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User Journal

Journal Journal: Sony PS3 unSupport

Ever needed to use Sony's PS3 Support? I sure hope not. A month ago, I showed my wife "Little Big Planet." It seemed like a good game to play for a while. We brought it home. We played it right away and it was fun. The next day, it wouldn't play. I put the disk in, but nothing happened. I put in another game. Nothing. I put in a DVD. Nothing. I put in a CD. Nothing. Obviously, there was something wrong with the CD/DVD reader. So, I rushed to my file cabinet of receipts.

I found my receipt. We were one week away from the one year limit for PS3 support. So, I called them right away. A recording told me repeatedly to go online. I didn't want to go online. I wanted to talk to a human. After going through the maze of recorded voices, pressing 1, then 3, then 5, then 2, then hanging up and trying another pattern, I finally just pressed 0. Wow! I was told that I would have to wait a long time, but a human should answer... eventually...

I spoke to a human and he had an American accent! Amazing! I explained what was wrong. He said it was common. He told me that I'd get a box in the mail. Just put the PS3 in the box and I'll get it back in about 2 weeks. I explained that I had a problem - I was moving. Could it be shipped to my new address. No. It can only be shipped to the address that the whole thing originates from. So, he wanted me to wait until I move before I start the process. But, that would put me out of the warranty period. I just had to hope I would get it back before I moved.

About three weeks later, I got my PS3 back. I had two weeks before I had to move, so everything worked out great. Well, that was until I plugged it in and tried it. The disk wouldn't go in. I tried another disk. It wouldn't go in. I turned it off and on. It made a terrible noise. The disk still wouldn't go in. I immediately called support back. It took me a while to remember to ignore the recorded voice and press zero.

I spoke to another support person. He said that since I got it back with the same problem, they would send me a new PS3 instead of repairing my old one. I explained that it was not the same problem. It was worse. It wouldn't read disks before. Now, it won't load them. Regardless, I was getting a new PS3. I explained again that I was moving very soon. He said that everything had to be shipped to the address that I started out with, but that I could call UPS when delivery was attempted and have the PS3 shipped to my new address.

I waited and waited and waited. Finally, I got an email with a tracking number. The first delivery attempt was the day I was leaving town and moving halfway across the country. I immediately called UPS to see if I could pick it up from them first thing in the morning. No. They don't allow you to pick it up until a delivery attempt is made. Since it is residential delivery, they don't try to deliver until after 6:00pm - I would be a good 500 miles away by then. Could I just change the delivery address? No, not until the first deliver attempt is made.

Now, I'm in a hotel room and I called UPS to see if an attempt was made. Yes. So, all I had to do was change the delivery address. No. Sony added a restriction to the shipment. The delivery address could not be changed. Only Sony could change it.

So, I called Sony - remembering to press 0 right away. I waited and waited. I was connected and listened to a man and woman chat about where they were going to eat and the terrible people they had in their last few calls and who was coming in later... No matter how loud I yelled into my phone, neither the man or woman heard me. I called back and waited and waited. The guy answered and said hello. I explained the whole problem to him. He said it wasn't a problem. He'd just put me on hold and take care of it. After being on hold for a while, he came back and said that I'd have to wait until UPS made 3 attempts and waited 5 business days. Then, they would ship it back to UPS, which would take 5-7 days. Then, I would have to call support again and change the shipping address. Then, they will try to find the returned package and ship it to my new address.

Of course, after being bounced, dropped, and kicked by UPS on multiple trips across the country, there won't be any problems with the PS3 when I finally get it back - in about 2 months, right?

UPDATE: Two months after starting this, I received my PS3 and, amazingly, it works! Now, I wonder where I put my Little Big Planet disk...

User Journal

Journal Journal: KDE4.1 Wish List

KDE4.1 is being released. The packages should be available for Fedora soon. So, I thought I'd build up a checklist of what I hope to see fixed in KDE4.1 and see how much actually gets checked off:

  • Kate crashes on exit. Every time I start it, I have to go into settings and get it set up properly again. It apparently crashes while trying to save settings.
  • The "start" menu has a tendency to float to the upper left corner of the screen and shrink to showing only one or two items with an impossible to use scrollbar.
  • The clock will not resize text. The only way to make the time appear is to include the date, which causes the time to appear in the proper place by the date appears in the top right corner of the screen.
  • There is no system monitor applet. I like being able to see the current cpu, memory, and swap loads at all times. I'd also like to be able to see the harddrive activity since most modern cases make the drive light so small and dim that it is not functional anymore.
  • The panel doesn't allow aligning items to the right.
  • I force my clock and such to the right by using the newsticker, which fills in the left as much as possible. However, the newsticker crashes plasma every 10-15 minutes.
  • In order to set a custom desktop, I had to edit the plasma config files by hand.
  • In order to have a panel that spans two desktops, I had to edit the plasma config files by hand.

I'm rather surprised. I had a much longer list just a few weeks ago, but I've become so used to this crippled environment that I don't have as many complaints anymore. Perhaps that is why so many people are already happy with just a few minor bug fixes in 4.1. I hope I will be happy as well.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Fedora 9 Dissapointment

The following is not a long diatribe. It is nothing more than a bullet-list of things I found in my first day of using Fedora 9. Most of this has to do with KDE4.
  * Fedora distribution should include a CD iso that only installs the kernel, network, and yum. I can yum install anything else I want after that. The iso would be VERY small and the install would be VERY quick.
  * Fedora still insists on installing bluetooth and wireless services even though you don't have bluetooth or wireless and deselect anything related to it in the install process.
  * The nVidia driver will not compile in Fedora 9. I opted to use the nouveau driver with xrandr to get my dual-desktop display working properly.
  * Sytem-config-display is still broken with nv and dual-head nVidia cards. If you select "use dual head", you'll just get a crash when starting X.
  * The default panel is huge. If you select a "small" or "tiny" option, the objects inside the panel are no longer functional.
  * The clock font is monstrously huge. I can only see the tops of the numbers.
  * The Fedora icon in the Application Launcher is too large and goes off the left/bottom corner of the screen.
  * Attempting to shutdown as a non-root user fails. KDE eventually crashes. You have to login as root and run a shutdown command from the console.
  * If KDE crashes (which it does at every shutdown), the panel is lost. The only solution that works for restoring the panel is to delete the plasma settings file.
  * Those widgets are huge. The size is mostly padding around the widget. They are, for me, useless because they are always behind my windows. I don't want to hit ctrl-F12 (I think that is the command) to show the desktop every time I want to see a widget. I'll stick with the panel (when it is working).
  * The panel cannot be stretched across two desktop screens. You cannot add a second panel to the second desktop screen.
  * I selected "turn numlock on" in the keyboard settings. My BIOS even has "turn numlock on" set. So, I boot up and numlock is on. Fedora boots, and numlock is on. I login and numlock is on. KDE starts and numlock is turned off. Apparently, someone messed up the code and selecting "turn on" and "turn off" both turn the numlock off.

That's all for one day. Fedora 9 is usable, but I have to just get used to losing functionality that I had in Fedora 8. The annoying thing is that I lost functionality in Fedora 8 that I had in Fedora 9. I figure that in about three or four more versions, Fedora won't have any functionality left.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Dvorak

Day 1

I know that the dvorak keyboard layout is supposed to make typing much faster. However, Ive been typing on a qwerty keyboard for over 30 years. So, I don't think that it will help. Regardless, I'm going to try it for one week. I figure that if I can get back to around 60 wpm by the end of the week, the rumors about dvorak are true. As of now, this short message has taken over 5 minus to type (and I have a headache from all the hunting and pecking).

Day 2

I took some Excedrin and started another day of dvorak typing. I still need to look at the keyboard a lot, but I'm finding that I usually have an idea where the key I need is hiding. I got very confused when I rdesktopped a Windows box and the keyboard went qwerty on me. Over all, I'm not typing any faster than I was yesterday. I've been trying to avoid looking at the keys, so I'm backspacing as much as I'm typing.

User Journal

Journal Journal: One for TheDailyWTF

One of my clients asked me to help him set up his new Dell laptop. He told me that it was a difficult purchase because he decided to get the Verizon wireless card so he could have broadband access anywhere that Verizon has coverage. When doing this, they asked if he already had a Verizon account. He did, but it was in his wife's name and they wanted her name, address, phone, home phone, work phone, any other phone, social security number, birth date, mother's maiden name, and driver's license number. Since he didn't have all of that on hand, he opted to create a new Verizon account using his information. After a very lengthy purchase call, he was given a "web activation code" to use when his computer was delivered - which is where I came in.

I turned on the laptop and went through the standard "Dell and Microsoft are not responsible for anything" screens and then the standard "Dell and Microsoft want all you information so we can harass you with marketing calls" screens. Finally, I started the Verizon wireless connection and went to the activation screen. It popped up a web page that asked for the web activation code. I typed it in and it told me I had to call a Dell phone number to finish the activation. I had the client make the call.

This call was weird from the start. The woman started asking for information that they already had. She wanted his full name, address, home phone, work phone, cell phone, social security number, birth date, mother's maiden name, and driver's license number. After a while of going through this, I interrupted her and explained that he already did this and we are just trying to activate the card with the web activation code we received from the first guy. She explained that she already deleted that code and was making a new one. So, we waited for her to finish up and give us a new web activation code.

Thinking this was just a minor mistake, I went back into the Verizon wireless program and entered the new web activation code. It said that the code was invalid because we already entered a web activation code. I called Dell right back and got a different guy. I explained to him what happened and he said that she probably just wanted the commission so she canceled the first order and started a second one. He completely removed the original web activation code so I could enter the new one, which I did while he was on the phone. It came up with the message that I need to call Dell. Since I was already on the phone with Dell, I asked what it was he needed to do. Nothing. He said that the phone number it was telling me to call was for new orders, not for Verizon activation. He gave me a different number to call.

So, I called the new number, which was Verizon. I got an automated system that asked me to type in a lot of information that they already have. After spending time pressing buttons, I got the automated message that the card activation was complete. Turn off the computer for at least 30 minutes. Then, turn it back on and wait for 24 hours. Then, the card should work. If not, call yet another number for activation assistance. WTF?

User Journal

Journal Journal: An almost Eureka moment

If you've been programming on a nearly daily basis since the 70's like me, you've probably had a few eureka moments - those times when you suddenly see your way from the beginning to the end of a complicated problem. Personally, I've never really had one. I'm always tasked with mindless-repetitive programming projects. Make a database reporting tool. Make an e-commerce website. Make a screen scraper to gather advertising data. Store tons of data in a big server warehouse. It pays the bills.

One problem that I've run into is prime for a eureka moment. I have to normalize millions of medication prescriptions into "Brand Name, Dose, Unit, Frequency, Start Date, End Date." The problem is that there is no accepted format for electronically storing prescriptions. So, I get them in thousands of different formats (or just free-form text). On top of that, half of the prescriptions are laden with typos.

It didn't take me long to start using regular expressions to pre-parse the prescriptions into something that was possible to work on. Many things have to be fixed, such as replacing "ASA" with "Aspirin." Then, I had the idea of using soundex and levenshtein to find brand name matches against the CDC's database of all medication brand names. I even wrote my own comparison metric that prefers long substring matches near the beginning of two strings of text. With all three, I was able to easily get around 85% of the prescriptions to easily match up to a valid brand name. Then, gathering up the rest of the data became simple.

Then, about a year later, I was laying awake at night because my son is teething and keeps waking up. I wondered if soundex_diff and levenshtein are reversible. Is soundex_diff("aspirin", "asprin") the same as soundex_diff("asprin", "aspirin")? Depending on how the functions are implemented, it is possible that they are not the same. In my implementation, they weren't. When the strings were of radically different lengths, the results were heavily dependent on the order of the parameters. Finally, I fell asleep.

The next morning, I decided to test the difference between using the provider's written prescriptions first and the brandname database second, then reversing the order. Before I looked at the results, I had a very tiny eureka moment. For the 85% that I'm already handling without a problem, I don't care if there is a difference. Only when my test is ambiguous do I care about improving things. So, I only tested reversing the parameters on the comparisons where my existing test was ambiguous.

The end result was a new system. I use my existing test. If it returns more than one possible match, I compare each of the matches to the original prescription with the parameters reversed. Most of the time, I only get one clear match from that test. Running this new system over a few million prescriptions, I found a clear match for over 95% of the prescriptions. Looking at the ones that failed, I found them to be garbage, such as "Patient cannot work for two weeks."

Now, the big trick is explaining this to the boss so that he realizes I've saved him from hiring a staff of pharmacy students to parse 10% of 5 million prescription records by hand.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Grad School Run-Around 1

I wish this didn't make sense to me, but I'm so jaded that it makes perfect sense...

I didn't start going to college until I was 30. I've had to work two jobs (full time and part time) to make ends meet. However, I've been on track to get my PhD before I turn 40. Why 40? It is just a distinct goal I set so I would get it done.

So, I've finished up all my classes for my Master's degree and most of my classes for my PhD. I've been going back and forth with my university about getting switched from the Master's program to the PhD program. After a year of discussion, it turns out that I can't switch - and I can't even get my Master's degree - because I never took Linear Algebra as an undergrad.

So, I'm trying to understand this. I went through Calculus III. I took many graduate programming courses. I graduated cum laude and won the "Outstanding Student" award when I got my B.S. in Computer Science. I have completed all but one graduate course required for my Master's and PhD degrees. But, I still have to take a 200-level math course. Obviously, it isn't about education. The university wants me to pay for just one more class.

I read about the University of Brazil a while back. It was designed for education, not profit. I wish I knew some Portuguese. I would love to transfer to a university like that.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Compiz/Beryl

It is the end of Friday. I've spent this entire work week using Beryl (Compiz) on both my home and work computers. It is supposed to be the next great thing in desktop management. I have to admit that it looks cool. I like it when the windows wiggle as you move them around. But, I'm not going to continue using Beryl. Why?

The transparency is OK, but I'm a developer. I have one window open with requests from the clients. I have another window open with the results of my current code. I have a third window open with the code I'm working on. It is difficult to work when the windows keep turning transparent on me.

The drag/resize functions on the windows are very lagged. I know I don't have the latest and greatest video card in either computer. But, having to grab a window two or three times just to move it slows me down a lot.

I need the desktop manager in my toolbar. It shows all four of my desktops that I actively use. I can see what programs are running in each one because the icon for the program appears in the little mini-window. I can switch to each desktop with a simple click. In Beryl, I had to ctrl-alt-left mouse button-drag to spin the cube around. That requires two hands. The alternative is to collapse a window to middle mouse button-drag the desktop. That's a click and a drag. I simply don't see the benefit.

If Beryl had a replacement for the desktop manager, I would be happy with clicking it to switch. The issue appears to be that Beryl uses four screens, not one screen with four desktops. So, it is more difficult than the old desktop manager.

As for real productivity measurement, this was a very unproductive week. It took me a couple hours to get Beryl running on my home PC. I kept getting the white screen. Then, once it ran, I got a black screen when I tried to shut down. At work, it took two full days of messing with things to get it to work. Then, I had to drop my resolution down, which drastically decreased by desktop space. I tried smaller fonts, but that didn't help much. Finally, once it was running, I spent a lot of time spinning the cube around to check one window, then another, then another.

It appears that Beryl simply isn't for me. It is great to look at, but it makes tasks take longer than they do with the plain old KDE desktop.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Bad Computer Case Design 2

If you've been fixing computers for friends and family as long as I have, then you know this one very well. Family member spends all hours of the night downloading music, games, porn, and every known virus and worm to his computer. It dies. You are asked to fix it. If you are like me, you do an fdisk-format-reinstall. I don't have time to waste on virus removal tools.

Now, what if you've done that and the computer locks up during the install. You try again and it installs, but now Windows XP refuses to allow SP2 to install. Restarting, it complains of a disk error. You try again. It installs but you have a completely new error now. Hmm... bad memory or bad disk?

You do a very thorough check on both the memory and disk. Both are fine. Still, the random problem that appears to be data loss continues. So, you put completely new memory and a completely new drive in it. The problem remains - and is actually worse.

You take the computer into work where you systematically swap out all drives, memory, video card, network card, fans, power supply, and finally the motherboard and CPU. Still, the computer runs fine. It just has a terrible problem with data loss that causes the operating system to fail.

You go back to the same old question. "Did you do ANYTHING at all to this computer in the last week, month, or even year?" Of course, the answer is "No." You ask again and again and again until you get the answer. "I cleaned the dust out of inside of it."

First thought - he damaged the motherboard. But, you changed the motherboard. In fact, you changed absolutely everything inside the case. The only thing you didn't change was the case, the little door on the front of the case, the power and reset buttons, the power and HDD lights, and the mono speaker. Then, it hits you...

"Did you just get dust out of it?" The answer comes back right away.

"There was dust and a bit of stuff that looked like tin foil in the front." It wasn't tin foil. You are certain it was lead foil in the 1/4" gap between the back of the speaker's huge magnet and the bottom of the hard drive bracket. So, you remove the speaker all together, put all the original parts back in, reinstall the operating system and, magically, it works fine.

Who decided it was a great case design to put a big magnet 1/4" away from the hard drives? There's a good three days of my life wasted on someone else's idiocy.

User Journal

Journal Journal: The Purpose of the Universe 1

At least twenty years ago, I realized that the purpose of the universe is to piss me off. Others have thought that this was a rather ridiculous notion, but if they get to know me, they start to notice that it is rather justified. My life is a string of events that all have a similar theme - seemingly random events that exist for the sole reason of trying to piss me off. Here's an example:

Six weeks ago, my wife complained that her camera's battery wasn't holding a charge. I checked it and, sure enough, the battery was pretty much dead. I searched online and found a replacement. They are a bit expensive for batteries, but cheaper than buying a new camera. All was well.

Four weeks ago, my wife asked me to help her look for the battery charger. She was afraid she lost it when we went out of town the weekend before. We searched all week and couldn't find it. Again, I searched online for another one. I had two choices, pay Sony a huge price for the charger and get free shipping, or pay a distributor a discounted price with a hefty shipping charge. I bought it straight from Sony. The day after it arrived, she found her original battery charger.

Two weeks ago, my wife mentioned that an orange light on the camera comes on sometimes and it won't snap pictures. I didn't see a problem when I tested it. Then, she mentioned it was happening more often. Finally, last weekend, the orange light came on for good. The camera was dead. So, I took her out to buy a new one. The whole time, I was thinking about the new battery and charger I just purchased.

Well, guess what - no cameras available are compatible with her memory sticks, batteries, or charger. So, I had to buy a new camera (which luckily came with a battery and charger) and new memory sticks. We get home and I test her new memory stick in her mouse. She has a mouse that lets you put a memory stick in it and reads it through USB - very nice for moving pictures from the memory stick to the computer. Of course, the mouse failed to read the new memory sticks. I looked up the documentation and found that I had a version 5 mouse. I needed a version 7 to read the new memory sticks. So, I searched online and purchased a new mouse. I wonder what the next ordeal will be in this thread of bad luck.

That is just one way that the universe has been trying to piss me off the last month. Don't get me started on the nine weeks it took to get my database server ordered, getting my roof reshingled and finding out that they didn't fix the hole that was the reason I called them in the first place, or having both of my computers restart whenever they feel like it. As I stated, the purpose of the universe is to try and piss me off.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Computer Restart Woes 2

Who has had a computer that restarts without warning at completely random times (even while editing the BIOS)? My computer had issues with restarting a few months ago. It lasted for a few days and stopped after I updated my kernel. So, I figured it was something wrong in the kernel and left it at that. Then, three weeks ago, it restarted. When I say it restarted, I don't mean that it threw some error, shut down, and began booting up again. I mean that it made a loud click, the power shut off, the monitors went black, and then the happy BIOS report began as it powered back up. What would you do? Blame a power spike? Blame a software bug? Wonder if there's a ghost pressing your reset button?

My first suspicion was the memory. A few days earlier, I added another gig of RAM. So, I reseated the memory sticks and ran memtest86 all night. Memory checked out just fine and memtest86 never restarted. Perhaps reseating the RAM was the fix. Then, it restarted again.

OK. It isn't the memory. Perhaps it is power. I went out and purchased a brand new 800W UPS to ensure a nice steady flow of electrons into my power supply. I turned it on everything was great. I went back to doing work and figured I fixed the problem. Then, it restarted again.

So, memory is OK. Incoming power is OK. I know the video card sucks more power than it should. I reconfigured the power cables so it had a line all to itself and the hard drives shared another one. It restarted right away.

Maybe a component went bad. I removed the floppy and DVD drives. I removed the extra network adapter. I replaced the power supply and fans with spare ones I had from when I initially put in super-quiet fans. It ran fine for many hours. I began to wonder how I could detect which device was causing the restarts. Then, it restarted again.

At this point, I lost my temper. I unplugged everything that could be removed. I even unplugged the reset switch, just in case it was causing the trouble. Nothing worked, so I took the computer to a repair shop before I broke something. They checked it for three days and only had it restart once. They blew out the dust and gave it back to me, suggesting I get a new keyboard and mouse. I went a step further. I took the computer to my office and plugged it in there. I found a trick to force it to restart: "ping localhost > ping.log". Apparently, high network traffic while writing to the hard drive forced a restart. I decided to pound the hard drives to see if I could get one to throw an error. I tried "cat sda", but that ran fine - no restart. Then, I was told to try running bonnie++. I've never heard of it, so I downloaded it and tried it. After severely abusing my hard drives, I found DMA error warnings. Further investigation indicated that my BIOS was autodetecting my 333MHz RAM as 400MHz. I set it to 333MHz and suddenly the "ping localhost > ping.log" trick wouldn't force a reboot. The bonnie++ program ran without any DMA warnings. I solved it! I took my computer home and worked all night without a single restart.

The following day, I was back to doing work and, without warning, a restart. I checked BIOS - RAM was still set to 333MHz. I checked my tricks to force a restart and bonnie++. It wasn't RAM. So, I completely disassembled the computer. I took absolutely everything apart, cleaned every part, put new goop on the CPU to keep it cool, blew out dust from every crevice, and then I found something odd. When I removed the CPU's fan, I found thick white dust caked all over the main GPU. I washed it off with rubbing alcohol and there was some discoloring, possibly from overheating. Could it be that my assumption about the video card causing the problems was actually the video card overheating? I put it all back together and now I've been working for three days without a single restart. Please pray for computer that it doesn't restart again.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Microsofting the Workplace

For the last two years, my workplace has been on the roadmap to dumping IMAP and installing Microsoft Exchange. At every meeting, I asked if IMAP access would be available after the change. My past experience has been that the MS Exchange administrators always disabled IMAP for "security reasons." For two years, the answer was always, "I don't see a reason to disable IMAP." Well, today is the switchover day. IMAP is turned off. MS Exchange is turned on. And... no IMAP access. I asked why there's no IMAP access. I was told to install Outlook and use Exchange. I explained that I don't have Windows on any of my computers. I was told to put Windows on my computer. My workplace is being Microsofted. I guess it is time to look for another job.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Dell and Linux

Earlier today, I posted a comment about how terrible Dell support was when I had hardware problems on my Dell servers/computers that were running Linux. Overwhelmingly, the response was that I had to be lying because Dell sells RHEL. Well, there was a mistake on my part. I didn't explain the time period in which I was trying to get support.

The first event took place in 2001. It was a Dell server that was just past 9 months old catching on fire. It blew smoke out the back and, when I got it open, I could see the charred remains of the motherboard. I called Dell and they asked me for some code. I didn't know what code they wanted, so I asked. They said that I could get it by going into the Control Panel and... I cut him off and explained that I never had a Control Panel because I was running RedHat. He explained that without some code that you can get from Windows that was installed when we purchased the machine, there was absolutely nothing he could do. I boxed up the server and sent it back to Dell with a note explaining what happened, a photocopy of the purchase order, a copy of the warranty that was included on a CD of PDF docs that came with the server, and a request to get a new server. Another service rep called me and told me that Dell doesn't warranty Linux, but she would replace the server as it was obviously a hardware problem - and it was a common one at that. Just a few months later, there was a recall on the motherboards and our other servers of the same model got new motherboards.

The second event took place in 2003 (if memory serves). It could have been 2004. Fedora was just released. I took one of our new Dell desktops, an Optiplex GX240 (again, if memory serves). I put Fedora on it. It worked fine for about a week and then started acting weird. It would crash for no reason. Files would corrupt for no reason. Then, it wouldn't boot. I did a complete format/reinstall. The same thing happened a couple days later. I called Dell support to ask about it - perhaps it is the hard drive. He said he was going to email me a program to run. I told him that I don't have Windows on it. He said that I had to install Windows to get Dell support. I asked if I could just send in the hard drive and get a new one since it was acting up so much. He said not until I install Windows on it and run his program. Since this was only weeks old, I said I just wanted to return it and get my money back. He transferred me up the line to a support person in the U.S. and I was told that the computer was known to have DMA issues. The drive was fine - disable DMA. I tried that and it worked.

The third problem occurred about a year later. We got a new GX260. The CD tray wouldn't open. I called and they asked me for my info. When he pulled it up, he said that he couldn't provide support because of my past history "abusing customer support" and that I would have to be transferred to a higher level of support who would call me back. After trying to get a call back for two days, I mailed the computer back to Dell with a note explaining that I had nothing to do with the agreement that my company ONLY purchase Dell computers. From that point on, I would purchase from Sun or Gateway. Every server I've purchased since then has been a Sun or Gateway.

User Journal

Journal Journal: Comcast blocking 1

I submitted this as a story, but it will surely be rejected, so I'm posting it here too...

For over a week now (8 days to be exact), our local Comcast high-speed Internet service has been blocking access to It isn't just me. It is all of the people here that have Comcast. It is annoying, since yum comes preconfigured to use as the main mirror site. But, it raises a larger issue with me. Why would Comcast block access to a Linux distribution website? What has Fedora done against Comcast? Is this a planned step in the path to having preferred Internet service to certain sites, but paying for access to others? Will I have to start paying an extra $20/month to access Linux sites? Since it is just Comcast doing it, and probably only in my area, I'm sure it isn't a big deal to anyone. However, that is just the start. They get away with blocking sites here and there. Then, they block more. Then, they charge a tiny amount for access to the blocked sites. Finally, the Internet becomes like cable with package deals. You want Linux sites, you have to pay for the package that includes home shopping sites, hedgehog lover's online magazines, and Indonesian news service.

UPDATE: I told the Comcast support person today that I reported this problem to Slashdot. "Who?" she asked. "One of the most popular Internet meta-news services," I replied. "Oh," she answered, "Let me look into this for you." After a few minutes she got back. "You are correct sir. We did have a block on that site due to excessive downloading traffic. It has been removed now."

User Journal

Journal Journal: Fedora 7 - the day after

You'd think I'd be used to it by version 7, but Fedora is a real love/hate sort of Linux distribution.

First, I do not have a DVD burner or a DVD player in my computer. Since some brainchild decided it was too hard to put the CD isos online, I had to download the rescue CD and do a network install. It took over 12 hours to do the network install because everyone was downloading off the network. Now, if they'd allow a bittorrent install... Really, they just need to put the CD isos online.

I know the argument - "Go out and get a DVD burner! They are cheap!" Well, I spent my money on a 64bit system. How about getting some support for a worthwhile upgrade? As it is, I keep running into the argument - "Not everyone has 64bit machines, so there's no reason to support them!" So, everyone should just get a DVD burner, but screw those who got a 64bit system.

First thing after the install is to get my Nvidia dual-head card working. I know, the nv driver doesn't work well for dualhead displays. So, I added livna and installed the nvidia driver. It failed. I messed with it for a while. I gave up. I downloaded the driver source from Nvidia and compiled it. It failed. Then, I remembered the golden Fedora rule: "If you can't fix it, it must be an SELinux problem."

How do you fix an SELinux problem? No, you don't disable SELinux. It is there to protect you. Instead, you use audit2allow to find and fix the problem. But, audit2allow requires checkmodule. For some reason, checkmodule is not included with Fedora 7. So, you can't run audit2allow. I broke down and disabled SELinux. The nvidia driver works fine now.

I'm back in again. I copied my .mozilla, .thunderbird, and .ssh folders back. Unlike FC6, that didn't crash my whole system. I got my email, no problem. My saved passwords in Firefox are still there. I installed mp3 capability (because I refuse to re-encode my ITunes music in ogg). It is 5:38pm. I started at 11:00am yesterday. This is a record for me and Fedora - back online in about 32 hours. I hope I will be able to cut it down to less than a day next time.

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Refreshed by a brief blackout, I got to my feet and went next door. -- Martin Amis, _Money_