Finishing Finals & Playing Video Games

Got finals this week at San Jose City College. The statistics final on Saturday morning will be fun. I got an appointment with the dean to request waivers for the three classes that I need to finish my associate degree in computer programming. Due to low enrollment this semester, all three classes got cancelled and not being offered next semester. If the dean grants my request, I can file the waivers and the graduation paperwork with admissions and records office.

With the few spare moments that I have when I’m not busy reading and commenting on Slashdot, I’ve been playing the “Castlevania Double Pack” for the Gameboy Advance, which includes the two games, “Harmony of Dissonance” and “Aria of Sorrow.” I love playing games these classic side-stroller games of fighting monsters in old castles. I’m planning to get a Nintendo DS Lite to play “Castlevania: Portrait of Ruin” comes out in October.

A Wacom Graphire 4 Drawing Tablet For A Talentless Artist


I recently got a Wacom Graphire 4 drawing tablet for my Mac. Since my artistic talent doesn’t exist beyond straight crayon lines, it may not do me much good. If I had serious artistic talent like Hawk at Applegeeks, I would go for a $2,500 USD Wacom Cintiq 21UX tablet. Even Scott Adams of Dilbert fame uses the Wacom Cintiq to beat a medical condition that makes it difficult for him to draw sometimes.

The Late New Year’s Rant

My roommate and I moved to a new place at the end of January. Shortly thereafter he got engaged. We talked about getting a third roommate for the longest time, but most of the potential roommates couldn’t pass a basic credit check. I didn’t mind him getting married and her moving in. That’s like how “Shaun of The Dead” ended with the newlyweds in the house and the zombie roommate out in the shed. No problem, right?

After he got married six months later, I had to move into my own place.

I always had roommates since moving out from my parents’ place in 1993. Now that I’m living by myself for the first time in a studio apartment near San Jose City College, I’m surprised that I have enough worldly possessions to fill out the place to make it look like a home.

The only new furniture I bought was a 20-inch TV and a DVD player. After I set up my 25-gallon fish tank, I got a firemouth cichlid, a pictus catfish, half-dozen tiger barbs, and some hornwort plants. Three bookcases with all my books create a library in one corner of the room. I’m finally the master of my kitchen with all my appliances neatly organized, including a free microwave I got for signing a one-year lease. As one of my friends told me when I moved in, I would enjoy living by myself and I most certainly do.

A month later I started a help desk job at a Fortune 500 company in Mountain View. The similarities between being a lead video game tester (last job) and a help desk support specialist (current job) aren’t that great. I’m still troubleshooting for problems as they come in, talking to people, attending meetings, and trying to get things done as quickly possible. The only major difference is I’m working 40 hours a week and making the same amount of money when I worked 80 hours a week in the video game industry. I’m less stressed out about work these days as I’m no longer sacrificing my personal life at the altar of the video game gods anymore.

I had high expectations for the new year, and, so far, it’s been a mixed year.

I failed the Windows Server 2003 Environment (70-290) certification exam in January. I’m planning to take the Windows Server 2003 Network (70-291) certification exam in a few months. Microsoft is having a special promotion to retake the exam for free if you fail it the first time. I’ll retake the other one later on to complete the Microsoft Certified Systems Administrator (MCSA) certification.

I had originally planned to take four classes at SJCC in the spring semester, three in computer programming (assembly language, C# and database design) and statistics math. The entire computer department had low enrollments that all of my classes got cancelled. I’m trying to find out from the dean if he will let me graduate since I’m short of three classes. Statistics math is pretty cool and keeping me busy for this semester.

Titania File Server Case Upgrade

The boot drive for Titania, my Linux file server, suffered the “click of death” and stopped working after a system reboot four months ago. The drive that died was a seven-year-old Quantum 6.4GB ATA66 hard drive that ran 24/7 since the day I bought it. The replacement drive was an eight-year-old Quantum 2.1GB ATA66 hard drive that sat in the junk box for the last few years. I’ll have to replace that drive soon before it fails. Unlike the two Seagate 80GB ATA100 hard drives in a RAID-1 configuration that stores my data, the Quantum drives are out of warranty. When upgrading a computer, it’s never thing that gets replace but a whole bunch of things at the same time.

I’ve decided it was time to switch out the old tower case with the Codegen BRIZA-63-CA mid-tower case, replace the 3Dfx Banshee 16MB video card with a Nvidia Geforce MX4000 64MB video card, add another Promise Ultra100TX controller card to run each RAID drive off a separate controller, a Samsung 40GB ATA133 hard drive to replace the boot drive, and upgrade the operating system to OpenSuSE Linux 10.

Took six hours to switch out the hardware, two hours to get Linux installed and configured, and 48 hours for stability testing. The hard part was disassembling all the hardware from the old case (a Pentium 60MHz file server from my father’s last employer that became his first computer in retirement in lieu of a gold watch), and figuring out what goes into the new case or gets tossed into the junk box.

Setting up the new case was pretty straight forward. The power supply and blue LED 80mm fan that came with the case got replaced with a Rosewill 400W power supply and a non-lighted 80mm fan that I have. The ECS K7S5A motherboard, AMD Athlon 1GHz (Thunderbird) CPU, and 256MB PC-2100 DDR memory stick went in next. I then installed the video card, gigabit network card, the USB2 adapter card, and the two controller cards. That left one PCI slot for installing a third controller card. Each of the Seagate drives attached to an individual controller card. The Samsung hard drive and Samsung CD-R drive attached to the motherboard controller. The venerable floppy drive ended up in the junk box.

The newly rebuilt computer runs quieter and cooler now. Although I only needed 4GB on the boot drive for the operating system, I’m using the extra space on the Samsung drive to store a month of backup files for my Windows desktop and laptop computers to free up space on the RAID. (The backup files are also stored on DVDs in a fireproof box.) My next upgrade within six months will be converting the 80GB RAID-1 to a 160GB RAID-5 with an additional Seagate drive and a controller card. I could expand up to a 400GB RAID-5 configuration using six Seagate 80GB drives or replace the existing drives with larger drives (i.e., 6 x 500GB = 2.5TB for RAID-5), if I have the money. It’ll be a long time before this machine has another major overhaul.

MacWorld Expo 2006

My friend and I took Caltrain up to San Francisco to see the exhibit floor for the Macworld Expo at the Moscone Center. This was my first visit to the convention center. When I worked in construction with my father in the late 1980’s, we marveled at the huge hole in the ground that would later become Moscone North underground and the Yerba Buena Gardens on top that opened in 1993. With the expo spread out between the north and south halls, my friend and I did a lot of walking to see everything in eight hours.

Here are my impressions from the expo.

  • I loved Apple’s new banner slogan: “What’s an Intel chip doing in a Mac? A whole lot more than it’s ever done in a PC.”
  • I’m disappointed that Apple didn’t announce a Mac Mini with the new Intel dual-core CPU and/or a Mac laptop with an Intel CPU.
  • Would have loved to see a booth for the professional certifications to get more information and talk to some people.
  • Unreal Tournament 2004, a game that my friend and I both tested on the PC when we worked at Accolade/Infogrames/Atari (same company, different owners, multiple identity crisis), looked better on a Mac than a PC.
  • I was very intrigued by Project X project management software that I might want to get later.
  • Picked up a copy of Disk Warrior even though I don’t have a Mac yet.
  • Picked up a signed copy of “Mac OS X Tiger Edition: The Missing Manual” by David Pogue.

We collapsed exhausted on the train back to San Jose, loaded down with two plastic bags of magazines and freebies.