Archive for January, 2007

Attempting to buy the Vista Family discount pack fails repeatedly

January 30, 2007 1:05 pm

After picking up the Vista Ultimate Signature Edition copy today, I wanted to spend some more money to get the Family Pack discount, so I can upgrade a few other PCs in the house.

Imagine my surprise when I was greeted with only this message after typing in the Product Key from the box I just bought this morning:


We’re sorry, the following error(s) have occurred:

No Offer Found

Bummer. I guess I won’t be spending another $100 for my two extra copies.

Even more curious is that there’s no way to contact Microsoft about problems with the order page. Maybe they don’t want my money?

Windows Vista Ultimate Signature Edition unboxed

12:46 pm

Update 2008-02-18:  It seems like this post is getting a lot of hits, which is kind of odd to me. I suspect it might be because there’s a mention of the phrase “key sticker” in here, so that makes people think I’m publishing my activation key. I’m not. The key is digitally erased with a bunch of black pixels. There’s no key here.


Call me a fanboy all you want. I went out to a local Best Buy this morning and got myself a copy of the Vista Ultimate Signature Edition. I figure Vista put bread on my table, so I need to give back a little. And no way am I going to do that without getting something a little out of the ordinary.

I got to Best Buy a little after ten and checked the shelves. No Signature Editions to be found. Luckily I went to the service desk to ask, and just as I was doing so, they brought out the four boxes they had at that store. Two got put aside by (for?) the employees, and I grabbed one of the remaining two. Talk about good timing. I think I also picked a good store to go to. It’s fairly new and people don’t seem to know it’s there, so there was very little “competition”.

Here are some unboxing pictures for your viewing pleasure:

Box front


Open back


System requirements on the side


Feature comparison list on the back


Other side

Outside cardboard box and inside plastic box


Inside plastic box front

Inside plastic box back with Bill Gates comments

Plastic box side

Opened plastic box with DVD / media holder

Leaflets inside media holder


CD order information


Back of media holder with key sticker

More on pouring away gas

January 26, 2007 7:53 pm

This is something I’ve had stuck in my mind ever since I read the book “Stuff: The secret lives of everyday things” (or was it “Natural Capitalism”? I’ve lent out both books right now).

Take a wild guess at how much of the energy in the gas you put in your car actually goes towards transporting you. Don’t be afraid to lowball it. Write it down.

How did you go about it? Did you use the fact (which is fairly common knowledge) that car engines are about 30% efficient? Good. But 30% is not the answer. Did you pay attention to how the question is worded? “Towards transporting YOU”?

How about idling, energy lost in the driveline, energy lost on powering accessories in the car? With all that, about one-eighth (12.5 %) of the energy reaches the wheels. Around half of that heats the tires, road and air that the car pushes aside. That leaves about 6% or so applied to moving the car forward. When you figure in that your mass compared to the car’s mass is about 5%, that leaves less than one percent of the energy in the fuel for transporting YOU. Let’s be generous and say it’s actually one percent. Here’s a little visual of that number for you:


That’s a scary waste in my book.

Here’s more to make you think: A friend of mine, Stan King, did some calculations based on a discussion we had at a recent simplicity circle meeting at our house. I had wondered how bicycling compares to driving in terms of energy efficiency. He took on the task of figuring it out. When you convert the amount of energy needed to bike a mile and convert that to the car’s miles-per-gallon equivalent, riding a bicycle has a “miles-per-gallon” of about 650. That number makes hybrid cars pale in comparison.

When you consider that 99% of the energy in the gas is wasted on things other than transporting you, the passenger, riding a bicycle has a “miles-per-gallon” of over 6500.

Compared to that, hybrid cars seem almost like stone age technology.

This is the thinking behind our family’s decision to stick with one car, even though it creates some inconvenience. It’s also why I bike to work practically every day.

And just so you won’t think I pulled these numbers out of thin air, there’s a Wikipedia article that states a 653 mpg for bicycling, which matches Stan’s number well. The calculation on the efficiency of cars can be found in this article by Amory Lovins from July 2006. The journal this was published in can be downloaded here (3.17 MB PDF).

Try this search on Google. I promise you’ll be surprised!

5:43 pm

Doing some research for an illustration I wanted to post on this blog, I typed the following search terms into Google: aluminum can volume. What do you think a search like this would bring you? Try it out yourself. You’ll be as surprised as I was.

It’s this:


Almost every result talks about how much energy is wasted when you don’t recycle a soda can! It’s the equivalent of filling the can halfway with gas and pouring it out. If that idea won’t make you think more about recycling aluminum cans, maybe this calculation will:

Half a soda can is 6 oz. A gallon has 128 oz. So 21.333 empty cans thrown away equal a gallon of gas wasted. My car has a tank capacity of about 15 gallons (I think). So it would take 320 non-recycled cans for me to waste a tank full of gas. My car can travel about 300 miles on a tank of gas. I certainly don’t want to waste energy like that. Especially energy coming from our dwindling oil reserves. We’ll need that oil for lots of other things besides burning it for transportation. For example, most plastics are based on oil, and I wonder how many cool and wonderful gadgets and gizmos (needing plastic enclosures and parts) we won’t be able to produce in the future if we run out of oil. Pardon the digression.

Anyway, now I’ve used my illustration and even given it a little surprising Google story to go with it.