Category Archives: Uncategorized

Stephen Wolfram Blog : The Personal Analytics of My Life

This article, Stephen Wolfram Blog : The Personal Analytics of My Life, is really pretty cool.  It makes me wish I’d been collecting this data about me for so long!

Man.  Every keystroke he’s typed for a decade!


New Gaming PC

It’s been a long, long, long time since I’ve bought a new gaming PC, but I finally took the plunge a month and a half ago. Every previous gaming machine I’ve bought, except one Alienware, have been built by me from components. I’m too busy for that now and, honestly, I’ve got enough money that the couple hundred more for a professionally built system is well worth it for the quality. So, on November 9, 2009, I ordered a Mainear Shift windows 7 gaming monster:

I specced it out thusly:

  • 1.2KW Silverstone Zeus Modular Power Supply (so far I’ve only played some Dragon Age on it, but it hasn’t exceeded 450W that I’ve noticed on my Kill-A-Watt, but this should give me room for more expandability)
  • 2x ATI HD 5870 2GB
  • EVGA X58 SLI Classified Mobo
  • Intel Core i7-960 3.2GHz proc, oc’d (by Maingear) to 3.78
  • Asetek X120 Liquid Cooling
  • 12GB Kingston HyperX Triple-Channel DDR3-1600 RAM
  • 128GB Kingston V-Series SSD for C:
  • 2x 2TB Western Digital RE4-GP, 2TB drives in RAID-0 for D:
  • All-in-One integrated USB 2.0 Flash Card Reader
  • 8x Lite-On Blu-ray Reader / DVD Lightscribe Combo Drive
  • Dual On-board Gigabit Ethernet
  • 8-channel high definition surround sound

It was a long wait, but finally on Christmas Eve, I received it.  I’ve been toodling around with it as much as I have been able to since then.

Anyway, here are my thoughts:

Unboxing went smoothly, though the computer is big and heavy (and so therefore is the box it comes in). Seriously, though.  The thing is gigantic.  Here’s a picture of it next to a normal computer so you get an idea. It’s just really large and imposing.

The first thing that’s interesting about the Shift case is that the motherboard is rotated 90 degrees so that the ports (usb, DVI, ethernet, etc.) are all located on the top of the case.  This way, the hot components (such as the graphics cards) can all have air flow along them and out the top, using convection for some assistance with cooling.  One thing I thought was slightly suboptimal about the case construction was that to access these ports, you have to unscrew a cage on top of the case, but Maingear did not use thumbscrews for the screws, nor did they indicate in the manual that you are expected to unscrew anything. So I wasted a few minutes trying to find some way to pop the top open without unscrewing, to no avail. The manual, by the way, still says to plug things in to the back.  I don’t think it’s been updated for the Shift just yet. The screws also make it a pain to get to the USB ports. I’m going to add a hub on my desk so I don’t have to deal with that.

Anyway, that all done, I got everything set up and booted into Windows 7 Ultimate.  It was a nice, relatively stock install with just two crapware icons on the desktop – a nondescript FreeAntivirus and a FreeOfficeSuite.  I don’t know what either of these were, and deleted them without delay. It would have been nice to either have these be more identifiable, or not have them there at all.

My username was set to John as an Administrator, with no password. I added a password so I could feel better about enabling remote desktop, etc.

There were 31.8GB used on C:.  10GB of it is a hiberfil.sys and 13GB is a pagefile.sys. So in that sense, 23GB of it is wasted. I don’t expect with 12GB of physical memory I’ll be paging too much, so I’m planning to move the page file to my D:.  Also, I never hibernate, so I’ll move that to D: as well. This will free up a good bit of space. It would be nice for maingear to have done this, or offered to do it, for me, but that is a good bit of trouble to go to, I understand.

The thing takes about 38s to cold boot – 16s of these are in the bios and hard disk / RAID config stuff waiting to get to Windows, so Windows is only taking about 22s to start, which is pretty great imo.

The thing is definitely audible. It’s about 41dB at my ear level from under my desk when doing some light web surfing. I haven’t measured it when playing a game, but it’s not onerous by any means. Right by the box under the same circumstances it’s about 48dB. Under heavy cpu only load (primes) that only goes up to about 50dB. I live in New York. This might be more noticeable if you live somewhere quieter.

The cpu runs at about 52C when not under load, but gets up to nearly 70 when playing Dragon Age (the only game I’ve installed so far – putting City of Heroes and Champions Online on it as I type this). This definitely seems hot to me, but I guess that’s what you get for overclocking.

My overall reaction is that this is the best computer I’ve ever bought.  It’s fast as hell, plays games fluidly and without breaking a sweat, even hooked to my 30” monitor at full res, and is well and solidly built.

The 128GB I got for C: is too small, I think. I’m going to buy another 128, RAID-0 them up, and see how that goes.

More soon, including pics!

Previously, On For Awesome…

I had been pretty remiss in updating my old blog, so even though the majority of people that will ever read this are the very ones who BillG_Appreciation_Party_160_MS_06_2008already know all that I’m about to write here, I’m going to do it anyway.  You know — for the kids in the hospital.

Finished my job with Bill

Right.  Here we go.  June 30th was Bill Gates’s last day at Microsoft,  and mine, too.  It was a great job and a tremendous opportunity.  I learned a ton about Microsoft and technology.  I was exposed to so many different technologies and subjects. It was great. Plus I have some fun Bill stories.

Moved to New York

So, the reason I left Microsoft is that I took a new job in New York.  imageHeather and I moved at the end of July to the Lower East Side of Manhattan and I work down in the financial district.  Heather came out a month or so before we moved, stayed for a week with our friends Mike and Mia, and after a grueling hunt through more than 40 different apartments, found us a a great place to live: The Ludlow.  The apartment is great, our view is awesome, the neighborhood is perfect, and my commute is way better than it was in Seattle. All in all a big win!  The only downside is the rent — it’s not small.

Started my new job with HRT

image The new job I started is really a journey back to my coding roots.  I’m a programmer at Hudson River Trading.  It’s a great place and I’m enjoying this more than I any previous job I can recall.  Don’t get me wrong, Microsoft was fun, but I was beginning to feel comfortable, like I was going soft — it was time for a move.  At HRT, I’m writing more code than I ever have since my early days on the MSN Messenger team.  w00t!

Anyway, that’s the quick update.  I’m sure I’ll go into more detail on our house, our neighborhood, how Faust is doing, etc.  Maybe I’ll even post some pictures.  But now you should be ready for the new season.

Oh, and if you don’t get the title of my blog, "For Awesome", check out this email.

We got FiOS on Saturday

Review Summary: get FiOS.

This past Saturday, Verizon installed FiOS TV and internet in our apartment, replacing the Time Warner cable and internet we had. It rocks, and if you can get it, you should. Here are our speed test results.

The download is more than 2x faster, which is great, but the upload is a full order of magnitude faster. Good lord! This makes a huge difference, let me tell you.

So FiOS internet is great. The included wireless router has a decent management interface, but only supports 802.11g, so I turned off its wireless features and am using our Airport Extreme in bridge mode to get 802.11n.

Where FiOS really impressed me is with TV. The HD picture is noticeably crisper and more defined than it was with Comcast in Seattle or Time Warner here in New York. It was a bit annoying to get the Tivo set up, since it did not list Verizon as a provider for 10002. But there was a workaround mentioned on some of the online forums to use something like 10923, which is somewhere in New Jersey, and worked pretty well.

There is no macroblocking, the picture never breaks up, the sound never drops out, and it just looks amazing.

The user interface for the set top box is actually pretty good to boot. We’re using the Tivo primarily, but I think if we didn’t already have a series 3 Tivo, I might be able to deal with just using Verizon’s DVR interface. It’s pretty snappy and actually modern looking, which is way better than the old and busted Comcast and Time Warner interfaces.

My Blog Has Moved

After being on Windows Live Spaces since it started, the time has come to move my blog to a dedicated blog platform.  I chose WordPress, signed up with a web host, and used a domain I registered for a while back:  So check out my new blog and let me know what you think.  I think it will encourage me to post more, hack around more, and in general be a bit more active.

That said, I’m still using Windows Live Writer to post the entries.  Even on my Mac.  It’s just too good.  I wish there were a Mac blog program this sweet.

Craigslist, Scams, and Windows Live Mail vs Gmail

I’ve been craigslisting some stuff recently in order to clear out the basement.  For the most part, it’s going pretty well.  The Audi has been slow going and still isn’t sold yet, but I probably just need to lower the price.  The 27" Sony TV, 32" Sony TV, PC Sound Card, Zune 30GB, etc. have sold quickly, and I’ve got someone interested in my Yamaha receiver, etc.

But what’s funny is that the 12" PowerBook G4 that I listed has so far attracted 2 scams.  They’re hilarious.

The first one came from an "Elizabeth Moses":

From: Elizabeth Moses <>
Date: Fri, Apr 11, 2008 at 9:03PM
Subject: RE: 12" PowerBook G4 – $400
To: John Holmes

Dear seller,
    I have made the payment for your item and i just got a mail from
PayPal customer service that the money has already been
deducted from my account..And i know PayPal would have send
the confirmation to you also.So, kindly get the item ship
immediately you receive confirmation mail from PayPal Via
8-10days Global Express International Mail(EMS)
and get back to
me with the proof of shipping.Thanks.Nice doing business with
Here is the shipping address once again.

From: Elizabeth Moses <>
Date: Fri, Apr 11, 2008 at 8:22 PM
Subject: RE: 12" PowerBook G4 – $400
To: John Holmes

Thanks for your quick respond am located in Maryland but presently am out state , am in  spain as election observer agent
i will made the payment now

From: John Holmes
Subject: Re: 12" PowerBook G4 – $400
Date: Fri, 11 Apr 2008 19:56:55 -0700

Hi.  Where is your daughter located?
The account I’m sending this mail from works for paypal.

On Apr 11, 2008, at 7:54 PM, Elizabeth Moses wrote:

Dear seller,
    Thanks for getting back to me.Just get back to me
with your PayPal Email id for the instant payment and
i will include $200 for the shipping cost down to my daughter
schooling oversea as a BIRTHDAY Gift because this is
what she want as her birthday gift and I would have
love to receive the item by my self but am also out of
state.and i will prefer you shipping this item to my daughter
Via 8-10 Days Global Express International Mail (EMS) so get
back to me now so i can make the Instant Payment Via PayPal
to your account.

From: John Holmes
Subject: Re: 12" PowerBook G4 – $400
Date: Fri, 11 Apr 2008 19:28:31 -0700
Yep.  It’s still available.

On Apr 11, 2008, at 6:37 PM, Elizabeth Moses wrote:

** Avoid:
wiring money, cross-border deals, work-at-home
** Beware:
cashier checks, money orders, escrow, shipping
** More Info:

I just browse through your item and like know to maybe is
still available. Please get back to me………….

Separately, I got this pretty weak attempt at paypal spoofing (notice the oh so tricky email address in the from field):

Date: Fri, Apr 11, 2008 at 8:55 PM
Subject: ‘Elizabeth Moses” has sent you an Auction Payment with PayPal (Routing Code: C840-L001-Q999-T5365)
To: John Holmes

Dear John Holmes ,
      You have an Instant Payment of  $600.00 USD from Elizabeth Moses (

Payment Details
Transaction ID: 5KN40511FK640701J
Item Number Not Specify
Item Title 12" PowerBook G4
Quantity 1
Price $ 400.00USD
Subtotal $600.00USD
Postage & Packing via Global  International Mail(EMS)
(includes any seller packing fees)
   $ 200.00
Postage Insurance (not offered):
Total: $600.00 USD

Delivery Information

Address Status:

The payment made by " Elizabeth Moses" has been APPROVED but the funds can only be credited into your account immediately we confirm that you have ship the Item to the Buyers specify address.

      We therefore implore you to dispatch the item and provide the Customer Service section at an evidence of (Postage Receipt or Tracking number and the Courier Service used). Then you will then be sent a URL that will link you into your account. This is to secure both the Buyer and the Seller. Sorry for any inconveniences.

                                                        **PLEASE NOTE**
Once the shipment is confirmed, your funds will become operational in your account  and you will receive a " CONFIRMATION "email from PayPal informing you that the Money has been credited.
Thank you for using PayPal.
The PayPal Team.

Copyright © 1999-2008 PayPal. All rights reserved. PayPal (USA AND CANADA) Limited is authorized and regulated by the Financial Services Authority in the United States as an electronic money institution. PayPal FSA Register Number: 226056.

Gmail, by the way, didn’t catch any of this even slightly.  No phishing indicator, nothing to say that an email address with "®" in it is a bit suspicious.  Nothing.  I went over to my account and saw this:

Way to go, Live!

Anyway, I responded to Elizabeth Moses with "LOL.  Nice Try."

But then I got another attempt at scamming this PowerBook, which is in progress even now:

From: John Holmes
Date: Mon, Apr 14, 2008 at 12:31 PM
Subject: Re: get back to me asap
To: tonia brown <>

Hi Tonia.  I would rather use PayPal, since I have not heard of AlertPay, but use PayPal frequently.  You can paypal the address I’m sending this from:

From: tonia brown <>
Date: Mon, Apr 14, 2008 at 12:31 PM
Subject: Re: get back to me asap
To: John Holmes

Hello thanks for your reply,
           I will be needing this item for my son
before the ending of the month,therefore i will be needing it as soon as possible.he is located at ohio and I am ok with the specs and will like to make an immediate payment,i will be paying you through AlertPay dispatch payment which is very clear,easy and safe method of an online payment,the money will be delivered to you at your doorstep in cash immediately the payment is made and and shiping which would handle with my shiping account has been confirmed by alertpay, reciept of confirmation would be sent to you via mail by the AlertPay,therefore you dont need to signup before getting paid.I will be offering you $500 for the item  to hasten the transaction and also get the posting off craiglist.I will be needing your full name and address and also your phone number to make the payment on your personal information as the recipient.Do mail me back with payment information if you accept my offer.Thank you and Best Regards.

Once again, Live blocked the mail and Gmail set it sail on through.

So if you’re worried about internet safety and getting scammed, you might want to think about that before switching to Gmail.

Amazon Upgrade

Related to my last post about the Kindle, Amazon apparently has a service called Amazon Upgrade, whereby you can pay an additional charge on top of the fee you pay for the physical copy of the book to get a digital copy that you can access from "any Internet-connected computer."

But this doesn’t work with Kindle.  WTF!!!!@!#!  And not only that, but all the titles available for Kindle aren’t available via Amazon Upgrade.

Come on, guys.  You’re so close to having exactly what I want.  Close the deal!

I want to want the Kindle so much!

I’ve wanted a killer ebook reader for years: a decade or more.  When I first read about E Ink I was psyched and thought for sure someone would produce the device I wanted, which is basically exactly what’s pictured here in Amazon’s ad.

Kindle is a small device that’s easy to hold, it has web access, it can wirelessly download books, it can read blogs and play podcasts.  It has a beautiful E Ink screen that you can really read for hours without fatigue.  It has enough memory to hold dozens of volumes.  It has a method for inputting notes about the book and a dictionary for looking up unfamiliar terms.

So what’s the problem?  The problem is: I want to buy the freaking book!  I want to have it in my library, on the shelf, collecting dust.  I don’t care about the trees.  I want my book.  There is no option on the Amazon store for me to say, "I’ll pay the full price of this book.  Please send it to me.  But also, let me download it to my Kindle to read on the go."  WTF!!  This is such a logical thing to do.  But right now, the only options I have are buy the book, or download the book.  I want to download the book and have them ship me the real thing as well.  I want to have my book and read it too.

Sigh.  Amazon is one of the few companies in a real position to do this kind of thing and they let the opportunity slip.

Note to Amazon:  the day I can buy a bundle of physical book and electronic book for the same price as the physical book (or maybe $0.50 more) is the day that I will buy a Kindle.  Please!

Can't Architect a picture into a picture frame

So last weekend at IKEA, I bought some stuff to decorate my office. Including this picture frame, pictured here:

I can’t for the life of me figure out how to get a picture into that frame. I’ve been having a great first real day in the office, but this particular thing makes me feel really dumb.