Fry's War

I love to shop at Fry’s. I used to make sure I had an extra day in the Bay Area when I traveled there to shop at a few stores including Fry’s. Now we have one about a mile or two from my house. What a treat! Sort of.

I decided to buy a new CPU the other day — I had plans for the old one. Fry’s had their usual good deal, so I bought an AMD X2 5600+ and a fan. I popped it into the motherboard which has worked for some time and turned it on. All seemed well. But there was some disk problem booting XP. Must have wiggled a cable loose. After a few fidgets, it booted. Kind of. Several programs were unhappy. VirtualBox refused to run. Temperature monitoring showed the chip was at about 40C which is ok for a chip like this.

Next thing you know, the computer refused to POST. Ok, must be a defective CPU. I pulled the chip — the Arctic Silver was already getting pretty sticky — and took it back to Fry’s. The clerk insisted that the chip was damaged — bent pins and burn marks. I asked them to show them to me, but they couldn’t. But they refused to exchange the CPU. The manager (a very young woman) wasn’t helpful at all and was argumentative. So I left.

As many insurance companies and retailers will tell you, it isn’t nice to mess with me. I went back to the lab and put the chip under the microscope, taking pictures of all the pins and the surface area. Then I went back to the store with a 10X loupe in my pocket. There was a new crew at the service desk. It was only a few hours later, so I decided to just try again. This time, they looked at it, whipped out a motherboard, verified that it wouldn’t post, and gave me a new chip without the slightest trouble.

So beware. Customer service at Fry’s — as so many people have warned me about in the past — is luck of the draw.

Dual Core? Quad Core? Try 80 Core!

Intel researchers recently announced they’ve produced an 80-core chip that uses less energy than a quad-core processor and has teraflop performance capabilities.

According to Manny Vara, a technology strategist with Intel’s R&D labs the chip is just for research purposes and lacks some necessary functionality at this point, but Vara says Intel will be able to produce a chip with 80 cores in five to eight years.

The chip, called the Tera-Scale Teraflop Prototype, is the subject of a research project that Intel will present at the 2007 International Solid State Circuits Conference in early February.

Vara says the 80-core chip uses less than 100 watts of energy, compared to a dual-core chip using 60 to 70 watts or a quad-core using 105 to 130 watts.

Apparently, the approach is to use a larger number of simpler cores of varying types. So one core might be optimized for one kind of processing while another core is optimized for a different type of processing.

Read some early details .

Wireless USB on the Way

I’ve always wanted to build a USB hub that had a wireless connection to the PC. That would let you have, for example, a laptop connected to a printer and hard drive across the room from you. Or — a good example in my case — a USB TV box could sit near the cable TV jack while your computer is across the room.

Looks like my wishes are going to be answered soon: . Well… maybe… apparently my wish should have been answered in July, and then September, and here it is October and I still couldn’t find one to buy! Hmmmm…. But it will be cool if it does arrive.

You Can Take It With You (Your Data, That Is)

I use a lot of different computers, and sadly most of them run Windows. However, I recently purchased a 8GB pocket-sized USB 2.0 hard drive from Memorex. I had been carrying around a 1GB flash device, and had found a few good “portable” applications (applications that will run entirely from a flash drive). But the 8GB lets you carry everything

.

This isn’t a flash drive, by the way. It is a real rotating hard disk (a tiny one though). It was the smallest one I could find. I hook it to my keychain (and yeah, its a little large compared to a regular USB drive, but not so large that you can’t do it). I was worried the “leather” case might not hold up to holding it on a carbiner, but it has done nicely for about 6 months.

Sure these are a bit more expensive than a 1GB flash drive (I paid around $150 for mine, and they are usually less now days), but keep it mind that this holds 8 times the data and does not wear out with repeated writes like a flash memory.

I currently have the following on my drive:

  • A “menu” (pstart)
  • Firefox
  • Thunderbird (reads IMAP mail from my main server)
  • Gaim
  • Open Office
  • The Gimp
  • NVU
  • Foxit PDF
  • VLC (for viewing videos)
  • An HP41C emulator
  • Cygwin
  • Cryptainer (makes encrypted drives)
  • A tiddlywiki for keeping notes
  • My home page
  • Lots of documents, videos, mp3s, bookmark URLs, etc.
  • Puppy Linux

Try getting all that on a flash drive!
Special Features:

  • High capacity Mini HDD portable storage
  • Pivoting USB Connector provides ease in connectivity to any available USB Port
  • High capacity storage in a small form factor of less than 2 inches square (1.75″ x 1.96″ x 0.56″)
  • USB Connection for universal compatibility
  • No external power supply required
  • Brushed aluminum style metallic finish
  • Cross-platform compatible- works with Windows and Mac

You can find here. The best portable apps are Firefox and Thunderbird from and you can also find a large list at or others at my bookmarks: .