Archive for April, 2009

Whoa! Happy 1-Year Anniversary….to me!! :)

It was exactly 1-year ago today that I posted my very first entry to the Y.I.P.C.A.N.J.O. blog!  My how time flies 🙂

Here are some highlights from this past year…

MOST “COMMENTED ON” POSTS

MOST POPULAR CATEGORIES (BY POST)

MOST POPULAR TAGS

Anyhow, it’s been a pretty good year. 

Thanks to everyone who has been reading the Y.I.P.C.A.N.J.O. blog, and to all those who have posted in the comments.  Here’s to an even better year coming up! 🙂

Blessings,

Yip

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Gettin’ jiggy with the new home PC

So… our “old faithful” Dell PowerEdge 400SC box at home is finally beginning to show its age.  For a 5-year-old machine, it’s really faired quite well, but it’s making it known that it would prefer to be put out to pasture.

That’s the call I was waiting to hear.

I initially found a pretty sweet deal on a PowerEdge T105 box from Dell – and I even ordered one! – but there were some issues around upgradeability that I didn’t take into account.  Specifically, just getting a decent video card and sound card was proving both difficult and expensive.  All of a sudden the “sweet deal” was looking less and less sweet.  😦

I cancelled the order and started over.

Given that we were already looking to spend about $540 on a box, I had my price-point to shoot for.  (Note that we aren’t needing an OS, monitor, keyboard or mouse.  We’re good there.)  It finally dawned on me that I could simply do what I always use to do: build my own PC.

I headed over to NewEgg and began my research. Intel or AMD?  What kind of case?  How much RAM and at what speed?  Onboard video or an add-on card?  For a pretty awesome price/performance ratio, I chose a top-of-the-line AMD Phenom II Quad-Core CPU.  Once that was decided, I could research some compatible motherboards with good onboard gear.  We don’t “game” on our PC anymore, so I really only needed a video solution that could handle the Win7 “Aero” interface.  Most motherboards these days also come with very good onboard sound, video, tons of USB ports, firewire, and so forth.  I also needed an easy-on-the-eyes computer case to put everything in.

Here’s the gear I decided upon:

  • AMD Phenom II 940 3.0ghz CPU “Black Edition”
    • This is their (current) top-of-the-line quad-core processor, boasting 8mb total onboard cache, great overclockability, and very good performance.
  • Gigabyte GA-MA790GP-UD4H Motherboard (catchy name, eh?)
    • Quite honestly, this motherboard is amazing.  Not only does it look great, but it supports 16GB RAM, SATA RAID, 8-channel onboard audio, gigabit ethernet, ATI HD3300 onboard video, HDMI, DVI, firewire, optical-out audio, and more.  The pipe-cooled chipsets are pretty awesome too!
  • Kingston DDR2 1066 RAM
    • Pretty basic stuff here.  4gigs (2 x 2gigs) of DDR2 1066 memory, for dual-channel support.  Good looking RAM with a nice heatsink.
  • Antec NSK6580B Mid-Tower Case w/ 430W Power Supply
    • Finding a “normal looking” computer case these days is like trying to find a normal looking pair of running shoes.   Sheesh!  This Antec case, however, is very subdued with cold-rolled steel edges (no finger slices!), front ports, plenty of internal expansion, and a very decent power supply.
  • Samsung SATA 22x DVD Burner w/ Lightscribe
    • Pretty basic SATA DVD burner, but the Lightscribe functionality is nice to have.

All this gear is then matched up with our current 19” Samsung LCD monitor, 74GB Western Digital Raptor drive, 74GB Western Digital secondary drive, and the latest version of Windows 7 64-bit.  How much did I spend?  The full purchase was just $519.49 – shipped.  Thanks, NewEgg!

So… my son and I put the box together last night, and I brought it into work to run through a test install of Windows 7 “Beta 7000” 64-bit.  The install went great, and the box is running wonderfully!  For giggles, I also increased the CPU multiplier and bumped from the stock 3.0ghz core speed to 3.42ghz – no voltage change necessary.  That’s a combined 1.6ghz overall bump to the CPU!  No issues so far.  This machine is also amazingly quiet.

Here are some (not-so-great quality) pictures of our new home PC sitting next to my desk at work…

newcomp2

Sweet, sweet Compaq monitor with 1024×768 resolution! 😉

newcomp3 

(No… I won’t leave the harddrive there!)

newcomp4

Look at all those drive bays!

newcomp5

Here’s hoping that the “RC” build of Windows 7 is released very, very soon!

Thanks for reading 🙂

Just “Fix It” already.

Came across an interesting solution earlier this week while working on a co-worker’s PC.  Her re-purposed XP box was showing an error with the CD/DVD drive, and I could not for the life of me figure out how to fix it.

Observe (but ignore the whole Spanish thing)…

CD-exclamation

Note the exclamation next to the HL-DT-ST drive.  Uninstalling and reinstalling the device didn’t help any, moving the cable to a different IDE slot didn’t change anything, and even connecting an entirely new drive didn’t help!  Finally I did what I should’ve done in the first place: search for an answer.  I searched Google for “HL-DT-ST exclamation” and eventually landed on a FixYa.com page.  One of the posts there pointed me to a Microsoft KB article, and that is where I found this little fella…

Logo_FixIt_Final[1]

I remembered reading a quick blurb about this new service (tool?) from Microsoft, but I had never seen it, used it, or dug in any deeper.  Not wanting to sit at this co-worker’s desk any longer, I threw caution to the wind and clicked on the “Fix It” link. 

Here’s a screenshot rundown of how things went…

FixIt02

Downloading the recommended “fix”…

FixIt03

Choosing to run the fix…

FixIt04

Reading through the license terms, committing them to memory, praying over it, and finally selecting “I Agree” before hitting Next…

FixIt05

I totally didn’t read this screen, but if her iTunes doesn’t work afterwards, well… OOOPS! 🙂

FixIt06

The “actual fix” that’s taking place here.  Seems vaguely familiar, actually.

FixIt07

The requisite “reboot”…

FixIt08

And there’s the CD/DVD drive!

FixIt09

Well… color me impressed!  I realize that this “fix” was likely only deleting a couple of registry entries that I could’ve handled myself, but this was much easier.  Even better, I like knowing that upon occasion I can simply point users to a “Fix It” article and allow them to walk through the steps themselves.

Anyhow, the selection of “Fix It’” articles is pretty limited right now, but I like the direction that this is going.  It’s a good tool for Microsoft to offer, and PC vendors ought to be pleased as well: fewer phones calls to their (historically poor) support centers.

Now Playing: April 2009

Getting in a “now playing” post early-on in the month for a change!  Check out Mr. “Pro-active” 🙂

  • Silversun Pickups, “Swoon
    • Brand new release from this awesome band.  Not too much of a departure from their last album, but that’s a good thing.  I’m really digging the track “Growing Old Is Getting Old”.
  • Doves, “Kingdom of Rust
    • ‘Twas turned on to this group via some co-workers.  Very good stuff!  I sense a Radiohead-type vibe, which isn’t an insult at all.
  • Neko Case, “Middle Cyclone
    • Recommended by a good friend with similar musical tastes (thanks, Ken!).  Neko Case has Northwest roots, but an almost alt-folk-country sound – with just a touch of rock thrown in.  Very enjoyable, and the album cover rules 🙂
  • Sarah Masen, “Carry Us Through
    • Old-school release from the mid-90s, but still in my top-10 favorite albums of all time.  Seriously.  Great music, melodies, and lyrics.  I enjoy this album thoroughly each and every time I listen to it.
  • The Decemberists, “Hazards Of Love
    • I had heard a bit of their previous album, “The Crane Wife”, but it didn’t do much for me.  “Hazards Of Love”, on the other hand, is a very pleasant surprise!  Sadly, one of the best tracks on the album (“The Rake’s Song”) has some content that’s a bit much for me to take.  A great album nonetheless.

Blatant email abuse.

More of a ‘rant’ than anything, but I’m constantly amazed at the (lack of) organization that people keep – or don’t keep, really.

MessyDesk[1]

I was getting a new desktop machine configured for a co-worker today, which also means installing the usual applications, such as Office 2007.  Typically, I have the user logon to their profile shortly before the “hand off” so that I can configure their email, printers, and a handful of other things.

Anyhow, in getting Outlook 2007 dialed in for this particular user, I’m greeted with slower-than-typical experience – especially when dealing with the Outlook “cached mode”, which downloads a local copy of their mailbox.  As I investigate, the issue-at-hand becomes readily apparent: this user has too much email.  What exactly is “too much”, you ask?  Well… how about a tad over 12,000 items in her Inbox alone!  How about 39,000 items, if you count the Inbox subfolders as well?  I understand that we are archiving more and more email these days, but this is ridiculous.  She had messages in her Inbox (not just subfolders) dating back to early 2006! 

Honestly, people.  DELETE SOME EMAIL.  It’s ok.  Really.  It is.

Here are a few tips from someone who tries to keep their email neat n’ tidy…

  • Empty your ‘Deleted Items’ folder.  That’s where things go that you’ve deleted.  It’s not for saving stuff.  Do you keep important things in the trashcan under your desk?  I thought not.  I realize that sometimes you accidently delete stuff that you need, but how often do you need to recover something 2 months later?  How about this: set your Deleted Items folder to empty itself of anything older than 1 month.  That’ll work well.
  • Don’t use your Inbox as an endless email repository.  Most users spend about 95% of their email time in the Inbox proper — meaning not the subfolders beneath your Inbox, if you organize in that fashion.  Keep it trimmed.  Personally, I try to keep my Inbox to a single viewable window only – meaning no messages below the fold.  It doesn’t work for everyone, but it’s a goal to shoot for.
  • Keep on top of things.  Most Inboxes are full of junk – plain and simple.  Why?  Because people don’t keep on top of things and the junk piles up.  Don’t be afraid to shift email off to other folders, delete them, or trim a long email thread (no… you DON’T need all the messages of a 22 message thread!).  Take a few seconds to discern whether or not you’ll ever need that email again.  If not, delete it.
  • Organize.  I’m not the most organized person in the world, but compared to some I’m reaching near genius levels.  Desktop client software like Microsoft Office Outlook allows for very good folder management.  Use it.  Create top-level folders that make sense, and then create sub-folders underneath them.  I’ve seen mailboxes with 50+ subfolders beneath the Inbox itself where only a few of those subfolders relate to one another.  So frustrating.
  • Use Search.  Most decent email programs these days have excellent search capability, and it ought to be used.  That said, the ability to search quickly and easily is no replacement for a well-organized mailbox.  Having both is the ideal situation!

Got some other tips n’ tricks for keeping your email organized?  Feel free to share ‘em in the comments. 

Thanks!:) 

File under “R” for Random

Fear the macrame chicken drumstick.

This is the kind of stuff you find around my workplace:  a macrame chicken drumstick.

Seriously.

Thank you for reading this.