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Nothing but the necessities…

In a school district that is struggling to keep teacher’s it’s amazing that that the Santa Rosa County Florida School District can find the money (and need) for 90 iPad2s for administrators (it’s also amazing that there are 90 administrators in a  county with only about 150,000 residents).

I’m glad to see that my tax dollars are well spent on essential items to insure that today’s school children will be properly educated and that the administrators responsible for overseeing that education will have new toys at the disposal to sit mostly unused in their desks — after all, an edict has been issued by the school district that these devices are only to be used in a professional capacity.

I wonder, will it be grounds for immediate termination the first time a games is played on,, a facebook post is made from or personal email is sent via one these essential educational tools — inquiring minds want to know.

My personal feeling would be this money would be better spent offsetting the $4.4 million dollar shortfall for the 2011-2012 school year that is necessitating the layoff of teaching staff — of course, why should I be surprised about iPad2s for administrators, after all most of them just got raises to address the inequities in their pay (I guess they couldn’t afford their own iPad2s — though they seem to expect teachers to buy a great deal of supplies for their classrooms out of their considerably smaller salaries).

Originally posted 2011-08-15 02:00:22.

Swarms

No, not a swarm of bees, wasps, hornets, or yellow jackets — I’m talking about file sharing technology.

First, there’s absolutely nothing illegal or immoral about using file sharing technology for file sharing and distribution, just as there’s nothing illegal or immoral about using hyper-text (http) or file transfer (ftp) technology.  It all has to do with the content you’re trying to exchange, not the system you’re using to exchange it.

There are many legitamate uses for BitTorrent and other P2P technologies.  Here’s a perfect example.

A small company has a number of offices spread throughout the world, and no one location has an internet connection with significant bandwidth (let’s say for argument, they all had a high end class of DSL service, but none of them have fibre).  This company would like to distribute it’s trial software, but because of the economics can’t afford to pay for additional bandwidth or for a content delivery system — they could opt to “aggragate” the bandwidth of all of their offices by providing a torrent and running torrent servers at each location — that would allow the nodes with the most bandwidth available to satisfy requests, and any individuals who had downloaded the software and elected to continue seeding would be able to source it as well.  While no one individual might get the software as quickly (though that’s not necessarily true), many more people would be able to get the software sooner, and at no additional cost; thus the company could meet it’s budgetary constraints and might not have to consider increasing the amount they need to charge for the software to cover operating expenses.

Swarming technology is real, it’s practical, and it’s a solution for a number of problems.

Swarms are highly fault tolerant, they’re highly distributed, and they dynamically adjust to changing conditions…

While any technology can be abused and misused, there’s nothing inherently bad in any of the P2P technologies.  Just because bank robbers use pens to write hold up notes we didn’t outlaw the pen or pencil…

Originally posted 2009-01-12 12:00:19.

Gas Prices

OK, someone’s going to have to explain to my how gasoline prices can go up sixty cents per gallon in less than six weeks!

The only “good” think I can say about the new pricing level is that it really doesn’t matter what station you go to, the prices all seem to be within a penny or two.

But come on now… this is ridiculous — and totally unjustified.

I guess the way that we’ll see gasoline prices plummet just before the election is pretty clear; they’re going to jacked up to over $5.00 a gallon this Summer!

Originally posted 2008-06-12 16:37:15.

Computer Tid Bits; Malware

Computer viruses, worms, trojans, etc are on the rise… if your computer is connected directly to the internet (or on a public wireless network) you’ll definitely want to have a firewall enabled.  The firewall in Windows XP SP2 (or better) and Vista is reasonably good (so there’s no reason to spend money on one).

Also, you should definitely consider running Windows Defender (free from Microsoft) and a Virus scanner.

Two good free Virus scanners are Avast and AVG.

Avast is extremely thorough, but can put a bit of a load on lower end systems.  AVG isn’t as thorough, but a great deal lighter on CPU.  Also, Avast will require you to register for a key — you can use a throw-away email address (from my experience they don’t seem to SPAM).

Avast

AVG

Originally posted 2008-05-09 18:20:12.

Windows 7 – N

If you’re in the United States it’s unlikely you’ll find a Microsoft® Windows 7 N version on a retail shelf; but if you’re in Europe you might.

The N version of Windows was originally released late in the XP era in order to satisfy an EU order that Microsoft offer it’s customers a version of their operating system without their instant messenger and media technologies.  I believe the sales numbers indicated that no one in the EU really wanted such a version; but it was a good way for the EU to rape Microsoft for a sizable cash settlement and create a pain in the butt for consumers.

If you are forced to buy an N version (it’s the same price as the non N version — but it might be the only thing sitting on the shelf) and you actually want to use Microsoft Media Player (or at least install the Microsoft CODECs) you can do so by downloading a nearly 300MB file (there’s one for 32-bit and one for 64-bit).

And thank the EU for making your life difficult.

Media Feature Pack for Windows 7 N and Windows 7 KN (KB968211)

Originally posted 2009-11-07 01:00:20.

A Red, Red Rose

A Red, Red Rose
by Robert Burns

O my Luve’s like a red, red rose
That’s newly sprung in June;
O my Luve’s like the melodie
That’s sweetly played in tune.

As fair art thou, my bonnie lass,
So deep in luve am I;
And I will luve thee still, my dear,
Till a’ the seas gang dry:

Till a’ the seas gang dry, my dear,
And the rocks melt wi’ the sun;
I will luve thee still, my dear,
While the sands o’ life shall run.

And fare thee weel, my only Luve,
And fare thee weel awhile!
And I will come again, my Luve,
Tho’ it ware ten thousand mile.

Originally posted 2017-06-15 12:00:35.

Windows 7 – Install With Multiple Disks

I set out this evening to install Windows 7 Ultimate on one of my “high end” desktops, and like all my desktops it has multiple SATA drives running in AHCI mode (after all, it’s “high end”).

No matter how I setup my drives in the BIOS or with the SATA cables I kept getting the larger (newer) drive as DISK0 in the Windows 7 install and the smaller (older) drive as DISK1.

Finally I started doing some reading on the Internet, and I’m not the only person who’s noticed this behavior.  In fact, some say it’s random.

Based on what I’ve seen and what I’ve read I suspect that Microsoft’s EFI BIOS implementation re-polls [discovery] the drives and ignores what the PC legacy BIOS tells it… and the first drive to respond is DISK0.  In my case the drive I want to be DISK0 is probably predictably slower than the drive I want to be DISK1, so I see consistent results.  However, if the drives are very similar (or identical) you could see either become ready first (a micro-second counts).

This is obviously a bug in Windows 7 (didn’t happen in Vista; but apprently is did happen in Vista SP1 and SP2), and can cause all kinds of problems down the road.

What’s the best way to deal with it?

Open up your case and unplug all but the first drive, do your installation, then power up the drives one-by one (if you have hot-swap capability with SATA you don’t need to power down, if you don’t you will have to power down to plug in each drive in turn).

You can easily change the drive letters in disk manager; and once Windows tattoos the drives they should be fixed in order in disk manager.

If you have a motherboard that uses the Intel chip set you may want to download and install the Intel® Matrix Storage Manager for Windows 7.

If PCs used EFI BIOS (like Macs) this probably wouldn’t be an issue, but since Microsoft uses a soft EFI BIOS to boot, they should have tested this better, and they should have fixed it (there are several people who indicated they reported this behavior during the beta testing).

While Windows 7 might be a nice overhaul of Vista; it’s not without it’s problems, and maybe the whole PC heritage is beginning to be too antiquated to keep updating; perhaps it’s time for a new design.

Originally posted 2009-11-12 01:00:38.

AT&T U-Verse

I signed up for AT&T U-Verse service about two months ago — I’ve already made a post on that, but I decide to go ahead and do a series of posts on it.

This post will be an over view of what it is; then I’ll do a post on each of the services that are part of it.

The first thing to say about AT&T U-Verse is that it is offered by a company that I think very little of; a company that does not engender trust (in fact I’m suspicious of them at every turn — they seem to make mistake after mistake after mistake — and all their mistakes benefit them).  The sad thing is you might not have any substantially better company in your area to receive similar services from — so it’s not necessarily choosing the best, but often choosing the one that gives you that most without costing you the most.

U-Verse in short is AT&T’s name for an “advance” set of services — voice, television, and internet.

AT&T’s system generally provides these services to the home over copper (fibre is required in fairly close proximity as well).  The technology is called FTTN (fibre-to-the-node) and while they do have some FTTP (fibre-to-the-premises) it’s only found in extremely dense areas.

With FTTN a VRAD (video-ready-access-device) is present between the Central Office and the end node consumer; in FTTP it isn’t.  VRADs are generally fairly large pieces of equipment similar to a cable company’s “head-end” (used for digital cable deployment) and much larger than a TELCO’s mini-DSLAMs (used for DSL deployment via copper from fibre from the Central Office DSLAM).

The services offered via U-Verse are: voice (“land line” telephone), television (“cable” tv as well as video on demand), and internet (“high speed” broadband).

When the service is installed it’s likely the installers will work in a team; the outside cable will be run by one person (generally the entry copper from the pole will be replaced) and new inside wiring is run.

It’s important to note that all services are digital.

Voice is provided by voice over IP (VoIP) technology; television is provided through ip video (including live and video on demand [VOD]); and of course the internet service is the core of everything (though an optional part).

The center of the system in the home is a residential gateway which handles all three of the services (along with a battery backup unit — mainly to insure that emergency services work in power outages).

Many people ask the question if they can use their own residential equipment rather than what AT&T provides.  The answer simply is NO.  Currently you must use the AT&T equipment — you may use your equipment in addition to the AT&T residential gateway, or remove your equipment and use exclusively the AT&T provided equipment.

I’ll cover the details of each service with respect to the gateway in the following posts — but your installer will work with you to provide a reasonable installation that should provide you with voice, television, and internet services much as you currently have.

The gateway itself has one WAN side connection, two telephone jacks  (it’s not clear to me whether it’s cable of three lines or four lines, but currently you can only subscribe for two lines of service), four 100-Base-T Ethernet (LAN) connections, one wireless (802.11-N) radio, one USB connection (for a PC), one “F” connector for video, and one Ethernet “broadband” connection (I’m not sure what this is for, it’s got a piece of transparent tape over it on my unit).

Initially the set-top boxes and DVR units must be cabled directly to the unit to insure proper discover; after they are configured you can use a switch if you want more ports; or you can connect your router to the gateway if you like (you will need to reconfigure the gateway if you do this to allow your gateway to work as before).

If everything goes well in the installation, once the wiring is in place the gateway, set-top boxes, and DVR units will register and come online within a few minutes — however, AT&T seems to have quite a few units that are defective, so don’t be surprised if there are some problems.

I had ordered one DVR and two set-top boxes (mainly because I wanted the maximum installation I could get for free).  One of the set-top boxes was DOA (dead-on-arrival), one of the set-top boxes worked (but I decided I didn’t really want to keep it so the install took it back), and the DVR unit wasn’t completely dead, but was defective.  Fortunately the installer had another unit he could replace it with — but since the unit had worked well enough to register itself it took quite sometime for the installer to find someone at AT&T support who was able to clear out the previous registration so my “new” DVR could register.

We also had some issues with the voice service; but by the time the DVR issues were resolved a reboot of the gateway seemed to download the proper service configuration and both inbound and outbound calling worked.

I will note that my install was originally scheduled for a Saturday (it was the first day I could select); and AT&T never informed me that they had moved my installation date to the following Monday.  I found out when I called them 15-minutes before the close of the installation window.  I was more than a little pissed since I had changed my plans Saturday to accommodate them, and now I had to change my plans for Monday as well!

Over all I give my installer fairly high marks for doing a good job (though he still owes me a jack — AT&T doesn’t give there installers a very good supply of equipment or parts); but like almost every AT&T system, it’s brittle and almost appears designed to fail.

The one short coming of my install is that he really didn’t know a great deal about configuring the gateway for a “complex” network; but since that isn’t something AT&T technically supports I can’t fault him on that, and I certainly knew enough to figure out what needed to be changed (the 2Wire device they use could be considered a “pro-sumer” grade device, so it capable of meeting most needs, but don’t expect it to have highly technical descriptions of the various settings).

I will say, that after the initial installation the system appeared to work… though before you place your order you’ll want to read my next three posts as well as do a price-feature comparison with what you have now.

Also, you may find that it turns out to be less expensive to order more services than you want.  For example, if you only want internet service — it’s cheaper to order enough service to get a free installation (well, it’s not free — I found no way to avoid the $29 activation fee — but it’s easy to see how to avoid the $149 installation fee).  If you order a bundle, the installation fee is waived; if you downgrade in the first thirty (30) days there’s a $5 fee — so as the installer is leaving, call and downgrade — save $144 of the installation fee… though taking advantage of some of the rewards and promotions may actually make it less expensive to have more services for longer.

Oh, and one last word — make sure you keep copies of everything you “read” online to do with any promotional credits, rewards, requirements.  As I’ve already said, AT&T does not engender trust.

Originally posted 2010-05-14 02:00:22.

Michele Bachmann – an ideological loony tune

Rep Michele Bachmann (R-Minn) made a statement on CNN’s “The Situation Room” (hosted by Wolf Blitzer) that’s being reported by virtually every news outlet today.

She’s saying she lost her health care coverage (because of Obamacare — but she didn’t provide any hard reason) and refuses to use the exchange because it’s glitchy — but here’s the interesting thing: she states in her argument that it’s the DC exchange (that’s not the same thing as HealthCare.gov — the national exchange for states that didn’t want to invest in their own exchange — DC actually operates it’s own exchange).

If you watch the video (linked below), you’ll also notice she’s obviously reading from a teleprompter — her eyes are fixed on something other than the hosts she’s talking to.

The best quote:

I’m not gonna waste an hour on that thing.
· Michelle Bachmann

That’s fine with me; she can just pay the IRS fines for not complying with the new law (the law that the Supreme Court has already ruled is constitutional) and continue to be a burden on society (something she appears to be very good at).

While I’ll be one of the first to rant on how botched the roll out of the national health care exchange has been; I’ll also quickly point out that states had the option of coming up with their own exchanges, and the ones that did aren’t having anywhere near the number of issues.  I personally didn’t care for the health care reform, my feeling was that we needed to implement a single payer system much more like what Canada has (but that didn’t happen because health care dollars line the pockets of too many senators and representatives).

I’ll be honest, I think Michele Bachmann is crazy (and probably should be in a padded room), but this is just absolutely ridiculous — get over it, and vent on your insurance company, they’re the real villains in all this.

Bachmann: I lost health insurance

Originally posted 2013-11-15 13:00:25.

Frightful Halloween

Obmacare - Dilbert

Mike Luckovich / Cartoonist Group/Creators Syndicate

Originally posted 2013-10-31 00:00:34.