Friday, November 14, 2014

Back in the Habit of Destroying Computers, Toilets

About a year ago, dontEATnachos traded me a computer in exchange for some professional services.*  This thing was pretty rad, and considerably better than my jury-rigged old dog from 2008.  I’ve already managed to break the new kid.  Twice.  I shall relate the story of the new kid in rhyme.**

My old dog still had XPpro, and basically worked, if you can excuse the graphics driver pulling shit fits fairly regularly.***  The hdd’s still had space, the graphics rendered at decent enough quality and framerates, and the processor rarely struggled.  My most recent purchase for this computer was Fallout: New Vegas, and that ran fine, even modded.  The problems were that I was getting some signs that the older of the two hdds was sick, and probably on it’s way to the great scrapyard in the sky,**** and that XP was soon to be left behind to history by Microsoft, while remaining in heavy use by damn near everyone.  I was thinking about saving up for a new machine, and at the rate I was being paid, I would have achieved the savings of a decent 2013-2014 machine by 2077.  Just in time to die, like the secondary hard drive.  Incidentally, the dying hard drive has been previously mentioned on this site.   The dying hard drive only holds…stuff, while the still good drive holds music and the OS.  The only important fact is that my music is safe, for now, and that dontEATnachos gave me a cool new computer.

The new kid is neat,
She has three feet.
The new kid plays games,
But not the bad kind of games that involve your feelings. The good kind of games like Dragon Age.
The new kid is light,
Not 780 pounds like this Alienware machine that I still haven’t fixed.
The new kid wears black,
You don’t give a jack.*****

That’s all the rhymes you’ll get out of me.  Back to the interminable saga about how I shouldn’t be allowed to own computers.

dontEATnachos had graciously included Dragon Age: Inquistion (with all DLC), Red Faction: Something, and a couple other games that I didn’t get to try.  The new kid had a better video card with a working driver, and a large pair of hard drives in a RAID.  The only thing the new kid didn’t have was a wireless internet adapter.  I didn’t need this for a while, I kept the new kid safe and secure by not allowing it to connect to the internet, and left my old dog to slowly gather dust as an internet machine.  Eventually, I got bored of switching from one computer to the other to look up information and tips for Dragon Age.  I thought about running a long cord to the router downstairs, but had to give up when I realized that shoving a wire through the gaps in the floorboards was probably not the best idea in case the landlord decided to visit.******  No problem, I’ll just use my wifi dingle dangle from my old dog.

This was the first mistake.  A couple days after installing the wifi dangle’s driver, the new kid crashed on startup without even blue-screening.  Just powered down like I had pulled the plug halfway through start up.   This kept happening with increasing frequency and sometimes the BSoD would flash on the screen for a brief moment. To get past this, I would just reboot the computer and it would usually work.  I might have to unplug the computer and hit the power to empty the cobwebs in the capacitors, but it would usually boot up fine after a crash or two.  After a couple months, I finally got a blue screen that stuck around and was able to write down the error code.

The error code indicated a wireless device driver was the source of the problem.  So I uninstalled the driver, and installed a brand new version of the driver that was only about three weeks old that was supposed to fix this exact problem with W7.  I rebooted the machine after installing, and that was the last time I was able to do anything on the new kid.  The boot process was completely borked and would not complete at all.  I tried a couple tricks, but nothing would work.  I ended up giving the new kid to the trusted IT contractor we use in my office with the specific instructions that he save the data on the drives before doing anything else.

You can guess what the first thing my guy did was.  After wiping the drives and attempting to get W7 to reinstall, he decided that the hard drives had been damaged in all the months of crashing and rebooting and power cycling.  He said that the RAID driver had also become corrupted and that was bad, as dontEATnachos had said it would be if it were to happen.  I only lost a few thousand words of several different stories, the most recent versions of those stories, and the games which were distracting me from those stories.

About five months after I surrendered the new kid to the tender mercies of my guy, he returned to me a working new kid with two new ssds with equivalent storage capacity, W7 Pro, and the full Office suite.  Shortly thereafter, I backed up my stories to the computer, installed ZoneAlarm, Minecraft, Steam, Fallout: New Vegas, the Orange Box, Goat Simulator*******, Fallout, and Fallout 2.  I was happy, I had my computer again, and I had a third safe place to work on and store my stories.  Or so I thought.

With only one month of successful usage and operation under her belt, the new kid crashed shortly after startup one day.  I rebooted and she worked just fine.  Then she crashed after I loaded a save game in Half-Life 2.  I rebooted and she worked just fine.  I thought it was just an oddity.  These incidents were just a hard crash to black when idling in Windows, and involved a video card stutter and total halt during game play.  Then she crashed during startup.  I started seeing blue screens, with a variety of errors.  Nothing seemed consistent, and everything was still plugged in on the inside of the new kid.  After consulting with dontEATnachos and another friendly professional, canadianLUMberjack, I’m guessing that the new kid’s power supply has died.  I’m wondering if the power strip she is plugged into is still good.  There’s a lamp on the same circuit that dims every now and then.  I’m not a forensic electrician, or any sort of electrician, but I’m moving new kid to a different outlet and power strip after I install the new power supply.

I’ll take pictures, I know you’re just dying to see those.

* Barter economy is the best economy.
** No, I won’t. Well, maybe.
*** Save early, save often, vault dwellers.
**** My dusty box of hard drives and other computer parts in the bottom of my closet.
***** Good enough.
****** I shouldn’t have been worried about this, that landlord was a slumlord.
******* Brilliant and ridiculous.  Absolutely wonderful.
******** You’re probably also wondering about the toilets thing, I’ll get pictures of that, too.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

A Familiar Dilemma

I’ve talked about my cell phone lust on this blog a number of times and by my count it’s about time to go back to that well.

I think I’m in the same place that many people are now: iPhone or Android?

They both have their pluses and minuses:

iPhone

  • a stabler more robust platform
  • has only one form factor per year making the software specifically tailored for the device
  • I already have a bunch of iTunes movies/music
  • will be guaranteed at least 1 significant OS update per year
  • stuck with AT&T and no unlimited data
  • not great multitasking

Android

  • the new kid on the block, seems to be hungrier and more innovative than Apple … also buggier
  • So many different hardware types, not all software in the app store works on each device
  • no guarantee that the device software will be updated by the manufacturer
  • Can stick with T-Mobile
  • Can develop software for it without having to buy a Mac or use Objective C
  • Includes a pretty good (and free GPS software)
  • Removable battery/expandable memory

Those are just off the top of my head.  Of course, at this point I’m strongly leaning towards an Android phone (specifically the new Samsung Vibrant on T-Mobile).  The only reason I’d stick with Apple would be that I’ve got an old iPod Touch G1 that I really like and I’ve got some copy protected media that I wouldn’t mind being able to keep on it.

I’m afraid that trying to port my number might be a hassle since I’m no longer in the same city that I was when I got my cell phone (they seem to not let you port numbers for different area codes for some reason).  So that’d be another reason to stick with T-Mobile–who I’ve always been generally satisfied with.

Anyway, I guess I’ll update this when I make up my mind.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

TiVo Binge

Last week I went to Best Buy and used a gift card I had to pick up the Western Digital My DVR Expander.  It’s basically an eSATA enclosure that has a 500GB hard drive in it.  They apparently paid some undisclosed amount to get it ‘TiVo certified’ letting me hook it up to the eSATA port on the back of my TiVo HD.  It basically gave me 300% more space to hold TV shows and movies.  They say I should be able to get up to 80-90 more hours of HD content.

What’s so funny though is that now that the TiVo realizes it has all this extra space (660GB total) it’s gone on a recording binge.  The two little red lights on the front of the box indicating it’s recording have been on almost constantly since I got it on Thursday.  I think it’s up to almost 40 TiVo Suggestions.

I didn’t really need to be able to hold THAT MUCH video content but since my GF is in Indonesia for a couple months she wanted me to record and hold onto a bunch of shows for her while she’s gone.  With the HD content it can run out of space too fast and wipe out the movies I’ve recorded.  My sporadic viewing habits had made that occurrence much more likely.

Anyway, mostly it’s just funny to see the little guy go to town.  I imagine it’s kind of like when you let a little kid loose in a giant gymnasium, they just go crazy and start running around everywhere.  Record you crazy little electronic device!

Monday, February 26, 2007

SACD Dreams Destroyed (Or How I Should Have Done More Research)

SACD LogoSorry to have another post about consumer electronics but besides the occasional task at work and the playing of video games (should I pay $4.99 to play Qbert in 720p?) much of my life is spent abusing the collection of power and time-sucking gadgets I now possess.

As I mentioned earlier, one of these is the newly acquired PS3. While I’m pretty happy with the purchase (although I wish my Amazon.com gift certificates would come so I could order an extra controller and Resistance: Fall of Man), one thing I thought I’d be able to take advantage of was the sweet SACD capability of the PS3.

So this weekend, I was at Best Buy and was looking for a cheap Blu-ray movie I could buy (I didn’t find one–although I will probably just buy Casino Royale when it comes out in 2 weeks) I decided to browse the CD’s.

I’ve been trying to catch up on older CD’s and movies that I haven’t seen or heard so when I noticed as I was browsing that there were a number of Kinks CD’s that were remastered in SACD/CD hybrid format I decided I’d pick one up to try out the SACD capability of the PS3 and hopefully continue my education on some of the musical acts that have helped define current rock (Fall Out Boy had to come from somewhere, right?).

Anyway, so I get home and put it in the machine and as usually happens I see a CD listed under the music menu on the Cross Media Bar (XMB). This time however, there’s also one labeled as a Super Audio CD. I pick that one (which is inexplicably 20+ seconds longer than the regular CD tracks) and click play. It then proceeds to tell me that SACD’s can’t be output via the optical out cable that I’m currently getting sound on the PS3 from.

Apparently SACD’s are all encrypted and since optical audio is unencrypted, they don’t want people just ripping the bitstreams. So, the only option that is presented is to output the audio via the analog red/white stereo plugs or via the HDMI port. Since I don’t have a tuner that accepts HDMI, I can’t really listen to this. I guess I should have really looked into the whole SACD thing a little bit more before I dropped $12 on a disc.

I did try to hook it up via the analog out on my PS3 but my cheap PC surround system I have is not of high enough quality that playing the SACD via analog sounds any better than the regular CD via optical.

Eventually though (perhaps when one is actually released), an HDMI 1.3 enabled tuner will go on the list of things that I need to buy when all that cash from the WRN IPO starts rolling in (although it’s really more likely that we’d just get acquired by someone looking to bolster their nerd-related offerings).

Friday, February 23, 2007

PS3: Acquired.

PS3: Out of the BoxSo just a day or two ago, I finally got around to getting my PS3 that I’ve been talking about for a while. The need for HD signal is really what drove the decision. I couldn’t settle for my crummy PS2 driving my new TV.

Unfortunately, while I picked up the PS3 earlier the HDMI cable did not come until today. Until that point I was connecting using the S-Video cable from my PS2 (480i = balls). Now though, we have upgraded to the 1080p/720p/480p set for games and movies.

I still don’t have a Blu-ray movie yet (I’ve requested some from BB Online but they have not come) and I still don’t actually own any disc-based PS3 games. I tried to rent Call of Duty 3 but the Blockbuster store I went to accidentally gave me the PS2 version so I’ve got to go exchange it sometime.

I have been abusing the ability to download demos to the machine though. I’ve got the Resistance: Fall of Man, Motorstorm, Full Auto 2 downloaded already and am in the process of downloading the Ridge Racer 7 demo. I’ve also purchased flOw, Blast Factor, and the free Gran Turismo HD games that are available in the store.

(more…)

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Get Your HD Video Discs Here

HD DVD and Blu-raySo, as I’ve repeatedly mentioned, I’m in the process of getting my whole HD system setup. One of the steps in that process is getting an HD movie player. While I’ve already decided to go with the PS3 I don’t really have anything against the HD DVD format (except that stupid Universal won’t release stuff on Blu-ray. Stop that.).

Anyway, as anyone who watches a fair number of movies will tell you, buying every single movie you’d like to see gets expensive fast. With these next-gen video discs clocking in at $20 or more (with list prices near $35-40 for some titles) this is even more true.

That’s why humanity invented the video rental store. As we’ve been through with Chuckles, he’s not really a fan of the chain stores. For my purposes (and in order to make this post applicable to more than the 3 people in the same metro area as me) I’ve decided to focus more on the national rental stores.

As independent local chains have their own unique advantages so do larger chains. Perhaps the most important of those advantages (for their local store) is the need to position themselves in the marketplace. In order to maintain their hardcore customer base, they need to be seen as a chain that supports an individuals rental habit.

Besides the traditional brick and mortar retailers I’ve mentioned so far though, the environment has obviously expanded in the past decade with a much larger group of online disc rental outlets. This includes Netflix and most recently Blockbuster‘s new online arm.

So for the purpose of temporarily acquiring high definition video content for home enjoyment, what is the best method? (more…)

Friday, February 9, 2007

The Monolith Has ARRIVED

As I mentioned earlier, I wasted a bunch of money on a new TV a week ago. Yesterday afternoon, the TV finally arrived. I would have posted images earlier but Blogger (and by Blogger I mean mostly Google) is a jerk and was trying to force me to update to the new version.

Anyway, I’ve got a picture I took below of the TV in all its splendor (as it was searching for channels).

The thing is freaking sweet and if I could get a high-def game console and movie player (Xbox 360 with HD-DVD add on or PS3? -right now, leaning towards PS3) that would be awesome.

The PS2 with S-Video is not really cutting it anymore with a TV of this caliber. Notice also the Shaun of the Dead DVD for reference size and to prove my street cred. You’ll also see the Dreamcast that I actually purchased AFTER the PS2 came out. So yeah, it proves how good I am at picking console winners (although I do actually own the Broadband Adapter for the Dreamcast which I hear is quite rare now). Also, there is a Bluetooth Apple keyboard and my TiVo with the Guitar Hero controller hiding carefully under the stand. It’s an entertainment smörgÃ¥sbord (haha Firefox spellcheck, you crack me up).

BTW, I did watch some HDTV last night, 30 Rock and some CSI and Shark. It is frickin’ amazing.


And for comparison, the old TV:

Monday, February 5, 2007

Gotta Have Priorities

I mentioned in an earlier comment about the lack of furniture in my apartment. Ever since my old roommate moved into a new apartment and moved his stuff out, my place has been a little empty. And I definitely have plans to acquire replacement furniture at some point. Now, however, is not that time.

Instead, inspired by a recent price drop, I’ve ordered a new TV (the Sony KDS-60A2000). At 60″ diagonal with an integrated digital tuner and a Liquid Crystal on Silicon (LCoS) engine that can produce images at a beautiful 1080p format (that’s 1920×1080 resolution with the ‘p’ meaning that every line of every frame is updated) I believe my eyeballs will be appropriately massaged in the future. For those of you who are wondering what process led to this eventual decision, keep reading.

I’d been wanting to get a new TV for a while, unfortunately my requirement for a 1080p set with HDMI (an all digital connection that is the wave of the future) and a significant screen size 50+” made this impossible.

Still, I knew the day would come, so I had my HDTV fund sitting there, carefully accumulating more and more dollars. Then, sometime last month, I noticed that the Sony set that I fell in love with last year had started dropping in price.

Continue on for the whole story … In fact, the 50″ had hit the fabled $2K price I’d set for myself. I went to go check the set out at a couple electronics stores and while it was OK, I actually felt like it was too small (just resume reading when you stop laughing at the ridiculousness of that statement). I saw it sitting next to different 55″ and 60″ TV’s and those really looked like the size I wanted.

So I hit up Amazon.com and the other models were a little bit more than I wanted to spend. Still, after much reflection, I decided I’d just go with the 55″ at that price ($2200). Anyone who knows me will be able to describe the AGONIZING process I go through before purchasing anything. However, about a week and a half ago, I was about 90% sure that I was just going to say “screw it” and buy the TV.

Luckily for me this time (and in stark contrast to my purchase of airline tickets) the price actually dropped in the 3 days I was siting there thinking about it. As a result, the 60″ that had been far too expensive before was now available for a mere $2180. The amount that I’d mentally prepared myself for paying for the 55″.

While this price drop did help cement my intention of buying it wasn’t enough to get me to pull the trigger immediately. Instead, I was going to wait until my rapidly approaching next credit card statement so as to minimize the chance I’d have to take money out of my savings account to pay for it (the hassle of setting up the internet-only savings account is a post all on its own that I will get to someday).

Still, another day or two of reflection later, I realized that this pricing may simply be pre-Super Bowl pricing and that waiting another week for the end of my statement period could result in the price actually increasing back to its historical level. I knew if that situation arose, my spendthrift nature would prohibit me from purchasing the TV at the increased price and I’d have to just sit around for X months waiting for it to drop again. All the while unable to enjoy it’s 1080p goodness.

So Wednesday of last week I pulled the trigger and placed the order at Amazon.com (using my Amazon.com card–3% back in store credit!) and it’s now slowly winding its way here via some strange freight service.

Supposedly, by the end of the week the monolith will have arrived. And on that joyous day there will hopefully be some posting of impressions and info about the TV and much marveling at its crystal clear image and dazzling array of video inputs.

For me, the usual compulsive shipment tracking has returned and I feel the need to check its status regularly. I’m sure when I receive the call to schedule its delivery I will be crying and will probably repeatedly hug the delivery guys when they drop it off.

All that aside, I checked today and the price of the set had increased $120 to $2300 making me feel decidedly better about the choice to drop the money when I did.

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Cell Phone Issues


I’m sure no one really wants to hear about this, but I’m going to bring it up anyway. I’ve been a T-Mobile customer for the past year and a half (before that, I didn’t even have a cell phone. EGADS!). And I’ve been very happy with the service. My phone was nice when I bought it and thanks to an Amazon.com rebate, quite cheap.

Now that I’ve been with them for over a year though, I’m eligible for a phone upgrade discount. Although my contract was up last August, I didn’t get a new phone right away because there wasn’t really one that I wanted. Right before Christmas though, T-Mobile became the exclusive reseller of the Samsung T809. For some reason I just really like the look of that phone. I know I don’t want another Motorola one (because the OS on that is kind of lame). I also don’t really feel like switching networks though since I’ve had really good luck with T-Mobile.

I went into a T-Mobile store a couple weeks ago and talked to the salesman, he said that the T809 would be $250 with a 1 year contract renewal or $200 with a 2 year contract. Naturally I was like, “No thanks,” and walked out. Since I’d gotten a good deal on my phone through Amazon.com before I began checking each week to see if they were carrying it. I just found over the weekend though, that Amazon.com has it for $200 with $150 rebate.

Unfortunately for me, the rebate specifically says that you’ve got to be a new activation and that if you’re a current T-Mobile customer that you’d have to get a new line of service AND not cancel your old line of service. Now I don’t really mind canceling my service and getting a new one that much, but since this is my only phone and I use it as my home phone in all of my billing things, I’d rather not have to update all of that stuff.

With this in mind, I called T-Mobile up on Sunday and talked to a CSR about what I could do. Unfortunately, they weren’t very helpful and the only suggestion they had was, try getting it off eBay.

That’s when I came up with the great idea of just buying a really cheap Pay As You Go phone from Cingular, switching my number over to that one (and canceling my service with T-Mobile) then buying my new phone and switching my number back. It will cost me like $30 for a phone from Cingular and there may be a dumb activation fee. If that’s the case, I may just say screw it, and not bother.

But still, this is very annoying that I have to go through all this just to stay with a company that I actually like. If they’d just say that keeping their existing customers is worth as much to them as acquiring new customers, this wouldn’t even be an issue.

Anyway, I’m sure I’ll let everyone know how it will work out.