Saturday, February 27, 2010

"Safety" is just another word in the dictionary

This YouTube vid is in German, but you won't need the English subtitles to get the idea of what's involved in forklift safety...

Thursday, February 25, 2010

The one where I do a Good Deed

When I went to check my mail about 8:30 this evening, I found a violin sitting on top of the mailboxes for the apartment building I live in.

I gave it a couple minutes in case somebody remembered they'd forgotten it before taking it into my apartment. I found a label on the case with a phone number, and called that; no one was home, so I left a message on the answering machine.

Shortly after 9, I got a call back; the violin belongs to a lady that had lent it several years ago to a kid who's parents were musicians. The kid kept promising to return it, but never quite got around to it, so when she learned that I had her violin, the lady was rather pleased. Not 15 minutes later, she came by to collect it, driving a fairly new Jeep Cherokee-looking vehicle.

I didn't ask for any kind of reward, and wouldn't have accepted one -- except that she didn't even suggest it. Nothing. Zero. Bupkis.

Now, I don't know what a violin goes for (it patently wasn't anything like a Stradivarius or anything), but it certainly SEEMED like a nice enough musical instrument. Along with it having been missing for several years, you might think that she'd have at least offered something to the person that got it back to her -- but no.

Well, it's her karma...

Why eBay sucks

I just finished cruising through eBay while checking on general prices for a few things I'm considering getting, and realized that some of what I was seeing didn't quite fit under their category (I didn't "search" for anything, that is).

In a lot (if not most) of the technology categories, there doesn't seem to be any restriction against (or correction of) people listing items in the wrong category. For example, I went looking for a Blu-ray drive for my main computer (specifically, I'm after a reader/writer); stuff that turned up in the listing included:
eBay doesn't seem to give a happy damn about the folks actually buying stuff. Either that, or eBay computers aren't doing a particularly good job at limiting what's displayed to the appropriate catergory (which suggests that there's probably stuff NOT being shown, that should be).

Complained to eBay, they sent me a generic mealy-mouthed response. Aggravated me, so I went into a different category and reported every single violation I found on the first 20 (of 134) pages. Turned out to be over a hundred items. The last report I sent, I suggested that maybe they were getting the idea of what it was like for buyers...

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Cuteness overload

Damn, I almost got diabetes just from watching this.

The Philly Post-Gazette has a puppy that's being raised to go into the Seeing Eye dog program -- and they've got a live camera on the little guy (?) during the day. Even if the cam isn't "live", you can still watch what was recorded during the day.

Go look -- you'll be glad you did. :-)

Monday, February 22, 2010

Vista... DRM... Who the f*ck cares?

I've actually had a couple of people email me with something along the lines of "Why should I give a rodent's rear-end about Vista and the DRM crap? I'm still using XP, and will for as long as I can. Besides, I don't watch movies on my computer, anyway -- that's what the TV is for!"

My initial tendency is to suggest that folks actually go read the nice article. But since I know I'm a geek and most folks aren't, I'll address a few issues here.

  1. Don't care about Vista, I'm still using XP.
    That's all well and good... for as long as your XP lasts, and Microsoft doesn't fuck with it. Some may remember the "adventure" when MS went full-tilt with their Windows Genuine Advantage that they passed off as a vital security update. Do you SERIOUSLY believe that Microsoft isn't going to figure out how to start applying all of the nifty new "content protection" measures retroactively? Not only that, but XP itself contains some of the initial efforts at DRM that MS came up with (that's those "getting license" things that turn up); they've added even more to Vista, and I don't think it's unreasonable to expect that they'll get even MORE enthusiastic with the next version -- and XP isn't being sold any more, if you hadn't noticed, so if you have to get a new computer, chances are that it's going to have whatever Microsofts latest offering is on it... at which point I reckon you will care.
  2. DRM only affects the "premium content", not the computer itself.
    Well, no, that's not correct. All the stuff the computer has to do to "protect" that premium content is always laying there in wait for it show up. Regardless of whatever else you might be doing, the "content protection" stuff is still checking your video and other digital outputs every 30mS (that's 120 times a second, roughly), and analog outputs like sound every 150mS (24 times/second). Sure, you've got this powerful sexy high-end processor... but don't you think that it would work a little faster if it wasn't off playing with itself so much?
  3. Feh. It doesn't cost anything, anyway, so why bother?
    Strictly speaking, that isn't entirely correct. Implementing all that "content protection" means having to add more computer code (hint: Vista comes on a DVD, not CD), and more computer code means more places for software bugs to rear their ugly little heads. But then, Microsoft is SO good about fixing those rare mistakes they make, aren't they? The other side of that is there's an added expense for all the hardware that goes IN to the computer. You don't seriously think that the companies that make video cards, sound cards, motherboards, and all the rest are just going to eat the added cost of all that nonsense, do you (download this PowerPoint presentation by ATI, the video card maker, and see how often the phrase "cost is passed on" shows up)? On top of that, because of the way the "content protection" works, companies that make add-in cards are going to have every reason in the world to offer FEWER choices. The way it works now, they essentially start out by designing a high-end card, then figure out what stuff they can leave off to make progressively less expensive versions (i.e. no TV OUT, no digital video out, etc). The restrictions put on them by the hardware requirements of DRM means that they can't do that any more (lest their product not be accepted at all); the only "reasonable" solution is to minimize the number of genuinely original designs -- which they'll have to charge more for to make the same money.
  4. Meh. I only have to worry if there's a problem.
    Again, that's not strictly true. You see, it depends on what your definition of "problem" is -- and how different that definition might be from that used by the DRM (Microsofts software AND the hardware manufacturers). Mentioned in the referenced article is something called "tilt bits", and the description is entirely appropriate. Just like you could "tilt" the old pinball games and shut them down, the "tilt bits" in the DRM can shut down parts of your computer: software and hardware both are obliged to check for anything suspicious, and "tilt" if they find it. What's suspicious? Could be a slightly out-of-specification voltage (maybe someone is trying to "spy" on the signal!), a little bit of electrical noise at the wrong time (more spying!), a strange code due to a hiccup of some kind (spies!), a weird reading (SPIES!), or whatever the hell somebody thought needed to be included (they're out to get me, I tell you!). In such cases, the offending/offended part of the computer system will be re-started. Repeatedly, if necessary. Just what you need in the middle of a romance or horror movie, yes?
I'm not just bullshitting people, here. If you don't believe me, go read the article. Then read (with a sceptical eye) the drivel Microsoft posted in "response", and the comments.

“I've just had my first experience with HD content being blocked. I purchased an HP Media Center PC with a built-in HD DVD player, together with a 24″ 'high definition' 1920 × 1200 HP flat panel display (HP LP2465). They even included an HD movie, 'The Bourne Supremacy'. Sure enough, the movie won't play because while the video card supports HDCP content protection, the monitor doesn't. (It plays if I connect an old 14″ VGA CRT using a DVI-to-VGA connector)” — Roger Strong.
“[Vista] refuses to send content through the component output for my plain jane video files. So the content system disables all content through the non protected output. Its listed in the nvida vista driver news that vista's content protection disables this output [See “NVIDIA Features No Longer Supported towards the end of the page ”]. Many forum posts, search engine results for problem. Content protection is active in some form, as I can attest. The mere disabling of UNPROTECTED output while playing UNPROTECTED content is proof enough as far as im concerned.” — Kevin Cripe.
“By any standard, Vista's new DRM capabilities hardly qualify as a selling point; after all, it's hard to sing the praises of technology designed to make life harder for its users” — Matt McKenzie, Computerworld.
“The net effect of these concerns may constitute the real Vista revolution as they point to an unprecedented loss of consumer control over their own personal computers […] Vista seemingly wrestles control of the 'user experience' from the user ” — Michael Geist, Canada Research Chair in Internet and E-commerce Law at the University of Ottawa, Faculty of Law.
“DRM causes too much pain for legitimate buyers […] There are huge problems with DRM” — Bill Gates (reported by blogger Michael Arrington).

Ummmm... whoops?

Golly-gee willikers.

It seems that the school district accused of spying on students was just misunderstood.


Is true.

What actually happened is that the laptop was reported stolen. They haven't bothered to produce any documentation of that; we should just trust them, apparently. Besides that:
The image that brought this whole thing out? Whoever it was that told the webcam to take a picture managed to catch the kid while he was involved with the notorious gateway drug of... Mike and Ike candies.

This whole thing is looking more and more like the school district made an abysmal choice in installing the remote-monitoring software, shot themselves in the foot by trying to punish the kid for consuming what they thought (but didn't bother to verify) was illicit drugs, and are now doing a singularly bad job of trying to justify what they've done and put the best possible face on it -- instead of just standing up and admitting that they screwed the pooch all along the way.

Damn fine way to set an example, folks...

Dear MPAA:

If you want to start making more money from movie sales, fix this (click = bigger):

HINT: The answer is a whole lot closer to the first choice than the second; and no, trying to make customers buy more copies of the movie isn't the answer, either. Kthnxbai.

Via the Presurfer

Sunday, February 21, 2010

How to start a riot

It's a nice, quiet Sunday afternoon, and it's intermittently attempting to snow (we've had snow on the ground for almost 90 straight days).

In the interest of passing time (as opposed to passing gas), I got the ol' laser pointer out and started aggravating exercising the cats.

Being the older of the two, Elf has mostly caught on that the damn laser dot can't be caught -- though she can't resist trying every so often.

Radar, on the other hand, still thinks that she can catch it with enough stalking, sneaking up on it, and pure enthusiasm.

Consequently, there comes a point where Elf gives up on the chase, and just lays down while Radar is still in full catch-it-kill-it mode.

Being Evil, I today I ran Radar around for a little while by frequently enticing her into thinking she almost managed to catch the dot. When she finally began to get tired and lose interest, I simply HAD to try one last thing: easing the dot over to where Elf was stretched out and wiggling it around ON ELF.

Normally, Radar would have enough sense not to annoy Elf to excess; after all, Elf is roughly 3X her size. But after coming so close to actually catching the dot, having it wiggling around and tormenting her proved to be too much: she just had to try to pounce on it. Being the unwilling and unwitting pouncee didn't sit well with Elf, and she commenced to giving Radar a sound thrashing. Apparently feeling she was being unjustly penalized for her actions, Radar began to fight back. While neither of them used claws or bit, there was still enough wrestling, slapping, jumping-on, and other combat to last a good five minutes, followed by another ten worth of getting in the "last word" via exchanging ambushes.

Peeves - I've got a pet one

I can kinda-sorta tolerate poor spelling (I think it's essentially laziness, not wanting to bother to get something right), but it sets my teeth on edge when someone either uses a word incorrectly or gets words "backwards".

These are my biggest two, but there are others:
  • loose (not properly contained or improper fit) vs lose (lost or misplaced)
  • insure (warrant against damage, i.e. get paid if it breaks) vs ensure (take action before an event, i.e. keep it from breaking in the first place)
Okay, they MIGHT be spelling errors -- which just means that they should receive more attention so as to get them right.

Another thing that annoys me is the folks that tsk-tsk over crimes, but can't/won't take the time to get involved in stopping or preventing them. A couple of years ago, I was leaving the public library when I heard some guy yelling a block away. As I got closer, I could see that he was directing his ire at a young woman -- and more, that he was physically intimidating her (getting in her way when she wanted to leave, etc). I didn't witness any actual physical contact, but it sure sounded likely. When I got close enough to see what was going on, I set aside the other things I had to do in favor of keeping myself available in case the guy DID start any physical abuse; I also got a passer-by to call the situation in on their cell phone. The cops showed up, and it turned out that there were actually a couple of us ready to intercede if the guy had started anything -- out of the several dozens of people that simply stood around watching, and looking stupid. The other person and I both gave statements to the cops, and indicated that we were willing to testify in court if necessary. Nobody else could be bothered, or wanted to get involved. As far as I'm concerned, it's a lot like the political process: if you aren't ready and willing to be an active participant, you don't have any right to bitch about the results.

Some people's kids...

I've had several instances of some Chinese-speaking dildo leaving bullshit comments in Chinese on some of my posts. Rather than having to go in and delete the crap, I've marginally increased the security on comments here - you'll either have to be registered (BTFOM what that means, right now) or have an "OpenID".

If you comment, but don't see it right away, be patient - I'll register you (if necessary) so you won't have to fart around with it in the future.

You'll also notice some Chinese writing on the leave-a-comment section; basically, it tells the little fuckwad Commie assmunches to stop leaving their bullshit in my comments.