Geek Out

13 posts

The statistics of Super Bowl squares

I’m taking part in a Super Bowl square for charity this year, and a number of people not familiar with these squares were taking part, so it got me thinking about what numbers and pairs are really good.

Being the geek that I am, of course I needed to figure it out. What follows is a bit dry – it is, after all, statistics. So if you want to cut to the chase, here is a quick summary of numbers that I believe from the results below are good and bad:

Best numbers: 0, 1, 3 and 7
Worst numbers: 2, 5 and 8
Best pairs: 0-0, 3-0, 7-0, 5-1 (yes, really), 7-1, 7-3, 7-4

Sure, there are already web pages with information on the subject, but 1) I didn’t write them, and 2) They didn’t always look at the numbers the way I wanted, and in at least one case didn’t seem to use the right scores. And I wanted to play more with Excel.

First, you may ask, “What is a Super Bowl Square?” The Square is a gambling device used in football (and really, any similar game with similar scoring and defined periods – the more “random” the scoring the better – basketball would be another good one) in which a 10×10 grid is laid out, the numbers 0-9 are written across the top and down the side, and people buy squares. The rows correspond to one particular team, and the columns the other team. If at the end of a quarter or the end of the game the last digit of each team’s score matches your square, you win the prize for that quarter. Typically the prize for the final score is worth more.
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Google says every site “may harm your computer”

Google some time ago instituted a feature that will inform you if a search result has been detected as a possible malware source. Perhaps as a sign of Google’s network becoming self-aware and trying to protect us from the Internet, as of 9:45am ET this morning Google is tagging ALL SEARCH RESULTS with “This site may harm your computer” and won’t let you click through to them. We’ll all be part of the Matrix next. Update: Looks like around 10:10am they fixed it…or its trying to hide itself from us…

Moving into the modern world – HDTV

I forgot to mention this – back in October, just before the World Series, I finally broke down and got an HDTV – which would eventually result in the shutdown of my little DirecTV TiVo network, but moving me in to the wonderful world of High Definition.

I had thus far stayed away from HD because 1) I didn’t see a need – I had a 32″ behemoth Toshiba CRT and a big entertainment center that wouldn’t take a big flat panel, and I had DirecTV – which to get HD I’d probably have to cut down another tree to get the line to the satellites. Plus, I had three hacked DirecTV TiVos which gave me all the features I wanted. Continue reading

CompUSA clearance sales – not exactly priced to clear

I’ve dropped by the local CompUSA several times since it was announced that they were sold to a liquidating company, figuring I’d see some good deals. After over a month, most of the discounts are still around 15% – but look closely. It says its off the “original price”. Apparently the original price means the price it had over a year ago, in some cases.

For instance, I was looking for a MicroSD memory card for my new mobile phone. I looked a couple weeks ago, and they wanted $69.99 less 10% for a 2GB card. That didn’t sound right – I checked online, and the same exact card was $25. Well, I checked back today, and it was the SAME price – but the discount was now 15%. I went to Costco and paid $24.

I looked at a 4GB USB thumb drive. They wanted $99 less 20%! Costco had a 3-pack of 2GB thumb drives for something like $45. If they think these discounts are going to clear merchandise, they are sadly mistaken – but I don’t think that’s their intent. As I was there, they were taking all the recordable media, etc. and taking them off the shelves. I think their intent is to liquidate wholesale to other retailers, and not provide any real value to consumers any more.

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…

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

TiVo, servers, etc.

Well, this weekend I went and upgraded my TiVo with a second drive. I had a Phillips single-drive 312, which had a 30-hour basic capacity. Well, I just upgraded it with an 80Gb Maxtor/CompUSA drive, along with the mounting bracket from 9th Tee (after a strange incident where they lost my order because it had a duplicate order number – and the owner of the other order was none other than Lukas, who I work with). I had absolutely no problems, and now I have a TiVo with 128 hours of basic quality available – and 35 hours of best quality. SWEEEEEET.

I also finally picked up a UPS for my home Linux box. I’ve been looking around trying to figure out the best support without shelling for a SmartUPS. I finally picked up an APC Back-UPS CS 350. I’m not looking for a ton of runtime – I just want a clean shutdown because the software RAID driver doesn’t recover well.

Turns out they only supply a USB cable, even though it supports serial as well. But, I had a USB 2.0 card that came with the motherboard. Tossed it in, and voila, with RedHat 7.3 all was detected. I also downloaded apcupsd, and after some aborted attempts managed to get it to work. So, if I lose power for more than about a minute, the system shuts down cleanly. Yippee!