Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Changing web hosts is hard to do

Isn't that an old song title? Anyway, just needed to vent about the terrible customer service I've been receiving from aplus.com. They've hosted my www.statonr.org site (and personal e-mail) for well over a decade, but this year when the autorenew messages started arriving, I began wondering why I was still paying them twice what godaddy would charge. Checked their site and they had lowered their prices to be more competitive--except it appeared that they were going to keep charging "legacy" customers like me the same old rate: double! So I e-mailed their billing department and asked them to confirm what my rate would be. When they did not respond in 24 hours as promised, I e-mailed them again. After a couple more days without a response, I decided that was it and I was switching to godaddy. E-mailed aplus technical support for an authorization code to switch the domain. Two days later, I finally got a response telling me to e-mail or call their DNS department. What? Does one department there not even speak to another? Finally I called and got the auth code, but now I'm still stuck because I don't know how to "accept" the transfer and have to wait five days.. Meanwhile, aplus billed me for another year of domain registration. Of course I e-mail billing again, and have gotten no response, which shouldn't surprise me since they haven't responded to the first e-mails sent over a week ago.

Aplus has the worst customer service I've ever encountered. I should have left them years ago!

Friday, October 16, 2009

The Good Life

As difficult as technology can be, I have to admit that for the most part these computers work pretty well on my behalf these days. Business at PC Liferaft is good, the job at UTC is smoothing out as I adapt to its boundaries, and despite weeks of rainy weather I can see clear skies ahead.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Doggone Flash driving me nuts.

Thought I had my little Flash intro playing nicely on the PC Liferaft website, and then it started getting weird on me, working sometimes, not others. Had to take out some cool code I had snagged that paused the timeline, and that fixed most of the issues, but there's still something wrong with the swobject.js (I'm guessing) that won't allow Firefox to play my little video. It works in I.E. and Chrome.

No time left to struggle with it tonight!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

PC Liferaft is the new thing

First I was too busy fixing computers to work on the website. Then I was busy working on the website but broke because there were no computers to fix. Now, on the advice of my spouse, I am officially announcing the birth of www.pcliferaft.com. I still want to do a lot of work on the site to make it look prettier, but I suppose it's good enough for tonight.

To be honest, the humble venture known as pcLiferaft LLC is the most exciting thing I've done since we got back from our cruise. As a small business owner (ahem!), I now have a new perspective on big government, bailouts, and taxes! I'm happy to pay them, of course! (applause from crowd.) But seriously, folks, it costs a bit to set up a new business, so when you encounter people with broken computers, send 'em my way. We'll fix 'em and keep 'em smiling, as they used to say.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The New Thing

The new thing is a computer repair business, to be called PC Liferaft. We now have an address (711 Mountain Creek Road #151, Chattanooga, TN 37405) and a phone number (423-208-9695). There are lots of forms to be filed with the state, county, and city. There is an entire website to be built, with information yet to be decided upon, policies and prices to be dtermined. There will be business license fees, sales taxes, excise taxes, and more taxes to be paid to every possible arm of government.

But as the saying goes, nothing difficult is ever easily accomplished.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Surrounded by Rhus Radicans!

Brady and I made another hot but pleasantly philosophical hike today, this time up the Whiteside Road trail on Lookout, starting from Ochs Highway just above St. Elmo. The Whiteside trail follows an old roadbed dating back to the 1850's. Above the picnic area on Sanders Road, we reached our objective: the "billboard rock," which advertised the hotel at the top of the mountain to weary travelers. The black paint was still there, but mostly covered by moss. Fifteen years ago I knew what the words were, but I couldn't remember even with the clues there in front of me.

After scouting the rock for climbing possibilities, Brady continued up the old road, which was now parallel to Scenic Highway. The poison ivy, which had been bad, got worse. I was in shorts and running shoes, legs bare, picking my way along. All at once I reached the end: blocked by poison ahead. Behind me, the poison had closed the gap, and seemed to be creeping in from the sides as well even as I stood there, frozen like a man on ledge. Trapped! I imagined I could feel the deadly urushiol oil in the air...did I dare even to breathe?

I have a theory that rubbing alcohol will keep the urushiol from binding with the skin. Once it binds, my body's t-cells will mistake it for a toxic invader, and the allergic reaction will run wild.

Did my skin touch the ivy? Will the drinking water I poured over my legs wash away the oil? Will the rubbing alcohol used at the truck prevent binding? Stay tuned! We'll know in about 24 hours.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Pleasant Hiking

And now for something completely different. No, I shall NOT spend my time here blubbering about my lack of a meaningful job, speaking of which....

Ahem. Today I hiked the 3.5 mile Point Pot Loop in the Tennessee River Gorge with my friend Brady, and it was a very interesting walk. The trail allegedly climbs 1,000 feet from the Tennessee River to Laurel Point, but Brady and I doubt that figure. It was an easy climb for the most part, leading to a wonderful rock city with the real bluffs still above us. A nice winter day when the poison ivy, serpents, and spiders were all gone would be a great time to visit this spot, and perhaps to scale the rest of the mountain, but today we headed down the jeep road that provided the descent back to the river. It was a long walk through the thick woods and weeds to the Point Pot House, where had begun, with memorable stretches of mud and waist-high weeds. Again, winter might be the time to visit.

We washed the mud (and any chiggers, I hope!) in a handy stream before speeding off into the sunset.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Tough Times at the Office

I have not been enjoying my job lately. What is my job? I thought it was to help faculty and students make the most of technology, but some faculty don't seem to think much of that idea. I have never felt less appreciated for the work I've done and more powerless to make a positive difference.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Posted tonight to the UTCSTAFF Yahoo List

I could not resist. After a dozen people wrote in complaining (on principle, not because they were personally affected) about the State of Tennessee imposing a $50/month health insurance surcharge, I wanted to be the first to correct their thinking. Ha! Yeah, I'm just that dumb.

***My humble post***

With all the issues that this campus faces, it's a small change in health insurance that has generated so much outrage on the normally all-too-quiet mailing list...and so it is my distinct honor to cast the sole dissenting vote.

I am in favor of the tobacco use surcharge!

It seems that in seeking to reduce health costs the state had a choice: either raise everyone's rates, or just raise the rates on people who choose to smoke and therefore have poorer health. Then use some of that revenue to fund a long overdue program of assistance to help people quit the very same deadly habit. Makes sense to me!

This is not the holocaust, and the analogies comparing it to such are inappropriate. No one is telling people they can't smoke. You have same the choice to smoke or not that you've had since you became an adult. Most or all of the rhetoric we've heard so far would have us believe that if we allow this surcharge to stand, Big Brother will soon have cameras in every bedroom, take away all our guns, reinstate prohibition, and eventually execute everyone who doesn't meet government standards of theology and geometry. Calm down, folks. Auto, life, and (gasp!) health insurance companies have been charging groups different rates based on risk factors for as long as I can remember and the world hasn't ended yet. If you honestly think that a well-intentioned plan to help employees live longer and healthier lives is in fact an evil plot to whittle away your freedoms, perhaps a University is not the institution where you should spend your time.

I have friends who smoke, and I support their right to do so as long as it doesn't harm someone else. But they ought to quit, and every one of them knows it. Smoking is bad. Discouraging smoking (while allowing the freedom to choose to smoke) is good! What more is there to say?

Friday, April 17, 2009

Why I Like Traffic Cameras

The people who get up in arms about traffic cameras are usually (not always, but usually) the ones who were caught by those cameras. They ought to be thankful it was the camera who caught them, since they pay only a small $50 fine and nothing goes on their record. Me, I'm sick of people who zoom along our little roads at high speeds, and I'm scared sick of somebody t-boning into me at an intersection when they deliberately try to push the limits and end up running a red light. (Note: If I had the power I would confiscate the motorcycles from the idiots who do 140 MPH on 153 and pop wheelies in traffic. My friend El Torro says they only kill themselves, but you tell me what will happen when a 500 pound motorcycle comes head-on through my windshield at 140 MPH. Or talk to the lady who was killed by a 19-year-old doing a wheelie across Market Street Bridge.)

One guy was mad because it was his teenage son speeding in his car, and yet he had to pay the ticket. He finds out his son is driving irresponsibly, and he's mad at the city, not at his son!

Traffic cameras prevent accidents and save lives. Traffic cameras generate revenue for the city. Traffic cameras punish the guilty. The problem for the guilty is that the cameras do it so efficiently, so perfectly, without risking the lives of our public servants, that if you break the law you'll pay a penalty for it, every time. Perhaps eventually you'll be persuaded to stop breaking the law. Are you telling me that's a bad thing?

If you don't think people should drive the speed limit or stop at red lights, work to change the laws. Don't get angry at the police officer or traffic camera--does it really matter which one caught you?--who did their duty and wrote a ticket.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

What is Wrong Here?

I don't understand why everyone in Chattanooga is sick all the time, especially me. When we lived on the boat, we were happy and healthy. We came back to Chattanooga, and suddenly we're facing headaches, sinus infections, and chronic insomnia.

The late and beloved Forrest Cantrell always called it "the creeping crud," that raspy throat and tight cough that everyone in my household has been living with since November. I can count the days I've felt well--really well, as in "I feel like going mountain biking or hiking!"--since Thanksgiving on one finger. Every few weeks we go get antibiotics and get better for a while, but pretty soon we're back in Marlboro Country.

Maybe we can survive until the seasons finish changing, and summer burns all the germs and allergens into oblivion. Until then, I might as well buy stock in Rite Aid because I'm giving them half my paycheck anyway.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

How Not to Install a Garage Door Opener

Here is a partial list of all the ways you can maximize the fun of replacing a garage door opener.

First, order the exact same model as you are replacing because you think you can just bolt the motor unit in place and be done in less than five minutes. That won't work, because the design will have changed just enough to make the new unit incompatible. Of course you could have simply replaced the faulty circuit board in the old opener, but that would have cost $80, which is far less than a whole new opener, but too much money for one little board. So yes, definitely stick to the higher ground and buy the whole kit and kaboodle.

Be sure not to read the instructions that say you have to put the rounded bolts on one side the track, and the flat bolts on the other. And please do NOT pay any heed to the warnings about removing that plastic tie wrap on the gear, because what harm could that do...unless perhaps it allowed you to rotate the chain and get the entire system out of whack so that the motor was trying to open a door that was already open. Finally, be absolutely sure that you do NOT check that the chain is on the sprocket before bolting the motor and track back into place. This way you'll get to take the entire shabang back down again to thread and tighten the chain after you just spent 20 minutes getting it bolted in place.

I you are careful to follow all of the steps above in just the right order, you can make what would have been a thirty minute job into an entire day of installing, uninstalling, installing, uninstalling, and finally collapsing in exhaustion.

One final hint: if you have been typing for five minutes on a post as I have, and then by some inexplicable combination of keystrokes manage to highlight everything you've typed and delete it in one stroke, try Control-Z. That much, to my amazement, worked.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Okay, I give up, the Mac is better!

So you make one mistake (buying a PC instead of a Mac) and you end up paying dearly. Took delivery of a new desktop PC today and Microsoft was so thrilled that I had a non-pirated copy of Windows XP that they offered a free download of Media Player 11. Not sure why I agreed to that, but I did (maybe because I thought it might include an actual codec that would one to watch DVDs--imagine that!--using something called "media player"). Suddenly Roxio Update started popping up every two minutes, asking for a CD that Dell didn't send me, and so I started googling and trying various fixes and the box hadn't popped up for a long time so I thought I'd start the LONG install of Adobe CS3. I was on DVD #4 when the Roxio box popped up and evidently killed my installation.

Say what you will, pay what you will, but this would never happen on a Mac.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Okay, I give up! Mozilla is better!

I've never really had a choice but to use I.E. Whatever you think of Microsoft, most of the world is married to their products, including their browser, and a person in tech support needs to stay familiar with what his customers are using. Yet I find myself clicking on Firefox more and more lately for my personal browsing (except for checking my mail on Exchange, which understandably works better in I.E.).

What's next? Where will this end? Will I be running Ubuntu as my OS tomorrow? Once strayed off the path, there are no boundaries in sight.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

No WiFi in Walt's Vision of the Future

So I'm sitting in Tomorrowland at Walt's park here in Anaheim, California, eating a $7.00 slice of pizza, and I decide to check my mail on the old iPod Touch. Scanning, scanning...whoops, there is no wireless Internet in Walt's vision of tomorrow! In fact, I haven't found reliable WiFi anywhere at the Disney resort, even in the hotel, despite the fact that the management claims it does exist. On my devices, an open Disney network does come up, but always at zero strength, useless.

If Walt were here today, I'd ask him about this issue. I'd also ask him what happened to the PeopleMover, my favorite Disney ride. It was evidently dismantled here at the California park in 1995, but I could see the tracks there yesterday when we visited. Rumor has the PeopleMover may return to California someday. I say, bring back the Tomorrowland Transit Authority: when they were running things, you could hop on a pod and ride it right through Space Mountain!

It is interesting to compare the park in California with that in Florida. In Orlando the castle is the center of the park, but here the castle is no larger than a typical McMansion in Tennessee. Instead, you've got the Matterhorn as a centerpiece. Amazingly, the Captain Nemo submarine ride that disappeared from Orlando twenty or thirty years ago (until recently the lagoon still sat there, empty) is here in California, but Nemo is a fish, not a Captain! Plus there's no Hall of Presidents or Country Bears. But for the most part, Disney has tried to keep the attractions (and the prices) at the two parks in synch.

I was amazed at how Disney had been able to redevelop huge parcels of what has to be some of the most expensive real estate ini America to make a Downtown Disney and California Adventure theme park next door to Disneyland, but was told that the land was previously a parking lot.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

FMS Ushers in New Era of Communication and Rivaly

Just got off the phone with my old friend Michael Torres (he is an old-fashioned guy who still uses "voice" to communicate) and despite his Internet 1.0 habits the man remains a genius! As I begged him to reconsider joining the borg of us on Facebook, and he refused for about the fourth time, he single-handedly coined the phrase "Friend Management System."

A proper FMS will allow one not only to keep instant tabs on the status of all friends, but to manage those friends as the Friend Owner deems appropriate. It's obvious that we'll each need to define classes of friends, so that we can provide differing levels of access and security. Rodger.bestfriend would be infinitely more powerful and all-seeing than Rodger.casualAcquaintance. Facebook is already doing some of this, but we'll need more...a lot more. I can see an entire hierarchy of relationships, with rankings awarded for witty comments or subtracted for watching and then commenting on, say, cooking reality shows. Instead of silly Facebook Snowball Fights, we can have Virtual Friend Warfare Systems in which all of us will compete to become and to retain the highest quality of friendship. Friend Recognition Systems will assembly entire armies to fight on our behalf, until our Avatars turn on the humans who created them and our rag-team fleet of Facebookers is forced out into the vastness of Internet 2.0 to seek a new home....

Well, you get the idea. And just remember: we all have ElTorro.bestfriend to thank, and we could all do it, too, if he would only join Facebook.

Adding Video to My Life

Woke up at 3:00 AM with a sore throat and a general feeling of malaise, so it's probable I have definitely quite possibly caught strep. Either that or I am such a hypochondriac that the moment my daughter was diagnosed, I caught it, too.

Can't make it to a couple of important meetings today (I feel well enough to go, but in the interest of public health--I do work for a School of Nursing--I will stay home) but this got me thinking about how it might be possible to use Skype to attend those meetings from here at home. Naturally I would want a video feed. I have a laptop at the office with a webcam that would work at that end, but what for here? The only cameras we have connect via Firewire, not the USB port that Skype expects. A little Googling put me on the download page for Splitcam, a free app that does indeed solve the problem...except that there is about a one second time lag in my video--and that's on my end, before it ever goes across the wires! So it would work, but the whole thing would look clunky, and that's the opposite of what I was trying to demonstrate.

So now it's either back to bed or back to struggling to make CSS do what I command (or rather, make myself do what CSS demands). Life as a would-be Internet hipster, at the moment, is more of a should-be than an is-be.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Strep, not Stress

Laura went to the doctor today and we found out she has strep, so now the entire family is on antibiotics.

Today at work a colleague from upstairs used Facebook to notify me that someone would be able to meet tomorrow as we had hoped. Brilliant! Now that Facebook is a legitimate form of business communication, we can keep it open at work all the time.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Being at Home on a Workday

There's nothing quite so satisfying as having to stay home with a sick child (although truth be told she seems to be feeling better) and not being able to get any work done because WebDAV (a complicated means of updating a website) is not working between here and UTC. Sure, there's a lot of work I should be doing, but since I can't access the files, I am honestly off the hook and just might have to claim this as a sick day.

It's a bad day to be sick (or not sick and in the office) because the sky is a perfect blue and it may just hit 70 degrees today. Winter, I think, is over.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Still Playing Around with Blogs

I first read the word "blog" in an article in PC Magazine by John Dvorak around 1998. Ten years have passed--a long ten years, making me at least thirty years older. So now we've got Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, MySpace, all this craziness in an attempt to stay connected with ourselves and our world.

How did we get here? Who are we?

Monday, February 16, 2009

Monday, February 9, 2009

Beating Lockdown Browser?

Am I beating the system?  I managed to activate blogger from within Respondus Lockdown browser.

Beating Lockdown Browser

Google search didn't work immediately but I am getting to my blog even though I'm inside the Lockdown Browser (but see the comment because this is irrelevant).