Sound for Windows 2003 Server

Recently I needed to add sound capability (to hear alerts) to a Windows 2003 Server. The motherboard didn’t have an integrated sound, and I was running short of PCI slots. Additionally I soon discovered that most sound cards available today don’t declare support for Windows 2003, though for many one can find suggestions on the net “to try to see if Windows recognizes the card as the proprietary drivers supplied with the card won’t work.”

Poking around for a while I came across SiiG USB SoundWave 7.1 which comes with driver support for Windows 2003 and it doesn’t take up a PCI slot. Problem solved. Installation was a breeze (once I realized no sounds can be heard over Remote Desktop..).

The only remaining snag was that when I plugged the USB SoundWave output to an auxiliary input in an older Cambridge SoundWorks speaker set, I was blasted with an amplitude that seemed to have been set to “11”. The speakers use an in-line volume control, and of course only one such cable was provided with the speaker set (and that cable was already in use with a workstation PC). Even when the sound was turned to Very Low in the mixer, the pops and cracks when the system reboots and the USB SoundWave initializes were deafening (being fed at line level to the amp). Some more Googling produced a small accessory cable which, once arrived, installed, and turned about half-way down, fixed the problem.

Blog is as blog does..

Couple of years ago when I originally set up this blog I decided to leave the charter of the blog initially undefined. That was not such a great idea; what’s the motivation to write in a blog without a purpose? Unless a blog has a known readership (friends, relatives, co-workers..) there’s not even a certainty that anyone will ever read the words that were written. Bulletin boards are a bit different; especially if you frequent a board, you tend to know at least some of the other board users — there is a sense of community. Blogs, on the other hand, are sort of like a endless monologue (give or take an occasional comment).

But one thought I often come back to is: what would be the easiest way to contribute to the “collective mind” of the internet. So often I come across either a complete solution, or a sufficient hint toward a solution, to a tough technical problems. And every now and then I come up with a similar solution that at least I think is clever :). So now this blog has a charter: it is mainly a technical blog where I can post such discoveries and solutions that, once indexed, hopefully will at some point help someone scratching their head with a similar issue.

In other words, welcome to the second (or is the third?) incarnation of this blog!

Digital tech books, where are you?

Why are PDF/CHM-versions of many (most) tech books so hard to find? Perhaps I’ve just missed the store that sells them? Digital versions are so much more convenient – they’re always along on my laptop, and they can be searched easily. Yet even O’Reilly’s site doesn’t sell the PDF versions. Yes, there is Safari, but I don’t want to have to read them through my web browser. First, network connection is not always available (customer locations, etc.) and secondly I don’t like Safari’s pricing. I simply want to be able to buy the books I need, and have access to them at all times without a monthly fee. After all, if I buy a print book, that’s the way it works — except that I have to lug the physical book around.

I believe the reason for why they’re not more readily available is the fear that they would be more easily illegally duplicated, yet it’s apparent that most any book does already exist in electronic format. So why are they not sold; would the loss of revenue from illegal copying really exceed the increase in revenue from people who would buy more books into their electronic reference library? Fortunately some publishers already include the electronic version along with a print book, for free! For example, the recent editions of Wiley’s JavaScript Bible have included a CD-ROM/DVD-ROM that has included the same book in electronic format along with the code examples for the book.

If someone reading this knows of a web-store that has a good selection of PDF/CHM format tech books for sale (O’Reilly, Wrox, etc.), I’d like to know!

Process kills!

I have had the opportunity to observe a certain large American corporation revising it’s internal IT processes, i.e. how the work gets done, since the early this year. Where the amount of bureaucracy was staggering before the institution of the new processes, the amount pales by comparison to the “new” way of doing things.

Before the changes it was possible for people from one team to call or email people in another, and ask for help/advice with their projects. If the request didn’t require so much time as to interfere with the ongoing project schedules people generally helped each other spontaneously. Often such requests took few minutes to complete, frequently saving the person who was making the request tremendous amount of time.

With the new system in place all that is history. Now nothing gets done without a pre-approval, a process that rarely takes less than a week, often more. The business culture changed (to the worse) virtually overnight. Of course the goal of such strict control was to enable the management to better determine where people spend their time, and direct the time to those tasks that they deem most important. But at what cost? People who still few months ago would gladly help others upon request no longer do so. The (micro) management surely has increased, and the mangement definitely has more information about what people do with their time. But has the productivity and efficiency improved as a result? I much doubt it. The situation is akin to the socialist countries who tax their citizens heavily and then determine, among other things, how/where even the charitable donations are made. Yes, donations get made (the citizens have no other choice since they pay the taxes), but at the same time such practice teaches the individuals not to make such donations voluntarily, because they want to help those in need. Similarly in this large American corporation (which by no means is the only example of such practices, just read “Dilbert”, or watch “The Office Space”—the jokes and references are quite universal) the individual employees are quickly taught not to facilitate smooth operation of the business as the process comes first.

The influence on the business efficiency is just the first casualty (though the most important one) of the poorly thought-out and excessive business processes. People, litereally thousands upon thousands of people in a single organization, spend countless hours—thousands of work-days—learning the new system which will enable them to expand a formerly five minute process into a week of paperwork, reviews, consultations, approvals, etc.

Maybe I just lack the bird’s eye view that would enable me to see the logic in such processes being put forth, but I suspect it’s more likely that the people who instantiate such processes simply lack the common sense, and the courage to move from the industrial age management practices to the era of Knowledge Workers (whom 99% of IT personnell is).