Thursday, August 27, 2009

Stupid allergies and Stupid Microsoft installers

I have two major gripes this week. Allergies and Microsoft installer programs.

For the first time in months, I'm having serious allergy symptoms while on Flonase. The nasal spray has worked brilliantly since I started using it back in May. Now, all of a sudden, my eyes are itchy and watery, my nose has begun to drip, and I'm sneezing all the time. Frankly, I'm pissed off about it. I'm not sure which I'm more upset over... the fact that I'm having allergy symptoms or the fact that the drugs aren't working anymore. Insert lots of expletives here.

Next, I can't seem to get a friggin' Windows install to work right on my laptop. It's because it's old, 64 bit processor, and because I'm making the leap to Windows 7. There are no working drivers for the onboard video card that work with Windows 7 64 bit processor. I was barely able to get the 32 bit driver installed. My laptop is falling apart anyway. One of the hinges is broken, so the screen is hanging on by the other hinge. Some of the support screws in the middle are missing, so when I move the laptop around it freezes. Oy! All I need is another $500 and I can get a newer laptop...

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Installing Windows 7 on my Gateway MX6421 Notebook

Before you ask, the answer is "No, I will not give you a copy of the CD or a product key. It's for school, and I'm actually going to be honest about it for once in my life."

A benefit to enrolling in CSU Fullerton's Online MSIT program is that we have a group license to our own MSDN library. I can download almost any Microsoft product out there for free! (Well, it's part of my tuition, I guess, so it's not totally free)

It took a while to do, since downloading a DVD-sized ISO is a project unto itself. The initial download from MSDN is for an installer application that downloads the ISO in an encrypted format, which then decrypts it. This wouldn't be a big deal except my laptop had virtually no diskspace left and my desktop is running Fedora (decidedly not windows, in case you didn't know). I learned that the installer works perfectly under wine (windows emulator) and so now I'm downloading like nobody's business.

So the simple part was over. I backed up all the sensitive bits from my hard drive (which wasn't really that much) and installed Windows 7 on my laptop. Now, since I attempted to install SuSE 10.3 Alpha when it was first released (duh, Alpha) I swore I would never subject myself to early-release operating systems. I wanted to make sure an OS was stable before marrying myself into it.... well, at least stable enough to get by. Installing W7 was a big breach of that promise. Beta copies were released about a year ago, and full release was only opened to the market within the last couple months. (Yes, I'm estimating because I'm too lazy to go find exact release dates. Sue me.) Now I've committed to using a new, early-release OS.

It's so new that nothing supports it! I went through murderous hell this evening trying to get the damn display driver to install. At least I don't have the lame-ass Catalyst Control Center. I don't need another app to control something that the OS does natively unless it does a much better job of what it's replacing. Catalyst is there to replace the Desktop Settings, but you can't access it through the Desktop Settings panel. You have to open a separate program.

After about two hours of beating on the damn computer and scrubbing through the web for answers, I found that I could download the damn Radeon driver from the Gateway website. All they had for drivers are for Vista or XP. Funny though that in the end, the Vista drivers were crap and the XP driver worked properly right away.

As I get to know W7, I'll keep posting my comments, complaints, compliments regarding my experiences. Next step is to install Office and Visual Studio.

Wish me luck!

Friday, August 21, 2009

Blackberry Battery FAIL - Business card WIN

Sometime last week, I became immensely frustrated with my Blackberry Storm crashing on me again. I was simply trying to dial, when the screen went blank and returned with the little clock icon. This happens on a regular basis. The frequency is not very predictable. I sat down with my good friend Google and did some research.

I found a great article on crackberry where they allude to the 'paper trick' to keep your battery in place and, as a result, keep the storm phone from crashing. Although I knew the idea behind the paper trick, I never thought it was an issue on my Blackberry. It had to be the fault of the operating system. Dammit, I knew I should never have downloaded advanced pre-release software! I was going to have to wipe it clean and reinstall again. (Pardon the liberal use of bolded words for emphasis, btw) I felt certain it couldn't be the battery, because the phone had been known to crash when I wasn't moving it around... or was I really that certain?

After the third crash in the same hour, I get pissed and am prepared to call up Verizon for a full refund. I'd say "F*** this b***s**t, I'm switching to T-Mobile so I can get an Android-based phone!! Give me my contract cancellation and blah blah blah!" All ready to do it when I got home so I could use a land line to do it. Then, the words paper trick wafted into my consciousness.

First, to test whether or not it might be a loose battery, I gave my phone a good thwack against the dashboard of my car. Sure enough, it crashed. I popped open the battery cover, ripped off the end of a business card, and stuffed it in over the top of the battery. I repeated the thwack test again and watched my phone stay alive. I thumped the phone again a few times to be certain before something in my brain caught up to my hand and said Hand, hey, this is Brain here. Thumping a piece of sensitive electronic equipment like that is a bad idea. You really should stop.

It's been now over a week since that fateful thumping of the phone and not a single crash ever since. I'm finally happy with my blackberry again!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

First day on the treadill

I won't pollute my blog with my regular stats on the treadmill, that's what twitter is for. I'll update you with some major landmarks, like when I drop another pants size, lose ten pounds, or something similar...

The experience of getting the treadmill was, well, an experience. First, I found an ad on craigslist: a working treadmill for $20! I couldn't pass that up. After some emails back and forth, she said someone offered $45, so she upped the price to the highest bidder who would arrive on Saturday at 11am.

While parking the car, I rubbed bumpers with a rental car and had to give up my insurance information. It's a gamble either way, but I had to be honest about my actions. Either the rental company would overlook the scratch, or they'd report immediately to my insurance company and my rates would go up *again!*

Okay, so I finally get parked and show up at the place. It's an apartment building, the gate is locked, there is no security code, and I don't have a phone number for the person selling the treadmill - only an email address. Lucky me, I have my handy dandy blackberry and was able to send an email. (While waiting for a response is when I dealt with the rental car ordeal)

I *finally* get a call from a blocked number. Normally, I don't answer blocked numbers, but I was certain it was the treadmill.... and that's where the bad fortune ended, because it actually was her, and not a bill collector or telemarketer.

I get up to the apartment (which I never would've found with no information on the emails) and see the treadmill. It's perfect! Small enough to fit in my Explorer, big enough to handle my lanky stature. When I got home, I was actually able to lift it out all by myself and carry it through the front door.

This morning, as cartoons were blaring on the TV, I sat down and began to let my brain turn to mush. Then I saw the monolithic exercise machine looming by the front door. I wheeled it out, kicked it on, and voila! She works!

Next step is to get a desktop workstation going on there so I can get work done while burning calories. Since I'm about to start online classes, this will be invaluable to my staying in shape.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Water balloons are cheap

My girlfriend bought a neat gift for my son - a bag of 120 water balloons. He was excited as all hell to engage in some water warfare. Finally, about a month after the fact, his best friend came over to play for the day.

We spent easily half an hour filling up the tiny latex sacks of doom, watching most of them explode in our hands just from simple handling - filling them up with the special tip that was provided, attempting to tie them closed, simply setting them down in the grass... I think I popped ten for each of the first four that successfully filled up.

This can't be too terrible, since they ought to break on impact. So, I grabbed one and tested it out. I threw it at my son's feet, fully expecting it to explode on impact, soaking him thoroughly. Unlike it's fragile brothers, this one bounced on the pavement, rolled across the driveway, and landed in the planter on the side of the house, taunting me with it's stoic resistance.


Anyway, after so many explosions, I got a brilliant idea. I pulled out my big cooler and began filling it with water in between balloons. Every balloon that made it into the cooler survived until the inevitable. I found I could throw the balloon as hard as I could and as long as I hit the water, it survived!

By now, I had also gotten the hang of filling up the balloons, realizing that they need a bit of stretching prior to filling. This moment of limbering up allowed the balloon to expand at a proper, even rate.

At least thirty minutes of filling balloons, and our guest arrived, The two boys went through every balloon in less than ten minutes. I think they spent more time picking up the bits of balloon than they did throwing them at each other.

Oh, summertime... such fun...

Friday, August 14, 2009

The price of good spelling

For some strange reason, this reminds me of my mom. Not because mom could contort her face so strangely, or because she had a replica of a computer from some 1950's sci-fi show, but because she was a terrible speller. Granted, she never lost a moment of sleep due to the fact that she couldn't spell... oh whatever.

Funny that this product probably sold for an insane amount of money in its day (1981 to be precise, according to the copyright). Nowadays, FOSS web browsers automagically spell-check anything that I type, even blog posts.

Now as I see all this spell-checking software in everything I do on the computer, that makes me think: does the fact that computers assist in correcting my spelling teach me how to spell better, or does it provide a crutch so I don't have to think about it? It's hard for me, personally, to consider this since I've always been very good at spelling (the wall full of spelling bee trophies at home tells me so). I wonder if studies have been done on this. Time to consult the Oracle of Google for more information.

This blog post from the 'Language Log', University of Pennsylvania, gives some interesting points, explaining that language is in need of better standards, drawing on conclusions from how people wrote during Elizabethan times. I guess they didn't have Webster back then to provide a baseline (and no, I'm not talking about the TV show - Webster has been publishing dictionaries longer than most of you have been alive). Pervasively enforcing spelling based on a global standard adds validity to spell checking, in this author's humble opinion, but this still doesn't answer my original question. If any of my readers have any insight, please let me know.

Hats off to SpellStar for paving the way! (And thanks to for posting such awesomeness)

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Slow-cooker oatmeal (Thank you, Alton Brown)

Okay, among many other things, I'm really into good cooking. You'll see a lot of those posts in here. My two favorite cooking shows end up to live at both ends of the talent spectrum: Good Eats, which presents Alton Brown running down the basics of food mechanics, and Iron Chef America, where the best and brightest of the culinary world end up doing shamefully amazing things to insane amounts of food. I have a friend who works on that show and keeps telling me that I can go out there to see it anytime I want. If only New York were not so far away...

Anyhow, today's post is about an Alton Brown recipe that intrigued me (as many of his recipes do). Last weekend's camp trip where I grilled skirt steak directly on hot coals (rather than on a grill over coals) came out amazingly well, so I decided to spin another AB joint - Steel cut oats in the crock pot.

I followed the recipe as instructed, with the exception of the dried figs. I have some dried apricots that I considered throwing in there, but I didn't want to risk mucking things up on the first try. Next time, those bad boys are going in for a soak. Most of the comments on the site complained that the oatmeal burned up on the bottom. I found some burned stuff, but not enough to be concerned about. I scraped all the burned bits off the side with a butter knife and mixed them in. They smoothed into the soft warm porridge and left a distinct nutty flavor that I really liked. I strongly encourage anyone with a crock pot to give this one a go. If you do try this, top it with some brown sugar while it's hot. You won't be disappointed!

Update 8/17: Tried again, adding dried apricots and cranberries, and using 3 cups 2% milk with 2 cups water instead of 4 cups water and 1 cup heavy cream. This combination didn't work. The porridge was not very creamy, and the sweet from the dried frut was waaay overpowering. This batch burned a lot more too, probably due to the sugars in the fruit.

And so it begins...

I'm starting this blog just like anyone else. I'm writing a chronicle of my life as I know it. Things are about to change big for me as I proceed.

Unless I slip and make a mistake, I won't be posting my real name, or any other real names on here, in order to protect those around me - if you're a friend of mine, you already know who you are anyway.

I'm about to begin studies for my master's degree. I enjoy my nerdy job. I have a great little family and a lot of good friends, of whom you won't hear too much. Like I said, you already know who you are anyway. This isn't about airing dirty laundry, it's about sharing the funny things I see in the world around me.

Just keep the good news coming.