23 December 2016

My every day pocket knife – A better way

I was given my first pocket knife at six years old. I lost that pocket knife a few years later even though after getting a better one I kept it in a little cedar box which I still have. It’s a real shame too because I think that knife had been given to my father by his grandfather. I don’t remember. The moral of this story is, not all kids keep up with stuff.

Throughout my life my father, brother, sister and I have given each other various pocket knives to carry around for various reasons. I’ve always preferred the multi-use Swiss Army knives, my dad likes carving knives with more than one blade. My brother likes larger locking blade knives and my sister typically always had smaller pen knives, or more realistically our left overs.

A few solutions that worked for me

The Gerber Dime

The Gerber Dime – It’s maybe three inches long closed, four open and half an inch thick. It weighs a couple of ounces at best and has several useful tools. It’s worth every penny and far better than any other tiny multi-tool I’ve ever messed with.

The knife I’d been carrying for a couple of years has been the Gerber Dime. It’s a small multi-tool that’s helped me fix more than one computer. It has a box opening tool on it so you don’t get tape gunk on the regular blade, which is my favorite feature. The pliers are decent. The little ‘precision’ flat blade screwdriver works pretty well in some Phillips head screws without messing them up. It is not terribly heavy on a key chain. I have the black one and after a few years of carrying it, the paint has stayed on pretty well, and I’ve only touched up the knife edge once. The box opener has needed some help a little more often, but it gets used more.

At the end of the day I liked it but I decided after a few years and as I kept it on my key chain, it made my keys too heavy.

The Leatherman Skeletool

The Leatherman Skeleletool

I got this multi-tool a while back and I used to carry it every day. To be honest I find it a bit heavy for my pocket. I like the changeable bits in the screwdriver function though so I tossed it in my pack, which I’ll talk about in another post. Again, I found it too heavy but it’s worth mentioning here.

The Leatherman Skeletool RX – Has a serrated blade instead of the combination serrated/straight. The CX has a non-serrated blade.

In my opinion this is the best multi-tool you can buy. I’ve owned a classic Leatherman, and I have a Gerber multi-tool I really like as well, and this one just gets everything right. The two biggest problems I’ve had with other multi-tools (besides the fact that they are usually just toys) are they have too much useless, low quality crap in them, and when the handle opens it is hollow, square and can be uncomfortable to use. This one has some ergonomic design and doesn’t have an awl, four crappy flat bladed screwdrivers, a saw, file, can opener and a small pair of scissors. No disrespect to Tim Leatherman or his competitors but, less is more sometimes.

The Victorinox Mechanic

This is my favorite pocket knife ever. I’ve owned three or four of these and used them heavily. My coworkers have used my Mechanics heavily. I’ve had both the Wenger and Victorinox versions and I like them both, the former more than the latter. You can’t find the Wenger ones anymore, but the Victorinox version is just as good. I use the small knife blade, Phillips driver and pliers on these until something breaks. I know you can just write the company and get the parts replaced. When that happens they don’t get thrown away they get put in the kitchen drawer, bathroom cabinet, office, tool bag and I order a new one. The pliers aren’t especially heavy-duty but for the light duty stuff I normally do, they work great. I’ve built at least one computer using just this knife.

It wasn’t really the weight that eventually made me stop carrying this every day but the thickness. But, sometimes, depending on what I’m about to go, my current one will still get thrown in my pocket.

Gerber EAB Pocket Knife

The Gerber EAB – Uses standard contractor or “utility” blades.

There are two versions of this knife and it is what I actually carry now. I like this thing and will probably be getting a few of the ‘lite’ versions of it in the future if they are as good as the regular.

The EAB Lite – Basically the same thing as the EAB. A little more compact version of an already tiny knife.

It is basically a small folding utility knife. It uses standard utility blades so you don’t ever really have to sharpen it. Just take out the old blade and put in a new one. This means the blade is razor-sharp every time, and more importantly you don’t ever mind using your ‘good knife’ on something awful. If you mess up the blade, forget to oil it, chip it, ding it, or anything like that, you just replace it. You can get 100 replacement blades for around $10 (sometimes $5 if you watch them). You can also use hooked blades and other styles that use the same utility blade format.

I have other knives for other uses, but the EAB is what I carry in my pocket every day now and it does what I need it to. The reason I now prefer this little knife  that it basically never needs sharpening. I do not mind sharpening my knives and have multiple ways to do so. It’s just easier to keep a spare blade or two in my toolkit or in my car than to worry about having to cut something with my good pocket knife that I probably shouldn’t then having to wait until I get home to work out the nicks. A five pack of blades at most hardware stores is a few dollars if I don’t have any with me and I need them. For $10 I got a package of a hundred and since they fit multiple other utility knives I own, there’s really no downside.

9 July 2014

Guns, Flags, and Sacred Texts

So this stupid picture has made rounds on the ol’ social media feeds lately and I can’t help but look at the sheer stupidity of it all.

who-holly-fisher-holly-hobby-lobby

I’m your average mostly libertarian Christian with HEAVY gnostic and deist leanings. I stress this because I don’t want anyone to think this is going to be the rant of some run of the mill Southern Baptist redneck from Amarillo trying to defend this whole thing. I do not like either of the mainstream political parties too much though I do tend to have more right-wing political leanings most of the time.

I do not know exactly who the woman in the right hand picture is but it’s been suggested that it might be a woman named Reem Saleh Al-Riyashi. She was a wealthy Palestinian woman who blew herself up in 2004 and killed four Israeli soldiers and wounded several more. She left behind two children. 

The woman on the left in Holly Fisher, an American woman whose husband is in the military. Apparently she’s got a kid who’s cardiologist was not covered under the new healthcare act here in the US and some other stuff. So she took that picture of herself and another one that’s been making rounds with herself outside of Hobby Lobby.

I notice something about both pictures though. They’re both doing things that their culture deems proper as methods of expressing their patriotism. But you know what I never see anymore? Pictures of people actually reading their holy books?

Used to the pictures of American life you’d see were these men sitting on their porch with the shotgun propped up against the house with a beverage of some sort on a table.  They’d have their boots off, maybe their wife just had finished cooking supper and a pie was cooling in the window. Both of them would be taking a well deserved break from the hard work of the day. Maybe both of them would be smoking a pipe, maybe just the man. There’d be a Bible alright, but it’d be open, worn and one of them would be reading it. It wouldn’t be brand new, clutched tightly and used like a talisman to ward off the liberals. The flag? It’d be on a pole, where it’s supposed to be.

1 February 2014

Katy Perry – Satanic Grammy Performance?

So Katy Perry stirred up a storm of crap at the Grammy’s with her “Dark Horse” performance. There have been a lot of accusations about it being a “Satanic Ritual” and so forth and so on. I watched the video because as someone who gets a good laugh when the fundamentalists go off on things like this I have to see if there’s anything to it.

Not a fan of Katy Perry’s music honestly, it’s not bad, just not into pop. I do like the visuals and the geekiness of some of her music videos though. Not sure if that’s her doing or if she’s got a very interesting production team. Either way she’s got some theatrical skill going on that you just don’t see much. I do  admit to liking her gospel rock stuff in 2000 when she billed herself as Katy Hudson and I went through that really stupid phase when I pretended to like only Christian music for the sake of impressing people at my church. I can’t honestly say if I actually liked the music that much back then or if I just thought she was good looking at had good voice.

Anyway, back to the point of the blog post here. The supposed Satanic Ritual Orgy of Doom that she did at the Grammy Awards with High Satanic Priest Juicy-J is what I’m going to talk about.

So, supposedly this whole performance was some dark blessing of the prince of darkness and the song was about sex with aliens, demons and/or angels. The audience then ate it up and cheered like heathens. Then later there was some blasphemous wedding between straight, elderly, gay and possibly interspecies couples or some such and this represented a Satanic shift in American culture (I didn’t watch the wedding part, just Katy Perry). Apparently there was some more evil stuff going on and this was all part of a multi-part ritual of some kind which various sites only vaguely hinted at the meaning of. Jesus will now come back because of this and that’s a bad thing.

I watched the video a few times, read some commentary, read a few sites thoughts on this, comments, and looked at some of the symbolism. I’ve referred to some notes I took on the occult from some interviews with actual practitioners several years ago and my own reading and I will present my thoughts after I break down what I’ve read and why I do or don’t think it’s legitimate.

Note: I am by no means an expert on the occult or the esoteric. I may have missed a few things.

“Ritual Symbolism”

Templar Cross – One claim was that Perry had a Templar cross on her chest. I spent most of the video looking at her chest and can confirm the red LED cross on her chest does vaguely resemble the cross used by the Knights Templar.

500px-Templar_Flag_6.svg
Templar Flag – Supposedly a flag used by the Knights Templar. I got this from Wikipedia. Almost all examples of the Templar cross are this red cross on a white, or sometimes black background. All four arms of the cross are equal length. Only occasionally do you see the traditional cross with the longer bottom arm, usually on shields. A few examples show a red cross with a second, longer horizontal bar at the top.

 

katy-perry-grammys
Katy Perry with a red cross on her chest. This is what a few sites have called a Templar cross. I get why they’d call it that, but seriously it’s only vaguely like one in that it’s red and has the flared ends. I suppose that might be what she was going for but it might be she was just going for a red cross.

Why would they make such a fuss over a Templar cross specifically and not her dressing like a witch with a cross being the only thing covering her otherwise naked chest? Seems like that’d be the more blasphemous thing right? The connection is pretty clear. On Friday October 13, 1307 Pope Clement V of France had the Knights Templar all simultaneously arrested on charges of among other things “idolatry, heresy, and obscene rituals”. Even then most people thought this was all a load of crap. Basically the Templars were disbanded for charges of Satanism. Of course it’s widely viewed that this was made up because the Pope didn’t get his way and King Philip of France was deeply in debt to them and he wanted to not have to pay them back. The Catholic Church’s current position is that this was all completely unjust and I believe John Paul II absolved them several years ago once the Chinon document was found. Still they make popular scapegoats for the uninformed.

Templar Cross = Satan

Molech /Horned Demons – When Perry comes up from the crystal ball you can see these various horned figured behind her. Many of the articles say that this is “Molech”. Who is Molech? Molech, or more properly “Moloch” refers to an ancient Canaanite deity that, according to the Bible and other sources is thought to have demanded human sacrifices.

There’s no particular reason he’s depicted as having horns, just that there’s an 18th century depiction of Moloch as a bull god with horns. There’s some suggestion that he was related to the golden calf in Exodus but I can’t find any ancient depiction of him as a cow god. Some texts suggest he was a sun or fire god so he might have been depicted as more of a large bearded man with crown as William Blake depicted him. Check the Wikipedia article before looking at other articles, it’s pretty straightforward. There’s certainly nothing in the Bible that talks about what he looked like.

Either way the Biblical account suggests heretical Israelites burned their children alive in sacrifice to Moloch. So when someone slaps a horned god or a horned helmet in something sort of dark instead of just screaming “SATAN!” or “DEMONS!” a lot of these people like to look more sophisticated and say it’s really “Moloch” they’re showing because infant sacrifice is a lot more shocking and the former just doesn’t fly any more. A couple of searches would seem to prove them right until you read a little more about Moloch and it tends to fall apart since we don’t ACTUALLY have any depictions of Moloch from Biblical times, just modern depictions.

Frankly this should be just as insulting to your intelligence as if they were saying Perry had multiple Satans in the background. A few decades ago that would have been the tactic they would have used though as people would have bought the demon thing a lot easier.Honestly if there was any purposeful symbolism the “Molechs” are probably dark forest spirits more like Pan as that’s the usual witch symbolism.

Moloch =/= Satan because people won’t buy SATAN!!! anymore or DEMONS! And an old Hebrew/Canaanite god that people sacrificed babies to that artists depicted as a horned idol is more shocking. Been a lot of throwing baby sacrificing around lately. It stupid.

Satanic Hypnotic Ritual Dancers – The dancers themselves didn’t seem to be as big a deal as the rest of the performance but some of the commenters compared it to a Roman orgy. I won’t spend any time on this. They were scantily clad contortionists dressed to fit the theme.

The Lyrics – The lyrics basically boiled down to Perry’s witch character warning a man that he should not fall in love with her because that might be the last thing he would do. At the same time she wanted that. It contained themes of sex with aliens and the supernatural.This is a fairly common occult theme. I hear more of this from the evangelical side of things and not actual occultists. If you go on YouTube and look up a guy named Bill Schnoebelen and watch his video lectures on how he used to be a vampire you’ll see this theme. He talks about sex with a demon being part of becoming a vampire.

There’s another “ritual” I’ve heard of from the great satanic panic of the 80’s about having “sex in the air” with a demon being part of a bizarre rape ritual. Just about every one of these “former high priests of Satan who find Jesus” has some story about how they had sex with some supernatural entity, alien that is really a supernatural entity, possessed person, or something even grosser like a child. Why they’d admit the latter and no one called the police immediately I have no idea. Saving grace of Jesus Christ right? Immediate forgiveness for child rapists. WWJD.

Funny thing is that this all comes from Christians who say they used to be into the occult but are usually found out to be frauds later. I’ve never heard of this kind of thing from people who are practicing occultists. One could say they keep it secret but there are always people who talk. Where are the people who turn atheist who talk about that? They don’t exist, it’s always Christian evangelicals who talk about the sex with the devil thing.

Lyrics = Occult = SATAN = Save us Jesus from the devil conspiracy.

Other Themes – There was the brooms that are typically associated with witches, used as stripper poles. This seemed more mocking and sexy than any kind of symbolism.

The Well – Just a thematic/aesthetic element. Seems common for the dark forest motif.

The Stake/Burning – The end of the witch is burning at the stake. I don’t know why a Satanic rite would end with the traditional Judao-Christian/Muslim/Major Religious Way of dealing with witches way of dealing with witches but this is what happens to evil witches.

My thoughts

I would have just blown this one off entirely if my Facebook feed wasn’t entirely full of this bullcrap. At least it wasn’t as bad as the whole Easter/Ishtar thing.

I think quite simply that Katy Perry’s performance was more “Halloween” than “Satanic Ritual” and the only people who say otherwise are trying to sell something. In fact that seems to be what almost every article I read was trying to do.

One of them talked about how evil the performance was, how hypnotic the Satanic ritual was, said not to let children watch it, then had an embedded video right there. So great, evil devil ritual that entraps the minds of men, just post that sucker right on your website right? Then it talked about Molech and sounded like they knew what they were talking about. A few words about some Satanist “elites” and then it was selling a $20 book on the end times and what to do about it. I found about three of these with different books to sell. Some talked about the wedding thing, others talked about another performance, but they all talked about Satan, end times, scary stuff, and then tried to sell something.

The other type of site was Catholic. They weren’t trying to sell anything, they did have a link to, not so much the video but some clips. They commented, talked about how America and the world was going to hell in a hand basket, how Jesus was coming back soon and how we should fight this evil then provided a link to some Catholic resources and were done. I didn’t find any kind of Protestant resources like this at all, but then I didn’t search for them, this was just what was linked on my Facebook feed (oddly by Protestants).

But back to my thoughts on the performance. I didn’t find any sort of ‘evil’ in it. It was an attempt by a fairly talented performer at being ‘dark’ and sexy. She used popular imagery, not any sort of occult symbolism. This was all stuff that’s in the popular consciousness and while some of it might have some esoteric meaning, it’s unlikely that was the intent. Any religious anyone, occult or not, will tell you that intent is what matters, not the song and dance. She pulled off the dark and sexy very well, if her intent was evil, I didn’t get that.

I heard a lot of fear, a lot of talk about evil, and blasphemy and Satan. What exactly about this Grammy awards and Miss Perry’s performance was more disturbing than that of performers of the past? Or popular songs of the past?

There was a popular song in the 50’s by a guy named “Screamin’ Jay Hawkins” called “I Put a Spell On You” that’s been recorded by a LOT of popular bands. You’ve heard it. Names like Creedance Clearwater Revival, Dr. John (I think), Bett Midler, Alice Cooper and tons of others have covered it. It is blatantly about a witch doctor putting a spell on a woman and having his way with her because he’s obsessed. I’m sure there was a lot of crap about that in the 50’s but now we just look at it and say, “How quaint”. The dude dressed up like a witch doctor when he performed it and was considered the first shock rocker almost sixty years ago. I’m sure my grandparents found all this disturbing, or highly amusing, I’ll ask them and if they even remember it I’d be surprised. The song is considered one of those foundational songs of rock and roll. Think anyone will cover “Dark Horse” two years from now much less sixty?

4 November 2013

Resetting the Maintenance Required Light On a 2007 Toyota Corolla S

Not really a computer tech subject but something I had to deal with recently. The maintenance required light came on my car and I was about to take it to the mechanic. Luckily I did not and decided to check it out on the internet to make sure it didn’t mean something else first.

Apparently with Toyota vehicles the “Maintenance Required” and “Check Engine” lights are two separate things. On some cars they are not. It’s basically just a mileage counter to let you know when it’s time to change your oil and filters. Now I know from the dealership as well as how my oil looks that it is nowhere near time to change my oil. Sometimes the maintenance people or whoever forget to reset this when they are done with the oil changes and likely that’s what happened in this case since I just bought it a few months ago. It’s typically not a big deal.

So I looked up how to reset the light. Apparently different Toyota models have different processes and mine has one that differs from the norm. So here’s how to reset mine if anyone is looking specifically for how to reset it on a 2007 Toyota Corolla S. If you are looking for other models this might be what you need. I’ve also added notes on what the differences I saw were for other Toyota’s so maybe you don’t have to go to a bajillion other sites and try other things.

How to Reset the Maintenance Required Light on a 2007 Toyota Corolla S

Step 1 – Turn the car on, but don’t start it. It has to be on, but not on the “Acc(essory)” position. NOTE: Some models need this to be on the accessory position. You can tell if the digital odometer readout comes on when you put the key in this position.

Step 2 – Push the button next to your odometer. This is the readout on your car that tells how many miles are on the engine. It needs to read “ODO”. NOTE: Some models need this set on “Trip A”.

Step 3 – Turn the car off.

Step 4 – Hold down the button next to the odometer.

Step 5 – Continue to hold the button down and turn the car on, but not start it. The car should beep and the readout should have a few dashes on it that will slowly decrease in number. Once the dashes count down to zero the read out will briefly display all zeros. NOTE: If your car is one that requires you to put it in the accessory position do this.

Step 6 – Release the button when the odometer returns to normal.

Success! Once you start the car, the Maintenance Required light should not be on anymore.

NOTE: If it’s the check engine light that comes on or if the Maintenance Required light comes back on pretty quick after you reset it, you should probably take it to the mechanic or back into the people who changed your oil.

If this article helped you out, please consider buying me a coffee.

26 November 2012

Suddenlink Outage Information And How To Get It

This article was written in 2012 and appears to be getting a lot of traffic lately. I’ve double checked the information below to make sure it is still correct. With the impending quarantines all over the US, I’m sure a lot of people are concerned about not having internet.   -Aaron 03-21-2020

How to see if Suddenlink has an outage in your area

Please check this article first before you do anything I suggest below. It’s rare for an ISP to have an actual outage in a large area. It can happen, but you should not assume that it is an outage. Try to eliminate the simple things first.

Contact Suddenlink

The most reliable way to find out if Suddenlink has an outage in your area is to contact them directly and just ask.

Suddenlinks customer support number isn’t hidden, unlike a lot of other ISPs. Here it is to save you a few moments looking for it.

1-877-794-2724

The best and fastest way to find out this information though is using their chat, which you can find on the page below:

http://www.suddenlink.com/contact-us

Just click on that, enter your name, email, and zip code. Select “General Question” and enter your customer number. You can find your customer number by going to the login page at suddenlink.com and clicking on “My Account” and then click on “Billing Options”. Your account number is right under your name.

Suddenlink Outage Map

Suddenlink does have an outage map, but it only really shows up on their site if something is down in your specific area. Typically it takes a while for them to report it there so the agents you contact over the phone or online might know about an outage before the indicator does on your account page.

To see it, just log in to your Suddenlink account at https://account.suddenlink.net. Under the “My Services” section there will be a line that indicates whether there’s an outage or not.

19 July 2012

Slow Internet Troubleshooting

I’m reposting this from my “Intermediate Internet Troubleshooting” article as I think the subject deserves a post of its own. You’ll need to know what speed internet you are paying for before this article will be of any use at all to you.

Some Terminology

Internet Service Providers (ISP’s) will sell service based on download and upload speeds. When you are talking to a tech guy or girl about your internet speed, many times you’ll hear them say something like, “I get ten over one with Suddenlink”. What they are referring to is the download and upload speed of their connection. Ten is the download in megabits per second (mbps), and one is the upload speed in the same. Sometimes you’ll see it written like this: “10/1”. It’s the same thing, 10mbps download, and 1mbps upload.

If you have some fractional upload speed, which is normal you might hear someone say, “Three over point seven five”. This just means they get three megabits per second download and three-fourths of a megabit per second upload speed (.750 mbps or 750 kilobits per second).

How to find out what you are paying for…

Most of the time you can find out what you are paying for by checking your bill. Some ISPs will only show the download speed, or have something like “Standard” or “Pro” level accounts. You can usually go to their website and find out what speeds your type of account gets.

If you can’t figure it out from the bill, don’t be afraid to call them and ask. The tech support guy will be so happy you aren’t calling about broken internet he’ll probably give you a tip or something to make calling in again easier. At least I did.

One tip I can give you is to call the sales line when you call  your ISP. They will typically have no hold times. You can ask them. If they transfer you to tech support or billing your hold times will usually be shorter.

Troubleshooting

Let’s assume you are getting 3mb download speed, and 1mb upload. This is a common plan across the US for DSL service.

Step 1 – Go to speedcheck.org.

Step 2 – Click the “Start Test” Button. Wait for the test to complete.

When it completes, as long as you aren’t streaming videos or have some other device using the internet heavily, you should get something within 10%-15% of your speed back. So if you have 3meg/1meg, your download speed should show something like 2.7 at the lowest, and your upload should be .8-.9 at the lowest.

If it is lower than that your ISP may be having a problem, or it can be a device on your network.

You can eliminate your own hardware as a cause by running a speed test on another device. If it shows the same, turn off all internet using devices except the computer you are on, your router and your modem. Run the test again, see if it is still the same.

If it is, the best thing to do is hook a computer directly to your modem. Reboot the modem by unplugging the power and plugging it back in. Do the speed test again and see if it’s any better. If it is, the problem is likely your router, or some other device hooked in to it.

Using the process of elimination you can figure out which device it is. Hook your router back up, plug your computer back into it. Then turn on your first device, run the speed test. If that wasn’t what was causing the problem, turn it off and turn on the next device. Repeat the test until you figure out which one it is. Do this for everything as it might be more than one device causing an issue.

If nothing makes the speed better, then call your ISP and see what they can do to help. One cause is if you have DSL and you are a bit too far from the central office you won’t get the speeds you are paying for no matter what. If this is the case you can either switch to another type of service with another provider, or demand they lower your rate to match the speed you are getting.

Don’t pay for something that is impossible to obtain. 

18 April 2012

How to Fix Most Internet Problems

This is the process you should follow to fix most internet connectivity problems you might face. I came up with this process while working at a local ISP as a tech support agent. It works very well for cable, DSL, and Wireless internet connections. Most tech support agents will tell you to do exactly this. I always suggest people try this before calling their ISP. Yes, the ISP will tell you to do this again, but at least you’ll know before calling them if “unplugging it and plugging it back in again” was what you needed to do.

Step 1 – Unplug the power your modem and your router.

Step 2 – Count to twenty. Seriously. Count to twenty very slowly.

Step 3 – Plug the power back into your modem. Wait for the lights to all come back on. Depending on the type of modem there might be an “Ethernet” or “PC” light, it will be off.

Step 4 – Once the modem has booted, plug the router back in.

Step 5 – After a full minute check the internet on your computer.

This will fix connectivity issues at least 9 out of 10 times. When I worked for that ISP, if I got a 100 calls, 97 of them would be resolved doing this. The only step you might add is rebooting your computer, or resetting the network card. I’ll do a post on how to do that with Windows 7.

And yes, tech support agents think you’re lying when you say you’ve done this. Blame your neighbors.

If you do have to call your ISP, be sure to ask the agent what they did to resolve this and get an issue number for next time. If the same thing keeps happening make sure you let them know.

If this doesn’t do it, check out my “Intermediate Home Internet Troubleshooting” article. At very least it will help you determine where the problem is. If this did work, please give me a like on Facebook or the social network of your choice, I really appreciate it.

26 December 2006

Random Ramblings

I hope everyone had a good Christmas weekend. For me having Christmas on the weekends usually makes things easier around here. Those that work in normal non-mail sorting jobs have almost a week off and generally hang about here. That’s usually pretty nice. It was a lot more relaxed then it has been in the past. There’s a small reason why but I won’t go into that.

My Nanny (my mom’s mother) asked me to make a Tarte Tatin for my aunt this year. She loved the one I made for Thanksgiving. It’s really good stuff. My aunt doesn’t eat a lot of sweets but she made an exception for it, and her own family really enjoyed it. That made it all worthwhile. It was probably my best work so far.

They take about an hour and a half to make and require a lot of attention to pull off right and not burn. Several family members wanted to know how I kept the apples so puffy. I have no idea actually.

I got a few much needed items for Christmas. An electric razor being the chief among them, and a gift certificate for Wal-Mart for socks. This is the first time in my entire life I got excited over the prospect of new socks!

My order from JList came in today too. I got two boxes of Pocky, two packages of BlackBlack gum, a tube of BlackBlack tablet candies, and some rose flavored gum. The rose flavored gum is really good actually. I like rose hips myself but this tastes like rose petals (yes I know what rose petals taste like). It’s pretty unique stuff.

I think the power company has been having some problems recently or there are a whole lot of defective computer power supplies in Amarillo. About a month and a half ago I started getting calls and people asking me why their computer won’t turn on. Inevitably its the power supply and the motherboard that went out.

It isn’t just one brand of computer either, although e-machines have been the major offenders.

We had a power outage last Wednesday that messed the power supply on my own machine up so I had to order a new motherboard, processor, and power supply for it. Thankfully it hasn’t died copmpletely yet and hopefully the motherboard is still good and I can use it in another machine. I’m hesitant to do any serious work with it until the new parts are in place.

I guess you could say the power company cost me $300.

17 December 2006

Regular Stuff…

Been kind of an interesting two weeks. I’ve been committing a lot of time towards my backup application. Fortunately it works very well but I decided that comma delimited files are too primitive for configuration settings and take too much code to work with or to add on to. So I’m converting to XML. I haven’t used XML much except as data storage and that’s pretty easy to do. Saving configuration settings to it seems harder. Apparently a lot of it still has to be coded yourself if you want any sort of custom data to be stored. Fortunately it is easy to add stuff to in the future. Hopefully I’ll be able to figure that out, because it should make the other features I want to add to the program easier in the long run.

I also think I’m going to have to change the actual working code to C++ or C# in the near future. VB is great, easy to use and you can write things pretty quickly with it but it makes Object Oriented stuff a little more complicated then it already is. It’s also too tempting to write inefficient code with it. Of course if Java has some of the same features as the stuff included with the .NET framework I may convert totally to that in the future. Basically an ‘in house’ compression algorithm is all I really need. I don’t really want to get licencing for PKZIP (which is the best compression utility out there in my opinion) unless I absolutely have to.

Right now the alpha has the following features in case anyone is interested:

  • Automatic CD AND DVD burning capability. Uses the NeroCMD utility. Requires Nero 6 or Nero 7.
  • Scheduled Automatic Backups. Uses Windows scheduled tasks to work instead of residing in memory and eating up resources.
  • Scripted backup jobs. You can build a ‘job’ and configure what files you want it to back up and whether you want them compressed or not. Then you can just tell it to run that one over and over again. Works with the scheduled tasks feature.
  • Compression. You can compress your files to save space on the CD/DVD. This is good but doesn’t work on all files. It will actually make most picture files bigger. Best for database files, text, and programs right now. I might add some kind of third party compression capability later.

It will have the following features after the beta gets tested:

  • Network Backups. If you have a network it will be able to back up your important files on any computer on your network with a shared folder. I’ll probably limit the number backup folders on each workstation though, MSSQL database backups can get real big real fast and fill up hard drives.
  • Automatic “JumpDrive” Support. You’ll be able to put a specific memory stick in your USB port and it will automatically execute a job or set of jobs and backup your files to it.
  • Automatic File Searches. Mostly a feature for home users, back up your My Documents folders, and it’ll search in common places for Pictures, Documents, Financial Files, Video and Music. Save you some time figuring out what to backup if you store everything in your My Documents Folder.
  • Saved Game Backup. This is something I’m excited about personally. It should be able to look in your game directories for saved game files and back those up. Hopefully I’ll be able to get a lot of information on different games and where they store saved game information and add ‘templates’ for them. If this program is ever used by the public, maybe developers will provide that information themselves. Otherwise it’ll probably be a community effort.
  • Upload Your Backups. You will be able to upload your backups to a remote file server, or a website, or even another computer connected to the internet.
  • Remote Backups. I’d like to add P2P capability to the program so that you can request your backup files remotely and download them. This would off course, like the JumpDrive support require the program or part of it to be resident in memory though. Could split the download/upload burden accross multiple machines real easy though.

I’ve been playing Medieval II: Total War lately. Beat a campaign with the Holy Roman Empire with minimal cheating. That was pretty cool. I’m now playing as the Egyptians. Of course there are a few bugs in the game, and some annoyances that are supposed to be fixed in the first patch for the game. The patch of course was supposed to be release Friday the 15th but apparently was not. Hopefully they’ll deploy it before the 22nd though or at least tell us what the hold up is. Of course it’s a british game developer using a japanese distribution company so who knows what weirdness that causes.

The game is pretty much a clone of Rome: Total War though, actually it’s a clone of the expansion more then anything. That kind of bugs me because I paid $50 for the limited edition and they pretty much could have just released it as an expansion to Rome as far as I can tell. It does have some new features, but honestly it plays pretty much exactly like Rome.

My brother bought a PS2 a couple weeks back. That’s been pretty entertaining. At least for him, I have little desire to play it much. He got Mortal Kombat: Armageddon yesterday though so at least now we have multiplayer. I thought about getting my own memory card and controller for it though so I could play it when he’s not here, or with him when he is. We also need a GameShark terribly bad I think. I’m not 100% sure how a GameShark for the PS2 would work but I know it makes Final Fantasy games a lot neater to play.

I’m working on reading through Eragon as well. We went to see the movie Saturday. I have mixed feelings over it. For one the book isn’t as great as some people claim. It’s pretty obvious it was written by a teenager, and not the genius everyone tries to make Paolini out to be. It’s pretty blatant about all but plagiarizing other works. Eragon itself reads almost exactly like Robert Jordan’s “Eye of the World”. The first book in the Wheel of Time series. Of course that book in turn has a lot in common with “The Fellowship of the Ring” by J.R.R. Tolkein. I see a strong tendency towards that. Of course, I’d know, I did the exact same thing in one of my own self indulgent stories, but I haven’t let anyone read that one except my mother.

I mean come on a character called a “Shade” is introduced right off the bat. The guy then travels with a Storyteller who is more then what he seems to a River Town fleeing from orc variations. Has anyone seem this before?

The movie was extraordinarily well executed I thought, except for the beginning, which was utter crap and not entirely necessary. It did not follow the book at all though, and I’m only in the first hundred pages of the book and I could already tell they butchered it pretty bad. The mixed feelings part though is where it gets kind of complex.

You see as far as I can tell the people who wrote the movie, had better writing skills then the author of the book. So honestly it is better written, and the actors were pretty great. I mean Jeremy Irons, you can’t do a whole lot better, except they should quit killing him in movies. In my opinion they could have come up with a more original movie that was not based on a book and probably done a lot better.

Honestly though this Inheritance series of books is all pretty much utter crap written by a guy with only average talent and hyped up way more then it should be. I actually have to force myself to read it and unsurprisingly I’m not the only person that feels this way.

-Aaron

7 December 2006

Someone Explain This To Me….

Can someone explain to me why Dish Network does all sorts of charity work for Hurricane Katrina victims in New Orleans and yet treats their loyal customers so poorly? I mean they’ll basically just give you free stuff if your house gets blown away by a tropical storm, but if you’ve been a good loyal customer for almost ten years they’ll screw you over at every opportunity.

This is unfortunate since they spend an enormous amount of money telling everyone how great they are, but are unwilling to provide something to their current customers at a discount or at no charge, that they give new ones for free. Talk about great customer service.

Now I can understand some of the gadgets not being available to current customers, but what about standard stuff like receivers and dishes? Why charge out the nose for a newer, more functional receiver that will make the most of the service your customer already pays for? A service I might add the old receiver wasn’t even designed for nor can it use all the features of said service?

What brings this up you might ask?

It’s a funny story really. My parents got Dish Network when we moved up to Fritch, TX because Cox at the time did not provide service to rural customers. We got a big package and swiftly set it up, enjoying our new satellite TV. This was in 1997.

We moved back to Amarillo, taking our stuff with us. After a few months my parents decided they wanted a receiver in their room. So they called Dish Network and they sent a guy out to set us up with their Dish 500 service. Made them sign a two year contract and soon they were enjoying the service in their room. That was in 2000.

During the setup process he informed us that the receiver we had was vastly outdated, and updated the software as best he could. He told us we should really call them and get them to send us a newer one for the living room. Wonderful.

So now in 2006, they start seeing ads for a free DVR to new customers. They decide to call Dish about getting a new receiver. They are informed they will have to pay several hundred dollars for a new receiver. This is after nine years of being a faithful customer, honoring the contract and only missing one or two payments. Which they caught up within a day or two.

They are now stuck with an ancient receiver that barely works. Dish refuses to upgrade them. It will cost over three hundred dollars they say. Three hundred dollars for something everyone else gets for nothing. Not one penny! They refuse to give in.

Not only that, but apparently these ‘no upgrade rules’ aren’t even Dish Networks! They’re AT&T’s. But wait! When you call AT&T they say Dish Network made the rules. If you cancel your account for six months, then they might upgrade your receiver.

To make matters even funnier other satellite companies ‘don’t provide service’ in Amarillo. How the heck does that work? Does the satellite skip over Amarillo somehow? Can you not line your dish up with it, even though people in Oklahoma City can? What’s the deal?

On top of that, the slightest thing will make their service cut out. Clouds, the wind blowing very hard (which is like 200 days out of the year), and apparently the alignment of the planets. Solar flares oddly don’t affect it.

Some non-competition agreement I’m told is the problem. That’s great, Dish Network has a MONOPOLY here and they happily screw over loyal customers and say there isn’t a thing we can do about it.  My parents aren’t the only ones with this problem.

They’re extremely dissatisfied with how they’re being treated, and unless they want to go with the much more expensive cable company (which does in fact upgrade your equipment free if they change something), or go without for half a year they are pretty well stuck with Dish’s pitiful customer service.