Archive for the “Work” Category

When you’re only interested in work

The Arizona Interscholastic Association (AIA) has announced a “partnership” with the Arizona Repugnant:

“Azcentral.com have unveiled a partnership that makes azcentral.com the state’s only site to feature every score and schedule for all AIA member schools in each sport, providing the most comprehensive, updated coverage.”

Yeah, no. This was announced this psat Thursday. In yesterday’s (Saturday’s) edition, there was absolutely NO coverage of high school football. So much for this vaunted partnership.

24-7Football.com still provides more information, more up-to-date scores, and more in-depth analysis than anything the misinformed hacks at the Repugnant could come up with.

The 24-7 site’s admins are on recruiters’ speed-dial. The coaches prefer to deal with the 24-7 folks over newspaper columnists any day of the week. The AIA has proven themselves to be three-years behind the times in everything technology-related. This “announcement” is just Much Ado About Nothing.

The columnists that cover high school sports are only interested in covering the Phoenix-metro big schools (4A/5A). They have one or two folks that attempt to cover everything else (1A – 3A) and they fail miserably. You can follow the threads on multiple forums about how bad their coverage is, how badly they mess up their team rankings due to being uninformed, and how apathetic they are when it comes to anything that resides outside Maricopa County.

Which brings me to Geoff Grammer of the Tucson Citizen.

Now, I love the Citizen. I used to work there. I fondly look back on that place as the place that gave me a chance to get into the work force and show what I could do. The people were top-notch. The writing made me almost want to be a journalist (if the pay was close to technology, I probably would’ve switched). The editors knew what they were doing.

And now they have Geoff Grammer who has the title of “Varsity Sports Editor”.

I had posted on his site, and, of course, my post had a link back to the DKC Rankings. He did actually link back to the rankings, so I emailed him a quick thank you. However, in that thank you, I raised a question to him: (sent on 9/18/07)

Looks like you linked the DKC ratings. Thanks for that.

I been meaning to ask – why is it that the Citizen, which always has the best HS coverage anyway in S. Arizona, always seems to omit the 1A / 2A / 3A schools?

It’s not like Tucson and the surrounding area doesn’t have small schools -

1A
Ajo
Patagonia
St. David
(Tucson) Tanque Verde
(Elfrida) Valley Union

2A
Bisbee
Benson
(Oro Valley) Pusch Ridge Christian
Tombstone
Willcox

3A
(Tucson / Vail) Empire

The Citizen reports on Casa Grande and Buena (both in different counties), why not the rest of the schools in Cochise county and those actually in Pima county?

Prior to this email in 2007, under Grammer’s “reign”, the Citizen’s Varsity sports largely ignored the small schools in Southern Arizona, despite the profession that the Citizen was the voice of Southern Arizona. You can look back to this date (9/18/07) and see the coverage of small schools increased dramatically from that point onward. AND the coverage is way better than the Repugnant. Now, I can’t imagine how long Grammer had been there prior to my email, but it was very disappointing to see this lack of coverage, which is why I had to ask him what was going on.

Mr. Grammer never deigned to respond to that email.

However, he did post on his blog after Sunnyside shut out Salpointe 17-0 in week 4 of 2007 and instead of moving UP in the rankings, Sunnyside dropped from #2 to #3:

An interesting note… the DKC rankings aren’t subjective at all. They’re based on a formula of some sort, which has to be why Sunnyside, after a 17-0 shutout of a 5A-I Salpointe team, dropped in the rankings this past week.

So I responded with a pretty straightforward explanation of what actually happened, which was because Marcos de Niza thumped Yuma by 39 points and moved up to #2. Wasn’t anything that SS did wrong, it was because de Niza did it right. (Again, Mr. Grammer sent no response.)

Ever since then, Mr. Grammer has been very standoffish about what I do and where I fit in the grand scheme of things. The link from his site “mysteriously” disappeared as well. [EDIT: The link was on one specific blog, and it has since "rolled" off. I have found it and readded it here.]

Now however, Mr. Grammer has begun posting on the 24-7 site (as of today 8/30/08, Mr. Grammer has exactly _28_ posts to his name. Yes, _28_.) Yet, Mr. Grammer has only posted in the big school forum (4A/5A). I guess, once again, the small schools are beneath him. It’s actually sorta sad, because he’s posting there but his posts consist of “Here’s my So. Arizona Top 10 for the week, for anyone who cares.” (That’s verbatim, by the way.) And there are responses to the tune of “Southern Arizona?” (Again, verbatim.)

So, just like everyone else, I ignore the Arizona Repugnant “rankings”, since they have no clue, and Mr. Grammer’s “rankings” because he just combines all Southern Arizona 4A/5A schools into one “top ten” group, which doesn’t really do anything for anyone. I don’t read Mr. Grammer’s blog anymore because he’s really just a plea for attention (posts on a major forum asking to “check out my list” with a link are pretty self-explanatory). I don’t read the Repugnant’s worthless dribble on high school sports previews/coverage/etc. either.

When I want my info, I go to 24-7 Football, Friday Night Football (3A schools only) or I go to the Arizona Sports Network. 24-7 has the info, FNF has the scoop on the 3A schools, and AZSportsNet has the daily/weekly broadcasts and the experience.

And as of this past Thursday, I’m partnered with AZSportsNet, so it’s even better. They get all the statistics they can handle along with the network of information I’ve uncovered, and I get the benefit of their experience. Win-win. :)

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I’ve been really busy lately, enough to warrant a couple of days away from the blog. Ah, but being the gentle soul that I am, I remembered to keep handy all the topics I wanted to talk about in my little notebook… which I seem to have left elsewhere.

Well, let’s just take a shotgun approach and see where that gets us.

The Phoenix Suns: Coach D’Antoni is on his way out – it was a given considering that D’Antoni refuses to teach/preach defense and for the past three years his teams won because they simply spread the floor and out-shot the opponent. However, with the dynamics of the Western Conference changing this year, the loss of big-man coach Marc Iavaroni to the Grizzlies, and the fact that the Suns really couldn’t spread the floor like in years past (Raja Bell being the only real three-point threat), the Suns could’ve used a more defensive presence. They also could’ve taken the time to develop their young draft picks and players more, and gosh darn it maybe played their bench more. All of this becomes the downfall of D’Antoni. He’s looking at “opportunities” in Chicago and New York (neither of which is very palatable – the Knicks have virtually no roster outside of Nate Robinson, and Chicago is a mess no matter what happens), but he could literally end up back at the helm of the Suns as a lame-duck coach because there’s no way that Robert Sarver eats $9m for two years for a guy to do nothing.

The Arizona Diamondbacks: Ouch, Max Scherzer gets hit hard in his first majors’ start. In his defense though, he only gave up two earned runs in four innings, and three Phillies runs in the 2nd inning were the direct result of an error by shortstop Stephen Drew. HOWEVER, Edgar Gonzalez yet again allows another four earned runs in three innings, meaning that the last two games pitched by this clod have allowed D-backs opponents to score _10_ runs in a total of 5 and 2/3 innings!!! The D-backs need to designate him for assignment and recall Yusmeiro Petit already.

Guitar Hero III: I completed this game this past weekend. I especially liked the end boss duel, which was an updated rendition of the Charlie Daniels’ Band’s The Devil Went Down to Georgia. One of the songs in there was Eric Johnson’s Cliffs of Dover, which I absolutely love. I re-played that song at least 10 times. Of course, then I went on a hugely insane tangent and looked up Eric Johnson on Wikipedia, which led me to Joe Satriani (another fav of mine), which led me to go find the latest Satriani album. Nice… one thing though, the Wikipedia trivia section neglects to mention that Satriani’s song Always With Me, Always With You was a staple on the series Parker Lewis Can’t Lose (which is what drew me to Satriani in the first place, hearing that song on PLCL). So now, I have begun The Quest for the Parker Lewis Can’t Lose DVDs. :)

Anime: Finished True Tears (4 stars), Candy Boy (3 stars), and classic FLCL (4.5 stars). I watched also a couple of episodes of Elfen Lied (2 stars – couldn’t really finish it, couldn’t really stand it, follow it, want to watch it, etc. Not recommended). I have started series Amatsuki, Mnemosyne, and am about halfway through classic series Nadia Secret of Blue Water.

Manga: I picked up Akira vol. 2 this weekend as well. Yes, it’s classic, but it’s goooooooood. :) Plus there’s talk of turning it into TWO live action movies (to be released in 2010 and 2011). On the same topic, the Robotech franchise will also see itself in a live-action movie in 2009 or 2010. All this talk leads me to…

Movies: Iron Man debuted this weekend – I wanna see!! And the announcement that The Hobbit will be released in 2009 and another ORIGINAL story to bridge the gap between the events in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring is slated for 2010. And I’m probably going to have to see Kung-Fu Panda and Wall-E as well. :)

Tech: Ok, so I’ve got an old Compaq Presario with an 800 MHz Athlon CPU (Slot A – yes, that IS how old it is… go check Wikipedia for “AMD Slot A” and you’ll see), and it WAS running Windows 2000 (ooooh, another moldy oldie), but I’ve decided that this tower PC will get an upgrade. No, not to Windows XP, nor will Vista ever touch it. Rather, I’m going to just drop Fedora 9 on it. Wait, hear me out – I wanted to put Fedora 6 on it because I had nothing but praise for that version, and Fedora 8 was such a piece of crap that I wiped it from my server and reinstalled CentOS instead. But Fedora 9 includes the latest KDE desktop (KDE 4! drool…) and most of the latest packages out there that I really needed a place to play. ADD that this tower PC is destined for my son’s use, and I needed something that wouldn’t be such a pain in the ass to boot and run things like a word processor. Now, granted, I also wanted to move to Slackware 12.1, but in the end, Slack 12.1 is running KDE 3.5.9 and doesn’t include OpenOffice 2.0 (rather, it includes KOffice, which is servicable, but I’d rather go with OpenOffice), so that’s the deal-breaker. I’ll probably reinstall my second server with Slack 12.1 though because it’s a headless server and not a desktop PC.

Politics: Oh, geez, would someone win the Democratic nomination already so we can have an actual presidential race? Otherwise it’s going to be John McCain vs. a very broken and fractured Democratic Party nominee. And unfortunately, I really hate to admit this, but Barack Obama might end up winning the Dem ticket, which means that McCain will probably end up as President. Now, the LAST time this happened in the Democratic Party, the winner was some Republican ACTOR named Reagan. And even though I’m a registered Dem, I would vote for McCain over Obama. However, if Clinton won, I would vote Clinton over McCain. Obama just doesn’t have ANY experience, period. No way, no how. He’s just a bunch of rhetoric set to a popular background theme. McCain – well, he’s a good Commander-in-Chief, but I question how well he’d do on domestic issues. Clinton – the exact opposite of McCain, excellent on domestic policies, I worry about overseas. But then again, the crisis RIGHT NOW is here on our own soil, not across the water, so … my vote would go to her, if it got that far. And, it still might, if the Florida and Michigan votes are counted – for once, let’s hear it for the LAWYERS!!!

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This was supposed to be a relaxing Labor Day weekend for me. I was supposed to have some time off and be able to just relax and kick back and enjoy the free time.

Note that I said “supposed to”. It didn’t happen like that. What DID happen was something even I would not believe if I hadn’t actually seen it myself.

Obviously, I work on computers for a living. Naturally, I do a little “side work”, fixing up and/or installing computers for friends, family, small businesses, etc. Well, my wife’s employer called me up and said they had a computer that was acting up and could I please take a look at it?

I drove up to Scottsdale and took a look. Sure enough, the hard drive was failing. Lots of errors, plus it had a Windows CONFIGMG error, which I had seen only once before. The computer itself was an AMD Duron 800MHz with
128Mb RAM and a 12Gb hard drive. I began running Scandisk, which would recover data and mark all bad areas of the hard drive as non-writable, but the program (at 800Mhz, mind you) was running at a speed of like 1 data cluster per minute. At that rate, with 1.2 million clusters, I’d have been there all night!

So, I said I’d take it home, recover the data, get a new hard drive, and get it back to them by Sunday evening. I took it home, set it up in my office, began running Scandisk, and went to bed. The next morning, I found that it hadn’t finished running Scandisk. Apparently, Scandisk restarted more than 10 times in the night and had basically aborted! (Stupid Windows98…)

Ok, fine. I booted from a Win98 floppy disk to command prompt and ran Scandisk that way. Much faster – 149 clusters per second. Cool. At that rate, it should be done in a couple of hours.

After it completed, I got dressed and went to PC Club to pick up a hard drive that they had advertised (30Gb Maxtor for $65). Problem was that they were out and all they had was 40Gb Maxtors for $81. Seeing as the client was going to end up paying for it in the long run, I picked it up anyway.

I return home and open up the case for the first time. I note that the case has the eMachines logo on it – I’m thinking that this is an eMachines computer and that it’s going to be difficult to get everything in and out of it. (It turned out – I found out later – that this machine was not an eMachines computer; it was something an ex-employee of the restaurant had built AND sold to the restaurant for around $700. I’d say the restaurant got rooked…)

Now, remember, I had been working on this so far without opening the case. What I found can only be described as incompetence (and probably the reason why the computer was failing to begin with).

The first thing I noticed – the motherboard was bolted to the case with the foam padding still on the back. Yes, the foam padding that they use to SHIP THE MOTHERBOARD IN THE BOX.

Next, the CPU fan power wires were SPLICED to the case’s power supply. Normally a CPU fan has its own connector to connect to the motherboard, not the case’s power supply. The genius that put this together had taken one of the normal power connectors for a hard drive or CD-ROM and cut the wires, then spliced them to the CPU fan and used ELECTRICAL TAPE to make the connection. Whoops! since a CPU fan only uses 2 wires, he had to leave the other two alone – so they were just hanging out, EXPOSED. If they had touched ANYTHING (and it’s a miracle they hadn’t), the power supply could’ve shorted out (because it would’ve automatically grounded), or, worse, if the wires had touched each other, the power supply could’ve done something really nasty.

Oh, and the moment I moved the case to a 45 degree angle to see better, the CPU fan stopped working. Yipes!!

The hard drive was being held in place by a SINGLE screw in the 5.25″ bay (a hard drive belongs in the 3.5″ bay, like a floppy drive).

Other things I noticed – the motherboard had USB slots, but the person who put together this machine was making them use a USB-to-serial converter for their USB mouse! I don’t know if the guy just didn’t know how to enable USB
in the BIOS (or if he knew how to ACCESS the BIOS!!!) or if the USB part was just dead, but a USB-to-serial converter??? C’mon, PS/2 mice are cheap!

The video card was a 2Mb PCI video card. Why they were using that, I don’t know, because the motherboard has an AGP slot!!!

The SDRAM memory was one 128MB chip in Bank 0. Bank 1 was available, except that there were no clips to hold the memory in place! (Apparently they had broken off…) This means that the best that this motherboard could ever do was 512Mb (assuming it could handle a single 512Mb chip…)

The modem was a CNR modem – which needs a special slot. Ugh. I don’t even know if it was a 56k modem or what.

The client had also complained that he didn’t have any sound that worked – the motherboard had on-board sound, but heaven only knows if THAT was enabled or not…

Anyway, after doing a little research, I found that the Windows CONFIGMG error means that the OS can’t flush the L2 cache from the CPU on boot. In layman’s terms, that means that Windows couldn’t initialize the CPU’s extra
memory space. The recommendation was to upgrade the BIOS or disable the L2 cache.

Of course, the BIOS is at its latest level, so I tried disabling the cache. Immediately, the computer stopped giving CONFIGMG errors, BUT… it also took two minutes (!!) to boot, and when I ran any programs (like Excel), they took
forever to load.

Solution: new motherboard/CPU. Needed a new motherboard anyway, since it was uncertain what had melted from the foam padding onto the motherboard, and it was obvious that Windows was having a tough time with the CPU to begin with. Plus, I needed to get a PS/2 mouse for this client – I couldn’t, in good conscience, make them use a USB port for a mouse when they had a PS/2 port available.

So I take out the hard drive and put it and the new hard drive in my lab PC. Fire up Norton Ghost and copy the entire disk from the old drive to the new. That’ll take a couple of hours (copying 12Gb isn’t exactly a fast process…)
By now it’s 8pm. Nothing’s open except Comp USA and I ain’t buying anything there… so it’ll have to wait until Monday.

Monday afternoon, it’s back to PC Club to purchase an AMD motherboard/CPU combo – one of PC Club’s strongest selling points – an AMD Duron 1.3GHz and an MSI motherboard with on-board sound, on-board 16Mb AGP video, and on-board 10/100 ethernet LAN. (Bonus, now if
they ever get DSL or cable internet, they have the network card part already in the computer!) No CNR slot, so I would be swapping a PCI modem for the CNR one. Oh well, I have three or four laying around collecting dust, so I might as well put it to good use. (Besides, I ended up keeping the CNR one so I think it’s a fair trade.)

Back home, trying to get the parts placed into the case – first thing I did was cut down the exposed wires and crimp them off so that nothing was at risk. Then I tried to remove the motherboard itself, except that the screws were
stripped! I had to actually take a flat-head screwdriver and a hammer and MAKE my own screw-catch so I could remove the dang screws!

Meanwhile, the Ghost process is complete so I can now install the new hard drive in the computer.

So, I was able to remove everything that I needed to and install the new motherboard and CPU. I put in the new memory, then installed the new hard drive in the 3.5″ bay. I tried to hook up the power, but the power connectors
aren’t long enough to stretch between the current location of the CD-ROM (top 5.25″ slot) and the 3.5″ bay where the hard drive is. Solution – move the CD-ROM to the bottom 5.25″ slot.

Sounds easy, but after a minute of pushing and prodding and jamming, that CD-ROM ain’t moving but halfway into the bottom 5.25″ slot. I take a really close look at the bay and notice that the bay is bowed exactly where the old
hard drive USED to be. Strange…

I open the OTHER side of the case (previously I had only opened the side where I could access most of the components) and find a piece of metal folded in half, about 3 inches long, wedged between the case and the 5.25″ bay. (I still have the metal piece as proof of this entire episode…) When I remove the metal, the CD-ROM fits! Concept!

Once this is done, everything else gets installed no problem – the last piece is the PCI modem, which installs in a jiffy.

I turn on the computer and the thing boots in less than 5 seconds. Then Windows discovers it has new hardware and I have to run through the entire “New Hardware Found” process for another half hour.

When all is said and done, the computer is functioning perfectly. Amazing what happens when things are done right!

I pack it all up and take it back to the client. I explain to him what I had to do, along with the fact that all the new hardware (motherboard/CPU/hard drive/mouse) is all warrantied by the manufacturer for one year. (I just
realized that the HD has a three-year warranty… oops)

I put everything back in the client’s office and boot the computer. Viola! He’s impressed with how fast the thing is now and asks what I should do with this disk he has – it’s a Windows 98 Startup disk. Apparently, the guy who
used to fix their computer was the guy who BUILT their computer – a former waiter for the restaurant who was fired last week – and told them a month or so ago that they needed to use this startup disk to boot if they ever needed
to shut the computer down. Yipes!!!! I told the guy to mark the “boot disk” as a “backup/recovery” disk, in case the machine died.

He thanked me and walked me out. I handed him an invoice for my time and labor, along with copies of the receipts for the hardware. All in all, the price for the parts came to $250. I know I’ll be paid for my time and labor (and reimbursed for the parts) – I’m hoping to score some gift certificates to the restaurant too, because they really do have good food. ^_-

What I got out of this hardware-wise: a CNR modem, an AMD Duron 800MHz CPU (needs a new fan though… hehe!), a 2MB PCI video card, and a USB mouse. The motherboard is trash. Oh, and a 12Gb hard drive, about a 1/4 of which is bad sectors. Prolly useful as just an extra “D:” drive on a computer for not-important data.

Labor Day weekend. That’s exactly what I did – labored. Whatever.

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