Dan's Data letters #130Publication date: 8-Nov-2004.
Last modified 03-Dec-2011.
How many hours (more or less) do xenon headlights last? I'm talking about high-quality original HID lights found on BMWs and the like.
Also, I have an iPod, and as I use it every day I was wondering what I could do, if anything, to make the battery last longer. Not longer as in playing time, just more charge cycles. I heard that charging lithium ion batteries as soon as they're a little low can contribute to their lives, but as I'm kinda skeptical about that idea, I was wondering if you knew.
[yet another] Daniel
HID lamps last a long time. I don't know whether there've been any advances in the last few years, but there hardly need to be; before 1999, HID headlamps already had a projected lifespan of at least 2700 hours.
So people who do a lot of night driving may be able to wear 'em out in a few years, but many people who buy a new HID-headlamped car won't ever have to change a bulb, even if they keep the vehicle for ten years.
Regarding longer life for LiI - nothing that I know of helps. It's a general rule that rechargeable batteries will last for more partial cycles than full cycles, and that applies to LiI batteries too; don't worry about running the battery flat, just top it up when you feel like it. The main problem with LiI is that it naturally ages quite rapidly no matter what you do with it; some LiI packs last better than others, and not leaving your iPod to bake on your dashboard in summer will help a bit, but you shouldn't expect any iPod pack to be good for much after three years, even if it's never been used at all. Death in two years is perfectly possible; common, even. That's just the price you pay for the excellent energy density of LiI - and it's also why I've got a Luddite affection for NiMH, and even NiCd.
In order to get my work done and in celebration of the fact that I am alive, I need a new, big, flash, monitor. I hate Trinitron and LCD (reasons available on request so as not to bore you). To cope with my work load and fussy eyes, I need 1600x1200 at 85Hz or better. I already have a 19 inch Hitachi CM772 flat screen CRT which does this, but I have other uses for it, and, of course, Hitachi doesn't make them any more. This leaves me wanting a big shadow mask CRT, but lacking any solid information.
I saw you mention recently that you have a 21 inch Samsung 1100p Plus monitor and are not displeased with it. But, which version? The reviews on the Web are old and describe a monitor that has both a VGA port and BNC connectors, while the Samsung Australia Web site (which seems to be the only one that still lists the 1100p) describes a monitor that has just a VGA port. I assume that any reviews of an old version of a monitor have no relevance to any newer version, and against all odds, I do have some BNC video cables so I could use both inputs.
Will you be reviewing your 1100p Plus? Have you had any reason to use the adjustable linearity, focus or convergence features?
The only other high frequency shadow mask monitor I can find for sale in Australia is the Mitsubishi DV215A. When I asked Mitsubishi for pointers to published reviews (since Google returned none), they sent me the user manual (as a PDF), but suggested I buy their professional grade monitor (with an aperture grill tube). D'oh!
Now I find myself torn between a monitor that may be a bait and switch of an old classic (the Samsung) and one that the manufacturer thinks is wrong for my exacting standards (the Mitsubishi). Sigh!
Do you know of any high quality shadow mask CRT monitors for sale in Oz, or have any opinion on the Samsung 1100p+ vs the Mitsubishi DV215A?
By the way, Samsung did not respond to my email inquiries about this monitor. That sucks. Viewsonic didn't respond to email inquiries about their monitors either. Of those I emailed, only Mitsubishi responded.
If you want a 21 incher but don't want an aperture grille tube, you're up against it these days. Large shadow mask monitors, especially ones that sane humans can afford, are now a bit hard to find.
My 1100p Plus is the current model as far as I know, and it has HD15 and BNC inputs.
It took literally months for the local Australian distributor to get a single 1100p in for me, so no, I won't be reviewing it. People'd just start pestering Aus PC Market (my major sponsors) to sell them, and they don't want the hassle. The consumer large-CRT market is not healthy, and the consumer shadow-mask-CRT market is pretty much dead. That could be why Samsung didn't reply to you, too.
I haven't needed to use the 1100p's fancier geometry adjust features, but I can at least verify that they do in fact work. I don't know anything about the Mitsubishi screen, though, so I can't help you with a comparison.
Do you have any idea where I can find a parallel port memory card reader? Do those readers have special drivers for Winbloze (BOOO!) and DOS? (YAAAY!) All I see is USB readers here, Bill Gate$ stopped production and distribution of the LPT jobs, methinks, for unknown commercial reasons.
Yes, parallel readers can still be found, here and there. That's a search for CompactFlash readers in particular, but you get the idea.
I don't know how many people who list them actually still have them in stock, though. Most of the companies that made them don't have product pages for them any more, which is generally also bad news for finding downloadable drivers.
Bear in mind that parallel port readers were a bad choice when I wrote this four years ago, and they aren't going to be any better now. They're about the speed of USB 1.1, but they'll pretty much paralyse a PC while they're moving data, and they won't work on a Mac at all.
If you've got no other option for whatever reason, then OK. But bear in mind that PCI USB cards that'll work in surprisingly elderly desktop machines, and PCMCIA USB cards that'll work in surprisingly elderly laptops, are very affordable these days; one of those plus a USB reader is likely to be a much nicer proposition.
If you hand over some green to the guys at MaxTheater, what do they give you? It's safe to assume that the whole thing is crap, but how does their technology allegedly work? What would you need to make this really work, and how much would it really cost?
I really like the fact that two of the scrolling testimonials on their front page are attributed to "Gerald Harrison" and "David Kent", but on the reviews page the same quotes are from "George Harrison" and "Alisha Kerry".
What do you get? Plans and a big Fresnel lens, which is what a lot of other "cheap giant screen" dealers sell. It's not quite a scam, but it is, as you'd expect, not nearly as good as they promise.
So, homeopathic remedies, value added solvent, I agree. So I'm confused by that Zicam stuff. They claim that not only does it work, but it's clinically proven to work. Any insight? The active ingredient is "Zincum Gluconicum".
"Zincum Gluconicum" is also, by the way, what Harry Potter says when he wants to galvanise a lollipop.
The notion that homeopathic remedies have an active ingredient at all is defied by basic homeopathic doctrine, which states that the less of the original ingredient there is in the remedy, the more powerful it will become. They do assert that there's something "active" in there, but it's meant to be a mystic vibration left behind by the actual molecules of the original ingredient, of which there are unlikely to be any left at in the "stronger" homeopathic remedies. The original substance is meant to be something that causes the symptoms that you're trying to cure with the remedy. So you don't actually want any significant amount of it to remain.
The connection between the original substance and the complaints the remedy made from it is meant to treat can, however, be quite figurative - witness the various remedies offered to people who've been beaten up by riot police, for instance.
It doesn't matter, of course, if the theory behind something sounds like nonsense, as long as it works. And it's quite possible that the Zicam products do, though they and other zinc-based remedies aren't yet supported by what you'd call ironclad evidence. If they work, though, it's because they, like many other "homeopathic" remedies, simply contain pharmaceutically effective concentrations of real drugs. There's nothing to stop remedy manufacturers from putting the word "homeopathic" on pretty much anything they like, and they commonly do, because it sells.
UPDATE: It turns out that Zicam is in fact ineffective against colds, but may destroy your sense of smell.
Look at a writeup on one of the Zicam studies (this was the first one I found in a Google search) and you'll find that people using their medications are getting very, very NON-homeopathic doses of the homeopathically-named active ingredient.
In the case of the gel mentioned in that study, people in the treatment group were getting a dose equivalent to 2.1 milligrams of elemental zinc, per day.
The atomic weight of zinc is 65.39, which means there are Avogadro's number (6.02214199 * 10^23) of zinc atoms in 65.39 grams of the stuff. A mere 2.1 milligrams of it still contains 1.93401 * 10^19 atoms.
Now, let's assume an unremarkable "10C" homeopathic dilution. That means that that one part of active ingredient (of whatever initial concentration) has been mixed with 99 parts of solvent (water or alcohol) and "succussed" (the magic shaking procedure that's meant to make homeopathy work), and the resulting mixture re-diluted in the same way another nine times (without an enormous amount of attention being paid to the solubility of the initial ingredient, which doesn't matter anyway, since we're talking about magic vibrations here, but let's be charitable and pretend it's 100% soluble).
A "20X" dilution has the same concentration as 10C, but has been made by 20 ten-to-one dilutions, not ten hundred-to-one dilutions.
Either way, the final concentration will be 1/100,000,000,000,000,000,000 of the original one. If the original one contained 2.1 milligrams of zinc dissolved in one cubic centimetre of water, the concentration of zinc in the final remedy would be about 0.2 atoms per cubic centimetre, and you'd need one hundred million billion litres of final remedy to get 2.1 milligrams of zinc.
You might find it difficult to get that much water, or gel, up your nose in the course of a day.
The usual way homeopaths turn their liquid remedies into pills is by applying a drop or three of the remedy to a sugar pill; I imagine genuinely homeopathic gels would have a similar inert base. I doubt they're dripping oceans of remedy into their preparations, though; it'd certainly make sugar pills pretty soggy.
Dilutions this great, of course, make for great economies in the original-ingredient area of homeopathic manufacturing. Homeopathic "Oscillococcinum", for instance, is the highly diluted heart and liver of a duck, and is a popular influenza remedy, based on the notion that eating too much duck heart and liver will cause influenza-like symptoms (although some homeopaths, who don't appear to have paid attention at the seminar, say it works for the same reason that chicken soup does).
I'm given to understand that the whole world consumption of this remedy requires the slaughter of about one duck per year.
The Zicam products are nowhere near being homeopathic. If they work (and the jury's out regarding the effectiveness of zinc as a cold remedy, though there seems to be very little risk to it), they do it because they're delivering a pharmaceutically effective amount of their active ingredient, not because they have a thing to do with homeopathy beyond their silly name.
Homeopathic products have all kinds of weird and wonderful potency descriptions. Besides the X and C (and occasionally M, for thousand-to-one dilution) numbers, you'll find "homeopathic" sleep aids (here, for instance) that contain "1X Triple Strength" or "1X Double Strength" amounts of ingredients, which I guess might be describable as 0.33X and 0.5X, but then homeopathic doctrine would say they'd be One Third Strength and One Half Strength and certain not to do anything good to you, so I've no idea what the heck they're on about.
While I'm on a roll about homeopathic remedies, you might like to hear about some others.
"Natrum muriaticum" is used as a cold remedy, among other things. It's highly diluted table salt. Frankly, I'm buggered if I know why it's supposed to work, since eating salt does not, to the best of my knowledge, cause cold-like symptoms.
"Apis mellifica" is used for insect bites, blisters, fevers, cystitis and, entertainingly, "right sided symptoms", which - stay with me, here - covers pretty much anything on that side of the body. It's made from bees.
"Aurum metallicum" is gold. It's supposed to be used as an anti-depressant, of all things. 'Cos when people get lots of gold, they always get depressed, don't they? Oh, OK, it's meant to be used for about a zillion other things, too; multiple sclerosis, testicle problems, halitosis, eye problems; you name it. There are lots of these "portmanteau" remedies that are supposed to be good for many, many totally different ailments, none of which have any real connection with the substance in question.
The herb arnica (herbs, plural, really; as with most herbs, there are several species referred to as "arnica") is supposed, in real medicinal quantities in a tincture, to be good for aches and pains and bruises. Homeopathic doctrine therefore states that in high dilution, it ought to cause them. But no; it's sold as a remedy for tissue trauma.
UPDATE: The FDA now warns that Zicam products may damage your sense of smell, and they don't know how long it'll be before it comes back. There have been numerous lawsuits filed against the makers of Zicam for this reason. Oh, and one of its inventors apparently has a mail-order Ph.D; as I've said before, you don't need diplomas to be knowledgeable, but fake diplomas are anti-qualifications, making the holder, in my view, far less credible than someone with no qualifications at all.
Because Zicam was billed as a homeopathic product it, like countless "dietary supplements", did not have to be tested for safety and efficacy before going on the market. The manufacturers still insist that it's perfectly safe, of course.
This sort of thing happens all the time when medical products are not regulated. People who'd like it to continue to happen forever often say they're in favour of "health freedom". If it were made explicitly legal to sell cars that don't work very well and fall apart catastrophically in a crash, I presume there'd be "automotive freedom" advocates issuing press releases about how awesome it is that people have the opportunity to buy these lemons.
I remember your pioneering research a few years back into the relationship between the colour of the case and computer performance.
While a boost in performance is always welcome, today security is also of great importance and I thought you'd be the obvious person to ask: Could black computers also be more secure? Notice that airplanes use "black boxes" rather than, say, "beige boxes". They are meant to withstand the impact of crash, fire and explosion - would it then follow that computer in a black case will be more resistant to hacking, viruses and worms?
How much impact could this have? For example, OpenBSD is generally regarded as one of the more secure systems, but if we put a Linux system in a black case, could it match, or even beat OpenBSD in a plain beige case?
Your ideas are intriguing to me, but it should be noted that black box flight data recorders aren't black. They're orange, so as to be visible among the charred remains of the former airliner.
I postulate that if you make the orange bright enough, it by itself may provide ample security, regardless of the operating system. Unpatched Win95 in an International Safety Orange case with retroreflective tape stripes all over it would, I think, be adequate for enterprise level firewall applications.
Will Half-Life 2 be banned down under?
I didn't think that'd amount to much, and indeed it has not. Probably.
After all, you can buy GTA San Andreas uncensored here, and that lets you beat little old ladies to death with a big purple double-ended dildo.
(Which, in case you can't find it, is in the showers in the police station).
I'm expecting a lot from HL2, but nothing quite that sublime.