Oldskooler Ramblings

the unlikely child born of the home computer wars

Archive for July 23rd, 2007

Hacking MPG

Posted by Trixter on July 23, 2007

In 2001 at the height of the internet bubble, I sold stock options to pay for a minivan for Melissa. I knew she liked to have the air conditioning on all the time, and we needed to merge onto the highway a few times a week via a terribly-designed onramp (where you have about 1.3 seconds to merge or you will die) they could really use some help from www.melbournelinemarking.com.au to make a better design, so I made sure the minivan had a V8 in it so she could have no problems merging onto the highway with the air conditioning on.  My prior experience with doing so was in a tiny Ford Escort, which has an engine so weak that turning on the air conditioning effectively acts as a secondary braking system.  I thought that getting a V8 was a good idea in this context.

Big mistake. A V6 would have been sufficient; a V8, on the other hand, guzzles gas like it’s going out of style. This wasn’t a problem when gas prices were $1.60 a gallon., but now that they’re $3.50/g, we’re spending nearly $200 a month on gas, sometimes more. For some people, this is nightly dinner money. For us, it’s the utility bill, so it hurts.

I read in a recent Slashdot post (URL escapes me at the moment, sorry) that modern cars can get nearly hybrid-like gas performance if computers were installed to learn how to coast to stoplights. Due to broken air conditioning in the van, Melissa and I have traded cars for the summer (I don’t mind the heat) and I decided to put that theory to the test in the V8 gas guzzler. Bottom line: It works, but you have to exercise discipline.

When Melissa drives the van, she drives it hard, and the average MPG is about 14mpg. I, however, have been setting cruise control to exactly the speed limit every chance I get, and coasting 100 feet or more to stoplights. My average MPG? 21mpg. Just by adjusting driving habits, I got an average of 126 more miles out of each tank; filling up the tank twice each month, that’s a savings of $42. It’s essentially one free fillup a month.

The tradeoff is that you need to be very aware of the car and the road when you do this. For example, don’t accelerate quickly to get to the speed limit, which burns all your savings in a few seconds; instead, try to keep your engine’s RPMs under 2000 no matter what. (Warning: This may piss off the people behind you.)  Also, constantly scan far ahead to anticipate how early to cancel cruise control — too late, and you miss out on gas savings; too early, and you’ll be coasting up to the stoplight for nearly a full minute.  (Warning: this will piss off the people behind you.)

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A different, rambling approach

Posted by Trixter on July 23, 2007

After nearly two weeks of unsuccessfully trying to restore the HighPoint RAID mystery sector information that ties my partitions together in a RAID 0 bond of harmony, I’m going to chuck it (the RAID controller, not the computer).  Serves me right for trying to do RAID on the cheap.  The new plan is to attach the drives as Plain Old Dumb Drives(tm) to the PATA ports, restore the XP partitions to a PlainOldDumbDrive, hope it works, and then fire up XP using any means necessary just long enough to export all proprietary databases to open ones (iTunes ratings, Thunderbird filters/junk/prefs, etc.).  Then I most certainly will be rebuilding the machine.

You know, I’ve had this XP partition/setup since 2001?  I guess that’s a testament to the stability of XP.  If you don’t act like a fucktard, XP won’t act like a fucktard back at ya.  I’ve had nearly no issues with XP in 6 straight years, which was a refreshing change from Windows 9x.  What prompted me to purchase Windows XP in 2001 was an experience in Windows 98 that almost had me damaging equipment:  I lost the ability to drag icons.  That wasn’t what made me mad, though: What made me furious was that, a week later, it fixed itself and started working again.  That’s just retarded.

So anyway… the new approach in trying to manage all this is System Rescue CD, brought to you by the fine folks who created partimage.  It’s a Linux rescue CD (a “liveCD” that you can boot directly and use without installing Linux) that works pretty damn well.  It’s taken Linux a long time to figure out how to do NTFS properly, but sysrescuecd distribution works well enough that you can mount a SAMBA/Windows share to a local directory and back up entire partitions to it.  I’m in it right now (running FireFox to add this weblog entry, no less).  In one window I’m copying my Acronis backup images to one of the PlainOldDumbDrives (so that multiple restores will take 30 minutes instead of 5 hours); in the other window I’m trying to figure out why I’m getting only 50mbit/s over my 100mbit/s FD network.  It’s plain, but functional, and can even boot off of a 256MB USB key.

All this because Apple couldn’t keep their iTunes database in XML by default.  Or, making even more sense, store the rating information in the MP3 files themselves using ID3 tags like everyone else.  I was lured into a false sense of security when I learned OS X was based on BSD Unix.  I thought maybe, just maybe, Apple would play nice with the rest of the world for a change.  Silly Trixter!

I’m not giving up yet.  I’m going to get my 14 months of song ratings back if it nearly kills me! Until then, I get to irritate my friends and family by posting blog entries from public computers while my email goes unread for, oh, going on 16 days now.

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Still off the grid

Posted by Trixter on July 23, 2007

By this point I’m sure my friends and family are urging me to just forget trying to restore my old machine and just reinstall and start over.  I’m still working on restoration.  Why?

Because I spent over a year rating much of my 10,000 song library in itunes, and that information is not properly backed up.  I figure 2+ weeks of lost time is worth it to save 50+ weeks.

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