Yesterday was another interesting day in my computing world.
Firstly, I download the newest build of SP2 (Service Pack 2), which was 2162. This was an internal build, and probably the last before the much-awaited security/et al pack goes RTM (release to manufacturers) in August. I slipstreamed it onto a copy of my SP1a (Service Pack 1a, the first major security package released in 2002). Then I attempted to simply install the service pack, which got halfway through before informing me of a file overwrite error and quitting. Unfortunately, this was enough to FUBAR (fuck up beyond all recognition) my newly-reformatted system. My copy of Norton Internet Security 2004 began to get errors, and Internet Explorer (which I only use for WindowsUpdate) refused to connect to the internet. One of the big pieces of news surrounding SP2 is that, like its predecessor SP1, it will not install on machines that have blacklisted serial numbers, that is, serial numbers that Microsoft knows are used on pirated copies of Windows XP. My serial number is for some reason among these; at least, that’s what the beta version of WindowsUpdate tells me. The SP2 build said nothing of the sort. In fact, when I popped in my newly slipstreamed SP1a+SP2.2162 disc and reformatted my hard drive (again) and installed, I tried using a new serial that supposedly works with SP2. The installation told me that it was in fact not a valid serial number. I entered the old (blacklisted, supposedly) number and it worked fine. Windows installed, and the system properties showed the Service Pack 2 as being correctly integrated. However, when I tried to install my new Security Suite, it gave me a BSOD (or Blue Screen of Death, a low-level system error). This happened multiple times. Obviously, SP2 needs more work.
I reformatted again and installed from my original SP1a, which has integrated OEM, or (Original Equipment Manufacturer) drivers so that Windows can installed on my super-fast SATA (Serial Advanced Technology Attachment, a new type of connection for hard drives and even CD-ROMs) drive. Anyway, that installation went fine (I’ve certainly done it enough), which brings me to my next point: internet security.
I’m connected through the internet through an old Linksys router and hub. My motherboard has two different ethernet ports on it (which are used to plug into a cable or DSL (Digital Subscriber Line) modem or network). I’d been using the RealTek (a fairly common brand name) one, but had been experiencing sudden disconnects and slowdowns for my downloads, which I had originally attributed to my ISP or router. However, I recently changed to the other ethernet port and the problems went away. Go figure. Anyway, my point was, the router acts as an unforgiving bitch of a firewall. This is quite good, as it keeps my family’s computers (all four of them) safe from attacks, but it’s inconvenient for me because of my P2P (Peer-to-Peer, a genre of filesharing programs, like Kazaa) usage. Connecting through a hardware firewall means that often, I am unable to connect at all. So I went into my router options and set up something called “DMZ Host”, which basically shuts off the hardware firewall for my computer. This allows me to surg unhampered, but puts me at greater risk for attack. Naturally, I install a software firewall. Previously, I’d been using Symantec products, like Norton Internet Security 2004, which is a nice all-in-one solution, but is somewhat of a pain, as well as taking up a lot of system resources. I decided to try ZoneAlarm’s new Security Suite, which packages their existing firewall product with a new antivirus product. In fact, ZoneAlarm merely licensed the VET antivirus engine from CA (Computer Associates), so it seems to be a decent package. It only has one process (as opposed to Norton’s many), though it is 17k of memory. It’s a real-time virus scanner and very configurable software firewall. Hell, it even secures IM (instant messaging) connections.
Now onto my last irritating discovery. After my major data loss in early February, I ripped all the CDs I own onto my computer. I used the latest LAME (Lame Ain’t an MP3 Encoder) encoder. For those of you that don’t know, audio compression works by removing the parts of the audio that it thinks you can’t hear. MP3 (Motion Picture [Experts Group Layer] 3) is a format that was never intended for music audio, but rather for games. It’s owned by a German company, and software developers have to pay royalties to said company. There’s another popular and similar type of compression called OGG VORBIS, which is open-source as well as free. I’d thought about using it instead of MP3, but when I tested an OGG and an MP3 of the same song, the OGG sounded definitively tinny and weak, whereas the MP3 was more robust. So, I ripped all my albums into MP3s, either at 192kbps (kilobits per second, a term used to describe the amount of data used in a stream of audio), or VBR (variable bit rate, which uses more or less data depending on how much the file requires) 192-224kbps, which is supposed to be indiscernible from CD quality. Yesterday, however, I decided to do a test. I took four versions of the same song (A Perfect Circle – The Hollow):
- MP3 @ VBR 192-224kbps, LAME engine 1.32, v3.96 stable
- OGG @ Q6.50 (about 208kbps average bitrate), v1.1 RC1 (6/29/04)
* WAV is an uncompressed piece of audio, using about 10mb for every minute, which works out to roughly 1113kbps.
** CDDA stands for CD Digital Audio, which basically means that I played it directly from the CD.
What I found was that the WAV and CDDA versions were of course indistingishable, but what really surprised me was that the OGG was, too. It was the MP3 that appeared to “overamplify” the sound, as well as introduce a strange garbling noise.
What this means is that I need to rerip all my CDs in OGG format now. Blast.