Saturday, September 18, 2010

"Halo: Reach" Scoring-Design Error

I shouldnt be able to get a higher mission score through lower challenge and more skulls. Bad disincentive to trying to play at a higher level.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Need a Conversational "ESC" Key

I think one of the reasons I so deplore engaging in small-talk is an inability to end conversations gracefully. So, uh, yeah...

Who's Running This Show

Ever feel feel slightly uncomfortable that you're the person making all the decisions about your life?

Scary Thought of the Day

What will happen to the world when the Buddhists radicalize?

Since When is Friday the New Monday?

Starting your day by knocking your (screaming) alarm clock behind your bedside stand... Sub-optimal. Bleah.

Thursday, September 16, 2010


There are contexts or places where double-tap is fine, nice or, at the very least, just a "damned fine idea". Such a context is in the dispatching of zombies. However, when it comes to my laptop's touchpad? Not so much. I hate accidentally changing apps, clicking a link, etc. just because the OS decided that my finger stuttered enough on a slide to interpret it as "Oh! He wanted to click that!". Fmeh. What next: reduction/elimination of touch-pad buttons?

What Does Support Mean (WTF, Verizon)?

So, for the past few weeks, I've been having odd networking issues. Periodically, Donna's laptop will show that she's connected but that she has no internet. My XBox Live connection has been unstable. I've been getting pauses and stutters in my NetFlix and Zune streaming. I've had some sound-quality issues on my VOIP (Vonage) connections. Most recently/obviously, I've been unable to download large software packages (e.g., VMware WorkStation, Linux  ISOs, etc.): the DL will get a few tens to a few hundreds of megabytes in and then just stall.

Tuesday night, Donna comes up the stairs, complaining that her internet connection's not working again. I track things back from her PC, to the home WiFi, to the LAN and finally back to the FiOS router. I'm able to get into the FiOS router and notice that it's having issues on its WAN connection link. It's stuck in "getting DHCP address" mode. I try rebooting, full power-cycle and disable/enable the WAN interface. All result in no change. So, I contact FiOS support (by the way: trying to find their number on a cellphone-based browser and then navigate their asstacular call-tree system SUCKS).

Eventually, I get through to a human being and we start working on the problem. He finds that he's not able to talk to the ONT to get diagnostics from it. So, he has me pull the terminal on its batter backup unit and unplug it from the wall. Afterwards, I restore the power and it starts coming back online. Ten minutes later, still no Internet connection and, now, no TV! The tech informs me he's going to dispatch a tech to look at/replace the optical network terminal (ONT). Unfortunately, the first available service slot in two days later (Thursday/today, 16 September 2010). 

Two days of no TV and no Internet... Donna was n-o-t pleased. I pointed out that the LAN still worked, so she had access to music on the NAS. I pointed out that we still have a large collection of DVDs, BluRays and CDs. We even have a couple of XBoxes and other game systems. I also pointed out that she had several sewing projects that this outage could be a bit of a blessing in getting her back on track with them. She was still most displeased.

/me shrugs

The next morning (Wednesday), I discover that the ONT has apparently come back online somewhere in the wee hours of the morning. I have both TV service and Internet. So, it's fairly apparent that, while not yet dead, something is in the process of dying. So, I leave Donna a note letting her know that she may have TV and/or Internet service, but that it may also die, given the prior behavior.

While at work, Verizon calls to let me know that a service slot had opened up for later that day: would I mind the tech stopping by? I'm like "sure" as I really wanted to get this shit knocked out. Three techs (and three service trucks) roll up a little after 16:30. I show them to the equipment. They tear open the ONT and note that its status lights aren't quite right. They try several stabs at getting it into the normal/expected state, but those steps all fail. However, they don't have an ONT with them with which to replace it, so, they replace the router, instead. The service lead tells me, "I'll call you tomorrow to see if things have improved or whether I need to come back out with a new ONT".

Today, things are still flakey. In fact, the new router seems to have introduced some new problems. It starts rolling up on the previously scheduled appointment time and I've not heard from the tech. So, I call Verizon FiOS's support line. Apparently, the ticket had been closed and no one is coming out. I'm like "WTF: he wasn't supposed to close that ticket - he was supposed to call to find out if he still needed to come by." Unfortunately, there's no available techs to come out and do the originally scheduled appointment. So, now I have to wait till tomorrow to hopefully: A) get someone out to do the tech work; B) hope they have the requisite repair parts; C) that it solves the problems and doesn't introduce any further ones.

Oh well, I at least have basic network connectivity. I just can't program my DVR and I still can't download my VMware Workstation or (RedHat - other distros use BitTorrent and, because of the small individual transfers, I was able to get Fedora, Ubuntu and CentOS) Linux ISOs.

The phone support people have all been very pleasant. The techs that came out were pleasant. Unfortunately, the availability of techs and parts has made this a drawn-out failure of a support incident.


Why do so many of the local newscasters pronounde ambulance like "AM-buh-laans"?

Not a Fix

So, FiOS techs didn't have an ONT, yesterday, so they replaced the router. Doesn't seem to have fixed things.

Good Morning *ouch* World

So not a fan of the days where waking up is accompanied by body-wide pain

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Borked-up Billing Systems

Verizon Wireless's billing is sucktatic. I'm enrolled in autopay, yet not, yet unable to correct it (and am now a month behind on pmts?). Gotta love a billing system that won't allow me to have my bank account do direct pays while also linking to my credit card. Argh.

Monday, September 13, 2010

What I Want in My Next Cell Phone

Ok, I'm not quite a conspiracy nut, but, I do like my privacy. I want to know that, if I choose to store sensitive things on my cell phone - either in its memory or on an inserted memory card - I can know that the data is safe. I want it safe from pranksters. I want it safe from device thieves. I want it safe from curious law enforcement types that don't have a properly executed warrant. Given the litany of headlines, I think that I'm probably in greatest danger from "legal" abuse of my privacy than I am from people that don't have a badge.

A number of phones have the ability to remote-wipe data. Some phones also have the ability to set it up such that, if someone fails to guess the password some configurable number of times, the phone will auto-nuke. However, I haven't really seen any phone makers addressing the issue of someone simply ganking the memory card from your phone and reading it in another device. For that, you need to protect the data on the memory card, itself. Two possible options for that seem workable: encryption of the entire SD card (or a "partition" on it) using a cross-platform filesystem (e.g., ECryptFS); individual encryption of each file stored on the card (preferably including the ability to set this as the default storage option).

I'd also like to see a phone that I can use as a pure data device. At this stage of the game, it seems kind of pointless for smart phones to require a voice plan. Given a sufficiently sized data plan, a cell device with a good, native SIP application would obviate the need for a voice plan. It's all just data, any way. Why not go the next logical step. Hell, some carriers already give you the ability to use Skype, but it's typically crippled to prevent its use for "local calls". Other than to protect the voice-plan model, what the fuck is the point of that?

As a bonus of going "data-only", if the person I'm talking to and I are both using SIP devices, we can encrypt the channel if we want to. I'm sure there's plenty of businesses out there that would appreciate the corporate espionage deterrent such a capability would offer. Would also be nice to know that some info-thief out there can't just crack the local cell tower and sniff "interesting conversations." In the end, it's not that I have anything to hide, but it is the principle of things. It was always my understanding that privacy - the right to be secure in ones own possessions, property and communications - was one of the founding principals of my country. Reading headlines, lately, seems to indicate that, unless one goes to extra lengths to assert a desire for privacy, we no longer have "a reasonable expectation of privacy" when we participate in technology.

There's also some things that I don't really want in my next phone. When people know you have certain capabilities - whether you want to use them or not - there easily becomes the expectation that you'll use them. My phone is for my benefit. If it benefits others, that's nice, but it ain't why I'm buying myself a piece of technology.

For starters, I don't need to have two cameras or a video-phone application on my phone. The idea - and even the ability - to have video phones has been around for a long time. It's never taken off. I'd wager that a significant reason for this not happening, previously, is, in large part, due to the fact that, often times, it's nice to NOT have to worry what you look like when you're taking a phone call. You can be damned sure that if you wake my happy ass up at oh-dark-thirty, I ain't going to want to have a video chat. Fuck that. If I really want to face-time with you, I'll go to my computer and fire up Skype (or similar). Even better, I'll figure out where we can meet and talk face-to-face. Just assume that if I ain't standing in front of you, it's because I don't want a face-to-face (I'm not really a fan of the formal video teleconferencing stuff at work, either, so...). And, if I do, but geography's the issue, figure that I'll find some way that doesn't involve my handset. Besides, given the screen size on a practical handset, it's not like I'm going to be doing presentations. So, why have it and the expectation of its use?

I also don't really need the ability to stream or watch video. I have a widescreen HD TV in my living room for a reason: I like to actually be able to see things. Watching movies on a screen smaller than the display on my car's GPS just seems stupid.

Streaming music is one of those "iffy" things. As a stand-alone device, cell phones eat batteries quickly enough. Add in trying to treat it as a music outlet, and that battery's gonna die quick. I don't particularly want to not have my phone usable because I killed the batteries on music. It's part of why, when I was traveling and wanted music, I carried a cellphone and a music device, even though my phone had room for several GB of music. That said, it could be useful in my car: I could have the phone in a charger-dock, obviating the need for things like Sirius/XM and I wouldn't have to subject myself to the audio-crime that is broadcast radio.

Meh... In some ways, it seems like cell phones are becoming like office productivity software. There's really only so much useful stuff you can add to something before it becomes pointless featurism (this was always why I was a vi guy and not an EMACS guy). I can see the value of a lot of the convergence stuff, but I just don't get the utter lack of the personal security/privacy components.

Joys of Internet Radio

So, I listen to a LOT of music via Internet radio services (primarily Last.FM. I make heavy use of the recommendation engines for what I listen to. There's a lot of music in there by people I've never previously heard of. Looking through the list, I always find some really cool band names. Note I say "names" and not just "bands". That's a very key distinction. Always disappointing when a band's name is better than their music.

Easy Cat-Management

How to get an insistent cat to leave you alone to work: get out the nail trimmers.

WTF, Knee?

May have to cash in this scrip for getting my knee MRI'ed. No matter the results, though, it will suck.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Nope... Not a Fan

When did the Eagles switch to wearing Jets green? Ok, so, I realize, they're wearing the same colors they were when I first started watching them. But, I do believe that color reproduction, now, is different than what my childhood TVs did. Better than those blue and yellow "throwback" atrocities they've worn, previously.

Not As Bas As I'd Feared

On the plus side, Alabama didn't murder PSU as badly as I'd feared...

Some Injuries Suck Worse Than Others

Being injured sucks. Chronic injury (at least the pain that goes with it) sucks worse. But, I think the injuries that suck the most are "situational injuries" that are otherwise hidden.

For the last week or so, I've had a flareup of patellar tendonitis. This is something that first hit me in college, but has been fairly mild most of the rest of my life. Under certain loading conditions, it feels like the connective tissue (about an inch below the knee joint) is fraying or delaminating from its attachment point. When it really flares, there's a bit of constant, dull pain that tends to weaken the entire area and makes the knee feel laterally unstable. However, for the most part, because it's a situational injury, it doesn't visibly manifest itself.

Because it doesn't manifest itself in an externally obvious fashion, it feels like a really lame (pardon the pun) injury. If someone asks you to do something you know is going to tweak it, the sensible part of you wants to take a pass on the task. And, when you try to explain that you have to take a pass because of your knee, but otherwise aren't limping, it makes you feel like a malingerer.