Moron Jeopardy

Yesterday on the way home from the Diamondbacks-Cardinals game (Dbacks lost 2-1), I was radio channel-surfing and came across the local hip-hop station (104.7 FM). They were giving away concert tickets to some Newly-Famous-For-Now artist who will most likely Never-Be-Heard-From-Again-After-His-Second-Album.

Now, the demographics for this station is pretty much the 21-and-under crowd – ie. if you’re 16, you’re probably a listener. Obviously that rules me out, one because I don’t listen to hip-hop and two because I’d rather listen to REAL
music. (And three, because I’m older than 21 😉

Anyway, to get the tickets, you had to answer one “simple” question from the DJ. I put simple in quotes because, I can only assume, that the questions aren’t simple for the average listener of this station. Hence the name of the
game – “Moron Jeopardy”.

Yesterday’s question: Who was the star of “The Andy Griffith Show”.

Yes, that’s really the question they asked.

There were no winners yesterday of those concert tickets.

There’s some kind of comment to be made on American pop culture and how it relates to today’s society, but why bother… the fact that no one could answer the question is a larger statement than I could make.

(The answer, by the way, is Andy Griffith.)

Adventures in Painting

Y’all remember when I mentioned that I suck at drawing? Well this lack of artistic talent apparently extends to house painting, specifically doing texture work on walls.

Now mind you, I can push a roller with the best of ’em. The idea was that we were going to paint the kitchen a nice yellow color and then sponge country blue on top to give the kitchen a better feel than the stark white that
previously had adorned the walls. After about two hours of taping, painting, and doing touch-up/trim, the walls were a nice golden yellow. Cool. Time to let it dry.

That’s about where everything went wrong.

See, I had never done sponging before, and even though my wife claimed to have done so, the final result was… well, less than good. Some areas had darker sponge “spots” than others, and trying to achieve a random pattern by cutting up a sponge and redoing some of the areas ended up producing thumbprints. Plus, we found out that while the yellow took about an hour and a half to dry, the blue dried in about 30 minutes. Yeep!

We needed a quick fix. So we headed to the local Home Depot for a textured roller and some more paint trays.

Returning home, we attempted to put the blue on the textured roller and roll over the walls. It didn’t help. Ok, let’s try yellow on the textured roller. Still no help. By now the walls looked like a paint sprayer had taken its revenge on the kitchen, AND the countertops had drops of paint all over them. (We had been really careful in the first coat of yellow, but careful got pushed aside for speed since the sponging…)

After a bout of arguing, we decided to just suck it up and repaint the walls yellow. Except that 1) we only had half a can of yellow now and 2) the blue still showed through.

Somewhere around 10:30 pm we finished putting a new coat of yellow on the walls. Today we will go back and get ANOTHER can of yellow and put ANOTHER (final) coat on the walls to make sure we don’t have a dingy yellow instead of the golden yellow that’s supposed to be there.

Then we still have to redo the touch-ups and trim, get the original white paint out for the kitchen and touch up some spots on the ceiling, and scrub down the countertops with Soft Scrub.

If we had just left well enough alone with the first coat of yellow, we would have been done somewhere around mid-afternoon yesterday. Sigh.

And what are we doing with the blue? Well, since the blue was supposed to be an “accent” color originally, we’re going to actually use it as an accent color – baseboards, around the pantry door, and around the sliding glass door.

I thought about taking pictures of the whole mess but decided that discretion was the better part of valor. Plus, I still have to buy another can of yellow.

Next time we plan on painting the kitchen, I’m going to suggest we try out the new color/texture/whatever BEHIND THE FRIDGE.

SPAM and identity theft

Arizona Revised Statutes 13-2004 section A:

A person commits criminal simulation if, with intent to defraud, such person makes, alters, or presents or offers, whether accepted or not, any object so that it appears to have an antiquity, rarity, source, authorship or value that it does not in fact possess.

Arizona Revised Statutes 13-2006 section A, subsections 1-3:

A person commits criminal impersonation by:

  1. Assuming a false identity with the intent to defraud another; or
  2. Pretending to be a representative of some person or organization with the intent to defraud; or
  3. Pretending to be, or assuming a false identity of, an employee or a representative of some person or organization with the intent to induce another person to provide or allow access to property. This paragraph does not apply to peace officers in the performance of their duties.

Arizona Revised Statutes 13-2008 section A:

A person commits taking the identity of another person if the person knowingly takes, uses, sells or transfers any personal identifying information of another person, without the consent of that other person, with the intent to obtain, use, sell or transfer the other person’s identity for any unlawful purpose or to cause loss to a person.

Arizona Revised Statutes 13-3002 section A:

It is unlawful for a person:

  1. Knowingly to send to any person by telegraph or telephone a false or forged message, purporting to be from a telegraph or telephone office, or from any other person.
  2. Knowingly to deliver or cause to be delivered to any person a false or forged message, falsely purporting to have been received by telegraph or telephone.
  3. To furnish or conspire to furnish, or cause to be furnished to an agent, operator or employee, to be sent by telegraph or telephone, or to be delivered, a message, knowing it is false or forged, with intent to deceive, injure or defraud another.

Violations of three of the above four constitute a class 6 felony in Arizona. Violation of ARS 13-2008 constitutes a class 4 felony in Arizona. Class 6 felonies have a minimum sentence of one year in prison. Class 4 felonies have
a two and one-half year minimum. Obviously, multiple charges can result in consecutive time in prison.

Why do I even post this? It’s a warning to certain idiots out there that decided to start sending spam-mail using the domain as a return address. I may not be able to convince a judge to stick on the charge of
ARS 13-3002, but I certainly can prove at least two of the other three (ARS 13-2004, ARS 13-2006 sec A-3), if not all three. Note that the legal definition of “intent to defraud” is this:
INTENT TO DEFRAUD – the specific intent to deceive or cheat, ordinarily for the purpose of causing some financial loss to another, or bringing about some financial gain to one’s self. It is not necessary, however, to prove that the United States or anyone else was in fact defrauded so long as it is established that the person acted “with intent to defraud.”

I also just sent in a proposal to have ARS 13-3002 amended to include the words “electronic communication” along with “telegraph and telephone”. “Electronic communication” is defined by ARS 13-3001 as:

“Electronic communication” means any transfer of signs, signals, writing, images, sounds, data or intelligence of any nature that is transmitted in whole or in part by a wire, radio, electromagnetic, photoelectronic or photooptical system but that does not include any of the following:
(a) Any wire or oral communication.
(b) Any communication made through a tone-only paging device.
(c) Any communication from a tracking device.

I’d like to think there are other amendments I could propose to the ARS, but at the moment, that’s the only one. If you spot more, let me know.

SPAM is going to happen, no matter what we do to stop it. We already have junk mail in our USPS mailboxes, so there’s no real way to stop it in email or SMS messages either. BUT, we can certainly block it if we know who’s sending it, just like you can from the USPS.

Hence my proposal. I wrote my local representative for my district to propose it, and hopefully someone will get back to me soon.

In the meantime, if your state doesn’t have such a law or statute, check up on what’s similar. In Arizona, this was under the heading of “Eavesdropping and Communications”, which included things like “Interception of wire,
electronic and oral communications”, “Sending threatening or anonymous letters”, and “Possession of interception devices”. I’m sure other states have similar titles/headings.

Also, the other three statutes were listed under the heading of “Forgery and Related Offenses”, which included “Criminal impersonation” and “Obtaining a signature by deception”.

I figure if anyone’s going to profit from SPAM, it’s gonna be me, because I’ll sue the bastards for everything and then some for using the domain without permission. Why not? After all, they certainly didn’t care about me when they sent their SPAM, so why should I care about their business?

How (not) to Build a Computer

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.

The Gene Pool is Shallow…

I went to Best Buy the other day and they had game pieces there for some game they’re promoting. Mine said “George Strait has dominated the Country Music charts since his first single ‘Unwound’ was released in:” and then there’s three choices. Now, I tell you, unless you’re a complete MORON, you could NOT get this wrong… the choices are: 1923, 1981 and 2021. Hmm, I wonder in which year the single was released…

So, that led me to look for other stupidity out there this weekend. Believe me, I found a bunch. Let me relate:

In Chicago, three guys stole an ATM machine… one that had been out of order for about 2 years and had no money. Good job guys! Way to go!

In Boston, a guy tried to impersonate a police officer and was pulling people over for speeding. Instead of writing out tickets, though, he was asking for cash. The real cops were called and busted him for extortion. Oops!

In Mesa, the US 60 freeway is under construction. One man missed his off-ramp and decided to just cut across anyway – except that the area between the freeway and the off-ramp had been torn out (leaving a 1- to 2-foot drop) in preparation for rebar and concrete, leaving him and his car stuck in no man’s land. I’d like to hear his explanation to the cops for that one! Not to mention the construction crew nearby…

And that’s not to mention the guy who attempted to kill a friend (literally!) for giving him a wedgie at a Phish concert. Now, my question is: does Phish’s music inspire wedgies? (Never heard anything of theirs before…)

If you’ve never heard Weird Al’s award-winning “Amish Paradise”, you should do so. I think it’s one of the funniest songs I’ve heard in a long, long time…

5 words to avoid if you have kids: “Bob the Builder, the Album”. Trust me on this…

Fired up Max Payne last night. Got through the first two stages of Part I. It’s got some redeeming qualities, but the idea of having to move with both keyboard AND mouse for someone used to Quake keys is a Bad Thing…

I mentioned previously that I had actually taken up pencil and paper and was attempting to do some sketching. Well, I had done so and they came out… passable. So, being a semi-perfectionist, I went and checked out some tutorials (online and book) on drawing. What I found, after exhaustive
research, is that I unequivocally suck at drawing. Actually, I found that to get better requires time and materials, neither of which I have in abundance, nor am I likely to get more.

“Back to the drawing board” has a whole new meaning now. Oh well. ^_^