Yearly Archives: 2007

8 posts

Maybe I don’t like Dell any more…

I’ve always been a fan of Dell hardware – they have great warranties, and the prices are comparable to what it would cost me to build my own, which is what I’ve done in the past. I’m not a computer newb – I know them inside out. I’ve installed Linux on a couple thousand Dell servers for a large financial company (no lie). So why is it that I can’t convince Dell that there is a defect in this desktop? Continue reading

Useless technologies – USB key to limit child’s computer access

Japanese toy company Bandai has teamed up with network device maker Buffalo to develop a USB key that prevents children from accessing harmful websites, and limit their computer time. Branded with Disney characters and playing a Disney video when first plugged in, it also limits the programs a child can play. But I wonder if this conversation ever took place:

“So, you plug the USB key in, and the child can only use the computer for what we say they can.”

“Wow, that’s kind of neat. But what happens if the key isn’t plugged in?”

“Well, then the computer acts normally so the adults can access whatever they want.”

“So, what requires that the key be inserted if the child uses the computer?”

“Ummm…the parent?”

“And what if the child removes the key?”


Perhaps it would make more sense if the computer was limited UNLESS the key was inserted, and the parents keep them locked away with their guns and alcohol…

Disney takes money, cancels program, goes silent (resolved)

Anybody who knows me knows I am a Disney fan, enough to start my own web site about it. I couldn’t tell you why – perhaps watching old black-and-white reruns of The Mickey Mouse Club with my dad or something. I never went to Disneyland or Walt Disney World until I was an adult though, and I’m thoroughly hooked now. I just bought into the Disney Vacation Club, paying for trips for the next 50 years for my family. Imagine my delight when Disney re-opened a dormant project that I wanted to participate in. Imagine my disappointment when they abruptly canceled the program after taking my money, and won’t tell me what happened or when I’ll get my money back. Read the full article for more details and updates. Continue reading

The DST Debacle – are you ready?

It goes by many names – I use “Y2K7” and “The DST Debacle”. If you don’t know what it is, you are certain to be affected. Last year the U.S. Government passed a law to change Daylight Savings Time to start earlier and end later each year. This year it starts on March 11 (this Sunday). And all hell may break loose…

I work with computers. I managed hundreds of them. So I know what’s coming.

Back for “Y2K”, a.k.a. “The Big Fizzle”, I worked all night babysitting systems in case anything happened. Nothing did because people thought about it and prepared for it LONG in advance.

This time was a surprise. Congress actually wanted to change things last year, but many companies piped up and said there wasn’t time. So they silently pushed it back a year, and companies began to fix things…but they didn’t really tell customers that they had to do things until recently. Major computer OS vendors sent out announcements last month – a little over a month before the change, letting you know you needed to patch your systems. Microsoft had a patch for XP available, but it wasn’t marked “critical” so it would get installed automatically until a few weeks ago. And what about those who don’t have automatic updates turned on? All those spambots will be an hour late sending me the latest stock about to take off, and it will be too late to buy it…

I saw in one case a vendor told you how to patch your system – but forgot to tell you that for it to take effect, you had to reboot (or at least restart everything that needed to use timezone data, but if you don’t know what that is, you reboot). A later update added that.

What about all the ubiquitous electronics you have scattered around your house? Some of them keep track of time.

I’ve got a VCR that can handle DST changes. But it won’t work this year because there is no way to update it. So my VCR clock will be an hour off for three weeks. And then again in the fall…and next year. Fortunately for me, I’ve grown past VCRs – they are only there to play tape I haven’t re-bought as or converted to DVD.

I’ve got TiVos. Four to be precise – one original “Series 1” unit, and two DirecTV dual-tuner “Series 2” units. For quite a while people wondered what would happen. They run Linux, after all – and Linux needed to be patched. But the Linux installed doesn’t have the typical zoneinfo files. The application actually runs in GMT, so it isn’t affected by DST – but it displays the guide data in your local time zone, so it must be affected somehow. (Technically, only the display of the guide will be off an hour, and manual time recordings will be off – everything else would function normally).

The three DirecTV units are hacked, which means they have networking capabilities they don’t normally have and I can log into them. There is an update from TiVo/DirecTV to fix the DST problem, which is fixed in the application, not the OS – but none of my units received it. It could be because they are hacked – but others with hacked units (and hacked in funkier ways no less) got the update. Not everyone has though. I’ve manually updated my units through other means.

I JUST received e-mail from TiVo regarding my original Series 1 (which still works great). They can’t fix it. No explanation, just that the problem is “cosmetic”. Why they can’t update the application in it I have no idea, unless DST is somehow embedded in hardware – and that would just be plain silly.

What about your digital watch? Most now have the date in it, and can handle DST. Well, that’s not going to work unless it was made in the last year, AND the manufacturer thought to fix DST…

So, be prepared. I’m sure I will be losing more than one hour of sleep Sunday as I get paged about some customer’s system not reporting the time correctly…

Update 3/14: TiVo has a fix for the Series 1s. The thing is, it wasn’t their engineers who came up with it (they said there was no fix) – it was a customer with a hacked unit. So with egg on their face TiVo has taken the fix, reworked it a bit, and will begin sending out an update.

My new old DirecTV TiVo Network – for now

Almost 4 years ago I became a DirecTV subscriber. It was SOOO much better and cheaper than my local cable company, which became part of Comcast shortly before I canceled. Plus they offered a real dual-tuner integrated TiVo unit long before anyone else considered such a thing. My, how things have changed…

This is a combo Rant and Geek Out article… Continue reading

Sony misses the boat with the Playstation 3

There was a lot of hype when the Playstation 3 was released…along with a lot of media coverage of shootings and near riots outside stores with people in long lines waiting for a shot at one. Few made it to U.S. shores (some say it was an intentional shortage). A second shipment close to Christmas sold out pretty quickly. Today I was at the local Big Electronics Store. I had noticed in the morning in their advertisement that they were to have at least 25 PS3s per store in stock today, and would give out tickets an hour before the store opened. I didn’t go to get one (needed some parts to hack a DirecTiVo), but I looked for one and didn’t see them. I did see someone at the register purchasing one. When I commented to the saleskid, he said it was “one of fourteen”. I said, “is that all you got?” His response? “No, we got fourty. We only sold 14.” This was about 3 hours after opening. So, if you want one, go out and get one. They shouldn’t be hard to find. Why? The buzz has died down (partially stolen by the quite interesting Wii) and the cost is high. However, if you want a Blu-Ray disc player, its $400 less than the Sony Blu-Ray disc player, and it plays games too. Not sure why you’d get the player at all…