22 Oct 2010 @ 12:45 PM 

If you’re a geek, you’ve thought of or maybe even built a home-theater PC – that strange device which is a full-fledged computer hooked up to your television. Most of the rest of the TV-watching public, however, is utterly uninterested in such geekery. They do want to see their Youtube videos and Netflix streams on the bigger screen, but they’re not interested in doing the hard work necessary to put them there.

Enter Google TV and Roku boxes and Apple TV. A simple, somewhat affordable (Logitech, why 300 bucks?) device, hooked up to your television and your internet connection, enter some passwords and usernames, BAM! Internet media on your television. That’s the dream, right?

Google TV has been blocked from streaming ABC, NBC, and CBS shows from the networks’ web sites. Think about this for a minute, and you may begin to see the point of view of Network Neutrality advocates. Google TV uses Chrome, the web browser, to access ABC’s website. The user on his couch sees the web site just as he would see it if he were using his regular PC to view that site. The same ads load. The same content is there. But, because the machine he’s using says (as it’s supposed to), “I’m a Google TV browser” – no soup for you.

Still here?  True, this is not an actual case of network neutrality being violated, because the ISP is not the one blocking content from flowing over their network. The content provider has the right, no matter how irrational, to prevent anyone from watching their content in any manner. They could capriciously decide that only certain blocks of IP addresses could view their shows online. They could browser sniff and decide that they don’t like Opera, even if Opera is perfectly capable technically of watching their content. They’ve decided they hate Google this week. By extension, their viewers, the ones who care enough about How I Met Your Mother to go to the CBS website and seek it out, the most avid viewers with the most brand loyalty – fuck them.

Interesting business decision.

Posted By: Gary
Last Edit: 22 Oct 2010 @ 12:48 PM

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 05 Oct 2010 @ 10:03 PM 

We just got a little Garmin Oregon GPS unit this week, and our first outing with it was very productive.  We walked around the San Angelo State Park and found our first geocache.  Only a few cactus quills.  🙂

And now Kat seems to have some small idea of how to operate it.  We’ll see how that goes.

Posted By: Gary
Last Edit: 05 Oct 2010 @ 10:03 PM

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 26 Sep 2010 @ 10:11 PM 

My first draft of the San Angelo State Park trails, in KML format.  Open in Google Maps or Google Earth – it is nifty.  All ready for some autumn hiking and geocaching with my baby.

Posted By: Gary
Last Edit: 27 Sep 2010 @ 09:07 PM

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 23 Sep 2010 @ 12:03 PM 

I’ve been playing Burnout Paradise on my computer (the old one and the seemingly cursed new one) since August 6th.  As of last week, the game started giving me an error that I couldn’t buy any downloadable content, due to one of four possible reasons:

  1. I was too young.
  2. My account was not allowed to purchase content.
  3. The content was not yet released.
  4. I was not signed in to my account.

So far as I could tell, none of those things applied.  I’m certainly above the age where I need permission to purchase anything, I was signed in and the content was not only released a year ago, I’d seen it offered for my purchase just last month.  I certainly hadn’t blocked myself from purchasing anything, but I also could find no information about that in my account one way or the other.

After 3 days of email, and one 40 minute chat, here are the tasks which I’ve been asked to accomplish under EA’s direction, while telling them at every step that my ACCOUNT must be borked on their end and maybe there’s a setting in there which they could check:

  • Clear the cache of my internet browser.  Since they couldn’t or wouldn’t tell me which browser engine is used for the in-game store, I cleared ALL of my caches in all 3 browsers (and both the 32- and 64-bit versions of IE).
  • Buy content from the Playstation store. Neat trick for a PC game.
  • Delete everything from my Windows temp directory. Sure, whatever.
  • Kill every process running on my machine other than Explorer and Taskmgr that weren’t owned by System. Right, let me kill 90 processes – some essential – just for fun.
  • Open 50 different ports in my firewall. Sure, whatever.
  • Uninstall and reinstall the game, erasing all traces from the registry as well.  That took a while.
  • Log in to the game. Duh?

Not only are some of those things bad ideas, some are even impossible or ludicrous.  If I killed every process owned by me that wasn’t Explorer, I’d effectively kill the browser I was using to communicate in the chat, as well as destabilizing my audio, video, and other hardware that has helper software.  Buying content from the Playstation store for my Windows game seems bizarre in the utmost.  I did uninstall and clear all registry bits and reinstall, as that MAY have been of some use.  I also cleared my caches, although the utility of that option still escapes me.

Naturally, after all this time and effort, including re-downloading a 3 gigabyte file, the game still won’t allow me to purchase any DLC.  I’m not even really planning to buy anything right now, I just figured after three days of seeing an error which I hadn’t seen the previous three weeks, there must be something WRONG that might need seein’ to.  This morning, they finally elevated this to second-level tech support.  WTF?  You would think my telling them that purchasing Playstation content for my Windows machine was ludicrous would cause them to elevate it, but no.  What finally put it over the top is when, on email #10 or so, the tech dork actually said I had to log in with my email address to access the game.  This is after I’d told them many times that the GAME was fine, the online-gaming portion was fine, the in-game browser was fine, it was just the in-game store which was broken, and gave an error indicating an ACCOUNT problem.  Finally, after that email where I told them they were ridiculous for thinking that I’d somehow logged in with someone else’s email address (which the game won’t allow and the game doesn’t use email addresses anyway), they finally said, “Oh, let me elevate this.”

I think the takeaway from this experience is, “If you buy an EA game, hope you never have problems.”

Posted By: Gary
Last Edit: 23 Sep 2010 @ 12:03 PM

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 23 Sep 2010 @ 5:40 AM 

So, think there may be something amiss with my computer?

BSODs for all!

There are several computing devices in my house, ranging from a Nokia N770 to a 2006-vintage eMachines to a netbook to a DVR to this monster machine I put together.  This is by far the least reliable and most powerful of the lot.  Rather distressing, really.

Posted By: Gary
Last Edit: 23 Sep 2010 @ 05:40 AM

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 10 Sep 2010 @ 12:32 PM 

The jeep was out of the Army inventory before I enlisted (I saw lots of CUCV and HMMWV and tracks and the occasional deuce and a half or five-ton), but they were legendary for their ease of repair.  These guys make it look incredibly easy to rip one apart and put it back together, in less than four minutes.  I think they’ve practiced.

Posted By: Gary
Last Edit: 10 Sep 2010 @ 12:32 PM

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 07 Sep 2010 @ 7:07 PM 

I love this comic.  Anyone who has ever had to deal with grammar nuts complaining about prepositions and split infinitives, when those are bizarre latinate rules applied to a germanic language should be able to relate.

Posted By: Gary
Last Edit: 07 Sep 2010 @ 07:07 PM

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 01 Sep 2010 @ 11:19 PM 

I haven’t built a new computer since January 2006, when I put together my MythTV box. I haven’t bought a new computer for myself since March 2007, when I bought a refurbished eMachines T6536. Since then, I’ve upgraded both of those boxes, with the eMachines ending up with two additional hard drives for a total of one terabyte of storage, an Nvidia GT220 video card and a PSU to handle it.  All that and it still only gets 67296 on the Crystalmark benchmark.

I just finished putting together a new machine, with parts purchased over the past 8 months or so. With a quad-core Athlon 635, 4 gigs of PC1333 RAM, Radeon 5770 video card, and two 500 gigabyte hard drives, it gets 186731 on the Crystalmark test. Sweet.

Now, to take on the crazy people in Burnout!

Posted By: Gary
Last Edit: 01 Sep 2010 @ 11:19 PM

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 01 Sep 2010 @ 1:05 PM 

Because the only significant story in the tech press today is about Apple (as is true every time Steve Jobs gets on a stage), I have become far too aware of the various iPod and iPad updates announced.  I find it interesting that Apple chose to replace the most popular model, the nano, with a version completely unlike the one which sold so well – it now has a touch screen and no buttons. Since the iPod classic was not mentioned, one assumes it is being led out behind the barn for an Old Yeller moment.  That leaves the iPod Shuffle as the sole remaining iPod with buttons.  Apple has decided that you can either have buttons or a screen, but not both.

I personally use my Sansa Fuze in the car, and the tactility of the physical buttons is the only thing which allows me to jump past a song while keeping my eyes on the road.  I’ve heard that people who listen to their music while exercising are also quite fond of physical buttons.  Would those people now have to resign themselves to the screenless shuffle (4 gigs of music without a screen? Ick) or does Apple just not care if some portion of their market jumps to a Samsung or Sansa or Creative player instead?

Of course, this assumes that Apple purchasers are sane humans who weigh the balance of features they need and desire against the value proposition they’re offered.  I’ve seen no evidence that is the case, so Apple is probably safe in betting that everyone they’ve already hooked will wander into an Apple store in a hypnotic trance and buy the latest doodad that Steve says they want.

Posted By: Gary
Last Edit: 01 Sep 2010 @ 01:05 PM

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 26 Aug 2010 @ 2:04 PM 

It turns out that the unenumerated rights that we have inherent to us as human beings don’t really exist.  If you don’t keep your car in a garage and you don’t live in a gated community, the Ninth Circuit has determined that you have no reasonable expectation that the police will stay off your property to put a covert GPS tracking device on your car.  Sure, it’s your driveway and they’re trespassing if they walk on it, but since the mailman walks on your driveway to deliver mail, it’s okay for the government to walk on your driveway to spy on your vehicular movements.

Amazingly, if you park in a garage or live behind a wall in a gated community, the court thinks you’ve still got some rights.  Is this going to be a selling point for new community developers?  “Live here, the Fourth Amendment still applies.”

Posted By: Gary
Last Edit: 26 Aug 2010 @ 02:07 PM

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 25 Aug 2010 @ 6:05 PM 

One more way that Google is showing its plans for the new Google Chrome OS machines – Google Voice inside Google Mail. Pin that tab and you’ve got a persistent connection to telephones, various instant messengers, and email. This comes out the same day that CrunchGear tells us that Google is working with Acer on the upcoming Chrome OS laptop with an old-school Atom CPU, 8 GB of flash RAM, a webcam and not much else.

Should be interesting, at least.

Posted By: Gary
Last Edit: 25 Aug 2010 @ 06:05 PM

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 24 Aug 2010 @ 2:39 PM 

I can relate to this SO much.
GPS Works

Posted By: Gary
Last Edit: 24 Aug 2010 @ 02:40 PM

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 20 Aug 2010 @ 7:02 AM 

For those five science fiction geeks who haven’t seen it yet, may I present the only viral video I’ve heard of devoted to a Golden Age author: Fuck Me, Ray Bradbury. Embedded video after the break, since it is obviously Not Safe For Work (As an aside, this is likely the only time I’ll get to use the category tags of “Literary, Music, Video, and Geek” all on the same post).

More »

Posted By: Gary
Last Edit: 20 Aug 2010 @ 07:02 AM

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 19 Aug 2010 @ 7:38 AM 

Wil Wheaton continues to prove that there are decent human beings that started out as child actors. An 8-year-old girl sent in her Wilpower fan club application back in the 80s, and the “6 to 8 weeks” ended up being much longer. She never got that fan club package, and the fan club folded many years ago. She’s now a professional writer and blogger, and when Wil Wheaton heard about her lack of Wilpower memorabilia, he fixed it. He found a set of fan club swag, and sent her a really funny letter. You should read it.

Posted By: Gary
Last Edit: 19 Aug 2010 @ 07:38 AM

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 18 Aug 2010 @ 9:56 AM 

Wow, what a stunningly misleading headline and astounding display of a lack of understanding of internet architecture displayed in this Wired article.  This conflation of the client with the protocol is a very bizarre thing to see in a supposed techie magazine.

Wired claims that the web is dead, because the growth of “apps” (hate that term, it just means “programs” but with one fewer syllables) is showing that people would prefer purpose-built individual small clients to access data, rather than relying on somewhat clunky and standards-averse browser-based web applications. That hardly means the web is dead.  What pool of data do the Wired writers think these apps are accessing?  The Facebook client for the iPhone is connecting to the Facebook web site, using the open APIs that Facebook has made available for just that purpose.

Anderson and Wolff make a distinction that doesn’t seem to make sense, from a computer geek standpoint. It’s not as if the same information is not available via web browser as via the purpose-built mini-programs.  One example they use is the Netflix streaming service on an iPad.  I can get the same or better functionality from any web browser, so how is the web dead?  Another example is RSS feeds.  What protocol do Anderson and Wolff suppose RSS feeds are served through?  Hmmm, looks like HTTP which is serving up these RSS feeds of HTML information to a purpose-built or general-purpose browser equally.

Of course, since Wired predicted that “push” technology was going to kill the browser in 1997, maybe we should assume their prognostication abilities are not all they could be.

I do appreciate that they clarify that the web is not the totality of the internet, something I had the hardest time explaining to people in years past.  Since those days, though, the web has become almost the entirety of the internet traffic, minus email and P2P.  For those who aren’t running bittorrent clients, the distinction between “internet” and “web” is one without meaning today. As for the rise of the apps, I think they may be a stopgap for some things. For example, the app was necessary to get YouTube videos because Apple hates Flash.  If you had an iPhone and wanted to watch YouTube videos, using the Safari browser would make you sad. Now that YouTube is moving toward HTML5 standards-based video, there’s no benefit to the app over accessing the site via a normal browser.  The same has been happening with many other video sites – the conversion from proprietary applications to a rich standards-based web may render this predictive column as quaint as the one which said we’d all be running PointCast by 2000.

Posted By: Gary
Last Edit: 18 Aug 2010 @ 09:57 AM

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 17 Aug 2010 @ 11:41 AM 

Another great stop-motion video, with the bonus feature of the paintings coming off the walls as well.  No digital effects, just thousands of photos and a lot of creativity.

Direct Youtube link

Posted By: Gary
Last Edit: 17 Aug 2010 @ 11:43 AM

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 30 Jul 2010 @ 3:42 PM 

I think what the Oregon Tea Party has learned is “don’t steal slogans from vindictive anonymous geeks” but I may be mistaken.  I’ve seen precious little evidence that most Tea Party folks are capable of learning.

Posted By: Gary
Last Edit: 30 Jul 2010 @ 03:42 PM

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 21 Jul 2010 @ 7:25 PM 

After two evenings of boot disks, operating system CDs, external drives, SATA drives balanced precariously atop an open case, and a couple of hard ciders, it appears the great computer meltdown of 2010 has been repaired.

Sadly, after all the effort, I still don’t know what was wrong. The computer stopped booting without an error, so I tried to fix it with a variety of different tools.  Some of them may have introduced other errors, or exacerbated the original error, and somehow it all ended up booting again around 6pm today.

Things which I tried which did not help: fixmbr, fixboot, copy partitions to a spare SATA drive I have lying around (waiting for that new build I’ve been planning for nearly a year now), copying NTLDR, hiding and unhiding partitions, making partitions active and boot, and pulling out hair.

Things which I think led to the fix: editing the boot.ini file via a Linux boot disk to point to partition(2) instead of partition(1), ensuring the recovery partition does not get assigned a drive letter in XP. And possibly the cider.

And this is why I have several USB drives about, as well as why I experiment with live distros on USB keys so I’m not completely flummoxed when everything goes pear shaped.  I still don’t trust this machine, though.  Flaky like croissant dough.

Posted By: Gary
Last Edit: 22 Jul 2010 @ 08:39 AM

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 20 Jul 2010 @ 7:29 PM 

It’s never good when your computer shows a flashing cursor for twenty minutes after you turn it on.  It would have flashed longer, but I turned the machine off.

Now booting off a live Linux USB stick, running diagnostics on the machine. There appears to be nothing wrong with it. SMART shows no errors.  NTFSChk shows no errors. I can mount and browse the drive perfectly well in Linux. Now I’m running a freshly-updated CLAMAV scan against the 200+ gigs on the main drive, but I begin to think this won’t reveal anything either.

Naturally, I can’t afford a new computer currently. Heck, I’ve got parts for a new build in my dining room that have 6 months of dust on them already.  *sigh*

Posted By: Gary
Last Edit: 20 Jul 2010 @ 07:29 PM

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 20 Jul 2010 @ 1:03 PM 

I recently noticed that it had been a while since I’d received a new issue of Geek Monthly magazine. Turns out, they went under six months ago.  Huh.  I guess I won’t be getting a refund of my remaining subscription fees. That prompted me to look at some of my other less-established magazine subs, and the only one that was missing was Seed.  Seed magazine was started four years ago as something of a spiritual successor to the 80s gem OMNI.  OMNI was a fabulous combination of science and science fiction, which in later years added far too much pseudoscience and then decided to jump into the “online only” realm before anyone was ready to read magazines online. They are sometimes missed. But this is about Seed.

Seed was pretty decent, actually. They had a lot of good writers working for them, and they seemed to understand the online world fairly well. They created a site which they used as something of cross-pollination project between print and blogging, the much-visited ScienceBlogs. A while back, they lost a few of their high-profile bloggers to Discover Magazine’s active blog portal. It appears that they shuttered the magazine last fall, with the promise that they weren’t going to quit publishing a magazine, they were just reducing the frequency and won’t you just wait until spring 2010 and you’ll get a new issue.  Um…yeah. Still waiting, and there doesn’t seem to be any official word (or at least not findable on their site) about where Seed Magazine went.

Last month, the ScienceBlogs folks noticed a new blog in their midst, one written by PepsiCo. There was much weeping and gnashing of teeth, ending with Pepsi’s blog being dropped. This week, there is a bit more of a kerfuffle. It’s a bit vague around the edges, but it seems the need to make money has become more important to Seed Media than any respect they may have had for being a science media focal point. I’m not clear on why this all came to a head today, rather than during the Pepsi Challenge, but a new batch of bloggers have jumped from ScienceBlogs and it’s not looking good for the site as a whole.  Interestingly, the biggest SciBlogger, the one who accounts for over half of their total traffic, has decided to go on strike/haitus rather than quit, but maybe Seed Media can bring ScienceBlogs back from this brink that their own inept management has brought them to. At a minimum, they need to realize that without content, their advertising department is completely worthless.

Meanwhile, where can I get a refund for the remaining issues on my subscription?  Hello?  *knock knock*

Posted By: Gary
Last Edit: 20 Jul 2010 @ 04:38 PM

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