Category Archives: Rants

"Oh yes, there is DSL in your area."

I’ve had the worst luck with setting up thing for my condo, as I’ve mentioned before. A month ago, I set up the order to move my phone and Internet service from my apartment to the condo. I asked the person at Qwest to verify that DSL service was available at my condo and was assured that DSL service was available. So while the move of telephone service went off without a hitch, the DSL order was mysteriously dropped. Qwest apologized and had it set up again, assuring me that there is DSL in my area. Then the order is dropped again and re-established for today. The Qwest guy assured me that DLS is in the area and that the others had just made mistakes.

I mentioned this to my neighbors, who were surprised to learn about DSL being in the area. They’d checked into the possibility a year before and it wasn’t out here. I got a bad feeling in my stomach.

When I got up this afternoon, there still was no DSL service and the promised software package still had not arrived. Using my secondary computer (which has a pretty good wireless antenna, thus I was able to get a crappy connection on a distant, unsecured wireless connection), I was able to see an e-mail from Qwest saying my most recent order is canceled. So I call Qwest and after five minutes, the girl gets back with me to tell me that there is no DSL service in my area. Nice.

*sigh*

So, I call up Comcast, who give me a bunch of nonsense but after being transfered to a fourth person (who was in customer service), I think I’ll have high-speed Internet by Sunday. We’ll see though. Meanwhile, my kind neighbors have given me access to their wireless router, so I can at least check e-mail, make this blog entry, and surf a bit. ^_^; Thanks K and L!

Marriott Hotels

You know, I’m very unimpressed with Marriott Hotels, or rather the one hosting Starfest 2008. This is supposedly a 3-star hotel but things are just not right. I already mentioned the lack of a Sci-Fi channel, but this I found a bit more annoying. Despite the fact that this is a convention weekend and the hotel is pretty full of “fools” and the like, the hotel’s little store was closed nice and early, despite the fact that (1) it was supposed to be open until 10pm and (2) live music was still being played late into the night, thusly there was a large crowd around. So, if one were to want a little snack or something (even if for those outrageous prices), you are out of luck. I was feeling peckish, but I wasn’t hungry for a full meal, or even an appetizer from the bar or room service.

OK, there are vending machines. Well, sorta. There are Pepsi vending machines on every floor selling the identical products, but not snack machines. No snack machines in a hotel? They’ve existed in the other 3-star places I’ve stayed so why not Marriott? It makes no sense to me.

OK, there’s a convenience store, right? About 1/2 mile away is one, which was a hike to be sure (traversing busy streets, going under an Interstate) but since I hadn’t been on a nice walk in a while, I thought, “What the heck.” Besides, when I got there, I found what I wanted — Fritos Jalapeno Cheddar dip and some Tostitos chips.

These are minor things to be sure, but considering this is supposedly a better hotel, I expect better things, more so when hosting a large convention. Color me seriously unimpressed.

Only Two More Days of Suffering

It’s been a year since I ranted about those hideous Vermont Teddy Bear commercials (which they removed from YouTube). This year, they dropped the porno-girls in favor of a couple different musical commercials. One seems to run about 2-minutes with some loser screeching, “Baby it’s you! It’s you!” as the stupid people with their loser bears are on the screen. Annoying to be sure, but at least not as bad as the porno-chicks in the office practically having an orgasm over a stupid teddy bear

I noticed the hideous Pajama-gram commercial is still the same. I’m informed by married men that both Vermont Teddy Bears and Pajama-grams are terrible gift ideas and that your woman will NOT thank you for it, nor will she think you spent days thinking of it unless she’s deaf, dumb, and blind.

Thankfully, it will be over in two days.

The Case of the Hideous Stench

When we came to work last Wednesday night, there was a mild stink in the Command Center. Well, sometimes there are weird smells within the Command Center. People bring a wide variety of foods and stuff in, some of which don’t smell so good. Then there are people like Crop Duster, who will pass gas as they walk behind you. (Me, I just throw up the “V” sign to my co-workers to let them know a bomb is about to be dropped.) Regardless, it wasn’t anything really that unusual.

As the night progressed, the smell started getting stronger. While one would get used to it sitting at their work station, going out of the Command Center and then returning would let you know just how bad it was starting to get. The smell continued to worsen as Thursday continued, so The Company decided to do a quick investigation of what could be causing the stench.

The results?

Condiment packages found in small drawers in certain areas.

OK, to be fair, the Scooby Doo team didn’t specifically blame those evil, unopened packages of ketchup, mustard, mayo, soy sauce, etc., but when they sent out an email to the Command Center staff, that was one of two things they complained about. The other thing the Scooby Doo team complained about were how disposable plates, bowls, cups, forks, knives, and spoons were being stored in the glass-doored shelving units that run behind the work stations down each isle.

When we came in Thursday night, the smell was that of a dead animal to most of us, though Amy-chan thought that maybe there was sewage backup somewhere nearby that could be causing it. Regardless, none of us were happy to find our stashes of condiments trashed and the note from the Scooby Doo team telling us we couldn’t keep them in the Command Center. Scooby Doo did a great job of finding just about every condiment package too. They strangely enough couldn’t actually identify the source of the stench.

By Friday the stench of dead animal was just awful. We joked about how someone somewhere was hiding some condiment packages and needed to be punished. Even though one would get used to the smell after a while, fresh whiffs of it would still hit us from periodically. So, when I went to make a food run, I purchased some car air fresheners for our team to use, which we hung on our lamps. The row behind us were pretty happy about that since the combined smells of pine, vanilla, and strawberry were pretty sweet and were strong enough to overcome the smell of dead rodent.

Since CafePress has just about any topic on a t-shirt, one of the guys found one that said “Smell My Dead Rat!” We thought about printing the image and posting it on the door of the Command Center. I guess better judgment prevailed since we didn’t do it.

Regardless, as we left Saturday morning, the stink was still there despite all the condiment removals. I don’t know what management will do about the stink now. If they follow form (ala two years ago), they won’t find anything and will just get a pass from Security to keep the Command Center doors open and some giant fans to blow some of the stink into the halls.

Case closed!

Inspection

So I leave for work Saturday night to find a posting in the clip outside my apartment door that the complex uses to place announcements. This particular paper declared that there would be random inspections of the various apartments in the complex at the request of a lender. Maybe the place is being sold or something, I don’t know. Regardless, this inspection period is going to go on for days, all when it is my sleep-time. Well, all I have to say is that I am not going to be getting up just so some smeg head can nose around my stuff. They can pound and scream through the door-crack (they can unlock the door, but the latch will be set).

I may put a note on the door saying I’m sleeping and to go away, but I figure that wouldn’t matter. It didn’t matter last time I went through one of these back in Colorado Springs. There, I woke up to find some bozo with a clipboard escorted by a worker from the complex coming into my room despite the note I had on the door (no latch there). The complex worker apologized but the clipboard bozo said nothing as he took notes.

It is at times like this that I wish I could go by such a bozo’s place and wake them up around 02:00 in the morning for an inspection, just to see how they like it.

I can hear my mom saying, “Well, if you had your own house ANB, you wouldn’t have to put up with this kind of thing.” Well, Lord willing, I get converted to a regular employee by 2nd quarter and then I could buy.

Adventures on the Road

Having survived the stomach flu yesterday along with a serious ribbing from my coworkers and friends for it, I felt well enough to attend my Japanese class followed by a trip to Colorado Springs for a Reformed Church conference tomorrow (I didn’t want to travel through Denver either way tomorrow with the World Series in town). It has been an interesting day to say the least.

After my Japanese class, I was heading back to the highway and had already spotted a gas station with the cheapest prices. I pulled into the place and was amazed to see bare-bones pumps. All that was there was your choices for grade and that was it. No pay at the pump or any other gizmos that one sees in most other gas stations these days. Seeing others going to the small window of the nearby building, I followed suit.

Inside, a grizzled, overweight woman in her 60’s sat, looking like she hated her life. I suppose if I were in my sixties and was stuck in some small room taking money for gas through a small window all day long, I’d hate my life too. Anyway, I told her I wanted to fill up which seemed to throw her a bit. After all, everyone else was saying things like, “$2o on pump 1. $15 on pump 2,” etc. She told me the only way I could fill up was to leave a credit card or cash. Either way, I was leaving something valuable. So even though it troubled me to do so, I left her my card. After all, there are countless other ways for people to steal the number other than some old lady in a box taking money for gas. I did my thing and had no troubles with her.

The next bit of fun happened on the Interstate as I drove through Denver. Traffic was fairly heavy, though going the speed limit (55 mph). I was in the far-left lane of 4-5 lanes since speeds were a tad faster there. At some point, a car tried racing up in the lane to my right, obviously in a great hurry but with no where to go. So, he briefly decides to come over to where I am anyway but since he is in a car and I have an SUV, I decided that he could just hit me and I’d hammer him other ways. Since I didn’t move and he had no where else to go, he went back into his lane and then slipped behind me as I and the cars in front of me passed cars in the lane to our right.

The moment there was a break in the cars on the right, he again tried to race up as if he could cut in front of me. However, because I was keeping up with the cars in my lane, he again found himself with no where to go but to slip back in behind me. Then for the third time, he found another break in the cars and racing into the lane to my right, he again attempted to see if he could cut in front of me, but that was impossible. Since his windows were completely blacked out, I couldn’t see the driver’s reaction, but someone driving like that is sure to be highly pissed to not get what they want.

So this time instead of slipping back behind me, he tried going to the next right lane. He tried to race ahead again, but the traffic was just to heavy to allow him to do what he wanted. As a result, he fell further behind me. For a mile or so, I watched as he tried to make advances by using every lane he could, only to continue to fall further and further behind. Eventually, I lost sight of him in the throng of cars. I figured eventually he’d succeed and he’d be racing up to cut me off again. However, I never saw him again.

Some 45 miles later, I’ve made it through Castle Rock and am cruising at a nice rate of speed. A truck from Washington signals they are merging into the left lane and so I let them in. A female hand comes out of the driver’s side of the truck and waves at me, and I wave back to acknowledge them. We cruise along and a couple of miles later, a female hand holding a cup emerges from the passenger’s side of the truck and releases the cup. I’m far enough back that I see the cup bounce off the Interstate before it flies up and hits me in the windshield, splattering the remains of a shake on the glass. Nice. I love quality people like that. They raced on and since they were now traveling well over my limit, I was glad to see them go.

I get to my hotel with no further problems and set up shop in my smoky-smelling non-smoking room. I take off to drop off a load of video tapes to the Goodwill that is just a few blocks away. I was stunned to see that not only that the Goodwill were doing some major business today based on people having to park everywhere, but there was a lengthy line of cars for the drop-off dock at the back of the store. Since the drive to the dock is fairly lengthy, there were at least a dozen cars along that drive and three of us still on the road. Two of us were in the center turn lane. The other decided to make his left turn to get into the drive but there was no way he could, so he’s blocking an entire lane of traffic. Fortunately for him, the street we were on had light traffic.

Still, the few cars that came through showed their drivers irritation at having to snake around someone blocking an entire lane of traffic. For his part, the driver was as close to the car in front of him as he could get without touching her bumper. For her part, she was over a half car-length behind the vehicle in front of her and chatted away on a cell phone as if she didn’t have a care in the world. Personally, I suspect she knew the man in the minivan was behind her and blocking traffic, but she wasn’t going to move up since he was the dummy to turn as he did and block traffic.

Surprisingly, even though the number of cars continued to grow, the guys working the doc were very efficient and I don’t think I ended up waiting five minutes before one jumped the gun and tried to empty out the back of my SUV. I had to tell him the stuff was in the back seat.

With that out of the way, I was off to my credit union to drop off $3.50 in rolled up pennies (they don’t have an office where I live). I drove over and got an ugly feeling when I pulled into the empty customer parking lot and a group of people were emerging from the credit union building. Sure enough, they had been closed for nearly 30-minutes because who would want access to a credit union after 2pm? Apparently I’m the only smeg head who would. I did note with some irritation that some other banks and credit unions in the area were still opened and I remembered that I’d been sent a survey in the mail from my credit union. Maybe it was time to fill that sucker out and say “thanks” for staying open so late on Saturday.

Well, I could drop the penny rolls in the collection plate, so I decided that I would swing by Carl’s Jr. to grab a burger. I haven’t had one in over a year and since it was a block or so away from the credit union and I could smell the burgers, why not? It didn’t take me long to figure out why not. The drive thru lane moved ever so slowly. Eventually, the car in front of me got to the speaker and we waited for five minutes. I couldn’t believe it. Then a punk drove up behind me and began to casually smoke while staring at me constantly for over a minute and blowing smoke in such a way as to be blowing it at me (though it never reached me). I decided that Carl’s Jr. could do without my business and left the drive thru lane to see no one holding up the works and someone at the drive through window looking dumb. I bet that would have made me sick again.

So I picked up some Fazoli’s and made it back to my smoky room so I could rant on the blog. Isn’t my life special. ^_~

Selfish Git

I live in an apartment complex and I’ve lived in one sort of complex or the other ever since I got out of the Air Force. All of the complexes I lived in had parking garages, which could be rented for a fee (sometimes reasonable, sometimes outrageous). While every place I’ve lived has had parking problems at one time or other (especially when someone decided to throw a party), my current residence is the worst. The complex designers apparently felt that parking was for losers who only want to destroy the planet, so they only placed the bare minimum required by code. They also tossed in a few garages here and there.

The building I live in is the worst when it comes to parking. There are only 8 parking spaces for 8 2-bedroom apartments, to say nothing of the units across the street who have no parking at all in front of their units, so they park on our side. We do have 7 garages and after a year of being frustrated out of my mind at the lack of parking (often, I’d have to park clear across the complex due to my work schedule), I decided $50/month for a garage wasn’t a bad thing.

With that, I thought my parking woes were over. No more stress at not getting a parking place, right? After all, I’m renting a garage. Well this morning, I learned otherwise. Some smeg head from Louisiana drove up in their gigantor Dodge truck and because there was no parking, they decided to block the entrances of three garages, mine being one of them (actually six because the people who have cars in the garages across from ours will be hard pressed to be able to maneuver enough to get in or out).

Seriously, what do bastards like this think?

“Duh, ders no parking where i staying so i park here in garages area. It ok cause no one need garages at night. I got big truck. Truck rules.”

Sadly, I could find no number for a towing company that’s contracted to our complex. I’m going to find out if there is one and it will be added to my cell phone list o’ numbers.

Anyway, maybe it was because God had my parents teach me to respect others and not be a complete and total ass by blocking people’s garages just so I can have a place to park. No, I would have parked on the other side of the complex and walked back, but I guess that’s too much for a lazy git like Big Truck.

I left the bastard a note. No, I wasn’t ugly, but Lord knows I wanted to be (and I was ugly in the nasty things that I was saying in my head). I didn’t even key the bastard’s car, though I wanted to key the messages, “Hey everybody! I’m a complete and total smeg head!” If I wasn’t in desperate need of sleep now, I’d take the camera down and photo the bastard’s truck and post it for the world to see.

My Machine: The Saga Continues

OK, so I was on a chat with Dell Technical Support and got Uday. I explained the situation of how the CPU’s increased usage caused the fans to spin up at a faster RPM than normal and that when the CPU is nothing, the fan goes to nothing. After a few minutes of chatting where I felt I’d done a good job explaining the situation, Uday decided he needed to call me. No problem, I’d rather talk than chat anyway.

So Uday calls and again I explain the situation. Because I run SETI@home, my CPU usage has always been 100% on both CPU’s in my main machine. I also run SETI@home on my old Dell machine as well as my company-issued laptop. As such those CPU’s run at 100%. For those who don’t know, that’s what the program is designed to do. It uses all unused CPU cycles to process SETI data. That means, for those who’s first language isn’t English, that the SETI@home application always takes a back seat to any other process that needs CPU time. I’ve been running the application since 1999 and SETI@home runs all the time without impacting anything else I’m doing.

Now that this explanation is out of the way, Uday was still concerned that an application would take up so much CPU. If I let SETI@home run for about 5-minutes, my CPU fans sound like a room fan because of the high RPM rate they are spinning at. Sadly, Uday picked up on the word “sound” and combined with his obsession with my running an application designed to use all of the CPU (or both CPU’s in my case), he was ready to gallop down the wrong path. He wanted me to test other application to see if their use of CPU would cause the fans to spin up at a high revolution. They did, but because I didn’t get the CPUs up to 100%, the fans never achieved “hurricane force.”

Uday decided that maybe I should re-install SETI@home after having me restart the application and having heard himself the loudness of my fans after a few minutes. He swore that sometimes this works. Well, stranger things have happened in my career in IT so I’m game, I’ll try that even though I know this won’t have anything to do with the fans spinning at an outrageously high RPM just because the CPU is being used. This feels like a hardware issue.

Uday had me run the msconfig, uncheck all startup applications, then go to the services and uncheck all non-Microsoft services to do a reboot. He was bound and determined to prove that an application was the cause of my problem. After all, in his mind, a CPU being used at 100% is a bad, bad thing.

So, I do what Uday requested and what do you know — it didn’t work. The moment I tried running applications and the CPU rate started going up, my fans started revving up like the CPU was really overheating. So Uday’s intimidate response is to reload the operating system.

What did you say?

I got irritated at this point because I want to check the hardware first. So, Uday agrees to have this done and so I reboot the machine to the partition for the utilities. I’m told that the operating system used for the utilities to check the hardware is based on an early version of Windows, possibly Windows 3.11 (but I can’t confirm that yet). I perform a fan test and it passes. The funny thing was that at the test’s highest RPM rate (3000), sounded quiet compared to what I’m currently experiencing when I dare use the CPU over 30%.

I also ran the CPU test and that caused my fans to really rev up, though the test wasn’t long enough for them to achieve hurricane force strength. Since the CPU test and fan test both passed, that would make it seem like a non-hardware issue. Uday was ready for me to basically “rebuild” my C-drive and re-install everything from scratch, assuming I had my O/S disc and recovery discs from Dell.

I was very angry at this because of the sheer stupidity of the suggestion. I pointed out to Uday that the utility partition that my system was currently booted up to was not running Windows XP and didn’t have any extraneous CPU-hogging items running. Further, the simple act of a CPU test caused my fans to run at a much higher RPM than even the fan test caused them to run. I was having to really bite my tongue to keep myself from going off on Uday in anger, then going off on Dell for being cheap bastards in sending the tech support overseas to people who likely don’t even have a PC in whatever $10/day affords them to live in.

Uday could sense my anger though and decided to send me to his supervisor because there was no way I was doing an O/S rebuild. His supervisor (name unpronounceable by me) got on and I had to explain the whole situation again. He made the command decision to send a new CPU fan set and a new heat sink. I didn’t believe the problem was fan-related, but OK, I’ll play along and we’ll see what happens. It is always possible that replacing these parts will fix the problem.

So, Wednesday morning, the tech guy Chris shows up again with the replacement parts. After working his stuff, we turn the PC on. Will the fans go nuts when I turn SETI@home back on? Sadly, the answer was yes as within 5-minutes, the fans were spinning hard. Fortunately Chris was there to witness this and agreed this was not normal fan behavior. So he called his super-secret Dell Support number which allows him to bypass the normal slow support and go right to the upper-tier (but still ignorant) support in India.

Chris was explaining things to the support person on the phone who also seemed to be wanting to go down an application route. Chris explained that it was the CPU fans, but “Apu” would have nothing to do with that. After all, what would the field tech know? So Chris humored Apu in a way that would have been difficult for me to do. He reached down and verified that the CPU fans were in fact the ones screaming. Apu wanted to do something about the noise of the fans (the noise isn’t the problem you dope, its the RPM) but wanted to make sure he knew where the noise was coming from. So he instructed Chris to shut down my machine, remove the CPU fans, and then restart the machine.

When Chris told me this, I felt my jaw hit my gut. What kind of stupidity were these bozo’s in India trying to pull? Apparently, they had to be convinced further that my fan noise was coming from the CPU fans and not the video card fan or the power supply fans. Chris had no choice to humor Apu and do what he suggested. I pulled my jaw back into place then clenched it.

Amazingly, the boot of the machine had the power supply fans start revving at an RPM rate I’d never heard from them before. Chris and I looked at each other in surprise because neither of us were expecting that. As the machine attempted to load Windows, it died because the CPU overheated. Chris reported this to Apu and had to explain it to him at least three times because apparently Apu wasn’t expecting a computer without its CPU fans to just die like that. Whatever.

Chris put the CPU fans back and and powered my machine up one more time. This time, the power supply fans were their normal quiet self, leaving only the CPU fans to quietly do their thing until the CPU started being used, at which point…well, you know.

Apu asked Chris what he felt the problem was, and Chris stated the motherboard since that was when the problems started. So Dell stated they’d send him another motherboard, another heat sink, another CPU fan-set, and a new power supply fan-set.

I can use my main computer providing I don’t run SETI@home and providing I don’t run applications that cause the CPU to run over 30% for extended periods which would cause the fans to be stressed. Come Monday, we’ll see what Dell’s “new” parts do.

Computer Issues

You know, sometimes you get a really good computer system from a company and sometimes you get a rotten lemon. I believe I purchased the latter in February of 2006 when I got one of those “cool” new Dell XPS 600 machines. I’ve had issues with it from the start, including Blue Screen of Death crashes. It took a long time (longer than it should because I’m lazy) but eventually I got it resolved.

Earlier tonight, my UPS started making funny clicking noises and then started screaming about the battery. Nice. Either my battery is going dead or something weird just happened. Still, the only way to clear the error light and potential new alarm screams was to shut down my system and then shut the UPS off for a bit. So I did this.

The UPS came up with no problems but I haven’t been able to get the PC past the BIOS check. I’ve seen it struggle in the past after being powered off, but unplugging USB devices seemed to get it over the hump. Once my machine is up, it keeps running as I constantly have it doing something, at minimum that would be SETI processing and/or uTorrent workings.

So, I unplugged the USB devices and there was no help. I continued trying to bring the bloody thing up but it won’t get past the BIOS check and stops at the same point.

As a result, I’m now on the phone with Dell Support…or rather I’m on hold. You just have to love technology that goes wrong. Well, as long as the hard drives are OK, I’m fine. I can always replace other parts.

In the meantime, I’m killing time on my old system (that was “rebuilt” after I bought the newer machine). It usually just does SETI stuff, but it’s in another room so I do use it for other things when I’m in that part of the apartment. It is also a Dell machine, but I never had any problems with it beyond it beyond its age. Thus I have a great Dell machine and a crappy Dell machine.

Update: Its the motherboard. New one should arrive late Tuesday.