The gullible consumer

Posted by Jim Jagielski on Friday, September 29. 2006 in Junk Drawer

I have more than a passing interest in web hosting, but I am constantly amazed at what some web hosts try (and succeed) to get away with. What I really love are those mega web hosts that provide dozens of gigs of local storage, "unlimited" bandwidth and a whole laundry list of "technologies" provided with each account. Oh, yes, and the accounts are some incredibly low price like $5 a month. And when they describe their network center it's as if they were hosted in the US Pentagon; I especially like the ones that provide pictures which invariably show barbed wire fences and canine patrols. Yep, all for $5 a month. And yet, if you do just a tiny bit of research you see that on the areas that should make the most difference, they are almost amazingly out of date: super old versions of Apache (usually 1.3.25), PHP, OpenSSL, MySQL, etc... Where the rubber meets the road, they are incredibly incompetent. And yet, they are signing up people like it's going out of style. Just goes to show you; even though he never said it, P. T. Barnum was right.

Conrad Poohs

Posted by Jim Jagielski on Monday, September 25. 2006 in Junk Drawer

Anyone else see the Sept 25th issue of Time Magazine. On the cover is a "picture" of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Holey moley if it doesn't look like something from Monty Python's Terry Gilliam. I half expected him to open his mouth and his teeth to start dancing around.

Generation e-gap

Posted by Jim Jagielski on Thursday, September 21. 2006 in Junk Drawer

Last week my folks switched from satellite TV to cable. The reason had nothing really to do with which service was better, or which had a better selection of shows; it was just based on which one was cheaper. Comcast was offering a 6-month deal, and they went for it. Anyway, the cable tech comes in and proceeds to rip out anything and everything that even *touched* the satellite box. After he leaves, my folks find out that "Hey, the VCR doesn't work anymore... and neither does the DVD player!" They take a quick look around the back of the entertainment center and, other than the power cables, not a single cable is going into, or out of, either the VCR or DVD player. They call me, and the next day I stop over and connect it all back up for them. But what makes this so interesting is the fact that I had to do it; my folks are smart, and not *that* old. Heck, my dad was a marine engineer with Sparrows Point, Bethlehem Steel, and the reason why I'm as handy as I am is, for a large part, due to the fact that I watched and helped my old man fix cars, do plumbing, and tinker with appliances... Certainly plugging in a few cables here and there shouldn't be that hard. But it was. I think the reason is that we have made a pretty drastic technology change over the last few decades. High-tech for my folks were efficient mechanical devices. Things you could look at, see them work, and see *how* they work. But when electronics started taking over, that all went away. I recall when we got our first TV set and looking in the back and seeing nothing but hot, glowing tubes. Not a gear or pulley to be seen. If the TV went on the fritz, you couldn't "fix it." If you were lucky and adventurous you took out a bunch of tubes from the back (make sure they had cooled down though!) and took 'em over to the hardware store, where they had this big machine that you could plug in a tube at a time and see if it was good or not. If God was happy, you would find the burned out tube, buy a replacement and plug 'em all back in, and you were back in business. But more often than not, you had to call for that king of all men: THE TV REPAIR MAN! No wonder the older generation has problems with all this "advanced" stuff now. The transition was very fast, and appeared very magical. My son asked me if I thought that, in 30 years or so, my generation would have the same problems with that future technology that the older generation of today has. I don't think so; sure it will be more advanced than what we have now, but we'll understand it, at least the core principles of it. It will be an evolutionary change, not a revolutionary one, and the former is much easier to handle. Oh, and even though they have digital cable, my folks think the picture with satellite TV was loads better.

Sticky is good

Posted by Jim Jagielski on Tuesday, September 12. 2006 in Junk Drawer

Over my years I've likely built and repaired dozens of computers. It's fun and it's a great way to get a custom-built computer on the cheap. My oldest son Jonathan needed his own computer, so we sat down and designed one from scratch, ordered the parts, put it all together and after a few hours, had a really nice system up and running. Then yesterday he comes up to me and says that the computer keeps shutting down after a few minutes... I go into his room and we fire up the system. Immediately I hear this weird sound, almost like a baseball card in the spokes of a bicycle wheel. We shut down, open up the case, and I start look for a cable that might be rubbing up against a fan. No luck. Then I recall Jon saying that the system kept shutting down... Hmmm. That sounds like a CPU issue. So with the case open we power up the computer again. Sure enough, the noise is coming from the CPU fan. The stickers on the fan had come loose, and peeled up a bit and started rubbing against the fan and the heatsink on the bottom and the wire-cage on the top. Nasty. So I took a pair of tweezers (after shutting down of course) and removed both stickers. That did it. No damage and the system's been up and reliable since then. I did some further research on the fan (from Ultra) and found that it's a common complaint. Never had something like that happen before... I usually buy Masscool fans... I should have continued that. I won't switch again.

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