Trygve.Com > Diary > JournalWeblogDiaryWhatsis - July, 2001
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World Conquest
July 2001
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silver is 'in' this year

because ... well ... why the hell not ...?

it's a dirty job, but somebody's got to do it.

Sunday, July 29th


Even more fun with dead puppies

Just in case you were looking for some Christmas ornaments to complement your Ogden Edsl Wahalia Blues Ensemble Mondo Bizzario Band album collection, Collectibles Today offers their "Puppy Paradise Ornaments" [ ] featuring three different post-mortem pooches, "Lucky," "Blackie," and "Cocoa."

Just the thing to help you get into that special holiday mood when you're relaxing to Ogden Edsl's classic performances of "Dead Puppies" and "Open Me First at Christmas."

Thursday, July 26th


Battling Beefcake and "Godzilla Versus the Spam Monster"

My enthusiasm for Spamcop.Net [ ] continues to decline. I'm sure it all sounded like a nifty idea to somebody at some point: on their opening page, they describe their service as:

This free service will let you send a public spam report to network administrators. SpamCop routes your complaint accurately and works with network administrators and spammers to turn the tide.

Let's see...a service that lets you email anonymous, yet official-sounding, complaints to people's ISPs and admins without having to reveal your identity., who would use such a service? Where someone has a legitimate complaint, they probably don't have that much to fear from reporting abuse to a suitable admin or provider. On the other hand, if you don't have a legitimate complaint or, for that matter, are the one who is actually engaging in spamming or other abuse, and would just like an automated service for harrassing anyone who has a legitimate complaint against you, well, this could be a darned handy service.

Especially if, like many abusive sites or addresses, your own email is likely to get blocked or filtered.

Of course, it is possible that they actually do process legitimate complaints too and aren't exclusively used as a tool for wasting admins' time and resources, but I've yet to see any sign that this occurs. So, for the moment, I'm relegating the theoretical existence of "legitimate complaints being mailed from Spamcop.Net" to the same Fortean realm presently occupied by the Yeti and Loch Ness Monster.

... before Julian got recognized and the evening turned into a giant autograph-fest ...

But on a far more positive note, Bobby Black, the Tattooed Food Critic himself, just came out with a review of the Seoul Korean Barbecue [ ] where we enjoyed a dinner with Julian Jung Lee who was passing through town on his way to another meeting with investors in his upcoming film Straight Blast with Dolph Lundren and Mako.

Sometime in the quieter parts of the meal, before Julian got recognized and the evening turned into a giant autograph-fest, Bobby leaked a little of the inside scoop on his new series (soon to begin airing on the Discovery Channel). I probably shouldn't reveal all the details at this time, but it certainly sounded like a winner, and it was immediately obvious that Bobby Black was perfect for the part. Details, should be coming out on Bobby's own site [ ] (don't forget to check out his "acting" page for some recent updates, in case you haven't been to his site lately).

Wednesday, July 25th



Whew! Finally got the "Decorating your Evil Lair on a Budget" [ ] page edited up; that one definitely suffered from the magical power that all editors develop, namely that of causing the phone to ring or some other crises to demand immediate attention every time it determines that you might be at risk of getting your current train of thought typed in. But, with far too much time spent getting back to it and wondering, "what was I going to write in this paragraph after the first five words?" I managed to type in enough to put up on the server, whether or not I ever did remember what my original idea had been when laying out the page.

Not too surprisingly, a lot of the behind-the-scenes excitement has been at least as hardware-intensive, but--unfortunately--the behind-the-camera hardware actually has to work, not just look cool.

That's been a bigger challenge than usual, not least of which being because it hasn't been cool out here in Colorado lately and Xcel Energy (the utility company formerly known as the Public Service Company) has been dedicating its revenues from the nearly doubled electricity rates to a massive advertising campaign to promote customer awareness of their new, improved logo. This has left them without the resources or ability to worry about the quality of the power they're supplying to their increasingly logo-aware customer base, but since those of us who are on the receiving end of the power lines are pretty much a captive market, that's probably not as important as enhanced logo-awareness.

I admit it, the treehouse does gobble up the watts, but at least the power draw is pretty much rock-steady from hour-to-hour, day-to-day, and even month-to-month. At least 70% of the electricity is used to run the servers and I don't even use an air conditioner out here, relying instead on the miracle of "basement convection technology" in which the air flows naturally down the front staircase, is cooled as it moves through about a-hundred-and-forty feet of basement, and then when it reaches the server area and is warmed thereby, it flows up the back staircase. At 6000 feet, where the evenings are cool, a house this size can get by without the added expense and energy draw of an air conditioner.

...but that only gets you so much when the rest of the world fires up their air conditioners and the incoming line voltages threaten to drop below the triple-digit range. The servers themselves still get by, since they have a metric ton of power conditioners and resynthesizers that maintain the power quality no matter what's going on in the rest of the world. The editing facilities here, however, aren't so lucky, and I've learned a lot about how badly low line voltages can screw up video equipment and, quite possibly, contribute to this past weekend's sleep-eliminating hard drive failures. Ooops.

[ warning: long, drawn-out hardware geek session follows ]

The newest hardware adventure has been my first experience with tossing together a dual-Athlon MP based editing system. I'm still waiting for the last few parts to come in, since just about everything I need for this machine is incompatible with any of the spare bits-and-pieces I have lying around. Which is okay, since it's a fine excuse to brush up a little on this week's technological leading edge commodity hardware.

Tyan's the only one making a dual-MP mainboard so far, [ ] At a street price of $475 for the Thunder K7 / S2462UNG, it's pricier than most, but for that price you're getting five 64-bit PCI slots and one AGP-pro. Even a few months ago, I had trouble finding anything at all that had both 64-bit PCI and AGP, presumably because manufacturers figured that the former was something you'd want for servers, while the latter was only important for a workstation, forgetting that there's plenty of reasons why a video editing workstation would like to take full advantage of 64-bit gigabit ethernet and fibre channel host adapters.

But as most computer case manufacturers are tending away from "sheer stupidity" in their designs and moving on to "eXtreme stupidity," Yeong-Yang has decided to buck the tide and try the experiment of building an almost cube-shaped case, thus using geometry to their advantage instead of trying to fight against it.

Add in the S2462UNG's dual 10/100 NICs and dual ultra-160 wide SCSI channels, and you are getting a decent amount of hardware for the buck. The downside, of course, is that it's incompatible with most of the parts I had lying around already, so I had to get one of the special power supplies (at the time of this writing, only NMB and Delta were making Tyan-approved supplies). The main power connector may look like the standard ATX variety, but it's got four extra pins and that's not including the second main power connector which has eight (versus the P4-style 4-pin secondary main power connector). So, add in $109 for the NMB 460-watt Tyan-approved supply.

I decided that I had to wrap this puppy in one of Yeong Yang's 15-bay Cube Server Cases; it was, shall we say, a moral imperative. Normally, I'd rebel at the idea of spending $150 just for the case, but in this case I gritted my teeth and went for it. At least it's black (or beige, if that's your preference) rather than any translucent color named after a fruit; that would have been a deal-breaker, fifteen available drive bays or not.

[ warning: no, we're not done yet ]

Computer cases, as far as I can tell, are like French fries, soft drinks, or any other food substance that can be obtained by way of a drive-through window. Fast foods don't come in "small" any more; most of the time. there's not even a size called "medium." Instead, you start with "large" and work your way up, moving on to "extra-large," "jumbo," "super-size," "humongo," and "can you just load that into the trailer?" Or, in the case of computer cases, they start with "poorly designed" and work rapidly downwards, pausing just briefly in the vicinity of "did anyone ever try installing components in this thing before rushing it into production?" before delving ever-deeper into the forbidding realm of "hey, Fred, if we move this drive bay another half-inch, not only will it prevent anyone from installing memory on their motherboard, it'll make sure that no ATA-66-compliant cable will ever reach and even those few regular IDE cables that would fit will be sure to block the power supply air inlets!" "Cool idea, man; let's go for it! Just make sure that moving the bay like that doesn't accidentally leave room for adequate air circulation around the hard drives!"

But as most computer case manufacturers are tending away from "sheer stupidity" in their designs and moving on to "eXtreme stupidity," Yeong-Yang has decided to buck the tide and try the experiment of building an almost cube-shaped case, thus using geometry to their advantage instead of trying to fight against it.

Yeong Yang server cube case

The surprising thing about this case is that it's tiny--or at least a whole whopping lot tinier than I'd expected before I opened the shipping carton. It's a little deeper than a standard mini-tower, but otherwise it's smaller than two typical mini-towers smooshed together. All told, it's 13.75" tall, 13.5" wide, and 18" deep. The extra width means that it can fit fifteen drives with room to spare and plenty of cooling fans on one side, while the other half of the case houses the motherboard and its attendant daughtercards. The one tricky part is that the case itself is only about an eighth of an inch bigger than the Tyan motherboard. Seriously. But it does fit, even if it takes a little bit of care to figure out how to get it in there.

Since the mainboard is mounted on the midplane facing away from the drive area, the cable routing is going to be a little more challenging. On the plus side, there's a narrow slot at the very top of the case that the cables could be threaded through. On the minus side, the connectors the cables would attach to on the mainboard are on the very bottom edge, so there's no way to get them up to the slot in question and still be able to reach the drives on the other side. The only way I can figure out to get any IDE drives connected is to fold the cables under the mainboard and through a space that's in the middle. Doable, but, again, that'll require a little extra care and some form of protection between the cables and the solder side of the board.

[ okay, we're getting close to the end. honest. ]

The Tyan board also only takes registered DDR memory, which bumps the price up significantly, but nowhere near as much as having to populate it with RDRAM would. Even at $57 apiece for 256Meg registered PC2100 DDR, populating the board with a gig for the moment isn't that large a part of the total system cost. The Western Digital WD800BB 7200RPM ATA-100 80-Gigabyte hard drive has dropped to under $200 (shipping included!), so I ordered in a few of those, and added in the Pioneer 16x DVD drive ($51), the Yamaha 2100s 16x SCSI CDRW with an eight meg buffer ($121), and one of Inno3d's Dual-head 64Meg GeForce2 MX400 AGP video cards ($109). Unlike the Tyan and the pair of 1.2GHz Athlon MP processors, these are enough behind the state-of-the-art to be a whole lot cheaper than the latest-and-greatest, while still offered performance levels that are pretty close to the state-of-the-art.

All together, it's still under $2000, and should make a decent dual-monitor editing system. I'll let you know how it goes....

. . .

BTW, I'd like to thank the following extremely useful websites for their assistance in this project:

Thursday, July 19th


Infernosoft, putting the "NO" in Innovation: ]


Day of the DVDs:

Okay, so month would be more accurate, but what's an order of magnitude or two when alliteration is at stake?

Everything's on track for the Fall 2001 video release of Dragon and the Hawk ]

The Dolby Digital and Dolby Surround encoding for the DVD and VHS releases are being done at the Digital Media Center [ ], currently part of AT&T, but that could change from one hour to the next. I've come to the conclusion that the modern big-business operating model is pretty much a return to traditional feudal values and practices: the names of the kings and kingdoms that rule over a department can change from day to day, but often enough, the actual workplace, the equipment, and the people doing the work stay the same. You just have to remember to change to your new business cards whenever they come in.

But one difference is that corporate lords haven't resurrected the old "right of the first night" tradition ... at least as far as I know.

But just in case you need your daily DVD fix before Dragon and the Hawk hits the store shelves, Animeigo [ ] is now shipping the second DVD boxed set of Urusei Yatsura, covering volumes 6-10; no new episodes if you, like me, had already bought the ten-laserdisk set when it came out, but at least now the next UY set from Animeigo should have something new.

Unless, of course, the next one covers the UY movies and OVAs, but that would be okay, too.

one difference is that corporate lords haven't resurrected the old "right of the first night" tradition ... at least as far as I know

Animeigo may not be a big company, but they have the unusual philosophy of trying to come up with ways to make customers enjoy their products more rather than always trying to find new and different ways to make their products more annoying and/or less usable. They also haven't adopted the otherwise nearly universal belief that the secret to success is to irritate as many people as much as possible, and when that doesn't seem to be working--or if someone just has a flash of inspiration on a whole new way to torque off a few more potential former customers and innocent bystanders--try to be even more annoying more often.

Which is why I never buy anything from and instead recommend that people who are looking for x10 and other home automation hardware and controls check out Smarthome [ ] instead. They're cheaper, besides.

But, back to Animeigo, they do the best job of subtitling that I've ever seen, easily better than most major-company releases, and they even provide extensive "liner notes" that go into detail about the cultural references and jokes that American audiences might not get without explanation. One gets the feeling that the people behind-the-scenes at Animeigo are fans of the genre, rather that people who spend their days trying to master the latest technologies for total jargon empowerment and buzzword compliance. The most telling indication--apart from the quality of their work--is that the slipcover for their UY movie set will include space for an extra DVD, since they don't have the US rights to the UY movie number 2.

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