May, 2003

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Holy

Saturday, May 31st, 2003

[photo of holy can leaking water]

I have a big cooler (which I originally bought to move some of my fish from my old apartment to the one I’m in now) that I pack as a sort of “emergency kit” (in which you’ll find not a shred of plastic sheeting nor duct tape)—with bottled water, canned food, that sort of thing. Anyway I checked on it last night and much to my dismay, found that one or more cans of food and the two jugs of water had leaked, filling part of the cooler with a nasty brown water-sludge mixture.

After thoroughly cleaning out the mess I inspected the cans carefully and found the culprit: in a can of sliced peaches I found no less than a dozen holes. It seems the can was faulty in manufacture and that the syrup inside had corroded the can causing the holes. Certainly it seems that the can should have lasted longer than a year and a half.

More mysterious is why the both big jugs of water, stored upright, leaked three-quarters of their contents. For that I’ve yet found no explanation.

Pseudo-milestone

Thursday, May 29th, 2003

[photo of my dashboard and odometer]

After some 21 months, my car’s mileage finally passed the 10000-mile mark today.

Space-saving it is not

Sunday, May 18th, 2003

I bought a shredder today to dispose of the papers and credit-card junk mail I’d been accumulating—enough to fill a small grocery bag.

Now I have five grocery bags full of shredded paper.

Lies, damned lies, and Windows error messages

Thursday, May 15th, 2003

A device properties page from the Windows XP Device Manager applet on a certain prototype laptop I’m working on:

["This device cannot start"]

Takes a licking…

Tuesday, May 13th, 2003

… and fails miserably. Even without the licking. I’ve been having the worst luck with UPS (uninterruptible power supply) battery backup units recently:

  • Late last year my 1100VA CyberPower UPS died.
  • Last Friday my 500VA IBM/Tripp-Lite UPS—which had signaled a problem via some indicator lights for some time—finally gave up the ghost, leaving my server and a network switch without power for a full day.
  • The MinuteMan UPS in my office—backing up my primary workstation—has been emitting occasional beeps and bogus power outage signals several times a day for the past few months.

In contrast, the American Power Conversion BackUPS 600VA unit I bought while at university (after a spate of thunderstorms back in the summer of 1997) has served flawlessly for over five years. APC is truly the BMW of UPSes—markedly more expensive, but you definitely get what you pay for.

Classmates.com, how do I loathe thee?

Tuesday, May 13th, 2003

Let me count the ways:

  1. I registered using my “private” E-mail address and soon thereafter started getting spam to that address. Coincidence? I think not!
  2. All those %*$#% pop-up ads.
  3. I was reviewing my credit card statement and saw a mysterious $4.00 charge from “Travel Values”. I called them up and told them I didn’t recall ever signing up for their service. Guess who it was who signed me up without consent or notification? You betcha, Classmates.com!

Classmates.com: a somewhat-useful site for getting in touch with your old school buddies, and a snakepit of questionable and unethical business practices. Beware!

Duh…?

Saturday, May 10th, 2003

When I read the news that Xbox Live Starter Kit prices are going up, I finally went out to the local Fry’s store and bought myself a kit. However when setting up my Xbox Live account I encountered a hitch: it seemed that the kit I got had no subscription code (which I needed to register my account). I called up Xbox Live tech support:

Tech support guy: What seems to be the problem?

Me: I don’t seem to have to have a subscription code.

Tech support guy: Is there a Subscription Code sticker on the inside of your Xbox Live CD jacket?

Me: Yeah, but all it has is a silver hologram Xbox logo pattern…

Tech support guy: You need to scratch the sticker.

Me: Oh.

I felt kind of sheepish, as if for a brief moment the shadow of technological ineptitude had come over me. In hindsight though I don’t feel so stupid about it—I re-checked all the documentation and as far as I can tell none of it mentions that little detail… Shouldn’t it have been obvious? Seems not; I wonder if Tech Support gets a lot of calls like mine…

Death of the “Insert” key

Saturday, May 10th, 2003

One of my buddies noted, after shopping for a new ergonomic keyboard, that all the new Microsoft keyboards have key layout altered in some annoying way.

The first changes in recent memory were in the the Natural Keyboard Elite which sports two rather dubious alterations: the change of the arrow keys from an inverted-T to a diamond-shaped configuration, and the alteration of the six-key cluster containing the Insert, Delete, Home (etc.) keys into a 2-column/3-row (intead of 3-column/2-row) layout. Not new is how the F-keys have been squeezed together, rather than being grouped into sets of four keys as has traditional starting with the original IBM PC AT keyboard.

The latest annoyance comes with the newest keyboards such as the Natural Multimedia Keyboard: the aforementioned six-key cluster is down to five keys, with the conspicuous disappearance of the “Insert” key and double-sizing of the “Delete” key. Now, I’ll grant that the “Insert” key (which typically switches text editing between insert and replace modes) was more relevant in way-back days of fixed-width fonts, but nevertheless it does remain useful for one specific segment of users: software developers (like myself) who work with source code (which is typically displayed in fixed-width type).

In the past I’ve favoured Microsoft’s keyboards because of layout: specifically I like to use a split keyboard with the number keys split between the “6” and “7” keys (since I learned to type “6” with my left hand). (Unlike some I’m not particular “religious” about the placement and/or size of the “Backspace” and “Enter” keys). For someone like me who uses a keyboard using memory and touch—rarely looking at the keyboard—these kinds of changes are a real pain in the ass. I thought it was kind of goofy back when they added the “Windows” and “Menu” keys but at least in those cases it was easy not to use the added keys. This time I think they really need to go back to the drawing board.