Building a new PC

Wednesday, November 18th, 2009

So I spec’ed out a new PC to fit into the case+power supply I bought from Iain:

CPU: Intel Core i7 920
    $310 (NewEgg.ca)/ $310 (CanadaComputers.com)
Motherboard: ASUS P6TD Deluxe
    $320 / $315
Memory: OCZ Platinum 12GB (6 x 2GB) DDR3 1333 MHz OCZ3P1333LV12GS
    $264.50 / $320
Disk: 1.5TB Western Digital Caviar Green WD15EADS
    $115 / $115
Optical drive: Pioneer BDR-205BKS 12x Blu-Ray Burner
    $233.50 / $240 (203BKS)
OS: Windows 7 Professional 64-bit – OEM
    $155 / $160

Total cost, before taxes etc

NewEgg.ca: $1,398
Canada Computers: $1,460

Iain points out I haven’t looked at a video card yet.
I replied that with the speed at which prices of video cards change, I will wait until the last minute and get two mid-level cards to run in SLI, preferably DirectX 11 cards.
If I had to get them now, they might be MSI GeForce GTX 260s.
Iain prefers the much higher-end Radeon HD 5870 1GB, of which there aren’t any right now it seems. :-)

It’s phone season

Tuesday, June 2nd, 2009
HTC Android phone
HTC Android phone – click for larger

Rogers
has announced
[1]
[2]
availability of the HTC Dream and HTC Magic phones, both running Google’s Android OS, which is not dissimilar to the iPhone’s OS.

The major concern with the previous Android phone, the G1, was the battery life.
It would last an hour.
Apparently this is no longer such an issue.
According to
ZDNet Asia:

Inevitably the connected nature of many of the HTC Magic’s applications means that you’ll push the battery pretty hard. The quoted life is up to 7.5 hours of talk and 420 hours on standby. We found we needed to charge the battery every day at first, but after the initial burst of heavy use this settled down to a couple of days between charges.

The phones cost the same – $150 – and Rogers offers a $45/month, 500 MB data plan.
Quite a bit less data than the 6 GB plan early iPhone users are currently enjoying.

Another phone on the horizon is the
Nokia N97.

4G networks + net-enabled-device = death of traditional cell phones

Friday, May 1st, 2009
verizon
Verizon LTE: 50 Mbps

On this week’s MacBreak they talked abour the much-rumoured Apple tablet (iPadd?).
But then they mentioned something I haven’t been keeping track of very much:
the next generation of wireless internet technology: 4G.

It’s fast.
Like 50 Mbps fast.
Theoretically 100 Mbps/50 Mbps down/up.
That’s pretty frickin’ fast.

Verizon is calling it “LTE” for “Long Term Evolution”,
and the rumours have Apple and Verizon talking about using LTE in the tablet.

Huh.

That got me thinking about how Rogers and Bell up here in Canada
really could use a good kick in the pants.
The whole cell phone industry is nickel and diming their customers to death.
What we need is someone to come along and say “here’s 50 Mbps and no cap — have fun”.
I would drop cell coverage and move to Skype in an instant.
Hell, I could get rid of my home internet connection too and get one of these instead.
With those speeds, they could deliver digital TV as well.

globalive yak

There is a player that could deliver this kick, and it’s
Globalive,
better known as the provider of Yak.
TMCnet describes Globalive’s strategy a month ago (Mar 17th):

New cellphone player Globalive will hire more than 1,000 employees as it works to become a major wireless player in Canada, aiming to take away customers not only from Rogers (TSX:RCI.B), Telus (TSX:T) and Bell (TSX:BCE) but also their discount brands.

Globalive Wireless Management Corp. isn’t going to position itself only as a discount cellphone player where there’s already competition, CEO Anthony Lacavera said Monday.

“Really, we’re going to be split into two brands,” Lacavera said from Toronto.

Globalive is looking to be Canada’s fourth major wireless carrier, with a national presence except for the province of Quebec.

Lacavera said that means fighting the three established cellphone players on two fronts.

One brand will give Globalive’s Yak long-distance and Internet customers the opportunity to have cellphones, taking on Rogers’ Fido, Telus’ Koodoo and Bell’s Solo discount brands.

The other higher-end brand will take on Rogers, Bell and Telus with mobile phones, including smartphones, with more features and fixed price plans with no contracts or limited contracts, he said. Its name and launch are still being worked out.

“At the end of the day, it’s easier for us to have a two-pronged strategy because we already have the Yak brand in the marketplace with customers.” Toronto-based Globalive said it services more than a million customers with brands such as Yak, Canopco and OneConnect.

While the weak economy is a concern for Globalive, Lacavera said it’s “monitoring” competitors Rogers, Telus and Bell even more closely.

Globalive plans to have its wireless network up and running in Toronto and Vancouver with fixed price plans around Christmas, Lacavera said, with other areas coming into service in 2010.

Ottawa held an auction last spring for radio waves over which cellphone networks to create more competition and more choices for consumers in the mobile phone industry, currently dominated by the big three players.

Globalive spent more than $442 million for spectrum in the auction which raised about $4 billion for the federal government’s coffers.

Analyst Troy Crandall said the discount end of the market is full.

“Everybody has been going after this lower-end market,” said Crandall of MacDougall, MacDougall and MacTier in Montreal.

“So who’s left? I guess the people who can’t afford to spend $15 a month,” he said, referring to Rogers Fido, which has plans from $15 and no system-access fee.

Globalive is one new entrant, along with regional networks being planned by Montreal-based Quebecor (TSX:QBR.B) through its Videotron cable unit and Toronto-based Public Mobile, which was born out of BMV Holdings.

Shaw Communications (TSX:SJR.B), which owns western Canada’s largest cable company, also bought spectrum but hasn’t announced plans for a wireless network.

Analyst Mark Goldberg said it’s still not clear what Shaw and Toronto-based DAVE Wireless will do with the spectrum they purchased, noting that new wireless players have come forward and the three established players have said they need it to increase capacity.

“DAVE and Shaw have written cheques and they’re sitting on an asset which is spectrum and it’s an expensive asset,” said Goldberg of Toronto-area Mark Goldberg and Associates. “I think people want to know when they’re going to make use of the asset.” Globalive said Monday it has officially been issued its wireless spectrum licences from Industry Canada and will make a significant investment in its network.

Lacavera said Globalive will hire a couple of hundred people to build its network, 300 to 400 people for its call centre in Windsor, Ont., where it already has 100 employees to support its Yak customers. The balance of the employees will be in support, billing, marketing and management.

Globalive has about 300 employees and Globalive Wireless has 70, he said.

TWiT gets it wrong – monitors

Friday, April 17th, 2009
Dell 2408WFP
The Dell 2408WFP

I couldn’t believe my ears on the recent
This Week in Tech
podcast when Leo and the gang trumpeted Apple’s monitor lineup.
There was much grousing about the quality of other LCD monitors.

Almost everyone i know has a Dell monitor because they are excellent quality and much less expensive.
Now they aren’t cheap — you get what you pay for in that respect — but they are loads less expensive than Apple’s.
We’re talking ones like
the Dell 2408WFP,
which costs $700 — hmm, it’s on sale for $600 at the moment.

On TWiT they talked about other monitors that cost $200-$300. Well duh!
If you buy cheap monitors you get what you pay for.
The only story there is that Apple doesn’t sell cheap monitors.
But if you compare apples to apples, as it were, you would see that the story changes.
Nobody in their right mind would buy an overpriced, underpowered Apple monitor, plain and simple.

Wow, this is almost an ad for the Dell monitor.
But hey, Iain, Jeff, John and I all have them.
So that’s a pretty resounding endorsement.

Mac: use a Windows ATi Radeon 4870 in your Mac Pro

Monday, March 16th, 2009

The price for Windows 4870 cards is substantially lower than Apple’s.
The Canada Apple Store currently
lists one for $420,
whereas
Canada Computers has one for $210.
In
this MacRumors forum thread
people are discussing how to do this and what the pitfalls are.

Basically, download and flash the ROM from
RapidShare.

One person said:

I just tried it on my Sapphire HD4870 (the 1st gen one, based on
ATI’s ref design).

I flashed using freedos and the following command line:
atiflash.exe -p -fs -fp 0 4870.rom
note: -fs and -fp are used to ignore SSID and P/N mismatches

And it works!

EFI driver is initialized correctly, (I don’t have the leaked MacOSX
drivers for this card, so I can’t tell if this one works too), and
bootcamp stil works (currently writing from GNU/Linux on my 2006 Mac
Pro).

Only problem is : only one output is active, no dual-head, it seems
(at least using ATI’s linux driver)

I should note that doing this seems to make the analog output (SVGA) not work. DVI is fine, though one person reported the “top” port as only going up to 1024×768.

Be careful out there. Read the thread for info on which cards work, and what possible side effects there are.

YMMV.

Reid

hard drive prices

Friday, March 13th, 2009

Bought a new hard drive today; a 1½ terabyte drive for $160.
Thats only 10?¢ per gigabyte!

Scott showed me
a site
that says the first hard drive was $10,000 per megabyte!
So over 50 years, the price of hard drive storage has dropped by a factor of a BILLION.

At this rate, by the year 2059, the lowest cost of storage should drop from the current cost of $100,000,000 per exabyte to 10¢.

Mac OS X command-line of the day

Friday, March 6th, 2009

sudo xattr -d com.apple.quarantine *

This removes the “This file was downloaded, are you sure…” warning when dealing with downloaded files.

There are attributes other than com.apple.quarantine, such as:

  • com.apple.ResourceFork
  • com.apple.FinderInfo
  • com.apple.diskimages.recentcksum
  • com.apple.metadata:kMDItemWhereFroms
  • com.macromates.caret

I like that last one.
I guess it’s how TextMate
remembers its position in a text file.

If you want to see what extended attributes your files have, you can either use “xattr -l filename” or just “ls -l@“.

Rogers 3G Internet USB Dongle

Monday, November 24th, 2008

My Mom lives on Wolfe Island.
She has no access to DSL (her phone lines are low quality) or cable.
Until recently, we had been considering getting her Rogers’ WiMax solution, which would have given her ~2Mbps for about $50/month.

When we called to order it over the weekend, however, the sales agent told us about the USB thingee internet solution.
I’d seen ads, and assumed it was simply WiMax on a USB dongle, which would be inappropriate for my Mom, since the inside-antenna WiMax solution wouldn’t work for her (poor signal).
We were going to go for the higher-startup-cost, outdoor antenna solution.

But no, as it turns out this USB thingee uses the 3G network for internet.
This is good news since I noticed that my iPhone was getting 5 bars at my Mom’s place.

It turns out the USB dongle has a SIM card in it.
Interesting!
So if I one could get their hands on a USB dongle, it might be possible to move an iPhone SIM into it and plug it in to the USB port on a laptop for unfettered internet with a 6 GB/month cap!

Update: apparently Rogers is calling it the Rocket.

New WD Passport Drive .. with **FireWire 800**

Tuesday, November 11th, 2008
WD Passport Studio
WD Passport Studio

Woo, there’s a new WD Passport drive (the drives we use at gaming on Friday nights), and not only is this one bigger (500 GB), but it also sports a FireWire 800 port.
It’s called the
Passport Studio.


WDTV
WD Media Player

Also new from Western Digital is
an HD Media Player.
[buy.com link]

Alas, Costco Canada
doesn’t seem to have
any of this new WD stuff yet.

Long-term storage

Saturday, November 1st, 2008

Iain always tells me I should just get a hard drive and copy things to it for long-term storage.

Even though it’s more expensive per gigabyte (see
Media Costs“)
it’s a lot faster and easier to deal with.
It saves you tons of time, too.
Backing up hundres of gigs of data to 4.4 GB DVD’s gets really old after a while.

However, it occurred to me that there is a very good reason not to use hard drives for long-term storage:
connectors change over time.

SCSI and IDE are getting more and more rare these days.
Some day the same thing will happen to SATA.
Yet, even the most modern optical device — the Blu-ray drive — can still read the very first optical format: the CD.