New Toys

While I was back stateside this time I decommissioned a couple of old servers that were no longer needed. One of them was an old PC and it’s still just barely usable, so I threw the motherboard, video, and network cards in my suitcase and brought it over. I’ve been wanting to play with Asterisk, so I figured I could use it for that. Except I wasn’t about to haul the whole damn case over here. Which means I needed to buy a new one.

When doing computer upgrades, it’s often most effective to upgrade your best computer and then use the hand me downs for the other system you wanted to build. I’d had my eyes on Lian Li (聯力) cases for a while, but I’d been too cheap to pay the extra markup for one. But I’d had to do a lot of work to get proper cooling in my old case, so I figured it was worth it to actual get something decently designed. Looking around, I figured that their PC-61 model was optimal for me:

It’s an all-aluminum case with black exterior, a slideout motherboard tray, 4×5.25″ drives, 3×3.5″ drives accessible and 5×3.5″ drives internal. Has 2 front panel fans that blow over the internal 5 disk hard drive tray, one rear exhaust fan, and one top exhaust fan. It has a lot of nice touches that make it easy to use, like thumbscrews for most things, a slideout hard disk tray, and a pigtail for the front panel switches/leds to make it easy to wire up the pigtail with the motherboard tray out of the case, and then just snap it on to the main cable once you put it together. It also looks really cool.

(I had drooled over the PC-V1000B a bit too, but that’s expensive even by their standards.)

Lian Li cases don’t come with power supplies like many other cases do. Probably a good thing too, because most power supplies included in cases are really really cheap crud. It’s been a while since I looked at power supplies, but looking at locally available brands, the ones from Seasonic seem to get good reviews. I landed on the S12-430 as my choice:

It took a few hours to move everything over, but it’s mostly done now. I need to get another drive cover since it only comes with one, and I have two optical drives, but otherwise it’s pretty much set. Another minor problem is that the front panel audio cable is about 1.5 inches too short to reach the header on my motherboard. I blame my motherboard more than the case though. Who the hell thought it would be a good idea to put the *front* audio connector way at the top back of the motherboard? Duh! It’s a standard IDC10 connector, so I should be able to cobble something up. The other problem is that the front panel Firewire cable is an IDC connector instead of the Firewire 6-pin connector, and my Firewire board only has the latter. Not sure what I’ll do about that yet. But overall, very pleased with the new case. Seems like I’m only getting black computers these days though.

Patriot or Traitor?

“China’s development must be on the path of democracy and rule of law. If not, China will be a corrupt society.” — Zhao Ziyang (趙紫陽)

Sixteen years ago, as groups of students led pro-democracy demonstrations in Tiananmen Square, Chinese Communist Party official Zhao Ziyang attempted to negotiate a peaceful solution with the protest leaders. According to recent reports, Zhao realized that moves towards capitalism in the PRC would necessarily require political reforms as well, and that a gradual adoption of democratic systems would avoid the potential problems of sudden political collapse.

Unfortunately, hardliners, reputedly led by Deng Xiaoping (鄧小平), decided instead to end the protests through a brutal and deadly crackdown. They then proceeded to purge Mr. Zhao from the CCP, and placed him under house arrest, where he remained in seclusion until his death earlier this year.

One can only wonder how much progress could have been made in China if Mr. Zhao had succeeded in his plan. While capitalism has made great strides in China, the PRC government has changed little since then.

(The above quote was attributed to Mr. Zhao by his friend Zong Fengming (宗鳳鳴) according to press reports. According to these reports, Mr. Zong has written a manuscript on Mr. Zhao’s philosophy, but is being prevented from publishing it.)

Ritek Redux

I went back and retested most of my last two 50 pack spindles of Ritek 8X DVD+R media using KProbe2. Found a total or 34 unusable or way-out-of-spec disks so far. That’s a ridiculous amount, considering that prior to this I’d have maybe 1 or 2 disks per 100 as bad burns at most with Ritek media. Meanwhile, no problems at all with the various new media I bought for testing (Maxell, Benq, Philips, and Sony). Goodbye, Ritek. Let me know when you’re out of rehab.

Magazine Issues

While I was gone, I received a package of the March through June issues of Science Fiction & Fantasy magazine to make up for their error in sending my subscription to the wrong country. Now let’s see if the July issue makes it here without problems.

A post from sylphon about exasperating customer service also reminded my of another magazine issue. I subscribe to InStyle magazine for my wife and for some reason didn’t receive a few issues. After figuring out which issues were missing, I went to their website which had a missing issue form. I filled it out and then got an error that it couldn’t be processed.

They said such requests could also be sent by email to customer service, so that was my next try. The site said that by default the subscription would be extended, though you could ask instead to have the issues replaced. So I write to them with my subscription details and the list of issues missed. Then hilarity ensues…

They reply back asking if I would like the issues replaced or the subscription extended. I thought extension was the default, but oh well.

I write back saying to please extend the subscription. I also include the previous email with my subscription details and list of missed issues.

They write back asking for my subscription address.

I write back with the subscription address. I also include the previous emails with the list of missed issues.

They write back asking for the list of missed issues.

Sensing a pattern of not reading the whole fricking email, I send back a message which includes all of the information they’ve requested in as simple a way as possible.

They write back that my subscription has been extended.

End of story? Oh no, that would be much too simple.

A little while later I get another email that my subscription has been extended.

It seems to me that crappy customer support like this ends up costing companies more than it saves. What should have taken one or two requests escalated into several, and then they ended up compensating me twice by mistake. That’s even before counting customer dissatisfaction.