Archive for the ‘Techno-travails’ Category

Bear with me here

May 17, 2017

Peak load: Restoring the Internets the Western way. Photo: Hal Walter.

Ever have the Innertubes go out on you? Irksome, innit?

You ring up your service provider, if you remember its contact info (the Innertubes are down, remember?). If you don’t, then you get to pursue a long and painful search for same via tiny smartphone screen before enjoying an extended stint on hold, being reminded over and over again how important is your call.

After a few days of this someone who gives the name Nathan or Monica but sports an accent reminiscent of the Subcontinent pops up to lend you what you suspect is a very long-distance hand indeed, oh my goodness yes.

And you begin turning on and off or unplugging/replugging bits of this and that; rooting around in dark corners of your computer that, like a rough neighborhood, family gathering or all-hands meeting in an economic downturn, you’d prefer to avoid; and chanting magical yet remarkably futile incantations like “Fifteen-inch MacBook Pro, mid-2014, 2.5 GHz Intel Core i7, 16 GB DDR3, OS X Yosemite, yes, I’ll hold.”

Anything to eat in here? Nope. Photo: Hal Walter.

In the end, of course, you find yourself curled, unshaven and filthy, on the floor, in a puddle of your own tears, cradling your phone and its fading battery as though it were a dying baby bird, wailing, “I have to have my Innertubes! Do you have any idea what’s going on in Washington? Neither do it!”

Well. Suck it up, snowflake. That’s a day at the beach compared to what my man Hal Walter endured the other day to get his Innertubes barfing out the 1s and 0s again.

Hal texted me to announce that his Innertubes were blown, something that occurs even more regularly in rural Crusty County than it does in more civilized environs. Being a wag of no small renown, I quipped, “Dude. It won’t do. Did a b’ar eat your dish?”

Well. Yeah, as it turns out.

It’s not a dish on the house, which is how we used to get our Innertubes when we lived just west of Hal’s place outside Weirdcliffe. There is a tower, which sits atop Bradbury Ridge on Bear Basin Ranch, and it is powered by a solar-battery setup (the tower, not the peak).

Some of the guts of this line-of-sight wireless setup reside in what looks like an Igloo cooler, which to a bear looks like a pizza-delivery guy’s shitbox Toyota Tercel does to thee and me. The bear tried to find the delicious pizza inside the shitbox, but the innards proved undercooked, and off he trundled, leaving behind a cooler whose security had been dramatically compromised by bite marks in opposite corners, and whose contents soon would be done to a turn by the notoriously vile Crusty County weather.

Thus, instead of unplugging bits of this and that in the comfort of his own home, Hal found himself hauling 100 pounds of new batteries up to the tower via pack burro while a tech-support dude who was decidedly not from Delhi refreshed the coolers’ innards.

“They like to use coolers because they protect the batteries from extreme temperatures,” says Hal. “However, there is some discussion of a metal box. Our wildlife officer agrees with me that the bear likely had previous experience with ice chests.”

• Late update: The man himself chimes in with an on-the-scene report.

Ay, Robot

August 8, 2016
I'm up on the tight wire, linked by life and the funeral pyre, putting on a show for you to see.

I’m up on the tight wire, linked by life and the funeral pyre, putting on a show for you to see.

Electricity is your friend, until it isn’t.

We were watching the finale to season one of “Mr. Robot,” the one in which Eliott awakens in Tyrell’s SUV to discover that his hack has taken down the global financial system and all is chaos, when the lights first hiccuped and then went out altogether.

Bzzzzt. Game over.

The culprit wasn’t FSociety or any other anonymous (har de har har) hacktivist collective. Seems a bolt of lightning drilled a West Side Public Service Company of New Mexico substation, starting a fire and turning out the lights from Santa Fe to Los Lunas — affecting some 135,435 customers, including our little cul-de-sac. PNM said later it was the worst power outage in years.

After a bit, everyone in the ‘hood wandered into the street, exchanging quips about who tripped over the cord, passing out candles to the light-deprived, and generally just catching up on idle chitchat. Nice and dark it was, and cool, with just a soupçon of rain.

About the time we decided we’d better eat all the ice cream before it turned into ice-cream soup, click, the power came back on. Civilization — or the feeble substitute we’ve all agreed to settle for — marches on.

Site gag

October 2, 2015
The Embudo Trail parking lot at the top of Indian School Road.

The Embudo Trail parking lot at the top of Indian School Road.

OK, so last night I actually slept through the night without coughing myself awake a couple dozen times. Our long national nightmare is over, I thought.

And then the Samsung clothes washer croaked in the middle of a load for the fourth time in a year. Naturally, the Samsung warranty expired last week, after one drain pump and two circuit boards. Now we’re at the mercy of the Best Buy Geek Squad, which may be able to see us (wait for it) Tuesday.

So what I wanna know is: Which one of you wisenheimers has a Patrick O’Grady voodoo doll stuck full of pins?*

* Yes, I know, at least it’s not stuck full of bullets, as are many of the residents of Roseburg, Oregon. Don’t expect to see any action on gun control until some sicko shoots a brand new baby iPhone, much less by Tuesday. Until then, if anyone offers to sell you a Samsung clothes washer, you have my permission to shoot them.

Ch-ch-ch-changes

September 30, 2015

The sharp-eyed among you may have noticed a hitch in the virtual gitalong here over the past 24 hours or so.

My website/email hosting provider, Hostcentric, must have been starving the hamsters again, because my main email account went away for the umpteenth time, and I finally got pissed.

My first move was upgrading this free WordPress.com blog to a paid item and redirecting my DNS signposts here. The original, a self-hosted WordPress.org deal parked for years at Hostcentric, had become an archaeological curiosity, a sentimental attachment and something of a pain in the ass.

That rearranging of my digital furniture took a while to draw the attention of Teh Innertubez, but now you can get here via the old URL (maddogmedia.wordpress.com) or the new one (maddogmedia.com).

Resolving the email problem will take a little longer, but I hope to get started on that bright and early tomorrow morning. I’m thinking Google Apps. Anyone have any experience with it? Holler in comments or send me a note via Gmail.

Paddywhacked

March 17, 2015
I was wearing green, but the iMac pinched me anyway.

I was wearing green, but the iMac pinched me anyway.

Ah, jaysis, I should’ve known better than to declare victory in my battle with the auld iMac so. Froze up on me again it did, as before, after less than 12 hours of extremely light use.

It caused me to explode in righteous wrath, and before I could go for a wee ride in my St. Patrick’s Day finery too.

Cat got your … Mac?

March 16, 2015
It's Yosemite, Sam.

It’s Yosemite, Sam.

So this guy walks into an Apple Store with a busted iMac and — stop me if you’ve heard this one before. …

OK, so you may not have heard this one before.

Long-suffering readers of the DogS(h)ite know that my once-trusty late-2009 iMac went sideways shortly after I “upgraded” it to Mavericks, in the process leapfrogging over Lion and Mountain Lion from Snow Leopard.

Its misbehavior gradually intensified, and unable to diagnose the problem and devise a solution I finally dragged it down to the Duke City Apple Store, where a Genius critical of my OS management advised a nuke-and-pave of the hard disk drive and another “upgrade,” this time a clean install of Yosemite.

Five days and five crashes later I returned to discuss the issue further, and this time they took the doddering old iBeast in for a full brain scan.

“You might want to crack the case and check it for schmutz,” I quipped. “We have a dog and two cats, and there’s probably enough fur in there to build a yeti.” Oh, how we chortled there at the Genius Bar, techs and customers alike. Laugh, I thought I’d die.

A few days later the telephonic discussions commenced. The Geniuses were unable to replicate my issues, and their extended evaluations, like my own basic home-mechanic checks, found no hardware issues. The iMac was running a sparkling new OS and nothing but Apple software — save for Flash, which I needed for video, and SuperDuper!, which I needed to back up the drive before service — and they, like me, were at a loss.

Hard drive? Fine. Video card? OK. Bad memory? Nope. Thermal management issues? I’ve heard about temp problems, sensors detaching from drives, fans failing. Sorry, we don’t find any hardware issues atall atall.

“Did you crack the case and have a look inside? We have pets, you know. …”

Bingo. They finally opened ‘er up and found enough dust and fur clogging the fans to assemble an earth-toned pantsuit for a plus-size crazy cat lady. It actually felt a couple pounds lighter as I carried it out of the store.

This morning the old iBeast is ticking over smoothly, which if it continues will be nice, because the 2010 Mac Mini I’ve been using since Tuesday doesn’t have the oomph to run a couple different versions of the WordPress CMS, edit words, photos and videos, and do all the other things I need to do to keep my share of the lights on here at Rancho Pendejo.

Best of all? No charge for the janitorial work. When was the last time you walked away from a mechanic of any sort with your pants up and your wallet still in its pocket? I call that service and then some.

I’ll have to inform the cats who run the Innertubes. Medals, commendations and promotions may be in order.

Rotten Apple

March 9, 2015
Pardon the poor Photoshop job. I wasn't using it. Apple's Preview app works fine for basic photo editing, but not for extensive copyright violation in the name of cheap humor.

Pardon the poor Photoshop job. I wasn’t using it. Apple’s Preview app works fine for basic photo editing, but not for extensive copyright violation in the name of cheap humor.

You’ll excuse me if I’m not too excited about the Apple Watch and the latest, greatest MacBook.

The old iMac has been acting up the better part of quite some lately — a function, I believe, of the Mavericks “upgrade” I performed last year — and last week, after yet another spate of inexplicable freezes that I could not resolve via Safe Boot, Apple Hardware Test, Disk Utility, DiskWarrior, disconnecting external drives and/or monitors, and finally the deployment of chicken blood, rattles and incantations, I waved the white flag and dragged the doddering iBeast down to the local Apple Store for a chat with a Genius.

The Genius advised a “nuke and pave,” erasing the drive and installing a fresh copy of the OS. I had my doubts, having done way too much looking around online to believe that a solution would be so simple.

Still, I thought, I’m backed up all to be-damn, from Time Machine to SuperDuper!, two copies of each. Want to try Yosemite? Sure, why not? How much worse could it be? Let ‘er buck, cowboy.

So I dragged the iBeast back home with a nuked and paved HDD and a brand-new copy of Yosemite, and then let it sit overnight, to cure, or rest, or whatever. The next day, I booted it up and set about the onerous chore of configuring what amounted to a brand-new, 6-year-old computer.

Installing a new OS did not include fresh copies of the iWork and iLife suites. I didn’t want to drag over old files and applications from my backups, reasoning that if they had bugs, I’d be giving my New World Order a case of Old World pants rabbits. So I decided I’d use those drives as storage for now — sort of a Waste Isolation Pilot Project of bits and bytes — and downloaded fresh copies of Pages and iMovie for starters, plus a smallish OS update.

Word and Photoshop? Nah. Fuggem, I thought. Let’s keep this thing all Apple for now, see what transpires.

What transpired? Freezes. Just like before. One on Saturday, a second on Sunday and a third today.

Bloody exasperating, that is. Especially when you open Console to see a grinning octupus-dragon-man-thing wearing a “Think Different” T-shirt laughing at you and gibbering, “Ph’nglui mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagl fhtagn!

So, no, thanks, I don’t need a skinny, $1,299 laptop with a shite camera and one oddball port that will require a backpack full of adapters. And I really don’t need a Dick Tracy watch, especially if it makes me look like a Dick Head.

I already know what time it is. It’s time to retire this iBox. And I’m not buying another one.

 

 

Apple, Samsung and Hanes

February 2, 2015
What director Quentin Ferrentino sees just before the iMac hiccups, stutters and croaks.

What director Quentin Ferrentino sees just before the iMac hiccups, stutters and croaks.

Is the Super Bowl finally over? No, I see we’re still second-guessing coaches, lip-syncing sharks and that crucial, botched call — Nationwide’s decision to run that dead-kid ad instead of throwing it into the trash.

We didn’t watch any of it here at Rancho Pendejo, not even the ads. Herself was on a mission from God to clean up the joint, and I was doing a job of work, hammering away at a video review of the Novara Mazama for Adventure Cyclist and trying to troubleshoot ongoing technical glitches with the old iMac.

At 6 years of age, this ‘puter may be nearing the end of its useful existence, though a 15-year-old G3 “Pismo” PowerBook is still ticking right along with all its original equipment. Not so the iMac. Its optical drive croaked a while back, and ever since I “upgraded” to Mavericks I’ve been enjoying occasional and inexplicable freezes that force me into an irksome hard reset that occasionally costs me a bit of work. Kindly old Doc Google tells me I’m not alone in my suffering, and this is one of the reasons I’m dragging my feet on the Yosemite and iOS 8 upgrades.

Last night after a weirdo crash that left both monitors black, but with a moveable cursor, I booted into Safe Mode, which runs a few diagnostics, then said fuck it and booted again, this time into the Recovery HD, and ran Disk Utility.

The hard drive “appears to be OK,” says DU, so I repaired permissions and called it good. This morning nothing was on fire or defunct, which is better.

Now if Samsung will get around to installing a new drain pump in our 5-month-old washing machine, we’ll really have it going on. The goddamn thing has been on the sidelines for a week and I need to upgrade my undies to something a little, um, fresher.

 

Shhh!

September 28, 2014
The Erna Fergusson Library has rows of tables with power strips for the techno-fortunate who fetch their own machinery hither and thither.

The Erna Fergusson Library has rows of tables with power strips for the techno-fortunate who fetch their own machinery hither and thither.

Today my “office” is at the Erna Fergusson Library on San Mateo. I pulled the early shift at the Northeast Heights Satellite Coffee outlet, because a day without a breakfast burrito is like a day without sunshine, and then moved over here to free up some parking space for the caffeine-deprived. I’d have used the Juan Tabo branch, which is closer to Rancho Pendejo, but it’s closed on Sundays.

The phrase “your tax dollars at work” has become a punchline for eons, but I doubt it’s funny to the three dozen or so folks who were queued up outside in the hot sun, waiting for the library to open at 1 p.m. Most of them were in the line to use the facility’s computers. Having mine in a messenger bag — two of them, actually — I felt slightly yuppified and ostentatious.

Imagine doing without the Innertubes and computers in this day and age. If you want to go low tech, that’s one thing; but having to is something else, especially if you’re trying to find, oh, I don’t know, a job or health care or child care or something.

 

Zap comics

May 6, 2014
No sweat: We got a battery backup.

No sweat: We got a battery backup.

We had a spot of fun around here yesterday.

The Martin Drake Power Plant, the downtown eyesore that Moses brought with him from Egypt, caught fire and had to be shut down. Not to worry — the coal-fired relic only supplies a third of Bibleburg’s power — and as you can see from the photo at top, the city has a backup in place.

Boy, I bet the City Council wishes they’d given a green light (ho ho ho) to recreational-marijuana sales now. They’d have enough sales-tax revenue to build a solar array, six wind farms and a nuclear plant.

I can already see the slogan: “Puffin’ for Power: Get Lit And Stay Lit.”