Misc Computer Hardware

Computer memory

ECC memory is very important to me. It seems the gamers of the world sneer at ECC memory because it is a bit slower and more expensive than non-ECC memory. They are correct about the price and speed. I guess they don't keep their machines on for very long, or don't care about memory errors. I do keep my machines on for a long time, and I do care about memory errors. The best estimates I have seen are there will likely be a memory error on one gigabyte of memory every week. Since I have several machines with roughly one gigabyte of memory, it is of concern to me. Perhaps the gamers are used to Microsoft operating systems which often crash within a week, so they never notice memory errors. All serious computers I know about from Sun, DEC (now defunct), IBM, and the like use ECC memory. IBM has gone further, and came up with the Chipkill technology which does a better job of ECC than the standard two bit detect, one bit correct scheme.

The first aftermarket memory I bought were 2 32 mbyte EDO SIMMs. They were $550. I ran a memory checker (Norton) on them for several days to be sure they were ok.

Next, I got the Providence motherboard, and eventually got a total of 320 mbytes of ECC EDO memory. The Norton memory checker wouldn't deal with that. It was time for a real memory checker. I got Memtest86+, a real memory testing program. Worked flawlessly (from what I can tell), as did my memory.

Next, I bought 128 mb of ECC pc-100 memory, for the first Abit BP-6 system, which also worked flawlessly.

Next, having never seen an ECC memory error in my 320 mbyte system, I decided I really didn't need ECC, and bought 128 mb of pc-100 memory for the second Abit BP-6 system I was building. After having a bunch of weird problems, I decided to run Memtest86. I got a bunch of errors (not at fixed memory locations). The module was using Hitachi memory, which is supposed to be good stuff, but clearly someone didn't test the modules throughly.

HeatSentry (hardware & software)

I bought a Macrotron Systems HeatSentry. This device plugs in an ISA slot, and has one internal temperature monitor as well as up to 4 external temperature probes. It arrived quickly, and I installed the software plugged it in. The software is documented to work with Windows NT 4.0. Well, there are a few files with the wrong name in the shortcuts that it sets up. There is also no uninstall procedure!. What is worse is that my board was DOA. I tried a known good ISA slot (where my soundcard lives), and even stuck my soundcard where the HeatSentry was. No go. The probes are supposed to have some adhesive tape covering the temp sensing part. However, 2 of my 4 probes were missing the tape. After some toll calls, I decided to have them replace the defective parts. It took them over 3 weeks from the time I sent it back, until I got a new board. One of the 2 probes didn't have the tape that was supposed to come on the probes, and what was worse, the new board acted just like the old board (i.e. DOA). I manually un-installed as much as I could. My registry is still polluted with their stuff. No easy way to cleanly remove it. I got my money back, except for shipping costs.

I had mentioned there is no uninstall procedure. Well, since I don't have the hardware installed in my computer, I get a error box with a message like 'one or more system services failed to start-up [ok]'. Heatsentry and Heatcc are also started up when I log in, and they produce an error, which crashes the program. I can understand an error message, but blowing away the program? Not very impressive.

Hey vendors! Provide an uninstall program in case your perfect software isn't quite perfect! Of course, you don't realize there is no uninstall program until the software is installed, and you are screwed. Gotta love PC's.

Software Philosophy and other stuff

Well, I'll be Damned

Embedded Software Development The Seven Habits of Highly Defective Developers

Maxtor disk drive software tech support

I got an Ultra-DMA (aka UIDE) Maxtor drive for a friend. It had a program to deal with old motherboard BIOS's. I installed the program, and tried to get the drive to work. There were a few glitches. So I installed a new motherboard BIOS, and everything worked fine. They I tried to remove the Maxtor program. I couldn't figure out how to do it. So I called Maxtor tech support, quite quickly I was talking to a live person, who took me through the procedure to disable and de-install the program. I was quite impressed.

Computer Jokes

Playing off news stories about an Olympics gold medalist snowboarder claiming that he tested positive for marijuana because of second-hand smoke, Sun CEO and stand-up comic Scott McNealy read a top ten list.

Top ten computer industry situations caused by second-hand marijuana smoke:

10: Sun considers...buying Apple.

9: Sun considers buying Netscape.

8: Compaq does buy Digital Equipment.

7: Let's call that product "Bob."

6: Let's call our sons Maverick and Dakota.

5: We only need two digits in the date field.

4: Windows 95.

3: I said I wanted Adobe, not a doobie.

2: Windows won't work without the Explorer browser, your honor.

1: Java is just a programming language.

When pressed for a serious response on the matter, McNealy responded: "I can't comment on rumors, no matter how accurate or silly they will be."

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