Monday, July 30, 2007
Saturday, July 28, 2007
My friend is not the only one with a device fetish that becomes addiction. I once met a man who deplored that he had to carry 2 cell phones. One phone was for friends while the other one was for work. If he wasn't answering one, then he was answering the other. He told me that there wasn't a moment of peace in his life. I suggested that he turn them off for an entire weekend - both of them. No one needs to be that wired and, let's face it, most of the communications are inane crap. The man's face went pale at the thought (literally!) and he stared at me with a mixture of horror and disbelief. "But, I can't," he said. "I need to be available to make decisions."
"Listen," I told him "I'll bet your employees are better than you think. If they can't contact you, then they'll begin to make decisions on their own. If they make the wrong ones and that hurts your business badly, then you need new employees in management positions. Otherwise you're just fostering a culture of dependency that is as unhealthy for them as it is yourself. You need employees to make decisions and good ones. They need it to build self confidence and to grow. It'll keep them in their jobs longer and over time their decisions will get better, giving you more time to relax and take care of the really important things."
"But I can't get away from family and friends. They always need something."
"No, they don't. Before cell phones existed people got along fine picking up the phone and calling home. Or, they'd come to your house. Or they'd write. If you weren't home when they called, then they'd call back later. Or, they'd leave a message. There was a time when the answering machine was a liberating and useful tool. It allowed us to not only get messages when we weren't around, but it also allowed us to screen calls for people we don't want to talk to. You've lost that ability to screen calls. You think you need to be wired all of the time. You don't. And life goes on without it. Turn them off for a weekend. Things will be fine. Then try taking a vacation with the family and turn them off for a week. Life goes on. You'll see."
He wanted to take my advice. I could see that the reasoning was what he wanted to believe and hear. He paused and seriously considered it for a few seconds, but then decided it was easier to stick with the old habits - no matter how miserable it made him. "Naw, I can't do it. They need me."
I think both examples offer different rationalizations as to why people are addicted to the devices. In my friend's case, I think he finds a completion or fulfillment by being so connected. It allows him to remove himself from the drudgery of his life and to connect with friends all over the globe. The irony being that when he and I were out together we were at a concert and sharing drinks, which also took him out of the drudgery of his everyday life. In the second instance, the man said it all at the end when he said, "They need me." That's what these things are doing for him - fulfilling a desperate desire to feel needed. He's afraid to let go in the same way my mother was when I was a teen and later. He needs to be needed and the cell phones provide him with a method of fulfilling that need.
Another reason people become addicted to Blackberries, cell phones, and similar devices - though they wouldn't admit it - is pure narcissism. Who hasn't seen the person, usually younger, standing in line at a checkout counter in a retail store chatting away on the phone? I've heard advice to the love lorn, intimate details of a sex life, crappy banter about the alleged emotional trespasses of one person or another (some terrific back stabbing as well - worthy of Springer), and more. It's extremely disrespectful and rude to the clerk who is attempting to assist the customer as well as to the other people standing in line. Indeed, there is a retail backlash bubbling up. I've seen clerks stop everything and wait until the person hangs up. I've seen signs posted. I've seen clerks wait on the next person in line rather than wait on the talker. Sometimes a person needs to take a call (an emergency situation, for instance), but in that case the customer can voluntarily step out of the line. Virtually no case involves that sort of thing, though, and clerks know it and are taking ways small and large to stop it.
In my own case, I look at people rather unsympathetically when they tell me that "I had to take that call, sorry." My usual reply (if I bother at all - it depends upon my mood and how often I've had it happen that day) is something along the lines of "Maybe you should look into getting a voicemail account? Mine works wonders." Just yesterday, a customer who answered his phone said, "Dude, where're you at?" I was bagging his booze for him, looking away, and I replied, "Did you go blind? I'm right here in front of you." He looked at me completely befuddled, then he thought about it and got it and apologized. He was back in the store 5 minutes later with his buddy, helping him make a purchase. He apologized again.
*Sigh* The whole thing is a bit depressing. I don't want to sound like an old curmudgeon, but the loss of manners when it comes to devices is just amazing. People are being owned by the technology rather than treating it like a tool that you pull out and use at appropriate moments. Word is getting out slowly. There are now commercials before films about turning off cell phones. I've seen concerts stopped after a cell phone rings and the user berated for it. Still, addicts don't get it because they are caught up in themselves. It's a trick of the mind and the body supplies the proper hormones that keep the addiction flowing. It feeds on itself in an ugly loop.
And if that weren't depressing enough, along comes this piece from The Guardian. Snippet:
In bed?!!? OK, folks, develop the first vibrator with texting capabilities and email notification for the true multitasking addicts!!! It's a money maker I tell ya. People will consider it truly useful if during the email notification they get an extra buzz from the vibrator. It will feed both the sexual satisfaction as well as the addiction for messaging more people all of the time. A similar device can be made for men, I'm sure. The post coital emails will no doubt, be very satisfying indeed.
They're doing it in bed, in the bath and in the back of cars. America's CrackBerry addiction has got worse.
A survey by AOL and Opinion Research of 4,025 Americans over the age of 13 found that almost six out of 10 used their mobile email gadgets in bed. Four out of 10 said they kept them nearby as they slept so they could hear incoming mail. A similar proportion said they had replied to emails in the middle of the night. A further 37% responded to emails when they were driving.
But the figure that will cause most alarm in this God-fearing country is that 12% admitted to sneaking a look at their BlackBerrys while sitting in a church or synagogue.
Thursday, July 26, 2007
Sunday, July 22, 2007
Thursday, July 19, 2007
Monday, July 16, 2007
Breakfast at Indian Palace in Woodinville was quite good, by the way. Nothing fancy, but quality food, good service, and plenty of coffee. After eating there we went to the theater and bought our tickets. We had 20 minutes before the film was scheduled to begin, so we went to Barnes and Noble to browse and kill time. For some reason I kept thinking that we had 30 minutes before the beginning of the film. I was frantically waved out of the door once the co-signer realized that we were 10 minutes late. On our way over she mentioned stopping and getting tickets for a later show. I disagreed saying that we're probably just missing previews and I don't care if I miss the very beginning.
It turned out that I was right. We missed most of the previews. The only one we had to suffer through was the one for another Pixar film. That was pretty painless. Ratatouille begins with a short film in the classic cartoon tradition. The short features 2 aliens who come to Earth. One of the aliens is taking what appears to be his human abduction test. He's failing miserably. This short was very good and well worth catching. I won't give it all away, but the fun in it is very reminiscent of classic Warner Brothers cartoons. The kids in the theater with us laughed appreciatively at this film.
When the main feature began we were stoked for laughs. Ratatouille is the tale of a rat in France. This lonely rat feels unappreciated by his fellow rats and, in particular, his father who is the leader of his den. This rat reads books, doesn't hate humans, has a refined nose and taste buds, and has a passion for food. He wants to be a great chef and dreams of following in the footsteps of his television chef mentor, Gasteau.
Of course, as is typical of these sorts of stories, his fellow rats reject this desire. Eventually, a catalystic event happens and the rat is separated from his den. He finds himself on the streets of Paris and, as luck would have it, outside of Gasteau's restaurant. After a rather harrowing scene in the kitchen, the rat is eventually befriended by a young man. The young man learns that the rat can cook and together they plot to work as chefs in the kitchen of Gasteau's.
Much to the dismay of the head chef, they turn the restaurant around. It had been failing for a while, down to three stars, but the good reviews were beginning to pour in. Linguini, our young man's name, was becoming well known and his meals were sought after. This precipitates a call from the biggest food critic in the city, a man known as The Grim Eater (played by Peter O'Toole - would someone give him an Oscar, now?!!?).
I'm shortening the telling of this tale quite a bit. There are a number of side stories that all pull together to move the main plot along. As usual with Pixar films there are harrowing chase sequences and a lot of slapstick humor. However, what sets Ratatouille apart for me was the writing. This film is written very well. The script contains the typical one liners that only adults would catch (ie, the female chef in the film is referred to by her last name only once and it is Tatou; no doubt an homage to the actress Audrey Tatou), but it also features some top notch satire of the French, cooking shows, and critics. Peter O'Toole's review of the restaurant is spot on, though it runs a bit long and I'm not sure the kids are going to get that.
Also of note in the movie is the soundtrack. This is a very good soundtrack. It is not one filled with a whole bunch of pop tunes, but rather a soundtrack with original music designed to evoke the appropriate emotions in the film. There were several times when I found my foot tapping along. Please stay through the end and enjoy the closing music as well as the amusing animation through the credits.
On our way out of the film, the co-signer told me, "There are not many films that I want to own, but this is definitely one of them." High praise, indeed. I second that emotion.
If I had a caveat it would be a small one: the kids in the theater didn't seem to laugh much and neither did the adults. I wonder if the film is just over small children's heads. It could be, but that doesn't explain the reactions from the adults. We laughed all the way through it and I'll be hard pressed to see a funnier film this year.
Friday, July 13, 2007
FWIW, these updates failed on me as well. Fortunately, I recalled a similar problem from last year. It took me a while to recall the fix and find out where I stashed my disk with the software, but once done the same fix worked for me again. Caveat: Microsoft does not endorse this fix. I do not work for Microsoft nor am I working (currently) as a software engineer. My background is as a database developer. Be that as it may, the fix works for me and it might be of use to you. Note: this fix has been tried on my Windows XP machine and as far as I know applies to Windows XP only (it may work with other operating systems, but you try it at your own risk).
1) First, try and uninstall all versions of .NET related programs through the Add/Remove Programs on the Control Panel. This failed for me when I got to .NET Framework 2.0, but you may have better luck. If so, then skip step 2.
2) If the uninstall fails through the Add/Remove programs panel within the Control Panel, then download a program called dotnetfx_cleanup_tool.zip. The link points to this blog page by an engineer who works at Microsoft. Aaron Stebner notes on his page that all tools are offered As Is (Luckily, Stebner is still offering this tool for download). There is no warranty associated with the tools, so use them at your own risk. Having noted that, this particular tool has worked fine for me on 2 occasions where Microsoft's updates of the .NET Framework have failed. On each occasion, the tool performed as described. Save the tool to your desktop and unzip it to a location where you can find it on your hard drive. Press the executable file located where you unzipped the tool. A dialog box will come up asking you which version of .NET do you wish to uninstall. Uninstall all of them.
3) Restart your machine. Upon restart, after logging back in, you may find some programs that rely on the .NET framework (i.e. Quicken) provide error messages saying some process or other has failed. Do not worry. When you reinstall the frameworks the program(s) will work again. Acknowledge the dialog boxes, but don't bother sending a report to Microsoft (unless you're just ticked off that this has happened and want to bug them...in that case, then by all means send the log file).
4) Go back to Microsoft Updates. When the buttons come up, press the customer install button. Let it search for the required updates. All of the .NET Framework versions should appear under the Software, Optional category. Select only those items to install. Do not select other updates as we want to minimize the potential for failures. Install the .NET Frameworks 1.1, 2.0, and 3.0.
5) After the .NET Frameworks have installed, restart your machine. You may not be required to do this by the updates, but it's just good form.
6) Once you've restarted go back to Microsoft Updates. Do another Custom Install search. Once again, select any updates that are related to .NET Frameworks. You should see one that updates .NET Framework 1.1 (that'll be Service Pack 1 or SP1) and several related to .NET Framework 2.0 that have numbers like "KB928366". Select those only and install them.
7) Restart your PC.
8) Once you've restarted, then go back to Microsoft Updates. Do a custom install search. The final update for .NET Framework 1.1 should come up (KB928365). Select that one only and install it. You may or may not be prompted for a restart. I'd restart anyhow, just for good measure.
9) You're done! KB928365 and KB928366 should have been installed on your machine. If you saw any other updates at the Microsoft Updates site, or you just want to be certain, go back to the site and do another custom install search. If nothing comes up, then you've been successful! If something comes up during that search, then apply those updates as you see fit.
10) Burn a copy of the .NET clean up tool that you downloaded to a CD or floppy and label the disc clearly so you can find it again. You never know when you might need it nor do you know how long Mr. Stebner will continue to offer it for download.
Thursday, July 12, 2007
So, imagine my surprise today when I looked up her site and found that she's selling her CDs on her own label through the world's best independent CD store, CD Baby. Two of her 3 releases are available there! Plus, and this is the best part, if you purchase more than one copy of her latest release, you'll get both at 40% off. Buy one for yourself and someone you love! You can also sample that recording at the CD Baby site with generous 2 minute samples (not stingy like other retailers).
State Rep. Bob Allen was arrested Wednesday afternoon at a local park after offering to perform a sex act on an undercover officer in exchange for $20, police said.
Allen, R-Merritt Island, was booked into the Brevard County jail in Sharpes on a charge of solicitation to commit prostitution, a second-degree misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in the county jail and a $500 fine.
...Titusville police were at Veteran's Memorial Park on East Broad Street on a burglary detail when they noticed an unshaven man acting suspicious, going in and out of the restroom three times, said Lt. Todd Hutchinson.
An undercover officer decided to go into one of the bathroom stalls, Hutchinson said. Moments later, Allen knocked on the stall door and offered to perform oral sex on the officer for $20, according to the police spokesman.
The officer identified himself and took Allen into custody. Hutchinson said the officers had no idea the suspect was a state lawmaker.
"After he was arrested, he (Allen) mentioned he was a state legislator," he said.
Allen told a television reporter that what happened was a "misunderstanding." But Hutchinson said the representative did not dispute the undercover officer's version of what happened in the park.
Allen, 48, who chairs the House Committee on Energy, is married and has one child. He also is a former Little League volunteer and has donated time to the Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Florida.
Wednesday, July 11, 2007
The former Surgeon General for the Shrub, one Richard H. Carmona, testified for a Congressional panel yesterday on his experiences in the Bush administration. The NY Times article deserves to be read in full, but I'll quote just the beginning of it:
Former Surgeon General Richard H. Carmona told a Congressional panel Tuesday that top Bush administration officials repeatedly tried to weaken or suppress important public health reports because of political considerations.And there you have it. All you need to know about the culture of life folks.
The administration, Dr. Carmona said, would not allow him to speak or issue reports about stem cells, emergency contraception, sex education, or prison, mental and global health issues. Top officials delayed for years and tried to “water down” a landmark report on secondhand smoke, he said. Released last year, the report concluded that even brief exposure to cigarette smoke could cause immediate harm.
Dr. Carmona said he was ordered to mention President Bush three times on every page of his speeches. He also said he was asked to make speeches to support Republican political candidates and to attend political briefings.
And administration officials even discouraged him from attending the Special Olympics because, he said, of that charitable organization’s longtime ties to a “prominent family” that he refused to name.
“I was specifically told by a senior person, ‘Why would you want to help those people?’ ” Dr. Carmona said.
Note for all you wonks: He was not the only one who testified. Read the article and you'll see that members of the Clinton and Reagan administrations also complained of political interference. The difference being the degree of retaliation and level of interference.
Tuesday, July 10, 2007
Sunday, July 08, 2007
On Wednesday, I was sitting on the PC early in the morning when I got to thinking that I hadn't turned on Ad-Watch 2007. I had purchased Ad-Aware 2007 on Sunday, but left Ad-Watch off. My reason for doing so was that I was leery of the program. When I had beta tested Ad-Aware 2007, Ad-Watch 2007 had a problem with using up too many system resources. Several other testers had noticed the problem as well. My reticence about using the program, therefore, was justified. By Wednesday, however, I thought to myself that perhaps I was being silly. Surely the problem had been addressed before the fine folks at Lavasoft released the product to the public! At least, that was my reasoning Wednesday morning, so I turned the program on and set up it's settings to launch in minimized mode whenever the PC was restarted.
My first encounter with a problem came Wednesday afternoon. After leaving the PC on for several hours and walking away from it, I came back to find everything frozen on the screen. I could move the cursor around, but could not access any programs. I ended up rebooting and the problem went away. I put the PC into sleep mode and went out for the night.
No problems the next morning when I brought the PC out of sleep mode. Everything was peachy. My antivirus program, Eset, was programmed to run at 9 AM, so when it came on I left the PC and let it run and went to work. When the co-signer got home that night from work, the PC had once again frozen. A restart and all was fine. I went back to it later to find it frozen again. This time I shut it down for the evening.
When I restarted Friday morning, I found that the PC was completely hosed. I got stuck in a loop. The boot would go through the opening Windows XP screen, then begin the blue Windows screen. But before it could get to the dialog box stating that Windows was starting or to press ctrl + alt + delete in order to log in, it would reboot again. In other words, I couldn't even log on to the PC. It did this about 4 times before I decided that this was not going to be pretty.
Getting back on line
My first mode of attack was to curse Lavasoft. I thought about the issues and decided that Ad-Watch was the likely culprit. Still, I needed to narrow the issues down as it could have been a coincidence. My second approach was more practical - I needed to log onto the PC and unload Ad-Watch 2007. I tried starting Windows in Safe Mode. No go - I got the same results of a looping non-boot that I had gotten before.
Time to get out the Windows XP program disk and boot from it. I've done this before with the PC, so I wasn't worried about using this solution. I booted Windows and went to the Recovery Console. The first thing I did was run a CHKDSK in order to make certain that I wasn't dealing with a dying hard drive. A reboot later and I confirmed that the hard drive was healthy (note to self - time to do a back up; just in case).
The next solution I could think of wasn't pretty. I was going to have to "Repair Windows". Anyone who has been through this process knows that, while it works (and works well - kudos to Microsoft for this!), it's long and will require updates from Microsoft. Starting the repair of Windows XP is relatively simple: just get to the install screen on the XP CD and tell it to repair the product rather than do a clean install. Now, walk away and go make breakfast as it's going to take an hour or so, assuming all works well.
Unfortunately for me, all did not work well. A file on the CD failed to copy over properly. I got an error message saying that the repair was exiting. Reboot from the CD and try again. The second time was the charm, but that meant another hour or so of "repairs". At one point the program asked me to find a file for my NVidia graphics driver. This took about 20 minutes of hunting and pecking. It wasn't on the XP disk. Ultimately I found it on the hard drive itself in the Windows/system 32/drivers folder. Then it asked for another file to uninstall (if I was reading the name correctly) the driver and reinstall it. More hunting and pecking, but less time than for the first file as it was in the Windows/system 32 directory. "Repair" continued.
And "Repair" worked as advertised. It took my Windows XP install back to the point where it was at originally. Which is to say that, since I never got around to creating a slipstreamed copy of Windows XP with SP2 loaded, I was now back to an original copy of XP with none of the updates from the day it was released (note to self: get off your ass and create the damned slip streamed disk! Cynical observation: I'll do that and then upgrade to a new PC with Vista).
But, I was able to log onto the PC. A couple of weird things were happening, however. The resolution on the monitor kept changing on reboot to 800 x 640 (or some such, unacceptable ration). I changed it back to 1280 x 1024 and all would be well. Also, I kept getting an error message about the a DLL tied to the graphics program. Oh, well, problems to be tracked down later.
Time for updates
Indeed. The first batch - before I got to SP2 - was a mere 63 updates. This included one for Office XP, which is no longer loaded on this PC since I upgraded to Office 2003 back, well, in 2003. I had ignored that update in the past and was determined to do so again. Except, that all of this was happening before I had to report to work on Friday. I made an error and checked the box to update to Direct X (whatever version they are on) first. That precluded me performing any actual needed updates and required a reboot. Microsoft Updates wouldn't let me go back and uncheck the box, so I went ahead with it thinking I'll need to do it eventually as it might prevent some security bug in their programs.
So, update complete, reboot, same error message regarding the NVidia DLL, and same graphics problem which I fixed with the display resolution. I had to be leaving for work and was, in fact, verging on being late. When I got Microsoft Updates loaded again I decided not to waste my time with the custom load and clicked the Express button. Dumb, dumb, dumb.
For any average user, this isn't a problem. Except that I had noted that the Office update was bogus and shouldn't be in the list. Express update, however, doesn't allow me to exclude the Office XP update. When I got home Friday night, the co-signer informs me, after we're in bed, that the updates had hung on the Office update and she didn't know where the CD was to stick into the PC. I decided that it could wait until morning.
Sure enough, her report was correct. I found the Office XP CD and loaded it into the PC. Guess what? The damn update wasn't going to search the CD and find the correct file for me. I poked around for probably ten minutes and decided that I wasn't in the mood. I canceled that update and let it fail. It was number 45 in the list of 63 updates. The rest finished fine. Reboot. DLL warning. Graphics error corrected by fixing resolution. Back to Microsoft Updates.
This time I was warned that I needed to upgrade to SP2. Finally! I did the upgrade as requested. While it was working away, I opened msconfig from the Start>Run menu in order to make certain that my Ad-Watch resets had taken. No, they hadn't. Ad-Watch was open. I clicked on the shortcut and confirmed that I had turned it off for restarts and yet, here it was most definitely On. I clicked it out of the file list for start programs. All was well.
SP2 loaded just fine. Reboot. DLL warning. Graphics error corrected by fixing resolution (god, that was getting annoying). Back to Microsoft Updates. Checked to make certain Ad-Watch was finally off - it was. This time a mere 77 updates were required. I remembered to hide the Office XP update. I checked the rest and let it roll. Included was an update to IE 7, which having been using IE 6 again for these updates was a VERY welcome sight. Also included, as I watched them download was an update to the NVidia Graphics driver - uh, oh. Somewhere in the back of my brain was a recollection that last time I ran that update, it hosed the graphics system. I had, like the Office XP update, hidden it from Microsoft Updates so that I wouldn't hose things up again. Of course, Microsoft Updates doesn't remember that I had hidden it because this is a new install as far as it's concerned. Damn, damn, damn. No time to deal with it though as I need to go to work.
I came home last night and the co-signer told me that the graphics were indeed hosed. All of the updates worked and she rebooted, but that the graphics were stuck in 4 bit and at a high resolution. I tried changing the resolution on the screen as I had done before, but that didn't work. I tried changing the color range, but that failed, too. Finally, I recalled going to the Advanced options>Driver>Rollback driver button. I clicked, rebooted, decided that I didn't have the patience for any more that night, and went downstairs to make a dinner for myself.
One repair, one hundred and 30 updates, and one driver roll back later - spread over 2 days - and we're back in business. Some minor tweaks will no doubt be needed along the way. I just did a quick search to see if others have been reporting similar problems with Ad-Watch 2007. I saw a few complaints on the Download.com site, some of which are valid (it has grown in size a great deal, but that isn't necessarily a bad thing), but others are just complaint trolls. I added a brief review with my own caveats. My conclusion is that users should use Ad-Aware 2007 as they always have, but beware of Ad-Watch 2007 until the bugs have been traced and repaired.
Thursday, July 05, 2007
Thompson also called for the pardoning of Scooter Libby:
Thompson tipped off the White House that the committee knew about the taping system and would be making the information public. In his all-but-forgotten Watergate memoir, "At That Point in Time," Thompson said he acted with "no authority" in divulging the committee's knowledge of the tapes, which provided the evidence that led to Nixon's resignation. It was one of many Thompson leaks to the Nixon team, according to a former investigator for Democrats on the committee, Scott Armstrong , who remains upset at Thompson's actions.
"Thompson was a mole for the White House," Armstrong said in an interview. "Fred was working hammer and tong to defeat the investigation of finding out what happened to authorize Watergate and find out what the role of the president was."
Thompson and his campaign will attempt to spin these efforts as a man being loyal to his party.
Thompson declared in a June 6 radio commentary that Libby's conviction was a "shocking injustice . . . created and enabled by federal officials." Bush on Monday commuted Libby's 30-month sentence, stopping short of a pardon.
The intensity of Thompson's remarks about Libby is reminiscent of how he initially felt about Nixon. Few Republicans were stronger believers in Nixon during the early days of Watergate.
"In retrospect it is apparent that I was subconsciously looking for a way to justify my faith in the leader of my country and my party, a man who was undergoing a violent attack from the news media, which I thought had never given him fair treatment in the past," Thompson wrote. "I was looking for a reason to believe that Richard M. Nixon, President of the United States, was not a crook."He later admits that he was wrong, which to my mind points to a blind loyalty betrayed and tells me that I don't want this person as a president. The article is not altogether flattering to the Democrats either. For instance, we get an insider's view of the political theater that went on when the reporter notes that there was bickering as to whom would get to ask the question that would reveal the taping equipment in the White House. Thompson was allowed to ask the question and the Democrat who wanted to ask it says that he felt (still feels?) "cheated".
Wednesday, July 04, 2007
You know who's now done more jail time that Scooter Libby? Paris Hilton. Paris Hilton has now accomplished more in the eyes of the law to pay her debt to society than the VP's former chief of staff ever will for assisting BushCo in corrupting the soul of the goddamn nation. Isn't that cute? Cute enough to cause sharp stabbing pain in your abdomen requiring great amounts of scotch and marijuana to anesthetize? You bet it is.