Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Cables 25 years ago when a parallel cable was only available as a hand made item from the United States, it cost $40. These days, mass produced in China, even the best are under $10. So it amazes me that stores would charge (and get) $29.99 for a USB 2 cable, when they are also available at your local 99 Cent store for 99 cents.

FOLLOWUP: For 99 cents, its an "Office Essentials USB 2.0 Device Cable"; fine print on the back of the package says "Manufactured by Belkin Corporation", the very same folks who make the $29.99 cables others sell.

Friday, December 23, 2005

HAPPY FESTIVUS - If you forgot about Festivus remind yourself here.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

DirecTv rollout of their own DVR - It's not going so well. Story here . DirecTv could break their arms patting themselves on their backs as they try to spin it that its going well, when even the DVR newbies are complaining. It's gotten so bad that if you buy the unit on their website it's now FREE. How good can it be if they have to give it away to get people to take it. Smart folks still ask for TiVo.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Problem with Apple Powerbook screens : New 15 inch screens on Powerbooks are (in a word) defective. Story here. I assume Apple will do their usual stonewall, and then after a month capitulate and do the right thing. I had the identical problem with a Sony 19 inch standalone LCD monitor and ClubMac took it back and gave me full credit.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

New use for Cell Phones - As a wireless pong paddle. It's called Gesture-based technology.
Georgia Tech folks developed it using the cell phone's camera as a motion detector. Their link is here.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

BellSouth uses strong arm tactics to try to stop New Orleans WiFi - The only way I know how to protest is to complain to Cingular, since I do not live in "BellSouth" territory. Story here.

Monday, December 05, 2005

BETTER THAN THE BEST - I've already decided that Firefox 1.5 is the best browser out there. I can finally check email at mail.com without the myriad pop-under ads they have appearing. hurrah! But now if you own a G5 Apple Macintosh, there is a "G5 optimized version" available here.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

64 Bit Windows grief: Those on the bleeding edge of Windows technology with the 64 bit version of Windows XP Pro have been complaining about the lack of hardware drivers. Some help is available. An excellent compatibility chart is here.

Friday, December 02, 2005

JUST LIKE TiVo - The Houston Office a a Major DISH Network supplier now has radio ads incorrectly (and illegally) describing the DISH DVR as just like TiVo. We'll see what TiVo has to say about that. They already have a pending lawsuit against Echostar for patent infrongement.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

No Christmas for Sony, they've been very bad : is what some people say after what Sony/BMG did with CD copy protection. They have an image here. Sony has yet to deliver the promised simple uninstaller for their rootkit.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Microsoft delays next beta of Windows VISTA: Now in 2006. Read about it here.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Excellent summary story of Sony's hubris in the CD DRM fiasco. Thanks to Cpt. Spaulding for alerting me to the story here.
Advances in Browsing the Internet: Firefox 1.5 is due out this afternoon. Get it here. Which sometime this afternoon (November 29, 2005) will redirect to the Firefox 1.5 download page. Available as of 3:30 PM CST here.

Followup: Installed, and loving it! I love the tabbed browsing! FAQ on Mozilla Firefox 1.5 is here.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Apple's future plans?: Apple has worked hard to prevent leaks, even suing some folks, but the "rumors" continue, usually pretty accurate. One of the best places to get predictions is here.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

On the Xbox 360 front (glad I don't have one) more reports of their crashing are posting, and a possible solution. Some sources say its due to an overheating powersupply,
so put the large brick of a powersupply where its not on the floor.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

The grief of being a Diabetic. Read this

Friday, November 25, 2005

Give yourself a stock market tip today: Drive by some retail stores and note which ones have full parking lots with people streaming out of the store carrying many items, and which ones have half empty parking lots with folks walking out empty handed. Call your cousin over 1000 miles away and see if the situation is the same by them.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

The Bleeding edge: Some of those that had to be first with an X-Box 360, are paying the price. Reports are coming in of crashing units. The rest of you are advised.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Beat the Customer Service System: Major corporations are being penny wize and pound foolish by trying to cut corners on customer service. Most annoying is the difficulty getting past an automated phone system to a human being. One web site has a list a "secret numbers" to get past the system. Merely getting past the automated system doesn't help with most companies. The frontline CSRs have near zero authority, and have handle time limits, quotas on # of escalations, and quotas on upsells. Often they happily lie to you to get you off the phone so the phone call is short. Worse yet they may be in India, and barely speak understandable English.

One gets FAR better results starting at top, rather than at bottom. This is where GOOGLE saves the day. Google "name of company Executive services" or "Name of company presidents office", google both the web and groups.

FOLLOWUP: It's been suggested to me that it may not be appropriate to suggest harrassing executives. To which I reply and further explain:

The people I suggest getting to are most certainly not executives, just sometimes labeled as such, merely third level support people that often:

1. Do have the authority to ignore stupid guidelines, or grant compensation.
2. Are not subject to handle time limits.
3. Will take ownership of an unique issue.

The "top" I referred to is top of the telephone support chain, not top of company chain of command, I regret any confusion. And where did I say harrass anyone? Any more than talking to a support person when an automated telephone system might more readily find your answer isn't also "harrassment"???

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

TIME Magazine person of the year for 2005: My nominees:

2. A chicken with the flu in China
3. ipod
4. Valerie Plame

Monday, November 21, 2005

Cardinal arguing against evoluton doesn't know squat about science: "Common sense tells us that matter cannot organize itself" says Cardinal Scoenborn arguing for "Intelligent Design". Since he apparently never took a collegiate class in Geology or heard the lecture in week 2 about minerals and crystals, he doesn't know that matter certainly does organize itself, and all the time. It's the very definition of a mineral "A substance with definite chemical composition and characteristic physical properties", or another definition includes "orderly internal structure" such as the organized way atoms arrange into molecules, and can be so identified by crystal shape, hardness, cleavage or x-ray. Some of us learned Moh's hardness scale: Talc, Gypsum, Calcite, Fluorite, Apatite, Orthoclase, Quartz, Topaz, Corundum, Diamond. Or for the layperson, how about how carbon organizes itself into the mineral "Diamond" ???? These aren't theories, they are established fact. And matter certainly organizes itself when DNA replicates.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Ban drugs with side effects?: If you really want to ban drugs with potential dangerous side effects like Vioxx, then maybe ban ASPIRIN too. Story here.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Just say no to Microsoft - How to ditch Microsoft and why it's not as hard as you think. That's the title of a new book, available at discount from Amazon.
Warning for Roadrunner Subscribers in Houston - You heard it here first. Warner cable is going after folks for theft of cable service. That is their right, problem is what will likely happen is their auditors will spot taps into their lines going to houses not subscribed to Cable Television Service, and they'll file legal charges against some folks that have Roadrunner and not Cable TV. Such situations are not new, and I guarantee some innocent folks will get hurt again this time.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

OS X 10.4.3 upgrade grief: My Macintosh crashes
panic(cpu 0 caller 0x000E7FF4): vnode_put(371a108): iocount < 1
Latest stack backtrace for cpu 0:
0x00095698 0x00095BB0 0x0002683C 0x000E7FF4 0x000E7FA0 0x000EE960 0x000EECE0 0x000EED80
0x002A9BF4 0x000ABE30 0x0043006F
Proceeding back via exception chain:
Exception state (sv=0x2EEB2500)
PC=0x90021A4C; MSR=0x0000D030; DAR=0x038B0018; DSISR=0x40000000; LR=0x918F7F7C; R1=0xBFFFF410; XCP=0x00000030 (0xC00 - System call)

Kernel version:
Darwin Kernel Version 8.3.0: Mon Oct 3 20:04:04 PDT 2005; root:xnu-792.6.22.obj~2/RELEASE
_PPCModel: PowerMac7,3, BootROM 5.1.8f7, 2 processors, PowerPC G5 (2.2), 1.8 GHz, 1 GB
Graphics: ATI Radeon 9600 XT, ATY,RV360, AGP, 128 MB

Nothing I try works. Not either the Combo or Incremental Update to 10.4.3, not turning off Norton antiVirus, not deleting all third party widgets, not uninstalling Stuff-It Deluxe. 30 Seconds after a Boot-Up finishes, it crashes.

email to Support@apple.com brought an automated form letter answer telling me to go away, but a Google search of "panic(cpu 0 caller 0x000E7FF4)" led me to the Ars Technica forum where a poster wrote that it was a "permissions" issue, so running Disk Utility from my backup drive to "Repair Permissions" on the crashing drive, brought 2 pages of repairs, and a reboot of original drive now works. With 100 repaired permissions, no telling which one(s) fixed it, but all is OK now.
New larger capacity Cingular SIM card: FREE: While I was on the phone last week with Cingular's "Office of the President" getting in writing the status of International Calling on my cell phone (I had it turned off so if my phone is lost or stolen, a multi-thousand dollar bill couldn't result from International calls), I complained about their somewhat dishonest commercials, which tell of the new improved Network resulting from the combination of AT&T Wireless and Cingular. In point of fact one needs to replace their 32K SIM with a 64K SIM to achieve the new improved coverage. Phones sold by Cingular before the merger had 32K SIMs, now they all have 64K SIMs. Oh, by the way, Cingular wants $25 for a 64K SIM if you don't have one. I suggested I should get one for free since the commercials said I had better coverage now, which I don't with my former 32K SIM, and it was agreed I'd be sent a 64 K SIM for free.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Digital output from DirecTv with TiVo units: These units record digitally but if you want to save or archive a recording, the output goes through a digital to analog conversion that adulerates the quality. Luckily with millions sold, and the TiVo boxes being programmed in Linux, some folks have figured out how to add software to their boxes to allow for "video extraction". And in some cases the procedure for doing so has been carefully documented, or even automated. A simple Google search can find it.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Is Sony finally getting a clue? Sony has now agreed to swap out its badly protected CDs for normal ones. Story here.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Arrogant Web Programmers: I go to pay my Car insurance on the web, and am presented with : "Sorry. The application is unavailable at this time. Please try again later. Click here to return to the our homepage." So I call their 800 number, and am told: "I am showing that the Auto Policy should be viewable and available for bill pay.", Well it wasn't. An hour later, I get an email telling me I must use Browser "Q". Why they would want to limit their customers that way is beyond my comprehension. It's certainly customer unfriendly. It's also obvious their programmers never visited http://www.anybrowser.org so they could learn simple programming techniques to make their web payment Browser independant.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

DirecTv and their Bedbug letter: Tradition has it that the first boilerplate form letter was sent by a Railroad to a gentleman complaining about finding bedbugs in his sleeper compartment. Attached to the apologetic letter he received was the note: "Send this jerk the bedbug letter".

So when DirecTv wrote me back when I complained that after 2 months a promised call from the Presidents Office had never come, the letter contained:

Thank you again for contacting us, and I'm sorry for any inconvenience this may have caused you.


DIRECTV Customer Service

Thank you for writing. <<ADD EMPATHY STATEMENT>>.
Sony admits defeat (at least for now): Saturday - Sony announces it's stopping using copy protection on its Music CDs. Story here. Their copy protection really only hurt their honest customers, not the pirates selling bootleg copies on street corners.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Intelligunt Desine: In case anyone didnt realize it. So called Intelligent Design, another cloaking device for attempts to use a Christian Bible as a Scientific Textbook and force it into secular public schools, formerly under the guise of "Creationism"; Pat Robertson's over the top comments Thursday is proof once and for all, that its all about getting his brand of religion into secular schools.
Another "fun" cellular fact: Cell phone warranties are worthless. They sell you a phone with a 1 year warranty and a 2 year plan. That makes no sense to me. But if something goes wrong with phone it will almost always be labeled "Customer Abuse". Warranty stories are here, and here, and here.
Report from SBC conversations: SBC, still blaming Cingular for their problems, calls me and gives me the number to "The Office of the President" at Cingular. Problem is the number given me is busy 24 hours a day. So I Google "Cingular Office of the President", and come up with a variety of phone numbers. Seems Cingular still has not fully integrated all the pieces from when it was created by the merger of several local cellular carriers back in 2000; and every area (maybe Call Center) has its own "Office of the President". I am finally directed to the one for Texas, and actually on my third try get a helpful lady who agrees to put in writing that my account can not make or receive any International Phone calls. She seems to take seriously the issue of SBC incorrectly reporting Cingular cell usage on its combined billing web page. She looks up distance to a tower for my sons' new address, and she agrees to give me a free upgrade to a 64K SIM so my phone can better use the new "combined" ATT Wireless/Cingular" Network. Finally she pushes a new software roaming profile to my phone. It'd all be great if regular CSRs had this much authority, knowledge and freedom from handle time contraints without upsell quotas.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Anger at Sony continued arrogance builds momentum. Lawsuits. Trojans hiding behind Sony DRM software. Consumer group rallying.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Did you feel that? Distant major astronomical catastrophes generate gravity waves that scientists are now trying to document to prove part of Einstein's theories on general relativity.
Story here.
Buy puts on SBC !! At least based on my experience with them they are needlessly generating thousands of extra support calls requiring extra support personnel.

I had signed up for combined billing of Cingular and SBC "POTS" (Plain Old Telephone Service), and dsl. The web site promised $4/month discount. Previously I refused because you would lose the ability to track your Cingular minutes used if you went to combined SBC billing. But by now I have banked over 5,000 rollover minutes, so I no longer need to track the minutes.

Meanwhile today the Cingular site shows 5,929 Rollover Minutes available, the SBC site shows 404 minutes. a minor discrepency. Ask anyone at SBC, they say "Talk to Cingular". Ask anyone at Cingular, they say "Talk to SBC". Turns out SBC is now duplicating the effort of Cingular and they are BOTH showing the status of your Cingular usage. Too Bad the SBC effort is now superfluous, and needs to be shut down as it is pulling over the WRONG information. I got to a senior Customer Service Manager at SBC, and she still says "I'll call Cingular". Can you say "Lilly Tomlin lives"?
Luckily I follow my own advice: It's been said the three most important things you can do with a desktop computer are:
1. Backup

2. Backup

3. Backup

So this morning when a power glitch shut down my Macintosh G-5, I rebooted. Within 30 seconds after rebooting it crashed, and repeated that action after subsequent reboots. Two possible causes. Memory failure, corrupted system software. I had installed a 2nd Hard Drive and using Apple's provided software had done a "Restore" of one hard drive to another. So I rebooted from a backup clone of my Hard Drive (about 2 weeks old) and all is good. And with Gmail, saving all my mail to its servers, and just a few data files easily recovered from the original hard Drive, all is well ! !

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Cingular, International Long Distance: So I was concerned about the $24,000 cell bill if your phone gets lost and the finder calls Guatemala a lot before you realize phone is lost. So I call Cingular Monday to ask if International Long Distance can be blocked on my cell phone. I'm told it can't. I ask for a supervisor, who then tells me "It already is". So which is the truth, and which CSR lied to me to keep their handle time down? I'll call again today, and call everyday, until they agree to put it in writing for me.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Sony to get sued, bigtime. Story here.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Cellular carriers back off if you go public : Unlike credit cards, that limit you to $50 liability if you lose it, and have some simple "Fraud Alert" software in place, Cellular Carriers love trying to rip you off if your phone gets lost or stolen and a large bill results. They lobby state governments to keep it that way, but know they are the bad guys as if it gets out, and the customer goes public, they waive the charges. Story here.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Sony DRM Decloaking Patch Might Crash Windows - Story here

Friday, November 04, 2005

Best story on Sony perfidy: Sony DRM is worse than you might think

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Building out Wi-Fi coverage - Some colleges may have it for a department, or a floor or rarely even a building or Library. Some are needlessly paranoid about security. M.I.T. is close to having it everywhere. A map of their coverage (802.11a,b,g) is here.
More on Sony perfidy: Sony is backing down somewhat. Their patch to reveal the hidden software is here. Contrary to some reports, that "patch" only removes the cloaking, not the previously hidden DRM software. Sony falsely claims there are no security concerns. Indeed it is the security concerns that caused the uproar. Four solutions to keep Sony from messing up your computer. Any PC running the MS Vista beta gets royally messed up if the a Sony "protected" CD gets to do its thing.

1. Don't buy these Copyprotected CDs. Amazon usually indicates if DRM software is present.

2. Use a Macintosh

3. On a PC running Windows XP - Turn off CD Autoplay

4. After using the Sony patch, "according to Mikko Hypponen, director of research for Finnish antivirus company F-Secure Corp., users who want to remove the program may not do so directly, but must fill out a form on Sony's Web site, download additional software, wait for a phone call from a technical support specialist, and then download and install yet another program that removes the files."

If Sony needs such a HUGE FAQ to try to explain their copy protection, it's obvious at the very least that the copy protection is bad news and customer unfriendly. Further they deny the correct claim that their software is spyware. It is installed secretly with no way to uninstall. Fits most any standard definition of spyware/malware.

Here's a real world tale of what happens when a buyer is turned off by DRM on a CD.

"The cover-up is the crime": Wired.

Others suggest boycotting the Playstation 3 until Sony withdraws its DRM.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Firestorm erupts over Sony's Spyware! Sure to discourage folks from buying legal copies of music is Sony's over the top DRM software secretly installed on ones PC. First reported here.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

My Inventions - Like Ralph Cramden I sometimes have "brilliant" ideas. One recent one, a cell phone for women with a built in Mace Sprayer. A device halfway there is now being marketed. A pepper spray in the shape of a cell phone. A bogus phone however, not a real one like my idea.

Monday, October 31, 2005

Any trick or treaters dressed as Bloggers ? Allegedly thats a 21st century costume.
"Pajamas, a laptop, and no shower are all you need to complete the look..." — and this link, of course.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Goodwrench or Rookiewrench

Goodwrench ??- In Houston, TX at my Pontiac, Buick,
Cadillar, Hummer Dealer they have Mr. Rookiewrench, at usual outrageous
dealer pricing. I do my own service work, and get it right.

On a 2005 Vibe, they were prepared to install the wrong oil filter, the
wrong oil, and the WRONG transmission fluid. The Service Manager had no
clue. I had to teach him to read an owners manual.

And then GM ignores this complaint, and wonders why it continues to lose sales to Japanese companies.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Great New York City street vendor Hotdogs now available in Houston, TX An upscale supermarket - Central Market is now carrying Sabrett brand products. YUM! Skinless Beef Hot Dogs, and condiments: Onions in Sauce (Pushcart Style), Sweet Relish, and Spicy Brown Mustard. It's almost 1968 again on 45th street and 6th Avenue. And this (and more) could even all be ordered over the web.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005


We know that in recent Geologic History the climate has changed to far greater degrees than we have measured in last 200 years. Witness 4 "Ice Ages" in the Pleistocene, and higher sea levels in the past as evidenced by Gravel Terraces throught the world.

So while current climate change is a concern, it is the height of human arrogance to assume that "man" has caused it all, when we KNOW of a greater range of climatic change before humankind was a factor. With 80 % of the Earth covered by Oceans, that water absorbs more Carbon Dioxide than we can ever calculate, and the Carbon Dioxide becomes part of Calcium Carbonate in skeletons of micro and macro creatures, settling to the ocean floor and forming beds of limestone, freeing the oceans to absorb ever more Carbon Dioxide as it has throughout Geologic History, i.e. Chalk of Dover

Geologists and Paleontologists have used the remains in such Limestone beds to track the evolution of life in the past Billion years, and such evidence provides part of the proof that gives the lie to "Creationism".

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Watch what you print, the government is now watching you. Can one partially get around this by buying anonymously with cash, and not registering their printer with manufacturer?

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Save on an HDTV Apparently incentives given to managers at BestBuy to move high margin accesories can distort the buying process, and an astute buyer can use that to their advantage. Read about it here.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Attracting Tourists Apparently most California political entities don't do a very good job. I'm about to visit my son in Los Angeles. So 2 weeks ago, I filled out web forms to receive "tourist" information. They ought to jump on such live prospects, and send out mail immediately. Not so. It two weeks to receive my first tiny brochure. It was from Redondo Beach. Of course the brochure points to a dead "url" www.visitredondo.com/passport, when apparently its been changed to here.

Friday, October 07, 2005

A DirecTv HDTV Receiver with Tivo (HR10-250) runs on Linux, and as such can have software added to it to increase its' capabilities, like controlling it over the web. It's by now a well documented process, here, here, and here. That's just the tip of the iceberg of what can quickly be found with Google.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Yale Law School and Audio CD copy Protection: What they have to say is here

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

City of Houston misplaced priorities: Come to find out today that the City has secretly cancelled it's recycling program so it can devote more people and trucks to picking up Hurricane Rita debris. Some points:

1. Shouldn't the city be getting money from FEMA to cover overtime for Rita ?
2. Since when does the needs of the few (Rita trash holders) outweigh the needs of the many (every resident should have recycling).
3. Shouldn't picking up nonbiodegradable plastic (which the city sells) be a higher priority than biodegradable tree branches?

Monday, October 03, 2005

OUCH ! Just got my 2005-2006 Flu shot today, first day they were available. Just in case there's any problems this year I'm covered. This years' flu shot protects against:
  • A/New Caledonia/20/99-like (H1N1),
  • A/California/7/2004-like (H3N2), and
  • B/Shanghai/361/2002-like viruses.
Thus any other type of flu outbreak isn't covered.


As the Jewish holy days now unfold, in this season of repentance, let me ask for your forgiveness for my (blogging) sins (both commission and omission).

Friday, September 30, 2005

Upgrading my Macintosh G5 - It originally came with an 8x DVD burner, a Pioneer DVR-107; I have upgraded it by using a Pioneer DVR-110D 16x burner obtained cheap from Shop4Tech

Apple has instructions here.

Followup The Drive came with version 1.08 of firmware installed, which I immediately
updated to 1.17, only to have version 1.22 released on Sept. 30, so I got to update again. If I recall correctly version 1.22 allows me to read DVDs created on Rigel 4.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

More HD stations for me from DirecTv, XM too: Thanks to Congress and FCC rules, you need a waiver from your local station to receive a National Network feed if you live in an area that has local channels. Independent locals usually deny them for fear of losing local ad revenue. Network owned stations usually grant them for HD channels.

Such was the case for me in Houston, TX. ABC and Fox, both owned by their respective Network granted a Waiver, and so I now receive channels 86 and 88. CBS and NBC denied waivers, so I do not receive channels 80 or 82.

It took 5 weeks from first requesting (through DirecTv) waivers, and final word from the 4 networks.

No added cost as long as you're paying for either local channels or the HD package.

XM Satellite radio will be on DirecTv for no extra cost starting November 15. Woo Hoo.
More information at directv.com/xm or their channel 800. For a standard "Total Choice" package that means 50 of the 150 XM stations, instead of the current 30 Music Choice stations.
POWER OUTAGES FROM RITA in Houston Area: Centerpoint Energy seems to be reducing by half the number of folks without power each day. One can appreciate the task seeing their map of outages.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Unloaded my Xbox on eBay today.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Post Rita : MONDAY: Almost back to normal now (on the West side of Houston), except most businesses and schools closed till Wednesday. Gasoline is now readily available, and supermarkets are open, just lacking beans, bread, milk and eggs.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

If it ain't Boeing, I'm not going : Airbus Industries proves it can't keep its' planes safe.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Rita went East : Our west side of Houston got about 2" of rain (zero flooding) and wind gusts to 50 mph, and by 6:30 AM the rain which started 11 hours earlier was over although it is still windy, with gusts to maybe 30 mph. We still have power, telephone and water, so all in all the effect was far less than Alicia for our corner of the world. Only two minor issues. One, we will apparently have to wait a day or three for gasoline (although we don't need any at the moment), and a slight reallignment of the HDTV OTA antenna is in order.
Guaranteed later today and tomorrow the highways will be a mess as folks try to return home. It seems like the exodus was in stages. 900 folks in buses on Wednesday, 2,000,000 in their own cars on Thursday. Hundreds (or thousands) ran out of gas in the 2 mph traffic jam. In a last ditch effort to prevent potential tragedy, late Friday the Houston Mayor had the Transit Authority send buses out the highways to pick up motorists and get them to safety, and 90% + refused to leave their cars, as the cars were laden with valuables. Haven't heard yet if anyone stuck on the side of highway 59 NE of town suffered as a result of being stranded on the side of the road. The area around Lufkin, TX is still getting pounded by wind and rain.

FOLLOWUP: 2:45 PM, the sun is out, I've been encouraged to shelter in place and there is no gasoline in Houston. Walked 5 blocks to the local Quickey Mart and was told it would be Monday before they got Newspaper deliveries. How many tens of thousands of people will go to the web, and discover they dont need the newsprint hardcopy version, I wonder.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Hurricane Rita - Report from Houston: Not living by the coast (50 miles inland) or in a low lying area (I'm at 62' elevation) it was not suggested I evacuate by public officials, and I didn't. Nearly 2 million others have, and major interstates, now literally have a 100 mile backup/gridlock. Meanwhile back in Houston, all major roads out of town are moving at 2 mph, 95 % of gas stations are out of gas and/or are closed, and if one can get to the airport, it takes hours to get through security as TSA personnel either evacuated or couldn't get to the airport.
Heres what happened when regular people tried to evacuate. This prediction of RITAs path was spot on 36 hours before NOAA figured out the storm would land East of Galveston Bay.
How to BLOG: The definitive textbook on blogging has now been published. Read about it here.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Yellow journalism in Hurricane warnings : The local media in Houston loves to scare it listeners about potential Hurricane strikes; anything so you watch the 10:00 news, or buy tomorrows paper. Me, I just go to the National Hurricane Center web site. They've done an excellent job of predicting 3 days out, and do better than they know for 5 days out. I just extrapolate the direction of migration of the 5 day out prediction which is updated every 6 hours, and do quite well.

Monday, September 19, 2005

It's against their rules, so they let people die: At the New Orleans airport FEMA refused to allow an out-of-state doctor attend to sick (and dying) Katrina victims, as he had not done all the paperwork to be in their database, and later when he had, they never used him. Read about it here.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

No more Fords for me: I am very happy with my new Pontiac Vibe, good gas mileage, plenty of interior space, and a great price. It's made at a joint GM-Toyota factory in California, and as such statistically has far better reliability than anything Ford makes. Anyway on Sept 17, I receive a mailing trying to lure me to a Ford dealer 50 miles from where I live. Absurd!! Ford marketing must not cross check their files for all the complaints I filed with their HQ about being unable to get warranty satisfaction on a defective Ford Escape Tire.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Why keep it a secret? I was pleased to figure out that apparently Fox TV Network has approved my request for Waiver from the FCC rules, and I now received Fox 5 (NYC channel) in HD via a DirecTv satellite on my DirecTv HD TiVo unit on channel 88. Why I have to discern this on my own, and DirecTv would not want to call or email me with the good news, is beyond my comprehension. Apparently company owned local stations grant waivers, and independent members of the network do not, not wanting to potentially lose local advertising revenue. In Houston that's Fox and ABC I've read elsewhere.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Doesn't sound like accidental mixup to me: Would be low-paid humanitarian workers get shanghaied into cleaning up Casino in Mississippi and treated like slaves. Only called a mixup because they went public? Read about it here in their hometown newspaper.

Monday, September 12, 2005

New Orleans 2 weeks later: 20 years ago I lived in New Orleans, so I have been following events with interest. By now there is a vast difference in what is happening to those who were well-to-do (usually translates to Caucasian), and those that were poor (usually translates as Black). A telling store is here. Get a password here if you choose not to register, and you are asked to.
Microsoft Windows monthly patch pulled: So many bugs in Windows are reported to Microsoft, that they have gotten in a cycle of writing monthly patches. This month, they discovered the September patch would do more harm than good, and didn't release it despite having announced they would. Story here.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Expanding a HD DirecTv TiVo: Using a Weaknees bracket, and a PTVUpgrade Install CD, and newly purchased Seagate 300 Gig Hard Drives, my HR10-250 now has a recording capacity of 77 hours HD or 515 hours SD. I lucked out, Friday Frys started a sale I was waiting for. 300 Gigabyte, 5 year warranty Hard Drives for $99.99 after Rebate. I might have preferred 400 Gigabyte Hard Drives, but they were "on sale" for $299.99.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

DirecTv billing error As part of the deal I negotiated with DirecTv I was to get some parts of my programming free for 6 months. Comes the first bill and it wasn't free, and reps didn't know how to scroll back to find the notes of August 23 on my account, and when they did Supervisors refused to honor those promises. After 3 calls in, I found a representative that exhibited some common sense and adjusted things.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Antenna guaranteed to fail ?: Try and buy the Zenith GEMDTV1 antenna from Buy.com, and be presented with this return policy, in the event the antenna fails to be fit for purpose:

"Due to manufacturers' policies, Buy.com cannot accept returns on this item for any reason. The manufacturer will handle all exchanges and replacements. Please contact the manufacturer directly and they will assist you with repair or replacements. NO REFUNDS ARE AVAILABLE FOR THIS PRODUCT UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES. THIS PRODUCT CAN ONLY BE RETURNED FOR REPAIR OR EXCHANGE."

I think in some states/cities, such limitations are not allowed.

For some strange reason Zenith has convinced me not to buy their antenna.

Friday, September 02, 2005

HDTV impressions: 8 months ago I got an HDTV to replace a 10 year old geriatric big screen. With the DirecTv HD receiver with TiVo I can now really get a full suite of HD reception.

Showtime HD - Mostly a waste of time. Half their movies aren't in HD. One that was and is in Dolby 5.1 even though the DirecTv guide failed to indicate it was "Ground Hog Day". I TiVoed it last night and in HD and surround it's awesome.

Local HD - The local amateurs at CBS decided to join David Letterman in progress for his
HD broadcast last night, even though they figured out how to delay it SD TV. Many other
local broadcasts seem like they're merely upconverted for HD, and are in SD.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

DirecTech games continue: I just got a phone call from an installer on his way
over for my DirecTv install. "We brought the wrong antenna last time, I have the correct Winegard"; Strange they had been insisting the indoor antenna they previously brought
was the right one. Meanwhile I have my RadioShack antenna, so this could get
interesting. Stay tuned.

Followup: Took just over an hour, the Winegard antenna (Model GS-1100) does barely better than an indoor antenna, and without a rotator won't get all channels. The installer had to be shamed into grounding the OTA Antenna. I'm now negotiating with DirecTv about getting my Radio Shack antenna installed. The tech did a good job of running another phone line drop for the HR10-250. So far the HR10-250 works wonderfully. I also finally found out why DirecTv won't say boo about the poor job this installer company does. The tech let slip that DirecTv recently bought DirecTech.

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

More DirecTv sloth: Received the following email, again doesn't exactly engender
confidence that anyone there cares.

Thank you for writing. I apologize for any frustration this may have caused. I have forwarded your comments to the Office of the President. They will be contacting you within the next seven to ten business days, during standard business hours. Thank you for your patience.

Thanks again for writing.


DIRECTV Customer Service

Monday, August 29, 2005

More Installer Games: Another Directech installer showed up. Two problems.
First - he tried to pretend he was a DirecTv employee
Second - He brought the same indoor antenna that was agreed unacceptable.
The indoor multidirectional antenna they claim is supplied by DirecTv, but
do they have a choice? In Houston where from my zip code HD is broadcast at
185 and 188 degrees, unidirectional is appropriate.

Followup: DirecTv has agreed to credit my account for $60, and I will buy a
unidirectional HDTV outdoor antenna to be installed by DirecTech with no
additional charge.

Let's see if they mess that up on Thursday.

2nd Followup : I now have a Radio Shack model VU-90 XR antenna sitting in
its box waiting for the Installer.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

DirecTv's amateur Installers: Two of the Three Stooges showed up for an HD/OTA install. They didn't have an HDTV OTA antenna, didn't have a separate stand-alone mast, and didn't know how to install the substandard antenna they were told to install, a generic no name brand. Further searching on the Internet revealed it to be what's called a "Two Bow Tie Indoor Antenna". When I called DirecTv to complain even the DirecTv supervisor couldn't get to anyone in authority on the phone at the Installer's out of state office. While I was waiting until DirecTv instructed me to return the receiver the installer had handed me, the installer falsely reported I had taken it off their truck. I wish DirecTv could have seen the way they tossed the HR10-250 back into the back of their pickup. The Installer's company apparently has a standard policy of not answering their phone, and if you do get through, they falsely promise a manager will call right back so as to get you off the phone. Internet reports of poor morale and mistreatment of contract "employees" at the Installer company were found.

DirecTv needs an alternate installer for Houston, TX, so it can have some leverage over these clowns. The install has now been rescheduled, but with conflicting reports as to which day it will be, and of course promised phone calls never happened.

FOLLOWUP: DirecTv snaps into inaction. Twenty hours after emailing a version of the above, the following boilerplate was received:

"Thank you for writing. I have forwarded your message on to a manager who will contact you within the next few business days. We appreciate your patience.


DIRECTV Customer Service"

Anyone care to bet that it won't be a "manager" who "contacts" me???

Friday, August 26, 2005

I know the Password See what happens when everyone in a school gets a laptop computer and Administrators go overboard trying to control everything.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Waiting for my Lightspeed: SBC is planning on building out it's fiber network to put all residential customers within 5,000 feet of a Fibre terminal, allowing for Internet connectivity at 15 mbps. Just 18 more months?

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

HDTV via satellite DirecTv will soon be going "live" with the first 2 of its 4 new "designed for HD" satellites. These satellites will be using different orbital slots and newer technology (MPEG4) in large part, that existing receivers can't handle. They have been misleading customners by saying "We're seeing if we can do a software upgrade"; when they know full well existing receivers don't have the horsepower to do MPEG4 decoding in software. Golly, you don't launch billion dollar satellites and not have everything all figured out.

Their current HD DirecTv receiver with TiVo (the HR10-250) had been selling for $999.99 in the year since it came to market. Suddenly it's down to $600 and a $100 rebate at BestBuy, etc. Then I read on USENET that their retention department is offering them to good customers for $299.99. Why the price drop, unless these models are being cleared out for new models that WILL handle additional HD channels from new satellites? Meanwhile someone is selling the 800 # into DirecTv Retention for $5.95 on eBay so others can get the $299.99 deal.

As I've been with DirecTv for 8 years and never paid a bill later than 2 weeks earlier, I figure I'm a good customer. After complaining about phone support going to Phillipines, and Echostar currently having more HD stations available, and the HR10-250 not being able to handle the new satellite, they agreed to sell me one for $299.99, and credit my account for $200. So after the $100 rebate, it'll be free. At that price I don't mind if it's obsolete in 6 months; besides my 2 1/2 year old HDVR2 (a non HD DirecTv-TiVo) is now acting flakey, so a free replacement is good.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Not buying an Ipod I was all set to buy a Photo Ipod until I realized Apple has pulled a fast one and replaced the 60 Gig Photo ipod model M9586 with the M9830. The difference? It now doesn't come with a dock, or a firewire cable, or a case, or an AV Cable.

I used the same monies to replace my old Peugeot Orient Express bicycle (mine was red) with a Trek 7300 FX bicycle (mine is silver). Amazing how much better bicycles are these days.

Monday, August 15, 2005

OS X on any PC - More reports on running the Intel version of Macintosh OS X on any regular PC are here . In at least one case, Apple cajoled the Web Site owner to take down detailed how-to instructions, but Google has them cached, so they remained in cyberspace.

Friday, July 29, 2005

Slowly I turned: I'm off on vacation, and there may be no posts here for 2 weeks.
Mexican Salsa: Most all Mexican and "Tex/Mex" resaurants bring fried corn tortillas chips and red salsa to the table when you sit down. Lately I've run into an astounding variety (mostly unacceptable) of salsa at restaurants. You'd think they could follow a standard recipe. Fine, maybe add a dash of lime or vinegar, and choose your pepper based on how hot you want it. But I've run into:
1. An upscale restaurant with no salsa, just some wierd bean soup
2. Another where it was 99% coursely chopped tomato
3. One where it was mostly vinegar
4. One where it tasted like ketchup

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Grand Theft Auto Lawsuit: It was bound to happen
Vent Visor Greatest low tech after market product for a car. These small Awning-like devices fit over a cars' window, allowing one to securely leave a windows open an inch while away from a car, allowing hot air to vent, so in the middle of the summer you car is 120 degrees inside when you return instead of 160 degrees. And with the awning effect, they keep out anything except hurricane rain.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Microsoft tries catch up. maps.google.com for a while now has been better than maps.yahoo.com, in part because of the excellent way Google has integrated Satellite imagery. Now Microsoft is getting into the act, blatantly copying the look and feel of Google. Then Microsoft accidently used 14 year old imagery for just that area of California covering where Apple's Headquarters is.

Monday, July 25, 2005

On my wish list: Motorola has been very successful with its Razr V3 cell phone, selling millions. To try to keep the buzz they introduced a Black model. No special features, just black. But hopefully later this year, a true successor, the V3x is due to appear. Seems like maybe V4 would make more sense, but regardless, I want one.

Followup. This Motorola puppy isn't so bad either.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

a new Target store: I went to see a new Target store minutes after it first opened for the first time today (Meyerland, Houston, TX). I was underwhelmed. They took 6 months to remodel a former K-Mart location that had stood vacant for a year. They were still stocking shelves. They had done zero to announce the store. No ads in newspaper or weekly papers. No flyers or mail to neighborhood. No specials for the opening, no prizes for first 100 customers. Big surprize, the store was very empty, and will likely stay that way, as the upper middle class lily white neighborhood may not react well to a store where 90% of its staff is minority. Doesn't Jesse Jackson complain when a stores' diversity doesn't match the community it's located in?

Followup: 30 hours late, I receive a postcard announcing the opening of the new Target. I call their 800 number and after 5 minutes on hold am hung up on.

Friday, July 22, 2005

Where to buy Grand Theft Auto - San Andreas now? With major chains no longer carrying this item (see July 20 post), one can turn to eBay. This $49.99 PC game goes for over $70 on eBay.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Web sites that don't want to communicate with you: PC World writes about web sites that hide their "Contact us" link, making it hard to do so. What they fail to mention is all too often anymore, any answer you get is worthless boilerplate sent from India at 3 AM U.S. time.

I've had issues with Banks violating their own "privacy" rules and sending me junk snail mail, and then :

- There's no one to complain to
- The droids at their 800 number will hang up on you
- You won't even get an apology, let alone compensation

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

GTA rating changed: As I expected.

Followup: Target, Walmart and BestBuy have announced they're discontinuing sales of the game. The NY Times reports on it all, a day later.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

More on GTA: See my July 12 post, this is a followup. Hillary Clinton has complained about the now revealed x-rated Game Play. There is a difference between adult content, and adult content that treats women as sex objects. Some, perhaps too willing to criticise our next President have wondered how genuine her criticism is. While a change in game rating from Mature (over 17) to Adults Only (over 18) shouldn't affect sales too much, in reality it would as many outlets refuse to sell Adults Only games. Others (July 16) worry about law suits that may now be generated. Me, I'm more concerned about the misleading statement released by the game publisher, Rockstar making like the sexual content wasn't there before. It's effectively disputed by the author of the patch that reveals the additional game elements in question, apparently by merely flipping the "censor" switch.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

This week's report of MAJOR security flaws in Microsoft Windows. Still new avenues of attack against Windows are being identified ==and== used. The story is here. Seems everyone needs to be a patchmaster to safely use a PC.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Gmail (Google email) humor: At 6:30 AM CDT today the following was returned when I attempted to check my Gmail:

Server Error

Gmail is temporarily unavailable. Cross your fingers and try again in a few minutes. We're sorry for the inconvenience.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

X-rated Easter Egg in the news: "Easter Eggs" have been in software just about since the first commercial software. An Easter Egg might require a non obvious game play, or some secret key press to activate a hidden message or aspect of the game. They were in computer game software 25 years ago. Now it turns out a "blocked" and/or "Easter Egg" feature of the game Grand Theft Auto - San Andreas is made available by a patch, readily available on the internet. The patch, labeled "Hot Coffee (adult) Mod", changes game play so that if you ask a girlfriend to have coffee with you, she will then be intimate with the character. This is apparently not the first X-rated Easter Egg. Check here.
If this part of the game, here to fore unavailable, is available, it should make the game itself x-rated, and a change in rating for the game as a whole is in fact being considered.
Revealing already extant x-rated software is different from a third party adding features to a
game to make it x-rated (and this also has been going on for at least 8 years, and with little in the way of complaints). Although the end result may equally upset the parents of a young teenager.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Broadband via your power lines? Certainly possible and now being tested in Houston, Texas; it was considered by Enron Broadband ($550 for details). Only one question. What speed? DirecWay currently sells 500 kbps as Broadband, as do cellular carriers. Dsl broadband over phone lines is about to be at 6000 kbps, 12+ times faster.
Microsft Windows machines still vulnerable: Despite efforts by Microsoft to close some security holes in their operating systems, Windows PCs are still vulnerable. Do you have antivirus software on your PC? Is it updated to July 2005 definitions??? As always never open email or an attachment you are not expecting. Here is the latest trick to get you.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Prius for immediate delivery! I stopped by a Toyota dealer today to compare more carefully the Toyota Matrix with the Pontiac Vibe I had just purchased. I decided the Vibe was better, what with better tires, and other more customer friendly features. Then I noticed 2 Prius cars sitting on the lot, available for sale. The notion of a 6 month waiting list is not valid any longer. Checking on the Internet at Toyota.com, one can enter their zip code, pick a dealer, and search inventory, and find many new 2005 (60 mpg City rated) Toyota Prius sitting on dealers lots.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

The next thing: TiVo results in time shifting. Slingbox results in place shifting! Think of it as a personal broadcaster. Take your Cable box, DVR or TiVo output, and watch it on a PC anywhere via the Internet. Read the review. It's now hit the mainstream news here.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

SBC stupidity : I was taught "Never blame on malice that which can be blamed on stupidity" So the fact SBC still hasn't (as promised) corrected my dsl bills from a month ago, nor issued any of the promised credits, I guess demonstrates what a stupid outfit they are, so I won't be buying any SBC stock, despite a high dividend.
At least the broadband (dsl) is working reliabily and fast, something I could NEVER say for Time Warner and their cable broadband.
FOLLOWUP: The numbers appear correct over at the SBC website, but zero itemization.
The SBC/Yahoo site has differing information. Next week they need to get organized so as to not confuse their customers and generate unnecessary support calls. STUPID.

Thursday, June 30, 2005

Your trade-in value may vary: Four trade-in stories.

One - I wanted to trade the Goodyear Eagle tires on my new car for Michelan MSV tires. $90 Goodyear tires would get me $20 each on trade.

Two - Car dealers don't want your 11 mpg Ford Epedition. You paid $40,000 three years ago,
good luck getting $8,000 in trade now.

Three - A 3 1/4 year old Nissan Xterra is worth 50% of what was paid for it when trading it for new car.

Four - A two year old Power Macintosh can fetch 45% of what was paid for it by selling it on eBay.

Something to do with law of supply and demand.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Low tech savings: My new Vibe lacks carpeting in the "luggage" area behind the back seat. One can go online to J.C. Whitney, and find a custom carpet piece for $129, or buy a OEM Pontiac carpet for even more, but I just went to Pep Boys, and bought a piece of carpet (3' x 6') for $9.99, and took a scissors and trimmed it to fit perfectly.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

GM in distress: With General Motors having trouble selling cars, they are offering some good promotions currently, so I spring for a Pontiac Vibe (really a rebadged Toyota Matrix) for about $6325 off sticker when all is said and done, and then the Dealer effectively gave me 100% of Kelly Blue Book Trade in value, when in previous years it was a struggle to get a dealer close to such a figure.
The dealer also sells Hummer, and its not too big a stretch to think of the Vibe as a mini-Hummer. The Hummer is the H2 model, and they soon will have a newer slightly smaller Hummer model called the H3. So I'm putting an H5 logo on my Vibe.
The Vibe is rated 29 mpg city, so I will be contributing less in the future to Saudi sheiks.

Bush and Congress could so trivially solve our energy import woes. Just get Oil Shale production going in the U.S., (How does 60 trillion tons of reserves sound?) and it could cost zero to do that. Just have the government be a buyer of last resort for Oil; from Oil Shale. If you guaranteed a price of $44 / barrel, the industry would boom, and with Crude prices currently at $59 the government could just sit back and watch the Saudis squirm. Without a government guarantee, investors are not confident oil prices will stay at a high level, and will stand on the sidelines.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

First word on an Intel based Macintosh: ThinkSecret.com has reports from developers receiving their $999 Developmental Intel based PowerMac, and its looking good.
Details here.
25th Anniversary of Pac-Man: Great computer game, first appeared in 1980. Atari (then owned by Warner Brothers) bought the home rights and proceeded to shoot themselves in the foot by too quickly bringing an inferior version (I called it "Flickerman" at the time) for the Atari 2600 game console to market in 1981. They produced 12 million copies, when only 10 million game consoles had been sold. They did even worse with their ET-Phone home game, 4 million of which ended up in a New Mexico landfill.

If Atari had first brought out the good version of Pacman that they later did for their 400/800 home computer, Atari could have captured that home computer market. There was a brief period where Atari outsold both Apple IIe and IBM PCs. You do know there was an Atari version of Visicalc?

Your Terablogger was President of Atari user groups in Houston and New Orleans during the 1980-85 time period, so may be somewhat biased about Atari.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

ebay to the rescue: I have this tiny flat salt shaker that fits in my shirt pocket, and I use to carry my Sodium free salt with me. It's nice and tiny and portable (and easy to lose), and well made by Tupperware; but you can't buy the things, they're only party favors. A Tupperware kiosk in a mall had none, and regardless of price offered said they couldn't get them for me.
But I found them for sale on Ebay!

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

How to keep an organization secure: Sure there are infinite ways to steal data. But hire good people, treat them fairly, encourage them, allow them to grow professionally and reward them for doing so; and don't give them reasons to become disgruntled. One easy way: All salaries are posted. Stops an HR department from doing its usual good job of creating job security for itself by allienating employees and increasing turn over. i.e. "After all, you're exempt" or "this is an Employment at will State" or my favorite: "Let's save money, this year we'll give bonuses instead of raises". Sometimes I think HR departments main job is to look for excuses to not provide promised benefits. If an organization is relatively flat with few levels of management, less time is wasted forever redoing organization charts.

Monday, June 20, 2005

It's the email stupid. Don't distract yourself worrying about iPods. Outbound email is your corporations' biggest security hole. Read here. And with free email available at Google, Yahoo and Mail.com, etc., scanning your email server will miss most everything anyway, whether it be outgoing secure documents or incoming virii.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Pod Slurping : New term coined here, for the use of an iPod to surrepticiously suck data off a PC for nefarious purposes. The proposed methods of protection are not well thought out !

1. Ban iPods. All manner of USB devices with 1 Gig of memory are very small any more and are excellent for slurping. Right, ban them too?
Are you ready to quash productivity by banning PDAs which also can slurp data?

2. Turn off USB ports in BIOS. So your keyboard, mouse, scanner and printer won't work now? And your PDA can't synch the new meetings your secretary put on your calendar? And with CD-R and DVD-R devices in PCs, you have another convienent avenue for "slurping" gigabytes of data.

3. Enforce strong physical security. All too many (70% ?) security breaches are inside jobs,
which means numbers 3, 4 or 5 are no panacea.

4. Place data on a server rather than local workstation. Same problem as number 3 !

5. Encrypt data. See number 3 AGAIN !


And then if a Computer has Bluetooth capability, one could "slurp" via their cell phone, as many new phones have megabytes of RAM on board. If the data theft is an inside job one doesn't need gigabytes of data, just the 8 Megs of the latest bid proposal, budget, patent application, proposed Partner selections, proposed new organizational chart or incriminating email. How about a Personnel Spreadsheet that could be used to prove the males are paid 20% more than the females in your organization?

IMHO Biggest corporate security hole occurs when a hot new Job candidate comes in and is shown all the "new" stuff to impress him or her. They can go to work elsewhere, or remain at their current position, remembering what they were recently shown, or even given documentation on.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

SBC/Yahoo violates their own Privacy Policy On day one of creating my sbcglobal.net email 5 weeks ago, I immediately went to "Marketing Preferences" and opted out of Everything. I just double checked and those settings remain intact. Despite that I received SPAM from SBC today for a pager to my SBC email address. Further that letter has no additional opt-out link within it. I am requesting compensation for this violation and will keep on their case over this.

Cingular sent me two copies of the same SPAM 3 days ago pushing some marketing promotion, and with them my account has been opted out of EVERYTHING for a full year. Cingular failed to include an opt-out link in their UCE. I have already requested compensation for that privacy violation.

Must be the time of year, with newly hired MBAs pushing marketing schemes, and not familiar with Privacy Law.

But then SBC is lax with privacy issues, as posted here.

Friday, June 17, 2005

Waiting on SBC billing correction. Allegedly I will receive a phone call from their "Executive Appeals" manager, so far that department has only been good at saying "Oh, I'm so sorry";
but apparently has zero authority or ability to fix their 20 year old billing system that once it makes a mistake, it lives on for months. One need only read the horror stories at dslreports.com

FOLLOWUP 4 PM : Gave up waiting for the "Executive Appeals" Manager to call me and finally got one of the folks to pass me through. Two plus hours on the phone to demonstrate chapter and verse how many times I was lied to by CSRs bent on meeting handle time limits, finally got personal assurance that an "order" is in process to correct my billing and issue the promised credits. She claimed no knowledge of residential 6.0 mbps dsl. Being the cynic I am, I have my doubts. I was particularly nonplussed when this manager who assured me she'd do what it took to solve my problem and promised to give me her phone number, wimped out and didn't give me her phone number. Hello Lily Tomlin.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

SBC dsl Modem Info: Their dsl modem comes with zero documentation, and hardly any on the web on SBC/Yahoo sites. I quickly discovered it was so crippled as to be a nuisance and I went back to my Earthlink dsl modem. More recently I have found the sort of documentation and information for their modem that SBC should have provided. Typical of SBC's seemingly working to generate extra support calls. The good information is here. Nothing found there changes anything I figured out or decided to do by June 9.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

SBC IS VERY PREDICTABLE: Note my June 7 post where I indicated a concern about billing. Despite my double checking with SBC on 6/8, and despite their records confirming what was told to me, I was instead charged:

1. For dsl service BEFORE my dsl was activated.
2. At a rate higher than was confirmed to me.

I called in today, and despite the web showing the incorrect billing, they claim to be unable to
issue the adjustment credits until the charges post to my bill, but claim credits will be issued. I insisted on an additional month's credit as partial compensation for the grief, and a supervisor agreed, we'll see how quickly they "discover" they can't do that.

Maybe I need to tell Ed Cholerton, chief executive officer of the SBC Media Solutions Group about how screwed up their dsl folks are.

Friday, June 10, 2005

Advice for those arrested: http://www.craigslist.com/about/best/sfo/70300494.html
Insecurity = Microsoft: Ten new security patches to be released today for Windows, likely
causing all manner of other problems, not the least of which is a computer restart will be required. Wasn't that a selling point of Windows XP, restarts wouldn't be required???

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Pleasant SBC surprize: I got a phone call from the SBC "Customer Intervention Team" sort of a third tier customer support, relative to the Convergys survey I filled out. I've learned, rather than rate them 1 out of 10, I rate them 3, and a phone call is more likely generated. I gave them an earful.

1. SBC dsl is working great, is FAST as advertised, and reliable, and now - cheap.
2. Customer support can be a nitemare due to "handle time" restraints of reps,
which indirectly encourages false answers, guessed at answers, and lies.
Customer support reps have zero education on the dsl install process.
3. Documentation on the web is OK, but links may be non existant, or indexed
totally illogically. Google saves the day here. SBC/Yahoo has no
link I ever found to the free web hosting at Geocities.
4. Small steps SBC should take to drastically cut down on the number of support calls.
5. SBC's dsl modem is hard coded to the IP numbers it uses for your LAN,
so rather than reconfigure my whole Lan, I'm using my old Earthlink dsl modem,
the unconfigurable SBC modem also generates unneccessary support calls and grief.
(see June 16 posting)

SBC was kind enough to give me the "800" number back to
the "Customer Intervention Team" for future use (if necessary).

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Faster Internet in the Home: I now nominally have 3.0 mbps speed connection to the internet at home thanks to SBC/Yahoo, Cable offers 5.0 mbps (but it comes with stereotypical Cable service). Now Bell South announces it will soon have 6.0 mbps download speeds for dsl available for its customers, and likely other telcos will follow suit. It doesn't show up yet on Bell South's web page.

Followup : SBC tells me they will soon offer "residential" 6.0 mbps dsl, currently available for business at $119.99/month. No word yet on date or pricing. SBC had promised PacBell residential users they'd have 6.0 in a few years back in 1999!

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

DSL Installation: June 7 is the "confirmed" date of my SBC dsl installation. So as of 8 AM, I'll be checking hourly: Concerns:
1. When will I be able to log onto dsl? before 11 AM
2. Will I be recapped at the 3 mbps I ordered, rather than the 1.5 mbps I have now? yes
3. Will all this get done TODAY? yes
4. Will SBC quash Earthlink's order to deprovision my phone line? apparently yes
5. Will SBC get the billing correct? Absolutely not.

Yesterday I got emailed a questionaire by Convergys regarding a support phone call of June 2. I hope Convergys doesn't manage CRM for SBC. If they do it would explain all its deficienies. Mandatory short handle times, tell the customer ==anything== to get them off the phone, don't identify yourself, and try to never escalate a call.
Tuesday June 7 proves I had been lied to at least twice by SBC personnel. As of 5 AM, I lost my dsl signal on my phone line. The green dsl light on the dsl modem went to blinking red, meaning the line had been deprovisioned. Well, SBC told me work started at 8 AM, and my dsl service was being switched over, not provisioned. Now both of those statements are proven lies, and they have generated an 8 AM support call.

Apparently no one at Customer Service or Tech Support, level one or Tier Two knows anything about the install procedure, let alone the procedure for changing ISPs on a dsl line. In the midst of one call trying to check on the deprovisioned line, it became provisioned again (at about 9:30 AM), and at 3.008 mbps download instead of 1.548, and 512 kbps upload instead of 384. Those speeds are as advertised. Soon, I hope, they will configure their router so I can log in.

FOLLOWUP 3: 10:45 AM
It works! 2.341 mbps download, 417 Kbps upload speed it tested at dslreports.com/stest. Now to insert my Wireless Router.

FOLLOWUP 4: 11:30 AM Alls well that ends well. Now to see if the billing goes correctly.

Monday, June 06, 2005

Apple to use Pentium chips: Apple finally announces what had been rumored for weeks. It will give up trying to cajole IBM to keep up with Intel (in processor speed, and laptop processors), and start making all its Macintoshs with Intel inside. Apple's press release is here. Apple already has demo versions of it's OS X running on Intel chips, and has "kits" available for paid members of it's software devlopers to transition their software over. Apple confessed that it has had OS X running on Intel chips for 5 years (likely in case they wanted to have OS X for PCs). Then Apple in fine print lists all the cases where transitioning software will be far more than trivial.
  • Applications built for Mac OS 8 or 9
  • Code written specifically for AltiVec
  • Code that inserts preferences in the System Preferences pane
  • Applications that require a G4 or G5 processor
  • Applications that depend on one or more kernel extensions
  • Kernel extensions
  • Bundled Java applications
That essentially means Apple will completely stop supporting OS 9 (effectively they have already) when the new Intel Macintoshs appear.

Will this cause Apple as much grief as switching to Macintosh, or OS 7, or a 32 bit OS, or the switch to PowerPC 10 years ago, and then the switch to OS X? Apple never did get many developers to write software that fully used multiple processors or the 64 bit nature of the G5.
Apple wasn't able to produce a 3 GHz G5 by June of 2004 as Steve Jobs promised when he introduced G5 Macintosh computers. A year late 2.7 GHz is the fastest Macintosh and it requires a liquid cooling subsystem.

Will Intel based Macs be able to use AMD processors? If only as a threat to keep Intel cooperative.

Will the new Intel Macs be able to dual boot or be able to simultaneously run OS X and Windows?

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Not so high tech: The horn on my 2002 Xterra stopped working today. The fuse I figured out its on also controls the 4 way flashers, and they still work, so I located the horn (behind the grill), saw no loose wires, and I unscrewed it (with a 14mm hex wrench), ran over to Auto Shack and for $15.95 (great on a Sunday at 7 PM) bought a new horn; wired it on, screwed it into the bracket, and Voila. I have a working horn. A point of interest. Horns all seem to be made in Italy.
dsl waiting game. My phone line is still "provisioned", that is it has a dsl signal on it, but for now Earthlink no longer allows me to connect, and SBC/Yahoo hasn't yet configured the router for me to log on at a better capped speed. I have my fingers crossed.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

progress on dsl? Today, two days after the order, my dsl modem arrived, a Speedstream 5100.
I have to reconfigure my D-Link Wireless router because it was using the IP# hard coded into the Speedstream ( It helps to live under 200 miles from the shipping depot, so UPS ground arrives in 1 day.

Apparently I still have to wait till the appointed "Service Activation Date" of June 7, 2005, and it will be activated sometime between 8 AM and 6 PM, coincidently the time of 800 phone support; and hope you get Amarillo which for unknown reasons (perhaps a less strictly enforced "handle time"?) seems to be the best place to get SBC/Yahoo support from, based on my empirical results.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

More on dsl: Today SBC dropped its' prices on dsl. $14.95 for 1.5 mbps, and $24.99 for the
3.0 mbps download speed I had agreed to. So I called in, was told it was a 2 minute wait to speak to a representative of SBC, and 12 minutes later a representative answered the phone. But she had not been told about the price drop, and had to get a supervisors approval to give me the new lower price on my pending order. And then the rep. had to be chided to check on whether the dsl modem had shipped yet. SBC isn't set up to email one a tracking number. All in all makes one conclude Lily Tomlin is alive and well, although it's still better than dealing with Pradeep at an Indian call center. If an "Offshore" call center refuses to tell you where they are, just say "You're in Bangladesh !", to which they always will say with pride, "No, we're in India".

Tuesday, May 31, 2005

dsl saga, continued: Earthlink writes me (step 2 below):

> Please be informed that, once a DSL service is cancelled, it takes
> about 7 to 10 business days for the telephone line to be released
> from the DSL service.

Despite that, SBC took my order for dsl and now tells me they can
switch over an active dsl line, and transferred my call to a "Third Party Verification"
service in Arizona who had me agree that I wanted to switch.

SBC now says they're UPSing a DSL modem, and I should have service on
June 7. Possibly short cutting some of the steps I listed.

Monday, May 30, 2005

dsl provider switching, NOW THE FUN BEGINS : I love our capitalist system. Competition. If I get bad service, I vote with my feet! Since the FCC hasn't mandated anything, switching dsl providers is byzantine, while with a mandate switching Cell Carriers (and keeping the same phone number is supposed to take 3 hours - it took 3 days for me to leave SprintPCS however) is relatively quick and easy.
So I quit Earthlink 3 weeks ago. They must keep my account active till the end of the billing period they say. I signed up for SBC/Yahoo dialup cause I saw the coming grief, and my personal website is long since safely moved off Earthlink and parked at Geocities. Two days early Earthlink turns off my email. Right on time, I can no longer log into the dsl modem with PPOE. The switch will run like this:

1. Earthlink turns off my account.
2. Earthlink releases the dsl line.
3. Earthlink tells SBC it released the dsl line.
4. SBC/Yahoo updates its database so its knows my line doesn't have dsl on it.
5. I call SBC/Yahoo and request to upgrade my dial-in account to dsl.
6. SBC/Yahoo ships me a dsl modem.
7. SBC/Yahoo reprovisions my phone line for dsl.
8. I connect to dsl again. Hopefully at the faster speed I contract for.

cc: FCC

What should take minutes will take weeks. Three more weeks, best case, I guess.

Sunday, May 29, 2005

Dell's Time Warp: Here it is on May 29, 2005 and I want to learn a little about the new Pentium-D, so I go to Dell.com, and configure a Dell 9100 with a 3 Ghz Pentium-D, 1 Gig of 533 Mhz Ram, a 250 Gig HD, only a 1 year warranty, an Audigy sound card, and no other bells and whistles. It prices out to under $1500, you'd save only $20 by taking no monitor instead of the 17" CRT monitor. Then to check on how backordered they are. The expected shipping date listed: May 27, 2005

Saturday, May 28, 2005

Wireless Networking at tomorrow's Indianapolis 500: WiFi will be used to talk to the drivers while driving. Read about it here and here.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

More Bad Tiger News I had earlier posted how I'm underwhelmed by Apple's new release of its OS X 10.4 Tiger. Safari now crashes twice a day. Seems that by adding file attributes so its "Spotlight" Search function will work, Apple has broken every extant AntiVirus program, and upgrades are non existent or not working. Apple didn't do its homework working with software publishers. Apple has stopped carrying Virex on its .Mac web site, as Virex 7.5 won't work with Tiger. An orphan web page is left behind here. Symantec's AntiVirus 9 for Macintosh doesn't work with Tiger, and they have now come out with a version 10. Heaven forfend they provide a low cost upgrade or patch for 9. And now I read reports of grief installing version 10 of the Symantec product. If you wanted to buy Norton AntiVirus for Macintosh 10.0 is 2 weeks backordered at Amazon. Seems like its time to go back to 10.3.9

Maybe it's time to ask for a refund on 10.4


Followup: So I'm chatting online with a teacher from North Louisiana (exact location witheld to protect the guilty), and am told "We're installing 16 new eMacs next week", and I enquired if they had 10.4 on them cause of the grief it causes for antivirus software, and was told it didn't matter because they didnt buy antivirus software for their Macs.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Lack of Network Security: I've been seeing this for three years. Why is our Government only now discovering it has WiFi Networks all over Washington D.C. that are not secure, and in some cases, wide open? Read one story about it here: