Archive for the ‘Technology’ Category

Miscellany 15

Tuesday, May 10th, 2011

Got some good stuff today, some of which I’ve been holding onto for a week or so. A little video-heavy, too.

First, one of those quintessential Japanese culture things: a cute girl with cat ears. These, however, are controlled by brain waves. It’s everywhere now, but I found it at The Presurfer.

When Marion and I were vacationing in Ecuador, we saw this volcano off in the distance. We saw a column of steam and ash, but nothing like this, although we did hear an occasional booming in the distance. It doesn’t really look like the same mountain in my photos, but that could just be the vantage point from which we saw it.

Volcano in Ecuador

I’ve known some vicious cats in my time, but I would never have expected that I’d need to be medevac’d after a knife fight with one.

Whisky by the shot. Via Cool Material.

A remake of When Harry Met Sally? Looks like it has promise. Via Bad Example.

When Harry Met Sally 2 with Billy Crystal & Helen Mirren from Billy Crystal

Bad Example also had this one, which is pretty fun.

I missed Star Wars Day last week. Whether you did as well or not, you may enjoy these retro Star Wars propaganda posters.

If you prefer Star Trek to Star Wars, you may appreciate hearing that a German television station gave the Maquis credit for taking out Osama Bin Laden.

I want one of these when they’re available.

Want a big photo of the sky?

A town with a population of 1? Sounds sorta familiar.

Reconnecting with Connections

Sunday, January 16th, 2011

I loved Connections when it was first broadcast. It was a fascinating show. A few years ago, I discovered that the downtown location of the Denver Public Library had a set of the VHS tapes of the shows, but I never got around to checking them out.

Now I don’t have to.

It’s all adding up

Friday, December 10th, 2010

My car has been giving me a few problems lately. About a week ago, I had some errands to run at lunch. When I tried to start the engine, it ground for several seconds without starting. Releasing the key and trying again produced an immediate “catch.” However, the engine light came on, and the car had no acceleration. Instead of running my errands, I drove it to my mechanic. The starter coil assembly needed replacement. Just under $800 later, I had my car back.

Less than five miles later, the engine light came on again. I went in to the mechanic the next morning to have the codes read and reset. Catalytic converter and rear 02 sensors. I left with the admonition to bring it in if the light came on again. Five miles later, it did. So, I brought the car back. About $250 later, I had a new rear O2 sensor.

About 30-40 miles later, the engine light came on again. My next visit showed that the catalytic converter needs replacement. I’m taking it in again next week, and expect to get my car back in another $600-$900.

Bleah. Oh, well. My father’s rule of thumb for when it was time to buy a new car hasn’t been met yet (continuing repair bills equivalent to a car payment), so I’m not happy, but I’m not particularly worried yet.

Why doesn’t my job doesn’t bring me into contact with anyone like this?

Thursday, November 18th, 2010

Olivia Munn has been named Tech Girl of 2011 by Men’s Health magazine. I’ve sometimes watched her show on G4, but not particularly often. I like this photo of her from the article:

Olivia Munn

It’s a very nice photo, but there’s something familiar about it … ah, yes. Here we go.

Too much of a good thing

Saturday, October 23rd, 2010

Wireless networking is good. Wireless networking is convenient. When you have around a dozen-and-a-half wireless networks in close proximity, it becomes harder to connect. That’s my situation at home these days. I was fine until about a week ago; I guess whoever started up a new home wireless network was the straw that broke the camel’s back.

I’ve moved my wireless to a different channel to try to avoid some of the interference, and it only helps a little. The Wi-Fi Analyzer on my Droid says I should switch to channel 13 or 14. Unfortunately, my wireless router/DSL modem can’t use any channel higher than 11, which is overpopulated locally.

C’est la vie. It looks like my best method of operation at the moment is to log in from my laptop from within the same room upstairs as the router, following which I can maintain access in the living room downstairs. I can’t log in from downstairs, though, or I wouldn’t be complaining.

Oh, boy, does *this* speak to me!

Saturday, October 16th, 2010

Way back when, I was a beta tester for Windows 95. At the time, I had a 486-33 system, which was a little behind the state of the art, and slightly questionable as to whether it was powerful enough to run the new OS. I think they recommended a 486-66 as the minimum necessary. I liked Windows 95 immediately, and thought it had a much nicer interface than Windows 3.1, but I had to reinstall every few weeks because the beta versions kept trashing my hard drive.

In any case, the CD/sound card subsystem I’d added to the PC developed a problem – this was back when CDs and sound output beyond a simple beeper weren’t standard equipment that came with a computer; you usually had to purchase them separately and install them yourself.

The problem was that the CD tray would be ejected when I powered-up the computer, and the motor wouldn’t turn off. When I pushed the tray in, the rack gears would engage with the drive gears, the tray would get sucked in, then the motors would reverse and eject the tray again. The motor never stopped running, so the rack gears on the CD slide completely disengaged from the drive internals, and the slide could be easily removed. It was obvious that some limit switch or other sensor had broken. Unfortunately, tech support wouldn’t help me. They had their script, and they wouldn’t alter it for anything.

They wouldn’t support me because I had Windows 95 installed. Their position was that they didn’t support Windows 95, and had no intention of supporting it in the future. I suppose they felt that Windows 3.1 was the be-all and end-all of operating systems that would be in use forever, and this new upstart wouldn’t go anywhere. They insisted that they wouldn’t support me unless I uninstalled 95 and reinstalled 3.1, even though I’d been running for several months with Windows 95 by that point.

I couldn’t afford to uninstall Windows 95, because I was a beta tester in order that my then-girlfriend could use the system (and my experiences using it when she didn’t) to develop a Windows 95 training video – she had produced some videos previously for Video Professor, and got them to pay for my MSDN membership so that she could do one for Windows 95 that would be available on launch day. Explaining that it was an obvious hardware issue got me nowhere. Yes, I was reinstalling Windows 95 fairly often because of disk trashing, anyway, but it, at least, came on CD. I ‘d have had to install Windows 3.1 from 5 1/4″ floppies. Even if they’d agreed to replace my system, I’d have had a 3.1 system with no way to install 95 again until I’d received the replacement, and I couldn’t afford that. Actually, it was my girlfriend who couldn’t afford that, because she had a deadline for the video she was scripting, but it worked out to be pretty much the same thing.

Finally, I disconnected the hard drive completely, and booted from a DOS 5.0 floppy that I’d installed the CD’s drivers onto. Exactly the same behavior (which I’d expected). Again (and, at this point, it had been several calls over the course of a few weeks) I called tech support and waited the half-hour or so to get through. I described what I’d done. They said I had to have a hard drive. I asked to speak to a supervisor. Eventually, I got one. I described (again) that I’d booted from floppy and the hard drive with Windows 95 wasn’t even powered up. He said, “We can work with that.” I said, “Finally! Thank you!”

Then he said, “The first thing you need to do is reinstall the hard drive and put Windows 3.1 back on it.”

You can probably imagine my reaction. You’d likely be wrong. I didn’t blow up. I merely asked to whom I’d send a complaint about their support. He said that it would go to him. Then was when I blew up. He hung up on me when I was explaining that I provided tech support for my company’s products, and any complaints about the support I provided went to my boss, not to me, and that I thought that either his boss was stupid or he was a liar.

After that, I wrote a letter to the president of the company, whose address I found in the Dunn & Bradstreet books my company had. I wrote up the entire chronology of my attempts to get support – I’d actually kept a log of all the calls, which I don’t normally do – and very politely explained what I felt were the shortcomings of their approach to Windows 95 and their customer support, including the fact that their customer support people were apparently trying to prevent upper management from learning just how poorly they were performing.

The letter came back to me with a “moved – forwarding order expired” stamped onto it. I may still have it, unopened, tucked somewhere in the garage.

In any case, that was all brought back to me by this cartoon.

UPDATE: XKCD (although not the same cartoon) has inspired someone else.

Miscellany 12

Monday, October 11th, 2010

Bohemian Rhapsody performed on ukulele by Jake Shimabukuro.

NPR’s feature on Lyle Ritz.

Tchaikovsky did what? (I recently ran across a printout I made of this page some years ago. The page is gone, but has preserved it.

Wallace and Gromit in A Matter of Loaf and Death.

I keep getting mailers suggesting that I sign up for receiving mail ballots for all future elections. Here’s one reason why I haven’t.

A cause of rising ocean levels that is not attributed to “global warming.” I remember reading about the falling levels in the Edwards Aquifer a couple of decades or more ago. I can’t imagine that things have gotten any better in the time since then. Fresh water supplies are going to become more and more important as time goes on and population increases.

Vessels such as this were being proposed way back when I was in the Navy. I’m sure it’s got impressive speed, but there’s not a lot of visible armament. It looks (to my long-out-of-practice-and-behind-the-times eye) like one gun emplacement on the foredeck, and something that looks reminiscent of a Vulcan/Phalanx close-in missile defense system up top. If that’s all there is, it’s a continuation of a trend that dates back to at least the 1970s – I can remember looking at our warships and comparing them with the Russian K-class warships, which bristled with weapons in comparison to ours. Still, the armament necessary for a given ship depends on its mission.

This makes more sense than I like. It might not be a deliberate aim, but it certainly seems to fit the facts.

Another step along the road to cyberwar

Friday, October 1st, 2010

We’ve had computer worms before, but Stuxnet is the first I’ve heard of that was written to deliberately target something other than just another computer – that is, to affect the real world.

There are good discussions here, here, here, here, here, and here that are worth reading.

I certainly don’t know who wrote it or why, nor do I have the geopolitical knowledge to forecast many of the consequences that can be expected. It is an escalation of the state of conflict between computer security and system attackers.

It appears that the people behind Stuxnet are well-funded and very capable. One wonders if they have any other development efforts in progress, or if there are other similar groups at work already.

Aluminum that’s as strong as steel

Monday, September 20th, 2010

The process doesn’t sound very economical just yet, though.

And they said dogs, not cats, were working animals

Monday, September 13th, 2010

You just have to make it fun for them.

I’m not certain about the efficiency, though.

Via Dyspepsia Generation.