Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Quad-Core versus Dual-Core

There's a great debate going on right now in the computer world.  Experts and novices alike are trying to decide what to make of the new quad-core chips that are being produced by Intel and AMD.  Is there really a performance gain?  If so, is the gain enough to warrant the extra cost?  Going against the "more is better" attitude in the computing world, we're finding out that quad-core does not necessarily equal performance increase.

Unlike other measurable quantities inside a computer (i.e. memory, hard drive space, front-side bus speed, etc), more cores don't guarantee a performance upgrade.  This is because increasing core count doesn't mean the applications you run, including the operating system, are prepared to utilize them.  Software needs to be made aware of, and written to take advantage of, the two extra cores.  At the moment, chips with more than two cores are so new that software developers are still catching up with the technology.  In practical terms: there just isn't that much software that can use four cores.

Does that mean that quad-core processors aren't the way to go?  That depends, of course.  If you're going to use your new computer for graphics editing, video editing and processing, or any other task that is processor-intensive and uses multi-threaded software, you might very well benefit from a quad-core processor.  But if you're like most users, and your computer is going to be used for email, surfing the web, word processing and spreadsheets, the quad-core might just be overkill, and an unneeded expense.

Computer technology is heading the direction of quad-core processing, there's no doubt about it.  As soon as the first multi-core processor was released to the public, it was only a matter of time until chip makers started trying to cram as many cores onto a single chip as they can.  Right now, we're still in the early-adoption phase.  Take a hard look at your use for the machine before you buy.  If you can wait until the software catches up with the new technology, you might just save yourself quite a bit of money.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Asking Permission... Part 2

Last week, I wrote about the beginning of my experience trying to get permission from several technology companies to use images from their website on a site that I'm designing.  I want to be able to use their images, because creating my own will be entirely impractical because of the shear number of items that I am going to be housing information on.  My goal is written permission from these technology companies to allow me to use their images.

Let me give you an update on what I'm finding out.  The first thing I did was get on each of the companies' websites to see if they had any links for information concerning the press.  As a web publisher, I would fall roughly into this category.  I found that some sites had email addresses listed for public relations contacts within the company.  If I found anything like that, I wrote that individual an email.  Other sites had more general, fill-in-the-blank forms.  I utilized those on a couple of occasions.  When writing, I made sure to give my full name, plainly stated my request, and gave a brief description of what I want to do with the images.

So far, out of the six or seven requests, I've gotten two responses.  I am finding that I could have probably included a bit more information about my website, which makes sense.  The companies want to make sure they are going to be represented in a positive, or at least NOT negative, light by my website.  They also want to make sure that they are given proper credit as the original creator and owner of the image, which also makes sense.  Finally, including a link to an example "mock-up" page of how I am going to be displaying the images would have been helpful.

So far I'm pretty pleased with the responses I've gotten.  If you think about it, I am essentially providing, through my website, free advertising for these companies, so it makes sense that they would want to work with me.  They are also very busy people, so being concise is extremely important when communicating with them.  I hope my experience can help you with your requests for use.

Geek Toy Friday -

I was online this morning, trying to figure out what I was going to feature on today's Geek Toy Friday, when I ran across one of my old favorite websites. has been one of my favorite sites for checking out the weird world of odd-ball toys for a long time, but it had been a while since I visited.  I'm happy to report, though their staff has grown (including the addition of a new office dog), they maintain the same "I'm a geek and I'm proud" attitude that made them so endearing when I discovered the site roughly three years ago.

For those of you who are unaware of what does, they sell toys, gadgets, clothes, and other items that cater to the now well-established culture of geek.  What once was the object of school-yard bullying is now a point of pride amongst the "smart masses" that shop the pages at  The employees themselves are all self-described geeks, and don't hesitate in sharing the geekiest parts of their personalities on their About Us pages.  The end result is a retail site that reminds us that there's a geek in all of us, and that geeks can have a ton of fun, too.

Monday, February 16, 2009

It's the End of the World

For a number of years now, we've heard rumors about how the world is going to end in the 2012.  December 21, 2012, to be exact.  12/21/2012.  One of the best known, and obviously least understood, reasons behind this prediction is the Mayan Calendar, which, according to popular belief, is slated to end that very day.  New Age followers point to the end of the calendar as an accurate prediction of the end of the world.  Fortunately, if one looks at the entire Mayan system, the mistakes and assumptions of those who believe the Mayans had it all figured out becomes pretty apparent.

According to Wikipedia's page on Mayan timekeeping, what we call the "Maya calendar" is more of a system of several different, interlocking, and complimentary calendars, each having a distinct role to play.  The most important was the 260-day calendar, which is probably also the oldest of the calendars used in the Mayan system.  This calendar is used in conjunction with another 365-day calendar to create a cycle called the "Calendar Round", which lasts around 52 solar years.

Since the "Calendar Round" system only measured around 52 years, the Mayans developed another system, which present-day scholars call the "Long Count" calendar, to describe longer stretches of time.  The Long Count calendar can be used to measure times up to roughly 395 solar years.

Which brings us to the New Age 2012 problem.  The idea that the world is going to end stems from the belief that the Mayan Long Count calendar is going to come to an end on December 21st, 2012.  It also hinges on the idea that the Mayans were counting down to an event, rather than up from an event, as we do with our modern calendar.  Mayanist scholars agree that the New Age interpretation of the Long Count calendar is incorrect, stating "For the ancient Maya, it was a huge celebration to make it to the end of a whole cycle." (Sandra Noble via

If you look at the problem in terms of our own calendar, you'll realize just how unlikely it is that the Mayan people were calculating the end of the world.  Just like the Mayan Calendar, the modern calendar is cyclical.  When we come to the end of it, we start over from the beginning.  We don't expect doomsday every December 31st.  The same thing applies to a century or millenium.  It is a joyful occasion, a milestone, not something to be dreaded (aside, perhaps, from the Y2K bug).  This is not to say that the Mayan people didn't think about their destiny as a race, just as we do.  But just as we, as a people, don't claim to know all the answers, they most likely looked on every day as a new day, and hoped for the best out of every new calendar cycle.

Geek Toy Friday - Facebook

Hey... better late than never, right?

I never thought I'd ever, ever be writing anything positive about social networking.  Anyone who knows me has heard about how much I loath and despise MySpace (sorry Tom), so my speaking out in favor of a social networking platform is, well, pretty much unheard of.  That being said, I've been a member of Facebook for about three months now, and it is, in fact, growing on me.

The first thing I've got to say about Facebook is, in the organization department, that it is everything that MySpace is not.  It is clean, organized, and free of junk.  It is only what you make it and nothing more.  You are not forced to listen to someone else's musical choices, and your computer is not burdened by all the background graphics and moving text that users on MySpace want to subject you to.  In other words, Facebook is exactly what MySpace set out to be: a place for people to interact.

I'm not sure where MySpace went wrong.  Perhaps it was when they got loose with their API, letting anybody who wants to interface and mess around.  Whenever it was, they lost control of their own site, letting it degenerate into a mess of cluttered backgrounds and viruses, where no man, woman, or child is safe.  It is the first website I've ever been on where you can actually get lost, with no hope of finding your way back.

Now, let's talk about Facebook.

They seem to have done everything right, or at least not done too many things wrong.  They keep their site clean, only allowing users to change the content of their area, not the structure or backgrounds, so no matter where you go, everything looks the same, just as it should.  They value security, asking you for image authentication whenever you are going to request someone's friendship, so as to prevent robots from trashing the place.

But what, you might ask, makes them worthy of rising from mere social networking tool to "geek toy"?  Simple: Mobile Facebook.

They have an actual GOOD mobile website, which works with any small-scale browser, such as Internet Explorer on my HP iPAQ h4155 PocketPC.  It's well organized, very functional, and easy to use.  You can try it by going to on your Windows Mobile phone.  It really is pretty cool.

So that's it for this (well, really last) week.  Here's to Mobile Facebook!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Copyright 101

I'm beginning to see that starting a website is going to be a big giant pain in the ass. Unfortunately, I can't post a picture of that ass unless I get written permission.

My site concept is simple. It's about technology. I want to post pictures of said technology. I also don't want to have to buy every piece of said technology, just to take its picture. So what's the answer? Grovel for permission.

In my search for answers on the Internet, I've found that there isn't really any good single source for information on how to ask permission to use images. My guess is that most small-time websites don't bother asking permission, hoping to fly under the radar, and most big-time sites have the budget to either create their own images or have a copyright lawyer do the asking. Us little guys who want to do it legally are left to figure it out on our own.

So that's why I'm going post my experiences right here. Keep in mind that I'm no lawyer. I'm just a geek who wants to start a website and not get sued in the process. If you've found yourself in a similar situation with images from the web, stay tuned, and I'll do my best to lead the way.

Monday, February 9, 2009

The Dumb Stuff of the World

I'm inclined, given the state of affairs of certain aspects of my life, to make a list of dumb stuff going on in the world.

1. Managerial Misdirection. This is the practice of one manager using the employee of another manager to get work he doesn't want the first manager to know about. It is especially fun when you are the employee.

2. Hallway Hovering. I have a door. When it is closed, it means I am either busy or gone. Either way, I don't want to talk to you. Go away.

3. Employment Status Vagueness. This one goes out to all those who have been told they "don't need to worry about their job... yet. "

4. The Forced Upgrade. Why use the perfectly decent free solution when we can charge you to use ours?

There are lots more, but these are the ones plaguing me at the moment. Just needed to vent...