Dan's Data letters #62Publication date: 16 September 2003.
Last modified 03-Dec-2011.
Trend Micro PC-Cillin keeps saying your site has the JS_FORTNIGHT virus.
I've talked about this before (at the end of this letters column), but it's still happening, so it bears repeating.
This is a bogus warning, caused by the ad code on my pages. There is no one ad that causes it, and it's definitely not actually any variant of JS_FORTNIGHT.
I got to the bottom of this in the course of this thread.
My dream: To be at a LAN party and be able to leech files and play games at the same time. The only problem is, once you start downloading files, your game ping goes to hell!
So I was thinking, why not try using two network cards and balancing the load between them somehow? 10/100 cards are dirt cheap these days so an extra one or two won't break the budget (and most LANs don't have a gigabit switches, so that option is out).
I did some research and found that WinNT 4.0 had something called WLBS (Windows Load Balancing Service), and Win2000 Advanced Server has something called NLB (Network Load Balancing). Unfortunately, I run Win2000 Pro, which appears to have neither of these options.
I did find a few registry tweaks which may help somewhat, however as far as I can tell this will only affect NetBIOS traffic.
Is there any way I can get Win2000 Pro to balance all network traffic over two or more network cards? I don't think it would be inconceivable to write a replacement DLL for Winsock that used a rule set to allocate different types of traffic to different network cards (though I can't find any).
I've also found a cable mod to take advantage of the fact that 100BaseT Ethernet only uses 4 out of the 8 wires in most twisted pair cable, to make effectively two cables out of one. This would make cabling a dual network card system that much easier.
So - is it achievable to use multiple network cards to get better network performance, or is it a waste of time?
After I put this page up, a reader informed me of the existence of Nullsoft Copy. It solves this problem completely; you can specify multiple source directories to leech from (only directories, though, not individual files), and set and tweak your transfer speed whenever you like.
And when you set its speed slider to "unlimited", it indicates it by going to plaid.
Perhaps you could achieve the same result by diddling around with the much-maligned Quality of Service packet scheduler or something (I doubt it, though, since neither your games nor Windows' file sharing are likely to be QoS-aware), but this utility Just Works. Get it.
And now, my original answer:
Yes, multiple-NIC computing is possible, but it's outside my area of expertise. You want a "link aggregation" and/or trunked (IEEE 802.3ad) setup of some description, which as I understand it requires a trunking-aware switch, if you're going to connect more than two nodes to the network. Otherwise your switch will be unable to properly deal with multi-NIC nodes, which will each have more than one MAC address. Without a trunking-aware switch (which is even less likely to be found at a LAN party than a gigabit switch...), nodes will be able to send data to multiple destinations at once, but will only be able to receive data through one of their NICs.
I don't know what you have to do on the software side to make this happen, but it's exactly the kind of thing that Microsoft deliberately disable in the cheaper versions of Win2000 and WinXP.
Gigabit Ethernet really is a better solution these days, if of course you can get it. As you say, you shouldn't expect 256 port gigabit switch racks to start showing up at LAN parties in the very near future.
Gigabit gear isn't terribly expensive any more, though. Gigabit NICs are down to about a hundred Aussie bucks delivered (I'm working from Aus PC Market's retail prices here; descend among the bottom-feeders and you can probably pay less), and if you just want a switch with a couple of gigabit ports and several 100BaseT ones (so a couple of servers can squirt data to several 100BaseT clients at full 100BaseT speed, or whatever) that's only $AU209 more.
I just bought a Lian Li PC-6002 case, and like to use the word "elegant" to describe its simple appearance. One thing confuses me though. I've just started assembling my PC this evening, and noticed that the lower 3.5" drive bay seems to be set in the case so that the drives will be mounted vertically, i.e. standing on their side.
Is this right? I thought all drives were designed for, and operated best, "flat", or horizontally mounted.
Yep, they're vertical. That's how Lian Li cram five drive slots in down there, although if you want good airflow past the drives you can only install three.
Some Lian Lis come with an adapter plate thingy you can screw in there to turn those bays into three regular horizontal slots. There's not much point to it that I can see.
In the olden days, drives did need to be installed horizontally, or at least not turned around. Stepper motor drives were sensitive to alignment, and had to be operated in the same alignment in which they were low-level formatted, so the heads would line up with the tracks properly.
Modern voice coil drives don't care, though. They have a built in feedback system that cares not about the puny pull of gravity.
Just wondering how long a file those "James" MP3 players can record? Obviously the length changes with the quality, but I'm just a journo who needs to understand voice, so I'd imagine a fairly low quality setting would work fine.
Good question. Answer: I'm not sure, but pretty damn long.
Shortly after getting your e-mail, I started my review MP317 recording at its base 8000Hz sample rate, which is perfectly fine for voice - the higher sample rates make voice sound nicer, but really don't do anything for comprehensibility. At this rate, the four-bit uncompressed audio gives about seventeen and three quarter hours of storage space (!) on the "256Mb" (actually 246Mb) unit.
The issue with these sorts of devices is often not how much they can store in total, but how large a single file they can create. If they can theoretically manage 17 hours but can only make one-hour files (or whatever), they're going to be less useful.
In this case, though, the limit seems more likely to be battery life (which, even with a premium AAA, isn't likely to greatly exceed 12 hours of recording; something bad might happen if the battery dies while you're still recording. Yes, you can connect a D cell in a holder via alligator clips if you like).
Anyway, I stopped my experiment shortly after the five hour mark. No end was in sight. The file was A-OK.
Note that the omnidirectional mic in these TGE gadgets means they'll work OK if they're sitting on a small table between you and your interviewee, but the recording will become dodgier and dodgier as the target moves away, assuming normal speaking volume. If you intend to use the MP3 player in a normal integrated-mic note-taker sort of role, though, I think you'd probably be very pleased with it!
A few weeks ago I read about a CD-RW/DVD standalone box on your site. You didn't review it because you said you could add nothing more to some other review of the product on another site.
Can you please tell me what the product was called?
It's the Lite-On LVR-1001.
The review is here.
I wanted to give you a heads-up on a cheaper source for the old IBM heavy duty keyboards you tell your readers about.
I'd been looking around for a source for them for some time (I've got a closet full of decent heavy keyboards, like those made by Keytronics). Your article was helpful, but I can't pay US$50 for a keyboard. I can pay US$20.70, though!
That company is in Florida, and they seem to stock lots of older OEM parts (FYI for your readers looking for port covers and screws and AC adapters and whatnot).
As a test, I ordered a 42H1292 last Tuesday and it arrived yesterday. It's brand new, although my model was made in 1995. It was apparently US-made and isn't from Scotland. It came packed in original IBM shipping packaging even. And it smells like a vinyl pool toy. The only bad thing is that the tilde/grave accent key cover is missing; I just have a stubby little dark key in its place. That's fine with me, however. I can always find home and exec shell commands in perl by hitting the stubby key.
Anyway, it arrived, it's the genuine article, and aside from that tilde key issue, it's in perfectly new shape. I'm going to order 5 more right now.
They apparently ship internationally, although I didn't see the option on their ordering page just now. Look here, about halfway down, for mention of international shipping.
BTW, they aren't kidding about the level of packaging they do. The keyboard I ordered came in so much bubble wrap you could have shot it out of a cannon and it would have landed in New South Wales with nary a scratch.
So please tell your readers about the new source (but make sure to order one for yourself just in case inventory is low).
As you say, perhaps you have to phone them if you want them to ship outside the US and Canada. Or perhaps their info page is just PR boilerplate.
I've got enough spare battleship 'boards at the moment. The occasional eBay oddity still appeals to me, though (for the benefit of readers who visit this page after that auction's vanished, it was for an 84 key space saver buckling spring 'board; see several of them here and here).
I read your review on the TwinTV (it seems to be the only review on the entire net, all the other sites that look as if they have reviews just link to yours). I was wondering if you'd mind answering a quick question. Is it possible to listen to audio files through headphones, or does the TwinTV have to be plugged into a TV?
You could adapt the TwinTV's stereo audio output to a 1/8th inch jack and plug headphones into that, but it'd only be line level, and so very quiet. With an external headphone amp of some sort (like this one, for instance) you could do it, but you'd still need the cable adapter bits. It wouldn't be a very neat solution.
Also, navigating the menus blind wouldn't be straightforward. You could remember the few-button-press sequence needed to just start playing stuff, and the remote would work normally, but this problem would make it even less useful.
I recently bought an external USB 2 drive box and a 20Gb laptop drive to back up some security video. I plugged it in and it seemed to work, but wouldn't read the drive. Not formatted - DOH! So I fitted it to an old Toshiba laptop and formatted it, but now it will only show 8Gb size.
Can I recover the lost 12Gb by using a notebook HDD adapter connecting it to my Athlon PC and then using FDISK and reformatting, or is it lost forever?
Yes; it's just been given one 8Gb partition, presumably because the laptop couldn't understand anything bigger.
You ought to be able to do all of this stuff with the drive in the USB box, though; the laptop shouldn't have been necessary in the first place. A Windows 2000 or XP machine will make it quite easy, via the nice Disk Management partition and format interfaces.
If you only have Win98 or older machines, then you'll probably have to use extra software to partition the USB-bridged drive from Windows; a DOS boot disk won't see the drive at all.
(Gordon got back to me after I sent this reply, to say that hooking the USB box up to a new laptop with WinXP did, indeed, make it easy to partition the drive properly.)
From time to time, when I'm browsing the Web, I get a horizontal black line on my screen. If I turn the monitor off, then on again, it goes away. But if I continue working, there's a better than even chance that it will come back, but probably somewhere else on the screen.
The black line appears to be only 1 pixel high, yet takes up the full width of the screen.
This only happens when I am using the Opera browser, but even if I close Opera, the line stays there. A restart of the computer doesn't help, only a power cycle of the monitor itself gets rid of it.
The monitor is a Philips 107S with something called "LightFrame". I've never installed any drivers for the LightFrame feature, so that doesn't work, but could this strange behaviour be part of whatever Philips and their LightFrame technology want to have happen?
The PC is a HP Vectra (supplied by work) with a Matrox Millennium G540 Dual-head thingummy, running Win2000.
It's odd, but only Opera seems to be able to create the black line, and only a monitor power cycle seems to be able to destroy it.
Sorry, but I'm pretty much clueless here. If anyone reading this knows what's going on, I invite them to e-mail me!
It does, indeed, seem to be a monitor problem, and I suppose that silly LightFrame feature could have something to do with it (LightFrame is less dumb than the first-generation version of the idea that I have on the Samsung I'm looking at, but it still seems to me to be little more than a way for people who don't know how to set up their monitor to get a prettier picture, and eyestrain, at the same time...). But without LightFrame actually activated, it ought not to do anything - it certainly shouldn't create a black line. The only-triggered-by-Opera thing really puts the cherry on the cupcake.
If it just happened now and then I'd surmise it was possibly some bizarre problem causing the monitor to skip a scanline or three, but more probably a glitch in the on-screen display firmware. How one particular application could cause such a glitch, though, escapes me, and the fact that the monitor clearly is listening for more from the PC than the average screen - otherwise LightFrame's fancy features wouldn't work - doesn't provide much of a straw to grasp at.
UPDATE: And in come the suggestions!
So far, one reader's suggested that it might be something to do with an aperture-grille damper wire (which I doubt, partly because damper wires don't make thick black lines but rather thin grey ones, even if there's something wrong with them, and partly because the 107S isn't an aperture grille monitor; it uses a conventional shadow mask tube).
Another reader's chimed in to say that he had exactly the same problem, with a Philips 109S; the line also turned up only when he was using Opera. Updating his video drivers fixed the problem.
An expert has assured him that such an action could not possibly have helped, and that such a problem could not possibly have existed in the first place, anyway. This expert's advice is, no doubt, also applicable to the other reader that's written to me saying he's also got the same problem. Opera, 107S, black line.
Another reader wrote in to say that he's seen it happen on three different 107S screens, but not in response to Opera. It happened months ago, once on two of the monitors and twice on one of them, and has not recurred.
Just a quick comment about the Powerball tacho, and the competition to get the fastest spin. Wouldn't it just be too easy to remove the tacho board (as you did), then hold it near to a high speed drill with a small magnet attached?
With one of those NIB rare earth magnets, you may not even have to remove the tacho. Hell, for that matter, an electro magnet wired up to a high current pulse generator should work nicely too.
I'll be darned. A low-down, nefarious idea that I didn't think up before a reader suggested it to me. Oh well; there's a first time for everything.
One Dremel drill chuck, with a little rare-earth magnet on each side (for balance, and to let it trigger the tachometer's reed switch twice per revolution). The magnets are held in place with an advanced adhesive banding system.
One completely genuine picture of one completely fake world-record Powerball score.
I actually had a hard time running my dilapidated old Dremel slowly enough that the Powerball tacho could keep up with it, but jockeying the tacho around near the whirling magnets got me this after about a minute.
Now that this secret's out, of course, the world of professional Powerballing will be rocked by the scandal, which is all our fault.
I think that means our work here is done.