Monthly Archives: November 2009

Black Friday? Hardly!

Maybe the rest of the country celebrated Black Friday today, but here at our house, it was white and brown Friday.

We painted the eaves of the house. Which is to say, I painted it, mostly, because it was too far off the ground and the little missus isn’t one for heights. So I made about a thousand trips up and down the ladder — paint 18 inches, climb back down, move latter 18 inches, climb back up, then repeat. Do that once around with the white sealant-and-primer, then come back around with the brown paint.

(I won’t mention the first pass, dangling off the roof, scraping off the old paint and smoothing the wood. Because it was stupid and I could have killed myself. So it’s best if you don’t know about that.)

But the funny thing? I threw out my back rummaging around in the refrigerator for a soft drink.

Upgrading the home network

I just finished replacing my Linksys WRT-54G wireless router with a Linksys-by-Cisco WRT-160N wireless router.

Q: why a new router? Wasn’t the old one working? Yes. But I have a project that will require a WRT-54G — yes, it involves DD-WRT — and Amazon had a good price on refurbished WRT-160N‘s. (Whoa: it’s $4 better than when I bought mine three days ago! Curse this Black-Friday madness!)

I was astonished to see there was an automatic configurator for Macs. Things have sure changed since I bought my iBook in 2003.

After that, configuration went about like I expected. The automatic installer just assumed 192.168.1.* was available, and grabbed it to use as the LAN. Instead, it should have been a nice little DHCP client and asked the DSL modem what network it was on, and learned it was on a 192.168.1.* network. So of course, nothing worked.

But I’ve been through this before, so I didn’t take long to figure out the problem. I deleted the automatic configuration and started over, telling it to use 192.168.2.*. After that, it only took a couple of minutes to set everything up.

An unexpected bonus was figuring out how to delete old WiFi networks on the Windows Vista box. (That feature was there all along, seemingly, but when I’m doing Windows administration, I can’t find my backside.)

Dell Post-Sales Support

Man, Dell really has dissatisfied this customer. I’ve documented some of this on Twitter, but the gist is that I bought a refurb display and it arrived missing a cable.

The packaging didn’t include any bill of materials, nor a phone number to call if anything was missing. Every time I phoned one of Dell’s many 800 numbers, I would be shunted around by representatives with poor English skills. (Sorry, that’s a stereotype. Specifically, it’s a stereotype invented to describe Dell’s phone support.)

At one point, the phone rep told me that a DVI cable wasn’t included in the purchase price. I told him it explicitly said on their web site that it was. He went away for awhile to check it himself, then came back on to say that nevertheless, I couldn’t have one. I asked to speak to his manager. He went away again for a few minutes, then came back on to say I could have one after all. It wasn’t clear if they’d ship it in time for me to have it before Thanksgiving.

In the past 12 months, I’ve bought a laptop from Dell and a desktop system, besides this monitor. I’m in charge of purchasing a new computer for the secretary at church later this month. I expect that to cost between $500 and $800 depending on whether we buy any preloaded software from the hardware vendor.

Let’s assume the phone support is free. (And with quality like that, it should be.) I priced DVI cables on Amazon and it looks like they run anywhere from $3 up. So Dell can probably get them for 50 cents. Or a quarter. But my time is free, so they wasted 47 minutes of it last night and another half hour today.

Where do you suppose I won’t buy my next computer?

Healthcare at a Crossroads

I got a mailer “News … about changes to your healthcare benefits” from the people who do that stuff for me. In it was this amusing statement:

The idea of change may not be particularly welcome at this moment, when our healthcare system is at a crossroads.

Let’s consider. Traditionally, a crossroads is where you meet the devil when you want to sell your soul. It’s where you bury a vampire after you drive a stake through its cold, black heart. So, yes, I think that’s precisely the right word. Our nation’s healthcare system is certainly at a crossroads.

MacBook Optical Audio Port

I’ve had a strange problem occur with my new MacBook: it fails to recognize when my headphones are in the audio port. The result is that the sound continues to come out of the laptop speakers.

This has only happened a couple of times, all in the last week. (Since i upgraded to the 9.02 (25) version of iTunes. Possibly a coincidence.)

I can fix it by rebooting, but … good grief. If I wanted to fix things by rebooting all the time, I’d have kept my Windows computer.

The second time this anomaly occurred, I asked my research assistant, Mr. Google, to find out if it was just me. Apparently, it’s not just me.