Classic Dishes...



They’re All Pink Inside

From yesterday’s Fry’s ad:

This Is Not The Cancellation You’re Looking For

Courtesy of One Of The Four David Zinkin, the following tidbit regarding Our Very Favorite Online Service Evar:

Dude gets ‘Tude while trying to cancel AOL

Frankly, Vincent was far too generous. I would have been demanding a supervisor the very second the guy said anything other than “Yes, sir” once I had satisfied the security authorization questions. Having worked in this industry, I know how to make things happen and have no tolerance for crap like this.

Actually, something similar happened when I bought my first laptop: Best Buy was trying to sell me the standard litany of extended warranties and the like, but because I financed it through a newly-acquired Best Buy credit card, I got a couple extra ones. And when I said, no, I didn’t want the service they were hawking, the guy actually said “May I ask why not?” And (much to my credit, because this NEVER happens, I’m usually too flabbergasted at the breach in courtesy to think clearly enough to do it), I simply looked at him calmly and said “No.”

Then he did it AGAIN. Some other thing where the minimum payment is guaranteed if I lose my job and can’t make the payment or some crap. Nope, don’t want that. “May I ask why not?” This time, he got the Icy Stare Of Ask Me That One More Time And You’re Going Home Tonight Sans Testicles, and a way-more-definite “NO.”

Either he got the picture or ran out of services to shill, because he did not try a third time.

Sad thing is, I know for a fact that there are enough technophobes, elderly people, and just plain morons out there that this tactic works more often than not, so I don’t see it stopping. However (and this is the point that I hope to get across to The Four Of You), I do feel that my obligation to any kind of social courtesy during a business transaction like this comes to an abrupt end the second a breach likes this takes place, and I have no problem with and no regrets after playing the Asshole Card just as soon as they do.

Stupidity Knows No Spectrum

Okay, here’s another one for the geeks in the house.

(“All the ladies in the place say HOOOOO!” “Hooooooooo!” “All the geeks in the place recite pi to 127 places!” “3.141592653….”)

First, a little background: I have this spiffy universal remote that I picked up a while back. It does everything, and because I’m a geek, I made it do a little more; I hacked a JP1 connector into it and soldered a TEENY TINY EEPROM chip to the circuit board so I can program it through my computer. (To this day I don’t know how I pulled off the solder job.)

Well, last week, I took the plunge and bought myself an early birthday present (May 4th, kids, mark your calendars), an Xbox 360. And it occurred to me, as I saw the $30 remote they wanted to sell me so I could have full DVD remote functionality instead of controlling it with the wireless gamepad, that perhaps someone has posted the JP1 codes and I can just program my spiffy hax0red remote to do it and save a few bucks.

So I do some Googling and subsequent checking of the relevant forums, and lo and behold, the 360 Remote Master codes are indeed out there. So I download the file, build the upgrade, and upload it into the remote.

And it works fine…until I try to open the DVD tray, at which point it does nothing until I close the tray manually or use the gamepad to close the tray using the Xbox dashboard. And I’m stymied. I’m absolutely convinced that I’ve done something wrong putting together the remote upgrade, and I post in a panic to the aforementioned relevant forums.

Tonight, I’m playing with it some more (I found a new upgrade with some more functionality, so I figure maybe it has a different open/close tray code), and having the same problem. And folks have since replied to my panicked posts, swearing up and down, to a man, that it’s worked for every one of them and that I’m doing it just right. Well, apparently NOT, since the damn tray won’t close, right?

Oh. Wait.

The vantage point I’m doing these experiments from is above the unit and to the right, as it is located in the storage cubes that flank my television, and I’m sitting at my computer desk.

Go back and look at the picture of the unit again. See that little dark oval on the lower left? That’s the infrared sensor for the remote. The DVD drive tray is the long chrome slot above that.

Guess what gets completely obstructed from an angle of above and to the right when the DVD tray is open?

Neanderthal

For quite a few years now, among all of the other gadgets I have on my person at all times (iPod, cellphone, Game Boy…I’m a veritable cornucopia of EMF), I’ve carried a PDA. It’s a Palm Zire 72 now, but originally I bought a Handspring Visor back in 1999 or 2000 or so, mainly for it’s potential to be a fun toy, and then discovered a little app called MyCheckbook that has been an absolute godsend. Of course, I have a buttload of games and whatnot on it, too, but MyCheckbook has basically justified the expense.

Anyhow, one of the other actual practical applications I use it for is to keep shopping lists. (I hate writing; my handwriting sucks (part of the reason I’m such a computer geek) and anytime I can have something do the writing for me, even if it takes slightly more effort on my part than just writing, I’m down with that.) When I think of something I need to get at the store, I just whip it out and add it to the appropriate list, and when I’m actually going through the store I can check items off as I get them. It’s really really handy and it’s kinda fun in a geek way to wander through the store plucking things off with the stylus. And I never forget that I need butter. Unless I don’t add it to the list.

Anyhow, last night I needed to charge it, so I put it on the charger and went to bed. Long story short, I forgot to return it to my messenger bag this morning, and I need to make a grocery run this afternoon, ‘cuz I’m outta milk.

So this morning, I had to recreate the shopping list by hand. And I realized that this is probably the first time in six or seven years that I have actually made a physical grocery list. It was weird. What is this “paper” you speak of?

September Finally Ended

I guess Steve Case feels that his untrained kittens have filled the great sandbox that is USENet with enough shit that it’s time to move along. America Online announced yesterday that they would discontinue support of USENet newsgroups for their customers.

I love the quotes from the spokesdrone: “We are seeing that traffic on newsgroups is pretty minimal at this point.” Gee, could that be because your idiot members turned it into such a festering pile of crap that nobody can stand to deal with the signal to noise ratio?

Proof once again that AOL is the scumsucking parasite of the Internet. I am proud to offer them what I hope will become a regular feature here at Chez Fred, the inaugural Oreck Vacuums “You Just Suck” award.

Go-ing, Go-ing, Gone

TivoToGo has been activated.

Excuse me while I soil myself.

from the missing-the-boat dept.

Slashdot just now figures out that Comcast ruined TechTV.

Way to bring the hard-hitting news, folks. You only missed this one by SIX FREAKIN’ MONTHS.

(Happy New Year, by the way.)

Holiday Nerdvana

By the by, Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, and Funky Kwanzaa to each and every one of The Four Of You. I hope you were appropriately and thoroughly begifted, ate well, properly coated in crushed-up Shredded Wheat, or whatever is the custom around the holiday you celebrate.

Growing up as a technology geek in California, and within driving distance of the Silicon Valley thereof, Fry’s Electronics was Mecca. As soon as I was old enough to travel there by myself, a Fry’s run was a regular and necessary part of every San Jose trip.

(For those of you who have never been in a Fry’s: Take a Best Buy. Roughly double the size. Now graft on a similarly-doubled Radio Shack. Stick a Starbucks in the middle, and the World’s Longest Magazine Rack in front, including one of the finest selections of printed pornography outside of a city tobacco shop. Finally, take all of the employees and replace them with disdainful minimally-paid workers who speak very little English. Don’t worry, it’s part of the charm.)

Anyhoo, when I moved up here, I missed Fry’s terribly. The opening of a couple Best Buy’s within easy driving distance of my place made it a little easier, but there was still that something. Then, a year and a half ago, it finally came to fruition: a Fry’s store was opening in Renton.

For the longest time, I wouldn’t go. Renton was a pain in the ass to drive to, reports indicated it was always crowded as hell, and most importantly, I had read articles talking about how friendly and helpful the staff were being trained to be. Friendly? Helpful? That’s not the Fry’s I know.

Anyhow, the weekend before Christmas, I got a wild hair to finally go to Fry’s. I needed an adapter so I could use PlayStation 2 controllers on a PC’s USB port, I didn’t feel like waiting to order one from (or paying insane shipping fees to) the overseas accessory shops, and regular computer stores don’t carry that sort of thing. But Fry’s does, my friends. Fry’s does.

So down I drive to Renton, with no information other than the knowledge that Fry’s is in Renton. That should be enough, right? I mean, it’s freakin’ Renton, and this is Fry’s. Should stick out like a sore thumb.

…well, after fumbling around for 20 minutes in downtown Renton and coming across only the one monolith that is Sam’s Club, I grab a newspaper (The Saturday one-page Fry’s ad runs on the back of Section 1, and that’s apparently no exception in Seattle), and find out that the Renton Fry’s is in Renton the same way that I live in Seattle…if you went a couple blocks north you’d be in another city. I missed it by two full exits, and to this day I have no idea how this is possible, as when I approach it from the south it’s quite visible from the freeway and exactly what you might expect: a MAMMOTH FREAKIN’ BUILDING with a MAMMOTH FREAKIN’ PARKING LOT attached to it, sporting the familiar Fry’s logo on both the front and back.

I think I burned a full year’s worth of Parking Karma when I pulled into the lot, as I kid you not when I tell you the spot LITERALLY closest to the store opened up JUST as I got there. And as you would expect for the week before Christmas, this was not a slow day. People were parking all the way out in Goofy. (That’s a little joke for anyone whose ever been to Disneyland before they turned the parking lot into that ridiculous roller-coaster park.)

So I went inside. And I was home again. The salespeople were, as I’d been warned, somewhat more helpful than I was expecting, but it’s my hope they were just holiday temps and that they’ll be worthless again if I go back in a couple months.

So, long story short, if you wanna know what it’s like to be a geek in the World’s Center of geekiness, make the pilgrimage to Fry’s at least once. Expect to buy something. You won’t regret it.

My Tivo Weekend

First and foremost, a quick shout-out to my man Jesse over at Gestalt Circus, the newest member of the blogging scene. Give him a look, he has some good stuff to say, and we’ve apparently gotten him at least interested in Survivor (and at just the right time!)

Hope everyone had a fine and filling Thanksgiving. or whatever you might celebrate around your neck of the woods.

First, some quick housekeeping: the commenting is gonna stay as-is for now. I just don’t like how Blogger does it. In fact, I need to remember to give Haloscan a few bucks so they’ll turn my archives back on.

The big project this weekend was upgrading my Tivo. A little bit ago I took advantage of a great deal on Buy.com to pick up a 160 gig drive for $50 (after rebate, of course, but that rebate seems to be fast in processing), with plans to replace the current 80 gig drive and possibly add the various and sundry hacks to the Tivo kernel that allow me to extract video and what not.

I ended up wussing out on the hacking, for a couple reasons: one, I had heard that the hacking method I was going to use was obsolete, and I wasn’t 100% sure of the technical aspects of what I was doing anyhow. The Tivo hacking community can be somewhat elitist, and it’s damn hard to find any kind of step-by-step guide to getting these things set up, prolly because nobody wants the trail of bread crumbs to lead back to them if someone gets litigious. Moreover, I’d learned that Tivo plans to roll out their Tivo ToGo service before the end of the year, and part of that service should allow me to download programs to my machine and burn them to DVD and such, which is really all I was interested in with the kernel hacks in the first place. So, best to keep it simple, and just worry about upgrading the drive.

The folks at Weaknees.com have a fine guide on upgrading pretty much any kind of Tivo to any kind of drive configuration you could like, but it doesn’t go into detail as to any kind of time investment. So let me present a timeline of my Tivo upgrade:

Earlier in day, Saturday: Downloaded and burned MFSTools 2.0 CD image, and attached target Tivo drive to a spare drive tray. (My desktop PC has a neat hard drive mounting system where the drives are secured to these little trays with rubber grommets in them to prevent vibration, and then they slide into the drive rack and snap into place with a spring latch. Makes it a cakewalk to swap out drives. In fact, thinking about it, I should dig up an old drive and stick Fedora on it.) Took about five minutes.

4:00P: Moved storage cubes that double as a speaker tower (a greatly simplified process now that I’ve figured out how to do it without having to pull out a hundred or so Dreamcast games) and gained access to back of television set. Detached all connections from back of Tivo. Was pleased to find that power cord was detachable as well, as this made extraction of unit from component stack that much easier.

4:10P: Tivo extracted from component stack, sitting on work (coffee) table. My computer toolkit just happened to have T-10 and T-15 Torx bits, so according to the instructions I’d printed out, I was ready for whatever they threw at me.

4:15P: Top cover of Tivo removed. Most things I’ve read on Tivo hacking repeatedly hit upon the point of not dislodging the ribbon cable that connects the Tivo motherboard to the front panel of the unit, but I can’t see how you would unless you were being pretty careless…mine’s in there pretty tight.

4:30P: Six screws later, the Tivo hard drive (a Western Digital) has been disconnected and removed from the Tivo. Tivo drive is brought to desktop machine and secured to other spare drive tray.

4:45P: Spent a few minutes making sure that I wasn’t gonna need the desktop machine for however long this was gonna take. Shut down PC, swapped PC drives with Tivo drives.

4:55P: Booted from MFSTools 2.0 CD and issued backup command, as given in upgrade instructions.

5:00P: We’re rolling. Fortunately, it counts the megabytes as they are transferred, so we have some idea of progress made. Unfortunately, it’s an 80 gig drive, which means there are 80,000 or so of them. And since we’re going from one drive directly to the other, we’re transferring about 200 MB per minute. Which means we should be done…around 3:00a. Oy. Gotta wonder if it woulda been faster if I’d backed up to a spare drive first and then restored from the spare drive to the new one, but this was more convenient.

Rest of evening: Spent with laptop. Periodic checks of desktop machine indicate that 3:00a seems to be an accurate estimate. Eventually go to bed.

4:30A, Sunday: Get up for bathroom run, and in so doing check in on PC, which is indeed finished and indicates my drive is ready to go at 140 hours and change. Kickass. Swapped PC drives back in, returned to sleep.

1:00P, Sunday: Attach new drive to Tivo, return the cover, replace in the component stack, and plug it all in.

1:10P, Sunday: Wait with lump in throat…Tivo screen changes from initial boot to “Just a few minutes more”…and there’s the welcome animation! And my old programs still play!

1:15P, Sunday: The information screen reports that I now in fact have a 150 hour Tivo. Success!

So you get the idea. Negligible actual work on my part, but if I knew it was gonna be a ten hour wait for the transfer to the new drive, I would have timed things so that happened during an overnight. So maybe I’ll save one of The Four Of You from the hassle one day.

That’s a full lid for now. I may have a Survivor post later.

Order Up!-date

The voting is in, and The Four Of You (actually I think we only enjoyed a 50% voter turnout) voted overwhelmingly for most-to-least-recent archive listing. Last night I looked up some code, and mashed it together with some code I already had, and I appear to have pulled it off. Go me. :)

In doing this (and after much banging of my head against a brick wall – the things I do for My People), I also have discovered a trick to get the blog to completely republish MUCH faster and WAY more reliably than before. (It seems Blogger doesn’t like overwriting files much. Not bad when it’s just dealing with the index, but a pain in the ass when dealing with 100 back entries. So if I blow out the blog manually and let the program republish it from scratch with nothing to write over, what used to be a half-hour of nail-biting happens in about a minute, and the first time.) So because of this, I may start tinkering with bringing the commenting system internal again. I like the LiveJournal conceit of displaying comments directly below a blog entry and providing an easy way to join in. What we have now with HaloScan isn’t bad but I can’t help but think we can do it better. So if you see the site with multiple comment links on each entry, it’s because I’m fiddling with it and it will be back to normal soon enough.

Firefox, by the way, is teh b0mb. Popups? Spyware? Those are things that happen to other, lesser people. Is Microsoft really so dense as to maintain that tabbed browsing isn’t a killer app? Look for it in IE within a year – and look for this Steve Vamos chucklehead to be seeking other employment.

So. I was gonna write my usual Friday piece on Survivor and The Apprentice, but with Raj getting the boot last week from the latter, and Sarge (Just as I’m not gonna tell Glenn Danzig he sucks, I’m not gonna tell Sarge that Lea is a girl’s name) getting axed for owning a penis on the former, there just isn’t much left on either show to hold my interest. Survivor is quickly becoming (what’s the opposite of a sausage fest? A tuna party? :)), and the only real interesting angles on Apprentice remain whether Andy will shake the “he’s just a kid” stigma (despite the fact that he’s carried himself just fine every time the ball’s been thrown his way) and whether The Donald will run out of people to fire instead of Ivana and be forced to hire her dumb ass.

(Revision: In looking up Danzig in Google to get the link. I saw some pictures, and apparently he’s let himself go over the last few years. I’m inclined to think that today, I WOULD tell him he sucks. :))