February 2005


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Archive for February, 2005

Well, I’ll be

Posted in Geekery, Reviews on February 27th, 2005

Who’d a thunk it…

While digging around the forums and bashing my head against a wall trying to get my D-Link DWL-650 wifi card to work, I ran across a blurb saying that Slack comes stock with an Orinoco driver already installed. It just so happens that the roomie has one of these lying around, so we popped it in here and (sound of minor tweaking) Poof! I now have working wifi access under Slackware on my laptop!

I can now happily compute in a completely Windows-free manner wherever I go! Yay!!

This is a happy ending to a happy weekend for me.

With all the crap that went down with my daughter during the week, things got off to a slightly rocky start with my girlfriend, but smoothed out after some booze and silly movies. We watched Catwoman first.

The overall plot of the movie was fairly well laid out, and the dialog wasn’t all that bad. Unfortunately, the movie was completely over-CGI’d, and would have been much better had the director opted to actually train Halle Berry to do some stunts. Of all the Catwomen over the years, she is the only one who did not have to do any real stunt work, and the movie suffered badly for it. They also opted to use fast camera moves to simulate fast actor moves, and once again the movie suffers. To top it all off, they cast Sharon Stone as the villainess, which I don’t list as a positive. General rating: Blah.

We followed that up with Resident Evil: Appacolypse, which was a much better movie. Not a real thinker, but a good fun zombie movie with Mila Jojovich kicking some zombie ass. Highly recommended.

Saturday night, I finally watched Moulin Rouge, a movie I basically knew nothing about. What is it with John Leguizamo getting the really bizarre roles?

Anyway, I actually liked the movie, despite the fact that the creative team behind it has done waaaaaaaaaaaay too many halucinagens in recent years. The hardest part of the movie is not letting your head get stuck with any one song, because they switch songs fast and often, mostly transposing pop hits from the last couple decades into something else. When the narcoleptic Argentinian busts out with Roxanne I damn near bust a gut laughing, and to see the show’s manager singing Like a Virgin is…disturbing to say the least.

So, I think I’m ready to face the week now, with the happy prospect of being able to be in the new shop – at least for Monday, anyway (wink). Knowing my luck, they’ll find a reason to keep me West after the meeting on Tuesday, but I’m suppoesd to open the East store Monday morning. And there is work waiting for me, as well as computer that needs to be picked up and paid for.

That’s enough for now, kids.


Posted in Life on February 23rd, 2005

You ever have one of those days where you feel the need to write about something and just draw a blank? Random thoughts fly around in me head, but nothing settles long enough for me to jot it down. I’d drop a few links in here, but I haven’t seen anything worth linking in a while.

Really I’ve just been trying to get myself back into the swing of working a full time job again. Alot of my frustration comes from having to ration my paychecks so closely now – I’m actually taking home less money than when I was on unemployment, and I was spoiled for three years working a good job. I got too used to just buying what I wanted at the grocery store instead of watching every penny and clipping coupons.

And I keep running across little fun things to do, but then saying to myself “when am I going to have the time for that?” I’ll say it again: I want a 30-hour day.

Of course, it would help if the little things would go away to, like my daughter’s viral rash, which then settled into her knee, making it swell up and become very painful. So much so, that I had to cancel a date tonight to go down to the ER with her to make sure it wasn’t something really bad. (It’s not, just time and ibuprofin to heal.)

I suppose things will even out for me once work settles into a bit of a routine. We’re still kind of frantic, and today we got hammered for about an hour with walk-in customers. The incoming shelf is pretty full again as well, so I’m still in the West office part-time to keep up with the work. I’ll end up taking some of it East with me tomorrow, since I have an appointment to meet with a customer at the new shop. With any luck at all, I’ll be on my way there by 10am, more likely it won’t be until 1pm.

On that front, I may or may not have an assistant at this point. We hired a guy for the spot, and he seems to have the knack for the work, but he pulled a bone-headed dissappearing act today without calling in. Not a smart thing to do on your third day of work. We’ll get his story from him at the meeting tomorrow and decide if we can cut him some slack.

Speaking of Slack, I’m thinking about losing SuSE on the laptop here and going with Slackware instead. This seems to be running slower than the difference in hardware should make between my two systems, and I’ve already been stung by RPM hell. I’ll think about it for another day or two and see what comes up.

Holy Deductions, Batman!

Posted in Life on February 21st, 2005

I am utterly amazed. I have spent the past several hours doing my taxes, and I will actually get money back this year.

(sound of a jaw dropping)

What with my self-employment, un-employment and other miscelleneous crapola, I fully expected to be in the hole, and was just praying for a $0-$0 balance. What I got was a Federal return large enough to cover my State and County taxes plus some extra for the ol’ slosh fund. (That is, the fund from which money to get sloshed on comes from. *grin*) Tip ‘o the fedora goes to TurboTax for the assist on the forms. Of course, I don’t have the cash on hand for the electronic filing, so I’ll have to wait an extra week for the forms to get there in the mail. I did opt for the direct-deposit, though.

Still, just amazed.

Now if only the State could adopt the same taxation forms as the Fed, then I’d get money back all ’round. Too much to ask for, I know.

Speed 2

Posted in Geekery on February 20th, 2005

Well now, that’s better.

Here I am in SuSE 9.2 Pro on the laptop, successfully dual-booted with only a minor flaw that can be understood, and was frankly expected.

It turns out that there is a flaw in the original FTP 1.0 code that couldn’t see anything over 2 GB in size, and that is more than likely what caused the screwup with the first download. I was able to work around it by going through an Italian mirror that had handily chopped the iso into two parts, then stitched them back together before burning. (They thankfully gave me over 200 kb/s speeds for download)

After that, installation was basically just clicking “OK” at every question. I tweaked it to use LILO instead of Grub, but otherwise all the default selections were fine, including initial package selection. The only problem was, again, expected, in that it hasn’t figured out my wifi card yet. This is par for the course in Linux, since very few card makers and even fewer distros talk to each other for drivers. Stupid, I know. How to best get Linux into the workplace? Make it so that EVERY SINGLE piece of hardware gets auto-detected and works without user tweaks.

I know, I’m dreaming again.

Other than that though, all I did was install a current version of Firefox. SuSE includes one, but it’s out-of-date.

That’s going to have to be the end of the review for now though – it’s bedtime.


Posted in Geekery on February 20th, 2005

In this modern world, there are still some things that you simply have to wait for, regardless of how much technology you throw at them.

Comcast recently upped my download speeds to a whopping 4 Megabits per second. I have a relatively high-speed processor, hard drive, and half a gig of RAM. This, however, all means nothing when the server you are downloading from lets you top out at 25 Kilobits per second. What does all that mean? It means it took me a full 24 hours to download the latest release from SuSE Linux.

Of course, it was a 3 Gigabyte DVD ISO image.

With those speeds, however, one wonders if the other method for the free version of their distro has ever actually worked for anyone. They offer the option of an FTP install, where you download just the installation program and do the rest on-line, only downloading what you need, instead of getting the whole shebang like I did. Call me crazy, but I’m not too keen on spending the next 6 hours waiting to complete an install, when a dropped connection could possibly mean having to wait and start again from scratch. Ewww.

So, I will now attempt to dual-boot the laptop here with SuSE. Cross your fingers…
Well, fuckity. Apparently, I grabbed the wrong file or it downloaded incorrectly, because the package list isn’t there. I suppose I’ll try again.

Enough work

Posted in Life on February 17th, 2005

Time for a look at the rest of my life.

The pookster is currently suffering from a nasty post-viral rash that basically just showed up out of the middle of nowhere like one I had back when I was 16 or so. She’s hating it, but it is going away fairly quickly. I think the EMC is hating it more though, since the two of thwm have been pretty much stuck in the house for a few days now.

In happier news, yesterday marked the one-year anniversary for me and my gal – yay! She surprised me with the gift of a new sledgehammer.

Ok, so maybe it only hits like one. What she gave me is a new 20-oz graphite pool cue. It’s on the heavy side of the range (just the way I like it) , and the graphite construction means it has almost no axial compression – every erg of force you put into a shot transfers directly to the cue ball.

So, since we now both have our own cues, it seemed only natural to have dinner at Sam’s Billiards in Hollywood on 42nd Ave. The steaks, of course, were delectable, but nowhere near as delectable as my girl in her red dress. She got quite a few looks as we played.

Sorry boys, but she’s taken :)

So much for that idea…

Posted in Life on February 15th, 2005

It seems I was a bit presumptive in thinking I was going to get any time at all worthwhile in the new shop this week, since every day they keep coming up with new reasons why I am needed at the old one. While the incoming shelf is remarkably low on new work, the field operation has lit up again, and I am once again just fighting to get time in the new place.

I did get the boss to sign off on officially scheduling me in the new shop though, by way of taking on a documentation / paperwork plan we need and scheduling a due date and time to work on it: the Official New Build Checklist. Thankfully, I keep my old copies of MaximumPC around for just such projects.

I also found out today how to get extra cash out of the bossman – if I set up an appointment for our Managed Services guy to meet with a client and he sells them our extended services (which amount to having an IT guy on-site ten hours a month), I get a commission percentage off the account.

So, Greyduck – you say you need some occasional help down there, right?… ;)

Yeah, yeah

Posted in Life on February 10th, 2005

Okay, so the two of you who read this thing are wondering where the hell I’ve been. I’ll try to catch you up a bit.

This week has been wierd because I had my daughter so much. With her mom coming down with a case of strep throat, Pookie couldn’t go home, so she’s been here since last Friday with the exception of yesterday. I love my dughter, but she is used to getting a lot of attention, which leaves me very little time. I couldn’t tell you how many times I have wished the world would slow down it’s rotation a bit and give me a 30-hour day.

Today was annoying in the extreme. I was at the new shop yesterday, and got a couple of projects started that I was looking forward to finishing today, but ended up stuck in the West shop all day to help the other guys catch up again with their workload. What I really wanted to do was get back to the new shop, and it bugged me all day.

The good news is, I was able to magically fix a laptop by the simple method of taking it all apart and putting it back together again. My trunk is currently packed full of goodies to put into stock at the new shop, and I’m booked there for almost the whole day tomorrow. I have answers for the customer that came in Wednesday, and I know how to rig the cash drawer to open without being connected to a computer. (The one at the West shop can only be opened using a Point Of Sale program, which is stupid, since our invoicing software can’t do it. We have a complete software suite installed to merely open the damn drawer.)

I talked with the boss today, and got the official word on my job track: I am designated as the Shop Manager for the East store. My main responsibility will be to keep it operational through sales and service work. There will be another technician hired to interface with the customer and answer the phones while I concentrate on fixing computers. Secondarily, I will be learning the operations of our various servers and networks, since they all reside in my shop. Further responsibilities include occasional field service work, but this will (eventually) be a rarity.

This makes me very happy, since I think I have done enough field work over the past 8 years or so. It’s time to get out of the car for a while. At least it will be once we get another field tech trained up…

All systems go!

Posted in Work on February 9th, 2005

Okay, maybe they aren’t all ‘go’, but things are shaping up here. And by ‘here’, I mean at the new shop.

I’m firmly ensconced in the basement now, which is going to be weird for me, since it reminds me so much of my garage – but I can’t smoke down here. I keep finding my hand reaching into my pocket for smokes.

Aside from some minor cleanup and organizing, the benches are ready for work, and I even took in my first customer this morning – one of the other guys is on his way over with the drive adapter and storage server I will need to actually do the work on this laptop.

The computer I’m typing on right now is pretty nice though – 3GHz P4 proc, a Gig of RAM, and a snazzy mod case with LED fans and a case window. We definitely won’t have any overheating issues down here due to the chilly temps, but it has all those extra fans just in case. This thing smokes right along, too, but I’ll have to shell out for a new video card on my own if I want to run any games on it after-hours.

All I need now is some nice speakers so I can play the music I brought with me :)

Ye Gods, what a joke

Posted in Life on February 5th, 2005

A terrible thing happened last Thursday. A young man applied for a job with us and arrived at our store for an interview. And then we all smiled at him and wasted the next two hours of his time.

I hate the fact that this happened the way it did. We should have all honestly looked him in the face and said “if you can’t be bothered enough to shave, shower and put on a nice, clean shirt for an interview, then we don’t want you working for us” and sent him on his merry way.

Instead, we actually interviewed him. And he didn’t do that bad, really. We weren’t looking for an experienced tech, so that wasn’t a real issue – he has some basic skills and knows how to delete spyware, which is really our bread and butter. But for him, the position he was applying for involves alot of face-time with our customers, and his appearance simply was not going to cut it.

In other work news, the new shop is >-< this close to being actually open for business. I have a couple of test stations ready to go, and LOTS of bench space to expand upon as we go. Our credit card reader is in place, and I've even got some sodas in the 'fridge waiting for me. Now I just need the ok to actually go there and work. Yeah, there's more to be done before it's really finished....There's a couple outlets I need to get the contractors back in to repair (wire faults and one dead outlet) and I still need to move my data recovery machine in, but it's all stuff I can work around in the meantime. Besides, it's not like a Techie's shop is ever really a static environment, ya know? ----------------------------------------------------------- The Little Black Beastie seems to be doing just fine now. I replaced the air cleaner and the valve cover gasket last weekend (no more oil leaks!) and it has been running smooth both hot and cold since last Monday morning. With the exception of Thursday, that is. I went up to Vancouver to pick up a laptop for repair, and all was well on the way up, but as soon as I got back in the car to leave it started missing a cylender. Looking under the car, I could see the problem: a spark-plug wire had jumped off the coil, and I could see the damn thing arcing to the engine. WTF!?! Three points go to the boys over at the Les Schwab outlet across the street - they put the car up on a lift and put things back together for me at no charge. It's a shame I can't afford their prices for tires, I'd go back and buy from them next time to repay the courtesy. ----------------------------------------------------------- On the personal front, last Monday I went out to dinner with my most-recent ex girlfriend to try and smooth things out between us. My roomate is still a very close friend of hers, and the only truly convenient place for them to just hang out is our house, but with the tension and general wierdness between her and I, it was making things difficult. Things went pretty well. We were able to just sit there and chitchat for the first half-hour or so, and managed to delve into the deeper subjects without seriously pissing each other off or causing additional hurt. We isolated a few more instances of us simply not understanding what the other was aiming at, and concluded the whole thing on a friendlier note. On a frighteningly friendly note at one point - I gave her a ride home since she is carless now, and when she got out and said goodbye, I had a minor flashback to other, happier times. Not a painful flashback, but one that brought a good memory for me to reflect upon. It's nice to be able to remember the good times. We passed the first test as well, when she came over last Thursday to watch CSI with the roomie. they watched from his room, but we still passed each other on entrance and exit and held friendly chitchat without problems. Good. I hate to be a cause for friction between my friends. Damn - Thursday was a bit eventful, wasn't it?