Paul's Ponderings

Wednesday, July 20, 2005
64-bit Dissapointments

While I'm really liking the snappy performance of my new AMD-based machine I'm beginning to wonder if it was worth it. The first big dissapointment was that Microsoft's Virtual PC doesn't work on Windows XP 64bit.

Now when I try to install either Google Desktop Search or Microsoft's MSN Desktop Search I get the "this operating system not supported" messages.

I also picked up a copy of Money 2006 at Sam's Club last night. I sure hope it works...

Sunday, July 17, 2005
New Computer

I'm typing this post on my new 64-bit self-built computer. I've been wanting to get a 64-bit machine for quite a while and finally took the jump.

When I started looking seriously at building rather than buying I had my eyes on one of the newer dual-core AMD processors. The only hitch is they are still pretty expensive. Then I picked up on a sale that Tiger Direct was having on a motherboard / CPU combo.

The motherboard was a Mach Speed Viper K8M8MS and bundled with an Athlon 64 3000+ processor cost $159.99 after rebate. For the price I gave up on-board firewire, PCI Express and GB ethernet. I also had to buy a CPU fan for $19.99 since the bundle didn't include one.

Tiger Direct also had a good price on memory so I picked up 2GB of Corsair DDR memory ($189.98) along with an XFX GeForce FX 5500 AGP video card with 256MB of DDR memory, VGA / DVI / TV Out ($59.99).

A few weeks before the Tiger Direct purchase I saw a good deal on a case on the dealnews website. I really wanted a case with a multi-card reader built into the front panel along with USB and audio. I found a nice compact one for $79.95 including a 300W power supply.

For storage I had a 160 GB Western Digital Drive sitting around that I bought a while back for $40. I was originally going to put it into a cheap external USB case but a number of incidents (pulled it off the desk and trashed it) and replacement drives later and it was sitting on the shelf.

The last item was a DVD burner and again I turned to dealnews. On their site I found a BenQ Dual Layer 16X +/- RW lightscribe drive for $79.99.

Total Cost for the AMD-64, 2GB memory, DVD + 160GB hard drive was $635.00.

I loaded Windows XP 64 and proceeded to start loading applications. First disappointment - Microsoft's Virtual PC doesn't run under Win XP 64. Office runs fine along with Firefox.

Overall I'm very pleased. At it's pretty peppy to boot!

Saturday, July 09, 2005
IronPython Article

My IronPython article was recently posted on the DevX site. They didn't run a sidebar that my 16-year old son wrote on learning to program so I'm gonna post it here.

About two years ago I approached my father about learning to program a computer. He gave me a Python interpreter, the LiveWires worksheets for young non-programmers, and the LiveWires package (the modules for the worksheets). The LiveWires materials ( include self-study PDF course notes and reference material along with sample programs.

The LiveWires worksheets teach a few of the most basic Python commands and use the LiveWires package to make a few of the inputs easier for the user to understand. It teaches basics about inputs, loops, common commands and mathematical calculations. The extra "games" file includes worksheets for more programs that explain about coordinates, colors, image files and more.

After completing the LiveWires worksheets I wrote programs of my own for a while and explored the examples using another book I borrowed from my father (Learning Python by Mark Lutz). Using the Python built-in help module I learned several other tricks about the language and actually modified some of the modules to make my programs work. One example of this is the py2exe module. This takes a raw Python script and converts it to a Windows executable. After fixing a few typos I was able to use the py2exe module with both a setup script and from the Windows command-line.

All in all I feel like I have a good start at programming and I’m looking forward to learning more in the future.

Micah Ferrill

Wednesday, June 15, 2005
Mac Mini Tiger (and memory) Upgrade

The copy of Tiger for my Mac Mini I ordered from Amazon arrived on Monday. I did the upgrade last night and it went without a hitch.

I previouslly upgraded the Mini's memory to 1GB courtesy of Crucial Memory. They have a section on their website dedicated to Mac memory upgrades. No questions as to what to order for a specific machine. The price is right and you get a quality product. They're even offering free shipping at the moment.

With a quick Google search I found several sites with printed instructions and one with a nice video showing how to do the memory upgrade. It does require the use of a putty knife but it turned out to be a piece of cake. The only hitch I had was getting the rear panel to seat properly. The catch was to push that part in first, then seat the other sides. I did have to push in the front plastic clamps using the putty knife. After that all was well and it worked the first time.

Saturday, June 04, 2005
Windows Forms and Mono Article

My cross platform Windows Forms article is up on DevX. I couldn't have got this working without help from Peter D. Bartok both at the Brainshare conference and via e-mail. The mono IRC channel is also a good place to hang out and find some of the key players to ask questions of.

I can't help but wonder how successful this type of coding will be in reality. I know that the Novell iFolder folks use native code on OS X, Linux and Windows to make their UI look natural for each platform. It will be interesting to see how a Windows Forms program will look when they get to version 1.2 and have all the controls implemented.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005
Portable USB Drives

I have been testing out one of the new Seagate external USB drives and I have to say it rocks! The biggest win is no power supply required. There's even an extra USB connector if your computer port doesn't provide enough power - and I have needed that at least once.

It's light, fits easily in the bag and just works! I've seen the price as low as $150 - not a bad deal for that amount of portability and storage.