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 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 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.