Monday, July 27, 2009

Merrill Lynch account liquidated

Finally liquidated my Merrill Lynch account. A 27% loss from it's peak. Sigh. Time to implement the Black Swan portfolio...

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

xpud - shortest path to the

Saw a forum reference to xPUD ( as a lightweight OS to run on my Mini 9. Downloaded and installed it to a bootable 64 MB flash drive.

I changed BIOS options on the Mini 9 to allow booting from USB. Then I deleted syslinux.cfg, and renamed isolinux.cfg to syslinux.cfg.

Moment of truth. The Mini booted in about 30 seconds (maybe less). The entire OS loads into RAM (not SSD, the RAM) and then boots from RAM. This setup is amazingly fast. I can leave the default boot setup as Win XP, and boot xPud whenever I want. I am impressed.

Chronulator circuit board done

Finished the Chronulator circuit board last night and hooked up some meters. I haven't decided which meters to use yet, so I wired in some old transistor sockets and plugged in the resistors that control the meter scaling. Used the big meter for minutes and the small one for hours.

My next one will probably run on a small off the shelf arduino/freeduino kit with built in USB. That will give me a solid power source and the ability to control the meters from the computer.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Mini 9 is excellent

I've had a few days with the Mini 9, and I'm sorry I didn't get one sooner. Win XP runs faster on the Mini than on any other system I own. Excellent tool in the server room.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Refurb Vostro A90 available. Grrrrr.

Ordered my Dell Mini 9 from the Dell outlet earlier this week. Waited too long and all the Mini 9's with webcams were gone. Just discovered that the Dell Outlet Business section is selling the Vostro A90, which is the same as the Mini 9. With webcams. For exactly what I paid, $249. They even have units with 16 GB SSDs. Doh!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Dell Mini 9 memory expansion options

While waiting for my Mini 9 to arrive, I'm looking at SSD expansion. It comes with an 8MB SSD, which is fine for Linux, but a stretch for Mac OS X. There are basically 2 brands of SSD expansion : Runcore and Super Talent (STEC).

The Runcore is slightly more expensive : 16GB $78, 32 GB $127
than the Super Talent : 16GB $63, 32GB $109

There is a slower (2X slower writes, almost 3X on reads)
Super Talent : 16GB $49, 32GB $89

The big advantage of the Runcore is that the module has an integrated USB port. This allows Mac OSX to be installed on a Mac while the Runcore is attached as an external drive. This makes the install go much faster, and is simpler.

If you look at the high end Runcore vs. the Super Talent, the ease of installation on the Runcore is a slam dunk. For the 16 GB, the Runcore is only $15 more, with the 32GB, it is $19 more.

Comparing to the slower Super Talent is a different story. For the 16 GB, the Runcore is $29 more, the 32GB is $38 more.

Still, if this is something that you will use extensively, it's worth paying the extra $40 one time cost.

I'll probably upgrade the RAM to 2GB right away, install Linux and do the 32 GB upgrade down the road. It's somewhat hard to justify an immediate $130 expense to upgrade a $250 computer. Perhaps I can pick up a used 16GB from an upgrader.

This posthas a good rundown of Runcore vs. STEC

Monday, July 13, 2009


The mini 9's on Dell Outlet sold faster than I thought. By the time I checked yesterday, all that was left were Mini 9's without webcams. Ordered a 1GB, 8GB SSD, Bluetooth configuration. I could have gotten a 10, but I wanted small.

Friday, July 10, 2009

the evolution/devolution of netbooks

Our 21st anniversary was today; Kerry asked what I wanted. I think I'm going to get a Dell Mini 9 netbook.

As part of my job, I'm in the server room copying data onto printed spreadsheets. When back at my desk, I type in the numbers. It would be great to capture that data as it is generated and avoid double entries. It would also avoid repeated reprinting of my server data spreadsheets.

I like the Dell Mini 9 because it's small and light. The keyboard is a little small, but for my purposes OK. I'm really looking for small, goes everywhere. I don't want to think about whether I should carry it with me.

They discontinued the Mini 9 last month. Dell has stopped using the SSD, which I want for the durability and battery life.

They have black ones with 1GB of RAM, an 8 GB SSD and a .3mp webcam for $239. They have 512MB models for $10 cheaper without the webcam. The webcam would be worth $10 to me, so go with the 1GB.

I can always swap the SSD for a hard drive to run OS X. The Mini 9 is the only 100% OS X compatible netbook according to this chart :

At best, the others have broken audio (HP) or broken ethernet (MSI Wind).

Had a discussion with someone at work today about netbooks. He talked about how he would need a hard drive so it could be loaded with Microsoft Office. This totally misses the point.

The netbook is the perfect interface to it comes..."cloud". All your apps and data reside on the internet; the netbook is just a smart conduit. Local word processing is probably necessary, but bloatware like Word is just overkill.

The vendors (at least Dell) are missing it too. The netbook is evolving by losing its' SSD for a hard drive (bye bye battery life) and growing bigger screens (bye bye portability). Pretty soon netbooks will become ....laptops.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

iPod Touch strangeness

I've been having problems with podcast listings on my iPod Touch where the podcast appears on the iPod Touch, but does not show up in iTunes. I could delete these podcasts on the Touch, but they would never go away. After reading about auto purging of listened podcasts, I played the podcasts in question, oldest to newest. The "phantom" podcasts were essentially empty (1 or 2 seconds long) and they all "played" in a second or so.

Once they were played, I could delete them on the iPod Touch, and after syncing with iTunes, they were still gone. Yay.

My remaining problems appear to be podcasts with improper metadata in specific podcast episodes. The July 8 edition of "On The Media" copies to the iPod and is visible on the iPod, but does not appear in iTunes on my Mac. No content is apparently copied as the podcast plays for a second then stops.

My workaround to make these broken podcasts playable :
- Convert podcast to AAC (from right-click menu)
- Copy podcast to iTunes
- Set Genre to "Podcast-Other"
- Create smart playlist on iPod to show these podcasts

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Bjork, Volta, Voltaic, gestural controllers

I was listening to Bjork as the guest DJ on All Songs Considered. She has an esthetic I can appreciate ... blending electronic and natural sounds in her music. She is using a gestural control instrument from Reactable on her Voltaic tour that can be seen in this video from "Later with Jools Holland".

To get a feel for the Voltaic live show, here is a video of "Pluto" from the Paris show.

Just ordered a copy of Volta...looking forward to the listen.