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Archive for the 'Geekery' Category

Won + Lost = Wost

Posted in Geekery, Life on January 8th, 2017

A few weeks ago, we stumbled upon Catan Universe, which is at this point an online, faithful representation of the game and it’s various expansions. It has multiplayer and as a bonus, it offers AI players so you can still play even when your buddies aren’t around.

The AI players all have typical German names, but quite honestly if you have an AI player in a game with live players the AI might as well be named “Victim”.

The wife and I both love to play games, but our circle of buddies has shrunk rather alarmingly in the past couple years, especially since we moved to the West side and my former roomie Greyduck opted to get his own place, so this has been a great way to get back into the swing of games.

The problem with playing a lot of two-player games, however, is that there’s only ever one winner, and they might not feel to well about that. Not a big deal if it’s just your buddy, but when it’s your significant other, well, something needed to be done. So, the wife and I have come up with a standard forfeit: the winner has to scoop the litter boxes.

“You pulled Longest Road AND arched wool in one turn?!? Well, have fun scooping, I’m pretty sure Wasabi let off a stinker in there for ya :)”

Oh the felinity!


Hover Mode failure

Posted in Geekery on January 7th, 2017

HP Gen 9 servers have better fan control now and don’t quite sound like Cessnas at takeoff so I had to adjust my customary customization.

Hover Mode Failure

One Fast Cat exercise wheel

Posted in Geekery, Life, Reviews on February 25th, 2016

Since we’ve moved to the smaller apartment, Trouble has been missing having a racetrack, and Wasabi, well, he’s just got energy to burn, so we took a recent windfall and splurged on a One Fast Cat exercise wheel. They get good reviews, and people say their cats are happier, so it was worth looking into.

Wasabi agrees:

New computational assistant

Posted in Geekery on May 18th, 2014

So the last time the Boss got me a new work laptop, they let me buy the old one cheap and I took it home and set it up in the living room for general use. For the last few months, however, it has been getting slower and slower. 2 weeks ago, I cloned the hard drive over to a good spare, but that hasn’t helped things any. Obviously, it’s just a dying machine.

So, on to a replacement. I’ve sold enough HP gear over the last few years to build up a decent nest-egg in reward points, so I converted them into a gift card and went shopping. Since all I really needed the machine n the living room for was basic web activity, I figured I’d save some and went with a Chromebook 14.

Overall impression? Aside from some odd choices in the interface design, it does what it says on the tin. It’s hard to remember that you can’t do certain things, but otherwise it handily does what it’s told.

As for those design choices, the first one that really grabs you is the keyboard keys – they’re larger than standard, which means I keep finding myself hitting the paces between the keys and not typing anything. Which is doubly weird for me, since I don’t touch-type, but even with staring at the keyboard, I’m not doing as well as normal.

Second is the choice of keys. They left out the standard PgUp/Dn Home/End keys, and instead of making the Function keys dual-purpose like many modern keyboards, these ones have been fully converted to the computer’s special functions. The lack of a Delete key is singularly confusing.

The most confusing bit by far, however, was the really poorly-worded instructions for a right-click: the paperwork clearly says “Double-Tap for Right-click”; what they actually meant was “Click with two fingers to Right-click”. Real helpful there, guys.

Still, so far, so good. Seems like just the thing if all you need is web access and light productivity.

No servers in Network Browser

Posted in Geekery, Work on February 2nd, 2014

So there you are, you’ve just updated the last of your servers to Server 2008, 2008R2 or even 2012, and you’ve gotten all of your client PCs up to at least Windows 7. Feels pretty good, eh?

Unfortunately, your users are hounding you because their tried-and-true Network Browser doesn’t show any of the servers. They can see all of the other PCs on-net, but the servers just don’t show up. You can of course type in the hostname manually, but what user is ever going to remember how to do that? Why does this simple thing fail?

Well, it turns out that there is a specific service that tells other systems what shared resources are available on a particular system – and for some completely unfathomable, dumb-as-fuq reason, Microsoft doesn’t enable this service by default on servers. The service in question is Function Discovery Resource Publication (FDResPub), and all you need to do is set this service to auto and start it – and within seconds you can refresh that Network Browser window and see results.

The mind, it boggles.

Here’s the even dumber thing about this: Windows 7 and server 2008 share a whole ton of code, right? Well, Win7 includes this service – and it is set to automatic by default! 

Now, I can understand not necessarily wanting this enabled on all servers – there’s no need to show the servers that don’t have shares on them, like the SQL server.   If this was some option that would pop up sometime during the server configuration stages, like a check box offering to “Advertise this server in Network Browser” (the list of options in the File Services Role would seem an ideal spot), this would make sense – but nope.

I’m guessing the planning for this move went something like this: “well, on PCs, we have to set things up by default for the Dumbest Common Denominator, which is going to be the workgroup user – you know, the shlubs that can barely check their email and have no idea how a computer actually works, so they would never be able to make a PC advertise to the Browser. We’ll enable file sharing by default and set the FDResPub service to auto. But on servers, we’ll leave it off, because surely a server admin will be smart enough to figure out a service we never talk about anywhere by digging up a single reference in an obscure forum post. Yeah, that sounds about right!”

Gee. Thanks, guys.

Program crashes with “Can’t get local AppData folder”

Posted in Geekery on September 26th, 2012

Another quick notes post.

If you have a prgram fail to run with this error, it’s probably a bad entry in the registry. Good news is, it’s easy to find and fix.

STANDARD WARNING: Editing the registry can blow things up permanently if you don’t know what you’re doing. Make backups first, then backup your backups. Redundancy is good.

Open Regedit and search ‘Computer’ for “user Shell Folders” or just go here:

HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\User Shell Folders

And also “shell folders” here (which is just a few entries North…):

HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\Shell Folders

Search through all the values. If you find one that shouldn’t exist (like say, it points to a drive letter you don’t use) correct the value in both locations and try the program again.

I’ve run into this problem before and had it change back on me, so keep these instructions handy.

Outlook’s Message Recall feature is useless

Posted in Geekery on August 30th, 2012

Really, reeeaaally useless.

So, you’ve screwed the pooch and accidentally sent that email “Reply to ALL” instead of just your one chum, and your snarkiness is going to get you canned. “Wait!” you exclaim, “I’ll use Message Recall!!” You clickety-clickey over to Sent Items, locate the offending career-ender, right-click and choose “Recall message”. Nothing to it, Bob’s yer uncle, day saved, wot?

Not so much.

You see, the stars, moons and planets have to be just exactly aligned for this to work. If the end user is fast on the draw and reads it before you recall, it won’t work. (Duh, the damage is done at that point anyway.) If they have a rule that automatically moves your emails out of the inbox, it fails. If they check their email through OWA, it fails. If they get it on their mobile phone/tablet/whatever, you’re probably toast. (The butter’s on the counter over there, would you mind?)

Even if it actually does manage to work, do you know what it really does? It deletes the email.

“Sweet!!” you say, “That’s just what I wanted!”

Except, of course, that deleted emails go to the Deleted items folder. Unread. Subject line in bold, just waiting for the CEO to glance over and see that “Deleted Items (1)” on the left and think “Hmm, what’s this then?”

Yep. That’s him, yelling your name down the hallway right now. Might as well start packing your desk.

Can I have your stapler?

Business tip: don’t let the CFO be the IT contact

Posted in Geekery on April 25th, 2012

Working as an outsourced IT guy, I’ve seen many different approaches to the idea of the ‘IT Liaison’ position – that poor sap who gets tasked with keeping track of all the little things that are wrong with the computers and coordinating with the IT guy(s). Here are some tips for choosing the right Liaison:

  • Whoever you pick should have at least a vague idea of the terminology used. If they think “turning on the computer” involves the button on the monitor alone, they are not qualified. They should also not be afraid to learn something new.
  • Don’t let the beancounters do it. Especially the CFO. Beancounters are concerned only with the bottom line, and for the most part they don’t comprehend that what they consider “getting the most for their dollar” equates to pissing us right the hell off.

    Look, I know you don’t want to pay too much for parts and such, but if I give you a quote, the price on it will probably include a little something to cover the time and expense of researching the product and actually writing up the quote in a presentable format. DO NOT expect me to match the lowest price you can find on the Internet, because that price is based on them selling 1000 units a day. We sell 1 unit a day at best, so I’m not going to give you crate-based pricing. If you refuse to pay more than the lowest Internet price for anything, I will let you do your own damn research in the future and you can buy it yourself. Let me know when it gets there.

  • The Liaison should not be obsessive-compulsive. If you hound us and peer over our shoulders, it takes us longer to get anything done. If you continually pester us with emails regarding a particular subject, we will start adding the time we spend dealing with your emails into our fees. The idea of human multi-tasking is actually bogus: humans can only truly focus on one thing; doing more than one thing means we have to split that focus, and pay less attention to each of those things. So, if you’re distracting me from my work, you won’t like the results. Do not demand updates while the job is in process, wait until we have a minutes to breathe and we’ll tell you what we’re doing.
  • Make it someone who has some influence, or make someone with influence speak with us on a regular basis. Me telling the receptionist that you need new servers doesn’t do any good if nobody listens to her, and me saying you’ve needed new servers for months when the shit hits the fan just sounds like an excuse.

HP ML350/370 G6 Expansion Drive Cage Installation problem

Posted in Geekery, Work on November 5th, 2011

So, you’ve just bought the expansion drive cage (8 more SFF drives! W00t!) and you’ve got the SAS RAID controller Expansion Card as well. Great! Only one problem – HP forgot to include a crucial bit of information regarding how you wire the damn thing in.

Step 1: remove the existing SAS cables from the existing drive cage and motherboard. Discard these short cables.

Step 2: Take the shorter pair of cables from the expansion card kit, and route them from the SAS ports on the motherboard to ports 8 and 9 on the card. Then proceed with running the remaining cables from the two drive cages to ports 2-5 of the card.

The instructions that came with my kit left these two steps out, and I wasted about an hour trying to figure out what I did wrong (Whaddya mean there’s no new drives in the ACU?). Finally found an article with pictures in the HP site, but they could have saved me the trouble by just printing the above two lines in the kit.

How’d the rest of it go? Rather smashing, actually. That server now has 60GB (!!) of RAM and another 900GB of RAID5 storage.

Internet Explorer 9 – Microsoft STILL doesn’t get it.

Posted in Geekery on March 14th, 2011

Here is a phone pic of my computer 3 minutes into the process of installing Internet Explorer 9:

Why a phone pic? Because it had to completely shut down everything else, including:

  • Antivirus
  • Firefox
  • Media Monkey
  • All the widgets
  • Logitech software
  • and Windows Explorer.

So why it took 6 whole minutes when it wasn’t fighting anything else for my processors or 6GB of RAM, I have no effing idea…

So no, it didn’t actually require a reboot, but it did completely take over my computer for 6 solid minutes while it downloaded and installed the new package. So yay, no reboot, but WTF?!? Why are you STILL making the browser such an integral part of the operating system?

Chrome, Firefox and Opera all run quite happily without being so integrated. What the hell do you do that needs to be so wrapped up in the whole system other than allow a canny hacker access to core OS functionality through one of the inevitable security holes you provide with each release? Hmm?

Okay, enough of that, time to run it through some tests. So, load up my main work website, go to the toughest and slowest page it has and… huh. Right. IE9! Does so much more!! Look at all the pretty HTML5 it can do!!!

But apparently it doesn’t do Ajax, which means we can’t use it at work, which means it is utterly useless. Go Team Go.

So, right here is where I plug ChromePlus, a mashup that comes pre-loaded with IE-Tab right in the download. All the speed and security of Chrome AND the ability to run IE-required pages.

In conclusion, IE9 looks to be just what I expected it to be: several good ideas completely screwed by a company that refuses to pull it’s head out of it’s ass.