The Miami Tropical Hamboree appears to be done for good. (or not)

I've been attending the Miami Tropical Hamboree since 1994. Not only that, but the show had been running continuously for over four decades! But as you can see on that out-of-date web page, it appears that the Hamboree folks have quit and aren't going to put the show on anymore.

For those who don't know, a Hamboree, or Hamfest, is an amateur radio show. Even though the show focuses mostly on amateur radio itself, which can be pretty interesting, in the last decade or so hamfests have become general geekfests, with every electronic gadget of every age you can possibly imagine up for display and sale. For a gadget geek like myself, this is paradise and I looked forward to attending the event every year.

Why did they quit? I have no idea, really. Last year they used the excuse that the Hamboree coincides with the Superbowl, and this caused many attendees to deal with a lower turnout on Sunday and/or annoyance that they miss the game. I think this is hogwash, as the Hamboree had coincided with the Superbowl many years in a row, and this never really caused much of a problem in the past. My suspicion is they were tired of running the show, and wanted a convenient excuse to stop. Missing your first year after over four decades is a good way to do this; attendees will give up and go to another show instead.

This post on my blog has links to photos from the 2003 and 2004 hamfests, so you can see some of the esoteric and geeky stuff for sale at these events. I am certainly going to miss going to the Hamboree year after year.

If you are one of the show's former staff and are reading this post after finding it through Google, how about making a comment? At least tell us why you stopped running this fun show. Because really, whining about the Superbowl does *not* justify this. You have destroyed over four decades of ham radio tradition in the Miami area.

EDIT 2/2/2008: Well, the site has come back from the dead, and they say they will have a show in Fall 2008. Here's hoping. I wonder if someone googled and saw this post and decided to set the record straight.

Moved some stuff

I moved some stuff from my work web server to my personal site, since it wasn't work-related and I'm trimming that page down.

It's interesting stuff, though, and I don't want links to it to be lost forever, so here they are:

- Computers For People - Early 1980s Atari marketing
- Hamfest 2003 photos (radio and computer show)
- Hamfest 2004 photos
- Miami Metrozoo trip, December 2003
- Miami Metrozoo trip, January 2004
- Photos taken at the 2004 Air and Sea Show in Fort Lauderdale, FL
- Photos taken at Shy Wolf Sanctuary, May 2004

I'm still organizing my sites, so more goodies may get moved. It's nice to unearth stuff you've mostly forgotten about because it simply wasn't *linked* anywhere!

Geeky old-school Macintosh musings...

So a while back at work a coworker gave me an old Powerbook 520c he had lying around, since I was a "Mac guy" and might appreciate it.

It sat under my desk a few months unused because frankly, other things have been on my mind lately. But yesterday after 5 I had some extra time so I whipped it out and plugged it in.

It booted into Mac OS 7.6! The thing has a 68040 processor and 12MB of RAM. It also had a few random games installed on it and what looked like the previous owner's personal files from circa 1997 or so.

There wasn't anything juicy on it, but apparently this previous owner had quite an affinity for porn; his Netscape bookmarks were full of links to it and there was a folder on the hard drive full of the stuff.

This whole situation brought back a lot of memories. My SO from 1995 to around 1998 was a major Mac freak, and spent the three years we were together trying to convert me. She used System 7.5 so it brought back a ton of memories.

Being the nostalgic kitty I am, I connected the lil' laptop to the Internet (using MacTCP and PPP over the phone line), downloaded Muddweller (what she used) and connected to FurryMUCK.

Two things I noticed: 1) 14400bps is godawful slow to the point of pain, and 2) Muddweller is an incredibly crappy client! TinyFugue even in 1995 blew it away to the point of embarassment.

I then grew deeply disturbed at what I was doing and shut the darn thing off. Some things are better left in the past!

I'll probably post photos at some point; I just wanted to get home yesterday and didn't feel like lugging the thing with me. :)



This needs no further comment.

The carnage from a different angle, after more explosions. :)

My laptop hard drive just got FASTER!

Remember that new hard drive I put in my laptop a few weeks ago? Well, I've been noticing short pauses when doing certain things that require disk access, like sending IMs (writes to a log) or clicking a link in the web browser. The drive was also parking the heads a *LOT*, we're talking parking a half second after each disk access. I figured these two events might be related somehow.

So I did some research. The drive takes a whole 300ms to go from parked to reading data. That's a freaking *ETERNITY* in the world of computers. All this to save, get this: 0.2W when idle.


So I downloaded ftool (Feature Tool) from the Hitachi website and selected the drive. Not only did it have the Low Power Idle, with its 300ms head unpark cost enabled, but it also had acoustic management turned on, which further reduces performance to be a tiny bit quieter. No way!

I turned Low Power Idle and Acoustic mode *OFF* and saved the settings to the drive as default.

There is no longer a delay when hitting the disk. There also also no more "kit-a-chunk" head parking sound every few seconds, AND the machine feels a good deal faster.

So if you have a Hiatchi drive in your laptop, you might want to look into it. The default power saving mode is needlessly aggressive, causing a major performance hit at the cost of only a tiny bit of battery savings.

Disney Tails!

This is the Disney Tails T-shirt that everyone always seems to love at cons.


It's gotten more attention than any T-shirt I've ever worn! At Anthrocon 2006 I was stopped about 20 times walking around by folks wanting to identify all the cats, and to a lesser extent the same at AC 2007 and MFF 2007.

I thought it was awesome when I got it but never expected that. :)

Hard drive installation fun!

So my new hard drive and external enclosure arrived today on schedule. I had a fun time getting it going.

The first step was to clone Mac OS X from the laptop to the new drive. I put the new drive into the USB hard drive enclosure (which is intended for the old one after the swap but worked out great for this) and used Disk Utility to do a full filesystem restore from the Macbook Pro's internal hard drive to the external disk.

This took a good three and a half hours! I suspect the slowness of USB disk access is mostly to blame for the long wait. It eventually completed, though, then it was hard drive swapping time.

Apple made changing the disk on the Macbook Pro difficult, but not impossible. I had to:

- Remove about 15 screws around the perimeter of the machine and in the battery compartment,
- *Carefully* lift the keyboard portion of the case up, and undo some snaps holding it down in the front,
- Disconnect the cable from the keyboard to the motherboard,
- Disconnect two very fragile looking cables that are in the way of extracting the old hard drive,
- Remove two screws holding down the disk,
- Lift the disk up precariously and disconnect the SATA/power cable from it (much easier than the old parallel ATA cables at least),
- Replace the components in reverse order, carefully reconnecting all the cables and putting the dozen and a half screws back in.

The result? A perfectly booting Macbook Pro, with about 130GB of free space, along with an external 100GB USB hard drive after I put the old disk in the enclosure. Not to mention the machine *flies* now with the 7200 RPM drive.

Next step will be to resize the disk for boot camp so I can install Windows, then check out Portal, which I've been wanting to try for a few days now but haven't had space on the old disk. Wheee!


Space on my laptop is very constrained, so I ordered a Hitachi 7K200 200GB, 7200RPM hard drive. Not only will I have twice the space on the laptop itself, but this drive is MUCH faster than the one it's replacing.

The replaced drive will go into an external enclosure, bringing my total on-the-go storage capacity from 140GB to 300GB... 340GB if I keep carrying around the old 40GB.

My new toys should arrive Friday. Woot!

Are wireless broadband providers really that constrained?

Verizon has a 5GB "soft limit" (in that they can go after you if you exceed it routinely) per month on their "unlimited" evdo broadband cards. Sprint doesn't have such a limit, but can still disconnect or warn you for "excessive" usage. Neither company wants you to use their wireless evdo cards as a substitute for a landline DSL/cable modem or for p2p downloading, watching internet television for long periods, and so on.

Is their bandwidth really that constrained? Or is this just an attempt to extort more money from "power users"? It seems odd that they would spend $billions building such an advanced data network, only to cripple it with so many restrictions. 5GB a month? I can go through that in a *week*. Not to mention the connection is $60 a *month*, which is much more than most land-line based connections.

These wireless cards must be a total godsend to those who travel a lot or are living in an area without cable or DSL; it's sad that the wireless providers cripple what you can do with them.

What killed my old X1900XT

As some of you know, the first X1900XT that came with my Mac Pro bit it and I had to get a replacement. It just started becoming unreliable and generating artifacts, crashing the machine, etc.

The new one has been rock solid, but in the past few weeks I've noticed the fan on it has started spinning very fast and loud. So I opened up the machine tonight and...

There's a big cake of dust clogging the intake! There was hardly any airflow through the card. The fan had to run nearly full speed to keep it cool.

The old card's fan never sped up to compensate for the heatsink getting clogged up, so the card fried itself. This one spins faster and faster as it can't cool itself. Must be newer firmware.

In any case... I dusted the machine out nicely and the fan is now nice and quiet again. Yay!

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