Computer Upgrade

Four years ago, I built my desktop computer. Now it was getting a bit long in the tooth, so I decided to upgrade some of its parts.

  1. Motherboard: From Abit IP35E to Gigabyte GA-Z68XP-UD3
  2. Processor: From Intel Core 2 Duo E6420 to Intel Core i7-2600
  3. Memory: From 2x1GB PC2-6400 DDR2 to 2x4GB PC3-14900 DDR3
  4. DVD Drive: From PATA to a SATA DVD Writer

The computer’s now fast and powerful. My Harappa Ancestry Project analyses run much faster than before.

Ubuntu had no trouble running after the change. However, Windows XP refused to boot and I have to do a reinstall.

Google Urdu Tools

Google Translate can now translate from and to 57 languages, including Urdu.

Don’t know how to write in Urdu script? The translate page allows you to write in Roman Urdu, i.e. Urdu using the English alphabet. The same transliteration (from Roman Urdu to Urdu script) is available independently here. Of course, this transliteration is available for a bunch of languages including Russian, Hebrew, Arabic and lots of Indian languages.

Got some Urdu text in the regular Urdu script and can’t read it? You can always convert it to the English alphabet using Google’s script converter.

Google Voice

I had been lusting after a Google Voice account for a while and finally got it a few months ago. To my disappointment, there was no way to port my existing phone number to the service, so I had to get a new number.

At first, I was slow to give out my Google Voice number to people, but over time it’s becoming my default phone number.

Of the features of Google Voice, voice transcription is still a bit problematic as the speech recognition doesn’t work as well as it should. I love it that it can ring all my phones and that I can switch from my cellphone to landline during a call to save cell minutes. Also, I can have different call forwarding rules and voicemail greetings for different people (using groups) in my list of contacts. One pitfall there is that a phone number should only be in one group otherwise you can’t be sure which rules will be applied to it.

There used to be a couple of Google Voice apps for the iPhone and I had bought GV Mobile but when Apple rejected Google’s official Voice app, they also removed all the other previously approved apps from the App Store. (Yes, Apple is more evil than Microsoft!) So now I have to rely on the Google Voice mobile website on my iPhone.

I have also moved my cellphone voicemail to Google Voice. Yes, I like the visual voicemail on the iPhone, but Google Voice gives me a centralized voicemail (with SMS and email notification and voice transcription) and there is more potential there.

On my AT&T landline phone, I have also subscribed to Call Forwarding Busy Line and Call Forwarding Don’t Answer with Ring Control with my Google Voice number as the forwarding number. Thus, if my landline is busy or I don’t pick it up, the call is automatically forwarded either to my other phones or to my Google Voice voicemail.

Since I receive a lot of telemarketing and other junk calls on my home phone, I have set up Google Voice call screening so callers who are not in my contact list are asked to say their name the first time they call me. This has cut down on a lot of junk business calls I was receiving because my home phone number used to belong to a business a few years ago.

I also signed up with Gizmo5 (which has now been acquired by Google) and linked my Google Voice and Gizmo. So now I can receive my Google Voice calls on my computer with GizmoCall open in a Firefox PermaTab.

Finally, dear readers, through the magic of Google Voice call widgets, you can contact me by phone now on my contact page.

Now Watching Plugin

If you are wondering where I have been in the last three weeks, I have been busy. I had to transfer all the non-bloggy content of my website to WordPress.

Since I do book and movie reviews, I started using the Now Reading Reloaded plugin for book reviews and links to Amazon. However, I couldn’t find any similar plugin for movie reviews.

After getting permission from the developer, I forked Now Reading Reloaded to make it work with movies and DVDs.

This plugin which I am calling Now Watching is now available on the WordPress plugin repository.

If you find any bugs or issues or have feature requests, please let me know.

Movable Type 3.34 to WordPress 2.8.4

As you can see, I have moved my blog over to WordPress. Actually, the whole domain,, is powered by WordPress.

If you see any problems, please comment on this post or contact me.

I was using Movable Type 3.34 which came out in January 2007 and was now badly outdated. The reason why I hadn’t upgraded is because I was using a lot of hacks and had made my own modifications to the core code.

A few months ago, I ran into major problems with spam comments. That got me thinking about an upgrade. I was, however, able to solve the spam issue with MT-Akismet.

I downloaded Movable Type 4.2, the latest version, and played around with it. I liked it, but I realized that none of the plugins I was using had an upgrade for MT4. Also, I could find very few amateur bloggers on Movable Type. Professional websites and blogs were mostly using Movable Type, but the rest of the bloggers had switched to WordPress long ago.

I had already been using WordPress for a private blog and so I decided to take a look at the latest version of WordPress and how I could migrate my blog to it.

There were a few things I had to give up: No more MathML or serving all pages as application/xhtml+xml; no OpenPGP signed comments.

I also had to modify the Movable Type export script and WordPress’s import script so I could keep the same post IDs and slugs (basenames) as well as import tags and convert the content based on the text filter used in Movable Type.

Here are changes required in Movable Type 3.34’s lib/MT/ file:

---        2009-09-23 11:25:12.975789000 -0700
+++     2009-09-23 11:25:12.764003000 -0700
@@ -529,27 +529,27 @@
 AUTHOR: <$MTEntryAuthor strip_linefeeds="1"$>
 TITLE: <$MTEntryTitle strip_linefeeds="1"$>
+BASENAME: <$MTEntryBasename$>
 STATUS: <$MTEntryStatus strip_linefeeds="1"$>
 ALLOW COMMENTS: <$MTEntryFlag flag="allow_comments"$>
 CONVERT BREAKS: <$MTEntryFlag flag="convert_breaks"$>
 ALLOW PINGS: <$MTEntryFlag flag="allow_pings"$>
+POSTID: <$MTEntryID$>
-<$MTEntryBody convert_breaks="0"$>
-<$MTEntryMore convert_breaks="0"$>
 <$MTEntryExcerpt no_generate="1" convert_breaks="0"$>
+<MTEntryTags include_private="1" glue=","><$MTTagName$></MTEntryTags>
@@ -558,7 +558,7 @@
 IP: <$MTCommentIP strip_linefeeds="1"$>
 URL: <$MTCommentURL strip_linefeeds="1"$>
 DATE: <$MTCommentDate format="%m/%d/%Y %I:%M:%S %p"$>
-<$MTCommentBody convert_breaks="0"$>

And here are the changes required in WordPress 2.8.4’s wp-admin/import/mt.php:

--- mt.php.orig 2009-05-05 12:43:53.000000000 -0700
+++ mt.php      2009-09-23 11:49:00.182602000 -0700
@@ -375,6 +375,15 @@
                                        $post->post_title = $title;
                                else if ( 'ping' == $context )
                                        $ping->title = $title;
+                       } else if ( 0 === strpos($line, "BASENAME:") ) {
+                               $postname = trim( substr($line, strlen("BASENAME:")) );
+                               if ( '' == $context )
+                                       $post->post_name = $postname;
+                               else if ( 'ping' == $context )
+                                       $ping->post_name = $postname;
+                       } else if ( 0 === strpos($line, "POSTID:") ) {
+                               $postid = trim( substr($line, strlen("POSTID:")) );
+                               $post->import_id = $postid;
                        } else if ( 0 === strpos($line, "STATUS:") ) {
                                $status = trim( strtolower( substr($line, strlen("STATUS:")) ) );
                                if ( empty($status) )

I also added the following to the .htaccess file to handle the redirects needed from my old URLs to the new ones:

RewriteEngine On
RewriteBase /
# Old Monthly archives
RewriteRule ^weblog/archives/([0-9]{4})/([0-9]{2}) weblog/$1/$2/ [R,L]
# Old single entry links
RewriteRule ^weblog/archives/000([0-9]{3}).html$ ?p=$1 [R,L]
# Another old single entry links
RewriteRule ^weblog/archives/entry/000([0-9]{3}).html$ ?p=$1 [R,L]
# Old category archives
# Change underscores to hyphens
RewriteRule ^weblog/archives/([^_]*)_([^_]*)_([^_]*)_(.*)$ weblog/category/$1-$2-$3-$4/ [R=301,L]
RewriteRule ^weblog/archives/([^_]*)_([^_]*)_(.*)$ weblog/category/$1-$2-$3/ [R=301,L]
RewriteRule ^weblog/archives/([^_]*)_(.*)$ weblog/category/$1-$2/ [R=301,L]
RewriteRule ^weblog/archives/([^0-9]*)$ weblog/category/$1/ [R,L]
# To handle the old MovableType feeds.
RewriteRule ^weblog/atom\.xml$ feed/atom/ [R,L]
RewriteRule ^weblog/index\.xml$ feed/ [R,L]
RewriteRule ^weblog/index\.rdf$ feed/ [R,L]
# To handle old Movable Type permalinks.
RewriteRule ^weblog/([0-9]{4}/[0-9]{2}/.*)\.html$ $1/ [R,L]

I liked the iNove theme and installed it with some modifications done via child theme.

I have also installed the following plugins:

  1. About Me widget
  2. Akismet
  3. AmazonFeed
  4. AVH Amazon
  5. Collapsing Archives
  6. Contact Form 7
  7. Easy AdSense
  8. Efficient Related Posts
  9. Google Analyticator
  10. Google XML Sitemaps
  11. Lifestream
  12. NextGEN Gallery
  13. Now Reading Reloaded
  14. Page Links To
  15. Recommended Reading: Google Reader Shared
  16. Rich Text Biography
  17. JanRain RPX – Authentication from Facebook, Twitter, Google, Yahoo, Windows Live ID and OpenID
  18. Search & Replace
  19. Search Meter
  20. Sociable
  21. Thread Twitter
  22. WP-Syntax
  23. XML Google Maps

I am also working on a fork of Now Reading Reloaded. It will be for movies and will be called Now Watching. Once I have tested it, I’ll release it here and on the WordPress site.

While the blog itself has been completely moved over to WordPress, I am still working on migrating the other static pages. Also, my list of books read and movies watched is still not back yet.

iTunes U and Podcasts

Since I got my iPhone, I have started listening to podcasts and courses put online by universities.

Specs listed the podcasts she listens to and Razib also mentioned a podcast recently, so I thought I should list the stuff I have been listening to on my iPhone and may be Razib and others can chime in with some suggestions.

Here’s my current list of podcasts:

In addition, here are some courses and lectures on iTunes U and as podcasts that I have been listening to or that are in my listening queue:

What do you recommend?

ہفتہ بلاگستان: اردو بلاگنگ

ہفتہ بلاگستان کے سلسلے میں آج ہم اردو بلاگنگ کے حوالے سے گفتگو کریں گے اور یہ دیکھیں کہ اردو بلاگنگ آج بھی اتنی غیرمقبول کیوں ہے۔

ہفتہ بلاگستان کے سلسلے کی یہ تیسری قسط ہے۔ جیسا کہ خیال تھا شگفتہ یہ آئیڈیا پیش کرنے کے بعد سے گم ہیں اور ان کے اس سال بلاگنگ کے منظر پر واپس آنے کا کوئ چانس نہیں۔ شاید ایک دو صدیوں میں وہ اس ہفتہ بلاگستان کو بھی منا لیں۔

آج میں نقل مارنے کے ارادے سے آیا ہوں اور اردوویب بلاگ پر اپنی ایک تحریر کا زیادہ حصہ (مختلف اضافوں کے ساتھ) یہاں بھی نقل کر رہا ہوں۔

پہلی اہم بات یہ ہے کہ جب آپ کوئی پوسٹ لکھیں تو اخبار یا بلاگ کو حوالہ دیں اور اس خبر یا پوسٹ کو لنک کریں۔ یہ خیال رہے کہ لنک اخبار یا بلاگ کے ہوم پیج کا نہ ہو بلکہ سیدھا اس صفحے کی طرف جاتا ہو جو آپ کے زیرِ بحث ہے۔ اسی طرح اگر آپ کسی ویب سائٹ یا کسی بلاگر کا ذکر کرتے ہیں تو ان کا لنک بھی اپنی پوسٹ میں شامل کریں۔ یاد رہے کہ آپ کی سائڈبار میں موجود لنک بہت کم لوگ فالو کرتے ہیں مگر پوسٹ میں لنک زیادہ‌تر قارئین فالو کرتے ہیں۔

اسی طرح جب آپ کسی بلاگ پوسٹ کا جواب لکھیں تو لنک کے ساتھ ساتھ اس کا ایسا اقتباس بھی اپنی پوسٹ میں شامل کریں تاکہ گفتگو سمجھنے میں آسانی رہے۔ یہی نکتہ اخبارات کی خبروں کے لئے بھی ہے۔ پوری خبر یا پوسٹ کبھی شامل نہ کریں بلکہ صرف اقتباس دیں۔ اس اقتباس کو اپنے بلاگ پر اپنی تحریر سے نمایاں کریں۔ اس کا آسان طریقہ یہ ہے کہ آپ اس اقتباس کے گرد <blockquote> ٹیگ ڈالیں۔ اگر آپ ایسا نہیں کرتے تو یہ سمجھنا مشکل ہو جاتا ہے کہ آپ کی تحریر کونسی ہے اور کسی اور کی کونسی۔

ایک اور چیز ہر پوسٹ کے ساتھ اس سے متعلقہ پوسٹس کے روابط ہیں۔ اس کے لئے ٹیگز اہم کردار ادا کر سکتے ہیں۔

اپنے بلاگ پر آپ کسی قسم کا ہٹ کاونٹر ضرور لگائیں۔ اس کے لئے میں سائٹ‌میٹر تجویز کرتا ہوں۔ اس کی پرائیویسی سیٹنگ ایسی رکھیں کہ تمام قارئین اس کا سمری پیج دیکھ سکیں۔ اس طرح عوام یہ جان سکیں گے کہ آپ کا بلاگ روزانہ کتنے لوگ پڑھتے ہیں مگر تفصیلی ڈیٹا صرف آپ ہی دیکھ سکیں گے۔ یہ بھی یاد رہے کہ سائٹ‌میٹر میں اپنے وزٹ اگنور کرنے کی بھی آپشن ہے۔ یہ ضرور سیٹ کریں تاکہ جب آپ اپنے بلاگ پر جائیں تو وہ شمار نہ ہو۔

اپنے بلاگ کی مقبولیت بڑھانے کے لئے اس کے علاوہ بھی کئی چیزیں ہیں۔ ایک تو یہ کہ باقاعدگی سے بلاگ پر لکھیں۔ میں نے نوٹ کیا ہے کہ دو تین بلاگرز کو چھوڑ کر باقی اردو بلاگر مہینے میں دو تین سے زیادہ بار نہیں لکھتے۔ دوسرے بلاگز پر تبصرہ کریں اور ان کی تحریروں پر اپنے بلاگ میں لکھیں۔ جب کسی دوسرے بلاگ پر تبصرہ کریں تو اپنے بلاگ کا لنک یو‌آر‌ایل فیلڈ میں ضرور دیں۔ دوسرے بلاگز کے ساتھ گفتگو بلاگ کی دنیا کا ایک اہم حصہ ہے اور اس کے لئے ضروری ہے کہ آپ صرف اردو بلاگز ہی تک محدود نہ رہیں بلکہ انگریزی اور دوسری زبانوں کے بلاگز پر بھی تبصرے کریں خاص طور پر پاکستانی انگریزی بلاگز پر تاکہ گفتگو کا دائرہ بڑھ سکے۔ اگر آپ کسی بلاگ پر باقاعدگی سے تبصرے کرتے ہیں تو ممکن ہے وہاں سے کئی قارئین آپ کے بلاگ پر آئیں اور یہ بھی کہ وہ بلاگر آپ کی کسی پوسٹ کے بارے میں لکھے۔

اپنے بلاگ پر ایک صفحہ اپنے بارے میں ضرور شامل کریں جس میں کم از کم آپ کے بارے میں ایسی معلومات ہوں جس سے قاری کو آپ اور آپ کے بلاگ کو سمجھنے میں آسانی ہو۔ ضروری نہیں کہ یہاں آپ اپنی سوانح حیات اور اصل نام ہی لکھیں مگر اپنے بارے میں لکھیں۔ ساتھ ہی خود سے رابطہ کرنے کا کوئی طریقہ بھی فراہم کریں۔

دو سال پہلے کی طرح آج بھی میرا یہی خیال ہے کہ اردو بلاگنگ ابھی کہیں نہیں جا رہی۔ چھ سالوں میں شاید چند سو بلاگ ہیں۔ اس کے مقابلے میں کل بلاگ ہر چار پانچ ماہ میں دوگنے ہو جاتے ہیں۔ پاکستانی انگریزی بلاگ لے لیں یا فارسی بلاگ یا انڈین بلاگ سب ہی انتہائی تیزی سے بڑھے ہیں۔ ان سب کی exponential growth ہے جبکہ اردو بلاگز کی linear growth ۔ یہ بات پریشان‌کن ہے۔ لیکن اس سے زیادہ پریشان کرنے والی بات یہ ہے کہ اردو بلاگ یا فورمز کے قارئین بہت کم ہیں اور بہت سستی سے بڑھ رہے ہیں۔ ایک اندازے کے مطابق ایک عام اردو بلاگ کو 20 سے 30 قاری روزانہ پڑھتے ہیں اور زیادہ اردو بلاگز کو پڑھنے والے وہی لوگ ہیں یعنی تمام اردو بلاگز کے قاری اکٹھے کئے جائیں تو شاید چند سو سے زیادہ نہ ہوں۔ ایسی صورت میں نئے اردو بلاگز کہاں سے آئیں گے؟ اس اعداد و شمار کا مقابلہ بڑے بڑے بلاگز کی بجائے عام پاکستانی انگریزی بلاگ سے بھی کیا جائے تو شرمندگی ہی ہوتی ہے۔

اگرچہ پچھلے کچھ سالوں میں اردو بلاگز کے موضوعات میں اضافہ ہوا ہے مگر آج بھی زیادہ سیاست، مذہب، ادب اور ذاتی ڈائری ہی پر بلاگنگ عام ہے۔ کدھر ہیں معاشیات، معاشرتی علوم، فنون لطیفہ، سیاحت، فوٹوگرافی، بےبی بلاگ، مخلتف مشاغل پر بلاگ؟ اور اس سے بڑھ کر یہ کہ ان متنوع موضوعات کی کمیونٹیز کہاں ہیں؟

ایک بات خوش‌آئیند ہے کہ حال میں اردو بلاگرز کے درمیان گفتگو میں اضافہ ہوا ہے۔ اب بلاگرز ایک دوسرے کی تحریر کا جواب اپنے بلاگ پر دے رہے ہیں۔

اردو بلاگستان کی جب بھی بات آتی ہے تو لوگ ضابطہ اخلاق کی بات کرتے ہیں۔ تمیز اور انسانیت انتہائ اہم ہیں مگر بلاگنگ کے ضابطہ اخلاق کی بات کچھ عجیب لگتی ہے۔ یہ ضابطہ کوئ کسی پر لاگو نہیں کر سکتا۔ ہاں ہر شخص کو اپنی آن‌لائن اور آف‌لائن زندگی میں اچھے اخلاق کا مظاہرہ کرنا چاہیئے۔ اگر آپ بلاگنگ کا ضابطہ اخلاق ہی چاہتے ہیں تو کوئ اردو بلاگنگ کا شہزادہ ان دو ضابطہ اخلاق کا ترجمہ کر دے۔

نیٹ پر اردو لکھنے اور پڑھنے والوں کی طرف سے نستعلیق فونٹ کی طرف شدید رجحان یہاں تک کہ وہ نسخ میں اردو پڑھنا لکھنا ہی گوارا نہیں کرتے آج تک میری سمجھ میں نہیں آیا۔ لوگ اس وجہ سے آج تک انپیج استعمال کر کے اردو تحریر کا امیج آن‌لائن پوسٹ کرتے ہیں۔ اب تو خیر چند نستعلیق فونٹ بھی میدان میں آ گئے ہیں۔

Italy Trip: Technical Note

Free maps from Open Street Maps in Garmin format as well as points of interest were really useful during our vacation in Italy.

We returned from a fun vacation to Italy a couple of days ago. I’ll have an account of the vacation along with photographs soon but first some technical notes.

I checked air fares on Expedia and Orbitz but in the end booked on the Delta website since they were marginally cheaper. Also I was using frequent flier miles to get one ticket for free. The only way I found to book one award ticket (bought with frequent flier miles) and other regular fares was to first reserve the award ticket (since they are less common), then buy the regular fares on the same flights and finally book the award flight.

For hotels, I checked reviews and prices on Trip Advisor to shortlist a few and then used the hotel websites to make reservations.

For planning all the sightseeing and for making a shortlist of restaurants, I used Fodor’s Italy Gold Guide and Lonely Planet’s Italy Guide.

I took my Garmin 60CSx GPSr with me. I found that Open Street Maps had maps available in Garmin format. The ones I liked the best were OpenMTBMap since they were routable and could route for hiking or mountain biking instead of cars. That was a huge success for us in Italy. We never got lost and we used the maps to go everywhere and find restaurants etc. near our location. It made life much easier and even when we wanted to walk around in the back alleys in Venice we could do so without any fear of really getting lost since whenever we wanted to go back we could use the GPS.

The maps came with lots of POIs(Points of Interest), but I wanted some specific ones too: the hotels we were staying in, train stations for travel between Rome and Venice, restaurants, Cafes and Gelaterias that I wanted to go to specially and some important sightseeing. So I used Google Maps to locate these places and saved them to My Maps there. Google Maps’ My Maps allows you to export the list of placemarks in Google Earth (KML) format. Then I used GPS Visualizer to convert the list to GPX format and used Garmin POI Loader to transfer the locations to my GPSr.

I plan our vacations in detail and these maps and list of locations on the GPS were very useful everyday as we went about sightseeing and enjoying Italian food. In fact, while walking around, I would notice that there’s a nice gelateria nearby and we would go enjoy some gelato.

I read almost three books on the Kindle during the trip, even though I read only on planes and trains. While it was a fun experience, I found one some hitch: Flight attendants want you to turn the Kindle off during takeoff and landing.

UPDATE: One thing I forgot. I tried to reserve train tickets between Rome and Venice on the Italian Rail website but it just kept denying my credit card. Apparently, it’s a common problem for credit cards with non-European addresses. However, I didn’t really need to buy the tickets before going there. There was enough space when I made reservations three days before the train travel at the Rome Termini station.


They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. But copying whole articles without citation is not.

While plagiarism has been there forever, the Internet makes it really easy. At the same time, it makes it easy to find out if someone has copied and pasted your writing and passed it off as their own.

Recently, I found out that Paksir has copied my blog article about global gender attitudes without so much as a hint of where it came from. My comment on his blog to provide a link has gone unanswered for more than two weeks.

Let’s look at a more amusing example: Muhammad Imran Latif’s portfolio page. I was alerted to the similarities with my About Zack page last year. I tried contacting him, but got no reply. Since then, I have made some minor changes to my about page, so let’s compare his description of himself with mine from the wayback machine

Imran Latif Me
My name is Muhammad Imran Latif. I am usually known as Pomy & Imran. My name is Zakaria Ajmal. “Zakaria” is a biblical name and hence has different spellings and pronunciations in different languages. I don’t mind the different spellings that much, but to make it easy, I am usually known as Zack.
I am 27 years old and i am originally from Pakistan where I was born and raised. I was living in Daska, the beautiful city, before coming to the Islamabad. I am a Muslim. I am 35 years old and am originally from Pakistan where I was born and raised. I was living in Islamabad, the capital city, before coming to the US. Like most of the Pakistani population (97% according to the CIA World Factbook), I am a Muslim.
I came to the Islamabad 1 years ago and am currently a Web designer and Network administrator Computer field. I came to the US 9 years ago and am currently a graduate student in Electrical and Computer Engineering (research interests: computer vision and graphics/animation, video and image analysis, telepresence, etc.) at Georgia Tech in Atlanta, GA.
Other than research and teaching, I like to plants and gardening. I am also very much interested in economics, information technology teaching, social work, politics and national affairs. Other than research and teaching, I like to camp and hike, travel and take photographs with my digital camera. I am also very much interested in science fiction, history, politics and international affairs.
I got married to Sofia (nickname: Bahaar) on September 5, 2005. We have had a lot of fun together and plan to live together happily ever after. I got married to Ambrin (nickname: Amber) on December 1, 1994. We have had a lot of fun together and plan to live together happily ever after.
On August 29, 2006, a cute Michelle was born to Baahar and me. Nowadays, she is the center of our universe. On August 12, 2004, a cute Michelle was born to Amber and me. Nowadays, she is the center of our universe. She has a weblog of her own on which we post her photographs, video clips and milestones etc. If you would like to read her blog, please email me.

How much do you want to bet that Imran’s daughter is not actually named Michelle?

For the record, here is my policy on copying stuff:

All original content, whether text, images or multimedia, on this weblog, Procrastination, is Copyright © Zakaria Ajmal, except for posts by other authors which belong to them.

You can excerpt the contents of this website anywhere else but you must attribute it to us and cite the location (URL) from which you are quoting. However, you are not allowed to copy our images without permission. Similarly, you are not allowed to hotlink to any of our photographs.

An exception to this policy pertains to the comments by visitors and readers, which belong to the commenters themselves.

Hat tip to the two readers who tipped me off about these two cases.

How Zack Buys a New PC

I decided to build my own desktop again after my Dell laptop troubles. Finding everything at Fry’s was easy and assembling it was fun.

The title has been shamelessly stolen from Photodude.

Last July, I was having a lot of trouble with my Dell laptop. So I wanted to backup the data in my hard drive. I went to Fry’s to get an enclosure for the laptop hard disk so I could connect it via USB to my old desktop. There I started looking at computer components. But in the end returned with only the USB enclosure.

By the weekend, I had decided I wanted a new desktop since my old one was almost 8 years old (Pentium III 550MHz) and the laptop was still not working. The good thing is that Fry’s has people who can help you with selecting the appropriate parts for your computer. I do still recommend doing your own research in advance, but they are helpful.

The question that Captain Arrrgh asked was why build one’s own computer. I agree that it is not really cheaper to do that and requires some research and technical know-how. But it is fun. And it gives me an opportunity to wander in Fry’s for hours. Plus I get the exact machine I want.

So here’s what I got:

The hard disk and RAM are in my opinion critical in a computer’s operation, more so than the processor speed. I did not get 4GB since a 32-bit operating system (Windows XP Professional in my case) is limited to about 3.5GB of RAM. Two hard disks, with operating system and programs on one and data on the other, work much better and the Raptor is really fast. My Windows XP boots up so fast I can’t believe it. And Photoshop is also much faster than before.

There was one important factor in selecting the components and that was for the power supply. Not only did I need a power supply with more wattage than required for the components, I also had to check what the current requirements for the individual 5V and 12V rails were.

Assembly was a breeze. The components, especially the processor, need to be handled properly, but that’s it. If you are interested, here are the installation instructions for Intel Core 2 Duo processor.

I ran into a problem while installing Windows and chipset drivers that came with the motherboard. I was getting the dreaded blue screen of death. At first, I suspected the hard disk, but some testing showed it to be a memory problem. Or more accurately a reading problem on my side. The timing settings of the RAM were being read automatically from SPD EEPROM but the voltage setting was not. The motherboard BIOS was defaulting to 1.8V while the memory specifications called for 2.0V. So all I had to do was change that setting manually in the BIOS and it worked perfectly.

It took me a few days to reinstall all the software and get all my data from my old desktop and my laptop.

Later, Michelle demanded a computer of her own, so I gave her my old desktop. Since I didn’t want to buy another copy of Windows, I installed Ubuntu Linux on it. Now I am searching for all kind of programs for young kids for Linux. I installed Debian for Juniors package, GCompris and whatever else I could find on the Ubuntu repositories. My plan is to keep her computer disconnected from the net unless we need to connect for some reason. This will keep all kinds of issues away, I hope.