marahmarie: Sheep go to heaven, goats go to hell (Default)

This article, to be precise.

The author pisses all over the laptop's parade for three, breathlessly delivered main reasons:

  • all laptops will become bombs, or be treated as such, so no more knee-warmer for you
  • only Apple makes laptops; Apple laptops absolutely blow
  • only young people exist; young people don't age anymore and only buy smartphones and don't ever decide they want something more sophisticated or powerful, so there

While there's much ado about how powerful and sophisticated smartphones are becoming (for instance, 4K screens) there's no mention of how Android is about as secure as a pile of gold ingots left in a busy parking lot in broad daylight with a sign on top with the words "STEAL ME" written in foot high letters, nor of how a small screen that doesn't hold itself up when you need to type with both hands will always be a small screen that doesn't hold itself up when you need to type with both hands, and will be until smartphone makers figure out how to make a phone that unfolds, revealing not just a full-size screen but a full-size keyboard.

If I wasn't quite so stunned at what passes for deductive reasoning here I'd laugh, because the above list - if say, the author was kidding, and this was April's Fool Day - might actually be kind of funny.

marahmarie: Sheep go to heaven, goats go to hell (Default)

It came on a Buy-It-Later feature of PayPal that I forgot I set up on my account, but once I saw it I figured OK, what the hell, I'll wait for the laptop to come and make sure it actually works and comes as advertised before paying. The seller was right about the scratches on the cover but, as some of you know, I like to make pretty-pretty, anyhow.

He didn't list the processor make or model which had me on all kinds of pins and needles because I love AMD's processors (that's Aesop's brand) and hate Intel's (NSAware, especially from Core i7 and up; and just a crappy processor no matter how well it benchmarks; they just never feel as fast as an AMD, especially if you're talking Atom or Celeron). Luckily it turned out to be an AMD Athlon P320 Dual Core.

The battery is lasting about two hours on only 2/3s of a charge so I'm taking that as a good sign. The wifi works flawlessly, video plays seamlessly, the keyboard works perfectly, the trackpad tracks glitchlessly, and the display shines sunnily with no blown pixels or scratches that I can see - and yeah, I was trying to make a poem out of that because I'm pretty freakin' happy about it.

So yeah. Pay the guy. Now. Otherwise I'm using something that he'll wait almost two more weeks to get paid for. I'm really not going to like selling stuff on eBay again if that's how it goes these days - and yeah, that's how it goes. I think it's possible their business model's become too customer-centric (and no, I never thought I'd live to see that day; back when I was a regular eBay seller, it was already getting too close to that for comfort, which was over nine years ago).

And yeah, I think she's (funny how fast she's already a she) got a name. I thought of it last night while thinking about Aesop, the female computer with a guy's name and kick-ass will to not live. She will be ASAP, daughter of Aesop, and hopefully she will not be such a mule-headed diva.

marahmarie: Sheep go to heaven, goats go to hell (Default)

Aesop has put me through hell this week but I think I've finally come out on top - which is sort of what I like about her - how hard she makes me work to not let her fail on me. This time her main problems were a) dragging ass in general starting a few weeks ago and b) only getting 16-25mbps download speeds this week after upgrading to a 50mbps Internet connection (an upgrade I didn't ask for but apparently won't be charged for, so what the hell).

The 'dragging ass' was bad enough but the lack of online speed drove me nuts pretty much instantly. Though my last install of XP was probably less than six months old I figured re-installing might be my best best but when I tried to I couldn't get any install discs to work - not my own ('corrupted ghoster.txt' error), not my copies ('ghoster.txt' error), not my fiance's (every error out there from 'operating system not found" to all kinds of corrupted files and folders, to installs that just hung eternally on the first "Windows is starting" screen you get right after files are unpacked but before Windows starts installing).

Thanks to him being a computer tech he literally has five different copies of XP Pro - some slipstreamed with SP2, some not - several copies of XP Home, one copy of XP Media Edition, two copies of Win 7 - including one you can install any version of 7 from Basic to Pro to Ultimate from - and a few copies of Win 8 and 8.1 (which I can't run on this motherboard). Not one of those damn discs would work, which told me it wasn't the discs, it was a hardware issue.

He was at work and I was on the phone with Comcast while trying to do the reinstall, which was going very, very badly, so I began texting him about the error messages and hanging 'starting Windows' screens each time Comcast put me on hold and asked if it was in fact the hard drive failing like the Comcast tech had suggested the day before. Finally he told me to switch the CD burner out as he was thinking that might be the problem. So I took the CD burner off his computer, took the CD burner off my computer, hooked his CD burner up, fired up my rig and the installs started unpacking a few more files before failing but every one of them still failed. Even my Vista disc failed and my Vista disc never fails (unfortunately, since I should never use Vista).

After a few hours of multiple failed installs in which I blew through five reps at Comcast (I wasn't in a bad mood over all this or anything - noooo, nuh uh, not me!) I decided to go lie down and read a John Steinbeck novel and after turning the last page a few hours later fell asleep. Hours later I got up, made dinner and after cleaning that up the fiance decided to go have a look at Aesop. On some sort of inexplicable hunch he decided to pull one of her 1GB RAM chips out and restart the computer; after that XP SP2 installed just fine. "It's your memory!" he shouted. "Oh, bullshit", I shot back. I felt like telling him he just got lucky (and no, not in the way he might have hoped).

After XP finished installing I insisted on putting the RAM back in against my computer tech's advice. I checked it in BIOS and it read just fine (and it was reading just fine right up until I reinstalled XP). I checked it in Windows under Computer-->Properties after the re-install and the OS was reading it just fine, too, but the computer was still running like shit: it was using 100% CPU the second I opened Firefox or Internet Exploder (version 6 because SP2) and freezing if I tried to run both browsers at once and IE wouldn't open a single webpage but rather than say "page not found" it gave me obscure "cannot open http://thiswebsite.com" errors.

At a loss what to do, I figured it was running like shit because SP2 so I took my computer tech's copy of SP3 (which I could not download online because of the IE errors) and ran it while I mused about a particular Comcast rep's personality failings. It wasn't done installing updates and ready to go until about 4am, at which point I went back to bed. When I got up today the computer was still running like shit but at least it had IE8, which was opening webpages just fine. But my download speed was still stuck at between 5mbps-19mbps - and I was getting pissed.

So I did what I usually do when Aesop's got my ass good: puttered around and made dinner. After cleaning that up, taking a shower, folding laundry and doing anything else around the house I could think of just to avoid dealing with her, I realized I'd run out of things to do.

Turning the computer back on, I observed it was still running like shit, so for shits and grins I pulled off the Ethernet cable that my computer tech fiance gave me a while back because it's the extra-long kind to account for where I have the computer versus where the modem is, dragged the computer across my desk over to the modem, plugged in the short yellow cable Comcast gave me and ran an Ookla speed test. Bam! 56mbps down, 11 up. Now we're talking! But the computer was still running like shit and webpages were definitely not loading nearly as fast as 50mbps would seem to suggest. Like, that would suggest 'instantly'? No, my webpages were loading like I was on dial-up.

So I started googling the issue (I think my exact search query was [how to utilize 50mbps connection speed on XP]) and hit on a Comcast forum where someone suggested using Comcast's TCP/IP optimizer, which is designed specifically for XP. My first thought was, "I didn't know Comcast had a TCP/IP optimizer - why didn't the Comcast tech we just had out here tell me this?" (Because chances are he doesn't know they have one, either.) So I got it and ran it (you have to run it from IE for some reason, which admittedly kind of blows). But other than the IE requirement it's completely awesome. It offers fine-grained TCP/IP tuning options such as:

  • Performance – Up to 15 Mbps with PowerBoost®
  • Blast!® – Up to 20 Mbps with PowerBoost®
  • Ultra – Up to 30 Mbps with PowerBoost®
  • Extreme50 – Up to 50 Mbps

It was a bit confusing because the tool is obviously getting old so now Extreme50 = Blast!® while Extreme50 is probably Extreme105 by now, but at any rate I chose Extreme50 and rebooted when it told me to. Now, not only do my webpages load almost instantly but the computer's running like a dream. Apparently the problems the network stack was having with my Extreme50/Blast connection were reverberating throughout my system, slowing everything down, so I guess I'll be keeping my supposedly fucked-up RAM stick, after all. Stuff like this is why, as always, I'd prefer to be my own computer tech: I don't do such a bad job on my own, thankyouverymuch.

As for my latest Comcast issues, I'll have to wait until at least Monday to post more on that because I never got the email confirmation on the $155 credit that the last rep promised I'd get, and for some reason there was no confirmation number she could give me for it, either (yeah, I wonder why?) so I'm going to have to start all over again with that on Monday. If they won't make this right - if they're really going to give me a hard time? I'm going to report them to every authority out there for fraud and just outright accuse them of trying to get over on me so some rep could make their numbers for the month - seriously, I have HAD it with them.

marahmarie: Sheep go to heaven, goats go to hell (Default)

Poor Aesop, she's looking at permanent retirement: she's never played video smoothly even with all her hardware maxed out to specs supported by the motherboard (currently, that's 2GB of RAM, a 1.74GHz single core processor, a 232GB hard drive that could be bigger but meh, who cares, and she's not running a slave right now because I'm using an external hard drive as a file server so just why bother).

So in the last two weeks we've had these new and exciting issues with Comcast: the DVR that comes with our On Demand TV suddenly stopped working one night for no discernible reason but we were both so damn tired of calling Comcast that we just stopped watching TV for a week or so. When we did finally call them, maybe 3-4 days ago, it turned out they had to reset some kind of code for it. That is becoming quite the theme around here, as you will see.

Even before that I'd noticed our Internet speed had dropped from the moment the amplifier was added on weeks ago. Dropped. It made the TV work better and the Internet speed much worse, or so it seemed. We were so damn tired of calling Comcast by then that when my fiance finally called to have the DVR problem fixed the Internet issue was not even mentioned. Then a "customer care specialist" (one of the Retention guys; I hate them with a passion that makes me do the craziest fucking things, like start Anti-AOL?) called me two days ago to see how everything was going. Did I want to upgrade? Oh, he could see that I could upgrade both my TV and my Internet RIGHT NOW! Wowzer bowzer! How about we get started on that? OK: I practically need a Valium to jot down the next paragraph because my hands are shaking just recalling this snake oil salesman's oil slick of "let's get going" rah-rah buy buy buy mad upselling skillz...

"I'm not interested", I said, cutting him off mid-sale.
"But I see here we can definitely upgrade you from 25MBs per second on your connection speed and expand your TV package! So why not let's let's get started on that!"
"No."
"OK..." *nervous chuckle* "Uh, OK, so you're not interested in the best XFinity has to offer and having faster Internet and better TV. I can upgrade you right now! Yes, I see that I can do that for you this minute!"
OMFG, guys: THIS MINUTE.
"Look, of course I'm interested in having faster Internet and better TV. Who isn't interested in that? But if I upgrade it won't be for free. You're going to charge me MORE MONEY and I don't have MORE MONEY to give you guys right now. Is that...clear enough?"
"Well, if you want to talk about money, you're paying ...what? You have a pretty expensive package right now, what with the Internet Blast and your TV package, you're paying what...like $251 a month for it?" [ETA: turns out that was technically what I was charged this month for the same thing I've been getting]
"WHAT?"
"Uh, I said you're uh, you're paying...?"
"No, I can assure you I'm not paying $215 a month for it. It might be a $215 a month package, I don't doubt that. But the thing is, I've had such horrible service from Comcast and such a broad range of problems with the service - everything from the wrong cable laid in my driveway which is still there to this day to billing problems to constant connection interruptions to slow Internet speeds to problems with the TV signal to problems with the techs that I get my package at a steeply discounted rate to make up for all the trouble we've had with Comcast over the last year. I've had basically nothing but problems with you guys from Day One."
"Huh, well, I, I...I'm sorry to hear that. I uh, is there, uh, anything else I can help with today? Are you still having any problems?"
"Yes, the Internet has been slow since the day the amplifier was installed a few weeks ago, which was done because a contractor lied the same morning about not having the RG11 cable we were supposed to have from day one but never got and gave us new RG6 instead. And our DVR was not working correctly until earlier this week when we called and got them to send it a code it needed to work properly again."
"So you're saying you got the package with the DVR just last week?"
"No, I'm not. We've had the package for a few months. The DVR stopped working within the last few weeks, but it only got fixed last week. The Internet speed still needs fixing but I am so damn tired of calling Comcast I just haven't bothered trying to get you guys to look at that, too."
"Huh, well I'm really sorry to hear that. I'm sorry you've had so many problems with Comcast...but uh, is there anything else I can do for you today?"
"No, not right now."
"OK, well, thank you for choosing Comcast and..."
"Wait! Can you answer a question for me?"
"Sure, I'll try."
"I uh...did you just say a little bit earlier that my service includes Internet Blast? Did you say that?"
"Yes, yes, I did."
"So it says on your screen that I get Internet Blast as part of my package, right?"
"Yes, it does."
"Well, no one's ever told me that before and I'm not getting Internet Blast speeds. Internet Blast is a minimum of 50mbps, right? Is that correct?"
"Yes, it can be as low as 50mbps or as high as 105mbps."
"Huh, well, I'm only getting 25mbps. I'll have to talk to your tech support about that, too, I guess."
"It could be your modem", he averred. "Looking here it says you have a DOCSIS 2.0 modem."
"Oh no I don't. We have the latest Xfinity modem that supports DOCSIS 3.0. I know that for a fact."
"Well according to the information I have here, ma'am, you have a modem that only supports DOCSIS up to 2.0."
"Well, is your screen telling you what kind of modem that is? Because that sounds like the info for my old modem, not the one I have now."
"No, It doesn't give me that info, it basically just tells me what version of DOCSIS your modem can support."
"If I read you the model number on the modem can you confirm that for me? That this Xfinity modem only supports DOCSIS 2.0?"
"Sure, I can try", he said, but the modem didn't have a discernible model number and there was no other way for us to put together exactly what the hell his screen was talking about, so he thanked me again for choosing Comcast and we hung up.

That night the fiance called Comcast again because our Internet connection got knocked out so we needed a refresh signal; after that issue was fixed he got two appointments set up: one to re-lay the RG11 cable that never got laid in the first place, another to have a tech come out and figure out why we're getting 25mbps instead of 50mbps. Oh, joy.

Today was the big day but the contractor never showed up to lay the cable. The tech came this afternoon, though, right on time. After I explained how I pay for but don't receive Internet Blast he checked our signal and ascertained it wasn't the issue despite RG6 cable in use on a huge patch of land that by all rights should have RG11 and despite how I noticed the signal dropped by 3-5mbps immediately after the amplifier was installed. The tech assured me it's not the amplifier, it's not the cable, and that my signal is more than sufficient to get all the speed we could want or need. So guess what the problem is?

"Yeah, it's not any of those things. What we're looking at is a ...uh, we call it an issue with the code."
"A rate code issue", I said, having been around this block before.
"Yeah, exactly. I'll need to call Comcast and have them reprovision the code and roll it back for you."
"OK."

He got that done in under 5 minutes. My fiance tore apart his computer last week to use his own parts to fix someone else's rig and hasn't bothered to put it all back together but it's the only decent computer we have, so we had to test the new connection speed on my computer, good old Aesop; sure enough the speed still came up at just 22-23mbps. I was genuinely puzzled and thought maybe the rate code voodoo simply hadn't worked, not an unexpected outcome considering just how much stuff Comcast routinely fucks up. But the tech thought otherwise.

"Maybe your hard drive is shot." If my computer tech fiance had been here there's a good chance he wouldn't have even wanted to live through his response. I know I'd rather crawl under a rock than have it directed at me. I also know that "maybe your hard drive is shot" is not a suitable answer to "why your Internet speed is taking an awfully huge crap". Before I could get into how your hard drive's health isn't really capable of controlling your Internet speed, though, he asked if I had a laptop.

So I hooked my tiny little Lenovo notebook up to the Ethernet and surprise, surprise, we get 50-60mbps down now, so all is well - that is, except for old Aesop. After I publish this - a post I'm writing on Aesop because she never breaks down and always does what she can, because if computers were humans this one would have a heart of gold, the willpower of a monk and the strength of a horse - I'm going to reinstall XP on her one last time and see if that solves the connection speed problem. And I'm going to start saving up for a new computer whether it does or not. Poor fucking Aesop.

marahmarie: Sheep go to heaven, goats go to hell (Default)

Once upon a time, there was an evil Thai landlord.

He was obnoxious, a loud-mouthed tyrant who went to church every Sunday so Jesus could carefully wash him of his sins so he could terrorize the 'hood for another hair-raising week. Except for mom - she could make him walk around repeating what she said like it was the word of God. By extension he was afraid of me, too (I have a glare that can break windows that I used every other second on him, so I rarely found the need to say much, but one time I did tell him to get out of my face and called him a mofo until he blanched and started walking backwards away from me with his hands up in the air, chastising me all the while for my mouth).

We were among the few people he tried to curry favor with, probably because he knew we hated him. He'd come into the yard at least once a week while we were out on the porch to tell us how beautiful our gardens were, make kissy faces at the cats, talk about his third (mail-order from Russia) wife and to discuss what the pastor said at church that day, hint hint. This would be a great big *yawn* except for how bad his English was. Not tarball, I guess, but pretty fucking bad. My not-so-fond name for how he spoke was Tinglish. Among his Greatest Hits: his answer the day we asked him what he'd done to our pine trees. He'd had one of his day-labor crews come in and just hack them up. His eyes lit up as he shouted with joy: "I make pretty-pretty! You like?"

"Nope," my mom said, staring at him. I almost fell to the ground laughing. He wrinkled his brow at her. "You no like pretty-pretty?"

"No, I no like pretty-pretty," she intoned matter-of-factly. "Pretty-pretty", I echoed, sputtering with laughter. He turned to me: "You like pretty-pretty?"

After I almost died laughing, and not being as witty as my mom, I simply asked him what the fuck he did to our pine trees, but I got nothing back either except for more joyful shouts of "I make pretty-pretty! You like?". So for the last seven years or so, anything I've ever done to improve anything?

Making Pretty-Pretty

Handmade laptop skin

You like?

The 5 Ws + How

So I lucked into an older (2005ish, but the specs match more closely 2006-2009 models) Dell Latitude the other day for just over 100 bucks, but it's got this hideous grey cover, which on sight made me recall a recent headline on Lifehacker about skinning your laptop with Contact paper. Here's the article, in fact (but I haven't read it yet). There's Contact kicking around the house but it looks like the tablecloth my laptop's on, and I don't even know where to buy jazzier-looking stuff (mine's from the local dollar dump).

Not wanting my laptop to look like a tablecloth, I went to JoAnne Crafts and found a fairly large adhesive sticker (that's the shiny stuff you see; it was about two feet long, so I cut it - right on the laptop - to fit correctly) and a pack of flower adhesives. Time spent finding these things? About half an hour, because JoAnne's is like Craft Mecca. Total cost? $2.62 with tax and a military discount (not mine).

The hard part wasn't cutting it to fit correctly but, surprisingly, finding and pressing out the little air bubbles. After re-laying the sticker oh, I dunno, too many times because I don't know how to give up, I gave up and put the flowers wherever the biggest/most obvious air bubbles are, all the while wondering why I don't own a rolling pin, which would have helped a lot.

But I was so pleased with how easy it was to make my new-old laptop look oooh, shiny that I'm wondering now if there's any demand for that sort of thing. I know Dell does custom covers nowadays (painted or spray-painted on, I suppose, for many dollars, I suppose, unless you pre-order or buy The Most Expensive Thing, I suppose) but I was thinking the hell with that, what if people just want some cheap, pretty covers but don't want to do it themselves? I could make a few extra bucks doing this, seeing how cheap the supplies are and all.

marahmarie: Sheep go to heaven, goats go to hell (Default)

A few years ago I got this somewhat delicious tax return for, you know, working, so I went out and blew most of it in BestBuy, as my boyfriend looked on in insane jealousy, since he almost never buys any new computer hardware (and come to think of it, neither do I).

I bought another half-gig of Kingston memory for my 2002 eMachines, which was a relic then, and is even more of a relic now, so it could finally run Firefox without freezing and crashing. I bought a new DVD-ROM with the fastest read/write speeds around. I bought a Microsoft Comfort Optical Mouse. And last but not least, I bought a Microsoft Comfort Curve 2000 keyboard, ergonomic and comfy to the point that when I got it I couldn't type on it. It was so weird.

Take-away: Don't buy any of the crap I bought - except for the Kingston RAM.

These purchases were all made on the same evening in early 2007 while I was flush with cash and stricken with brand-name blindness, but except for the RAM, these purchases were a complete waste of time and money.

The DVD-ROM was the first to go; one day a few months after I bought it I went to pop the disc tray open and it made some strange sort of whirring noise, advanced forward perhaps one ten-thousandth of an inch, and froze.

I messed with it for six months, learning as I went along that for some reason, if I pulled the DVD drive forward, about half way out of the computer, pulled the face plate off, and put my finger against the electronic eye with one hand while I hit the Open button with the other, the tray would pop open smoothly.

Unfortunately, the way it looked, with the computer case off and the DVD drive hanging out without a face plate (this was at the same time that I was using pie tins as signal multipliers and hanging wireless adapters from the ceiling - my office space was like a scene from Dorks Gone Wild) precluded it being a permanent solution; not to even mention the fact that getting down on my hands and knees to get it open and closed was a PITA.

I blamed my boyfriend for the DVD drive foul-up, since he never screwed it in properly, and I couldn't do it myself without the right...tool.

One down, two to go...

The mouse worked well until about a year ago when it started "sticking". I don't know what "sticking" is, but I know what it does: the mouse doesn't work unless you crush the left mouse button with your foot. Doing so made typing very difficult.

Sometimes to mix things up I would bang the mouse furiously against the desk until everyone within a twenty foot radius shouted at me to stop. Other times I would shake the mouse gently and hope something would fall out of it, but nothing did.

My mouse continued to wig out on me whenever it felt like it, at least two or three times a day. I learned keyboard shortcuts and kept my mouth shut. In time my patience paid off. About two months ago it self-cured; it hasn't given me a lick of trouble since. Now I just bang it around when someone is wrong on the Internet - every two seconds.

Two down, one to go...

This brings me to that fantastic, moderately expensive, and strangely laid out keyboard. I learned to love it mostly because my boyfriend hated it - he's a touch typist (about 100 wpm) and he couldn't stand the layout; his fingers couldn't adjust to it. Good! He doesn't need to be on my computer anyway when he has about ten of his own.

My fingers aren't trained for any keyboard, so I loved how much space was between the keys and the rounded design.

Then one day about a week ago I posted a comment on TechCrunch. Reading it again a minute later, I noticed it had no letters 'a', 't', or 'r'. "Whoops, I'm an idio - wait, that's not me", I realized as I typed another comment on LiveJournal - that's my keyboard.

I started banging on the letters 'a', 't', and 'r' until everyone within a twenty foot radius shouted at me to stop. Then I took the entire keyboard and banged it against my desk furiously over and over. Still no dice - or no letters 'a', 't', and 'r' - whichever you prefer.

Grrrrr.

I tried troubleshooting briefly before I gave up. First I closed a bunch of programs on my computer to free up some RAM and CPU cycles - I figured maybe the keyboard wasn't getting enough of one or the other (or both) to operate certain letters in the layout. Unbelievably, that worked - for about ten minutes. Whenever RAM usage climbed even one bit over 50%, though, the problem re-occurred.

I had closed every program except Firefox and essential Windows processes at that point, so I gave up and bought a new keyboard yesterday - a $10 throwaway iHome - and I hate the damn thing. Unlike the Microsoft keyboard, with its sweeping, luxurious expanse of keys that I was so accustomed to, this keyboard is so crammed and jammed up I hit Caps Lock with almost every keystroke and my fingers ache from not being able to flex. I blame Microsoft for this - and why not?