Dan's Data letters #109Publication date: 9 June 2004.L
ast modified 28-Apr-2012.
Big. Cheap. Busted.
I picked up an old Cornerstone R2180 21 inch monitor (PDF datasheet here). I've got a cable for it, which is all good. It switches on, but says "Invalid sync frequency", and displays fun blurry lines, then switches itself off.
I gather it's originally a Unix-world monitor - and seems to need a horizontal scan frequency that Windows doesn't give it. Any ideas?
To cut to the chase: I suspect your monitor is borked. It is possible that it's just a cable problem, though. This screen, unlike most Sun-connectored usually-suspiciously-cheap big ex-workstation screens, ought to work from a PC.
My first guess was that it was a fixed-frequency screen, but the spec sheet clearly says otherwise. The fact that maximum refresh rates at different resolutions are specified (rather than a single acceptable rate for each) tells us that it's not one of the intermediate monitors, between fixed-freq and modern flexible scan rate screens, that can accept several distinct input scan rates but not a real range.
You can get a manual for the 21/80, as well as the spec sheet, from here. The manual says that the monitor uses separate sync (not some weird sync-on-green or composite sync setup), which is VGA standard and should Just Work with the right adapter cable.
So I conclude that the cable's damaged or not wired right, or the monitor itself ain't happy. It could just be a busted solder joint on the input connector, or it could be something much worse.
101 drives, continued
Regarding your recent letter about using large, commodity hard drives in place of a multi-disc CD library - I tried this, and it didn't work. My circumstances were slightly different though. I was looking to bring a collection of games to a LAN party, and didn't really want all of my CDs to wander off. I had all the games installed, but since you can't play a game these days (legally) without using the CD as a glorified dongle, I had to have them with me. Then I thought, why not just make images of them all, and use that?
Long story short, it didn't work. Granted, I hadn't tried Alcohol 120%, but CloneCD was happy to mount the images as a virtual CD-ROM, and over half the games were just as happy to tell me they wouldn't run.
Now, bringing a CD jukebox wouldn't have solved my problem either, but it DOES illustrate that using a hard drive as your library isn't the be all, end all solution it might appear to be.
Alcohol 120% is, actually, the closet thing there is to a solution to this problem. Other disk image making and mounting software can deal with some copy control systems, but Alcohol is the clear leader. Various games therefore look to see if Alcohol (or another similar product) is running, and refuse to run if they even see it, to make life more annoying for pirates and legitimate users alike. Alcohol is regularly updated to get around this problem.
I miss ATA CD changers (like the one I reviewed one million years ago here). They still work fine in Win95-descended Windows versions, but in NT-descended ones (Win2000, WinXP...) they're only seen as single disc drives. This is, according to Microsoft, a feature, not a bug. You can manually mount and unmount discs, but you can't just see a string of apparently separate drives (that you'd better not try to access simultaneously).
101 drives, continued continued
On eBay, you can get a FireWire 200 disc DVD changer for around $US600; some are even writers. It's a much nicer solution than a hard drive array full of disc files, and gets around the whole DeCSS DVD ripping problem.
I, of course, would never advocate that anyone pay the retail on those monsters (or for their !*&#% software, at $US2,000!). But for about $US1,000, I got storage for my (roughly) 400 DVD movie collection, and didn't have to do a thing. It would have cost me about $US2500 at today's prices (versus $US1000 almost two years ago) for the 4Tb of storage, and I would have had to expend a lot of effort to rip them all, not to mention find a place in my heart (and case) for the 16 hard drives.
When I got this letter, there was a PowerFile jukebox on offer on eBay - but it was being sold "as is", which does not inspire confidence in a Rube Goldberg device like an optical media changer. For the money, though, a working PowerFile changer could indeed be a pretty tasty option, particularly for people who want on-line DVD storage.
But, as you say, the $US2800 list price for even the base model read only PowerFile library isn't very attractive. The $US4800 price for the base writer package, bundled with a less-than-exciting five DVD-RAM discs, buys you a maximum of 940,000Mb of storage if you toss the RAMs and populate the whole thing with 4700Mb DVD-RW discs.
That sounds like a lot, but it's only five "200Gb" ATA drives, which'll cost you a buttload less, work a lot faster, and not need stuff written to them to be broken up into 4700Mb chunks.
The ATA drive option gives less media reliability, maybe, but probably better mechanical reliability - and if you're willing to pay a few thousand then you can buy a server box, and plenty more drives, and RAID 5 'em, and be bulletproof.
Switch, uh, switching
OK, I realize you've kind of answered this before, but I've got a new twist on the issue.
I'm building a custom PVR (think TiVo without the fees) and I really want to build it inside a gutted Pioneer DV-333 DVD player, so that it matches my other home theatre components. This DVD player has its own power switch which I'd love to use as the power switch for the PC.
Looking at it, it appears that the power switch just depresses a metallic dome on a small circuit board when pressed. When released, the dome pops back up. I think this is working the same way an ATX power switch works - it makes momentary contact (I think "shorting" the circuit in electronic lingo) sending a signal somewhere that the switch has been connected.
The metallic dome on the circuit board has a line that runs to a small 5-pronged connector at the end of the board. I unplugged the connector, revealing the 5 prongs. If I were creative enough, do you think I could solder one of the mobo's ATX power switch leads to one of these prongs, and the other ATX power switch lead to an appropriate ground, and have the DVD player's switch function as I hope it could?
Yes indeed. Case modders usually keep the wiring set up the same way as it is in a normal case, with whatever oddball switch they want to use just bridging the appropriate two pins on the mobo header block. But the switch is indeed just connecting a logic signal to ground, so you can do the same job with only one wire to the header block and one to the chassis, or whatever, if you like.
One of the basic marks of the jobbing computer assembler and troubleshooter, by the way, is that when they're fiddling with an uncased system, they seldom bother plugging a switch into the power-on pins. Bridging those pins is what your car key is for.
I saw on your site that you are a Canon EOS-D60 owner. I have just noticed on my 10D that I have some specks that need to be removed - they show up with all my lenses, and so are definitely on the sensor. I've read have a couple of pages about sensor cleaning technique, I have the lint-free "Pec Pads" and I am sure I can find a plastic knife somewhere to modify into a squeegee.
What I am missing is the fluid. I don't think I am going to use plain old methylated spirits on this expensive camera. Maybe if I went to a camera store they would sell me something expensive, but I'm not entirely sure I trust them, DSLRs being a new kind of thing and fairly rare at this point in time.
So do you know what liquid is best for this purpose, and can you tell me where to buy it? 100% purity methanol, isopropyl alcohol or high purity methylated spirits seem like good candidates, but the one chemist I talked to had no clue.
Actually, I'm missing all of that fancy stuff, too. I'm sure that supernaturally low lint ultra-squeegees or modified plastic cutlery all have their good points, but when I've cleaned my D60's sensor (not something you should have to do often, if you refrain from removing lenses with the camera body pointing upwards, combing your hair over un-capped lenses, and other such activities), I've just done it with a rubber puffer bulb and, for stubborn spots, a gentle wipe with an ordinary cotton bud. Which can leave fibres behind, of course, but they're easy enough to puff off. I've also, completely against the recommendations of the manufacturer, used an occasional squirt of air duster spray. If you try that (disclaimer, no guarantee, on your own head be it, et cetera), don't use a full can (which can easily spray super-cold liquid), and don't use full power either.
Note that the recent EOS digitals (D30, D60, 10D, 300D, and the DS monsters) all have a glass-covered sensor that should make the choice of cleaning implement less critical; that's probably why I've gotten away with my simple approach. For DSLRs with unguarded sensors, you may need something fancier.
If you do find yourself needing a liquid cleaner, then yes, clean ethanol, methanol or isopropanol would probably all work well. There are lots of other solvents that probably wouldn't hurt the sensor, but could attack plastic elsewhere in the camera.
Here's yet another page about sensor cleaning.
CPUs and MMOs
I am looking to upgrade my processor from an Athlon XP 1700+ to an Athlon XP 2500+, Barton core. My motherboard is a MSI K7N2 Delta-L, so it can manage the increase in FSB speed. My question is, however, will I need to reinstall Windows XP after I swap processors?
Also, I was visiting a forum that I frequent and came across a discussion about MMORPGs and the monthly costs associated with some of them. There were people posting in that thread that felt that monthly fees to play a game are a rip off, and others that thought that the cost of operating servers for the games justifies the fact that some companies charge for continued play. One poster to the thread cited the cost of bandwidth as the main reason why companies charge for games (was he full of crap?). My question to you is whether or not these fees are justified or just a rip off. I tend to think that asking for additional money after the purchase of the game is excessive, but there are apparently people who feel otherwise. More power to 'em.
Your CPU swap will not require a reinstall. Plug and go.
(Well, actually, plug, and enter BIOS setup and make sure the new CPU's configured correctly, and then go.)
People who think MMO game fees are a swindle are, of course, welcome to not play the games. The truth is that there are good reasons for ongoing payment to play games like this.
To start with, MMO game servers are not like your typical Internet game server. They're not just a box somewhere with an Internet link to which 16 or 32 or 64 people connect, requiring basically no day-to-day administration. An MMO "server" is actually likely to be a great big farm of machines to handle the massive load of all of those people connected at once, with a pretty darn fat pipe to serve them all data.
If you've got a mere 1000 people on line, then even if each of them only needs two kilobytes per second up and down, you're already in DS3 bandwidth territory; pricing for that kind of link starts at around $US5000 a month. Popular MMO games can expect a lot more than a thousand people at once, of course; EverQuest's got the thick end of half a million subscribers at the moment, and Korean phenomenon Lineage can easily expect more than 200,000 of its millions of subscribers to be playing at once.
MMO admins also have to do a lot more work than your typical UT2004 server admin. They have to hang out in the game and deal with player disputes, complaints and question, and play other roles from time to time. Once a plain Internet game server's set up, in contrast, all the admin really has to do is punch the reset button if the computer crashes, and install patches from time to time.
And then there are the back end people who maintain the MMO server farms, handling hardware and software problems.
And then there's the creative side, who come up with new stuff for MMO players to do ("content"). Most MMOs offer at least some content as part of the package your monthly fee buys - though many also sting players for expansion packs.
Now, it's open to question whether the entertainment value of various different MMO games justifies their monthly price, and indeed whether all those people whose wages the players' monthly fees pay are in fact doing what they're meant to be doing for the money. But there's no question that MMO games do have ongoing costs.
Bike lighting - the saga continues
After following your page for a bit, I was inspired to replace the ever hot 5w bulbs in my VistaLite Nightstick bike light setup with some good ol' LEDs. I've seen some places with direct replacement bulbs, such as this site, but I am really having trouble finding what bulbs would fit with minimal or no modification.
I'm not looking for bajillions of candlepower spotlight power here, just something that will be useful and complement the work that my 15 watt helmet light will do, as well as serve as a backup for when the power hungry light shuts down.
Any recommendation, other than cutting the glass on the existing bulb and refitting from there? I've asked around on some very technical minded forums, but got no real leads.
I don't think the VistaLite lamps are any kind of standard, so you can't just drop an MR16 or similar standard bi-pin lamp in. I'd have to look at the lamps to see if they're rescuable at all, but I suspect it won't be easy.
On the plus side, it ain't rocket science to install a few Luxeon Star/O LEDs in an aluminium project box (for heat sinking) and replace the metal lid with a plate of acrylic. Bingo, shockproof decently bright light. With the easy availability of nominal-three-watt Luxeons now, and the fact that they'll apparently all run at five or six watts quite happily if you heatsink them well enough, you should be able to get quite adequate light from only one or two LEDs.
He's right, you know
Regarding those fancy MIT cables that apparently require breaking in: For $AU580 (1/2 price at that) you'd think that MIT would be able to "pre" break-in all the cables for at least two days before delivering them, to ensure their customers get at least "acceptable" sound quality. This makes me think that the "break-in" period is part of the psychoacoustic adaptation period. From personal experience, there are many songs that I don't particularly like the first time I hear them, but after listening to them a few more times, I like them better.
Now that you mention this, it seems obvious. If un-broken-in cables make your speakers sound as if someone's thrown a blanket over them, then surely speakers should be sold in a broken-in state.
Oh, but wait. Obviously, they couldn't break them in properly unless they constructed a configurable break-in room that could be set up to match the ley lines, feng shui and precise astro-Kabalarian configuration of the particular listening room, complete with any and all quantum-entangled proto-conscious metaphysical observer-entities.
Needless to say, this would be prohibitively expensive. Why, the black candle budget alone would double the price of the cables.