Old News

Archived news items from September 1998
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Saturday, 26 Sep 1998 [20:37 CDT]

Am now grading six weeks projects. Overall, they're pretty good, if very similar. I have roughly ten hours of grading left to do before Tuesday afternoon. Should be fun.

Finally watched Mr. Holland's Opus yesterday, a movie I've owned for over a year but never had a chance to sit down and watch. It was very good, especially for a teacher like me. I cried at the end. Damn. That's why I do what I do.

Tuesday, 22 Sep 1998 [21:57 CDT]

Computer is definitely stable. The new CPU is going like gangbusters. This makes me happy. Even though I don't know what was wrong with the original system, at least it's working now.

My computer science students are working on their six weeks projects. This means I don't have to prepare any lessons, but I do have to just hang around and "be available" all day long in all my classes, and the stress level in the classroom is generally high.

They're doing pretty well, though. Their assignment is hard (for them, anyway).

Been writing on a gradebook program. It doesn't appear that I'll have it finished to the point where I can actually use it to do my own grades before they are due, but there's no telling. Hopefully I can have a GUI beta version out the door in the next couple of months.

The big problem at the moment is that I'm using a lot of dynamically-allocated variables, and the memory is overlapping somewhere. Maybe I'm not recycling memory appropriately in my destructors. I don't know. Just know that some of my structures are toast by the time I get around to saving the state.

Ordered a copy of About Face: The Essentials of User Interface Design, by Alan Cooper. I hear it's very good, and that all software developers should be required to read it. Since I'm going to be putting a GUI on this gradebook (currently only uses a menu-based console interface), I'd like to see what he has to say.

Wednesday, 16 Sep 1998 [22:58 CDT]

See You At the Pole went very well. We had probably from 100 to 150 students there. We sang and some kids played guitar: had a good little worship time. We prayed a little but got rained out; we finished in the gym. Of course, that was a little better, anyway, because the acoustics in the gym were more conducive to being able to hear people pray from a distance.

I prayed out loud (as I did last year). It's important for the kids to know that some teachers are "on their side."

Got my replacement CPU back from "the shop" today. Popped it in, and it's been running stably for about four hours. So, it looks good.

Thing is, I put in an identical chip two weeks ago that was known good (works fine in other motherboards) and my machine still had the same problems. So now I don't know what to think. Here's the timeline; if any of this makes sense to you, please let me know.

  1. Buy and assemble system. Runs great at 3x100 (300MHz).
  2. A month and a half later, system spontaneously starts crashing, crashing, crashing. Won't stay booted for more than a few minutes without doing a hard reset in any OS (even Linux). No system changes were made prior to this.
  3. Clocking the chip down to 200 "fixes" the problem - for about three hours.
  4. Within 24 hours, the system won't even run at 2x66 (133MHz)
  5. Swap in a Cyrix 6x86-PR166+, changing only the voltage. Everything runs beautifully (though a bit more slowly). For weeks.
  6. Send "bad" CPU off for RMA replacement.
  7. Try out "known good" CPU, identical to mine. Crashes just as badly.
  8. Put back in stable Cyrix chip (and if that's not an oxymoron, I don't know what is).
  9. Get replacement AMD K6-2/300 from vendor. Pop it in, runs beautifully. Stable for four-and-a-half hours and counting.

Anyway, at least my system seems to be running fine with the new CPU for now. I'm just hoping this one won't die in eight hours or one week or a month and a half like the other one.

And so though I'm happy to be getting close to 50fps in Quake II again, I'm not happy that I don't really know why the system crashed to begin with, or why it works now. And I'm supposed to know these things. Plus, if I don't know why, I can't prevent it from happening again.

Tuesday, 15 Sep 1998 [21:50 CDT]

Car is fixed. Nothing was bad wrong with it. Just needed a lot of little things: basically a full tune-up, an oil change, fuel filter, distributor cap, spark-plug wires, etc. It's running well again. Not bad for a car over thirteen years old.

Tomorrow is See You At the Pole. Students all over the world will be meeting around the flagpoles at their respective institutions to pray for the nation and world. Participation is expected to number in the millions (over three million in 1997). I believe most countries abroad schedule their meeting to coincide with 7am Central Daylight Time; it's probably just 7am everywhere in the States. See www.syatp.com for more information.

Sunday, 13 Sep 1998 [23:32 CDT]

It's palindrome time! It's yours and mine!

Spent all day at school today re-ghosting my computers. They're now updated with the latest bells, whistles, and bug-fixes. Most importantly, however, I've loaded them such that I can do system-wide updates and administration-type work without having to visit each machine individually. Thus I can do some future upgrades much more easily.

Latest verdict on my computer indicates that the CPU (which is currently in Houston being "diagnosed" is probably not the problem. Possible culprits at this point are my RAM and the motherboard. Personally I think it's the motherboard, but the tech guys think it's the RAM. As soon as I can get around to boxing them up, I'm going to send both in for further testing. I'm sort of mentally gearing up to buy a new motherboard in a couple of weeks if the techs confirm my suspicions. Blah.

And in the Murphy's Law department, my car is also acting weird. We've had a lot of rain the past few days, and that seems to have really thrown my engine. The car runs as if it only has three functioning cylinders (out of four). But today it didn't rain, and the car seems to have "dried out" and is running normally. Hrm. I'm going to take it in to the shop Tuesday morning to have it looked at. Of course, then I won't be able to make it misbehave...

Saw Good Will Hunting this weekend. Good flick. In fact, good enough that I may purchase a copy of it on video. It's always nice to get to be able to see a movie that you know absolutely nothing about. Movies are more enjoyable when you have no expectations.

Tuesday, 8 Sep 1998 [18:43 CDT]

Some old friends from high school spent the weekend here for Labor Day. Got to catch up and just hang out again. That was very nice. Also took the opportunity to spend some time with friends from college (almost the same crowd). Friends are cool, even if they occasionally ruin perfectly good spaghetti sauce by adding hot sauce. (You know who you are.)

Which reminds me, I have found the hottest commercially-sold salsa that I've ever seen. It's called Dave's Insanity Salsa and is made in San Francisco out of red Savina chiles, Habanero chiles, and Thai chiles.

My friends and I pride ourselves on our ability to eat hot foods. We gleefully down the hottest salsas sold without so much as a hiccup. But this stuff halts us in our tracks. It is unfathomably hot.

I have a friend who is an anthropologist and spent some time on location in Belize. He often ate a "salsa" made by some of the natives basically consisting of pure habaneros just thrown in a blender and spooned into a jar. He stopped after one chipful of Dave's, basically proclaiming that "it just wasn't worth it".

I don't believe I've ever seen anyone eat more than about five chips worth. I'd say it has a good flavor, but all you can taste is pain. Dave also has a hot sauce (in a tabasco-style bottle) called Dave's Insanity Sauce. It is equally hot, or perhaps even a little hotter. Anyone who is a fan of very hot stuff should give this a try.

I fear it. It is taunting me from the refrigerator right now.

Wednesday, 2 Sep 1998 [00:04 CDT]

Worked up my Geek Code. Check it out at the bottom of the code page. If you don't know what the geek code is, check out the Geek Code web page.

Yes, I know that's sad. Call me bored.

Previous news

August 1998