Archive for the ‘Why?’ Category

Some things are not meant to be seen

Thursday, December 12th, 2013

Where I work, we’re planning a small Christmas celebration. The company is small enough, and business is tough enough, that we’re not going out to a restaurant for dinner. We are planning, however, to bring in lunch from a local restaurant.

We have a number of restaurant menus available, but the boss wanted to make certain that we had an up-to-date one from the local restaurant we’d decided to use.

Unfortunately, our ISP’s content filter prevented us from accessing the restaurant’s website. The reason given was “Forbidden category: Alcohol/Tobacco.” Really? You can get a drink with a meal? What horror!

Whose decision was this? We have to be prevented from finding out anything about the restaurant because they have a liquor license? I suppose next year I’ll see “Forbidden category: Serving size/Transfat.” Or “Forbidden category: Drink refills.” The way things are going, it may not be long before I’ll see “Forbidden category: Politically incorrect.”

Fortunately, there was a workaround. I downloaded the menu to my cellphone, then sent it as an email attachment to my work email address, from which I could print it. There was a minor glitch there, as the only two menu choices my phone gives me for attachments are “Attach Picture” and “Attach Video.” Fortunately (again), selecting “Attach Picture” gives me the option of attaching any file.

I’ve submitted a request to recategorize the website on the grounds that the current categorization is ridiculous. We’ll see (in about a week) if it has any effect.

It’s a mystery

Tuesday, November 27th, 2012

I won’t say that I live and die by 3×5 cards, but I use a fair number of them. I take notes, copy recipes, write down dance steps, save web pages, contact information, and so on. Every now and then, I find some cards I haven’t seen in a while. A few days ago, I found a stack of cards I hadn’t seen in a while. Probably a long while, but there’s no date information on the card.

Beside the URL of a defunct website and the title and author of a book that I thought I might want to acquire, the card contains the following list:

  • Shipbuilding
  • Prevention
  • Bourbon
  • Naval Mine Warfare
  • Pollinator Protection
  • Hockey
  • Friends of Liechtenstein
  • Contaminated Drywall

I’m pretty certain that there’s no common thread there, but there’s nothing else on the card to let me know why I copied these topics down, or from where. Still, I can tell that I wrote the list as a single entity – it wasn’t something I added to over a period of time – so I’m intrigued by the possibility that there is a common thread, if I can just remember or deduce it.

It’s been an interesting few days

Wednesday, May 16th, 2012

Not in any really desirable sense of “interesting,” unfortunately.

Sunday morning, I came back to my house to find my front door not working. What had happened is that something had jammed in the latching mechanism, and the latch wouldn’t withdraw enough to allow the door to open when the knob was turned. If it had happened a week before, it wouldn’t have been much of a problem, because the weather was warm enough then that I had most of my windows open to let the breeze through, and all it would have taken was removing a screen and climbing through. However, this past weekend was chill enough that I had all of the windows latched closed.

Marion had a locksmith she’d used before that she recommended highly, so I called them. The dispatcher said he had nobody he could send, but he could set up an appointment for the next day. Not acceptable. He did have another locksmith company I could call, though. Unfortunately, he’d set up his booth at the Mile High Flea Market and was unavailable until about 4:30 or 5:00 pm. Again, not acceptable.

I went to the local Home Depot and Lowe’s to see if they had a locksmith service or someone they knew who worked Sundays (and Mother’s Day in particular). No luck. No “home break-in kits” for sale, either. The lady I spoke with at Home Depot pissed me off, too – after explaining about how my door mechanism had broken, she asked some co-workers about locksmiths by calling out across the store, “Hey, this guy locked himself out! Can we do anything?” Why, yes, having broken door hardware is just the same as pulling a locked door closed without having your keys.

When I got back, Marion called a 24/7 emergency locksmith while I was otherwise occupied. When he got there, he tried the doorknob for a couple of minutes, then drilled out the lock cylinder (which scared me, because he was using a bent drill bit) and tried the doorknob again. When that didn’t work, he put his shoulder to it and broke the door open. The jamb was split completely across through the hole for the latch, and three pieces of it were on the floor (two large and one small). He then took two screws and put the two larger pieces more-or-less back in place and asked me if I wanted him to put a new doorknob in. As if.

I probably shouldn’t have paid, but I did. Way too much. I changed the text on the receipt that said that there were no problems and that I was satisfied with the job, though.

Monday morning, I called and asked for the owner, and complained to him. He gave me a $50 refund (insufficient, but I didn’t want to get into kicking and screaming). I then called the original locksmith Marion recommended. The phone dispatcher said, “You’re kidding!” when I described the situation, then connected me with Mark, one of the owners, who gave exactly the same response. Mark came out and examined my door, then said I didn’t need the jamb replaced. All I needed was a better repair job. I’d have needed a replacement if the split had gone though the deadbolt hole, but the latch isn’t what gives me security on that door. He couldn’t do the work until Wednesday morning, though, so we set up an appointment and I went in late to work.

Then yesterday, I thought I’d go out into the back parking lot and play ukulele during lunch – the Swallow Hill Ukefest is this weekend, and I could do with some more practice. Unfortunately, the C string on my uke had broken. No ukulele for me.

I got back to my office and started to work again, but found a large number of “disk error” alert boxes pop up. Then a program I knew I hadn’t installed started running and claimed that I had tremendous numbers of hard disk errors. I immediately did a hard shutdown of my desktop, and started investigating using my laptop. It turns out that I’d been infected by S.M.A.R.T. HDD, a piece of scamware/ransomware that purports to find disk errors, and offers to fix them if you provide a credit card number and upgrade from the “free version.” It also hides all of your desktop icons, prevents Windows Task Manager from running, and takes up enough system resources to make it difficult to run anything else.

According to Microsoft’s website, this is a new version of a several-year-old program, and they really can’t protect against it. The approved removal method involves booting into safe mode with networking, then running Internet Explorer to download several programs that will take care of removing the infection. That didn’t work for me; I had no access to programs from the Start menu in safe mode – the “run” box was missing and the only program on the menu was the fake disk utility.

I got in touch with our IT services provider and got walked through a recovery process, but that failed. We set up an appointment for him to come in this morning while I was dealing with the locksmith, and he’d clean the infection from my system. I stopped and picked up some ukulele strings on the way home.

The IT guy had just finished when I got to work (by the way, the locksmith did great work on the jamb, and cleaned up a couple of other door-related problems I had – I can whole-heartedly recommend Master Security of Arvada).

Unfortunately, the scamware had also hidden a number of documents, including an entire directory that I need to work with, which I admit would have been hard, if not impossible, for the IT guy to notice. Luckily, the applications needed to clean my system, including an “unhide” utility, were left on the system, so I’m running that in hopes that it’s all I need to get back to work.

Now, I find I can’t get into my Google Plus account. We had a meeting yesterday with a web design person, and I brought my laptop into the meeting so I could show her the statistics on our current site as well as the site itself. Showing the statistics required logging into Google Analytics with my work email address, so now Google Plus wants me to “upgrade” with my work email address, and I don’t seem to have a way to tell it I want to log in with my Gmail account information. Way to go, Google!

I’m hoping that I’m not told that there’s no record of my buying my pass for the Ukefest when I try to pick it up. I’m not sure it will surprise me if it happens, though.

Sunday, when this all started, was May 13th. It’s a day off, but it reminds me of the lament in one of the Pogo strips, which went something like this: “Friday the 13th done come on a Monday. We’s gonna have a whole week of bad luck!”

Annals of the nanny state

Thursday, June 9th, 2011

In England, it’s to the point that parents may no longer be invited to see their children compete in “sports day” events, because there would be a possibility of children mixing with strangers.

A pointless world record

Wednesday, June 8th, 2011

To be honest, given that the needles had to penetrate her skin twice each, I guess it’s not pointless. Useless may be more accurate.

I’m sure she was on pins and needles waiting for the record to be validated so they could be removed.

I say we take off and nuke the entire site from orbit.

Wednesday, November 17th, 2010

It’s the only way to be sure. (NSFW photos at link)

This is being (humorously) referred to as a follow-on to Sarah Palin’s Alaska. I’ll admit that there’s some humor there, just because of the juxtaposition of values and representatives. There’s a point, though, at which something goes from “disturbing and uncomfortable” to “absolutely wrong.” San Francisco is already partially into the second zone, and apparently moving further into it all the time.

There are definitely reasons

Wednesday, November 17th, 2010

One website I go to classifies some posts under a category named something like, “Reasons we aren’t nearly afraid enough of the Japanese.” I think this would fall into that category. There is a type of performer in Japan called the idol singer. There have been idols who were “merely” popular performers, idols who were corporate image representatives, and so on. They’re a long-lived enough cultural phenomenon that they’ve been reasonably common in anime, as well, with one character whose singing was sufficient to stop an interstellar war.

Now, they’re not even required to be real people for live performances in the real world.

One has to wonder what the people in the audience actually saw – is the technology advanced enough for them to see what we can see in the video, or was this done in postprocessing? But don’t worry about where they can possibly go from here – they went there about a year ago.

Video found at Snapped Shot.

I wasn’t planning to go that way, anyway

Friday, November 5th, 2010

Say what?

I live in a dangerous neighborhood

Sunday, October 17th, 2010

There’s a crabapple tree that shadows my front walk.

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.