Rated Win

Take off every zig!

Back From the Dead With a Teaser —

Hello everyone,

I’m back from the dead. I hope you have all been well. I will be kicking off this summer with a new project. I am going to leave a really bad cell phone picture as a teaser. The teaser contains a case design that I am very fond of. The last thing I will say about it is this, it is absolutely PowerPC related. Stay tuned!

Teaser


Scrolling vs Page Up/Down —

I have always found scrolling on a mouse or trackpad to be a very inefficient tool. Most, if not all, are inaccurate to some degree, and when reading a lot of text/content, a scroll down often causes you to find where you were last reading.

Using page up/down is always perfectly accurate, and you never need to waste time finding your place again in a large amount of text. Whether used in a web browser, terminal window, or any window, the same efficiency holds true.

The true beauty of these two very useful keys is that they adapt 100% to the resolution of the window. Other than one line to remind you where you were, everything you see is either the next or previous page of text based on window resolution. So simple, yet so elegant.

Most computer users I know will actually scroll all the way to the bottom when thats where they need to be, rather than use the End key, or the opposite situation and not using the Home key. So incredibly inefficient and self-defeating.

The mouse is a legitimate tool, but there are certainly cons to using them predominantly. The main one being that it creates more of a gap between computer function, and user comprehension of that function. They are useful for gaming and basic GUI interaction (clicking on things), but the scroll wheel to me is only ever efficient for switching weapons in a game. I rarely use laptops so my use is dominated by desktop based mice. Not Apple mice either. They stopped caring about desktop users years ago.

Don’t look at this in an anti-scroll way. The intent is to always encourage the most efficient methods, and ones that advance the users interaction with the system and OS. More keyboard and less mouse will always improve all these things.

*This post was originally on PowerPC Liberation, but has been moved here.


Kill the spindle monster —

Anyone who is anywhere near the video nerd I am does a massive amount of collecting and backing up. Those who still buy DVD spindles, but have evolved past needing to burn DVD’s to watch video, do so to archive their collections, and watch the video from a hard drive instead. This is clearly a good route for anyone wanting to keep their collection (or at least part of it) in one place. This method allows very efficient access to your video collection, rather than physically looking through a massive amount of DVD’s.

The natural disaster which struck a very important hard drive parts factory in Asia was about six years ago now, and for the last couple years drives are finally starting to really come down in price. This now makes it a better investment to buy 2TB hard drives instead of blank media, since the equivalent in optical media storage is now more expensive. A 100 spindle of quality single layer (still not archive grade) DVD -/+ R is $30-45 these days, which equals 439 GB in real world space. Archive grade optical media is at least 15-20 % more expensive. It would take 4.14 spindles to equal a 2 TB drive, which formats to 1.82 TB. Even if you use the 30 dollar low end of the spindle price scale, it would come to over $120. A 2TB WD Green can be bought on sale these days for $80-90.

My method these days is to use HD’s for both collecting for playback, and also archiving all my video. Not only is this option cheaper in the long run, but it is far more convenient to drag 1.82TB of stuff to a drive over time to back it up, rather than burning 400+ discs. Another crucial fact to consider, is that a drive which is kept stored away unpowered and unmounted on a computer will live almost forever, because you never put any wear on it. A drive that is powered on 24/7 can live between 3-7 years normally, so imagine how long one will live if only running for a couple hours a couple times a week when backing up. Burned optical media that isn’t archive grade can often lose its data integrity after a few years. It happens more than most would think.

It’s time to slay the spindle monster and embrace the convenience and longevity of using hard drives as both active storage, and an archive medium. All my hard drives are dedicated to one or the other. I based this around the concept of video, as that is what I use most of my storage for, but these same methods can be adopted for any type of mass data backup need.

This is where a hard drive dock like the Thermaltake BlacX Duet I have really comes in handy. No need for external enclosures (although I have 2), since I can just plug a drive into the dock when needed. Since the Duet model I have holds 2 drives, it’s also a great piece of hardware to have for mirroring drives. When unused I keep my archive drives in a parts closet, and in their original anti-static bags.

 

d4ElgaQ*This post was originally on PowerPC Liberation, but has been moved here.


105mm of Horror —

As someone with little spare time to do anything just for fun; I like to use such occasions for worthy tasks – such as shooting a 105mm Howitzer from a Spectre gunship.  Just to be clear…  this isn’t a real Spectre gunship of course, but rather a game-based version.  The 105 Howitzer is an artilery canon that has been mounted in what is essentially a cargo plane converted to a gunship, which is the AC-130 Spectre; one of the most deadly weapons ever created on earth or in a video game.  I am not a violent person at all, but my families military history has made me into a bit of a weapons nerd.  Real life blood and death are very bad things to me, but virtual killing with a 105 is as good as it gets game-wise.

There are also three other weapons on the Spectre (a 40mm Bofors canon and two 20mm vulcan gatling cannons), but they pale in comparison to the 105mm Howitzer.  It does far more damage (in the game and real life) than a standard 105mm tank round; because they add a lot of metal flack to it – again, in real life and the game.  Very much a one shot one kill weapon.

As a longtime player of Battlefield 1942 on Mac OS, I have experienced much joy, but it wasn’t until I installed the Desert Combat mod that the game really came to life for me.  It is within this mod that the Spectre gunship resides – in the Gazala level specifically.

How can you enjoy some 105 goodness yourself?  Well, first you need your own copy of Battlefield 1942, and then you need to download and install the free Desert Combat mod.  This mod will replace all the old WWII weapons with modern ones, but not permanently – only when you load it as a custom game.  The game is great without the mod, but amazing with it.  It requires a G4 867MHz+ and a Radeon or Geforce GPU.

You can read more about Battlefield 1942, and other Mac OS games that run on PowerPC, in the post I made on PowerPC Liberation here.

 

I took some screens of my 105 carnage:

 

Picture 2 Picture 3 Picture 4 Picture 5 Picture 9Picture 10


Evil Bastards —

I know this is an interesting first post after a hiatus. I saw something shady that I had to talk about.

A friend of mine asked me to look at a flash drive of his. He said that it worked at first but then it abruptly stopped working.

I plugged it in to my Debian desktop at work and got the following output from lsusb

Bus 001 Device 005: ID abcd:1234 Unknown

When I plugged the drive into a Windows machine it did show up as a USB Mass Storage Device but did nothing afterwards. Digging deeper into device manager showed error 10, the device cannot start.

The actual connector felt loose, this made me suspect that maybe the solder joints needed some attention. I took the drive out of the rubber case and opened it up to find a nasty surprise.

Fake Flash Drive

For a flash drive that is supposed to have a capacity of 256 gigabytes; don’t those internals look very simple? When compared to the 4 gigabyte flash drive to the right; it is obvious that we are dealing with a fake flash drive.

The drive is labeled as an Adata S007 256 gigabyte. When you go to Adata’s page for this product you see that the real drive’s capacity ranges from 4-32 gigabytes. This drive is a bogus fake, case closed.

Whenever you are shopping on line at a place like eBay or Amazon, it is crucial to check into the seller before you buy. The two places I mentioned have feedback systems that enable you to see the seller’s reputation. Last but not least, if you see a 256 gigabyte flash drive for $30 it is probably too good to be true.


Delayed Win —

I wanted to make a quick first post here to say I am happy to have been added as an author, and to publicly thank Mark.  Unfortunately, I really won’t have time to make a substantial post until I get back from Europe in 2-4 months.

Until then, Mark here will be taking care of PowerPC Liberation for me.  Once I get back I will be posting unique material on both blogs.  You can already find Mark’s writing on my blog.

A big thanks once again to Mark for both joining my blog, and adding me as an author here as well.


New Contributor and Opportunities —

I hope everyone has been well, I know it’s been a while. Work has been wild to say the least. We have been very shorthanded for the past 45 or so days. We have gotten our staffing back on track though.

I’ll start with the good news. Zen of PowerPC Liberation has gotten a project that requires him to travel abroad in Europe. It will be a very demanding project. As a result he will have extremely limited free time. Since his time will be limited for the next couple of months he has asked me to come on as an author at PowerPC Liberation. I was honored and excited to receive the offer. Zen is the primary factor in challenging me to make the move towards Debian. Learning how to install, configure and use Debian has been an absolute blast. I am a better user and tech because of the Debian practice/usage and the inspiration from Zen. I naturally accepted the offer. Zen will also be coming on as an author here at Rated Win. If you have ever read Zen’s work at PowerPC Liberation you already know how big of a treat it is to have him on board as an author.

Now let’s move on to content. My career travels, up to this point and for the foreseeable future, will require me to be trained and up to date with the current versions of Windows and OS X. As boring and annoying as these can be they are going to take up a sizable chunk of my time, however they pay the bills. My current job is a very interesting one though. The scope of what we work on is so very broad. One week we could be migrating a plethora of PC from Windows XP to Windows 7, the next week we could be scripting for a show controller and the following week we could be setting up cameras on our roof to watch a Boeing 747 be delivered to our parking lot. I would like to start doing a better job of documenting as much of the oddball-you-have-pobably-never-heard-of stuff as I can without getting in trouble. Hopefully you would enjoy it. Hell you may even be messing with the same thing, so it could be helpful. If there are any bizarre issues that I come across, and rectify with OS X or Windows stuff I will document those as well. My content at PowerPC Liberation will be purely PowerPC related.

Let’s talk about whats on the immediate horizon. I am going to start a project at work using bright sign solid state media players. I will need to write a script that responds to 12 different contact closures underneath arcade style buttons. The button press will need to play a corresponding video. While the video plays the buttons will need to be disabled until the video finishes playing. At PowerPC Liberation I will begin a cooling and airflow experiment with my PowerMac G4 Quicksilver. I have already elaborated more on that at PowerPC Liberation.

That’s about it for now. I am thrilled to be a part of PowerPC Liberation and excited and honored to have Zen on board here at Rated Win. As always, thank you for reading and have a great day!


Thrift Store Luck —

If you are familiar with Pasadena, Texas then you know that there is no shortage of thrift stores. If you do not know the area I have a good comparison for you. They are almost as common as Star Bucks, CVS or Walgreens. I had a day off and figured I would try my luck and see if I could find anything fun (Like an IBM Buckling Spring Space Saver keyboard). I made a pit stop at a gas station to use an ATM. Unlike Macklemore, I had $60 dollars in my pocket and off I went. I did not win the buckling spring lottery but at my last stop I did stumble upon quite the gem. As I was digging through a shelf full of things like power cords/adapters and external zip drives I found a net top! An Acer Aspire R1600 to be exact. (Here is a link to its wiki so you can see what I am talking about) I saw a Windows XP COA sticker, an Intel Atom sticker and a Nvidia ION sticker. Then I found the best sticker on it, the price tag. They had it marked for $18. Thats right just $18 for a net top. It did not have its power cord but I figured for $18 dollars I could roll the dice.

receipt

When I got home I popped the top off the PC and saw some good news.

image

It still had its memory and hard drive. I went ahead and added an extra 1gb of memory. I also discovered that it uses Acer’s typical 19v 3.46amp power supply so I was ready to go. I plugged it and fired it up. The computer posted and booted right up, no problems what-so-ever. I looked through the Windows event viewer and discovered that the computer had not been powered up since March of 2011. I went ahead and created the factory restore DVDs in case I ever decide to resell this computer. After the discs were made I grabbed a Debian Wheezy i386 net install and proceeded to replace Windows XP with Wheezy.

debian

After the install was complete and I followed Dan’s “Installing the GUI” page. I deviated a bit though and opted for LXDE. After everything was installed and I rebooted I hit an incredibly minor glitch.

odd_lightdm

The lightdm background was garbled but the actual login prompt and top bar were fine. When I logged in the actual desktop background was fine. This was with the nouveau driver. The problem went away after I installed the proprietary Nvidia driver.

This computer has become quite the treat to use. I opted for LXDE this time instead of Openbox and am happy with it. Here is a screen shot of my desktop…

screenshot 2014-04-01 18:42:10

I copied my .conkyrc from Jalopy. The panel to the right is just a basic LXDE panel. The cool terminal art is a program called archey. I saw it once on a you tube video and had to have it. A Google search landed me on this Linux and Life article. Thats about all I have to report on this computer so far. I’m really excited that it all worked out and all for a whopping $18.

Here is a breakdown of my themes…
Wallpaper: http://www.hdwallpapersphoto.com/wallpapers/blue-rectangular-pattern.jpg
Icon Theme: http://gnome-look.org/content/show.php/Faenza?content=128143
Customize Look and Feel Widget: greybird (was already installed)
Openbox Theme: Murrina-Tangoesque (was already installed)

Here are all the pages that aided me…
Dan’s (PPC Luddite) Installing the GUI guide: http://ppcluddite.blogspot.com/2012/03/installing-debian-linux-on-ppc-part-iii.html
Install archey: http://www.linuxandlife.com/2012/02/how-to-install-screenfetch-and-archey.html
Wiki page for the Acer Apsire R1600: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Acer_AspireRevo


End of Life and New Beginnings —

Hello hello! I hope everyone has been well. I have been away from the WordPress for a while but I am back.

There is some site news to report. I have added a Project Jalopy update. In addition to the update I have added a section to the right containing all of the project Jalopy posts in one menu.

Let’s move on to what I see as a big mess on the horizon.
According to Net Market Share (At the time of writing this) Windows XP still has roughly 29% of the operating system market share. In case you did not know Microsoft will be ending support for Windows XP on April 8th. This means that when security vulnerabilities are discovered within Windows XP Microsoft will no longer provide patches or updates to fix the new found vulnerabilities. Since so many people still have Windows XP installed you better believe that it will be a big target. Even if you are running anti virus and a modern web browser the OS itself is still vulnerable. If you are running Windows XP and have thought about giving linux a shot this is an excellent reason to do so. If you would like to do so I wholeheartedly recommend Debian Wheezy. In the past I have ran Linux Mint on various x86 machines with good results. If you want something that is more beginner friendly Mint is a good option. If you do not want to switch to Linux then you will need to upgrade to newer supported version of Windows. For the sake of the safety of your data and identity staying with Windows XP post April 8th is simply not an option.

On a much less ominous and happier note friend of the site Zen of PowerPC Liberation has announced that he would like to develop an OS for PowerPC hardware. His goal is to have the OS appeal to users of all experience levels. Zen is already a huge asset to the PowerPC architecture. Hardware an Monetary donations assist him in developing for the architecture and in turn benefit the architecture. If you haven’t done so already give his blog a read and help him out if you can!

Take care and thanks for reading!