Energy Secretary Concerned About Peak Oil

USA Today published another article about Peak Oil. It appears that Energy Secretary Samual Bodman would like the National Petroleum Council to look into Peak Oil claims.


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Notes on Building a HTPC (part 2)

I finally got around to purchasing the parts for the HTPC. In part one I laid out my requirements and several links to sites to aid in HTPC building. I should mention that HTPC News recently reviewed a pre-built HTPC (DMS 701) from 2Partsfusion. I was tempted to just save the hassle and buy one of those. Their website allows a high degree of customization of your system. In the end, I figured, I got the time, and by building it myself, I'll have learned something. Also, I believe I'll save at least $500 by building it myself, as the 2partsfusion systems are not cheap.

Here are the parts I have ordered:

Component Part Description Price
Case Uneed X11 Case with VFD and Card Reader $291.90
Power Supply SilverStone SST-400 400W $48.00
Motherboard DFI LANPARTY UT nF4 Ultra-D ATX AMD Motherboard $125.00
CPU AMD Athlon 64 3200+ Venice (ADA3200BPBOX) $152.00
CPU Cooling SilverStone Nitrogon SST-NT01 v2.0 Fanless Heatpipe CPU Cooler $42.00
Memory (2) 512MB PC3200 2-2-2-6 UNBUFFERED NON-ECC DDR400 2.8V Memory $136.79
Video GeForce 6600 GT PCI Express 128MB DDR3 Video Card $142.00
SD Capture Card Hauppauge WinTV-PVR-500MCE dual analog tuner (bundled w/ Windows XP MCE) $269.95
HD Capture Card FusionHDTV5 Lite $99.00
Main Storage Seagate Barracuda SATA-150 80GB Hard Drive $57.50
Media Storage Seagate Barracuda SATA-150 250GB Hard Drive $109.99
DVD Player/Burner Pioneer IDE DVD Burner Model DVR-110DBK $41.99
Input Gyration Go Mouse/Keyboard Suite $108.94
Subtotal $1,625.06
VA Sales/Use Tax $81.25
Shipping $47.63
TOTAL $1,753.94

I started with choosing the case. I wanted something that would fit in as much as possible with Home Theater gear. I didn't want it to look like a computer in my living room. I had it narrowed down between the Uneed X11 (Uneed has recently changed their name to Origen) and the Ahanix MCE601. In may ways I liked the Ahanix better, but it came with a non-standard power supply, so I went to the X11.

For motherboard I probably went a bit overboard for my needs. I did want PCI Express x16 for my video card, and dual channel memory. I had recently read a review of the DFI LANPARTY UT nF4 Ultra-D, so it seemed as good of a choice as any. I'm very much hoping that the on-board audio is as good as reviewed, since I'm currently not planning on purchasing a separate sound card. It also has built in Gigabit Ethernet, which I may actually make use of.

I may have gone a bit cheap on CPU, but it seemed that to get much better performance from CPU, you had to spend 3-4 times as much. To really get high end performance you are looking at spending over 6 times more. Also, from what I've read, there are a wide range of opinions on how much power you need for a HTPC. I read one source that said simply upscaling a lower resolution recording to 1080P takes about all the computing power of a 2 GHz CPU. Well, if this is indeed the case, then I will anticipate updating the CPU down the road, because I'd like to use FFDShow to further enhance display.

The rest of the choices were fairly straight forward. Low latency RAM to enhance gaming experience. Dual standard definition hardware encoding TV tuners, and a high definition tuner. The video card falls in the same category as the CPU, you have to really start spending more to get better performance.

As for storage, I had planned on getting two 160GB Seagate Barracuda's (one of my few brand loyalties), but I have an 80GB Barracuda which is no longer being used, so I'll cannibalize that one, and buy the 250GB Barracuda. The more I think about this, I like it even better. The 80GB drive will serve as the main storage for the operating system, applications, and perhaps one media type (either music or photographs). Then the 250GB becomes pretty much dedicated to DVR media storage. And why Seagate Barracuda? Well, they are just so damn quiet and reliable.

So what am I missing? I'm sure I'm forgetting something. I am not sure if the X11 case comes with a case fan or not. I'm suspecting I may need to buy a big quiet 120mm case fan, but for testing purposes I'll run with the lid off which should provide enough ventilation. And beyond that, I'll probably find other gotchas when I start assembling. I need a remote control I know. In part 3 I'll discuss my successes and failures in building this system.

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Communications Companies

It never ceases to amaze me how poorly communications companies communicate with themselves and customers. I was tired of paying 10 cents per text message, and I received a promotional flyer with my bill this month that gives me a "MEdia" package for $9.99. I get 200 Text/IM's, 40 Picture/Video, and 1MB "MEdia Net" wireless internet. The promotional flyer further said "Get Unlimited Messaging and MEdia Net usage for the first month when you sign up for MEdia Basic."

Sounds simple enough, right? Well, I called up my kinda friendly customer service rep, who proceeded to tell me that she knew nothing about unlimited usage the first month. She kept asking me where I was reading this. I kept telling her it was a promotional flyer that came with my bill. I even offered helpful hints like, "The flyer is dated October 2005, and it has a code that may help you find the promotion in your computer system." No luck, she basically said, well, if you get billed for it, you can always fax us the flyer and we'll credit your account. Sigh. Yes, I'm talking about Cingular... Yes I still think they are a superior customer experience than Verizon. And yes, they suck too. After all these years, Lily Tomlin still has the phone company pegged.

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Peak Oil in USA Today

Peak Oil found its way into mainstream press. Monday, October 17th's issue of USA Today, had an article titled "Debate brews: Has oil production peaked?" appear on the front page! I felt the article was fairly even handed, as it contained both sides of the argument. What I find most important is the debate is becoming mainstream. I can't count how often I talk to somebody about Peak Oil, and they look at me and say, "Huh?" Hopefully this article will help fuel the debate.

For some reason I can't seem to get any links to work on USA Today's website today, but assuming that gets fixed, you should be able to read the article here.

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Blow the Whistle on Asthma

Did you know that asthma is the leading chronic illness among children and the cause of more than 5,000 deaths in the U.S. each year. I'm sure many people are unaware of the devastating effects of this chronic lung disease. I myself was diagnosed with asthma at the age of 2.

Therefore, I have signed up as a participant in the American Lung Association of DC' 2005 Blow the Whistle on Asthma Walk, scheduled for October 8th at Gallaudet University. I have set a personal fundraising goal of $1000.00 to help the Lung Association in its fight against asthma, and I would appreciate a pledge of support to help me reach this goal.

In addition to participating in the walk, I will match all of my pledges until I've reached my goal. So please contribute regardless of the size of your contribution.

Please visit my personal web page and follow the instructions to pledge your support of this worthy cause. I would appreciate any contribution you decide to make.


My Gracious Supporters

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