My New Birthday Present

My brother is awesome and not only because he buys me the best geeky birthday present. For my birthday this year, he bought me a new DELL XPS desktop with the latest Intel Core i7 processor. The Core i7 is a quad-core processor with hyper-threading that appear as 8 separate processors to the operating system, giving the machine some serious processing horsepower.

My configuration is the Intel Core i7-920 processor(8MB L3 Cache 2.66GHz), 6GB of RAM (DDR3 SDRAM at 1067MHz), ATI RADEON HD4670 512MB video card and Serial ATA II RAID 0 With Dual640GB Hard Drives for a total of 1.2 TB onboard. The machine also came with combo Blu-Ray/DVD/CD reader and burner along with 64-bit Vista. Here are the complete tech specs for the geeks out there.

Qty Item Number Description
1 224-3607 Studio XPS 435MT
1 311-9770 Intel Core i7-920 processor(8MB L3 Cache 2.66GHz)
1 311-9800 6GB DDR3 SDRAM at 1067MHz
1 310-9731 Keyboard included in Dell Bluetooth Package
1 320-7771 ATI RADEON HD4670 512MB
1 341-8397 Serial ATA II RAID 0 With Dual640GB Hard Drives
1 421-0084 Microsoft Windows Vista SP1 Home Premium 64-Bit
1 310-1966 Mouse included with Keyboard purchase
1 430-3347 Integrated 10/1000 Ethernet
1 313-7184 Blu-Ray, DVD+R/RW, CD-RW Drive
1 313-7186 Integrated 7.1 Channel Audio
1 310-5408 Free Recycling Kit
1 310-9562 Bluetooth Keyboard and Mouse
1 341-8296 Dell 19 in 1 Media Reader withBluetooth 2.0

Here are some screenshots from the computer with more geeky goodness 🙂

Windows Vista SP2 Beta – Initial impressions

So I just installed SP2 of Windows Vista which is out in beta on my computer yesterday – so it’s been about 24 hours and my computer is stable and all of the applications I’ve used so far have worked just fine. The only bizarre issue that I’ve noticed so far is the uninstall of .NET framework 3.5 SP1. I can’t really explain it and I’m not even sure if this was the SP2 beta install but Paint.NET stopped working with an error message that it needed .NET Framework 3.5 SP1. Paint.NET was working before the SP2 beta install and so I just reinstalled .NET Framework 3.5 SP1 and everything worked. Not sure what happened there and as I said, could be completely unrelated but that’s the only strange thing that’s happened so far.

There is a list of new features and fixes at Microsoft and Mary-Jo’s blog. So far, the beta feels fairly solid and I hope this is a watershed release like Windows XP SP2 was for XP but I guess time will tell or Windows7 will be out and we won’t care about Vista. (Or we’ll be running Ubuntu or OS X and we won’t care about Windows 🙂 – Hope spring eternal!)

Here are some screen shots of Windows update on my machine doing the update for SP2.

If you want to try the beta yourself, Microsoft has a page on how to enable the download via Windows Update.

Upgraded my computer – Love the NVIDIA GeForce 8800 GT card

I have a couple of computers at home but my primary machine is a DELL desktop running Vista. This is a dual-core machine with 4 GB of RAM but it ran sloooooooooooowwwwww. So I just upgraded the machine with a new 500w power supply and a NVIDIA GeForce 8800 GT video card. The NVIDIA GeForce 8800 GT is an amazing video card that’s SLI ready with 112 stream processors and a 256-bit framebuffer interface running at 900MHz, DirectX 10, PCI Express 2.0 and the second generation NVIDIA PureVideo engine with full acceleration and post processing for HD DVD and Blu-ray movies.

Here are the screenshots of the Performance Information and Tools screen with the before and after Windows Experience Index number. Guess I need to upgrade the processor next.

The power supply I chose was the PC Power and Cooling PPCS500D Silencer.

IE8 on Acid

Just downloaded and installed the IE 8 beta and guess what – it really passes the ACID2 CSS tests. This is great news for developers everywhere. This is another piece of good news after the latest decision by the IE team to have IE 8 interpret web content in the most standards compliant way it can, by default instead of some Quirks mode. By the way, the Acid2 Browser Test is a test page, written to help browser vendors ensure proper support for web standards in their products. Kudos to the IE team.

IE 8 (BETA) on ACID

More about the IE8 announcements from the MIX conference in Las Vegas is on the IE Blog.

Goodbye Carbonite – Hello Mozy

I have or should say had been a Carbonite user for almost an year but issues after issues finally got to me and the lack of new features that were long promised but never delivered forced me to start looking at the automated online backup again and I am so glad I did, as I’ve found Mozy. I’ve had numerous problems with Carbonite and their customer service was crappy. So I decided to give up on Carbonite even though I had already pre-paid for 2 years – I guess it’s better to lose $80.00 than all your data.

Mozy is similar to Carbonite in some regards but has a much richer feature set that makes it a better offering. Like Carbonite, Mozy installs a small client on your Windows XP/Vista or OS X desktop that runs in the background and backs up files over the Internet using your broadband connection. But that’s where the similarities end. Carbonite is a fairly bare-bones offering which may be ok for most novice users but Mozy offers several configuration options like creation of backup sets, file versions, access to your files via the web and many other features.

One of the best and most important feature that set Mozy and Carbonite apart is the fact that you can actually get your backed files back. Wow! What a concept – I know I know. When I first installed Carbonite, I did several test restores and they worked fine but when I had been backing up for several months and really need to restore something, Carbonite let me down. Mozy on the other hand has never done that. Another awesome feature of Mozy is that fact they don’t really throttle your bandwidth after you’ve uploaded 50 GB. Carbonite seems to limit upload bandwidth to about 2 GB a day and then throttle it down after you reach 50 GB. Mozy doesn’t seem to play any of those games and allows uploads that are supported by your bandwidth. On an average day, I think I was uploading about 5+ GB.

Another recent event that makes Mozy even more attractive to me is the purchase of Berkeley Data Systems, providers of Mozy online backup by EMC Corporation. As you probably know, EMC is the leader is the storage market and owns Documentum, VMWare, and RSA among other technology companies.

So if you are looking for a great, reliable and affordable backup solution for your home computer, you should check out Mozy.

Put Your Linksys Router on Steroids

This is something I have been meaning to do for many years now but I finally took advantage of the Christmas break to put my Linksys Wireless Router (WRT54G) on steroids. Since I was upgrading my Windows machine from XP to Vista and my Linux machine from Dapper to Edgy (Ubuntu), I figured why not break – I mean upgrade everything.

First a little background – Linksys had used Linux as the OS of its network products including the ubiquitous WRT54G router. When Cisco acquired Linksys in 2003, they were forced to open source all of the Linksys code because of the GPL. This led to people to create updated versions of the code for these Linksys routers and soon people started adding features to the $60.00 router there were available in network devices costing a lot more than $60.00. Linksys (and Cisco) continued to make these Linux routers for a while and then switched to another real-time UNIX variant, VxWorks which removed the requirement for Cisco to release their software into the open-source community.

So I’ve been thinking about upgrading my existing Linksys router to another with Gigabit ports and so upgrading and potentially turning it into a brick didn’t seem that big a deal. In fact, a part of me was hoping the upgrade wouldn’t work so that I would have the excuse to replace a perfectly working router with another with additional goodies. There are a lot of different software packages out there for your Linksys router but I decided to use DD-WRT because of the features. I wanted to add WPA/WPA2, QOS and the ability to boost the radio transmission power. The default Xmit is set to 28mw and I bumped up mine to 70mw as the Xmit site suggested and I noticed a HUGE improvement in my wireless performance. Before the upgrade, the wireless was really weak in the other end of our house but know I get perfect connection that really awesome throughput. In fact, the strength of the signal was so high, I had to switch to another channel to let me neighbor’s wireless routers and phones work. The enhanced security was also a nice bonus – The other features like the ability to run a wireless business don’t interest me but the ability to VPN in really does. I haven’t had a chance to use that yet as I typically use a SSH tunnel to setup a proxy to securely access resources when I am using a public network but it’s a nice feature to have if you need security or as just paranoid of open/free/public networks. (As you should be)

To me, the coolest thing was the ability to SSH into my wireless router and browses the directory structure. The DD-WRT upgrade turned my router into an SSH server and so I can SSH into it to check out the configuration or even SSH out from the router itself.

Here are some screenshots taken from the interface – Before you decide to upgrade your router, please remember that there are no warranties and you could end up with a $60 brick.

Carbonite Rocks – Backups Made Easy

Update (Oct 6, 2007): I have stopped using Carbonite and switched to Mozy for a while now. I’ve had numerous problems with Carbonite and their customer service was crappy. So I decided to give up on Carbonite even though I had already pre-paid for 2 years – I guess it’s better to lose $80.00 than all your data. Mozy rocks and I haven’t any any problems with them and EMC just bought them and so they are now part of a much larger storage company. I think this will be great news for all Mozy users. Mozy is at http://www.mozy.com/

I’ve been using Carbonite in addition to my local backups to external drives and Carbonite really works great. Carbonite is basically Windows backup software tied to an online automatic backup service that uploads and backups your data over your broadband connection. Your data is encrypted and stored in their remote data center and can be restored using the same broadband connection.

The nice thing about Carbonite is the set-it-and-forget-it nature of the software. Once you decide what items you want to backup, you just forget about Carbonite and it backs up your data. You can back up unlimited amounts of data for $5.00 per month or buy a yearly subscription for $49.00. I purchased a 2 year subscription and just finished up backing over 90 GB to the Carbonite servers. Carbonite typically backs up about 2 GB a day and then slows down to .5GB per day once you have backed up 50GB of data.

Carbonite Backup

The only issue I’ve seen so far with Carbonite is the lack of Windows Vista support. While Carbonite was backing up my system, I upgraded my box to Windows Vista and Carbonite continued to work. But I am not sure I am going to be able to restore things correctly and it’s not Carbonite’s fault. It’s another stupid thing Microsoft did in Vista where all of the user settings documents were moved from "C:Documents and settings" to C:users to make it look more like MAC OSX. My Documents become Documents and My Music became Music. Why – No one knows? I am working with Carbonite support and they hope to have an update to their software for Vista and I hope they have a fix for this issue.

If you are interested in trying Carbonite free for 15 days, click this [link deleted].

How to survive Vista – Kiss UAC goodbye

As I’ve blogged before, the whole idea of User Account Control or UAC has been driving me crazy. Annoying dialog boxes that keep popping up asking for your permission before doing anything is NOT security. I’m sure Microsoft will certify and validate more applications and actions so that these annoying popup dialog boxes will soon go away but I’ve finally had enough and turned them off. This is exactly what I was afraid of – Annoy users with STUPID dialogs and they will disable the security features of your OS. Security should be transparent to the user and NOT in your face, asking users questions that they are not likely to understand.

sanityinvista

To disable UAC, navigate to Start -> Control Panel -> User Accounts and Family Safety -> Users Accounts and then select ‘Turn User Account Control on or off’. I’ve turned mine OFF – You should make your own choice.

turnoffuacinvista

Vista woes continue

My Vista woes continue as I try and fail to pgrade my Office 2003 installation to Microsoft Office 2007. I tried installing the Enterprise edition of Microsoft Office 2007 and the install fails about 20% into it with the following message:

Error 1310. Error writing to c:config.msi4f8d86e.rbf. Verify that you have access to that directory.

Here are two screen shots of the error that I get every time – For the record, I am the administrator on the box that I am installing this software. I’m really disappointed with this bug as I’ve really enjoyed using the latest version of Office. My other computer is running Office 2007 beta2 with Windows XP and it really works great. I checked the 2007 Office known issues page and I don’t see this bug there and so I’m out of luck for now. My next move is to try uninstalling the previous version of Office and then trying a clean install to see if that makes a difference.

Error while installing the latest version of Microsoft Office for Vista

vista-office-install

I’ve gotten a few emails about my earlier Vista upgrade and iTunes is still broken for me. I am not able to play any purchased music from iTunes or Audible even after I validate my username/password combination. I was a little paranoid about this upgrade and so I have several good and complete backups of my XP installation including all my stuff on S3 via JungleDisk, Carbonite and 2 USB drives locally.

I am getting a new computer this week and so I may try a clean and fresh install of Vista to see if the same problems exists or if they are just because I upgraded from XP to Vista.