luddites were a social movement of British textile artisans in the nineteenth century who protested – often by destroying mechanised looms – against the changes produced by the Industrial Revolution, which they felt were leaving them without work and changing their way of life – Wikipedia

Microsoft Versus The English Language

Far be it from me to be the grammar police, but Microsoft has presented me with their own belt and suspenders moment!

Far be it from me to be the grammar police, but Microsoft has presented me with their own belt and suspenders moment! It all came in a dialog box as I was installing some software.

If you haven’t heard yet Microsoft has a reasonably good anti-virus package which they supply for free! If you’ve got an expired version of Norton on your PC or are paying for some shoddy product you should consider Microsoft Security Essentials.

A few months ago they s-l-o-w-l-y began rolling out the free upgrade to Version 2. Tonight was my turn. A dialog box emerged. I clicked a few buttons. Electrons flew through the air. Bingo. Protection is mine!

As the last step in the process I was presented with the pop-up you see at the top of this entry. Read carefully.

You’ve successfully completed the Microsoft Security Essentials Upgrade Installation Wizard

Sweet. I’m finally complete! Except the next line says,

Click ‘Finish’ to complete the upgrade

Huh? I thought I was complete?

Every night I pray these guys are better at writing code than creating complementary sentences.

CES — We Should Be In Vegas!

CES comes at the same time as the Adult Entertainment Exposition, but it’s CES that provides my porn!

I just sent an email to my friend Mike.

“Why aren’t we in Vegas for CES?”

We should all be in Vegas right now! It’s the annual Consumer Electronics Show. This is the place where high tech manufacturers and marketers unveil much of their new technology. CES comes at the same time as the Adult Entertainment Exposition, but it’s CES that provides my porn!

The pre-show buzz says 3DTV and tablet computing will be the stars.

I’ve yet to be won over by 3D. It should be noted I felt the same way about HDTV. Surprise–I’ve changed my mind.

3D poses difficult challenges considering it’s been reported some viewers don’t enjoy the experience while others become disoriented! Here’s part of Samsung’s warning:

Viewing in 3D mode may also cause motion sickness, perceptual after effects, disorientation, eye strain, and decreased postural stability. It is recommended that users take frequent breaks to lessen the likelihood of these effects. If you have any of the above symptoms, immediately discontinue use of this device and do not resume until the symptoms have subsided

No oily discharge?

For me the big deal at CES is tablet computing. The iPad opened that category and has been very successful. It is simply an amazing product.

From CNBC 9/21/2010: Big news for Apple and Apple investors: The iPad is the highest-scoring product that a leading consumer satisfaction index has ever tracked.

To me iPad is a proof-of-concept, not a mature product.

I want a tablet computer that has a front facing camera (maybe a rear facing one too) and more open access to programs and the outside world. It would be nice if a tablet could allow some simple manipulation of my digital photos shot in RAW format. Cellular connectivity isn’t a must for me as it would be for someone who travels regularly. A tablet computer should also be able to substitute for a TV or a telephone.

Those pads are coming at CES and seemingly at lower cost than traditional computing platforms. There have been lots of numbers mentioned, but the consensus view is around 70 new tablets will be introduced this week. Most will run on Google’s Android operating system, probably the Honeycomb 3.0 version which is optimized for tablets.

For many companies a CES announcement is just a trial balloon. What they’ll show in Vegas are carefully crafted prototypes that may or may not make it into production. Others will show a product at CES that’s a go, but not offer it for sale for months.

I’m very excited by all this. I will look very carefully. I plan on being a buyer. Now dazzle me.

Helaine And The Penguin: My Wife’s Linux Laptop

To Helaine Ubuntu and Windows are functionally equivalent. To a hacker or virus planter there’s a huge difference. Their voodoo won’t harm her!

Just a few feet to my left Helaine is sitting with her laptop. I can’t see what she’s doing, but whatever it is she’s doing it without complaint. Her laptop no longer runs Windows. She’s running Ubuntu Linux.

After a few pointed questions I’ve come to the conclusion she doesn’t care. That’s great.

To Helaine Ubuntu and Windows are functionally equivalent. To a hacker or virus planter there’s a huge difference. Their voodoo won’t harm her!

The anticipation of this switchover was more painful than the switch itself. I backed up her critical files, inserted the Ubuntu disk and it just installed. Both the sound and WiFi were recognized and proper drivers installed.

Beyond logging onto our encrypted wireless network there was nothing to do. The laptop just worked on the first try!

That’s not to say there weren’t challenges. The current Linux version of Picasa has a well documented glitch that kept it from running. Of course the well documented glitch wasn’t seen by me until I installed it three times!

Some of what I did wouldn’t be obvious to a new user. That’s a Linux problem, though new Windows installation from scratch would bring some similar concerns.

I understood WINE needed to be installed for a few Windows only programs to run. No problem for me, but it must be frustrating to someone who can’t conceptualize why and just wasn’t expecting it.

Converting Helaine’s email files demanded some scrambling. She’s an Outlook Express user. I set up Thunderbird as her mail client because it’s quite similar.

Unfortunately Thunderbird won’t import Outlook Express files natively. There is a separate command line program that does the conversion. Files then have to be manually renamed. Again, not a big deal, but only if you know you have to do it.

I’m pretty impressed with Thunderbird. I hadn’t configured an email program in a long time, but as soon as I told Thunderbird Helaine’s mail address it went into its database and set all the server parameters automatically. Sweet.

The default Ubuntu look is a little utilitarian and dull. The default type is very small. I reconfigured the fonts and colors and even added Helaine’s desktop background from her Windows machine. It’s a little more finished now.

So far it’s running like a champ. It boots quickly. It’s been stable. All the functionality she wants and needs is there.

By the way, all of this is free! Where have I gone right?