Sunday, February 18, 2007

Win XP Authenticated

I broke down and telephoned to reauthenticate my Win XP license for Joey. After it was authenticated, I see part of the problem was the various motherboard drivers (like Ethernet) were not installed yet so WIN XP was NOT able to authenticate via the Internet. Hmm, I wonder if everyone who installs a new MoBo on a system protected by the "Genuine MS Advantage" tool now has to telephone a Microsoft tool-free number .. boy, that will cost Microsoft an arm and a leg. The last time I hit this under XP i was given 30 days to authenticate - a shame XP didn't atleast give me 24-hours ... but it just won't allow me to log in or run in safe mode even so I had no way to finish installing motherboard drivers.

In fairness, I talked to a pleasant guy named Ahmed with a strong but understandable south-asian accent. It took me perhaps 5 minutes in total - but I did it at 10pm on a Saturday night. I read him my 36-digit magic code and he gave me another 36-digit magic code to enter. Of course his first question is "Have you installed this software on more than one computer?" I said no, but that I had just installed a new motherboard & CPU and he pretended to gracely understand that situation. Of course, I know that I am careful about owning correct licenses, after all I am a programmer who expects to be paid for my work ... how can I pretend Microsoft programmers should be forced to work for free? But sadly this is the kicker - I know I am "good", but what did Ahmed-of-Microsoft think? What FBI-ish reports are now in my computer file? It reminds me of the memorable 1970's experience of being a 17-year old virgin and buying your first pack of condoms from the 60+ year old lady at the drug store ... that disapproving look you feel she gives you but she says nothing. (By the way, being the serious nerd I am I really didn't need such things until I was 23 ... but then teenage males are not known for being overly realitic, are they! :-)

What pushed me to reauthenticate was, 1) well I owned the license, and 2) my other XP and 2K systems saw the 250GB SATA drive with unauthenticated XP on as being unformated. There was no valuable data on there - other than a nicely tuned & working system. I seriously just considered reformating and moving ahead. I am still a bit shocked the Windows XP would or could do this. Keep in mind this 250GB driver has (or was supposed to have) two distinct partitions: a 60GB for a boot drive and the rest as extra space. I do this since it is a WHOLE lot easier to find 60GB of free space for an emergecy backup than to find 250GB of space just laying around unused! I won't have been so surprised if just the boot drive was hidden ... but for the entire drive to appear to be a single unformated partition? Why couldn't another XP system at least tell me I had 2 partitions? Looks like I'll be using Ubuntu Linux to create my Windows partitions from now on - i really do want them distinct and not "virtual".

I need to look into this further - is a very worrying "trick" by Microsoft if true! The moral equivalant of a copy-protection worm to destroy your hard disk if copy-protection tampering is detected. Several copy-protection companies have been bankrupted after the slightest rumor of such irreversable slaughter got out. I remember the Lotus 1-2-3 scandel - way back before Windows existed. An executive of the company (was it called ProLok maybe?) that made the Lotus 123 5.25 inch copy-protected diskette mentioned causually in an interview that they were researching the idea of adding a worm to the diskette that would destroy the hard disk data if it detected that the diskette was an almost (but not quite) perfect illegal copy. Man, the crap hit the fan fast. Everyone was saying, "Well what if a legal diskette makes a mistake and thinks it is a copy?" Literally, ever major Lotus 123 customer demanded either confirmation that such a worm didn't already exist in the Lotus 123 diskette or they demended some OTHER brand of diskette be exchanged for existing ones. Lotus123 dropped this supplier and moved to another.

So if Microsoft is really putting such a "worm" (not really a worm, but effect is the same) into Win XP (or Vista) such that an authentication failure makes the hard disk appear unformatted, what is the risk of false positives? Suppose today at work you come in, try to log in and get the "unable to authenticate" error. Moving your hard drive to a new system isn't going to work, since the Vista authenticates to the motherboard details. But should the drive mounted as a slave also be unusable?

This inability for one XP computer to read the SATA drive from another is indeed very worrying. I'd understand if I had asked XP to encrypt the drive ... but I didn't. I have too little faith in computers to trust an encryption scheme wholesale like that.

By the way - take a look at this article in PC-Mag. It covers 78 free software tools:,1895,2090951,00.asp

Intel Core 2 Duo E6300 and wattage

Well, joey-lyn (my home server) is happily running with her new Intel Core 2 Duo E6300 and GigaByte GA-945P-S3 motherboard. Kind of an amazing new thing ... with Windows running but no real activity and the case open, she idles at 67 degrees F (room temperature in my Minnesota basement) and the stock Intel fan even stops turning. First time I saw this I panicked thinking I must have gotten something caught in the fan blades & my new CPU was toast! But I guess the mobo's auto-temp control thinks 67 is cold enough not to need fan RPMs.

Of course she rarely is idle - when not busy for me she runs four BOINC projects ( ; folding proteins, indexing new proteins for patterns, predicting malaria outbreaks, and of course some SETI at home. Yet at 100% load on both CPU she runs between at between 100 to 104 degree F. This is with a stock Intel cooler and a media-player style case. That's a far cry from her first CPU - a 2.53Ghz Celeron D which easily hit 150 degree F at full load ... in the media-player style case with the TOP OPEN. I didn't dare close the case.

I am actually amazed at the power this CPU has - last night I was 15 minutes into viewing a AVI video file with VideoLAN before I realized I hadn't suspended the BOINCs jobs. With the old Celeron or even the A64 processor used last month, I would have KNOWN instantly that I forgot this because the video would run jerky and haltingly. But the Intel Core 2 Duo - even with both processors pegged at 100% by two (2) BOINC jobs - had no trouble running the video as well.

Server's current configuration:
  • LIAN LI PC-V800B black anodized alum case - really sweet case, but hard to install CD drives (need to remove power supply!) and you'll want an ATX mobo narrower than 8 inches or you end up with IDE or RAM sockets UNDER the back end of your CD drives!
  • ENERMAX Liberty ELT400AWT (400W) Power Supply - I have 3 of these now, wonderful semi-modular design allows removing unused drive cables
  • Intel Core 2 Duo E6300 Conroe 1.86GHz 2M shared L2 Cache Processor
  • GIGABYTE GA-945P-S3 LGA 775 ATX Motherboard - even with the stock heatsink, the chipset runs too hot to touch. Oddly, this mobo offers ONLY a CPU temperature sensor so I cannot even see what temperature the core Intel chipset is running at.
  • EVGA/NVidia 7100GS with 512MB GDDR2 PCI-Express - I wanted something with modest power for video and yet is FANLESS. (I prefer large 120mm case fans to the little jet turbines used by onboard video boards)
  • CORSAIR 1GB (2 x 512MB) 240-Pin DDR2 SDRAM DDR2 667 (PC2 5300)
  • My case has 3 low-RPM 120mm fans with filters - I mounted 2 of the fans by cutting holes in the top plate to blow down on the PCI cards and mobo chips. As much as I hate "door mounted fans", in all of my case mods I've found these can reduce chipset and video temperatures by 5 to 20 degress F. Overall she makes a satisfying, yet quiet purr.
  • 250GB SATA 3G WD drive - not big for a "server", but although I call Joey my "home server" I moved my file storage to a DNS323 NAS ("Network Appliance Server") running RAID 1 on dual SATA drives. This gives me more flexibility using Joey as a DVR or DVD/CD burner without risk of conflict between safe RAID files, network access, and the demands of video and DVD/CD burning.
  • HP Lightscribe DVD/CD burner (every modern format)
Power usage:
I encourage every computer or multi-media freak who runs systems 24 hours a day to obtain a good quality AC power monitor - I use one from You really need to know what that new qizmo is costing you. For example, I cringe every time someone suggest using an old 386 PC running Linux as a "cheap" alternative to a $39 LinkSys/DLink style router. An old PC like this running 24/7 likely drinks $5-6 of power PER MONTH, while the commercial box draws perhaps $0.50. I suppose that makes your PC a "cheap router" if you Mom and Dad pay the electric bills only! It also points out some odd realities - in California my Cox digital cable box consumes 24-watts when "ON" ... and 23-watts when "OFF"! So I guess turning it off just reduces the LED power usage :-)

Measured as AC input to just the computer case (no display etc), Joey the server uses:
  • draws 100-110 watts during boot up
  • idles down to 95 watts with no CPU load
  • running BOTH core at 100% pushes power usage to 125 watts or about 3.0kwh per day. I pay about 7 cents per kwh, so Joey costs me $6.30 per month to run full-time, with about $1.25 of that being the extra juice used to donate CPU cycles running BOINC jobs.

My DLink DNS-323 NAS has just dual 150GB Samsung SATA drives. They run pretty hot, and at present mainly function as backup for boot drives, My Doc-style files, and a collection of software tools. I may upgrade them to a pair of 500GB drives, or maybe not. Most of my multi-media goes onto drives in USB enclosures and burned to DVD/CD as "backup". The power the DNS-323 uses:

  • 9 watts when no files are being accessed and the 2 drives are power down - since it spends most of its time idle the NAS costs me about $0.50 per month to run.
  • 25 watts when fully active, such as during a file backup or copy

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Saturday, February 17, 2007

Fedora Core 6 was a bust

Well, my Fedora Core 6 experiment was a bust and waste of 5 hours of my life - my system is back running Ubuntu 6.10. Had I know how rapidly and utterly the Fedora experiment would fail I just would have used a second hard-drive. I downloaded the DVD and had Fedora over-write the functional Ubuntu 6.10 I had on my new Intel Core 2 Duo system. Seemed to install fine - graphics and display was working fine. I had solid hope for some new experiences.

But then when I rebooted, after the initial low-level text messages my 15 inch 1024x768 LCD displayed the "Out-of-Range" warning and blanks itself. This is not me editing xorg.conf. This is the Fedora installer making some mistaken assumption. Yes, I have a simple NVidia 7100GS card and a low-end 15 inch 1024x768 LCD, but Ubuntu-flavor Linux had ZERO problem setting it up in all supported modes so I didn't expect Fedora-flavor Linux to fall down so completely.

Hmm, well I did the typical bunch of web searching one does to solve Linux problems and read a dozen forums threads on fixing Fedora resolution problems during first install. Some of the advice was wrong (ie: people using an older Fedora versions saying how they'd solve it), but nothing suggest worked.

Finally, to paraphrase the threads I read ... the Fedora people blame the X people ... it's not "our" problem, go post bugs in "their" forums. The X people blame "3rd party proprietary drivers" ... it's not "our problem, go bug ATI or NVidia to support Linux better."

But come on - first, Ubuntu (which has a reputation as being less hardware-savvy than Fedora) handled my display fine. Second, which serious Windows PC user doesn't have an ATI or NVidia card? It's not like I'm asking for driver support for some coconut husker & cleaner made in Guam! I never asked for 3D acceleration or video overlays even - just simple 16-bit 1024 x 768 Gnome desktop graphics.

After none of the "edit /etc/X11/whatever" suggestions worked and none of the "use system-config-display" suggestions worked even after hours of goofing around ... I just reinstalled Ubuntu 6.10 and clobbered the Fedora Core 6. I never even got to see the basic Fedora desktop even. I even tried the "system-config-display" command while in single-user mode to force resolution and depth to a low level. Nothing seemed to work.

I have to say - as someone who's been reading Ubuntu forum & help sites for the last 9 months, the attitude and tone of Ubuntu forums is so much different than Fedora. Ubuntu systems tend to be helpful and actually (but not always) helpful. The Fedora forums tended to be terse and rapidly blame someone else. Well, to each their own; so ends my revisit to RedHat technology after being gone for 9 months.

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Microsoft pulling an IBM with Vista?

(Summary: what I mean by "pulling an IBM" is for a seemingly unstoppable market dominater to so misjudge the market that the market move out from under them and they are left standing on ... well you get the picture)

Another new CPU+MoBo Combo
Well, I did it again ... my fairly newly upgraded A64 server is now an Intel Core 2 Duo E6300. My pretext was "I can use the A64 for my daughter's old Dell!" Last week I was home in Orange County CA and I realized the old Dell is just a 1200Mhz Celeron and just too slow for me. There is surprisingly little difference for 2 year old and 6 months technology. A new A64 with mobo and RAM is about $250-300, the E6300 with mobo and RAM is about $450.

But, wouldn't ya know - Murphy's Law. Windows XP Pro refused to reauthorize. Since I was moving from an AMD to Intel I needed to fix the OS on my hard drive. Perhaps I should have just reformatted instead of "repairing". Anyway, I got that dialog saying to telephone a Microsoft telephone number, wait umteen hours in queue, and talk to a friendly call-center person in a foreign country to obtain new authorization codes. Perhaps this was because this system just moved motherboards a few months ago, or perhaps it is part of a nudge towards Vista ... maybe if I call this number Microsoft will try to entice me with a low-cost Vista-Home CD (wink) knowing I'll later have to upgrade to a more expensive license. It would make perfect business sense.

I am still deciding what to do - for now I put Windows 2K back on one partition and am downloading a DVD.iso for Fedora Core 6 Linux. This gives me a good incentive to re-eval RedHat's branch of Linux. At work I started using RedHat 6.x back in 2002 on a second-hand IBM T20 notebook and finally moved to Ubuntu 5.x the summer of 2006 when the T20 died. Work gave me an HP NC6120 notebook; neither my old faithful Red Hat nor the new Fedora at that time could handle the LCD display. So I picked Ubuntu 5.04 because someone was offering a CD image preconfigured for the NC6120 notebook. It loaded sweetly and worked fine.

Does 1 Human need 11 Microsoft Licenses?
But back to Microsoft, lets see ... the licenses I own (or cause to be owned):
1 = Windows XP Pro OEM for my home "fun PC" - it came installed and "COA'd" on a used system I bought. It is now on it's 2nd CPU and 4th motherboard. Was an AMD XP but I upgraded to an A64 since I could reuse the DDR400 RAM and ATI AGP video card. I am waiting to see what AMD's next gen dual-core is like
2 = Windows XP Pro upgrade for my daughter's computer - a Dell which came with Win2000 Home license in 2001 or so. It's still on 1st CPU and motherboard, I'll be trying to move it to an A64.
3 = Windows 2000 Pro OEM on an old Dell 8200 notebook (of course 1st CPu and mobo)
4 = Windows XP Pro OEM on my "server PC" - also a 2nd hand unit which is the one that which won't reload. It's on it's 3rd CPU and 4th mobo (sweet, eh?)
5, 6, 7, 8, 9, and 10 are at work ... I have 3 notebooks with Windows XP and 2 desktops with Windows XP. Sadly, 1 notebook and 1 desktop just run Linux so those 2 Windows XP Pro licenses are wasted, but it's not worth buying a small-business package without a Windows license since you don't really save any meaningful money.
Forget all of the old Windows 95 or 98 licenses which I scrapped along with the PC they ran on.

So in total, I have subsidized the Gates family charitable trusts for 9 copies of Windows XP and 2 copies of Windows 2000 (I have one XP upgrade). This isn't 10 computers for a small company of a dozen people ... this is 10 computers that basically "work for me". Some do testing; some development (cross-compiling), some live in various labs and on isolated networks. What more does Microsoft want from me? Well, more money each new year I guess. But the point is (as Sony and other DRM sellers are finding out), there is a fine line between correctly stopping piracy by people who MAY NOT buy your stuff anyway and chasing the people who DO buy your stuff away because they keep "losing" money by having to repay for what they already paid for. In other words, blocking "pirates" doesn't promise to increase your revenue as much as hosing your paying customers may decrease it.

I already STOPPED using Norton Anti-Virus on 3 of 4 computers because I had to telephone some support line in India every time I changed a motherboard. Now only my daughter's Dell has Norton Internet Security - that's the computer I upgraded to XP to gain "Limited Accounts". She is a bit too much like "Hello Kitty in Cyber-Space", if allowed she would go happily skipping along, downloading every flashy piece of spyware offered to her (by the way, she is in college!)

Does New MotherBoard+CPU mean New Computer?
I realize I am a member of a minority here. Most people buy a computer, use it for 3-5 years, and then buy a new computer complete with a new Windows license. I assume they think of the computer as a machine-thingy like a TV or toaster. To them, the idea that one buys a new computer and an new Windows licence makes sense. Come to think of it, I suspect most people don't even realize they paid a percentage of the new computer price for a new Windows license.

But I am one of those crazy fools who think of my computers as "services" or "helpers" independent of the hardware within. In fact they all have cute names (like amie, joey and cali) and cute little logo images cut from computer game screen shots. At home I have 3 systems or little electronic "helpers". I have my higher-wattage "fun PC" for gaming; my lower-wattage "worker PC" or server which runs 24/7; and my broken "portable PC" (a Dell notebook with broken internal fans so I have it strapped to a home-made "notebook cooler" with external fans). I feel that as long as all of my 3 "helpers" is happy with their existing licenses, I should be able to modify the hardware at will and NOT have the licenses stop working.

I've already stopped paying for yearly Norton subscriptions on 3 of my 4 personal computers, havinf switched to 3 different "free home versions". I've also had to find alternatives for 2 shareware packages I loved due to their need to telephone or exchange support email ad-nauseum every time I changed the hardware. Will I stop buying Windows ... err, not likely? With the state of Linux (even in 2007) this would be hard; I need to use too many tools which either don't work in any Linux or only work on "another" distro than the one I am using. But it certainly is giving me a reason to think harder about Linux.

At least I hear Microsoft was wise enough to abandon their first plans for Vista licensing - in which Vista would lock itself to one computer (ie: one Motherboard and CPU) and never be able to "move" to a new or upgraded computer. Sounds like a plan borrowed from Sony music lawyers and managers. Now the rumor is there exists a method to "uninstall" Vista from one computer (or motherboard+CPU combo) and "move" it to another. I haven't seen the details of this, but I wager the process will retain many hurdles and confusing details.

The Microsoft doing an IBM Scenario
I don't think Vista will fall flat on its face and bankrupt Microsoft - even IBM is not bankrupt today. As many columnists and writers suggest, Microsoft will force most new computer buyers to "select" Vista. Like Henry Ford's quip about color, new computer buyers at big-box stores can buy any OS they want - as long as it's Microsoft Vista. So a year from now Microsoft will happily announce how many hundred million people have 'switched' to Vista. Microsoft likely doesn't make that much cash from these OEM sales. Microsoft is betting that average-joes & mollies will use their credit cards to UPGRADE their Vista license online, which likely will give them far more cash than these low-cost OEM licenses.

But as many columnists/writers also suggest, most organizations with more than 100 (or perhaps more than a dozen?) computers will just "ghost" any new Vista-licensed computers back to Windows XP (or even 2000) for at least a year. These big organizations is where Microsoft really makes their cash. My employer pays for a Windows (& Office) license every year for nearly every computer in the building (even many running only Linux!) These licenses "cost" Microsoft only a few pennies each in administer, so is like 99.9% profit/margin. My employer does this just as a cover-thy-butt legal move to prevent a disgruntled employee from sending a letter to Microsoft saying "I know where an illegal copy of Windows is ..."

Future of Vista in hands of MSOffice?
So a year ... or two ... from now when big companies and universities start to take stock of the move from WinXp to Vista, the truth of the matter is that the OS-truths have little to do with the decision. As time goes on, Microsoft will subtly try to nudge organizations to cross the line and start paying for Vista. But how to entice? Security? All big organizations use 3rd party tools. Mouth-watering graphics? All big organizations invest in basic hardware incapable of the fancier Vista interface. The only way Microsoft can "nudge" these groups is with new applications and cost-savings. Microsoft will need to make Vista cheaper than WinXP ... or WinXP more expensive than Vista ... or release critical new applications & services (Office 2009? Windows Server 2010?) that don't work well with WinXP.

So here is the risk ... will alternative applications and services exist that offer an OS alternative to Vista? It is not the operating system enabling this - not XP vs Vista nor Windows vs Linux. It is the question - which OS runs the tools we need to be productive?

Will Apple step in to take this business? Not unless all of their top management retire or die in the next few months. Apple is geared to be a niche-player and profits by being a niche-player targeting just some segments of the computer market. Maybe I show my age, but I remember the whole 1987 Jobs vs Sculley thing when Jobs left Apple to form Next and Sculley promised to help Apple stop thinking like a niche-player and start thinking like a market-dominant player. Well, that didn't happen ... Apple is still a niche player (what is their market share? like 5% even?) The only way for Apple to step into ex-Windows accounts is to STOP making money on hardware and giving the OS away for free. They need to start selling the OS and helping competitors create hardware; shift their profit center away from hardware to software. Do you see this happening in our life-time? Not.

So any person or company which feels threatened by the move to Vista ... or just dislikes Microsoft ... or who wants to see history change should be investing in one of two things:

  1. Invest in making OpenOffice better (and mainly faster to use). I think it is safe to say 95% of computer users ONLY use tools which can be classified: a) an office suite, b) a tool largely OS-independent like a web browser, and c) some semi-custom business application for their boss. So the ONLY real road block to the average corporation moving to Linux is the quality of "office suite" available - we assume programs in class b & c will happen if the OS justifies it. Now, I use OpenOffice ... sometimes ... I am not saying it is bad. I am just saying that the Symantec's and Alex St. John's of the world should be actively polishing and grooming OpenOffice today so that a year or two from now all the big organizations who are pondering the "to Vista, or not to Vista" question will like what they see.
  2. Invest in making the major Linux distributions share a common application "package management" system. That is really the MAIN thing hampering wide spread adoption of Linux. Yes, there are converters (like "alien" to convert RedHat RPM into Debian DEB), but they only work for trivial applications. I know - I've been using Ubuntu (in theory Debian-based) for almost a year and so far the ONLY applications I have been successful in installing come via the buildin Ubuntu Synaptic Package Manager. I'm not saying that artificially limiting of my choices to the 18000+ applications Ubuntu offers is the problem. The problem is that the big specialty tool makers - the Adobe's and Rockwell Automation's and Honeywell's and even computer hardware makers of the world - avoid general Linux support because - well - there is no such this as "Linux" as a market. Linux is a kernel. Instead, to be fool-proof software vendors need to create 40-50 separate & tested application downloads for a dozen different Linux distributions on various generations of kernels. My employer ( has to do that - our list of Linux packages dwarfs our list of Windows packages and it is largely incomplete. We don't even support Ubuntu and the "Debian" packages we off don't install under Ubuntu - I have tried. No company manager with any sanity will commit to doing this. If the "Linux world" can reduce this need for downloads to say 4 or 5 (like Windows), then Linux has a better chance to gain the diverse, specialty tools corporations need to use Linux instead of Windows.
Linux is actually pretty easy to install and use these days ... as long as all of your hardware and desired applications have "native" support within your distribution. Heaven help the average computer-savvy user (forget the novice) if they need to go actually try to recompile some source code to gain a pure "Linux application".

I believe the Linux community has about a year to pull together and clean up this huge waste of duplicated effort related to application package management if they want to offer an irresistible alternative to large organizations to Windows Vista. So I don't think Vista will fail out-right - it will succeed. Early market signs are that Microsoft Office 2007 is doing well compared to Office 2003. However, it is still possible that Vista is part of "the hump" in market dominance; that a larger percentage than normal of big institutions will start to defect rather than move to Vista.

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Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Installing MediaWiki under Ubuntu

File this report under "amazing" - I got MediaWiki installed and working in less than an hour on an old AMD XP 2400+ running Ubuntu 6.10 (Edgy Eft) & slaving through industrial protocol tests for me. I was really shocked - flabbergasted that this worked since this included installing MySql, Apache, and MediaWiki.

It was amazingly easy - any fool with little or no Linux knowledge could have done this.

Step #1 - Install MySQL Server; open the Synaptic Package Manager and select to install the latest MySQL server and any dependencies it suggests. See UbuntuGuide for a few tweaks to set the SQL root password and so on.

Step #2 - Install MediaWiki; open the Synaptic Package Manager and select to install the latest MediaWiki and any dependencies it suggests. This pulls in Apache and a bunch of libraries as well.

Step #3 - web browse to "http://{your-ip}/" - this basically pulls up Apache's default page and confirms your apache is running - it should be. The home page resides in /var/www if you want to change the default home page. Lots of stuff you could tweak here ... but none you need to tweak now.

Step #4 - web browse to "http://{your-ip}/mediawiki/index.php" - pulls up an "Oops - MediaWiki not setup yet" wizard that walks you through setting up the basic accounts and pointing to your MySQL server.

That's it - at this point you'll have a public-editable Wiki ready to edit as you wish. Since my Wiki sits isolated on a corporate intranet for my own notes and TODO tasks I am not concerned about hackers. Of course, just like Apache there are lots of options to tweak - logos, skins, and so on.


Vista expired - no more craplets testable

Well, work sent me off to San Diego for a week plus - given the degrees-below-zero in Minnesota I missed ... sweet. But I didn't have the opportunity to try more open source with Vista. I was looking forward to Vista's reaction to Open Office etc, but I guess to paraphrase the words of Microsoft executives ... all open source tools which (of course) won't/can't pay Microsoft thousands of $$$ to certify their code is Vista-compatible are just "Craplets" that should NOT be allowed to run on Vista. So OpenOffice and FireFox are Craplets. The Craplet term was repeated by one of the Computer Power User columnists. I'd like to his column, but their site is having major web problems. Maybe their Windows Server 2005 is rebelling :-)

Anyway, my plan is still to update my "fun PC" to a next gen dual or quad core next summer. Hopefully by then AMD has had time to make a good, low-power counter to Intel's current family. Since Vista Home Premium costs like $200 just for an upgrade, I may try to find a commercial PC with suitable parts that I can scrap & "Frankenstein" for my home-brewed fun system.

Since Vista is tied closely to one's motherboard, I doubt I'll become dependent on it for more than a year. A year is about how long one of my mobo lasts before I change it. Since I've been changing my motherboard at least once a year, I stopped using Norton and a few other shareware tools with similar weaknesses. Every time I changed my mobo, after a month or two Norton would stop updating and I'd have to call some friendly help-desk person in India and explain that "No, I didn't install my Norton on 2 systems - I changed the motherboard on 1 system".

I also had a few shareware tools pull a worse stunt. Since the "software key" embeds some info about the motherboard, the tool would continue to work fine after the mobo swap since it was registered already. But after I reformatted my hard drive (swapped out a slow PATA 5400 rpm for a SATA 10000 rpm) I could not reinstall the tools again and I was told that I was out of the warrentee/update period so I'd have to pay for a new key. Luckily the 2 shareware tools I "lost" this way all had other newer open source tools alternatives I could switch to.

But I wonder how this "weakness" will impact Microsoft Vista - I suppose I am really part of a small minority. I suppose 98% of Vista users will obtain it as part of a new PC they will use for 3 to 5 years - without changing motherboards or processors.