Classic Dishes...

Don’t Be Evil…But You Don’t Mind If We Leave Skynet Running, Do You?

From an article about Phillip K. Dick’s estate taking issue with the name of Google’s new phone, the Nexus One:

Dick’s estate doesn’t have a trademark on the Nexus name — and even if it did, we’re not sure consumers would somehow be confused into thinking there was some association between Dick and Google.

Oh, I dunno. I gotta think that the hardware designers who have done Google’s work for them in making Android remotely successful and are now screwed have used the words together a few times in the last month or so…


Okay, let me get this straight:

Perfectly useful apps are getting denied access to Apple’s App Store, but a completely blatant Peggle-ripoff? “Absolutely! Step right this way, sir! Here, let me hold the door open for you…”

Clearly the people in charge of these things are being misused. I gotta think somewhere at Apple there’s a room containing an infinite number of typewriters that could use a workout.

Open, Sez Me

Considering I’ve been working at Microsoft for the last few years, many would assume that I’m opposed to the notion of open-source software, because it’s “taking away my livelihood” or something equally silly like that.

Nothing could be further from the truth. I love the idea of free alternatives being out there. I especially love the idea of there being free competition to non-free applications. Competition breeds excellence, especially when the competition is pressuring the folks who make the non-free app to improve the product to justify what you’re paying for it.

Plus, I’m cheap.

However, as much as I like what the open-source movement is doing for computing as a whole, the politics of it can be maddening sometimes.

I mention this because I recommended (from this point forward to be referred to as OO.o) to someone as an alternative to Microsoft Office earlier this week. Figuring that if I’m going to recommend something to someone, I should at least try it out myself, I grabbed it and installed it on my machines here at home. And yep, it works pretty well, and certainly would work just as well as Office for most people.

There’s one catch, though: interoperability. When Office 2007 shipped, the standard default formats (.doc, .xml, .ppt, etc) that Office had been working with for well over ten years were supplanted by new XML-based ones. (Don’t worry, Office still opens and saves to the old formats just fine.) Needless to say, a lot of open-source proponents are not happy with the idea of Big Bad Evil Microsoft being the chief proponent of an open document format. Not because it’s a bad format, necessarily, but because it’s Microsoft and everything Microsoft does is evil and anyone associated with them should die in a fire. Again, or something.

Anyhow, sometimes the price you pay for using open-source stuff is that some things aren’t quite COMPLETELY baked. In the case of OO.o, it can read and open Office Open XML documents, and it can save in those formats, but something’s goobed; an OO.o-created .docx or .xlsx or whatever file throws an error when you try to open it again in Office.

So I did a little research to find out what was going on, if it was something I could fix with a little tweaking, what the deal was. And many of the forum threads I happened across responded to the reasonable question of “why aren’t Office Open XML formats completely cross-compatible between OO.o and Office” with “Never mind that, just save to .doc.”

It’s the Why Would You Want To defense, and I’ve seen it before. Ask a community, particularly an open-source one, about a shortcoming of their software over their competition, and without fail someone will come back with “Why would you want to do that? The way we do it is better!”  (Come to think of it, Apple is pretty good at this too.) It drives me INSANE. Tools are supposed to work for US, the way WE want them to, and to say “I don’t agree with how you want to use this tool, so I’m going to make you to use it my way instead” is hubris writ large.

You’ve read this far, so I should probably pay off with a punchline: It’s no secret that Google and Microsoft have been at odds over the last few years, and that Google has been playing the “OMG we’re so open and free!” card as their main thrust of their PR attack. So, following the series of Why Would You Want Tos I found while researching this, you might see the same irony that I did from the following Google search:


Apocalypse, Now

In the last 24 hours, Jack Thompson was permanently disbarred, Jammie Thomas was granted a mistrial in the only file-sharing lawsuit the RIAA had actually won, and Slashdot users slammed Apple and were sympathetic towards Microsoft.

Now, if you will pardon me, there’s a monkey making a mess out in the hallways of my office. And since it flew out of my ass, I suppose it’s on me to go round it up…

It’s Not Easy Being Green

For when the white earphones that come with your JesusPhone don’t scream “MUG ME” loudly enough:


AT&T, Phone Home

I’ve been meaning to comment on the current situation with the iPhone, but hadn’t had time to get around to it. Finally, today, I came across a piece that was so mind-bendingly STUPID that I have been inspired to action. In the past, you’ve seen me rail on technology writers. Now, I realize that suggesting there is a lot of bad writing online is a little like suggesting that water is wet, and I further realize that a lot of said bad writing comes from amateurs just looking to plug their website or make a couple of freelance bucks on the side writing a piece for Gamespot or something. That’s one thing. When a full-blown professional adult working for CNET screws the pooch, that’s something else again.

Enter Don Reisinger.

I first came across Mr. Reisinger as a guest on Leo Laporte’s This Week in Tech podcast from this past weekend, where he was brought on to discuss an article he wrote last week about how Microsoft just needs to throw in the towel on Windows Vista. Which would have been great if my experience and that of my collegues even came CLOSE to his talking points; I’ve been running it since February, and the LONE problem I have had with it traced back to a shareware application that doesn’t play nice with the Desktop. (And that the author can’t be bothered to update, but that’s another rant.) I personally know of NOBODY who has had the kind of experience with it that Reisinger claimed: that it crashes a lot, that it’s a resource hog, and that User Account Control is a nuisance. (Hint: if you’re using the OS the way you’re SUPPOSED to use the OS, the way 99% of users use the OS, instead of mucking around in Program Files and the Windows folder and whatnot, you barely know it’s there.)

So he jumped behind the wheel of the Microsoft Sucks bandwagon, and Leo, being the Mac apologist that he is, hopped right into the shotgun seat. Truly O’Reillyesque, it was. If it were a hockey podcast, he would have been Al Strachan. John Dvorak was out this week, so I’m guessing Reisinger was called in to fill the position of Blowhard Who Talks Out Of His Ass To Drive Website Traffic.

I thought hoped I was done with this guy. Then, today, I come across this little ditty, where he puts the blame on AT&T for the recent firmware update that has bricked hax0red iPhones. Apparently Apple is 0% responsible, since big bad AT&T has “forced” them to release this firmware, which renders phones that have been hacked to use on carriers outside of AT&T (temporarily) inoperable, and disables third-party apps that weren’t supposed to work anyhow.

What a crock of SHITE.

Never mind the obvious: when you hack ANY device, you’re taking your life into your hands; PSP owners can tell you a thing or two about that. But, Don: You do know, I hope, being the business expert that you are, that AT&T wrote Apple a BIG FAT CHECK for the right to be the iPhone’s exclusive U.S. carrier, right? And that Apple did not say “No, we don’t want to be beholden to you to keep hackers locked out of this device,” no, sir, they ran right down to their bank and CASHED IT. And while the world was finding out that freeing themselves from the shackles of AT&T was as easy as running a couple of apps on it, they were over in Europe accepting similar checks from O2, T-Mobile, and Orange!

Do I think the iPhone should be carrier-agnostic and that people should be able to run whatever apps they want to on it? God, yes. But the Apple fanboiz need to get it through their heads that Apple isn’t nearly the paragon of goodness and virtue that they think.

As for Don Reisinger: sir, please feel free to come up on stage and accept your Golden Slurpee, compliments of our good friends at 7-Eleven. Because….audience?


That’s right! Check us out next year as our broadcast comes to you from the armpit of America: Oxnard, California! Until then, good night!

Pimpin’ Ain’t Easy

It’s satisfying to actually finish a project for a change, instead of starting it and leaving it to rot.

The Four Of You, if you are indeed one of the longtime Four, will remember that I installed lights in my PC case a few years ago. I was never happy, however, with the snarl of wires that this put in the bottom of the case, because all of the power switches were mounted on slot covers in the back.

Over time, the machine has been…well, it’s been completely gutted. All of the parts you see above are now sitting in a case by my kitchen table, awaiting conversion into a dedicated MAME system. Well, thanks to a few parts from the good people at CoolerGuys and McLendon Hardware, I’ve finally gotten everything hidden away in the front of the case, and the switches put up front where they are easier to access.

So, please have a look, because you know it’s a rare day that I actually pull out the digital camera…

Link for those who don’t see Flash in their RSS feeds…

Two Tens For A Five

While the rest of the world has criticized Microsoft pretty strongly for missing the Christmas season with the release of Windows Vista, I have discovered that it dropped at pretty much the perfect time for me: tax refund season. So, between this and the discovery that Adobe Encore won’t run on my old AMD Athlon XP processor, Operation Core 2 Duo is now in full swing.

So over the last couple of days, I’ve been making the rounds, checking out what’s out there, what parts I can get for what I’m willing to pay, that sort of thing. And in Pricewatching and Froogling the motherboard I selected to make sure I was indeed getting the best price, I clicked a link for a place offering it on sale at a bargain price:

I wonder what coupons look like in their world.

PostScript: Printer

Bear with me on this one, folks, I want to make sure my Google ranking on this post is good and high.

(Epson sucks Epson sucks Epson sucks Epson sucks Epson sucks Epson sucks Epson sucks Epson sucks Epson sucks Epson sucks Epson sucks Epson sucks Epson sucks Epson sucks Epson sucks Epson sucks Epson sucks Epson sucks Epson sucks Epson sucks Epson sucks Epson sucks Epson sucks Epson sucks Epson sucks Epson sucks.)

So, Thursday night, I’m going to print something out on my printer recently unclogged by proximity…and I get more streaks. Dammit.

(Epson sucks Epson sucks Epson sucks Epson sucks Epson sucks Epson sucks Epson sucks Epson sucks Epson sucks Epson sucks.)

So it’s time to bring out the cleaning fluid I purchased from Followed all of the directions, and….nothing. Printer is no longer a going concern.

(Epson sucks Epson sucks Epson sucks Epson sucks Epson sucks Epson sucks Epson sucks Epson sucks.)

Let me just say that I don’t blame the Laser Service folks in the least, which is why I still link them above. Their fluid clearly works…I got some ink on my fingers in the process of all of this cleaning, and out of curiosity I put a little of the fluid on a paper towel, and it does indeed break it down and clean it right off, better than rubbing alcohol, even. Their stuff works. It’s just that Epson makes a crappy printer with an ink formulation prone to clogging, and once it does, you’re screwed. The days of Epson being a brand known for quality products are over.

(Epson sucks Epson sucks Epson sucks Epson sucks Epson sucks.)

And so (Epson sucks) it is with great optimism (Epson sucks) that I shall spend today deciding (Epson sucks) between two Canon’s: the PIXMA MP510 and (Epson sucks) the PIXMA MP600. I also shall not (Epson sucks) be recommending (Epson sucks) an Epson printer (Epson sucks) ever again. They’ve (Epson sucks) made (Epson sucks) a (Epson sucks) sworn (Epson sucks) enemy.

Oh, and Epson sucks.

POSTSCRIPT REDUX: I splurged and went with the PIXMA MP600. Bigger display, and better and more conveniently located controls; it should be here this coming week. I’m excited. And Epson still sucks.

Printer Repair Made Easy….REALLY Easy

The weekend before this last one, I was poking around on Amazon, picking up a couple of things with a gift certificate I received as a Christmas gift. I finished my purchase, and, because I’m anal like that, went to print my usual invoice so I can reconcile my credit card account at the end of the month.

The printer, as it is wont to do (and as I was expecting to happen fairly soon) informs me that the Yellow cartridge has kicked and needs replacing. So I do so, and it goes back to work.

And the page comes out streaked. Uh-oh.

Now, I’m fairly confident when it comes to computer hardware. I roll up my sleeves, dive in, and eventually it gets fixed. But printers I am UTTERLY clueless about, and that’s kinda how I like it. They’re a pain in the ass.

However, there are at least a couple things I do know how to do: I print out a nozzle check, and lo and behold, several of them aren’t producing anything. Initiate head cleaning subroutine, lather, rinse, repeat, exact same nozzle pattern. Ladies and gentlemen, we have a clog.

The irony here kicks in on a couple of levels. On the top, we have the printer itself, an Epson CX6400. I bought Epson mainly because I was tired of replacing the all-in-one color cartridge on my old HP DeskJet 660C warhorse just because the yellow or magenta wore out, knowing that I was tossing away perfectly good cyan ink. So I wanted a printer that used discrete color carts. I also wanted a scanner and a memory card reader, and the CX6400 has all of that in one box.

The one thing that the HP had going for it, however, was that the print head was contained in the ink cartridge. So if it clogs, you chuck it, put in a new cart, and boom, new print head. With an individual ink-tank printer, if it clogs, you have to deal with it. Clogging is about the one thing that can screw you, in fact.

So, yeah, ironic.

Then, on the deeper level, in researching this whole thing, I discover that the CX6400 (and indeed any printer that uses Epson DuraBrite ink) is infamous for developing clogs after a couple years, because of the formulation of the ink, and because of this the DuraBrite printers are pretty much considered the scourge of Epson’s product line.

I bought this printer Christmas of 2004, and put in into service a week later. So I’ve had the printer exactly 2 years.

So, yeah, ironic.

Anyhow, when a friend of mine had a similar problem with her Epson, I did a little Googling and found, which gives advice for dealing with this sort of thing, in the name of getting you to buy their materials to fix it with. So, figuring I should follow my own advice, I order up some Head Cleaning Solution Plus, and figure out how to get through the week without printing anything. I don’t have high hopes for it, but after a couple days I make peace with the whole situation, figuring that if I DO have to replace the thing (and it kills me that tossing out what is otherwise a functional printer and STILL a fully-functioning memory card reader and scanner is actually cheaper than replacing the dead print head), I can get one that, well, isn’t universally hated.

I found that I print up a lot more over the course of a week than I thought.

Now, I don’t want the ink backing up too much (I figure I have enough problems), and running head cleanings and nozzle checks use ink, so I tried to leave it alone while I waited for the Magic Solvent to arrive. But, after a couple of days, curiosity got the better of me, and I ran another nozzle check. And it’s still not clean, but it’s a TEENY bit better than it was. But it’s still consistent, so I figure there’s still some clogging problems.

Finally, Friday, the stuff arrives: a little bottle of Magic Solvent, about an inch of surgical tubing, and a small syringe. I’m not really home for any length of time until Sunday, so printer servicing is going to have to wait until then.

Sunday morning comes, and I take a deep breath and head out to the living room to begin the surgery. Before I do so, though, I want to print out a receipt for something else I bought online, and I figure if it’s streaky, what the hell, I’ll just deal with it; I’m gonna chuck it when the credit card statement comes anyhow.

It prints flawlessly.

I do a double-take, and print up a nozzle check.

Perfect. Not one empty spot on it. Not one.

So, I have to offer up full kudos to the gang at Laser Service, proprietors of, for producing what is to the best of my knowledge the first effective print head cleaning solution that not only works as advertised, but doesn’t even have to be APPLIED TO THE PRINTER.