Thursday, October 15, 2009

Du for Windows and other tidbits

While MSYS offers the majority of the classic UNIX command line to Windows, one utility it does not have is du, which lets me see how much space a given directory takes up, and which files are hogging up hard disk space.

I have been using Cygwin to run “du”, but starting up a full *NIX environment (complete with X) to run that one command MSYS neglected to include is a little excessive.

While MSYS doesn’t have du, Microsoft has a free download of du for Windows. Its output is not quite the same output as the classic *NIX du, but it’s good enough for my purposes.

Another option I haven’t looked in to is the GNU coreutils for Windows, whose du output should be more UNIX-like.

In the early 1990s, people began to realize that floppy disks did not have enough space to store anything besides text documents and small images, so work began on making an affordable removable media with more space than a floppy disk.

One of the more successful attempts to do this was the Iomega Zip drive. Zip drives were quite common in the 1995-1999 timeframe, depending on your definition of “common”. They were common in the sense your average geek would have a zip drive, but not common in the sense that, when you bought a computer, it was a given it would have a zip drive. Zip drives were successful because you didn’t need a special connector to use them; you could attach it to the parallel port almost all PCs had in that time frame (or the SCSI Zip drive if you had a Macintosh or, in my case, used Linux before the Paraport driver was made). They were used a lot until compact disc recordables got affordable (hit the $1 per blank disk price point) around 1999 or 2000.

I used Zip drives and Zip disks for storing data offline from 1996 until early 2001, when my buddy Leo started letting me burn CDs on his CD burner.

There were competitors, such as the SyQuest EZ 135 Drive, the LS-120, and higher priced higher capacity options like the Jaz drive, the Orb Drive, the SparQ drive, among others. I actually got an Orb Drive and a few 2.2 gig cartridges for backing up the server we had at work back in the dot-com days.

Iomega still makes high-capacity removable drives and media. Their current technology is something called an REV drive, which uses 120 gigabyte cartridges (about $60 per cartridge). There’s another removable media technology called “RDX” with media up to 500 gigs in size (for $300). With this type of technology, you’re paying for convenience; a terabyte-size notebook hard disk is $127 at Pricewatch right now and a 100-pack of DVD-R (not +R, since -R stores seven more megabytes) media is around $25 at Meritline right now (you can store 500 gigs in 107 discs).

These days I use DVD-Rs to store data; my burner doesn’t support dial-layer blanks, so I just burn single-layer 4.7 gig disks for backups and what not.

My chess variant research continues. I have been doing a lot of computer simulations of various openings in my “Schoolbook” arrangement of the Capablanca pieces. White starts with a 7% advantage, so I’ve been looking for openings where Black can minimize that advantage. 1. e4 d5 2. exd5 Nb6 looks to equalize things for black, 1. f4 c5 appears to give black a strong advantage, and I’ve been spending over a week looking for Black’s best reply to 1. c4; right now 1. c4 Mh6 looks to be Black’s best reply, but I need to do more research on this.

Chess variants are one of those things where it’s trivial to “invent” a variant but difficult to research how to play the variant in question. There’s a reason a lot of strong chess players resist any attempt to change the rules of chess; people have spent centuries in to finding the best moves in chess, and any change, even one as simple as rearranging the pieces in the opening, throws out a lot of that study.