It's not like working on a car.

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Well, I guess it could be something like working on a car.

Last Thursday morning, I walked into my office to a dead computer.  It had been working fine just the evening before.  I've had some trouble getting it to reboot reliably after Windows Updates in the recent past, but it always ended up booting after a couple of tries, and I didn't think too much about it.  Windows.  Five-year-old, parts-built machine.  No warranty.  You know the drill.  Unless you buy from Dell or HP or Asus or Apple.

On Thursday, no matter what I did, it would not restart.  It would get about to the point of "Starting Windows" and just go dead on me.

The more I thought about it, the more I thought it looked like the video card wasn't initializing once you asked it to do something more than VGA mode.  So while I made plans to buy a new machine (since this one is, after all, five years old for all it's an i7-860 with 8GB DDR3 RAM), I also hedged and ordered a new video card to replace the XFX Radeon HD4770 that was apparently failing.  I got an EVGA GeForce GT 630 card from Amazon.  It's actually a better card; the old one had only 512MB GDDR5 RAM and was a 2-bay-wide CrossFire card that I never used for, you know, CrossFire, since I'm not a gamer.  The new one is a single-bay card with 2GB DDR3 RAM, plus, instead of having a worthless mini-DIN "Video" port in addition to the dual DVI ports, this one has got a mini HDMI port in addition to the dual DVI ports.  So bonus.

Anyway, in went the new video card, and right back up (more or less) came the machine.  I say more or less because the boot sector from the mirrored SATA drives went missing somewhere along the line, probably because I'd pulled one of them to stick in a SATA dock so I could get files I needed while the machine was toast.  So I ended up simply recovering the last full backup, which conveniently actually DID get made on Wednesday night before the smoke got let out of the video card.

If you don't make backups, people, you will be crying in your beer one day.  Acronis makes great software, that's all I'm saying.  And they didn't pay me to say that, either.  And I also was able to shrink my E: drive by 25GB so I could add it to my C: drive to give the OS a little more overhead, too...so more bonus.

I'm still looking at a new mobile desktop machine, but I'm not looking to buy it this week, or at least I hope I'm not.  (sound of knocks on wood)

It's a sad day at $WORKPLACE

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A moment of silence, please.  We just shut down our last Windows XP machine.

Schooled.

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This is how you put the beatdown on a dishonest government employee.

Just like that.

Yeah, the government can do some good.

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Dad's WWII decorations came today. We had never had them because they were stolen from his tent while he was on R&R in Austria right after the war, along with a number of souvenirs he'd picked up along the way.*  He could have requested replacements for the decorations but he never did. As it happened, and because when the war ended the DoD was swamped with medal citations that had to be investigated and filled during a time when whole military departments were being dismantled, a Bronze Star appeared out of the blue in April, 1950, that he didn't even know he'd been put in for. And he did have one souvenir -- a Mauser Model 98k carbine that he'd picked up on the battlefield,** disassembled, and mailed home because it was too big to tote around.

So about three or four months ago, I discovered that as an immediate family member, I could request his decorations from the DoD. And I did. (They were nice enough to send a new Bronze Star, even though I had indicated that we had the original. So now my sister and I will both have one.)

IMG_20140410_130913_714-crop.jpg

These are small things, like the flag that covered his coffin. But they have great meaning to us. They represent the thanks of a grateful nation.  God bless the USA. And thanks, Dad.

UPDATE TO ADD:  The website explaining how to obtain missing medals for your service relatives is here: http://www.archives.gov/veterans/replace-medals.html

____________________

*  Not all from the battlefield -- there was French perfume for his mother that was also stolen.

** He said it looked like a tank had driven over the stock.  And possibly the guy who dropped it.

It must have taken a wrong turn at Albuquerque.

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I ordered something from a Cincinnati vendor the other day and they shipped it right out to me via Priority Mail.

Maybe I should have sprung for UPS.

honolulu copy.jpg

Mind you, I am not upset with the vendor.  I'm upset with my old nemesis, the USPS.  At the same time, I'm really curious as to how these modern barcoded, computerized systems can still fuck up the way they do.

Touchscreens.

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What I hate about tablets and smartphones.  Try as I do, I cannot keep them from instantly becoming fingerprint-smeared.

Disgusting.

Tiny typescripts

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Has anybody else noticed that, the more screen acreage you have to play with, the smaller everybody makes their typefaces?

Would someone please explain to me why 8 point type seems to be the norm for just about everything I read online these days?

The previous post has been amended about five times so far because the type was so fucking small in the editor window that I could NOT tell that I was making mistakes.  And I'm not seeing an obvious way to increase the size of the text in this CKEditor window.

A bunch of us are getting old and can't fucking see your tiny type, web developers.  Give us a fucking break, OK?

PS:  No, I should not have to use the magnification feature of my browser just to read your damn type.  Why, back in my day, we didn't have all these newfangled controls to alter the crap you fed us so we could see it, we just had to deal with whatever Mosaic decided to show us.  Damn whippersnappers.  Get off my lawn!  And give me my Gopher back.

Spring cleaning

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Ah, the allergies.  Excuse me while I snot into a tissue.  Been taking the wife's Allegra, and it helps some and doesn't give me the accompanying headache that Claritin  and Zyrtec do.  Nor does it put me to sleep and leave me walking around like a stunned zombie* the next day the way Benadryl does :)  But it is not perfect and that may be at least partly because I'm taking it at night.  I can deal with stuffiness during the day, but I can't sleep at night because of it.

We spent the weekend cleaning house.  We have the classic "10 pounds of shit in a 5 pound bag" situation here, exacerbated by the fact that I have secretarial crap here from half a dozen fraternal organizations and Her Grace brought home most of the 12 years' worth of crap that she accumulated in her office at her old job and doesn't have room for in her office at her new job.  Plus she just has a lot of crap, er, dust collectors, er, chachkies in her "playroom" that take up space that real stuff could be occupying.  Plus she has four years' worth of grad school books and notes in there.  Did I mention the chachkies?

What?  No, no, I am not without sin in my casting of chachkies, er, stones.  I have an office that is 9' x 11' in size, in which I can barely squeeze a lane to my desk and chair.  I also have the aforementioned fraternal crap strewn across about three other rooms of the house, including our dining room, which is bad because we're having a family seder next weekend.  (Not this weekend because not everyone can be here.  The nice thing about Passover is that it's 8 days, so you can pick a day.  The bad thing about Passover is that it's 8 days, so you can throughout eat matzoh products that harden in your colon like concrete.  Or not.  Because I don't do that kosher thing, and not necessarily because I think kosher is idiotic**, but because I don't fancy ending up in the hospital with a 104° temperature and my diverticuli aflame.  Been there.  Done that.  Still got some of the laxative suppositories leftover from last time.  But I digress.)  Cleaning up fraternal crap and taking it downtown, ma'am.

I did have time to play on the radio some yesterday, and made a couple of contacts on 20 meter SSB.  I also was playing with SSTV on 20 meters, but I need better equipment to make that really work.  So while I'm about that, I may get into PSK31 or RTTY, too.

Anyway, today I have a living room full of empty boxes that I need to take downtown to a certain dumpster.  Oh, and I also did get a lot of the fraternal crap out of the way, mostly by mailing it to people it belonged to.  I might actually have the back bedroom liveable for when the kids come down from Fort Wayne next weekend.

Last week was otherwise kind of a blur.  Work is crazy.  I need to retire.  Too bad I'm a minimum of 8 years away from that.  Sigh.

__________________

* This may be redundant.

** I do.  Story for another day.

Technology, what can it do?

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It can completely and entirely fuck your Monday in the arse.

So maybe I shouldn't have bragged so much in the previous post.  I  was having a lot of trouble logging in at work yesterday and the ops guy and I spent an inordinate amount of time trying different things trying to get my remote machine to talk to the AD server and authenticate.  (We found a workaround this morning when I authenticated through a differerent domain controller.)

In the process of this mess, I decided to reboot my local machine just in case it was something wrong on my end.  I sincerely doubted that because I could RDP into other machines outside of our network, and I could authenticate with Lync (which server is in the other office where the other domain controller is).

So I rebooted, and the machine absolutely refused to boot back up.  It kept dying right after it enumerated the RAID drives (and sometimes it didn't even get that far).  So I spent three hours yesterday trying to figure out why that had broken.  At first I thought one of the mirrored drives had died.  That wasn't it.  Then I thought maybe the external backup drive had died and was somehow affecting the bootup.  That wasn't it.  In the end, I disconnected all of the USB-attached peripherals, reattached both of the mirror drives, and tried again.

That time it worked.  Booted right up like there had never been a problem.  So I started adding USB peripherals back to see which one might be hosed. Turns out I put them all back (even updated the firmware and control software for one of them since it came up when I plugged it back in) and it's still running.

Beats the hell out of me.

Technology. What can't it do?

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Late last week, I was thinking about this old XP laptop we have that used to be my wife's, back before she went back to school for her master's and needed something a little more modern.  What with XP finally going the way of the dinosaurs*, it seemed kind of silly for a perfectly good (if somewhat superannuated)  Dell laptop to go join the several old desktop boxes in the "we'll do something with these someday" pile.

So I took stock of what we had.  Core 2 Duo processor, decent peripherals although the screen is one of those tiny 720-pixel-high bastards that Dell foisted on people looking for a cheaper deal, otherwise works well if sluggishly.  Supposedly doesn't support Windows 7, except that it does.  So I thought, how about replacing the hard drive with an SSD, adding a couple of gigs of RAM (it had 2, it now has 4), and springing for a copy of Windows 7 Pro 32-bit?  (I didn't want to chance the thing breaking with the 64-bit version.  For what we'll be using it for, the 32-bit version is plenty.)

So about $300 later (ouch, too bad I had to buy RAM), I spent a couple of hours yesterday installing everything and pulling down the massive megabytage of Windows 7 updates that have come out since SP1.

The result?  The machine boots from a cold start to a login screen in 30 seconds, and you're logged in about 25 seconds after that.

This from a box that I don't think ever actually stopped booting any time I fired it up...which is probably due in most part to the SSD (which got a 7.8 out of 7.9 in the Windows Experience Index test -- the whole box itself only got a 3.1, due to crappy "business graphics") and the added RAM, which is keeping it from paging to disk incessantly.

If you've got an old sluggish laptop, I can definitely recommend, at minimum, upgrading the hard drive to SSD technology.  More RAM is good, too, but 4GB is probably plenty unless you're running a compiler or something.  My only concern about SSD is that SSD drives have an upper limit on the number of write operations they'll support to any given memory location over the lifetime of the device.  But that limit is high enough that it probably won't matter in the lifetime of your machine, and of course you make regular backups, right?

And I'm thinking a solid-state drive is going to have a better chance of surviving a drop than a spinning standard hard drive, too.

_______________

* Much to the plaintive dismay of a lot of ham radio operators, but that's what they get for not forcing their software vendors to get with the program and modernize for Windows 7 and 64-bitness -- jeez, what a bunch of whiny clingers.

Opening Day

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"People will come, Ray. They'll come to Iowa for reasons they can't even fathom. They'll turn up your driveway not knowing for sure why they're doing it. They'll arrive at your door as innocent as children, longing for the past. Of course, we won't mind if you look around, you'll say. It's only $20 per person. They'll pass over the money without even thinking about it: for it is money they have and peace they lack. And they'll walk out to the bleachers; sit in shirtsleeves on a perfect afternoon. They'll find they have reserved seats somewhere along one of the baselines, where they sat when they were children and cheered their heroes. And they'll watch the game and it'll be as if they dipped themselves in magic waters. The memories will be so thick they'll have to brush them away from their faces. People will come, Ray.

"The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It has been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game: it's a part of our past, Ray. It reminds of us of all that once was good and it could be again. Oh... people will come, Ray. People will most definitely come."

–Terrence Mann - "Field of Dreams"

"It breaks your heart. It is designed to break your heart. The game begins in the spring, when everything else begins again, and it blossoms in the summer, filling the afternoons and evenings, and then as soon as the chill rains come, it stops and leaves you to face the fall alone. You count on it, rely on it to buffer the passage of time, to keep the memory of sunshine and high skies alive, and then just when the days are all twilight, when you need it most, it stops."

–A. Bartlett Giamatti, The Green Fields of the Mind (Yale Alumni Magazine, November 1977)

It was like a train wreck.

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I was tuning through the bands right after work today and happened to be on 20 meters.  And I happened on 14.313MHz.

You have to understand that I've been through there any number of times and there's been nothing.  The HF antenna I have isn't really set up right, or near high enough to work well, so pretty much I just listen to what I can pull out of the static.

Holee shite.  Today it was RIPE.  I heard enough foul language and intentional QRM to warrant the pulling of half a dozen tickets.

And I could NOT TUNE AWAY.  It was exactly like watching a train wreck.  A comedy gold train wreck, but a train wreck none the less.

Sad that folks have to be that way.

Sometimes it's not as easy as a stupid Facebook graphic.

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Or maybe it is.  Anyway, a friend posted this:

And I tried to resist, but I couldn't:

Social Security is running out of money because it depends on you and me to pay the tax so our parents can receive their benefits, and our kids to pay the tax so that someday we can receive our benefits.  I think I read somewhere that when Social Security started paying out, there were 16 or more people working for every person receiving benefits.  Now there are something like 4.  And that number keeps dropping, and the tax burden on the shrinking number of people who are actually paying the tax keeps getting larger and larger.  That's why SS is running out of money -- it never had any to begin with, and there is no stomach in Washington to admit that it's a Ponzi scheme that's running out of people to scam and to find a way to terminate it and move people born after some date(x) to private pensions.  Eventually it will have to be terminated because, absent another baby boom or a massively stimulated economy that grows at a lot more than an anemic 2 or 3 percent per year, it simply can't be fixed.

Conversely, the welfare state is not running out of money because it is operated on the principle of redistribution of wealth, or as our President memorably put it, "You didn't build that", and "Sooner or later, you've made enough money".  In other words, you are a wrecker for daring to say that all the money you make from the sweat of your brow should belong to you, not some flea-bitten parasite on the body politic who probably drives a nicer car and has a bigger TV set than you do. The welfare state exists only because our congresscritters are too busy protecting their phoney-baloney jobs to do anything about dismantling it and forcing people to go out and make a living doing something productive instead of sitting around on their butts spending your money and mine.  In the meantime, Congress raises taxes on people who actually do productive work, borrow money from China to make up the difference, and print worthless fiat money to pay it out with while sticking the next generation with the bill.

Both programs amount to little more than generational theft.  Neither program actually solves the problem it claims to solve.

As Margaret Thatcher once famously put it, "The trouble with socialism is that sooner or later you run out of other people’s money."  And Herbert Stein gave us the corollary, Stein's Law:  "If something cannot go on forever, it will stop."

Burn in hell, asshole.

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Fred Phelps is dead at 84.  Finally.

I hope they've hired someone to clean the toilets and polish the dance floor at his grave.

When I think about how some asshole like Phelps manages to live to be 84 and my dad -- a WWII vet, so, one of the people he hated -- only made it to 76, it just fucking infuriates me.  The cheek can only be turned so many times, and this guy's chances ran out years ago.

Hopefully the IRS will investigate Westboro now that he's gone and put those bastards out of business.

Fuck IE 11.

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