Strange Brouhaha

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

I keep saying this, and I never stick to it, but...

...never again, Apple.

I have owned two reliable Apple products in the last 24 years. One of them is a Mac Plus, which would still be running today if I hadn't lost all the system software and hosed the hard disk by letting an 18-month-old play with it, and the other is my iPod Photo, which I've had for several years now and which is still going strong.

This is far outweighed by the large amounts of junk I've worked with, both personally and professionally, that has the Apple logo on it.

It's also outweighed by the somewhat more nebulous sense of personal betrayal I feel whenever I think about having been burned by two processor switches--the 68K-to-PowerPC switch and the PowerPC-to-Intel switch. In both cases, I had bought new machines not too long before the switches were announced. It's more that I feel like I was burned than that I was actually burned, but emotion is the primary source of whatever loyalty Apple has among its fan base and so I think that I'm allowed some emotion in this case.

But back to the large amounts of junk.

I have never gracefully retired an Apple machine (other than the Mac Plus). Every Macintosh I've ever owned has fireworked or bricked in some way. Two Macintosh LCs suffered catastrophic disk failures; in one case, the hard drive seized with no warning, not even the "Iiiiiii'm dyyyyyinnnnnngggggg" whine that usually precedes such a failure. One iBook G4--same deal, which I covered in detail elsewhere.

More anecdotally: when I worked for the School District, we were constantly sending Macs in for repair. PCs just chugged along. Macs, not so much. Macs required more handholding and setup and massaging; the PCs were far more reliable, and in greater numbers. To this day, I always recommend Dell to people who are buying PCs, because the Dell PCs we used were stone cold solid.

The latest, and I hope final, outrage: the Mac mini that I bought five months ago has turned up a bum DVD drive. It won't mount any DVDs at all--movies or software. The last time I used the drive for DVDs was sometime in March, at which time it worked perfectly. Now, nothing. Oh, it works fine on CDs, but it just kind of chews at DVDs for a few seconds and spits them back out.

Fortunately, it's still under warranty, and I have an appointment at the Apple store in the mall tomorrow to have a "Genius" look at it. So I should be able to get a warranty repair out of the deal. I hope.

(And remember...there were ALREADY problems with this machine when I took it out of the box.)

Still: never again, Apple. I have had enough of your junk. This time, I'll take the hint. And Apple fans--of which I used to be one--I don't want to hear it. Other than the Mac Plus and the iPod, I have never, ever had anything but a disappointing experience with Apple. Never again.

It's bizarre. My computing experience has been totally at odds with reported anecdotal evidence from other people who know what they're doing: Windows ME was rock solid for me; I have no problems with Vista; every PC I've ever owned and/or built has been completely stable. Apple products, on the other hand, which are supposed to Just Work and to help you Think Different and which feature in all of those cute ads with John Hodgman, have been nothing but a headache and a nuisance.

Never again, Apple.

Never again.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Has it really been almost a week?

I suppose it has.

  • I have by now listened to most of "Snakes & Arrows Live". Is it just me, or my speakers, or is the mix really lousy? The drums were way forward. It kind of goes back to the crappy mix on the studio "Snakes And Arrows." Posse member Matt D and I had a discussion about it last June...not that anyone else would necessarily know that.

  • The new computer is now completely outfitted with everything I wanted to install, including something to get music and video on and off my cell phone. iTunes is working correctly, Dawn of War: Dark Crusade plays extremely well, Windows Vista is quick and responsive. I pronounce myself almost completely satisfied. The only glitch, really, is that the wireless keyboard and mouse I'm using are not that great--they suck batteries like you wouldn't believe. But I really need to be able to get them off the desk if I need space, so I don't really want a wired keyboard and mouse. I'm not sure how to solve that one.

  • Apparently, there are people who think that Barack Obama needs to denounce gangsta rap and rappers. You know, because they're black and so is he, and because he's picked up some endorsements from the hip-hop world--which of course, is composed entirely of violent anti-white artists. When John McCain apologizes to the world for all of Chuck Norris' lousy movies, then we can talk. (I was going to say "When John McCain denounces The Mentors..." but he would do just that, and it doesn't really touch on the main point, which is...uh, well, there are actually a lot of points all mixed up in there, such as "John McCain is getting a free pass from the press on all of his idiot endorsers," and "Why are we focusing on bullshit?" I know, that's not particularly insightful, but why waste insight on trivia?)

  • "How do you cram a 1,000-page novel into three and a half hours of stage time?" asks a critic of the Gone With the Wind musical that opened in London recently. Well, it must be possible, because they sure crammed the 1,000 page novel into a (slightly more than) three and a half hour movie that has become an enduring classic. Honestly, I think the play's writer (who was also the composer and lyricist) should probably have adapted the movie instead. I'm no expert on adaptations, and maybe someone who is can correct me, but the movie has already taken care of "the hard part," which is taking the essentially internal world of a novel and translating it into the essentially external, visual world of film.

Here's yet another video that they had on Boing Boing recently. You know, when I started this blog, I was essentially a CNN reprint site...I hope I don't turn into a Boing Boing reprint site.

Anyway, here's a couple of guys on the uke doing the Ramones' "Blitzkrieg Bop."

Monday, April 21, 2008

Now THAT would be a cool model

Courtesy of Red Ferret Journal, here's a video of a train passing through an outdoor market in Bangkok. The market is set up on the tracks. When the train comes through, everyone moves out of the way. Produce and stuff is left--the train clears it.

The post at Red Ferret actually links to a second video shot from the back of the train of the market setting back up. This is pretty amazing.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

It's been easy...almost too easy

I am almost done setting up the new PC. The build itself was easy, easier than any build I've ever done. The wiring in the case is a little messy, but I can live with it since I never have to look at it. It's enough that the wires are out of the way of the fans and hot items.

I chose Vista Home Premium, and while it took longer than I expected to install and update all of the drivers for the various components, overall that part of the process went smoothly and painlessly--especially once the wireless card was up and running so that I could bootstrap to the latest driver...which made the card actually stable.

Not surprisingly, what has ended up taking the longest has been data transfer. I have over 30GB of music in my iTunes library and another nearly 30GB in loops for a music program. This is a lot of data to transfer over a wireless network; I think it's about 18 hours worth of copying.

Clearly, an unacceptable amount of time.

Fortunately, I have an external hard drive that I can use to bridge the gap. Even with having to copy the 30GB loop library over to the Mac, and having to figure out why Windows won't see the FAT-formatted drive, and copying 60GB off of the Mac and onto the hard drive, and off of the hard drive and onto Windows...I've still spent less than a third of the time a transfer over the network would have taken. (No, wiring up to the network was not an option. I swear, our next house will have Ethernet jacks in every room.)

Right now, my iTunes library is merrily synchronizing itself with my iPod. (That was an adventure, too--I had to modify the official "copy your iTunes library to another machine" instructions before my library would come up. But all is good now.)

As a special treat, here is a video clip. Let me set it up for you.

I was flipping channels on the TV while all of this data transfer was going on, and I happened upon that one movie where Adam Sandler plays a whiny retarded guy. (Ha ha--of course, that's the perfect way to describe all of his movies.) This one happened to be Little Nicky, and while I'd normally pass it right by, the scene I caught happened to be one with Reese Witherspoon in it.

At the end of this scene, Nicky and Reese discover that Nicky's brother is about to complete his plan to become the new Satan and conquer Earth. Nicky needs to use "the power of good" to stop him. Reese gives Nicky a glowing ball. When Nicky asks what it is, Reese allows as to how she's not quite sure...but he'll know when it's time to use it.

Nicky returns to Earth to confront his brother. I guess Nicky has some kind of magic flask that he's supposed to use to capture his brother--I'm not too clear on the details--and he and the brother both get trapped in the flask. The brother gets out first, and turns into a giant bat and is flying around taunting Nicky. Nicky gets out too, with help from his girl, and this scene picks up shortly before Nicky realizes that it's time to use Reese's gift.

I will forgive the crappy animation...because this scene is perfect. Whichever of the three credited writers (Tim Herlihy, Sandler, and Steven Brill) came up with this deserves some kind of award for it. Even just a pat on the back and a "well done."

Friday, April 18, 2008

Yep, we felt the quake!

The Midwest got hit with an earthquake early this morning. The epicenter was down in Illinois, but yeah, it woke us up.

Or rather, it woke The Wife, because it rattled the picture on our wall. Naturally, she then woke me. By the time I woke up and got out of bed to inspect, the tremor was done (4:39).

Naturally, SHE went back to sleep. I tossed and turned and listened to the radio on my phone (I tuned in to a news station to see if there had been an earthquake, and sure enough...). I was awake for at least another hour and a half.

But that's okay, The Wife. :) I got back to sleep just in time to wake up again.

Rush needs to stop MESSING with me!

I did end up buying the components to make a new computer, and they all arrived today (C2D E6750, 2GB g.skill RAM, P35 mobo, 500GB HDD, GeForce 8800GT). I have a two-page checklist/outline of things that I need to do get everything put together and all of my data transferred over from the Macintosh.

One thing that is not on my list is "plug the computer into the power strip," which turns out to have been kind of a mistake because there are no spare outlets on my power strip. There will be, when the Macintosh and the external hard drive are gone, but right now there aren't.

(Third paragraph, where's Rush? Don't worry, they're coming.)

Whenever I go to Best Buy, as I did just now for a new power strip, I do three things: look at PC games, look at XBox 360 and Playstation 2 games, and look to see if there are any new Prince or Rush albums. Best Buy, or at least our Best Buy, sometimes stocks imports and weird stuff, so I figure it doesn't hurt to look.

Rush has a new album. A new live album. Didn't they just have a live album? They need to stop messing with my head. It seems like it was not that long ago that they put out Snakes & Arrows, and all of a sudden here's Snakes & Arrows Live.

Yes, I bought it, but I haven't listened to it yet. I'm not even sure why I bought it, except for completeness' sake, because I sure the heck haven't listened to Snakes & Arrows itself since the first time. For God's sake, I DIDN'T EVEN LOOK AT THE PLAYLIST. For all I knew, frickin' Tai Shan was on it! (It's not.)

My demand is simple: Geddy, since you are cooler than Alex, please inform me when you release a new album so that I can be prepared to spend the money. Also, please release more studio albums. (Heck, another covers EP would be fine.)

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Now Go Away! Or I Shall Taunt You A Second Time!

Courtesy of Mr. B. A. Fett, the Spamalot game. Apparently it even has unlockable weapons based on Spam barcodes.

My top score so far is 3645. Tim kicked my ass a lot, but I finally got him...only to be overrun by 10 Knights on horseback.

Is it really that bad?

Driving home today, I was listening to the comedy station on the radio and heard Yet Another Routine about how We Hate Crying Babies On Airplanes.

I've done a lot of traveling. Short inter-island hops when I was a kid, longer trips in college and as an adult. And, I shall not hesitate to remind you, "longer" means "up to twelve hours flight time alone." That one I've done probably two dozen times, Honolulu to Des Moines or Madison.

And I fly coach.

Maybe I'm just not as sensitive as some people, but I've never been bothered by a crying baby. Is it really that big a deal? Do people just not understand that Babies Cry?

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Funny Quiz

Medieval Torture Device or Bed Bath And Beyond Gadget?

I got 100%, although I admit I guessed a couple of times.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Where the hell have you been?


I've just been tired. Tired of everything. Tired of doing things. Tired of writing things down. Just...tired.

Now, the bronchitis didn't help. But I'm mostly better--for example, I can now walk from my car to my office without feeling like I need a nap--and I'm still just tired. In a lot of ways, it's kind of reminiscent of the first few weeks of my spinal injury last year.

But I'm mentally tired, too. I think I just need a vacation.

It's been a while since I've blogged. What's been happening?

  • I've been playing Half-Life 2 on the Xbox 360. It's like old home week, and it's made me remember how awesome it was running Chunky Boy's Firearms Server (R.I.P.). The only problem? I'm getting motion sickness! Really bad motion sickness, too. It's a little alarming; Quake 2 games (like the original Half-Life) never did that to me, and hell, I played Descent without feeling like I was going to barf. But I can only play HL2 for an hour or so before I have to stop. (Prey was like that for me, too.)

  • I bought Guitar Hero III. Fun, but the songs are kind of lame. The wireless guitar is good, though, and it works with Rock Band.

  • I've been considering buying a new PC and ditching the Macintosh entirely. It'll be a pain switching my iPod and iTunes library, but I'd have a gaming PC again. I thought I would switch entirely to console gaming and never need a gaming PC...but I think it's not happening. I'd ditch the Mac because it doesn't feel right for me to have three computers on my desk. I'm trying to figure out a good small form-factor loadout that will play games--if you have any ideas, let me know.

  • I haven't been writing my script for Script Frenzy, and I don't think I'm going to. My brain doesn't want to work, so I will allow it a vacation.

  • I've been reading the latest Company book by Kage Baker, The Sons of Heaven. Kage Baker is great, the book is great. There's something about the phrase "the Botanist Mendoza" that hits me right. I wish I could explain it.

  • We've been taking a stab at cleaning up the house. Still a work in progress.

  • We've been making plans to celebrate our anniversary a little early this year. We're going to go to L'Etoile again. I'm looking forward to it. We've also been looking ahead to our fifteenth and trying to come up with plans for a trip. That's in 2011; we're looking at places in the Pacific Northwest and the American Southwest and maybe (maybe) the Caribbean, but that's kind of just how it's shaken out--we're trying to concentrate on places that we've never been. If you have suggestions, let me know. Money is sort of no object, although we're not really looking at places that cost a thousand bucks a night. (What that means is that money IS an object, but we can do better than a Motel 6 and a trip to the dinner theater on route 30.)

  • I've been watching "Top Chef". This is the first season I've really been into it. Shows like Top Chef really point out the deficiency of TV, though--you can't smell the food, you can't taste it. But damn, it sure looks good. Anyway, there are a lot of volatile personalities, and since they're drunk for the judging it makes for some...interesting television.

  • The new season of Deadliest Catch starts on Tuesday.

  • I e-filed our taxes this year. I'm not sure I'm going to do that again; it cost nearly forty bucks, all to save a few sheets of paper and a trip to the post office. I don't think it was worth it.

  • The Child is doing her science fair project on ladybugs. I've been trying to guide her in her presentation--but I haven't been doing any of the work for her, so she's very proud of the work she put in on the project, and it's all done and arranged the way she wants it. My guidance was limited to making sure that she planned out what she wanted to say (it's a report, not an experiment) and that things were spelled correctly.

  • For the aforementioned project, I printed out a couple of PD and CC-licensed photos at Walgreen's. When I did that, they called me and said "These pictures are too good. You need to sign a release when you come in to get them." Uh, okay. At work, we have a product that prints photos over the Internet (using technology built into Windows), and I've printed a lot of photos--some of them better than these two--at a lot of different places here in town and I've never had to sign anything. It's a little annoying, and while I understand that they need to cover themselves, they have no criteria other than "it looks too good." I kept pressing them for an explanation, and they couldn't provide one.

  • David linked to this video the other day. It's great. As he says, be sure to watch at least half of it. But I think the ending is fantastic.

I guess that's it.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Word count: ZERO

The Wife has been ill for what seems like forever but is probably around two months. During that same amount of time, The Child seems to have been mostly fine, while I have had the flu.

Tuesday afternoon I felt very strange--I ended up feeling very fatigued and ill by the time I wrapped up my half-day of work. (Tuesday, of course, we put paid [we hope] to the furnace saga.) I was so fatigued that the idea of picking up a spoon made me a little nervous, in a "can I really do it?" kind of way. I was so fatigued that I couldn't even contemplate speaking--I worried for a moment that I was having a stroke or something. That was accompanied eventually by a fever. Then a cough.

Wednesday and Thursday were not so bad; I made it through most of a workday on Wednesday, and the whole thing on Thursday. I hit the Tylenol hard and blew my nose and had some chills but they weren't too bad.

This morning, something happened that made us sufficiently nervous to cause me to Actually Go To The Doctor, a rare occurrence. I won't say what it was, because it's kind of gross.

Anyway, I met this really cool doctor (Iranian, by way of Germany--we talked a little bit in German, but I was too out of it to really concentrate), and after a just-in-case-it's-pneumonia X-ray, he told me that it was probably bronchitis. I got some antibiotics, a box of guaifenisin, and went home.

This is all by way of saying that I haven't actually started writing my ScriptFrenzy entry this year, and it's entirely possible that it won't get done.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

You'd think they'd sing about Georgia or something

Boing Boing featured this video today.

It's a Finnish band, backed up by the Red Army Chorus, covering "Sweet Home Alabama."

Oddly enough, I find that it sort of works.

Didn't I just say "Yes...AGAIN"?

Yes I did.

For those of you keeping score at home, this is the fourth time in a little bit more than two months (the first time was at the end of January). The unit kicked on last night, but the blower never started and after a couple of minutes the furnace turned off. A Saga Ensued.

Repairmen are on their way. They were just here last week. I'm thinking of making closet space for them with their names on it. I wonder what the heck is wrong.

Update: One thing I noticed last night was that one of the vents from the furnace to the exterior--either the exhaust or the intake--was snapped off and lying on the ground. Who knows how long it's been that way; it's all been covered up by snow and ice. That could have been the source of all the difficulty: water getting into the furnace and blowing everything out. The repair guy fixed us up and replaced the PVC vent and we have blessed, blessed heat again.