Friday, April 30, 2010

Can We Make This Happen?

Bill Engvall once said that stupid people should have to wear signs, so you'd know not to count on them. I've had a similar idea, but it works in the opposite direction.
First a little background.
Every now and then, I find myself in need of technical support. For example, maybe I can't get a remote control to work, or perhaps my e-book reader has ceased to function. True to my geek nature, I turn first to the internet to search for possible solutions to my problem. From official FAQ's to BBS servers (and just about anything Google brings to my attention), I research my problem quite thoroughly in the hope that I can fix it myself. If I am unable to find a viable solution this way, I turn to tech support.
Inevitably, the poor tech ends up walking me through the very steps that I've already gone through. For example, when I contacted Sony about my bricked Reader, the tech spent something between 30 and 45 minutes walking me through the exact steps that I had researched and attempted the night before.
I understand that the tech was just doing his job. The majority of people don't try to fix their devices before turning to tech support, so it'e usually a good idea to run the customer through these fixes first. However, when someone such as myself calls, these steps are a waste of both my time and the tech;s time.
For this reason, I really wish there was some form of Geek Credentials system that would work like Bill Engvall's Stupid Signs. You contact tech support, present your Geek Credentials to the tech and he knows that you've already done the basic research, so he doesn't have to ask you if you're sure that everything's plugged in.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Damn it (and other choice expletives)

Longtime readers of this blog will know that, a little over a year ago, The Wife and I got e-book readers. Several times over the past year, I've been asked which device I prefer: Amazon or Sony. My answer was always rather inconclusive.
I now have a clear, concise answer: Get a Kindle.

Two days ago, I decided to recharge my Reader. It's been about a month since I last used it (I've been reading "actual" books), and the book I'd like to read next is one that I only possess in electronic form. To this end, I plugged the Reader into my computer using a USB cord. Yesterday, I opened the Reader Library program to make sure that the book I want to read is there, and...it wasn't aware that the e-reader was even attached.
Long story short, my e-reader is effectively bricked. When I unplug it from the computer, the display remains frozen on the "USB connected" screen. The only way to get rid of this screen is to perform a soft reset (hard reset doesn't work). A soft reset takes me back to the "Starting up" splash screen, where it once again freezes.
I spent a fair bit of time last night combing the internet, trying out all of the various fixes that people had proposed - nothing worked. Today, I contacted Sony Support. After spending about half an hour in an electronic chat with a tech who walked me through all of the steps that I'd gone through last night, I was informed that my "Reader requires service."
I went to Sony's Service page, and found that the only "service" available for my device is an exchange program. An exchange program that would cost me $99.00.
I spent $275 for this Reader, and all I get is a year of use?

In conclusion, don't buy a Sony Reader. I can't speak to the worthiness of the other e-readers out there, but Amazon has officially whupped Sony's ass.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Third Generation Geek



A little while ago, I was idly surfing the interwebs when I happened upon a smallish image of an old magazine ad for Radio Shack.  The ad, which was for the TRS-80 pocket computer,  featured the great Isaac Asimov.  The image itself was rather small, so I sis a Google image search for "Asimov Radio Shack ad."  I found what I was looking for in no time at all.
 Almost immediately, however my eye was drawn to another image.  An image that triggered a walk down memory lane.
Take a look at the computer next to Isaac's hand.  Waaaaay back when I was still a proto-geek, my grandfather had that very computer.  Most of what I remember about that computer was playing Pyramid 2000, a text-based adventure similar to the classic Zork.
I never managed to complete the game.  Once, I managed to die three times in rapid succession without getting past the antechamber.  The game actually gets a little sarcastic if you die a lot.
Most often, I'd end up getting stuck in "a maze of twisty passages, all alike."  This bit was insidious, and I always needed to call Grandpap for help.  He would come over, pull a large binder down from a shelf above the desk, leaf through it for a moment, and talk me through the maze.
He had created his own strategy guide.
On many occasions, I've referred to myself as a third generation geek.  Now you know why.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Molded Meat Food

Last night, The Wife and I had dinner at Long John Silver's.  I got my usual - the one with two bits of fish and three bits of chicken.  The Wife had the same.
At one point during the meal, The Wife managed to extract the chicken from its golden brown (and highly addictive) coating.  I didn't take a picture of what was revealed, although I should have.

See that?  That, my friends, is mechanically separated chicken.  This is, for all intents and purposes, chicken's last chance to be eaten.  Bones that still have neat attached (like the bones that are removed from the "Boneless, Skinless" breasts) are fed into a machine that forces it through a sieve at high pressure, removing every last scrap of meat and creating a Play-Doh like paste.
Take a good look at that picture up there.  Now imagine that paste molded into a vaguely cylindrical shape, and pale white instead of pink.  Give it a nice greasy sheen, and you have the core of the LJS chicken thing.
I only mention LJS because that's what I had last night.  If you've ever had a chicken nugget, you've had a molded wad of chicken paste.  Next time you have one, pay attention to the texture of what you're eating.  It doesn't exactly feel like chicken, does it?
Don't get me wrong, I'm not swearing off Long John Silvers - I still like the fish, and the batter is fantastically addictive.  I just won't be ordering the extruded chicken things.