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Slashback: Courseware, Warranties, Subscraption 316

Slashback brings you word on open courseware, The Big Switch as seen by Tim O'Reilly, another update on the man-made "moon," more on the in-progress clampdown on Chinese Internet searchers, and a disheartening note about hard drive warranties. Get 'em before they disappear completely ;) Read on for the details.

But will they distribute diploma blanks as PDF files? perlmunger writes "Linux Journal highlighted this in the 'up front' section of the June 2001 issue (I knew I keep these old issues around for a reason). Apparently, MIT will (finally) be opening their Open Course Ware initiative on September 30th to the public. Looks like a great start from many departments."

Answer: it's a strong possibility. skinfitz writes "Following on from Google returning to China, New Scientist is reporting in this article that Chinese surfers searching Google are finding their Internet connection dropped for five minutes if they enter "politically sensitive" keywords, such as the Chinese president's name! Will this new technology find uses elsewhere? Is this the future of the web?"

My human transporter is still a station wagon. An anonymous reader writes with the text which by now many people have seen regarding the status of the world's most famous unavailable scooter; apparently it's not necessarily as far from available as an automated message from Amazon implied.

"Greetings from

You recently received an e-mail from us regarding the Segway Human Transporter (also known as "Ginger" or "IT"). This e-mail was sent accidentally by an automated system and the information in it is incorrect.

In fact, there is no new information on Segway's availability. Consumer versions of Segway Human Transporters are currently being piloted in various communities throughout the U.S. The Segway HT is expected to be released to the general consumer market in 2003.

We apologize for the confusion. We will keep your e-mail address on our list of customers who wish to be notified about this item.

Sincerely, Customer Service

Strong Opinions softsign writes "Apparently, Tim O'Reilly's recent article addressing the topic of Switchers was so popular and generated so much response that he felt compelled to respond to reader comments in his MacDevCenter column this week. It reads almost like the Apple Switch website, but there are some really insightful emails peppered with Tim's comments. Worth a read."

The moon's been asking for this for years. cscx writes "The mysterious space junk, or apparent "other moon" reported a few weeks ago, now is more likely to be an old Saturn V (from the Apollo program) rocket booster. Bad thing is, there is a 20% chance it could strike the moon sometime next year. More details at MSNBC."

We'll let you you borrow it for a while, sign here. An anonymous reader writes "Microsoft has scrapped plans for subscription-based licensing of consumer products following the end of a 12-month trial in several countries including New Zealand. The Story says people were getting confused as to why they had to pay after the 12 months had gone by."

I find your lack of confidence disturbing. Longinus writes "Ars Technica is reporting that Western Digital is going to follow Maxtor's recent decision to cut their warranty of future drives from three years to one, with an extended warranty being offered at an additional price. The article goes on to mention that Seagate is rumored to also be considering such a cut, but nothing official has been confirmed. One can only wonder if this increase in price is to due to corporate cost saving measures or the fact that hard drives are becoming less stable magnetically as they increase in storage space."

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Slashback: Courseware, Warranties, Subscraption

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  • by Raul654 ( 453029 ) on Tuesday September 17, 2002 @08:06PM (#4277975) Homepage
    I just lost a western dig drive earlier this year. Thank GOD I managed to save most of the data off of it before it went. But still, aren't they legally responsible if they put out a shoddy product? What if you are a cooperation and lose data because of harddrive failure. (Generally, midrange buisness that can't afford regular backups will be hit hardest by this) - do you have a case?
    • Losing data. (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Christopher Thomas ( 11717 ) on Tuesday September 17, 2002 @08:16PM (#4278053)
      (Generally, midrange buisness that can't afford regular backups will be hit hardest by this)

      Backups are a necessity, not an option.

      In the most primitive case, you just mirror to one or more remote sets of drives. Cost is not that monumental.

      If you can afford to staff a company, you can also afford a tape drive, if you want a better long-term solution.

      You _will_ have drive failure or some other data-destroying event happen once every few years. A wise business must plan accordingly (or plan to recover from having all of their data eaten).
    • Software maufacturers aren't responsible for loss of data, Why should hardware manufacturers? At least they give you one year! Honestly though, if the data matters: back it up and store it offsite. :)
    • But still, aren't they legally responsible if they put out a shoddy product?

      Let's compare this to cars. But first, I need to clarify your question.

      Do you mean that if you buy it and it just breaks, are they responisble for the data? I hope you don't mean that. If a company buys a delivery truck and it just breaks down, the seller doesn't owe what the company is losing while it's getting repaired. The warranty(if within the period) will cover the cost of the labor and/or parts, but it will certainly not cover loss of time.

      If you mean that if the HD company produces a bad product, are they liable for it? Let's compare to vehicles again. In the auto business, they're called lemons(among other things). Without getting into the specifics of recalls, etc., the broken vehicle would get repaired like it was under warranty(probably still is), but you still wouldn't expect to receive any compensation for loss of time. The only way to get a possible compensation would be to take legal action, hopefully with other people in the same position.

      So basically, sure if they produce a shoddy product, you can surely take legal action to get compensation for the loss of data. To get anything in return, though, you'd better have other people on your side.

      Oh yea, you might also want to provide a good reason why it's more cost effective to persue legal action rather than to back up properly in the first place.

      • If a company buys a delivery truck and it just breaks down, the seller doesn't owe what the company is losing while it's getting repaired.

        Actually, under certain circumstances, it does. It isn't uncommon for dealers (at least in rural areas) to give someone a "loaner" car while their vehicle was being repaired if the repair was expected to take more than a day.

        Now, part of that is a belief that people are more likely to buy things in the future from a dealer that treats their customers with respect. But not all states allow for limitation of liability in the case of loss of business due to defects in manufacture, particularly if lemon laws come into play. And, of course, you won't know if the car is a lemon until it has been repaired several times, at which point the dealer can't go back in time and give them a loaner for the previous repairs....

        California, for example, explicitly allows for recovery of consequential damages in the case of a lemon. Which might work for a delivery truck, particularly if the dealer doesn't provide a loaner.

        For a hard drive, though, it would be extremely difficult to prove that you couldn't reasonably protect yourself from such a loss, which as best I can tell, is one of the requirements. In short, with a hard drive, you might be able to get consequential damages for the loss of productivity while the drive is being repaired, but it seems unlikely that you'd be able to get money for the loss of data unless you could prove that the company shipped defective drives with malice of forethought, and maybe not even then.

        Caveat Emptor, IANAL.

    • I've noticed a general trend among hard drive manufacturers for producing hard drives that suck ass from a quality control standpoint. The good thing is that the drives are very, very cheap now. Why is that so good? RAID-1 is perfectly affordable now. Since it's already built onto many motherboards (or available as an inexpensive PCI card) pretty much anyone who would be more than mildly inconvenienced by a hard drive crash should run it.

      Yes, in an ideal world the motherfucking hard drive manufactureres would make drives worth more than the boxes they come in. Until then, I'll keep all of my drives mirrored....
  • Western Digital? (Score:4, Informative)

    by Clue4All ( 580842 ) on Tuesday September 17, 2002 @08:06PM (#4277976) Homepage
    I'm impressed that these guys are still in business. With a complete lack of quality control, no one uses their components in serious applications, I had assumed they were living off deals with OEMs. If that's the case, then the OEM will keep up its usual 3 year warranty at a cost to themselves and it won't affect most consumers who are buying their own components (and not foolish enough to use WD). On a related note, I have a closet full of WD drives of various sizes that have been RMAed multiple times and I'm sure as hell not going to use them, feel free to pay shipping for them. =)
    • I'll certainly take some off of your hands. Drop me an email and I'm sure we can set something up.
    • Re:Western Digital? (Score:3, Informative)

      by sheldon ( 2322 )
      It's weird. I've purchased a variety of drives over the years, and I've had a variety of drives in systems I've supported. All totalled I've probably purchased 30 drives for personal use, and for work we're talking thousands.

      Western Digital is the only company I've never seen a failed drive from. The next best is Seagate, where the only failure I saw there was about 7 years ago with a 170Meg and a 500Meg. Now granted, I've seen failed Seagate drives in the servers but out of the many hundreds there, the failure ratio has still been reasonable.

      Maxtor I've had numerous failures from, 340Meg, 3Gig, 13Gig and so forth. I tend to avoid their product any more because the failures weren't a while ago, they just keep happening...

      IBM I only had one failed 2 gig drive, years ago. I have a couple 20 and 30 gig from them now, but I otherwise haven't seen too much of their product.

      Quantum was probably the worst, but that's because we had about 500 desktops with 2.5Gig bigfoot drives in them and I must have replaced half of them. Otherwise I had good luck with their older 500Meg and 1Gig Fireball drives.

      Anyway, not quite sure why people bash on WD drives. Maybe you've just seen a higher volume of their drives than other brands. It would be like working in a Honda dealership and saying Honda's suck because they're always coming back in for repairs. :)
      • I know exactly why I bash WD drives.

        At the last company I worked for we lost a huge number of western digital drives. I'd guess 30ish in one year. For a company with only 100-150 computers, that's an appalling failure rate. Now most of the computers they failed in were purchased at the same time from the same vendor so I suppose it's possible that they were just a bad batch or something but still, that's just insane.

        In one server, we lost 4/4 western digital drives over the course of 3 months. At first we were suspicious that perhaps there was another hardware problem causing the failures but we replaced them with Seagates and when I left 3 years later, none of the Seagates had failed.

        Also, coincidentally, the only drive I've ever had fail on me at home was a Quantum Bigfoot 2 gig drive.
  • by geekoid ( 135745 )
    its space junk!

    "there is a 20% chance it could strike the moon sometime next year. "
    oh no, what could happen if it strikes the moon!
    it might be knocked out of orbit. I'm pretty sure the moon has never been struck before...
    • "oh no, what could happen if it strikes the moon!"

      They'll make a 'special edition' DVD of Waterworld where they'll digitally paint in the new crater on the moon to fix the inconsistency it'd cause.
    • The Apollo missions used to intentionally crash the left-over bits of the spacecraft, like the LEM, into the Moon. The impacts generated seismic waves that provided valuable data on the internal structure of the Moon. The ALSEP instrumentation packages left on the Moon included seismometers, allowing Earth based scientists to monitor the Moon for seismic activity.
  • by tedDancin ( 579948 ) on Tuesday September 17, 2002 @08:12PM (#4278027)
    One can only wonder if this increase in price is to due to corporate cost saving measures or the fact that hard drives are becoming less stable magnetically as they increase in storage space.

    Makes me wonder if the manufacturers are comprimising quality for both the extra space, and the speed at which they're getting churned out. I noticed the same thing with 3.5" floppy drives in their later years, prices went right down, as did the quality. In the end they were treated almost as a "disposable" part. Are hard drives going this way?
    • I agree. I just bought a new hard drive, and the smallest thing I could get was 40 gig. What the FUCK do I need 40 gig for unless I'm an MP3 freak? I wanted to get a small, rock solid drive. I got something bigger than I need, insanely faster than I need, and I just hope to god it lasts a while (No, of course I didn't get a Western Digital!). Fuck size. I want reliability.
    • ummmm... Thats because in the "later years" you couldn't fit anything useful on a floppy and HDD drives were hudreds of times larger and many times faster. I know of no similarly priced alternative to current HDD's that fits these specifications. Do you? Floppys were replaced by better technology. Unfortunately I don't see that happening to Magnetic HDD's any time soon.
  • Subscraption? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Frank of Earth ( 126705 ) <{moc.snikrepf} {ta} {knarf}> on Tuesday September 17, 2002 @08:13PM (#4278041) Homepage Journal
    Reminds me of that plan /. had on making money. Actually, do they still? I haven't noticed although I do click on the links to support them.
  • by Theodore Logan ( 139352 ) on Tuesday September 17, 2002 @08:17PM (#4278067)
    Chinese surfers searching Google are finding their Internet connection dropped for five minutes if they enter "politically sensitive" keywords, such as the Chinese president's name!

    Information wants to be tied up and spanked.
  • by MrResistor ( 120588 ) <> on Tuesday September 17, 2002 @08:21PM (#4278090) Homepage
    Hard drives are now a comodity part with razor thin margins (that's why IBM bailed from the consumer market, remember), and waranties cost money. It should be no surprise that all the remaining manufacturers are cutting their warranty period. I very much doubt that it is a reflection on actual drive performance, but rather simply a cost cutting measure.

    Honestly, when I can buy a 40G Seagate for $64, so what if it only has a one year warranty. You made backups, right? Toss it and get a new one.

    • by garcia ( 6573 ) on Tuesday September 17, 2002 @08:42PM (#4278194)
      yeah but I expect these things to work for more than a year. Hell I expected my 24x CDRW to last more than 4 months.

      I don't care if everyone considers at $100 piece of hardware "throw away". I still have my USR Courier 28.8 (56k) from when it first came out. I still have 3Com Ethernet cards from way back (ISA), and I still have a TON of other random hardware (including other HDs).

      This stuff is always able to be reused (especially for other poor college students that have shit that breaks and need it replaced quickly and for free).

      I am sick and tired of recent hardware breaking and the fucking manus not taking responsibility.

      Make some decent hardware and put a 1 yr on it. Fine. Otherwise make shit hardware and put a long one on it.

      My rant is over.
      • by drdink ( 77 ) <> on Tuesday September 17, 2002 @10:11PM (#4278643) Homepage

        I still have 3Com Ethernet cards from way back (ISA), and I still have a TON of other random hardware (including other HDs).

        One thing you have to consider is that your Ethernet cards have no moving parts. Your soundcards have no moving parts. Your video card has no moving parts. Your RAM has no moving parts. Your hard disks, however, move quite a lot. True it seems older hard drives seem to live longer, but you also have to take other factors into consideration such as capacity, speed, and overall quality.

        Although I know very little about hard drives, it seems logical to assume that there is a direct correlation between storage capacity and drive capacity. For more space, you've got to have more platters and a higher storage density. This means you have more mechanics to deal with these finer details, which is just another place for something to go wrong.

        It is rather easy to see why faster drive speeds would decrease the MTBF (Mean Time Between Failure) of a hard drive. The mechanics are moving faster, and more work has to be done to keep then spinning properly. On top of this, you get the extra friction, wear, and tear that increased speeds cause. You may be able to walk at 1 mile an hour for a few hours, but you can't run at 25mph for nearly as long.

        And finally, you have drive quality. It is my opinion that as time has passed, hard drive demand has increased as well. In fact, I"m sure somebody could prove this given the proper numbers, graphs, calculators, and secretary. I would imagine that drive manufacturers, in order to meet increased demands, have substituted quality for price. And thus, drives have become much cheaper at the expensve of high MTBF.

        So what is my point in this comment? I'm merely pointing out that there are many factors that need to be taken into consideration before saying, "Hey! My other hardware lives much longer than these new crappy hard drives!" I'm sure if you were in the place of the manufacturers, you'd shorten the warranty if you could get away with it. I don't necessary enjoy having shorter warranties, but I see why it is necessary. After having three IBM hard drives die on me within a yaer, it became crystal clear to me that drive manufacturers were losinga pretty penny on RMAs.

        • The MTBF ratings on modern hard drives belie your statements. Seagate's top-end 15k RPM drives carry MTBF ratings of over a million hours (more than 100 years). Even much-maligned consumer drives like WDC's Caviar line are rated at 500,000 hours MTBF.

          Think about it this way. The outer track on a 3.5" platter running at 7200RPM is going at over 60MPH. The read head is precise enough to find a single sector in a track 1/40,000th of an inch wide while it's whizzing by that fast. A car moving at 60MPH would be lucky to hit a dime and has hardly a prayer of lasting 57 years (500,000 hours), let alone running that long.

          I hate car analogies, and I think a 1-year warranty sucks but even so, do we really need to be bitching about hard drives? The price per megabyte has dropped by a factor of 1000 in under 10 years; reliability (based on MTBF ratings) and speed have increased by a factor of 5-10 in the same time frame. Name me one other computer component that can boast the same.
    • "Honestly, when I can buy a 40G Seagate for $64, so what if it only has a one year warranty. You made backups, right? Toss it and get a new one."

      Tell that to the people in China who are drowning under our computer garbage [].

      Sadly, North American culture (and I can say this because I am from that continent) is beyond exceedingly wasteful (not just in relation to computers) in ways that most people don't even notice. It's hard to see the real picture when you're a part of it. I am guilty of it too, but I'm a little more sensitive to it than most folks because my parents are immigrants who grew up in a very different culture where you didn't throw out the mango peels because you can boil them to make a tasty drink.

      HDD's using current technology that are $64 are simply not a sustainable way of operating in general and it is worth it now to pay more for better hard drives that will last a long time. Fortunately, there will always be a high-reliability segment of the market for servers. I have never thrown out a HDD. I even had a clock that was formerly a 40 MB drive on my shelf. I sell the ancient 100 MB scsi drives from 10+ years which all still work to collectors. Too bad most current drives will crap out by then.

    • by StArSkY ( 128453 ) on Tuesday September 17, 2002 @09:29PM (#4278436) Homepage
      In Australia, Under the trade practices act, a product has to be fit for purpose. If all our tax laws for depreciation etc are based around a 3 year time frame for computer parts, then the Australian Consumer watchdog may well argue that the product must be designed to meet that purpose.... this argument has already started, with the ACCC looking into mandating certain products having certain length warranties....

      Will be interesting to see how it pans out.
  • by loomis ( 141922 ) on Tuesday September 17, 2002 @08:23PM (#4278099)
    I believe that all electronic devices sold in the USA automatically carry a one-year manufacturer's warranty, no exceptions. (Is this law BTW?)

    Given this one-year manufacturer's warranty, I am actually surprised that some hard drive manufacturers were still offering longer warranties. I am surprised they didn't convert warranties to one-year ones a long time ago, or simply have one-year ones from the start.


    • I believe that all electronic devices sold in the USA automatically carry a one-year manufacturer's warranty, no exceptions. (Is this law BTW?)

      Wrong, and no.

      They can disclaim most things, but merchantability for a certain purpose is one thing they usually cannot disclaim, no matter if they put it in capital legalese or not.

      As always IRECTAL, uh I mean IANAL.
  • If I ever.. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonvmous Coward ( 589068 ) on Tuesday September 17, 2002 @08:35PM (#4278161)
    ... need to make use of a hd-warranty, then I won't buy that brand of drive anymore. I've been fortunate in that I've never needed to discover what the warranty terms are.

    I haveta admit, though, it does make pre-built systems a little more enticing. You can get 4-year warranties on the entire machine, not just the hard-drive. I suppose that's a plus, particularly if you need to have your computer up all the time.

    • One of the new machines I got came with those famous IBM drives. It's died twice in warranty. Second time I didn't use the warranty, but bought another more reliable brand. I simply did not trust that model anymore. Not having the hastle of rebuilding the software install was worth ditching the drive instead of using the warranty.
  • by teamhasnoi ( 554944 ) <teamhasnoi AT yahoo DOT com> on Tuesday September 17, 2002 @08:36PM (#4278167) Journal
    I have ALL WD drives from the early 90s to today, (2 - 40 gig 7200rpm) and they all work perfectly. They have been removed, reinstalled in different cases countless times, knocked over ect. and never a problem. I even have a 720 Meg from years ago that was making icky noises, that I got from a *thrown* (across a room) together pile! of misc. computer parts. I reformatted it a couple of times; it works perfectly. I have NEVER lost data from HD problems. From any of my drives.

    Now take IBM. Please. My new mac's (1st Quicksilver) HD crapped out after 2 Months!!!

    I'll stick with WD, thanks.

    • I worked for a good-sized computer repair center back in 1998, during which time I saw an amazing number of defects in Western Digital drives--specifically, their WDC33200 and WDC36400 models. The two-platter drives were reliable enough, but the three-platter drives were lucky to last a year before they started either subtly glitching or dying altogether.

      I think sometimes it's just luck of the draw. I've owned a Quantum Bigfoot 2.4GB hard drive since 1997, and it still works like a champ five years later. Same with the IBM 12GB drive I run now, though it's not quite as old yet.

      • I've had IBM and Toshiba-branded 12 and 14mm laptop drives in constant operation since 1995 or so. The first of them finally died this month, after 7 years on the job up 24/7.

        On the other hand, I have Maxtor and WD drives giving me trouble after only 2 years..

        They don't build them like they used to, that's my conclusion.
  • Tim manages at the same time to only reproduce emails that do not go for the jugular against his Apple eulogy, and to ignore the strikingly good contestation [] published at freshmeat.

    It is like his other blunders, creating proprietary documentation for free software and starting the whole open source useful innocents propaganda that confused so much the free software message: he puts his foot in his mouth, and then ignores criticism, or put only rehashing of old arguments as a counterpoint, perhaps hoping critics will go away...

    It is all right for the likes of you and me to ignore some criticism, but for him, a publisher to do that so openly and so often, and having the advantage of being, well, a publisher... he should know, and behave, better.

    • You seem to expect O'Reilly to act as a shill for open source. Why does O'Reilly's position as a book publisher mandate that he is not allowed an opinion? Or that he is obligated to behave in a fashion approved by open source dogmatics? He is under no obligation to even try and give any consideration to anyone's opinions about ODX, good, bad, or indifferent. He's simply making the point that a number of Linux users have dropped that OS and moved to OS X. No one except fantatics cares if OS X is r-e-a-l-l-y Unix or not or if buying a Mac threatens the open source movement. There are people who think having religious opinions about operating systems makes about as much sense as having religious opinions about automobile transmissions.

      Besides, if you'd read the piece, you'd see that it contains criticism of Apple as well as praise.
  • by ealar dlanvuli ( 523604 ) <> on Tuesday September 17, 2002 @08:44PM (#4278208) Homepage

    These are cool toys, but the 40-60 pound weight means that they're not something you want to carry around.

    However, as a longtime cyclist commuter, the 10-15 mile range is easily done on a bicycle. Better for you and the environment than a scooter. Yes, hills suck, but not as much as fighting with cars in traffic.

    There are some collapsable bicycles, but I've never found these to be worthy of riding more than 1-2 miles at a stretch.

    If your local transit company is forward thinking and has bike racks on the bus, then you're set. (Santa Barbara, I recall, had one bus per hour that dragged a trailer meant for bicycles, and I'd usually see it with 10 bikes on board.)

    Buy yourself something theft-proof, like a Schwinn, which is still great quality. My Schwinn mountain bike is my city commuter, outfitted with street slicks, fenders, a rack, and hasn't been touched or mauled once in 12 years. I've ridden it through snow, rain, below-zero weather, and it saved me a bundle and kept my weight down.

    Everyone comments that riding a bike in cold weather is cold, but it isn't as cold as you think I frequently had to ride slowly so as to not break a sweat. Your legs are very big muscles, and they generate a lot of heat once you get going. I'd be cold at the start of my 3 mile commute, then I'd be warm after 4 blocks, and perspiring for the last mile.

    Snow was no problem with street slicks, but ice is. Fresh, untracked snow is easy to ride in, but once the cars start packing it, your tire wants to follow the random crossing tire tracks, and it gets squirrely.

    If you're going to commute, get a good, reflective vest, a strong headlight, two tail lights (and clip a third one on you), and get another headlight for your helmet. Shining that head-mounted light into left-turning drivers, who are looking for a break in traffic and not anything else, are stopped cold by a bright light hitting them in the face.

    Finally, always carry a cell phone. It depends upon the area, but some areas have motorists that enjoy scaring cyclists. I've had cars cross four lanes of traffic, coming toward me, just to try to scare me. Or they'll speed up past me, dynamite the brakes, and cut me off in a right-hand turn. Ride defensively, live to be old.

    Above all, skip recumbant bicycles. Neato, but when you're sitting down that low, you can't see as well, and that little orange flag on a stick isn't going to protect you from motorists. Quite frankly, it is better to be thrown over the hood of the car that cuts you off, than to be whacked in the chest by the grill because you were riding a recumbant.
    • However, as a longtime cyclist commuter, the 10-15 mile range is easily done on a bicycle. Better for you and the environment than a scooter. Yes, hills suck, but not as much as fighting with cars in traffic.

      I'm all for riding bicycles, but fear keeps me from doing it. On a bicycle you don't fight with traffic, traffic simply wins. Do you know how much damage I will do on my bike to an SUV driven by someone who is talking on their cell phone and not paying attention to the road? Not a whole lot. Sure they'll have to pay me money out the ass, but I'd be far too dead to enjoy any of it.

      Not that I'd ride a scooter either.

    • Well it just so happens that I chucked my $200 Eddie Bauer EBT mountain bike in someone's front yard tonight after walking it four fifths of the twelve miles I had ridden from home. Second flat in a week. The gears absolutely suck shit. Never could get into the third main gear without constant tweaking. This bike sucked, and I don't care that I left maybe $100 resale value next to some sod's mailbox. I'm no longer encumbered with that piece of shit.

      So I'm in the market for a new bike. Preferrably a durable streetwise ten-speed. I nosed around a local bike shop while getting a wheel checked out last week. Some of those bikes were $1500-$2500! They don't burn any fossil fuels!

      Seriously, I understand now that cheap bikes are cheap, but I can't justify buying a bike for more than $500. I want to 10-15 miles each night after I get home from work, and I don't want to repair flat tires or gear systems every night to do it. Any tips on buying bikes?

      • Any tips on buying bikes?

        Try your local police department. My agency sells off our bikes at auction every time someone gets a wild hair up his ass to get new ones.

        Also, the same auctions often include recovered lost/stolen bikes where an owner couldn't be contacted or located, or wasn't interested in claiming it. We do one every year. My current bike, a Trek 930, came from an auction like that in pretty good shape, $75 plus new tires and tubes. It retailed once upon a time at $400 or so, and didn't look too used.

        Suggestion: if it's a former patrol bike, and it was made by Smith and Wesson, don't touch it. They make good handcuffs and I like the IdentaKit, but the rest of their product line is (MHO) Slick and Worthless. A few of their branded bikes are actually repainted Giant Iguanas, but most suck.

      • by demo9orgon ( 156675 ) on Wednesday September 18, 2002 @05:29AM (#4280074) Homepage
        From the quality and quantity of the comments in this thread, I can tell most people who have read it and replied are not cyclists. Probably drive SUV's too. :-D

        I'm going to roll a reply to a previous comment about someone being afraid to ride. What anyone who commutes by bicycle has to do is simply understand natural law...not the crap that "the man" has beat us over the head with, or the things we've learned from Warner Bros. cartoons. Natural law implies that when a 1/4 hp., sub 300lb. vehicle is occupying the desired space of a semi-hairless primate(bored, anxious, distracted) behind the wheel of a 2+ton moving block of metal and plastic that the union of these two systems will result in some really nifty physics...often to the physical detriment of the previous occupant, and the slightly higher premiums of the second. Simply put, always consider yourself invisble to the vehicles unless you make eye-contact and recieve non-verbal acknowledgement from the motorist. Having done that, the cyclist has only to understand natural law and human stupidity to enjoy their commute.

        And with that out of the way, onto the good stuff.

        I have been commuting by bicycle since 1988, and I only have a car because my kids are still too young and stupid and my wife has a bad knee, otherwise the whole whining lot of them would be on bikes (everyone in the family has a bike).

        Bravo to you sir for giving your previous nag a new home. My recommendation is a multi-vectored approach to getting a good bicycle. You have to consider the bike shops in your area, and look for a franchise, like Cycle Spectrum (but not necessarily them, because other bike-shop franchises exist, I just don't remember them now). There's a good chance that both regular shops and esp. franchises have what they consider a less stylish, less trendy bikes taking up space they would rather fill with faux shocks and bad alloys and other candy to attract the unwary. These bikes are usually going for about $300, which in sales terms is an impulse purchase for someone who wants something useful.If you can find a simple hybrid--a style that no longer sells like hotcakes--make sure it's nothing hard to maintain like shocks. Look for grip-shift,with quick-release hubs front and rear, and get yourself a blackburn mtn rack. Most of the time a shop-keeper will feel your love for the bike and in a synergistic desire to sweeten the deal will almost impulsively add it as a perk. That rack will hold two good u-locks (that's one of the best kept secrets in the business--enjoy), which are invaluable if you have to tether the beastie outside the workplace. However, if you really love your horse, you'll whine-bitch-plead and maybe even argue intelligently to bring it into the building with you. If you love it, bring it inside.

        If your commute takes you through suburban areas filled with bored kids or goatheads, you need to invest in a bit of SLIME. It's green, it costs a bit, but unlike the wannabe competitors products(cough-mucous-cough), slime will not let you down unless the laws of physics require it to. You also need high thread-count nylon tires. Slicks or invert treads have less rubber and are reinforced with a lot of nylon threads. When shopping for tires, take one down and open it up and see how dense the threads are. You should also invest in 4.5mil thick thorn-proof tubes. Schwinn, and Bontrager and some other companies import and repackage/resell these. Combined with the slime and good tires there's a chance you will only have to walk a little before reinflating the tire. I've often pulled some really evil stuff (nails, glass, industrial staples, plant thorns) out, spun the wheel for a minute and still had enough pressure to make it home.

        Another point to consider when buying a good bike is not so much the up-front cost of the bike (top-ramen is your friend), but the kind of service and warranty a shop will provide you. For a franchise, sometimes this is free tune-ups and labor for the life of the beastie. Granted, the shop you bought the bike from will change hands like a 30yr mortgage, you'll still have your bike taken care of. Usually what happens with the cheap kit is that within a week after you've purchased it, everyting flexes and stretches a's supposed to. However, Walmart, or whatever-mart isn't responsible for those changes. A bike shop is.

        Another thing to consider is the way you approach the gearing. The more you move through your gears, the faster you wear your drive train. There's a simple way to look at wear-and-tear here: If you like to pedal like mad (and think you're a porsche) and go through your gears, making more than three or four gear changes until you're cruising, then don't expect to stay in tune. You're much better off being in the biggest chainring (front gear) during the warm months, and at least starting off in the middle chainring when it's colder, and then figuring out the best place to start with the cog. YMMV depending on the commute. I have my bike tuned only once every few years...I've had it five years and I put over 4500+ miles are year on it just commuting year round. I start out in 17th gear and go up to 19th, only to the highest gears two gears when I'm spinning fast to get in to work because I'm late (or because I'm chasing a pack of spandex goddesses for a quick double-wammy: endorphins and a pheromone fix-heheheh)

        I wish you happy hunting--don't buy at the first shop you go into! (been there, done that)p

  • Now that the pilot is over Microsoft is offering anyone who took part a free copy of the full licence version of the software.

    Hunter says Microsoft doesn't have records of all those who took part, and they should call 0800 676 334.

    Sure I don't actually live in New Zealand but I'm sure they won't know the difference will they ;-)
  • by isomeme ( 177414 ) <> on Tuesday September 17, 2002 @08:48PM (#4278229) Homepage Journal
    Bad thing is, there is a 20% chance it could strike the moon sometime next year.

    Why is this a bad thing? It's not like there's any lunar ecology to disturb, or lunar inhabitants to threaten. And if it hits Luna, that's one less piece of dangerous unguided space debris for future space travellers to keep track of.

    • Why is this a bad thing? It's not like there's any lunar ecology to disturb, or lunar inhabitants to threaten.

      What if it lands on my property []? Who can I sue?
    • by dfenstrate ( 202098 ) <> on Tuesday September 17, 2002 @10:00PM (#4278591)
      Nasa officials reportedly hope that it will impact the moon.
      Why? so they can use the seismec event of the impact to chart the interior of the moon. During the Apollo missions, NASA left three or so sensor suites on the moon- AES I think they were called- to monitor "moonquakes" and other things of scientific interest. They were turned off in the late 70's, but there's some hope that they can be reactivated for this event.
      If they are unable to reactivate the AES's, they can still do some measurements from here.

      Sorry, I'd offer a link if I could, but I stumbled across the article somewhere on the internet.
      • They were turned off in the late 70's, but there's some hope that they can be reactivated for this event.

        Reactivated how? They gonna send up someone (or a robot) to toggle the on-off switch? The receivers are turned off, too.
    •'s about 54 feet long, and hollow. The moon is about 2100 miles in diameter and pretty solid. I think it can take the jolt.
    • "These nuclear-powered ALSEPs also included a passive seismometer. The Passive Seismic experiment used four extremely sensitive seismometers to measure lunar surface vibrations, free oscillations and tidal variations in surface tilt."

      Passive as opposed to what? An active seismometer with giant hammers: "Wakey wakey Moon! Hello, this is your alarm-call!"

      • Passive as opposed to what? An active seismometer with giant hammers

        Yeah, that's pretty much it - one of the ones used on Apollo missions was called a Thumper. Then there were the mortars which lobbed explosive charges, after the astronauts had taken off. See this [] or this [].

        They used active seismometers to do things like measure the depth of the regolith, i.e. the layer of mostly loose rock fragments and sand/dust that make up the outer mantle of the moon (and the Earth for that matter). The moon's regolith was found to be about 35 feet deep in the places they measured, compared to 300 feet in some parts of the Earth.

  • by isomeme ( 177414 ) <> on Tuesday September 17, 2002 @08:51PM (#4278246) Homepage Journal
    Is that like, say, a subscription to People?
  • While O'Reilly does make the point that a significant number of Unix hard-cores are switching to OS X (especially to laptops), his sample of 15 highly atypical Mac users is meaningless as far as the larger market is concerned.

    And just as well. If Apple is primarily drawing new users from the under 1% desktop market share of Linux, they're doing something very seriously wrong.

  • Problem with HD's (Score:4, Insightful)

    by darkwiz ( 114416 ) on Tuesday September 17, 2002 @08:54PM (#4278268)
    There are a number of reasons to be worried about HD reliability:

    1. As the fly height gets lower (generally a requisite of higher data density), the chances of a head crash increase (or if there is any dust or other particulate matter, the chances of the head turning into a record needle).

    2. Higher data density = less area consumed for a bit = easier for data to be lost.

    3. Higher track density = more probability that the head can go off track and write too close to (or over) adjacent tracks (yes, this can happen, and I guarantee it does on at least a yearly basis to someone you know).

    Combine this with thin margins (and corresponding decreases in funding to QA and good suppliers/mfg), and you have a recipe for disaster.

    For the last time: Back up your friggin' data.
  • Quoth the msnbc story on the thing hitting the moon:
    These nuclear-powered [Apollo Lunar Surface Experiment Packages] included a passive seismometer.

    Which caused me to do a bit of a double take, but no, they didn't launch entire nuke plants into space.

    Quoth this other article: []
    A 70-watt power module converted heat from a radioisotope fuel capsule into electricity by means of thermocouples.

    That is..... so cool! I WANT ONE!
  • Warranties (Score:3, Insightful)

    by NetJunkie ( 56134 ) <jason DOT nash AT gmail DOT com> on Tuesday September 17, 2002 @09:06PM (#4278327)
    I find it odd people are surprised at these warranty changes. How many components in a PC have moving parts? How many other components in a PC have a warranty over 1 year? Not many.

    I was always amazed that the HD companies did 3 and 5 year warranties on consumer drives. Overpriced SCSI drives are one thing, but these consumer drives are getting so CHEAP these days that it isn't cost effective to offer these warranties.
    • Ah, but it IS cost effective!

      How many people are going to actually take a drive in on warranty after four years? Virtually none. If they honour it, then after a three week wait you get back a brand spanking new (actually refurbished) 2GB drive. WOO!

      The company wins for having a comprehensive warranty, but the nature of computing means that they almost never have to honour it.
      • Re:Warranties (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Stephen Samuel ( 106962 ) <samuel@bc g r e> on Wednesday September 18, 2002 @03:44AM (#4279788) Homepage Journal
        The effect is not limited to computing. My friend had a 4G Fujitsu SCSI drive with a 5 year warrenty. It died after 3, and he never bothered to return it for a replacement. Similarly, the 'lifetime warranty' hammer that I managed to bend just got thrown out rather than returned for replacement.

        Many rebate programs are predicated on the knowledge that 90% of all customers will never send in their rebate coupons.

  • I gotta admit, hearing all the exhuberant stories of people who switched to OS X and found that computers were fun again and that everything really Just Works, really got to me. I can't remember the last time I plugged something in and it just worked. Now I want one, but I can't figure out what it could do that I can't already do with my trusty old desktop that would be worth $2k investment in hardware and software.
    • I will admit that I am a long-time Mac user and am probably biased about their products. That being said, I have long looked at laptops as being generally not worth getting given the price/performance ratio compared to that of a desktop machine.

      However, I was lucky enough to be able to borrow a Ti Powerbook from work for the past few weeks and I absolutely love the machine! The screen is large and beautiful, the machine is fast and responsive, the form factor is slim and easy to carry around. Everything is very well integrated, from the built-in Airport, to the slot-lading DVD player, to the plethora of ports in the back. It even plays 3D games decently, although I know there are plenty of desktop systems that can display 3D stuff better.

      So now I'm looking at my desktop PowerMac G4 and I'm wishing that the machine was obsolete so that I could justify ditching it and getting a TiBook for myself. I definitely would recommend that people get the Ti PowerBook instead of a desktop machine if you don't need the expansion slots of a desktop box.
    • I was planning on buying a TiBook for a while, but after a lot of reflection and consideration of job security, (I work in telcom) I decided that the iBook was a better choice. The cost saving over the TiBook is substantial and the performance is more than adequate as long as you don't plan on playing a lot of graphic-intensive FPSs or doing a lot of video encoding on a daily basis. Just make sure you buy one of the latest iBook models with the Radeon chipset; the earlier ones don't take advantage of 'Quatz extreme', which gives a substantial boost to percieved speed in everyday use.
    • You know what it does? It looks cool. Even though I'm sure most here would deny it, since it goes against all of a geeks instincts, but for many people, style is a significant factor in their choice of computer.

      You can argue the merits of one versus the other 'til the cows come home, but when people care about how fashionable their computer makes them look, they choose macs. It gives them an automatic in with the trendy designers and artists that they so badly want to emulate, and it makes them feel different and special for rebelling against Microsoft, without needing any of the geek skills to run linux.

  • As I understand it, one of the ways to get a higher rating with Google is to have lots of links to your site. If the Chinese population get busy producing their own websites, the amount of cross-linkage they could do would ensure their entries coming at the top of every search. Eventually, the Chinese government wouldn't have to worry about their people finding western sites, because they'll be so far down the list that the users will get bored of going through them.
    • It's not foreign sites they're worried about, it's non-conforming sites. They want absolute power to decree what can and can't be on the Internet, no matter who is putting it there, Chinese, American, whoever. Here's hoping they don't succeed.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    I just recently bought maxtor. Four of them in fact, the 160GB ones. Had I completely lost my mind? No, I was assembling a RAID. I think that's where these drives belong - where failure does not cause catastrophy. By the time these fail, (and I'm very sure they will) they will quite possibly be out of warranty, but at that point I won't really care. I'll just buy another one and slap it in and toss the old one in the can. Anything worth keeping that can't be RAIDed is stored on a Seagate or one of the pre-maxtor-buyout Quantums.
  • Density is king.

    Never mind that modern hard disks are unreliable pieces of crap, or that IBM moved to a glass substrate that they never got to work quite right, so they sold off their entire hard disk division to Hitachi to scrape the mess off their shoe...

    You can store more on them! Yea! Whoopie!

    And then you can't back them up. But don't worry, you can back them up by buying another hard drive, which you can't bck up!

    And figure out some way to store it off site, the way you used to store tapes off site. Except you pretty much have to buy some seriously expensive glue hardware, because IDE cables can't be more than a foot or so long before they start trashing your data, even without the help of a substandard hard drive.

    In related news, I hear that for what it costs for a house on 1/8th of an acre in the rich part of towm, you can buy 100,000 acres of land bordering Love Canal or Three Mile Island. Yeah, the land is crap, but look how much you get!

    -- Terry
  • That MS article [] is worth it for the picture alone!
  • by Erpo ( 237853 )
    From the article:
    "People think of software as a CD in their computer which they can use forever and a day. They're not used to having to reactivate the product after 12 months."

    "I think we've learned that the market isn't ready for this type of service. There's value in it but we need to do some thinking around how we market and position it."

    We tried and failed. Once we manipulate people into believing information can be rented, we'll try again.

    Slashdotters, this is not a victory.
    • I don't know if this is a victory or not for Slashdotters, but the more stringent Microsoft licensing becomes the more people will be driven to open source products. Now the subscription license was a pretty good deal. In Australia the Office XP Pro Subscription was ~$350, now a upgrade to Office XP Pro from Office 2000 pro is $645, and the full version is $1120. So that means that you could pay the subscription for what is effectively a third of the cost of the full product or just under half the upgrade. Considering that M$ is now upgrading office every 18 months that is a pretty good deal, especially if you don't have office already.
  • by moertle ( 140345 ) on Tuesday September 17, 2002 @10:14PM (#4278653) Homepage
    Oh my god, think of the horror if a Saturn V crashed into the moon...

    ... life on the moon would be terribly disrupted, oh wait, no...
    ... it would mar the surface, doh, stike 2...
    ... it would alter the moon's course, woops, forgot to carry the 2 in the gravitational law...

    Why would that be a big deal again?

  • Actually, it turns out that Western Digital is keeping a 3 year warranty for its "special edition" drives (the ones with the nice and fast 8 megs of cache). From this [] press release:
    Concurrent with the expansion of its Special Edition product offerings, the Company has adopted a new warranty policy effective October 1, 2002. WD Caviar Special Edition hard drives are covered under warranty for a three-year period. Consistent with the current PC industry standard, all other Western Digital products will be covered under a standard warranty for a period of one year. Extended warranties will be available for an additional fee via the Company's Web site at anty.
    Quick little plug for these drives: I happen to have recently gotten one of these 80 gig special edition drives and am very pleased with its speed (though it's hard to say if I'm imagining the speed increase or if it's actually noticable). I haven't done any serious testing on my own, but a quick hdparm -Tt shows it to be significantly faster than my old Maxtor 7200 rpm 20 gig drive (unfortunately I'm not using that computer at the moment and I don't know the numbers offhand). Prior to buying it I also read some reviews (I think it was on, though that doesn't seem to be working for me right now) which found it performed at a level rivaling some high-end, 10k rpm SCSI drives.
    • Oooh, almost forgot to mention a little warranty story I had with Maxtor - after plugging WD above I might as well throw in a plug for my good experience with Maxtor. It's kind of a long story, but here goes...

      That 20 gig drive I mentioned above is actually my 2nd replacement drive. My original 20 gig drive broke after about a year or so, but not through any kind of defect - it was physically damaged when I shipped my computer cross-country. I called up Maxtor without really expecting anything to come of the call, but the CSR practically begged me to give him the serial number so that he could check if it was eligible to be returned. Sure enough, he said I could return it, gave me an RMA number, and sent me a new drive. When I got the new drive, I was fiddling around, trying to see if there was some way I could salvage the data off the old drive before I sent it back (the damage to it was only in the power connector, so I thought I might be able to get it working if I kinda wedged the power connector in there). Somehow I managed to boot off the drive with the wedged-in power connector, but then something happened and both drives wound up dead. Maxtor took the 2nd drive back too.

      There's more, but I don't want to get myself in trouble...Let's just say everything worked out OK for me in the end. Actually, come to think of it, maybe I'm the reason for Maxtor's decision to limit their warranties. >;-> [devilish grin]

  • OpenVaporWare? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by bcrowell ( 177657 ) on Tuesday September 17, 2002 @11:25PM (#4278931) Homepage
    I guess I don't really see what the news is here. MIT has been saying for a long time that they'd do this in the future. Now we have a news flash saying that they're going to do this in the future. What's the news? The fact that the future keeps getting closer?

    And assuming it does happen, what's the big deal? It's a system under which MIT profs can voluntarily put their course materials online. Gazillions of schools have servers and let their profs put their course materials online voluntarily. And the word "open" would seem to imply information that's free as in speech, but what they're doing is only free as in beer. There's nothing wrong with making information free as in beer, but there's nothing special about it either --- the whole World-Wide Web is free as in beer.

  • by NerveGas ( 168686 ) on Wednesday September 18, 2002 @01:58AM (#4279467)

    It's the old adage:

    "good, fast, cheap - pick any two."

    Any engineer will tell you that he can give you any tolerances you want, it's a matter of how much you want to spend. In this case, the issues are:

    1. Bearings. You're going to spin that platter at 15,000 RPM 24 hrs. per day for years on end? At nearly 10 BILLION rotations per year, if you want reliability, those bearings had better be preeeeety good. And that means - more money.

    2. Platter surface. Same as above. You want to spin that thing around thirty or fourty billion times with the heads nothing more than maybe a thousandth of an inch away? Better be awfully tough stuff, and it better be permanently bonded to the platter. Oh, wait - you're going to bump and kick your computer while it's on, aren't you? How good for the platter surface (or the heads) will those collisions be? Better coating, better heads: More money.

    3. Electronics. Drives get HOT. You want your electronics to last a long time? They better be made for high-temp operation. That means.... yep, more money.

    In the end, each company has had to ask itself this:

    "Will we spend more money on quality drives, and hope that customer recognition pays off, or will we skimp a little here and there, and sell them by the boat-load?"

    You can guess which one they've chosen. Why did they choose it? You guessed it... more money.

I THINK MAN INVENTED THE CAR by instinct. -- Jack Handley, The New Mexican, 1988.