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After the Humidity Madness

06/20/2014 Comments off

Entry 06/19/2014 09:35:12 AM – Mentat 704

Finally!!!! After several days of warmer than average weather and unbearable amounts of humidity; it’s finally started raining here this morning. While the humidity is still up there (more than 80% the last time I checked a couple of hours ago), at least it’s not the oppressive BS that I’ve put up the last couple of days. Good thing too, given that I’m getting rather tired of being completely drained out come sundown then the temperatures drop to where I expect them for this time of year… Well that and I don’t have to suffer through one sinus or the other shutting down and blocking up when I move my head one way or the other. So, hopefully over the next couple of days it’ll be more bearable than it has been and I can enjoy Emancipation Day without it feeling quite so like August here in the Tundras of New England.

Of course the amusing thing in all this is that I’m currently over my mother’s house watching her Monster Child — Jack. The amusing thing was that my mother sent up to my Aunt’s house to wash her car in spite of it raining even up there in Woonsocket. She went up there out of sheer stubbornness because she canceled out last week for washing the car on threat of rain. Last week we almost brought Jack along so that he could get a bath (he’s smelling particularly dog at the moment), but the more my mother thought about it — the more she decided it was best he stayed at home and went to a groomer for a washing instead. Not that I blame my mother in her decision — Jack is too easily riled by other dogs, and my aunt’s little hyper mutt would set him off… So while my mother’s off; I’m treated to looks (and attitude) like this:

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I get looks like that because I’m not my mother and I’m not one to give him treats whenever he wants or needs. Yeah, she spoils him rotten and because I’m not high on the pecking order/pack order in the house, he often mopes when I’m over making sure he doesn’t wreck the house during any abandonment issues he might go through. At least he’s not begging to go out in his boredom before his usual walk time.

Now that it’s getting into summer, I’m trying to discipline Jack a little bit more and not be completely spazzed out during this walks. Also trying to curb his hyper attitude at barking at faeries. It seems that I’ve come to learn that he’s pretty myopic (near-sighted) as he’s gone crazy barking at smaller people (children and in one case a rather short Latino mowing the lawn at the apartment complex on the path we normally walk). Even at inanimate objects like lawn bags on the sidewalk if they’re the right distance from him. When he gets closer, Jack stops when he realizes what he’s barking at is not a dog at all.

Surprisingly, Jack does really well when he’s short leashed: he walks at the same speed I do, doesn’t do a lot of doubling back to check various scents from other dog-owners that walk the same path. Even maintains a sense of calm when dealing with Starlings, and faeries… But the instant he’s given more leash — off he goes spazzing out more. I suspect it’s going to take months for him to calm down given I don’t think the Summer Heat’s going to calm him down any.

On the flip side, Moe’s even more sedate with the summer heat and humidity. While he might not get up on me at the desk when the ambient temperature’s over 75 F/23 C, he’s still just as determined to lay on me when I take an afternoon cat nap. Which in itself is “fun” because it’s like having more than 101.5 F/38.6 C laying down on my crotch area. Worse when he’s happy and sprawls out like a napping toddler. He doesn’t seem to have much issue hanging off me head upside and purring to his heart’s content as he sleep as well.

In fact, today was the first day he was in the front window and didn’t freak out and hide when said “hello” when she walked by. Unlike the last time when she did that and he hid under the covers in the bedroom for hours. Of course, he’ll still hide whenever anyone else is over… but at least I think he’s figured out if whoever it is that talks to him is on the street, then he’s safe.

The level of stupidity is going up now that the weather’s getting warmer. For example, my neighbors across the street now rent the whole house, one of them made the “brilliant” decision of putting their two little dogs on the first floor… While this might not sound like a fail as I imply, it is when you realize these two dogs are easily stressed out and start barking at anything and everything that walks by or barks in the neighborhood. Worse, when someone walks by — they fly to the front windows wrecking the blinds in the process. I walked by, and one of their two dogs, just flew at the window and through the blinds. Heard them a couple of more times after that when I was in my kitchen and cooking my lunch. It hasn’t happened today as I didn’t see them in the window, so hopefully they’ve learned their lesson.

Then there’s the second floor neighbors in the house across the parking lot (in the back of my house). Seems that they went away on vacation or something and one of their two cats ended up on the fire escape of their apartment for the last three days according to one eye-witness that was waiting by the house. When I talked with the witness, I told them someone would come home in a couple of hours (late morning/early afternoon) and I’ll let them know… but he wouldn’t have anything of the sort. Not only did he continue to wait and watch but also called Animal Rescue about the cat. Sure enough, the third floor tenants came back and were able to rescue the cat from the fire escape, but the witness didn’t stick around to catch Animal Rescue to tell them that the cat’s all right.

That was left to me when I came out of my mother’s house and saw them there looking about the wrong side of the street. So after 10 minutes of explaining to the woman what happened and who had done the good deed, she was off.

Then yesterday, the neighbors across the street had a friend over in some monster pick up truck that I didn’t think twice about, until that friend decided to leave and it sounded like the transmission on the truck was about to fall out. Did that warning screech stop them? Well sort of. They stopped their truck in the middle of the intersection to the side road (Adams St) where they left it there blocking (non-existent) traffic for about an hour. Oh they moved it. In fact, the owner started his truck and apparently drove away with it sounding like the transmission would drop out at any time. It was a hell of a din given that the owner drove away at no more than 5 MPH even onto Atwells Avenue.

Thanks to that, my ears were ringing about 5 minutes after they had gone. Not to mention gave Moe quite the fright too as he couldn’t figure out where the sound was coming from.

Then there was the din a couple of days ago in the parking lot with someone that sounded like was setting off some sort of fireworks. Either that or had to break into their car as it sounded more like a window being broken the more I think about it. My cat completely freaked out with that and tried his best to hide under the bureau in the process. When I checked in the morning, there was broken glass, or any sort of fireworks refuse in the parking lot either.

And finally the highlight of the week had to be my neighbor downstairs. Now keep in mind this woman rarely if ever opens up her windows even with the impending summer weather. She’s rarely seen other than perhaps in glimpses when she throws her trash or recycles. My mother says during July and August she has an air conditioner in her bedroom window, but her windows are never opened otherwise.

She opened her windows the other day. For what appeared to be “spring cleaning”. Windows were opened and it looked like she had her curtains out on the fence drying. Since then though? Closed again. 89 F/32 C with 95% humidity and the windows have remained closed.

How she can do that is beyond me.

As for me…

I’m sore. Not entirely sure why. Old age, probably. Well that and the amount of humidity in the air. Sleep as once again swung back to “normal”. So much so that I seem to be making up with bizarre dreams in overtime. While I can’t remember them as much as I should, I remember enough to know that it’s been a sort of powder keg dredging up memories old and not so from my past. Some of these recurrences I know I caused by thinking about them at the right time before I fell asleep. Other seems to be off-shoots of those memories.

[Last Edited: 6/20/2014 6:26:42 PM]

To continue…

I’m finding myself modestly cautious about what I remember and when given that I’m finding myself highly self-suggestible because of it. It’s not just being the right frame of tired for this suggestible state to happen, but also just being… well, impressionable on the whole. I found one of the dreams that I had last night had been triggered by a set of thoughts that I had while re-watching an episode of Heroic Age yesterday afternoon.

For entertainment, I’ve given up (again) on Andromeda at near precisely the same place I did before (when it was first run too). Why? Well because by season 3 this show was seriously, seriously dumbed down when they ejected Robert Hewitt Wolfe from the production team and gave [Kevin] Sorbo more authority. I tried also to get back into the remake of Battlestar Galactica and realized it’s too depressive for the summer. So it’s back to anime for me for the time being. Namely Samurai 7 and Heroic Age for the time being. I might go digging for others, but these two work for the time being.

Finally I would like to throw a great big, screw you to the team at FourSquare. Seems that for the last couple of weeks they had left their app alone but was pushing a new social app called “Swarm”. Didn’t like the looks of Swarm and it wasn’t really in the queue for loading it up on the phone. Then today when I was out doing a bit of shopping with my mother, tried to check in using FourSquare only to find it disabled until I installed and downloaded the new Swarm app to my phone….

So checking out the reviews on the store and see people are not happy with it at all. A quick download and install I found out why… What made the Foursquare app fun (and sort of unique) was all the features that it used to have had been disables. Gone was the ability to maintain and gaining “Mayorships” at locations. Gone were the point tally acquired during a week of check-ins. In it’s place is a buggy program that leaves the GPS portion of the phone always on and draining power, and organizing through text and messaging — friends to join you here or there.

It’s a good idea if you’re a social butterfly or collect friends like tchotchke.. but for me? Not really. With the exclusion of one acquaintance in the Rhode Island area, most of my friends and acquaintances are nation and world wide. So that organizing feature Swarm offers is very useless to me. Add to the fact that you can’t check in with just Foursquare, I wrote some disparaging reviews for both apps, and deleted my account with FourSquare in the process with the same note that when they remove Swarm, I might come back. Probably not, I’m not a fan of any company that makes draconian decisions that demand their user base install more apps to test out their new ideas by destroying what’s already working.

So bye-bye and screw you FourSquare for betraying a loyal fan and destroying a fun app.

That’s about it for the time being. Until the next time.

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The Mobile is dead, long live the Mobile

05/22/2014 Comments off

Entry 5/22/2014 10:41:33 AM – Mentat 700

Oh it has certainly been a week to remember and to forget.

For starters, the middle front fan on the PC tower for the hulking monster of a desktop had finally given up the necessary lubrication and needed to be re-oiled. So confirming that the same method of fixing the issue was valid for newer fans as they used to be for the older ones, off we went a couple of days ago to Wal*Mart to pick up some sewing machine oil. And after getting home and applying the oil to the rumbling fan, the fan is once again humming quietly as it should A sound I have to admit wasn’t something I have heard in quite some time. Oh don’t get me wrong… it wasn’t as though it was whining and rumbling too loudly the last year or so. But now that it’s purring like a kitten — it’s like a sound I’m not quite familiar with. It makes me wonder if the fan had been needing a quick oiling since the time I got the replacement case.

So going back a couple of more days. It’s Saturday early afternoon. The coffee I had in the morning is completely out of my system, I’ve had lunch and my brain crashed. Naptime for me that doesn’t normally last longer than ½ hour. I woke up when Moe got tired of laying on me and crawled off to sleep next to me instead.

I grabbed my phone and hit the power button to check to see if I received any message.

The display didn’t come on.

I unplugged it and noticed that the charge light didn’t shut off.

Not good, I thought, this is the sign of a problem.

Deducing that some time between when I last used it and my checking on it at that moment, one of the apps that I had on it might have auto-updated and FUBAR’d the OS, I was able to get to the settings and perform a factory reset on the phone. It went through the usual screens for it and then one came up that I really didn’t recognize… It looked like it was having problems performing the factory reset and that the screen that came up was indicating a problem with the Micro-memory Card. It sort of came up again after that — but really wasn’t acting properly then either.

I dialed into AT&T Technical Support Chat on the website, I spoke with Kathryn who walked me through a boot level reset. This went moderately better… I was going through the new user set up but then when I got to the part about the wireless set up, it simply stopped. Ground to a halt. Tried it a second time, and I couldn’t even get to the lock screen. At this point the phone was clearly bricked.. Wasn’t even a “fun” paperweight either because I couldn’t access any of the standard operating system functions.

Kathryn was more than happy to oblige me with the information between going the route of filing a claim for a replacement phone or going the upgrade route. Insurance which I’ve had, is a great piece of work if you have the phone within the warranty period. They will take a credit card number to ship out the replacement phone and pay for everything else when they receive the broken phone. Outside of the warranty period, it’s a bit uglier and involves a $125.00 deducible. And as mentioned to Kathryn while she was discussing this option, I had this sort of plan with Sprint when I used to have the Angry Cricket and they shipped the “equivalent” as a replacement. If by equivalent, Sprint’s Insurance Company meant same price depreciated at the time of the theft but not same quality at all. I ended up with a POS phone that didn’t have a tenth of the features as the Angry Cricket. I bitched up a storm at them for, for which both Sprint and the Insurance Company said, “Oh well, you should’ve gotten a smartphone instead.

The other option was to go the upgrade route and for $36.00 (and any additional costs for the purchase of the phone), and re-establishing a 2-year contract, I could have a new phone. That in itself has a different set of pitfalls. I have a minute plan (with rollover) that is no longer provided. Which is amusing given that the current mobile calling plan involves 450 anytime minutes with rollover and my current rollover minutes is more than 8 days of talk time. I also have a grandfathered unlimited data plan that cannot be throttled quite like the newer plans due to a Lawsuit against AT&T years ago.

I thought about it for the next day and a half as to what option I was going to take, shopping through the AT&T website for the cheapest method for replacing my bricked phone.

Sunday mid-morning, I was able to contact the Insurance Company through their chat interface and they were able to confirm that to replace my Inspire would be with whatever phone they had available at the time. They couldn’t even confirm it would be even an HTC equivalent.

on Monday morning, I decided that the upgrade route was going to be the best (and cheapest) choice. Going back to the AT&T website, I tried to see if I could order the thing through their website and was faced with the problem I had some years back when I tried to upgrade my older Samsung phone. Because the data plan is grandfathered, it prevents me to keeping/replacing the data plan without human intervention. I contacted a sales support person through the online service and see if they could solve the problem by pushing the order through. I didn’t get quite as far as I hoped. While the technician was checking with their supervisor, my laptop had locked up to the point where the only option was to shut down Chrome altogether.

Fine, I’ll make a call into their sales department and start from scratch…

I got in touch with Sarah explaining the situation and like all sales people says that she’ll more than happily help. At the point where my mother had offered as a birthday present to pay the grand total of $1.06 for the item (I got Sarah to waive the shipping costs), She explains that there might be a problem given that her name and mine aren’t the same. So Sarah makes a call down to the shipping department to ensure.

A couple of minutes later and two attempts to getting back to me to ensure that she’s trying to get such an issue resolved, on the third attempt she puts me on hold, I was greeted with the fast busy that her phone glitched the call.

Taking a deep breath and calling back in the hopes I would get her again, I ended up getting Cody from the Texas area. Explaining the situation to him for the second time, including all the information I had gone through with Sarah. He got a chuckle out of it when I was repeating back to him the Terms & Conditions part of the script he was supposed to read to me. At the end of the call (that Cody didn’t disconnect), the order was placed, I was given the order number and informed that I would be receiving an e-mail for accepting the new terms and conditions and another when the order was shipped including tracking number.

The Terms & Conditions e-mail was received and I accepted it within 15 minutes of the call.

One day passed without the second e-mail.

Two days…

On the morning of the third day and not receiving the e-mail, I went to check my orders on the AT&T Website.

Cancelled!

It’s 6:30 in the morning and I’m seeing that on my screen. I haven’t even started getting cleaned up or ready. I haven’t had my breakfast or morning coffee. The good ol’ ADD his screaming into overtime with barrages of thoughts I wanted answered and strings of cussing that would make a sailor blush. Forcing myself to calm down by going through my morning habits, by just after 7 AM, I was washed, dressed, the house was in semi-order and had a cup of coffee on the desk while I started the chat with AT&T…

LaShanna’s the winner of this aggravation this morning… And she didn’t help matters any. She gave generic answers, she did not seem to want to take responsibility for handling the situation trying to hand it off to anyone she could. She couldn’t answer the questions as to why the order was cancelled. When asked if I could place the order through her and have the unit picked up at the store, she said to me that the retail stores only had “new phones” and not the one that I was wanting. I got pretty vicious in my use of words telling her that the site I’m connected through is telling me the particular store had them. She tried to say it was refurbished. Told her that perhaps if she researched it on her own site, she’d see it’s new.

What’s worse is that near the beginning of the discussion she copy & pasted a scripted answer that clearly sounded like she was closing the call when she shouldn’t have. I put the fear of god into her a moment when I requested to know which call center she was working in and what her supervisor was. While in the end I felt like I was going nowhere with her, I stopped the conversation before I lectured her at the lack of responsibility for handling the situation — even transferring it to someone that could handle it. Although I will looking be looking for a method for me to write to AT&T about such customer service, the story did however continue…

I went out with my mother yesterday to do my part as a mule while she picked up water (for the house and the dog) as well as various sundries that I forgot to pick up Monday when I went shopping for groceries.

I vented out my frustrations on this while at the same time came to the conclusion that I would make one more try through with the local store and if that didn’t work, my relationship with AT&T was going to end right there.

Calling down to the Providence Place Retail Store, I asked whether they had the phone I was looking for — and they said they did. I explained the situation I had experienced online and after being transferred to another sales associate the man told me I could come into the store and they would match the price and keep the plans that I had established. I warned him that I didn’t want to have any of my plan changed, that I didn’t want to have any sort of bait and switch, and I most certainly didn’t want any up-sell.

The man chuckled, told me that he hears that quite often from New Englanders and assured me he would get my order fulfilled with the littlest of inconvenience.

Thirty minutes later (15 minutes to the retail store as it’s a 1 mile/1.6 km walk from the house) I was walking out of the store with the phone I tried ordering two days earlier and paying the exact same price I was promised to owe when I spoke with Cody: $1.06.

The Inspire is dead, long live the iPhone 4S.

Honestly as I explained a couple of times over the course of the last 5 days, the only other phones that matched what I was looking for in the Droid Market (and for the same price) had an entirely different set of software: Samsung. I have enough software on my system (and HTC’s is currently on the chopping block for removal as that phone is now a handy paperweight). I already had iTunes loaded up on my machine, so with the price it became the next choice for phones. Not to mention that a majority of programs that I use are also available for free on the store. Well, save one… KeePass. Apparently that comes with a price tag (I refuse to pay) not to mention it’s next to impossible to sync up the KeePass file without using something like Google Drive or… ugh, Dropbox. I was aware that it’s a hell of a walled garden, but it’s something I can live with for as long as I don’t need to load up more software in the process.

Heh, then there’s the inconvenience and annoyances this morning. Thirty minutes after getting the phone fully charged yesterday, hooked up the phone to iTunes, get the programs that I used to use a lot on my Inspire into the Apps queue, the next thing I see in iTunes is that the iOS needs to be updated to 7.1.1.

All right, it’s in the queue for tomorrow (today). And I might as well update iTunes as it’s been bugging me the last time I’ve loaded it up.

This morning I did iTunes first and it went without a hitch. Did the software upgrade with the phone shortly after that. Took a bit longer to restart once the download and install had been verified, but I kept busy doing other things while I waited to see the icons of the Welcome Screen.

Ten minutes after that, I remember that iTunes also loads up the Bonjour file sharing tool and go about what I normally do about uninstalling that (it’s a useless service for Windows and as iTunes is loaded up on a desktop without Wi-Fi it’s bloat). Went about finishing what I started around the house. When I come to sit down to write this journal entry, I load up OneNote… I load up iTunes. I take a deep breath…

And iTunes crashes without me doing anything with it. I was able to re-create this crash more times than I wanted.

So, off to the forums to find fixes and ended up unsuccessful on all but one solution: uninstalling everything associated to iTunes, the folders within the \Program Files and \Program Files (x86) folders, restarting and reinstalling. While I’m fortunate that the music is stored within the \Users folder(s) and the configuration files (including the acceptance of the licensing agreement and configuration files) for iTunes are stored in the \AppData\Roaming folders I was back to up and running in about 20 minutes.

Looking back at all this for the last 5 days, I have to say that in spite of the occasional flare-ups I had handled my anger remarkably well. And even when I was angry, it was more a matter of frustration than actual anger. I did have an almost-rage moment this morning in the shower when I had a flash back to the time when I lived with douchebag #1 and had one of those moments of savage glee that comes from the thought of flattening his nose with my fist. Repeatedly… Though I’ll admit it wasn’t as strong as it was 6 months ago, and certainly was something I could easily handle.

It makes me wonder if that’s actually improvement. It certainly feels like improvement as I’ve noticed I’m not prone to being too angry… Loud? Sure.. I’ve always been loud. But not raging… And certainly not stewing as I used to for hours at a time.

I’ll be back in a bit to wrap this up. Right now it’s supper with the family and that means tonight. Homemade Spaghetti with Meatballs and Sausages… Until then.

[Last Edited: 05/22/2014 6:24:43 PM]

After getting thoroughly stuffed, I remembered the final thing I wanted to talk about: The Legend of Hercules (2014). What an absolute abomination of a film that was. I was only able to get to about an 1 hour 18 minutes (which incidentally was somewhere around the time Lutz gave his pep-talk speech to the forces that joined him) and even then it wasn’t to actually watch Lutz’ rippling pecs and 6-pack abs either. No sir, I was more interested in his side-kick that played Sotiris (played by Liam McIntyre) and even then I was writing slash in my head about him and Hercules as entertainment more than the movie I was trying to watch. Because in spite of the award Lutz got from People Magazine about being one of the “50 Most Amazing Bodies”, there was just something off-putting about him being shirtless. It was like his head was too round and his eyes weren’t quite in the right place making his face look… piggy. Listening to him give his speech, I got three impressions… 1. Lutz struck me of someone that was a fat kid in school that worked out to get over his fat. 2. The way he talked struck me that as a toddler, he was the kind of child to chew on those thick toddler Crayola Crayons… and 3. he licked chalk.

It was at that point, I gave up on that atrocity. Gone were the 10 Labors and in its place was a re-told story of Cain & Abel that had no place in this Greek Myth.

Well that’s about it for the time being. Off to watch an episode of Doctor Who and then perhaps play a game or two. Until the next time.

My Drive through Linux Hell

11/25/2013 Comments off

Entry Monday, 11/25/2013 12:59:59 PM – Mentat 687

Sometime last week while I was over my mother’s house babysitting her dog Jack, I had gotten completely fed up with my rather long in the tooth notebook. I had purchased the thing about 4 years ago (with it being already 1 year old by the time I had purchased it) and with Windows XP taking upward to 20 minutes to normalize coupled with the support for XP coming to a close soon… I thought it a good time to extend the life of the notebook by installing Linux instead of Microsoft. After all, I have moderate experience in Linux from years ago when I was experimenting with dual boot systems on my desk-side and while the tips and tricks I had learned from the UI might have been a bit rusty, at the time I was pretty confident that I could slosh through an installation and getting a few more years from the notebook.

Heh, I couldn’t be more misplaced with this confidence, let me tell you.

First off, I decided that choosing the xfce UI would be best mainly because I’m running a Notebook with a 1 GHz Atom Processor with 1 GB of RAM. Xfce has a low overhead memory requirements and lower need for processor. But then again I only learned this when I loaded up the LTS version of Ubuntu and ended up breaking Unity within an hour of installation… That and Mint Cinnamon which while being faster than Ubuntu 12.04 LTS seemed to lag in weird places and at arbitrary times.

Testing was sort of a strange combination of a standard and capriciousness. The standards I tried to use when reviewing each of the distros that I had tried out of speed of load up/programs once at the desktop, familiarity with the guts of the OS, ease of finding solutions to problems (using a standard Google Search), and familiarity with the installed hardware just to name a couple off the top of my head. The capriciousness was more along the lines of prejudiced dislike of experience I’ve had from working with Ubuntu from years ago… This included:

1. My inherent disgust and repulsion to the Ubuntu community at large. Saying “it worked for me” when someone posted a question for troubleshooting is not helping the original poster nor giving a solution to the problem posed. An attitude I see is still propagating the Forums even to this day.

2. The draconian method that Canonical did for changing the operating system by adding features that the community at large didn’t want in the first place. A move that I often described as the best cock-sucker or ass-kisser getting what he wanted. The “Software Manager” being the prime candidate for proof to this given the amount of heat that generated when it was added in the one of the October releases. Or better still changing the ALSA sound drivers to PulseAudio; a move that even the developers in Dev Tracking forums said “…was not ready for release at the present time…”

3. My personal favorite, how close the distro was to forking from Ubuntu. The closer the fork, the more suspicious I was of it.

So with this in mind, anything Canonical was off the slate to testing on the notebook. Oh, but even then don’t let that fool you… I tried them anyway — like the masochist that I can be. As I said a couple of moments ago, I downloaded Ubuntu 12.04 LTS and broke Unity within an hour. Pretty awesome too given the community gave instructions for how to recover it and they only made things worse. Xubuntu 12.04 LTS while being the xfce UI was still stalling in places that it shouldn’t, and 13.10… HA HA HA.. Let’s just say that it didn’t like my laptop hardware and shouldn’t, and 13.10… Let’s just say that it didn’t like my laptop hardware and seemed to think that dimming the screen constantly was good for it. So good for it in fact, my laptop was overheating from it constantly being on.

Following is the list of Distros I worked with, and my initial responses to them:

Fedora: I actually considered this one for a short time, in spite of the fact that it would be like learning new commands (YUM instead of APT-GET, etc.)… Plopping in the live “CD” (this notebook is capable of booting off a thumb drive like my desktop) I realized that the Live couldn’t and wouldn’t find the wireless even after trying to check through the web on my desk-side, so I continued to try to install it anyway… When it got to formatting the drive and demanding not only should I encrypt the HDD but also to install LVM and encrypt the drive in spite of the fact that no other Gnome/KDE/XFCE that I’ve dabbled with needed it… I stopped right there and then. Too much learning, and couple this with what they say about the cons for Fedora on Distrowatch that “…occasionally alienate some desktop users…” was a major turn off. The thumb-drive was formatted as quick as you can say, “…the hell with that…”

SolydX: At first I thought that this was going to be an all right installation. Sure it’s a fork off of Ubuntu and contains within it the dreaded “Software Manager”, but unlike Xubuntu, it didn’t have the wretched push for Steam — something that this computer definitely doesn’t need. I went through the installation the first time, choosing to install their proprietary “Plymouth” (which is basically the black screen that blocks seeing all the tty commands running prior to the X UI loading up), which was broke in the distro (Yes, I checked the MD5 and it was all right). Rebooted and tried again, this time un-checking Plymouth. Loaded up like a charm. So I began to check for which programs I wanted to load up. 10 minutes into that, I get a notification from the “Update Manager” that a whopping 460 MiB needed to be patched in for the update. Not good. Did it and upon reboot, saw that the GRUB-loader had added two more lines to choose from. Basically like Ubuntu used to, whenever a major patching was done, it gave the user the choice between the new version and the old to boot up from. Definitely not good. So, I chose the newer version and what do my eyes see when it’s loading up… Debian screens from a previous attempt at the program. Then at desktop instead of seeing SolydX’s info, it was a Debian desktop before it swapped over to SolydX. Gone, gone, gone, gone, gone!

Debian Live CD: what a love/hate I have for this Distro. I attempted installing it several times. The Live CD looked good.. While the windows were a bit chunky and looking more than a bit out-dated (compared to Mint, Xubuntu (in LTS and cutting-edge distros), even SolydX it had the speed even booting from USB that made it appealing. I knew from friends that Debian can be more than a little bit puritanical about software to load up on its Operating System… It’s sources.list only tends to point to Debian software that the team believes should be run on it. The live CD seemed to have worked up until it got to the GRUB loader and then stopped working. GRUB wouldn’t load no matter what instructions I found on the Internet. 45 minutes of trying to trudge through fixing this, I gave up and moved on.

Mint: Another Ubuntu fork. The masochist that I am tried to use the “Software Manager” to run the installs, hoping — perhaps even praying — that since it was first introduced, things would work out for the best for it. Nope. Didn’t. Not at all.. I watched it tick through some of the programs that said it had successfully installed: only ended up being partially to not at all installed. Sometimes it even stopped and didn’t install anything else. When I went checking on the packages that only half-loaded in Synaptic I marked for re-installation and only then did they get fixed. Not a promising start, but at least I was able to fix things. The clincher though was loading up Chrome. Slogged down the system to the point of unusable. I understand how Chrome works in Linux and Windows 7 – it checks for updates upon first load up. That’s part of the reason why I stopped using XP because it took a full 10 minutes for Chrome to finish checking (which only made disk-writing take all that much longer to stop). With Linux? It seemed to check for updates longer than it should and trying to use it seemed to have put a burden on the system itself. Gave that up and said, screw it… It’s on the back burner unless I can find the system itself. Gave that up and said, screw it… something better.

ZenWalk: Started off not too promising right from the start when it told me that it couldn’t recognize the resolution of the monitor. Giving me a list to choose from all of the options were standard 4:3 monitors (squares, not widescreens). I didn’t like that at all, but I continued with the installation. Got to the part where I had to choose what sort of installation I wanted to perform with it — and in spite of choosing the guided/complete install for ZenWalk it still kicked into fdisk for formatting the drive. Didn’t like that as it was more occult and menu driven (really 100+ choices for format times is too much) so I decided to abort the installation. The thing about Linux installations that I’ve experienced so far is that when you reach the disc formatting, unless you say “yes” to commit to these changes, the drive is basically left the way it was prior to boot up from USB/CD/DVD. Not with ZenWalk. No, it made changes to the disk and did so removing 6 GiB of the total 120 GiB for its own installation in spite of aborting.

Because of ZenWalk I was up against a wall trying to get this to work because I prefer using Windows’ FDISK to fix the problem (it’s far easier to use than any Linux command prompt program… I gave up and hoped that one of the other Linux distros would fix what this horrible Distro did.

Debian Install DVD: this is where the love (turns to anger) came in. Debian ignored the partitions that ZenWalk had laid out and put everything back to normal: 118 GiB to the main partition. 1 GiB to the Swap and 1 GiB to extended (basically the catalog for ext4). Grub loaded up from the installation USB without a hitch and things were running the way I had expected and seen from the Live CD. I began going through adding more sources to the sources.list and then installing programs that I wanted installed to make my notebook “workable”. So just when I was done the first round of installs, I reached the point where I had installed KeePass and needed to get to my passwords to load up my mail accounts… Popped in the Thumb-drive.. Nothing. Didn’t auto-mount. Checked the settings in the Desktop Settings, checked them on. Did a restart just to be on the safe side. Still nothing. An hour and a half later of troubleshooting a half-dozen alternatives, all the while watching in fdisk Debian changing the drive assignment from /dev/sdb1, sdc1, sdd1 and on and on and on… I gave up.

And the winner is…

Mint… At least for the moment. After doing everything from command line (and sometimes from Synaptic Package Manager), not loading up Chrome (at all), and generally taking my time working with Firefox, this time it seems to be doing rather well. Got a strange start-up and shut-down splash showing Ubuntu 15, but according to this forum thread I realize it might have been my own doing given that I was hellbent on installing the latest version of Red Notebook (which uses Ubuntu PPAs)… At the time of this entry, I went with shutting down the splash screen and that makes me happier. Not to mention it gives the illusion as though it’s working faster given that it’s flying through the daemon launches and shut downs. If I have to reinstall… eh.. It’ll be another distro.. Just not sure which.

Anyway, that’s the reason why I haven’t been around for a bit making my fractals. Now that everything’s back to working on the notebook, I’ll be back to my usual dailies.. Off to make supper. Until the next time.

A moment of disillusionment from an old Gaymer

04/06/2013 Comments off

Entry 04/06/2013 07:21:28 AM – Mentat 684

In a democracy dissent is an act of faith. Like medicine, the test of its value is not in its taste, but in its effects.” – J. William Fulbright

While yesterday was one of those sort of days where I was up and about more than sitting down and calm, I had an incident that gave me a bit of humor and a lot of pause. During one of those interludes while C was off with friends, I decided to play a bit of Star Trek Online because I needed to grind a bit of Dilithium and it’s a fairly good way of adding a bit of routine (and order) to an otherwise jittery day. Here is a bit of the back story to this to understand where I’m coming from in this.

I had left the Fleet that I had been part of because of a difference of opinion on what can and cannot be talked about and me having a problem with anyone censoring individuals or a group, took exception when one particularly conversation (that wasn’t in the least bit offensive) was being censored by some rather loud detractors. So, I went on the market to find another Fleet that I could dump my excess materials, equipment, monies and what have you… and went in search of other gaymers. The largest of the LGBT fleets that I had come across was Stonewall Fleet, so much so that they had their own chat channel within the game that I could configure and join. I remember doing so (configuring and joining the chat channel and perhaps later on, the fleet) with the intent of getting a feel of the people before. Sort of a try before you buy, as the saying goes.

About a week or two into watching and then later interacting with the chat, I got into my first scuffle with a bunch of the more uptight folk in the group. I made a comment about leaving for Star Wars: The Old Republic to troll the kids there, and they got offensive about it. Sure, I know I worded it wrong and made the mistake of assuming that people would understand my nature given I often snarked folk in the week I had been actively chatting, but they went on the attack saying it’s wrong. After 30 minutes of my explaining why I do what I do (I only troll kids that are being tits. After all, I work on the belief, if you’re going to be a tit, you’re going to be treated as such). Only one of the more aggressive understood why I was the way I was (even if he didn’t condone it), while the rest were remaining on the offensive. Basically doing precisely what I do for the reasons why I do it, and denying their nature in the process.

At that point, I decided I was going to remain a free agent and not join their fleet and waited out for better offers.

I did get that better offer from a good acquaintance in Ireland (no, not you Glenn) who had also left the fleet we had been part of because of differences in play styles with the management there and ended up joining a rather nice bunch of folk from the fleet of LaFamilia (otherwise known as “The Family”). I tagged along because I have a good rapport with the smarmy git and the fact that he generally knows how to pick them even if things fall through at a later time. Though I kept Stonewall Fleet Chat active because I wasn’t sure what the mix was with the Fleet, and admittedly it’s nice to be able to chat, be camp, and generally light with folk that can understand some of the humor I’ve come to appreciate (and am familiar with).

Then comes last night. I was in a fairly good mood, I wanted to grind a bit. The queerfolk where in their usual sort of high spirits mood. There was a bit of camp, and a bit of heckling going on. I sort of made a couple of comments, but paid more attention to the grinding for Dilithium that I was doing. And then it hit me while I was heading towards the Asteroid Mine that there was something happening on Bajor. Some sort of gathering. Several of the folk were making cutesy comments that the “speechifier” was going to be speechifying.

I was mining on the Asteroid, and there it was in it’s full and vomitus glory… The leader of the Stonewall Fleet was prattling on like a politician running for a term in office.

I said something about being a politician’s son and that the last thing that should be going on is any sort of aggrandizing grandstanding in a public chat. That it’s better to get to the point.

The leader of the fleet send a scathing whisper to me accusing me of being disrespectful and that he would mute me if I continued.

For one brief moment, I thought about copying & pasting that comment to the Public chat calling out that I must’ve hit a nerve if this “speechifier” is making threats in private. But then I thought twice about it, knowing full well of doing such a thing would cause instantaneous flaming both from the leader as well as whatever quiet spectators were sitting there watching.

In the meantime, several of the fleet called me a “d-bag” for being so “disrespectful”.

I shot back quickly that I’m not a douchebag, and clarified that I generally am good to get along with except when someone is being a grandstanding blow-hard. I went on further to say that he should get to the point as this is a game, not a platform for a political campaign.

The leader went on to say something about “welcoming diversity to the fleet.”

To which I countered, “except when that opinion is dissenting” and got myself banned from their happy little chat.

Admittedly I didn’t realize that I was banned. It had simply gone quiet and I had assumed that the lot of them had moved whatever long-winded speech that was going on to Ventrilo. But after a brief respite from the game, going to chat with C for a bit before he headed to bed and coming back to finish off the grinding and the Duty Officer Missions that I wanted to queue up, realized that it had been too quiet for that Stonewall Fleet’s chat channel. So when I went to look for the channel information, my access to it had been removed. When I tried to re-join I had been denied.

I laughed in LaFamilia’s fleet chat and told them the story, including the banning. There was a bit of chat, and a bit of explaining, but overall at the time before I headed to bed I found it sardonically funny. So did the members of my fleet (though they were a bit confused about how I pulled of being part of 2 different fleet chats).

This morning though? I’m finding it sad. I mean here we are in the 21st century, and what I saw of the leader of this group and the repercussions of my actions to be antiquated. This is something I would’ve expect in the 80s and not now. After all, diversity as it has been taught to me is to accept the good and the bad of the community. It means that sometimes, we’re going to encounter people of an opinion that is completely counter to our own.

I had learned through my years of wandering the planet that a good leader (not to mention a strong one), will be able to roll not only with those of like mind, but also those of an opinion completely counter to their own. To be able to address the group as well as the hecklers, in a way that can bring them all together. Well, sometimes anyway. There are just some that are impossible to please.

This leader of this group however, isn’t one of those that could be qualified as a good leader. If anything, he’s one of the most common of the “leaders” I’ve seen since my days on IRC.

So as I continue to write this entry, I recalled a lot of the familiar patterns of seeing this in the 23 years of being online. The cliquishness of gay men’s (and sometimes even lesbian) groups. The hair-trigger attitude of dissenting voices to whatever the head of the group encounters them. The banning/removing/ostracizing of whatever dissenting voice that comes up — automatically assuming that dissention is equivalent to “the enemy”. That this was typical of someone that has been bullied and picked on that created a power base of being their own Queen of Hearts in their own little kingdom.

Sitting here now, it raises the question: Have we as the abused (from years of being put down for being gay) become the very thing we hated? The abuser? That in our striving for equality, have we lost our ability to understand the very tolerances we’re demanding from others?

I hope not. Because if we have, this is going to be a very dark day in the future when (and if) we get those equalities we’ve been fighting for, all these years.

Anyway, I’m off for the time being. Time to watch a bit of television, make lunch and have a moment or two of peace. Until the next time.

A First Impressions Review of Firefox 4

03/24/2011 Comments off

Let’s face it… When it comes to software upgrades, there are some that I’m rather hesitant about and others that I rush out the instant that they’ve been announced. There are others that it’s a mixed bag of love and hate when it comes to upgrading as the way it behaves between versions can come off feeling arbitrary or draconian and the hoops I feel I have to jump through both to getting used to the “improved” interface as well as the changes of what’s working and what’s not working. The newest version of Firefox is a prime example of the sort of upgrade I have a love/hate relationship with since I started playing with it back in version 2.0

Released a day before the anticipated announced release date and after almost a year delay in the beta testing process, 4.0 is the most recent release of this popular web browser currently available for download. While I haven’t actually put the program through it’s routine tests, there have been some niggling issues that I would like to talk about as the impression I’m getting from this is, “why did it take so bleeding long to get released?” as there is nothing about this particular product truly new or revolutionary.

Pros:

A good majority of the add-ons that I have installed on Firefox 3.6.x seemed to have transitioned smoothly to 4.0. AdBlock Plus, NoScript, Echofon (for Twitter), IE Tabs 2 all continued working without notification of them being “incompatible with the current version”. This is a good way of sorting out the add-ons that developers have stopped supporting as well as nudging other developers it’s time to recheck the code for their add-ons for the current version.

This is a way for me to delete the old/obsolete add-ons and replace with the new. Or in at least one case, phase out . Of which I found myself actually mostly happy about with only one exclusion (below).

The Gecko engine has only gone through some more tweaking, pages render much faster thanks to access/controls involving hardware acceleration. Blink and a page will be rendered. Blink again and you’re off to a new page. While not as fast as Chrome (in my uninformed and untested opinion only), it’s certainly faster than my experience with Firefox 3.x and IE 8.

The memory footprint that Firefox 4 takes up when it loads is a bit less than it did in the past, as at the time of writing this review — my currently running 1 tab for dAmn Chat currently showing ~183,000 K memory for firefox.exe and another 6,600 K for plugin-container.exe. However it’s still more than a bit large when compared to IE 8 (keep in mind I haven’t loaded up 9 yet) at 25,628 K and Chrome at 45,394 K between 4 separate chrome.exe executables and 2 Console Host Emulations (conhost.exe). While granted Internet Explorer doesn’t have any add-ons, Chrome has the same (now) of which I’m left puzzling out why Firefox continues to remain the heaviest when it comes to memory.

Fixed — finally — is the ability to print to PDF and it actually looking like a page printed in English. Bug 454532 indicates just how long this problem had been in Mozilla’s bug tracker and while I had done everything in my power to follow the various fixes work-arounds and what not — Firefox continued to print garbage text to PDF. I recall reading sometime in the past, several news sources reported several times that Mozilla simply gave up trying to fix it in 3.x with the no promise of resolution any time in the near future. Seems with 4.0 it had been fixed and printing to PDF is showing English (or in the case of my machine, Japanese, Simplified Chinese and Korean as well) instead of garbage. This means I don’t have to rely Internet Explorer for invoice/receipt printing.

Cons:

While I understand the need that some add-ons might use code that is optimized for a specific version of the program, Mozilla seems to be both arbitrary and draconian when it comes to whether they’ll allow an add-on to continue working. Case in point: ISOC’s Policy Audit Plugin. The coding on this one simply relies on a accessing a gateway to check a URL and notify the user of whether or not the privacy policy for that particular site had changed or not.

This add-on was a boon when dealing with Gmail and Google, as I’ve noticed since the add-on was installed, they had changed their privacy policies at least three times; and while twice have been a simple issue of semantics, there was one where the policy did in fact change, and glad to have caught it with the use of this tool. Sure it’s a tool in progress, though I suspect that it will always have a niche for folk concerned about changes in privacy since the debacles with Facebook occurring.

I’ve noticed that if you have proxy set to follow the default System Proxy settings, resolving the IP for a URL is much slower than I had expected. I had seen/experienced up to a 1 – 2 second delay between hitting the <enter> key once I had finished typing in the URL and the web browser actually begin rendering the page. Seems that this speed is significantly improved by going into Tools –> Options –> selecting the Advanced tab –> clicking the Advanced button setting, changing the Configure Proxies to Access the Internet to No Proxy. I’m sure this might be resolved in a future release, although seeing this happening was rather surprising given that all three browsers have been touting “speed” for some months now. Particularly given that when I checked the proxy settings for Chrome, Chrome opened up Internet Explorer’s Proxy Settings tab and window.

Neutral/Annoyances:

More of the same interface as I’ve seen from Chrome, Opera and even Internet Explorer transforming their old browsers to something new, and completely unimpressed with the fact that it took this long for them to transform. I admit that I had been a bit snarky about it on Twitter, commenting that it seems that Mozilla and Firefox seem to be following everyone else on the interface of which I had received a @mention from @limi (as it seems he was trending Firefox comments):

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No one remembers who came in last, least of all in a competition for faster, lighter and easier to use software/web browsing with a slick interface. Those that do remember often use this to sow the seeds of discontent, disappointment, doubt and perhaps even doom for a corporation or brand.

While I am no power user by any stretch of the imagination — when it comes to browsing the web the most amount of tabs I have had opened was at maximum of 10. And in those 10, I have noticed on more than one occasion that the memory footprint in previous versions of Firefox reach upward to 750,000+ K. On my system and a couple of systems I’ve used for work have more than enough memory for such leaks, the fact is that leaks shouldn’t be happening at all. Blaming it on add-ons doesn’t really address the problem as it’s been demonstrated that clean installations (of Firefox) have the same problems.

As of the Firefox 4 release candidate forum posts indicate that the memory leak still continues to plague this web browser and while I haven’t personally seen anything too out of the ordinary so far (knock on wood), I did at one point see memory get up to about the same amount of KB as I would working 10 hours at a job with those 10 tabs open. And this occurred yesterday while I was in about 6 tabs. This does in fact raise quite a bit of question, given that the same 6 tabs in Chrome and IE continue to show a seriously small RAM footprints. I will continue to monitor this, and see if it’s actually been addressed or continues to plague some of the users of Firefox.

Bing was put into my customized Search Engines Drop-Down. While it was good that it didn’t mess with my customized list as I have a rather eclectic array of them; seeing Bing at the bottom I felt more than a little dirty… As though Mozilla was saying “Hi! Thank you for the upgrade. Here’s Bing. We want you to know we’re in bed with them!”

A rather large annoyance that I had to track down was something that caught my attention and left me with this uneasy feeling that something was just not quite right. So after about 5 minutes of research was able to spot. You see, one of the joys of running Aero on Windows 7 is the way that I can sort my windows one on top of the other (along with overlapping them around the screens) and if something flashes underneath another window, the visual queue will get me to swap to it to see what’s going on. The thing is, with Firefox 4, I caught arbitrary changes in the aero-window frame as I clicked on drop-downs within the web page I was viewing at the time as well as on clicking menus within Firefox itself. This changing of lights/darks on the UI window frame gave me the impression that the window underneath it had momentarily changed focus/blinked and I needed to see what was going on.

While this can be a quirk of code that can easily be rectified, people oriented to visual cues of changed states of windows can find that a distraction when trying to work as efficiently as possible when they’re multitasking. And while I was able to accommodate/adjust against that quirk, the fact that Firefox was the only one that I caught that happening with is enough for me to want to avoid using it until it’s been rectified.

Font display on web pages is annoyingly different from 3.x to 4.0, enough so that I find off-putting. While none of my font settings have changed (including Windows Clear Type text for the display) rendering on the pages is enough to be a put off for using Firefox. Following is a screen cap of Firefox 4.0

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With what it used to look like in 3.6.x

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I’m sure that there’s a setting somewhere that controls this within about:config but at the moment I admit to being too lazy to do more than a cursory inspection between the two versions of the program. Particularly given that when Chrome went from 9 to 10 on my system, I hadn’t even realized it had been updated until I had to look under the hood. Further, I’m finding my eyes strained more looking at the web pages in 4.0 than in 3.x, IE and even Chrome.

Another of the niggling annoyances that has come to my attention has been the way that Firefox is now showing up in the Windows Menu under most common used program in spite of the fact that it’s also in my taskbar.

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I rather liked the fact that it had never recorded itself as recently opened in version 3.x. I put it there in the taskbar for a reason and don’t need it telling me I opened it recently. This one’s really minor, though as you can tell, I’m not a fan of seeing many programs in that recently used list especially if it’s something I use a lot.

Finally, the last niggling point that I have for the update is that they had removed the Add-On Bar from the bottom of the screen. Unlike previous versions which can be turned off and on, with the same key-command (CTRL+/), with this one, it adds an x to remove it. Further, when the Add-On Bar is active, mouse over on links won’t show in it (like they used to) and are relegate to still showing Chrome-style in the window thereby taking up more screen landscape. Granted it’s 10 pixels (or so) tall, and however long, I would think if the add-on bar is active, I don’t need them showing up where they used to have a place to go instead.

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Bottom Line: While the pros in this case outweigh the cons, I fear it’s going to be the petty annoyances that do in my long-standing loyalty to Firefox. If anything since the upgrade I’ve been finding myself using Chrome more because of it’s speed, lightness and the fact that upgrades went transparently and without any such attention to the changes.

While the jury’s still out on a handful of features I’ve yet to see/experience improvement on I believe in about a month, I’ll have made the cut away from Firefox.