Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Let me amaze you!

My amazing discovery of how to improve my co-workers' lives was rejected out of hand. I asked my boss if I could give the company the equivalent of having an employee show up, totally for free, for eight weeks, and he said no... that might come back and bite me (not him, me) later. It's not my job to fix their computers, ergo, I am directly forbidden from improving the operation of their laptops, regardless of current impaired function. Mine, however works great. I am somewhat satisfied because NO one in my department, nay, my company, has ever figured out what I know.

Today, I sent a request through the regular channels, and I think I've prevented any NEW employees from being set up with hideous default laptop partition build-outs. Even that is a win, for as the new laptops become available, my co-workers can just break their current laptops.

Yes, that is certainly simpler than letting me use the **FREE** method which I researched and tested on my own time, and was told to not use, demonstrate, or explain to co-workers.

Here's the problem, start to finish:
Two of my co-workers boot their laptops, then go for coffee, because their C: drives are so painfully small and fragmented that the benighted machines require 20 minutes to boot. That makes me feel bad that smart people can't fix their troubles. They have no personal files on there, no pictures, no MP3s, no nothing. The company's mandatory virus-scanner kicks in at noon, and then their laptops freeze for the next few hours. They are smart, and they know which end of the mouse is up.

The C: partitions are only tiny because when the laptop images were built, the image used to build them had to be small enough to fit random microscopic hard drives. Yes, I and my present-day co-workers, who are real actual consultants who actually make the company money most of the time, have laptops that are retarded for the convenience of the guys who put together the laptops FOUR YEARS AGO.

Late Friday, in 40 minutes, I went from having a 5 gig C: drive that gave me occasional problems, and a totally-useless D: drive that was 95% empty, to having one BIG C: drive.

Before I did this:
1. I researched all possible alternatives. I removed files, I defragmented, I fiddled with Windows memory settings, I removed .TMP files, any useless folders, etc.
2. I read up on the issues (this was a while back). I read up on all the alternatives. I even tried to get the support people to get a copy of Partition Magic. You know, to spend $69 to make it back in a single day of increased productivity.
3. When I read that certain software I had considered didn't work well... I didn't try it. Even when my laptop keyboard stopped working, I didn't just say, "Y'know, screw this, I'll break it or cure it," and dive in. I sucked it up.
4. Recently, I talked to a person who configures all manner of laptops, who confirmed that the drive image was a relic, and that the D: drive was full of old, weird, driver packs, used by another one of our shell companies for the tech's convenience if the laptop was rented out.
5. Thursday, one of my two afflicted co-workers came to me and said his problem had gotten worse, due to mandatory virus-scanner files and Windows Update files pushed over the corporate LAN. He said I had talked about it before, but now he was getting messages that the C: drive was so full, Windows defrag popped up messages that it wouldn't defrag well. I asked him all the questions in #1, and he said, "C'mon, bro. I'm pretty good at this." He does, he tried his best, and now he was politely and non-confrontationally asking for my help, a second time.
6. I researched the programs I had seen before, and found that the new versions were faster and evidently much more reliable.

So I did the dirty deed: I tossed that useless D: partition over my shoulder and never looked back. My laptop now boots more quickly, opens files more quickly, and seems to run well. No issues, worked perfectly on the first try, took less than an hour all told, from start to finish, from booting Knoppix to taking a screenshot of my single large C: drive in My Computer for proof that I rule.

Thanks, Knoppix boot CD! I never could have removed a useless logical drive partition using QTPARTED without you.

My supervisor's a good guy, and he's right to have reservations, and he means well by telling me not to do the job of our technical folks, but seriously. I'm offering FREE MONEY here. I can make our people happier to just do their jobs. Let me amaze them, and you, by bringing us weird wins, totally out of nowhere. Don't ask me if I got written assurances that this was totally legit.

I asked the questions of the right people. I didn't get their answers in writing, because when I am consulted on my field of expertise in the company, they don't ask that of me. Sometimes, they email me, I research their issues thoroughly, and give them excellent written instructions.

So, no detailed instructions for my co-workers, no painless re-partitioning for them... yet. I am going through proper channnels to stop this from ever happening again, and after this is prevented from happening in the future, I will present this option for correcting the partitions, only on the slowest and most clogged laptops.

I can give our department probably an hour of extra time every day for free, with absolutely no downside, maybe two. My best guess is that it's 300 extra employee-hours per year.

I will wait, and only say what can be heard. I rock, and some days, that has to be enough.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Slow Saturday morning

Went and got the Sentra washed right as the Mister Car Wash down the street opened. We have been getting calls on it, and most of those people have come out and looked. I think that our price is getting more and more negotiable, every week.

I'm also browsing Craigslist, which is producing truly hilarious items today: "I got some free concrete" "Let's trade books, but not for very long" "Furniture is expensive! " and many others.

Earlier today I drove to the post office to mail another half.com sale. I-10 is all messed up, and I ended up wandering through a maze of traffic. Of course, all our prospective car buyers are having to cross that mess, too.

Friday, August 26, 2005

I accomplish a pure good

Today, I figured out how to solve a problem no one knew how to solve. It regularly costs several people in my office hours of productivity per month, maybe even per week. It costs nothing, and takes half an hour. It has no side effects as far as I can tell.

In short, it's a pure win.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Wednesday Night Magic

Played 3 games of Magic with Tim. Won the first one with a ridiculous deck concept, which I can now retire. Lost the other two in quick succession.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Moving boardgames

I have culled another two boxes of fan-subtitled Japanese animation to give to my friend Tim, if he'll take it. Alexis' closet is now clear and ready for loading. I also rearranged my desk and our downstairs cabinets.

Why did I think it would be a good idea to feed all my desk's accessory and power cords through the hole in Lee's desk? I am rearranging the desk to see if it helps open up the room.

I also moved the following games downstairs and put them in the cabinet:

Cults Across America, The Hills Rise Wild, Merchant of Venus, Battlestar Galactica, Inner Circle, Finance and Fortune, The Game of The States, and D-Day. Still upstairs: Fightball, Deadwood, and Ebola Monkey Hunt.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Wench (I disapprove)

"The drinking man's thinking game"

Here's the company's booth at GenCon 2005.

Adobe Reader Updates - Gotta do it, don't gotta like it

Yes, I like how Adobe Reader has a quasi-automatic update feature.


1. updating the Reader somehow added a helper program in my startup folder without asking. I think sugar's great, but I don't put it in your gas tank, do I, Adobe Dev team?

2. put an icon on my desktop without asking. Ba-leeted!

3. has security vulnerabilities. Eeeh, we all have our foibles.

4. knows it has been updated but displays the updates as available for download anyway. This might go away after I reboot. It might not.

Still, it was seamless for me to download the 11 MB update file, and the Adobe Reader reloads without complaining about needing me to reboot. I have a buddy on dial-up that is going to burn your house down over those 11 MB, though.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Sweet! Two half.com sales!

Looks like dropping the prices on my half.com inventory worked. I got two sales, so it's off to the post office first thing Saturday.

The PukeTrain Manifesto

I know I'm not being clever. I'm sure if I Google "puketrain manifesto," I'll find somewhere between a dozen and a hundred pages.

So, uh, my kid threw up last night, then twice this morning. Not soul-destroying, from the depths of the diaphragm, sailor-style barfing. Yurk, oops, semi-digested food in the immediate area.

After going to work and getting everyone squared away, I returned home so Lee could go in and get her work started, too.

I also got a copy of Captain Treasure Boots in the mail from Cheapass Games. Roughly, pirates try to grab treasure and get it back to port, before being shot by other pirates. It looks interesting.

Alexis spent the afternoon whining, crying, hanging on me, watching Baby Einstein DVDs, watching anime, drinking watered-down Pedialyte, and eating Cheerios.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Half.com update

No nibbles on my half.com inventory in a while. I added two computer games tonight, and reduced all my current inventory by anywhere from fifty cents to a few bucks, depending on the current market condition of each book/CD/game.

I've got about 25 items listed. It'll never pay the mortgage, but it does help buy new board games.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Firefox rocks.

I installed my first Firefox extension: a plug-in that tracks my daily Google Adsense earnings down in the lower right corner. I don't have to check the site directly, and I can specify the interval at which the plug-in figures out if I made a nickel today, or not.

I dunno, I guess it's cool.

Crystal from work came over with her husband Len, and we played Medici and Can't Stop. They are younger than Lee and I, and it was a lot of fun.

Friday night light gaming

Had Crystal and Len over on Friday night. This was an impulse decision at the company birthday party. We played Medici and Can't Stop. Lee and I stayed up too late.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Nothing is forgotten and nothing is secret


Hmm, I think I have a new favorite site!

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Wednesday Night Magic

3 games of Magic with Tim:

1st game: my white Champions of Kamigawa vs. his multi-color rogue deck. I locked him down with Ghostly Prison and Hokori, Dust Drinker. Congregates helped, then my Myojin of Cleansing Fire sealed the deal.

2nd game: Tim put out Higure, the Still Wind, and added an equipment card that made his guy a 6/7. That didn't take long to finish me off. I even died putting Godo AND his maul into play. That's just sick.

3rd game: My Academy/Future Sight deck vs. 5 color wacky. Future Sight's pretty good, and Tolarian Academy is out of control. I won, but it took a while. I still think Azusa, Lost But Seeking, needs to go in this deck. Tim put out the green Myojin, which is an indestructible 8/8. I returned the creature to his hand once, then put it on the top of his library, and forced him to discard the top two of his library with Soratami Cloudskater. (By the way, Heartstone is great in this deck.)

Tuesday, August 09, 2005


After uninstalling every weird codec, as well as FFDshow and the Matroshka packs, I reinstalled Windows Media Player and it works. Internet Explorer also doesn't crash when encountering embedded video.

I was on the right track, and my buddy Larry confirmed he'd seen this approach clear up wacky crashes before.

Firefox also works, and looks cool. Tabbed browsing rocks, and most of my bookmarks imported successfully. Overall, impressive and definitely worth downloading. It's also a small download, barely 5 meg or so.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Okay, that's it... (Wacky codecs broke Windows Media Player)

Sometime, somewhere, my Windows Media Player stopped working. You know why.

(Audience: No, we don't.)

Yes, you do. It's from downloading rogue codec packs. It's the dancing bunnies problem all over again. The dancing bunnies problem is:
1. The user knows/suspects he can see dancing bunnies if only they do XXX to their computer.
2. User will do ANYTHING to see dancing bunnies.
3. ????
4. Profit!

I completely understand why Windows doesn't want rogue codec packs to work. I also completely understand why smart people are using their own wacky, homebrew codecs, instead of licensing codecs from Microsoft.

That being said, Windows Media Player AND WMP-related Internet Explorer functions don't work. Re-downloading Windows Media Player didn't fix my problem.

Don't get me wrong, if I thought I could repair Windows Media Player, I would. I tried - I gave it 2 minutes of effort. However, re-installing it didn't work. The Windows site is very clear about this: It's my fault for installing other codecs! Other people's sites are very clear: it's my fault for installing other codecs!

Yes, please, blame the end user. Why not detect the new codecs, and tell me to uninstall them? Why not use in-place unit tests to protect your program from a bad codec? You're getting my crash reports, at random, for the last couple of months! Internet Explorer could do, um, ANYTHING other than crash?

Gosh, I'll just follow your instructions and fall back to my System Restore Point and...

No, I won't. Let's review what works and what doesn't:

I can:
  • Play files encoded in wacky codecs, using BSPlayer.
  • Play mp3s with Itunes, although I don't like the large memory footprint, or several other aspects. Windows Media Player works exactly the same, except eeh, I vaguely like the default Itunes appearance. Don't tell me to configure anything. If I wanted to read manuals and fiddle with configuration nightmares, I'd install Linux.
  • Visit most webpages with Internet Explorer.

I can't:

  • Play most files in Windows Media Player, which I don't care about, since individually, BSPlayer is a better video player that does what I want , and Itunes is a better MP3 player.
  • Visit a webpage with embedded video, like, f'rinstance, Larry's blog. That crashes all the Internet Explorer windows in that process. Way to breathe, no-breath!


  • I'm downloading Firefox.
  • I'm uninstalling all the codecs that I have installed. I'll reinstall newer versions and then test for this behavior immediately.
  • I'm re-installing Windows Media Player in-place again.

Sorry. I have everything I want, except a working browser. That's satisficing for you!

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Saturday Summary

I started by going to Home Depot and bought replacement faucet handles. I came home and fixed the handles, also fixed the drain plug. I tried to replace the shower head in the second bath, and discovered the shower kit had a broken piece.

This weekend in Texas, all clothing is tax-free. That made going to return the shower kit and facing the crowds seem dumb, so I'll do that later. I did remove the old shower head, so it's in progress, anyway.

I went to the bank and deposited some child-care reimbursement checks.

I went to Cost Plus and bought coffee. I went to the grocery store and bought one jillion protein bars, some frozen pizzas, and

I bought two suits at K&G. Black, identical suits. I looked at shoes, and re-discovered that I have giant monster feet. I did find a pair of shoes that I liked, and they were a half-size too small. Everything in my real size was either not black, black but too shiny, or fine other than reminding me of a canoe. I don't like canoes, and even if I liked canoes, I would not wear one on each foot.

I went to four horrible garage sales, didn't buy anything.

I assembled most of a dresser, then I stopped.

The Houston Gamers were out at Midnight Comics. It's 24 miles round-trip, plus tolls. There were a lot of good people, and I taught two games to some newbies (Formel Fun and Mogul). I also playtested James Spurny's card game. It was a trick-taking game, which I usually dislike. However, there were so few cards, even I could card-count them. Interesting stuff.

I chatted some with John, one of the owners. He's getting married at the end of October. It sounds like John's a lucky guy, who's found a lucky lady, too.

Thursday, August 04, 2005


My team at work had a team event: we went bowling at the nearest available place. I bowled horribly, which is bad, but we got to leave work early, which is good.

Other than that, I stayed up too late last night, and I am going to need my sleep to make it through Friday and the action-packed weekend ahead.

Snappi: Norwegian for horsecrap.

See, there are these little plastic diaper fasteners called Snappi. There's an umlaut in there, because the manufacturers want me to hate them more.

Anyway, the idea is that your cloth diapers are too nice, too easy to put on and take off of your baby, and not dangerous at all, thanks to velcro or true snaps. Snappi solves these improvements, by negating them:
  • Snappi rips up cloth diapers!
  • Snappi makes dressing and undressing baby a frustrating hassle.
  • Snappi has SHARP edges, and is not safe for baby to handle.
  • Using a Snappi fastener is work, and takes practice, unlike normal diaper use.

Thanks, Snappi manufacturers! Your home planet needs you! Please return to the early 1970s and leave me out of this!