Monday, November 23, 2009

System Design for Martha

I need to buy a new computer for Martha.
  • Must drive a flat panel display
  • Must accept data from a FireWire miniDV camera
  • Must have a DVD burner
  • We have an ancient parallel-port printer.... which would be nice to use.
I could buy a Mac Mini. The Mac Mini has the FireWire interface and DVD burner. However, it will never work with that printer (a replacement will cost $150). The graphics would be much better than any mini-ITX integrated graphics I'd get. We'd get the 2.53 GHz, 4 GB memory, 350 GB version, $830. A VMware executive will cost another $70. The whole thing will come in a nice little case and make very little noise, and I will have even less idea how the software works than I do with the PC.

Or, I could build a PC. I'd get a 3.16 GHz Intel E8500, 8GB memory, 500 GB hard drive. I can get a FireWire card and a DVD burner, and a motherboard that sports a parallel port. Martha will be happy that I didn't make her figure out a Mac (more to the point, how to run PC-only software under VMware on the Mac). Vista will almost certainly never work with the printer, and so I'll still have to get a replacement anyway (a wash at $150). Even crammed into a mini-ITX case (with some risk it will not all fit in the case), it'll cost $875. The Mini idles at 14 watts, and any PC I build will idle at 35 watts. The 20 watt difference, over 5 years of 24/7, costs an extra $350.

Update: Since Martha figures she's going to be stuck with the sysadmin, she opted for the PC, to avoid learning about VMware, Boot Camp, or any other virtualization. If we could order the Mac Mini with Windows preinstalled under a supervisor, such that I could have told Martha that she could simply install any Windows programs or drivers, then she probably would have gone for that. Oh well.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Quick pool status

Patio around the pool is mostly in. Hopefully today they will finish off the corner around the pump vault.

Saturday I had hoped to install the last of the tile mosaics, but instead I found the remaining big Orca cracked in the center, and the north side dolphins had cracked as well. We cut them all off the wall and will reinstall the lot next weekend.

The tilework around the hot tub was fairly tricky. Here's an example of a three-way miter. The tile guys kept looking at me like I was cuckoo. As I explained, you cut it by cutting each of the three two-way miters. It's actually pretty straightforward if you just do it.

The hot tub as a whole. In the background, you can see the breaching Humpback mosaic, along with a portion of the Orca mosaic. The Orcas are the ones that have been giving me so much trouble.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Chuck DeVore nails it

Relative Risk: Global Warming and Imported Fossil Fuels vs Nuclear Power

It's from last year, but Representative DeVore perfectly summarizes the environmental aspirations and political logjam in California, and points out that a voter initiative is possibly the only way to cut through the logjam.