The DCC Holiday Party

December 20, 2007 at 3:19 pm | Posted in Technical | Leave a comment

Here are some photos of our evening out!


Related Science

October 16, 2007 at 9:04 am | Posted in News, Technical | Leave a comment

You might not realize it, but you’re probably familiar with lots of ways we use Radio Frequency waves to collect data. RADAR, for example, is actually an acronym for RAdio Detection And Ranging.

I mention this because we’re one step closer to  ‘Scan the vessel for life signs, Mr. Spock.’ Kai Sensors has made a product called the “LifeReader” which can detect heartbeats and respiration using doppler radar.  Of course this has lots of very cool applications, because it can detect normal and abnormal cardiac activity. If your heart is screwing up, you want to know about it right away, right? This is particularly true in case of heart attack, when time equals muscle.

Continue Reading Related Science…

For all the AV Club geeks…

September 20, 2007 at 7:49 am | Posted in Technical | Leave a comment

This is pretty amazing stuff. A photographer posted behind the scene photos from Cirque Du Soleil’s “Ka” on CNet yesterday. IT folks can admire the very nice wiring job in their communications room. AV geeks: check out those projectors! Wow. 

If wishing made it so…

August 1, 2007 at 11:00 am | Posted in Technical | Leave a comment

Microsoft is still playing it shy with information on Vista’s SP1 release details. Internet rumors vary widely on when this might be available to the general public, if at all. It’s possible that instead of a service pack, updates will be broken into two large bundles, delivered through standard Microsoft Update. While Microsoft has been batting its lashes and demurely refusing to speak, the testers have been leaking details to the blogosphere, and passing notes around.

Come to think of it, this is starting to remind me of the 6th grade, in terms of the secrets and note-passing. Eek.

For the latest hints and heresay schoolyard gossip, check it out

Tip for iTunes

July 23, 2007 at 1:35 pm | Posted in Entertaining, Technical | Leave a comment

I really like the idea of using my home computer as a server, and accessing it from afar when needed.  One of the main reasons I’d like to do that is so I can access my media from afar. It is really a pain to have multiple copies of music and podcasts spread all over my family’s computers, laptop, and palmtop.

Today I stumbled across a very cool solution.  I think I really like the SimplifyMedia idea. Essentially, what SimplifyMedia does is stream content, and allow you to access your content and share it with selected friends. It doesn’t work with any other type of file, but you can stream music files remotely via the Internet and listen to them. It’s a legal way to share your music, because it limits the transfer to streaming only, and you are only allowed to share with 30 friends of your choice. 

They don’t have a Vista version yet, so I will have to wait before I can try it out on the monster PC at home; but I thought all you XP and Mac users might enjoy this.  It’s an especially nice way to add another dimension to your online life with far-off friends and family, as a compliment to your photo sharing, blogging, and social networking sites.

I loaded it up on my laptop with no trouble, and it seems to work fine on XP SP2. There are some rumors that the beta has conflicts with some VPN software and the occasional storage device. Keep in mind it’s still a beta release, so a little caution is probably in order. I haven’t had any problems so far, but it’s only been a couple of days.

The way SimplifyMedia pays the bills is pretty cool, actually. It’s freeware, to a certain degree. If your friends like your music, SM functions in conjunction with iTunes to sell them a download from the iTunes store. As far as I can tell, the software is free of malicious rootkits and spyware; I haven’t noticed any performance changes at all since loading it, and a few other techie bloggers concur.

Extremely cool innovation

July 18, 2007 at 12:31 pm | Posted in Technical | Leave a comment

I’m not sure if it’s useful in the immediate future, but I love the new spacesuit designs MIT is working on:

Do you suppose making the ‘look’ more glamorous will help kickstart space tourism?

Vista Service Pack Rumors Abound

July 9, 2007 at 9:59 am | Posted in News, Technical | Leave a comment

Although it seems that the strategy on this is to keep it under wraps as much as possible, the blogosphere seems to think Microsoft will have a Vista Service Pack 1 beta this month.

I’m not sure whether I believe that or not. If it’s really true, I think I’ll try it as soon as I can possibly get it downloaded. I’ve only had Vista a short time, but I have high hopes for improvements that would not be much of a stretch for a service pack fix.

Here are my top Vista SP1 suggestions:

1. Manageability for the security package. Users should be able to make this a less nagging experience without completely crippling their system’s security.

2. More customizable menu display options to ease the navigation learning curve. Some of us are still using XP machines or Server 2003, and going daily from those to Vista’s navigation is a twisting turning labyrinth of pain.

3. Streamline startup and shutdown. For some reason Vista takes a very long time to do these things, even with a computer which exceeds the recommended specs. I’ve had good performance once it’s up, but I am irritated with the length of time it takes to boot and shutdown.

4. Work on hardware compatibility. There are still an awful lot of parts that Vista doesn’t recognize.

5. Remember wireless keys. I’m still having to input my wireless security key every single time I boot the machine. The wireless connection comes up “limited” (which as far as I can tell means “completely disfunctional”) and I have to go in to the properties panel and type in the key, then disconnect and reconnect before it will work. XP Pro simply saved the key, so after the first time I typed it in, I didn’t need to repeat the process. Vista is driving me nuts with this one.

6. Check for memory consumption issues? I know Windows is a notorious resource hog, but my Vista, sitting idle and not connected to a network or running any third party applications uses around 500 MB of memory continuously. That seems like a lot, for an idle OS.

All of those things aside, I find that I like a lot of Vista. It’s hard for me to administer, probably because I am an admin dinosaur dating back to the earliest NT days. Once it’s running, though, it is very smooth and appealing.

IT ROI calculations

June 26, 2007 at 1:53 pm | Posted in Technical | Leave a comment

I have been trying to research ways companies track ROI associated with various IT projects, and  I have to admit, I’m becoming frustrated. There doesn’t seem to be a standard  out there for any part of the business  world in which IT is involved. 

I suppose this goes back to the unique nature of IT as a part of business. Remember, a long time ago I wrote about how all the geeky guys with pocket protectors got stuck in the closet when they first entered corporate America and never came out? I get the feeling that problem persists! As I have studied page after page of white papers and reports, it seems that IT staff are rarely called upon to make a solid business argument for their choices. Even when a company is in trouble, IT is the last group they consult to streamline operations.  (Or so it seemed to me as I read one story after another on the subject.) I have also noticed that some companies do have ROI calculators on their web sites; but these tend to be slanted in such a way to convince the user to purchase a certain product no matter what. As a DCC staffer I’m honor-bound not to recommend that type of tool, because we promise our customers that we are brand neutral. Frankly, I am looking for a real ROI tool, not a glorified sales tool, because sometimes “no, don’t buy this product” is the right answer.

In my opinion, today’s marketplace requires IT agility. It requires IT efficiency to compete on costs, and it also requires IT accountability for data integrity, uptime, and efficiency. Why, after all, would we expect any less from our IT team than we do of our accounting team? If the accounting team took 6-8 weeks to launch a new check to pay a bill, surely the company would drop everything and reorganize until that problem was solved, right?

At any rate, all frustrations aside, I’m working on a comprehensive IT project ROI worksheet, which I hope will help. I am writing mostly about virtualization in my worksheet, since that’s one of the more difficult things to assess, but I think it could be useful for lots of different IT projects if you change a word or two. If you’re interested in my ROI worksheet, just hop over to our main web site  ( and sign up for our e-Newsletter. I will have the project completed in time for our July e-News mailing.

Vista Dilemmas & Tips

June 21, 2007 at 10:50 am | Posted in Technical | Leave a comment

While I haven’t made the change at work, I decided to install MS Vista Premium on my brand-new home-built PC this week.

If you have used Vista before, you might be familiar with the most irritating problem I had with it. Every time I try to run anything, Vista pops up a little window asking me if I really want to do that. There’s no option to click “Always Trust this program”, and no way to add exceptions or relax the rules. Absolutely everything I try to do triggers this really annoying response. Granted, it’s one click to get rid of the window each time, but the incessant nagging really gets on my nerves.

I think it’s nice that they stepped up security, but this feature needs to have an exception list like a firewall, so that I can permanently authorize third-party apps to run on my system.

In the meantime, I found a way to turn it off.* Open the control panel, and click in the search box. Type in: “User Account” and hit enter.  Click “Turn User Account Control On or Off”. Remove the checkmark by clicking it, then OK your choice. You’ll need to reboot, and that will be the end of the nagging. Your computer will be slightly less secure, but you will be less likely to throw things at the screen, so I think all in all you’re better off. You’ll still get a little annoying red shield with an “x” on it down by your system clock, but you can get rid of that easily enough if you turn off security notifications.

The rest of my Vista experience has been pretty good, all things considered. As expected, I had to download new drivers for most of my hardware, even though it is all  brand new. The good news is that all of the new drivers, once loaded, seem to work very well.

The big hurdle for this process was my motherboard’s onboard wireless card. It was not recognized by Vista at all, and Vista would not allow me to use the Asus install disk. I ended up using my laptop to download a new version from ASUS, sneakernetted that to my new PC, and loaded it up from there. Voila! The card was recognized.

The next tale of woe involves Windows Defender, which consistently disables some of my ASUS software during the boot sequence. This means every time I turn on the PC, I have a broken wireless connection to fix. This is a rather long and involved process, since for some reason Vista keeps losing my WEP key for an unknown reason. I’m also still learning where things are, and the wireless controls have become much more complicated. I really miss XP’s “Repair this connection” feature, which automated the old DOS “ip config/release and /renew” functions. I haven’t decided yet whether to consider disabling Windows Defender. Again, I wish Microsoft had made the security tools in a sensible way so users could more easily control which programs are allowed to run on their computers.  

My boot time is still a bit longer than I would like, but other than that, I don’t have any complaints yet. I’ll let you  know how things go as I upgrade components along the way. Here’s what I’ve got so far:

Antec 9000 Case

ASUS M2N32-SLI Deluxe Motherboard

AMD Opteron (Second-Generation) 1220 (2.8 Ghz) dual-core processor with 2MB L2 cache

2 GB (2X1GB) Wintec AMPX SDRAM DDR2 800 (PC2 6400)

2X Hitachi Deskstar T7K500 250GB 7200 RPM 8MB Cache SATA 3.0Gb/s Hard Drive

My old ATI Radeon GPU that keeps overheating in this rig.  😦

Vista Premium 64-bit edition

I think my next upgrade will be a new GPU. My new PC has been designed to be very quiet, and I don’t want to add a GPU cooler to make more of a ruckus. I’m considering two quieter PCI-E cards with the SLI bridge.

*Caviat:  You probably shouldn’t disable UAC if you’re concerned about security very much; but this is just my home PC, which doesn’t have any critical data on it. It’s behind a firewall with address translation, and I run pretty agressive antivirus, antimalware, and antispyware regimens.  

Sneak peek at our new White Paper

June 6, 2007 at 7:18 am | Posted in Technical | Leave a comment

As part of the work we do for our customers, DCC has started a series of white papers. Our goal is to answer a lot of the questions lurking behind the scenes of our clients’ IT shops.  As the writing-addicted member of the staff, naturally I’m involved in putting this document together. I love to write papers, because inevitably I find something in my research that is simply not what I’d have expected to find.

For instance, right now I’m writing about data center energy efficiency. In the interest of writing a thorough, well-researched paper,  I’m  fact-checking everything, even things that seem to be common sense. A larger capacity hard drive, for instance, consumes more energy than a smaller one of the same type. That makes sense, right? The manufacturers’ specifications for those drives lists their wattage requirements, and sure enough, the greater capacity drives require more watts to spin and idle.

Ergo, to be more energy efficient, stick with smaller drives… or so I would have thought. Then, consider that I’m writing about a data center, which has a large array of disks. From a space perspective, it’s more efficient to have larger drives, so I decided to examine the cost of using that extra energy compared with the square footage consumed by using more drives with a smaller capacity.

It turns out that if you look at it in terms of watts per gigabyte, larger drives are the way to go. Here’s a sampling of my results:


Energy Required Watts/GB
Samsung SATA 120 GB (7200 RPM) Seek: 9.5 W

Idle: 7.7 W

Standby: 0.9 W

.07 w/GB

.06 w/GB

.007 w/GB

Seagate SATA750 GB (7200 RPM) Seek: 12.6 W

Idle: 9.3W

Standby: 0.8 W

.016 w/GB

.012 w/GB.

.001 w/GB

Hitachi Deskstar SATA 1TB (7200 RPM)
Seek: 13.6 W

Idle: 9 W

Standby: 0.9 W

.013 w/GB

.008 w/GB

.0008 w/GB

 These are, of course, based upon the seek, idle, and standby times provided on the manufacturer spec sheets, and they are averages. Still, it seems pretty clear to me that in an array scenario when you’re trying to squeeze the most possible storage out of your available space and wattage, larger drives are better.

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