The Day The Music Died

“I can’t remember if I cried when I read about his widowed bride…but something touched me deep inside…the day…the music…died…”

Don MacLean wrote American Pie in 1971 about the 1959 plane crash that took the lives of Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and The Big Bopper. Those three musicians (especially Holly) were some of the most influential of their time and their passing was monumental; probably the saddest event in the history of music.

On Wednesday when Steve Jobs lost his battle with pancreatic cancer, the music died; a much louder, more beautiful, more inspirational, far-reaching music than the world had ever heard.

What I can’t believe is how torn up I am about this. I mean, when I heard he had passed I was shocked and then re-reading all his unbelievably inspirational quotes and seeing iconic images of him I started to feel genuinely sad like a friend had died. Finally, on Thursday I went to Apple’s homepage and honestly shed a tear when this is all that was there.

Wow. He’s really gone. He was so other-worldly I guess I just assumed he’d never leave us. But in the end, the pancreatic cancer he had no way of fixing or making better (as he did with everything he ever touched) took his life after a mere 56 years. I guess I write this because I want you to know what he and his innovations have meant to me my entire life. He wasn’t just some guy to me, he was a true inspiration; a hero.

An Apple IIe was the first computer I ever used with it’s black and green screen and I fell in love with Oregon Trail and simple word/math games in elementary school. My Dad bought the first Macintosh where I first played with this new device called a “mouse” and painted the crappiest drawings you’ve ever seen with the spraycan or pencil tools in MacPaint. I remember what a huge deal it was in junior high when the school got an entire computer lab of Apple IIgs’ with their rad color screens! Yes, I was raised on Apple computers and I loved them. What Apple did for education was monumental. The long-running joke had always been that Apple computers were for education and graphic designers but where would I/we be without Apple’s contributions to education?

I switched my life over to 100% apple about 4 years ago and I’ve never looked back. As I type this on my iMac and navigate with my Magic Mouse, listening to a podcast downloaded through iTunes and backing it up on the Time Capsule which also acts as my router I’m checking a text I just received on my iPhone and sending someone an email using my me.com email address and will be heading out later with my Macbook Air to meet someone to discuss business plans. So yeah, you might say that I am a big fan of the products and services Apple offers and with good reason: they are the best.

Sadly, there had become this “us vs. them” mentality of the devout Apple users pitted against the die-hard PC folks, exemplified in Apple’s brilliant “I’m a Mac…” ad campaign. What the PC people forget is that it’s that competition with Apple that helped advance their hardware and software to where it is today. Never-mind who is “better” both Apple and Microsoft or the PC community at large are better because of Steve Jobs. Jobs vs. Gates was always played up but I’m guessing if you asked Bill Gates about the matter he’d say the same thing. If you have ever used a computer, you owe the way you interact with that computer to Steve Jobs. The invention of the Macintosh computer and the Mac OS in 1984 was the dawn of the modern computer and started us down a path we never knew possible and brought about products such as Microsoft Windows and a booming PC industry…and it was Steve Jobs who got the ball rolling.

But for me, the most important thing that Steve Jobs contributed was his passion, his dedication to accomplishing things that many believed were not possible or better yet he just did things that nobody thought of. Watch the video above; it’s unbelievably inspirational and if you thought the passing of Steve Jobs was no big deal, think again…this was one of greatest human beings that’s ever lived and reading or hearing his words gives me goosebumps. He was one stubborn SOB and many times that came off as arrogance but it wasn’t arrogance it was belief in what he was doing and maybe even a bit of frustration with the world around him who doubted him; I can identify with this more than you know. I always admired that about him and that dedication, that unwavering belief in that what he was doing was the best, was right and could be done has inspired me more than a blog piece can explain.

If you know me at all you know I’m different; I think differently than anyone I know in anything/everything I do and I’ve always looked at Jobs as inspiration because he was proof that thinking differently and believing in what you feel  and know deep inside is all you ever need to be successful, happy. The slogan “think different” will always be associated with Steve Jobs and that passion for looking at something and saying “yeah, but I want to do something different…” is what made him so amazing. He revolutionized the distribution of music, how we interact with a computer and so many other things because he thought differently. He didn’t just come up with solutions, he came up with entirely new paradigms and created things we’d never imagined or knew we wanted or needed yet here we are swiping at our smartphones or gesturing our way through a webpage like it’s commonplace. That’s the most important thing about Jobs to me: he created. He didn’t just build a better mousetrap, he created an entirely new way to trap mice you never imagined. He always seemed to be a step or 3 ahead of everyone and living in his own little world and sharing that world with us one piece at a time.

And now, we have to trust that his successors can continue his legacy and maybe in a poetic way it’s fitting that Apple’s HQ is located on a street named “Infinite Loop” where Steve’s legacy will live on in perpetuity.

So, thank you Steve. From the bottom of my heart and with every fiber of my being, I thank you for everything you did for the world around you but especially for me, personally. I lost my hero on Wednesday but I’ll never lose the passion for life, the belief that anything is possible, that with hard work and dedication it’s possible for ordinary people to do extraordinary things, that I will encounter myriad people who will challenge and question what I know and believe in my heart, that life is a gift and that following your heart will never leave you astray…all things that you personified more so than anyone I’ll ever know.

October 5, 2011: The day the music died

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>Tradezilla Part 4: It’s ALIVE

>

 Hi. My name is Tradezilla and I’ll be your bad-ass trading machine today.

With Tradezilla assembled and a quick double check of all the connections and power hookups all set it was go time: will it start?

I plug it into the wall and have the side of the case off to monitor what goes down as I flip the switch. I partly wondered if this was a good idea as stuff might come flying off or electric currents may arc wildly from a shorted wire like a Tesla machine.

Much to my excitement (and maybe even disappointment) it started up without issue. Part of me was hoping for a big old problem I’d have to spend hours fixing, but I got nothing. Actually it did pop up the black/white screen informing me that there was a problem with the CMOS settings. Pressing F1 took me to the BIOS and I made an adjustment to the system clock, saved the changes and exited.

It rebooted, again, and this time gave me the POST beep indicating that the MoBo was working properly and the monitor went black and simply said:

“Please insert operating system into boot drive.”

That’s it. That’s it? I insert the Windows 7 disk, and about 10 minutes later I’m in Internet Explorer testing out my Internet connection, which worked without any problems?

There has to be something wrong, right? Nope. The whole process was strikingly simply and effortless. Maybe I got lucky, maybe I’m good; whatever it is I just built a computer in a couple hours and had it fully operational within 15 minutes of pressing the power button. The last XP install I did took 3-4x longer and I’m not sure if this quick install is due to Windows 7 or the hardware I’m using…probably a combo of both.

What’s even better about this build is what I got and what it cost. Tradezilla cost me $718.15 including tax/shipping and bear in mind that I used my dual video card and an extra HDD from my old Dell.

I went to Dell and built a Core i7-920 with 6GB of RAM and the cheapest HDD and video card I could find and it came out to $1,133.14 with tax and shipping. Granted, this machine does include a 500GB HDD so there’s some value there but at the same time it includes a basic single-output video card which is a step down.

Total savings: $414.99

What Tradezilla is missing vs. the aforementioned Dell:

 – 1-year warranty with Dell
 – Anti-virus software that cannot be removed
 – Various bloatware installed by Dell to run certain background programs and such
 – Proprietary motherboard and PSU, not easily/cheaply replaceable

Would I recommend building a computer to others? Absolutely! Are you kidding me? Look at how much money was saved and what I’m missing by building my own. Bear in mind that I DO have warranties for all the individual components of similar length as what Dell was offering but the difficulty comes in diagnosing the problems and getting the appropriate manufacturer to provide service. If you’re a simple home user with no technical knowledge and call a friend or relative to diagnose error messages and such then this route isn’t for you. You DO need to have some technical wherewithal and ability to do simple troubleshooting and such as you build and install stuff but that’s it; no engineering degree required. It’s a fun, very rewarding process and I’ll be building all my PC’s from now on.

Down the line I’ll discuss the improvements in performance and such versus the old Dell but suffice it to say: Tradezilla is a total effing BEAST 🙂

>Tradezilla Part 3: The Build

>With all the parts here, it’s time to build Tradezilla.

The ingredients necessary to make this dish

I didn’t have too much in the way of concern going into the build as the entire process is pretty simple.

Virgin MoBo

First off, I installed the CPU into the socket on the motherboard. This was actually a little sketchy. The pins on the CPU (and there are a TON of them) don’t sink into anything just they just press against and make contact with the socket. When you secure the CPU to the MoBo the device holding it down has a boatload of tension on it and as you swing the arm into the hook to hold it down all you can think is “how the hell is this right?!” But, it all worked out in the end.

Next up, CPU fan. Pretty easy. Although it makes solid contact with the head of the CPU it doesn’t require as much effort in the way of connecting it to the MoBo, which I found surprising.

Onto the RAM. It’s funny how much easier RAM can be installed when you’re not digging your hands into a case like a surgeon reaching into a chest cavity.

Here’s the completed MoBo, mofos…

OK, here’s where we ran into the only problem I had with assembly: attaching MoBo to the case. I was an idiot and forgot to install the I/O panel on the back of the case so after spending 10 minutes trying to screw in a few screws that were just impossibly difficult to access I had to rip the whole thing out and do it again. Wah wah…

Power supply slid into place easily and here comes the fun part: attaching all the power leads. Finding the leads isn’t the issue, getting the power to the leads with a bottom mounted PSU is where it got interesting. I sort of expected this as power supplies are normally installed on the top of the case and the power connectors on the MoBo assume this as well but with the bottom mounted PSU a couple of the cords had to be stretched out quite a bit. In the end it all worked out; w00t.

Optical drive, HDD were the last things installed and once those were in it was time to see if this thing works or is one of the most expensive paper-weights I’ve ever created (cuz there HAVE been other DIY jobs go awry…)

All the ingredients in the bowl…time to throw it into the oven and see if it cooks (lame, but effective analogy)

Last Tradezilla build post forthcoming…

>Tradezilla Part 2: The Stuff

>Here’s a list of the items that I’m using to build Tradezilla.

CPU

 

1x – Intel Core i7 920 Quad-Core @ 2.66GHz

This processor is beast. It’s quad-core and takes advantage of Intel’s Hyperthreading technology so the least of my concerns in any task should be processing power. There are other processors out there I could go with to use on the motherboard I’m using but this one was a steal on sale for $200 and is widely regarded as the greatest value in the Intel lineup, if not on either platform. I went with Intel architecture because…well, I don’t know why exactly. Every computer I have ever owned has been Intel (including the Macs) so I guess I’m just an Intel guy for life.

Motherboard

1x – ASRock X58 Extreme LGA 1366 Intel X58 ATX

I chose this MoBo for several reasons. First, it was very highly rated/reviewed from many sources. It’s an “entry-level” board but it’s solidly built and some of the features it offers are only found on higher end boards which leads me to decision #2: price. I don’t need a MoBo with all sorts of features that make it fantastic for overclocking and I have very limited I/O needs so some of the features found on boards well above this price point were a complete waste and I opted to budget the savings elsewhere.

RAM

3x – OCZ Gold Tri Channel PC10666 DDR3 Memory – 1333MHz, (2GB sticks, so 6GB total)

I’ve used OCZ stuff in the past and haven’t had any issue and it’s some of the cheapest RAM out there so it was the logical choice. There are faster speeds of memory but triple-channel DDR3 @ 1333MHz is basically twice as fast as I’m running right now, and 2x more RAM in total.

Graphics Card

1x – XFX GeForce 7600 GS / 256MB GDDR2

Part of the way I’m keeping the cost of Tradezilla down is by cannibalizing a couple parts from my current trading machine. One of the key parts I’m using is the dual-DVI video card (I have the OEM card which I will be putting back in that machine). It’s nothing fancy, it just has dual-DVI outputs for my monitors. In the future I may add another dual card as the MoBo has 3 PCIe x16 slots on in, which means that I could theoretically run a 24 monitor setup (3x cards with 8 outputs) but even I can agree that’s a bit overkill…for now 🙂

Hard Disk Drive

1x – Western Digital Caviar SE WD3200JD 320GB

This is another part I’m cannibalizing from the current trading machine. It has dual HDD’s in it and by taking this one (currently used as a backup, which is now obsolete since the Time Capsule handles backups) the current machine will still be operational.

Optical Drive

1x – LG GH22NS40 DVD Writer

Past installing the OS, I don’t ever see me using this drive. All the software I use is downloaded from the vendors and any ripping/burning of CD’s and DVD’s is accomplished here on the iMac mothership. I went with cheap and it just happened to be highly rated; bonus.

Case

1x – Thermaltake V3 Black Edition Mid Tower

I had a few criteria when selecting a case:
1. Quality
2. Low price
3. Don’t look like a computer gamer’s wet-dream

This case satisfies all 3 criteria. It looks really nice/professional and it’s from a very good name. It’s a bit unorthodox as the power supply mounts at the bottom for better cooling and doesn’t make the machine top heavy, so we’ll see how that works with the build-out; might have issues with cable length. However, it has one feature that I will be changing. The 120mm fan at the rear of the case has blue LED lights on it, which I find extremely annoying. Thankfully, fans are dirt cheap so I’ll just drop $5 and get one that won’t look like I’m trying to start a dance party in the office.

Power Supply Unit

1x – Coolmax 500-Watt Modular Power Supply

My homeboy Kuka recommended a modular power supply as you can pick and choose which power cables you need and leave the rest off. This assists in not cluttering up the case with unused wires and provides a much smoother/cleaner airflow which assists in cooling. I calculated the minimum power requirements for this system and the most I could come up with by maxing the output of the components and such was 233 watts. So, 500W should be plenty. It was nicely priced and should I need to upgrade down the line it won’t be a big loss.

Operating System

1x – Windows 7 Home Premium 64-Bit

This was sort of a no-brainer. I have no real issues with XP other than the fact it downloads updates constantly and there is a 64-bit version of XP out there but I figured if I’m going for top of the line I should dabble in Microsoft’s newest/best OS. It’s 64-bit, rather than 32, which is fantastic. All the trading software I use is compatible with Win7, it will run faster, more efficiently and really take advantage of the hardware/architecture it’s operating within. Win7 is basically what MSFT wanted Vista to be, which in time I’m sure will be known as Windows Me 2.0…and if you know anything about OS’s you know that’s a pretty shameful honor.

Miscellaneous

There may be little things here and there I’ll have to get like extension cables if the placement of the power supply at the bottom poses a problem, extra case fans and such but for now before I start assembling everything this is it; this is the “meat” of Tradezilla. You technically wouldn’t “need” anything else to build a machine and the components chosen here are all exactly what I want/need.

>Tradezilla Part 1: The 5 W’s

>OK, let’s do this!

Project codename: TRADEZILLA

Why

Well, I noticed a month ago or so that the charting was lagging BIG TIME on my current trading machine, like when the markets are really humming along and the volume is flying I might be 4-5 ticks and several bars behind what my execution software would display. They both get the same data from the exchanges but since the execution software is not charting/processing that data in any way, it’s obviously to be trusted as the “real” price. I could remedy this by not charting as many instruments, chart resolutions and such but that sort of defeats the purpose of trading/monitoring multiple markets. Grated, this only happens in extreme circumstances and with some proper housecleaning and habits on the current trading machine (like not having tons of charts open at once) I could probably get by just fine 90% of the time. But, by upgrading my hardware I would see a quantifiable increase in performance and decrease in things like lag and probably be able to get by 99% of the time and have a platform that will let me grow and accomplish more tasks that I just cannot currently accomplish with my current setup.

What

We’ll get into the specific components in a later post, but this is what the machine is going to be built around.

Intel Core i7 920 Quad-Core @ 2.66GHz

The Core i7 is basically the highest end “mainstream” processor that Intel makes, built on similar architecture to their highest end chips the Xeons which are used for servers and other processor intensive applications. This processor is built on the LGA1366 processor interface, which is where Intel is dumping all of their consumer product development and this processor is actually the “base model” processor built on the LGA1366 architecture. That’s good because there is a clear upgrade path to follow including the forthcoming hex-core processors. I almost went with a Core i5 but the problem with that processor was that it maxed out at a slightly slower Core i7 processor built on a different architecture so there really wasn’t an upgrade path to speak of. Spend about $100 more for a faster processor and a clear upgrade path? I think the decision was a no-brainer…

When

Now. Like, I started this project yesterday by acquiring a case, processor and power supply sort of NOW! The motherboard, RAM, operating system and optical drive were ordered today. I hope to have the project complete within a couple weeks and while I want it done ASAP I’d rather take my time and do it right and since I already have a machine that works pretty well there’s no urgency.

Who

George Bush. No, me you fools! I’m building it with the help and support of 100’s of 1000’s of other homebrew enthusiasts out there that can offer help and advice along the way.

Where

Deleware…street! OH!! Man, you totally fell for that one. I got you good blog readers…

It might be a couple days until I post again on TRADEZILLA as I’d like to have all the components here and get a group shot before we assemble everything. So hang loose and we’ll talk more homebrew PC’s shortly…

>Who needs Dell?

>First off, hey everybody. I haven’t been blogging as of late, but you knew that. It’s been a very busy/exciting time for me and while I have lots to talk about I’ve just not made the time to do it on here…but that will soon change. Anyway…

I’m fed up with Dell, people. Let me explain…

A little over a month ago I ordered a new computer from Dell. This machine was going to replace my current trading setup as I’m running into limitations that just cannot be addressed by throwing more RAM in the box and wiping the drive of all the bloatware and such; there are legitimate bottlenecks and constraints on what it can do and what I need it to do. It literally took 4 attempts (3 online and 1 on the phone) to place the order and the phone call involved no less than 13 transfers and 1.5 hours of my time. This was the beginning of the end of my relationship with Dell; a relationship that has spanned 15 years and at least 8 computers, maybe more.

So, the order was finally placed with an estimated delivery date of 2/25. Well, 2/25 comes and the date is pushed to 3/4. 3/4 comes and the date is pushed to 3/11, no explanation offered by Dell. In order to keep the order active I had to tell them to move forward or else cancel the order. After pondering the whole situation for a while I came up with the difficult decision.

I broke up with Dell. Their customer service during this process was abhorrent and this was NOT the same Dell I fell in love with 15 years ago; quite divergent, actually. But, I think the thing that pissed me off the most was the creation of the computer I wanted/needed. It was impossible. I had a list of items I wanted and didn’t want and I could not create it no matter how hard I tried, what avenue I used, who I spoke to. Dell force-feeds you what they think you want based not on the customer desires but on things such as profit margin, availability of components, partnerships, etc. I’ll save the conspiracy theory talk but to sum it up, Dell was just NOT a fit for me anymore.

That’s it. No more Dell. The problem still remains that I need a new trading machine, so what am I gonna do? To put it simply: I’m going rogue; a maverick, off the radar. I am building my first PC. This is simultaneously super exciting and scary as hell. But, this way I will be building EXACTLY what I want with no compromises whatsoever.

Details of the build are forthcoming and I’ll be documenting the entire project from start to finish and figure this is a good way to get me back into the blogging groove…

OK, next time we’ll detail what I’m building and kick this thing off proper-like!

>Apple Magic Mouse

>

For the last few months I’ve been locked in a struggle with my wireless Apple Mighty Mouse. At first, it worked wonderfully. Great feel, great looks, awesome functionaltiy; typical Apple product.

But now after almost a year of heavy use, it’s having issues. The biggest issue is the scrollball. When it works, it’s rad; ultra-precise 360-degree scrolling. Problem is, the ball gets covered in gunk and starts to seize up. So, I can scroll up, but scrolling down does nothing as the ball fails to make positive contact with the mechanics that make it scroll. I tried a couple tricks that worked for other grumpy users but nothing lasted more than a couple days before I had to try again.

“Just clean it out, lazy.” I wish I could! In order to clean the Mighty Mouse you have to pry open the case, use a screwdriver that looks like it came from a dollhouse, then delicately remove the scrollball and sensors and clean them off rather carefully. Oh and make make sure you put it back together properly, then hope the case didn’t crack from prying it open. Never mind that by doing this you are voiding your warranty, in case you care about that sort of thing (I don’t). Long story short, it’s a total PITA.

So, Apple released a couple weeks ago the replacement to the Mighty Mouse the Magic Mouse and I was all for it. This mouse is revolutionary in that there are no moving parts. There’s no scrollball on the top or bottom, it uses a laser to track movement and the entire surface of the mouse is one giant button. Scrolling is accomplished using Apple’s favorite technology multi-touch. You simply slide your finger forward and back, left and right to navigate a document, photos or webpages. Even cooler is that multi-touch allows you to use 2 fingers to swipe left and right, to go forward and back in the browser of your choice and to navigate through photos or albums in iTunes. Very, very cool.

Cousin Itt approved…

What I think of It
Well, I’ve only been using it for a couple days but I’m completely hooked. It’s a very low-profile mouse, standing maybe 3/4″ tall and about the width of a credit card. If you place it on top of an iPhone it just barely fits in the footprint and is about 1/4″ taller. The uber-dorks that are nit-picking complain that the ergonomics of the mouse are poor if you have larger hands, but I have larger hands and I don’t have any issues. But remember, these are the same guys that play WoW, possibly attend ComicCon’s and live for shooting anything and everything down that they can get their hands on.

Your Magic Mouse is anything but magic…I find it unappealing in every way.

From a functionality standpoint, the mouse is brilliant. Scrolling is silky smooth, the multi-touch gestures to move forward and back work amazingly and become super intuitive within minutes. The button press on the surface is far more tactile and offers you much more feedback than the Mighty Mouse, which due to its very curved surface felt weak and you needed to press a bit harder or with a deliberate press at times if you weren’t in the right areas on the mouse. Magic Mouse is flat, which I’m sure helps that out quite a bit. Right-clicking is just as easy as left clicking you just have to press on the right side of the surface; easy enough.

Nothing’s perfect, so here’s what needs some work.

There’s no 3rd button. Probably my favorite functionality of Mighty Mouse was the ability to assign a function to pressing down on the trackball. I had this setup to open up Expose, which made navigating different windows very quick and easy. See, OS X is different from Windows in that each open window is not treated individually. So, when you Alt+Tab (command+tab in OS X) instead of seeing each and every open window you only see each application open. So, if you have 4 Firefox windows open, by command+tabbing to FF you simply go to the last FF window you had open. Expose shows you EVERY open window and I’d just click the scrollball and be navigating all open windows. I really miss that on Magic Mouse. So now, I’ve got to use screen shortcuts or the keyboard to perform that function and that’s a bummer.

Past that, no gripes. It’s assumed that Apple will be releasing updated software in the future so that various other multi-touch functions can be used such as pinching or 3-finger swiping and it would be cool if that functionality was available right out of the gate but not surprising they opted to do it later down the line. Haters are having a field day with this one; what a bunch of tools.

If you have a Mac and can run OS X Leopard or Snow Leopard, this mouse is totally worth it. If you’re a PC user, you better read up on what functionality works on the mouse and what applications are supported as this is most definitely an Apple targeted product.

The Verdict

All in all, this mouse is rad. With no moving parts I’m not concerned about the scrollball getting gunked up, which honestly is the ONLY reason I left the very capable Mighty Mouse. I love the looks though I don’t work in an architecture or design firm so that’s not as important to me. It fits my hand, the functionality is top notch and I’m looking forward to using this mouse from now until Apple releases their next mouse 🙂