randy_byers: (machine man)
A week ago I tried to boot my home computer, and it just beeped at me. I asked my housemate if he had any suggestions for a repair shop, and he said he'd had good luck with Office Max. So I took my computer to them, and they diagnosed a failed RAM chip. Fair enough, and so I ordered a replacement.

36 hours later, the new RAM arrived in the mail and Office Max installed it. I took the computer home and tried to boot it. Windows kept blue-screening over and over again. So I took it back to Office Max. I think it took another 36 hours for them to tell me that Windows was corrupt. They could re-install Windows, but since my PC had come pre-loaded with Windows 7 and I wasn't given the disks, I'd have to buy Windows 8.1 from Office Max. The price of the OS and installation was $300. That was on top of what I'd already sunk into the new RAM.

At that point I thought, "This is a four year old computer. I'm not going to spend this much money on restoring it. I'll just buy a new box." So I bought a new computer and asked them to transfer the data from the old hard drive to the new machine.

Another 36 hours later they called to tell me that the hard drive was also corrupt. They couldn't transfer the data. They could send it to a sub-contractor in Florida. It would take a week and almost $600 dollars.

I said no thanks, and took both old and new computers home. I thought I'd been backing up the hard drive, but the resulting file was a black box that I couldn't look into. I had to restore it to a hard drive to see it. So I was never confident that it was actually backing up, which is why I'd asked Office Max to try to salvage the data from the hard drive. Turns out my lack of confidence was earned. I had created a system image back in 2011 when I first got the machine, but it had never updated after that, as far as I could tell. I could have restored what was there, but it would have been missing four years of data.

So. I called up another repair shop, Uptime Technology, and I asked them how much they charged to recover data from a hard drive. $150 and it would probably only take 24 hours. I merrily took the computer to them.

The punchline of this story is that they called me today to tell me that the PC was working again. "It was just some bad RAM," they told me. So apparently Office Max either replaced the wrong RAM chip, or there was more than one bad chip.

I also called Office Max, and they said I could return the PC I bought from them.

So all that angst and running to and fro for just about nothing. All's well that ends well? Well, as long as I can figure out how to back up my data properly from now on.

New toy

Dec. 11th, 2011 09:07 am
randy_byers: (2010-08-15)
So I have finally leaped into the new millennium by buying a smartphone. It's an Android -- a Samsung Galaxy S II. I got it through Credo, which is a company that donates some of its profits to progressive causes. (Denys and I have had a long distance service from them for many years, going back to when they were called Working Assets.) They don't have their own network and are a reseller of Sprint's service.

I've long wanted a mobile internet connection, and we'll see if it's worth the cost. I only activated it yesterday, so I've still got a lot to learn. I'm interested in app suggestions from folks who use Androids. I'm also interested in hints and advice for a newbie. How do you use your smartphone? How do I get the best bang for the buck? (For example, how often do you use wifi rather than the phone network?)

Honestly, I'm so new at this that I don't even know what questions to ask yet.
randy_byers: (2010-08-15)
“Our long-term goal would be 10 times improvement in battery life,” Ceze said. “I don’t think it is totally out of the question to have an order of magnitude reduction if we continue squeezing unnecessary accuracy.”

-- "Code green: Energy-efficient programming to curb computers’ power use"
randy_byers: (2010-08-15)
Thanks to everyone who weighed in on this topic yesterday. Some great points made -- very clarifying to my muddled mind. Looks like I'll get another desktop and think about the merits of a netbook or tablet for the times I'm on the road, probably after I've gotten a smartphone and taken some time to see if it meets my mobile computer needs/desires.
randy_byers: (2010-08-15)
So it's time to upgrade my home computer again, and I'm dithering about whether to get another desktop or whether to switch to a laptop. Anybody have a strong argument either way? I don't have any powerful urge to have a computer with me at all times, but I *am* thinking of buying a smartphone when the new Samsung Galaxy is released here. I'm not sure I need anything more in a mobile computer than the ability to connect to the internet (which the smartphone would give me), although it might be nice to be able to watch movies when I'm traveling (and I'm not keen to watch movies on a tiny screen). I want to be able to burn CDs/DVDs. I want a lot of hard drive space. It seems as though most of my friends have switched to laptops, yet I just don't feel compelled in that direction.

Domain me

Feb. 21st, 2011 12:07 pm
randy_byers: (2010-08-15)
I finally pulled the trigger today and signed up with PowWeb for web hosting and thereby acquired a domain. I was amused that PowWeb notified me of other related domains that I could secure to "protect" my brand, and one of them is randybyers.org.uk, which is almost tempting, just in case the Brits really do end up importing me. (A plan is afoot.) I went with randybyers.net, although there's nothing there yet so don't bother to look.

Anyway, now comes the hard part: Creating a web page. Guess I need to download Word Press next. Might help if I had a better idea what I'm intending to do with this blog.
randy_byers: (thesiger)
This year saw two major developments in home video that are creating a fair amount of dissonance and conflict in my poor widdle bwain.

First (although it came second chronologically), I finally signed up for Netflix when it became apparent that the era of streaming had finally arrived. Now, I ended up getting the plan where you can have one DVD at a time along with unlimited streaming, so I've probably ended up watching as many DVDs through Netflix as I have streamed movies. The bottom line is that Netflix gives me access to more movies than I can possibly hope to watch and seriously undercuts my old tendency of buying DVDs of movies I was curious about but then ended up only wanting to watch once. Now I can watch them once via Netflix and forget about them. This has the possibility of saving me from the clutter that DVD collecting (on top of book collecting, not to mention fanzines) has caused in my little basement cavern.

The second development (which actually came first in my personal chronology), however, is pushing me to only increase my clutter. This is the growing tendency of corporations with large film libraries to offer their more obscure films on burn-on-demand disks. This started with the Warner Archive, and has now spread to other companies such as Sony with their Columbia Classics. These disks are not available from Netflix, and they tend to be the kind of obscure gems that cinephiles adore. For example, I recently picked up William Cameron Menzies' 1944 anti-Nazi film Address Unknown from Columbia Classics and Fritz Lang's 1955 pirate movie Moonfleet from the Warner Archive. Warner alone has put out such a flood of titles in the past year that I have had to nail my hand to my desk to prevent it from clicking the Purchase Now button on many titles I'm curious about but might end up only watching once.

It's not clear to me which tendency will win out. Warner Archive has made some of their films available as downloads that you can watch as many times as you want, but I tried it a couple times and didn't like the interface or the $15 price. It still seems possible, even likely, that downloads or streaming will completely replace burn-on-demand in the near future.

On that front, I suppose it's also worth mentioning that Netflix has been increasing the number of movies available via streaming that aren't available on DVD. I've been halfway thinking about doing a post on some of the great titles that are available this way, including Frank Borzage's Moonrise (1948) (which I've wanted to see for years), Max Ophuls Caught (1949), and Mitchell Leisen's No Man of Her Own (1950) -- or for that matter, Derek Jarman's radical adaptation of The Tempest (1979). Again, I can't even keep up with what's available on Netflix streaming, and yet my eyes (and clicking finger) still stray to titles in other formats.

It's a glut, I tell you. The home video market is undergoing massive changes, and more and more obscure titles are becoming available one way or another. We live in interesting times that way.


Dec. 1st, 2010 10:21 am
randy_byers: (2010-08-15)
So for over two decades I've been using a bedside phone+radio for my alarm clock, but it's finally getting to the point where the radio reception is off unless I'm physically touching the casing. Since I use the radio for my alarm, it's irritating as hell. In the meantime we've gotten ourselves a trio of cordless phones for the house, one of which is in my room, so I don't really need a bedside phone anymore. What I need is a radio that I can use as an alarm. Or am I stuck in a conceptual rut with this idea? I ask my Friends for advice. Any cool alarm devices I could use to replace my ailing system?
randy_byers: (2010-08-15)
So I finally signed up for Netflix. It was the streaming that finally got me. I'll probably take advantage of the DVD-by-mail system now that I'm signed up, but I prefer the freedom of streaming. Now I need to look into getting some kind of device that would allow us to stream to the TV. I knew that various game consoles like Wii and X-Box would work, but there's a whole list of devices Netflix supports, many of which I'd never heard of before. I don't know which would be cheapest. Anybody have any ideas?

To test the streaming on my computer, I watched two movies yesterday. The first was the 1981 BBC production of A Midsummer Night's Dream with Helen Mirren as Titania. I watched the 1968 version last weekend, so this was for parallax. One thing I've taken away from watching these two productions of the play back-to-back is that Oberon is one harsh fairy. He basically makes Titania eat shit and like it. On the other hand, he does ultimately solve the problems of the lovers, and he ends up blessing the three marriages at the end of the play. But his abuse of Titania is part of a dark undercurrent to the frothy comedy, in which love can seem largely mechanical and very malleable and impermanent indeed. It's an anti-romantic romance, and even the farcical play-within-a-play hints at the tragic possibilities of love. [livejournal.com profile] ron_drummond pointed out to me that this play is often seen as a thematic partner to Romeo and Juliet, which, as it was argued in comments on that earlier Shakespeare post, looks a lot like a marriage comedy before it turns tragic.

Then, because Netflix doesn't offer streaming for the DVD of Britten's opera of A Midsummer Night's Dream (I put the DVD on my wishlist), I streamed Were the World Mine (2008). This is about a gay high school kid at a private boys school who gets involved in a production of A Midsummer Night's Dream and then somehow creates the love potion from the play and turns all the homophobes gay. I had wanted to see this in the theater, but didn't make it. It's maybe a little over-determined in its messaging, but it's really sweet and well done. There are some very good musical numbers, and some funny fetishing, such as the scene were the rugby team (under the influence of the potion) does an erotic dance number. All's well that ends well, and the movie does a good job of using Shakespeare's play to explore and expose the irrationality of homophobia (or fear of the fairy).

There's a lot more Shakespeare to explore on Netflix. Next up may be Helen Mirren as Rosalind in the BBC production of As You Like It (1978). (Boy, the IMDb comments on these BBC productions are all over the map. These are apparently the best of films and the worst of films.)
randy_byers: (2009-05-10)
I'm looking for recommendations of cheap, easy-to-use digital cameras. Part of me thinks I should just get an Android smartphone, but I'm dithering on that, so maybe a stand-alone camera is finally in order. I think I'm looking for the equivalent of the old point-and-shoot film cameras. I don't want to deal with lenses or f-stops or any of that.
randy_byers: (2009-05-10)
Got my teeth cleaned yesterday, and discovered they have changed how they take X-rays. Now they take a digital X-ray, using a sensor in place of film and shooting X-rays through the teeth into the sensor. It made me wonder if they are working on software that can compare two sets of X-rays from two different times to track changes in the teeth. Although I suppose the slight changes in angle between shots would make that tricky. I also wonder if they are digitizing other types of X-ray shots as well. Has anybody had an X-ray recently? One advantage of the new procedure, according to the dental hygienist, is that they use a lower dose of X-rays.
randy_byers: (2009-05-10)
One of my concerns about growing my hair out is whether I can keep it trimmed myself without getting hair all over the place. It just occurred to me today that I've heard of electric razors that can be used in the shower, and sure enough some googling got me to this example on offer at Amazon.com. I'm wondering if anybody has experience with such a device (whether for shaving or for trimming) and how that worked out and whether any models can be recommended. It seems as though doing the hair trimming in the shower would solve the problem of hair getting all over the place, but maybe it clogs the drain frequently or causes other problems.


Oct. 24th, 2009 09:54 am
randy_byers: (2009-05-10)
It will be really strange (and oddly appropriate) if the singularity commences with the rise of sentient dildos.

-- [livejournal.com profile] lizhand in comments on her post, Mothers, don't let your daughters grown up to be reverse cowgirls.
randy_byers: (2009-05-10)
So I got a question today about an old MS Access database I had created when I was in a different job. Hadn't looked at in years. Couldn't figure out why the hell the query in question wasn't working the way it was supposed to. Futzed around with it for a while. Could not make sense of what I was seeing. Went away for a while feeling defeated. Had an idea about another approach. Opened it up again and starting futzing around some more. Finally got really frustrated with the Access graphical interface and went directly to the SQL and beat the damned thing into submission. I've been having to learn more SQL lately as we switch to a new reporting tool in the current job. Frequently I feel that SQL is smarter than I am, but it appears I actually have learned something. I'm feeling pretty pleased with myself. Guess I'm not an old dog quite yet.
randy_byers: (2009-05-10)
Finished the printing of AmaZed and CorfluZed last night. One thing I learned is that carl packs a lot of text onto a page of Chunga. When I printed Chunga last year I burned through black toner like it was tinder. AmaZed and CorfluZed used very little black toner in comparison, even accounting for the much smaller print run. I'm not sure that the Chunga layout has less white space than Luke's lovely layout in AZ&CZ either. It's all about the density of the text. I would never have guessed it would make that big of a difference, although carl has long said that he fits a hell of a lot of words into our pages. Nothing like empirical evidence to bring the truth home.
randy_byers: (2009-05-10)
It's time-consuming, this business of printing a fanzine at home. It's not something I can just set up and leave to run on its own. It requires almost constant interaction in the process. Part of that is because of how I decided to do it this time. When I printed the guts of the last Chunga, I used the duplex mechanism, but I printed all 275 copies of one two-sided sheet at a time, then we collated by hand later. The thought was that this would save computer processing time. For AmaZed and CorfluZed #4 I'm letting the printer do the collation too, which means I'm printing the guts of each copy all at once, then stapling that copy while I print the guts of the next one.

Since the covers are on different paper, I printed all of the front covers at once. I tried to do the same for the back cover, but the paper tray stopped working for that weight of paper for some reason, so now I print the guts and then print a back cover hand-fed, then add the front cover and staple it. Just to make things more complicated, I'm printing the guts in color and the back cover in grayscale. That's because when I printed Chunga I discovered that a little bit of color toner was being used on pages that were nothing but black text. There's no color on the final page or back cover of the regress report, so it can be printed in grayscale, saving some color toner.

What this all means is that I have to send a print command twice for each copy of the zine I print, and I have to make changes to the settings for each print command. This introduces more opportunity for errors, and I've made a few. (If you get an all grayscale copy, you'll know why.)

It's time-consuming. It's hard to focus on other things (like writing an LJ post, or working in the garden) while doing this. I'm only willing to do it this way because I'm only printing around a hundred copies.

I have no urge to play around with mimeo or other older printing technologies, but working at this level does make me think more about how each copy of the zine is an individual artifact that for instance is stapled slightly differently than all its twins. This does get me thinking about other ways individual copies can be made distinct. Rubber-stamping? Hand-coloring? Changes in paper color? Who knows, maybe I will end up getting into something like letter press printing once I no longer have the money to blow on toner. (Although actually the convention is paying for the toner for the regress report.)

Meanwhile I'm nursing the printer. And being reminded how much I love the taste of fresh raspberries and granola. Heaven! I love this time of year. Ah well, guess it's time to stuff a few envelopes.

Update: I did take a break, by the way, and went down to the Fremont Street Fair to hang out for a couple of hours with R. Twidner, [livejournal.com profile] holyoutlaw, and [livejournal.com profile] juliebata at the Seattle Art Car Blow-Out. Gave Art a wee bit o' the creature. He told good stories about the first days of fandom and fanzines. Loved the art car with the slogan, "Who profits from your self-loathing?" Now I've got my nose back to the grindstone. Ambient music on the speakers, cool evening air mixing with the stench of toner. Raspberries for dinner!
randy_byers: (Default)
So I've just installed Skype. Can anybody recommend a headset?
randy_byers: (Default)
Well, I'm certainly off to a rocky relationship with my cellphone. Perhaps this is a sign that I'm not intended to keep it!

So what's happening now is that, well, it's dead. Which is to say that when I flip it open, the screen stays dead, there is no happy little sound, none of the buttons work, and it otherwise appears to be pining for the fjords. I thought it was a dead battery, but I recharged overnight and it's still dead. (The battery recharging light did go from red to green, indicating that the battery is still functioning.) Any thoughts from the masses before I go back to the store and make an idiot of myself? It's a cheapo model that I got with my GO account from AT&T.
randy_byers: (machine man)
I told my youngest nephew that when he writes his memoirs, he should call them Why Did You Kill Me? This was something he said quite frequently while playing a multiplayer video game called (from what I can reconstruct) Call of Duty: World at War, which appeared to have a World War II setting. In some ways listening to him play the game was like listening to someone on a cellphone. I could only hear his side of the conversation, but he was talking (via a headset) to friends back in Corvallis and who knows where else. Being teenagers, it appeared that they were frequently just horsing around and randomly killing each other in the game just for the heck of it. He was in that game for hours every day over Thanksgiving weekend, and my brother told me that that group of friends use the game to plan get-togethers and other social activities, too. At night he would talk in his sleep about the game, still immersed. "Why did you kill me?!"

I didn't read the article, but I saw a headline recently about a study indicating that these multiplayer games allow teens to develop social skills. I can only imagine how much of relief it was for him to escape the dull political conversations of us adults to interact with his friends in the virtual world. "Sorry I killed you," I heard him say once. "I just wanted to see what would happen." Heh heh heh.
randy_byers: (Default)
University of Washington researchers are attempting to develop underwater robots that use schooling behavior (via direct communication with each other) for various purposes: "In the future, ocean-going robots could cooperatively track moving targets underwater, such as groups of whales or spreading plumes of pollution, or explore caves, underneath ice-covered waters, or in dangerous environments where surfacing might not be possible. Schools of robots would be able to work together to do things that one could not do alone, such as tracking large herds of animals or mapping expanses of pollution that can grow and change shape."


randy_byers: (Default)

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