Inanity. Abbreviated.

2012-09-06T13:49: XGA finally

Good to see the major e-book sellers upgrading their displays to 1024 x 768 over 6" with the Kindle Paperlight and Kobo Glo.  After getting my Story HD I could never stomach the current 800 x 600 standard, but I have to admit the iRiver software is pretty basic. Plus a lit display would be nice. I look forward to the future used/refurb market for this generation a year or two from now.

2012-08-23T11:29: Hertz, Redeemed

I have a policy of increasing the number of posts on the Internet reflecting good customer service, so here's a positive note:

When returning our rental car at 3:00 AM after our vacation in Washington earlier this summer, there was no apparent request for dropping off any documentation or place to do so. Just a number of lanes to leave the car in.

A week later I got a bill for $61 with no explanation of what it was for. I went to their web site and, with some difficulty, sent them a message.

It took five weeks but they did eventually get back to me. The charge was for fuel, despite the car being returned with a full tank. Looks like their after-hours return process assumes that you'll be filling out and dropping off a form. When someone did close out the rental, they didn't acknowledge that the tank was full. The good news was that they did refund the incorrect charge. For some reason it took another week for the refund to actually process, but their email predicted that, so that was OK.

It wasn't the smoothest rental I've ever done, but it did get resolved correctly. I won't be avoiding Hertz in the future.

2012-08-20T05:52: Municipal Planning

So word eventually reached me, as it was bound to, that Maxis saw the light and is working on a real successor to SimCity 4. This may be called SimCity 5 or they may try the modern marketing theory of just calling it "SimCity", because confusing and frustrating your customers is the hot new thing this year. It looks interesting: everything is individually simulated and moves on-screen. This might address the lingering issues from SC4 relating to incorrect scale.

I started planning my next computer purchase, because I buy games so infrequently that I have to buy a whole new computer every time. (As a bonus a new gaming computer would let me get beyond merely installing The Sims 3.) It's supposed to come out in February, leading to contemplation of whether I should take a week off at the beginning of March or plan it for later, in case the schedule slips.

Then I read that along with everything else, they turned it into a multi-player online game that has no standalone mode, and I lost interest.

More recently I've been rethinking that. My problem with it being online only is that I have to get whatever value I want out of it in the 12 months or so after release, after which the servers will surely be shut down. I would be more on-board with the concept if they priced it as a service, like an MMORPG, so that the servers would have ongoing revenue to support them. Everquest is still running, right? But pick a random EA game with an online component and unless it's no more than two years old, often closer to one, the servers are gone.

Then I started to ask myself why $60 for a year or two is worse than $10/mo. ongoing. It sounds like less. But that requires that I do all the playing I want — forever — in 2013-14. My usual mode for a game like this is to be deeply into it for a week or two, accomplish whatever it is that interests me, then ignore it for six months, then come back to it. Look at what I still play: Civ3 and SC4, both of which run great on a computer from 2005 with some new RAM and GPU.

So I don't know now. Might leave it until release and read the reviews. Maybe they'll listen to all the feedback and hack in a standalone mode? There's time, and I'm not asking for the full regional play experience if I'm not online, but so far they think it's a core feature and do not understand the objection. Multiplayer is an exciting new direction for SimCity that I would look forward to trying out, just as long as it isn't the only thing there is.

In other news:

2012-07-26T06:35: Wednesday Report

Took Mildred in for a 300,000 meow tuneup yesterday. Got the rabies vaccine updated, and a general checkup. She is performing well. All parts check out at nominal or better for a high-yowlage engine like her.

Then I got my cable hooked up again in time for football season. The Bears training camp opens today and the pre-season starts in two weeks. After all of last year's work, this install went right through with no trouble. It was done early enough for me to watch the majority of the afternoon Sox game.

So naturally I spent all night watching … the Roku, because Amazon added Fringe recently and seasons 1-3 are free with Prime. So I reviewed the end of season 2 and watched the first episode of season 3. This will be much better than getting it from the library and trying to do 22 episodes in a week.

Really, the cable is there for sports and Amazon and Netflix handle all other entertainment much better. I generally don't mind running two years behind broadcasts. Of course, I may record some stuff on the DVR when I can just to avoid the data transfer. We're using Netflix enough now to consume half of our bandwidth cap. Not a problem yet, but close enough to keep a continual eye on. Especially if I'm going to start spending more time on newer, HD shows like Fringe instead of Star Trek and other SD stuff.

Speaking of Star Trek, I've seen several TOS episodes recently that I've never seen before because they were never popular in syndication. Do you, like me, pick up on a sort of community lament for the cancellation of that series after only three seasons? Don't. Lament that most of season 3 sucked. I'd tell you the worst episode, but I'm not done yet and there was a stretch were each was worse than the previous.

A good day off. Now I can get back to work with no gaps in my schedule coming up. Jury duty last week only lasted a couple hours yet forced me to be tentative about my schedule for an entire week.

2012-07-21T17:47: 953356

Just spent many of the last 16 hours in KB953356 hell, which is to say having forgotten about it. I seriously have no remaining Windows troubleshooting skills. Yes, everyone, it is entirely possible to work in IT and be nearly unable to fix your own (much less anyone else's) Windows PC.

Working through the dozens of crapware entries left in the OEM sysprep image now. (It literally has 100 or so, although many are games that uninstall when a single "master" application uninstalls.) All this to have a Windows computer to point to when the cable guy comes to set up new Internet service I'm primarily taking because it still has a negative cost in a bundle. Mind you, I've been watching my bandwidth off and on while working and found that 2/1 Mb service would be just fine for telecommuting. It's entertainment that would suffer.

2012-07-19T10:06: Literature This Isn't

I've done a couple direct posts to recently. Since the stated purpose (see "About" sidebar) of this sub-site is to not let other servers own my data, I should catch up:

  1. Stephen Covey dead at 79. Quadrant III news: urgent but not important

    about 3 days ago from web
  2. Ever read a few books by 1 author that keeps putting somewhat distinctive in her phrasing & find yourself thinking in suchlike? Thanks, Kerr

    about 4 days ago from web

In related news, Twitter is at it again:

Generation gap? I've been battling gratuitous bashisms in #!/bin/sh scripts for a decade now. Personally I insist on installing either ksh93 or pdksh on my Linux machines:

Somewhere along the line I got a recommendation for Thomas Pynchon's Gravity's Rainbow. I was surprised, when my library reservation became available, to find that it was published under the Penguin Twentieth Century Classics imprint and classified as "literature". My fears were justified after beginning to read it. From Michael Wood's review for The New York Review of Books: "Gravity's Rainbow is literally indescribable, a tortured cadenza of lurid imaginings and total recall that goes on longer than you can quite believe.... It is crowded, technical, serious, self-indulgent, frivolous, and very heavy going." Yet I'm encouraged by the first Amazon review that popped up, which contains instructions for reading the book. Maybe I'll speed-read the rest tonight and contemplate another go next year.

2012-07-05T14:57: Balanced Equation

Just returned library materials with the new automated check-in system. Over five minutes in a 10 deep queue. Faster for @gailbrdnlibrary, slower for us. I bet the human interaction time is equal with the old way and just got transferred to the users. But the system probably cost a few million dollars so my tax bill will go up, not down from laying off some civil servants.

Then got confused by something I looked up at home being in the new adult non-fiction section, not the main one. Fixed a couple other errors while shelf reading to try to find it nearby, though.

2012-07-03T16:22: Belt Me

The new belt holster I'm going to try for my current phone arrived today, in a week in which I have no real plans to wear pants again. The phone fits though.

Now working on using the Amazon MP3 credits I've piled up by having things like that not shipped 2-day, while they have albums on sale for 99¢.

2012-06-07T12:31: First I'll Be a Grand Anything

My county's online juror pool site is nice. They mailed me the standard questionaire and gave me the option to fill it out online.  By logging back in I just found, before getting anything back in the mail, that they picked the worst possible day for me to serve as a grand juror. (The one day of the month that my training class, with $500 contractual penalty for missing it, meets in July) I was able to submit my deferral request online too. All I ask is that they bump me a week and we're good to go.

2012-05-22T10:22: Miles on my KARR

I just got enrolled in a company training class that will meet at a suburban Milwaukee location three times, first next week, and ending on September 12-13. (Seven sessions over four months, most just a couple hours and many of those online.) Hm, what is it that sounds familiar about going to Wisconsin on 9/13?

I found that Netflix has the full classic Knight Rider series. I've been watching episodes from the first season that I never saw. Oh, the '80s .... KARR was weird in his first appearance. No real motivation. If I had seen it when I was seven, I can imagine how confused I would have been to hear Optimus Prime saying those things. But now I understand how he ended up buried in that beach, which made for a much better sequel in the second season.

I created a separate, non-public wishlist at Amazon to move everything like that to: things I'd like but are currently available to me in one library or another. Need to weed through the other lists now.

My car has about as many microprocessors as KITT. Why can't it drive me to and from Wisconsin? Maybe I should be thankful for its lack of attitude.

2012-05-18T13:24: Household Tech Update

Ended up buying the Blu-ray burner. I realized that if I update the firmware on the player and the region-free codes stop working, as online reports indicate they probably will, then I'm stuck with a region B/2 player. As always, piracy wins for ease of use. Transcoding takes a long time, like almost two days per disc on my laptop, but that just needs to be done once and we hardly buy things that often. It does make it worthwhile to burn transcoded copies to another disc for backup, even though they can be reproduced from the originals.

I also just got a USB charging cable so I can charge the Nokia phone from my multi-USB charger on vacation. USB charging is a small mess. Short version (really!) without citing everything: original standard = 500 mA, no problem. That's most computer USB ports. AC chargers can provide more but have to signal the phone/tablet/etc. that it's OK to pull more. Actual standard: crossed data lines = 1000 mA available. Without seeing that, some phones won't pull >500mA, and some like my Nokia (and past Motorolas) won't charge at all. Apple standard: various constant voltages on data lines = various amounts available on power lines. iPads, for example, won't charge if they don't see the values they expect, so lots of third party chargers provide them. But then everything else either charges a little slowly or (Nokia, Motorola, ?) doesn't charge at all. Solution: "charging cable" with data pins crossed in micro-USB connector. Just don't confuse it with a normal, "data" cable.

While researching that, I discovered that my multimeter is reading DC voltages wrong, reporting a number about 50% higher than it should. I have nothing to check it against but if it's not the meter, then every battery and power adapter in the house is severely overpowered. This actually makes me feel better about some readings I have seen in the past. I need to try replacing its battery, which is rather old, to see if that helps it work better. Otherwise I'll eventually want a new one of those too.

2012-05-14T14:48: Blue, My Favourite Colour

Debating which route to take on our Blu-ray player. It keeps dying, generally not making it through any one thing that we want to watch. Options:

  1. Update firmware at potential cost of losing region-free capabilities I paid for
  2. Get BD drive for computer(s); rip and stream stuff to Roku via Plex
  3. Get DVD copies of the two things we own on BD


  1. Firmware update seems worth a try since the other options involve disposing of the stupid piece of hardware anyway. Not guaranteed to work. Does involve getting it working enough to even accept an update.
  2. A nice USB 3.0 external burner looks like it's around $160. A nice internal drive and eSATA case might be less, but I think I'd prefer to buy rather than assemble what I want in this case. I don't have USB 3.0 anywhere, but this looks like a place to future-proof. eSATA drives look too expensive. This option opens the possibility of backing up 50 GB at a crack, which I would use if I had but don't know just how to value.
  3. If we buy used DVDs and sell the BDs it probably costs close to nothing to downgrade the two Blu-Ray items on the shelf. We find we don't care about the resolution difference, at least not on my 47" TV. But this precludes borrowing Blu-Ray movies from friends in the future.

Also, will try to remember when I have a really bad day at work …

2012-05-13T03:16: Seriously, Pandora

I do miss the days of one commercial in an hour, but it's OK. I wouldn't mind a 15-second commercial every three songs … if you could just sign up more than one sponsor! I just turned you off halfway through hearing the same Target Clinic ad for the sixth time in an hour.

I remember this used to bug me when the AFL was on TV too. They'd have exactly five sponsors, who would all be cheap enough to produce exactly one commercial each. So every commercial break led to the same commercials, often in the same order too. I haven't had cable during the AFL season since the bankruptcy/dissolution, so I wonder if it's the same today.

2012-05-08T08:14: Oversleeping

I know I'm in bed late when Dinah has to come all the way upstairs to get me. Good secretary!

2012-05-03T21:13: Finally, Samsung gets it

Puts a notification LED on a mainstream phone, per GSM Arena's preview. (And my respect for that review site races even higher for pointing it out!)

This is the one. (133g, 4.8" screen, physical home button, LED, and two things no longer automatic in 2012: big replaceable battery and microSD slot) Now to just decide on a target price. I bet it's going to be $800 to get in the U.S. the day after release. (Update: pre-order price is $775 as of 5/24. Am I good?) I'm not interested in how the U.S. carriers will screw it up, either: i9300 for me, thanks, with "merely" 21 Mbps HSDPA+. But probably not until the end of the year. And I can only hope no bad news comes out for reception (I'll accept Samsung average) or audio quality after testing.  Update: everything is great in the full review!

Meanwhile I'm carrying my E73 for a while. I got maps loaded for vacation — thanks to the folks that worked out the "alternative map loader" page for Ovi Maps — not that I expect to be out of data coverage. I'm enjoying having a light phone in a holster on my hip again. Fell in love with the keyboard harder than ever after touching it. I think work's downgrade to a Curve got me in practice with what is still, while tolerable, a too narrow keyboard. Not enjoying all the known issues with Symbian. But I'm planning on taking this one out of town. Light, better camera, and offline navigation, yet I won't mind losing it.

2012-04-10T12:12: I Miss Ozzie

After this weekend he will have been suspended for 50% of Marlins games this season. I wonder if he can keep up the pace? Between him and Buehrle I've considered getting an subscription and calling myself a Miami fan this year.

2012-04-09T15:16: 8-bit Jack

Question of generation? No particular feeling from hearing about Mike Wallace yesterday, but found Jack Tramiel's death noteworthy today.

2012-03-30T14:50: Waiting

Someone thinks my workday should be over soon:

Mildred sitting on armrest of couch

She may be right.

2012-03-27T17:45: Nothing Good Enough

For my own organization, I'm writing down my reasons for rejecting every smartphone on the market today.  I know, #FirstWorldProblems:

  • Plans are primary, so I'm staying with T-Mobile barring an overriding deal elsewhere.
  • I'm almost entirely reducing the field to Android because:
    • I need easy tethering. Blackberries don't do it right. I don't want to connect a personal Blackberry to my work BDM and have everything get confused there.
    • Symbian is a moving train wreck, particularly in the US. I may have never left my Nokia E73 if they kept releasing bug fixes to the existing features, but that's never been how it works with them. That the Nokia Astound is being dumped for $99 is a shame, but it's not getting a Belle update.
    • If I won't touch Symbian again for that reason, you can just not mention whatever this year's name is for the Linux/Qt OS that Nokia and Samsung pretend to care about when they want to keep their real OS partners in line. Too bad after glowing hardware reviews of the N900 and N9.
    • Windows Mobile is unmanageable without a Windows desktop that I don't have, even if I did like it otherwise. Booting Windows once is OK, e.g. to flash the Hercules that Heimdall can't manage, but as far as I know WM7 would be too hobbled without being able to regularly touch Windows. Ditto iOS.
  • Luckily, Android means lots of device options. But I know I need a couple things physically:
    • The weight must be as low as possible. If my G2 could magically lose two ounces I wouldn't be writing any of this. I want to stay under 6 oz. includnig a case. A TPU case generally works for me, so that lets the phone creep up over 5 oz., but not to 5.5.
    • The screen must be 4.3" or larger unless it has a physical keyboard. Bigger is better. The ease of typing jumps with every increment I've tried.
  • Almost every Samsung is out for not having a notification LED. I tried to use a Hercules and sent it back. The LED is a showstopper. I know about BLN hacks, but the backlights involved are too bright. It couldn't work.
  • After sending back the white Hercules I got, I considered that the black model might be better, but I checked in a store and it's still too much.
  • The one modern Samsung that has an LED is the Galaxy Nexus, but its voice clarity is said to be a step down from its S2 cousins. It's also annoying that they used an inferior camera, maybe because it showed off Android 4.0's new software better?
  • If the RAZR either had Band IV HSPA or took a standard SIM, so I could use a different 3G phone when I needed it, I'd overlook the (nominally?) non-replaceable battery. Would love to have a phone from a company that can build a phone. Every HTC and Samsung starts out down a point with me. Could move up as more other micro-SIM phones come out as options. Or will the industry largely skip right to one or more nano-SIM standards? (Because standard SIMs are just so unthinkably huge ....)
  • The HTC Sensation was a strong candidate. Maybe if I hadn't been comparing its screen to the Hercules when I got them both in ...? My official rejection reason will be the power button being too stiff combined with a lack of other physical buttons to wake it up. We'll see if the one @dragonjaze kept develops any of the hardware problems endemic to the model. It was manufactured this January so maybe HTC fixed some of the issues. I'll have to check hers in a couple months, because if her power button loosens up after a couple months of use, who knows?
  • (Yes, I bought a Sensation three months after the Amaze came out — see the point about weight, above! And I think people undervalue the hardware jump the Amaze represents. None of it is worth that last ounce.)
  • Now pondering the Atrix 2 as a melding of the above two. Practically the same dimensions as the Sensation, with a full GB of RAM and a camera button, and Moto's reception and call quality, while still being of the replaceable battery and standard SIM variety ... and the whole Webtop thing as a bonus! Need to check out the development community and see if it's thoroughly broken. Update 3/28: darn, no one has cracked the bootloader?

I'm pondering a Blackberry/Playbook/Tetherer combo, but not too seriously. ("Tetherer" being one of the old Android phones that can sit in my backpack until needed.) Also pondering other phone-tablet combinations.  Hm, does the BB 7.1 OS bring mobile hotspot to the platform? With Blackberries everything depends on which service books your carrier pushes too. TMOUS started rolling out 7.1 for the 9900 in February then pulled it. May have to recheck this.  (Looks like they just re-released it and tethering is a listed feature.)

Now the latest news from TMOUS is that they will start moving 3G to band II this year so they can do LTE on band IV within two years. When that hits my area, many more of the world's 3G phones become options — and more future-proof options at that. So that's even more reason to simply do nothing.

Update 3/28: the upcoming Huawei lineup, including both the Ascend D series and the myTouch QWERTY, looks promising. Looks like summer for any of those. I'm trying to think of any Huawei phones I've seen reviewed.

Update 4/11: Upcoming Pebble watch to make phone LED less relevant? Or today's inPulse watch?

2012-03-26T13:08: Birthdays

I never remember the exact days ... Elton is the 25th and @extrapremium is somewhere right around here.  Happy birthday to both. I have no idea what to get either.

Good news is while looking up the more public of the two, I discovered he has an album ready to go this fall, to be called The Diving Board.

Mildred's is Sunday, and luckily she's easy to buy for. The whole family wins when she gets birthday goodies. At least the feline contingent.

I spent more of Saturday than planned getting DD-WRT on my main gateway. I've been curious just how much bandwidth we actually use, what with the Roku being so popular, so now I can track it. It's nowhere near as nice as Tomato, which I still run on the old WAP (as a reverse access point for @dragonjaze's desk upstairs), but I haven't looked into it much.

Spent a little time recently getting myself a Dropbox account, concluding Sunday with trying to get it set up on FreeBSD. That's a no-go: the official daemon isn't ported, the only available port requires registration as a developer, and the terms of service for doing that don't actually allow much of anything. Apparently the Linux client works if you have Linux ABI support, including all the libraries, which I don't want to do. So I now have 2.25 GB I can magically share between my phone and laptop, and no particular purpose for doing so.

I'm actually having a good day at work — finally got past whatever was blocking me on getting a particular report working — so it's time I got back to it.

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