Microsoft Zune 30 gig

Well Microsoft missed reading a study from the 70s that indicated that BROWN and GREEN were the two most negative colors for consumers.

So, as Microsoft evidently has a lot of unsold BROWN Zunes, they were on sale on Black Friday for as low as $79, which you have to admit is a pretty good deal. In their infinite wisdom, Microsoft is going to replace the BROWN Zunes with GREEN ones. Doh!

Like when you are working out or whatever, who cares what color your Zune, iPod or any other MP3 player is? Really! Although we have every single model of iPod here at home, I bought one of the brown Zunes to see how it compared to the iPod.

Well the Zune software is different to say the least. In some areas it's easier to use in others it's not. It is definitely flashier than the iTunes software, but it also offers fewer songs in its marketplace.

The Zune is ok if it is your first MP3 player or if like me you have used others over the years and just want to check it out from a technical standpoint.

January 2008: After owning the Zune for a while, I think one of its most outstanding features is the built-in FM radio for those of us who lack massive MP3 collections of music. The worst feature is the PC software for the Zune. Apple's iTunes software simply is superior to the Zune software and I don't find iTunes that intuitive to begin with....

Toshiba HD-A3 DVD player

As one of the bits of Black Friday swag, my daughter got a Toshiba HD-A3 DVD player from for $175. While we don't have actual HD programming via satellite or cable yet, playing an HD DVD was STUNNING to say the least! In the box was 300 and The Bourne Identity. If you purchase an HD DVD player, go to where you can print a page that entitles you to five free HDs.

Even watching non-HD DVDs was a whole new experience as "up-verting" by the Toshiba was absolutely amazing!

Hey! I'm not anti-Blu-Ray, but Blu-Ray DVD players are still much higher in price than the HD players. I could see ending up with both formats until the high definition DVD war has a winner.

In the meantime, if you find a reasonably priced HD DVD player, buy one!

By the way, use HDMI cables to connect your HD player to your HD TV, and buy the cables off of the Internet for $5 or more instead of purchasing HDMI cables at Best Buy, Fry's or Circuit City for outrageous amounts like $50 or higher. There's only two states with an HDMI cable: It works or it doesn't work. End of story!

Don't give to the Salvation Army this holiday season

This religious organization spends more than $300 MILLION on "Administrative Costs" in the US alone. Kind of makes one wonder what high level quality of life is being financed for the leaders of this organization by your donations.

No need to discuss their dogma of being anti-homosexual or encouraging the breeding of large families. Maybe they can out breed the Mormons and Catholics.

I'd rather hand my charitible donations directly to a homeless person or to a locally managed shelter or hospice.

Avoid charities and religious groups this holiday season that have massive administration overheads or that just don't actually move their cause forward.

Vista Service Pack Release Candidate 1 is OK

The ONE thing that makes the first of what I expect will be many, service packs for Windows Vista is that for us unfortunate users (retail beta testers?) of Vista Ultimate is that now one's Internet connection is established immediately instead of five minutes after Vista Ultimate has booted up.

Performance? HA! My startup time is SLOWER now, but I'm confident that Microsoft will label that as being "more secure" by using some new mystery code that we don't see while the PC boots up.

Windows Live OneCare failure

Well, Windows Live OneCare is finally off of the last system in my home. My wife had been using it under Windows XP. Recently OneCare downloaded an "update" that made it totally unuseable. Using Microsoft's OneCare repair tools (kind of says something about the product when they have repair tools, eh?) and doing a total uninstall and reinstall could not get OneCare back in operation.

So, I installed Symantec's Norton 360, which offers everything that OneCare does. Norton 360 also has many additional features over and above OneCare, such as regularly tuning up your PC.

I use Norton 360 on three of my PCs and find it to be an excellent for securing and protecting your PC, especially if you are a heavy Internet user.

Windows Live Messenger is risky to use

I logged in to Windows Live Messenger this morning to find that all of the people on my Coworkers group (a group that is built into Windows Live Messenger) had disappeared!

At first I thought possibly that I had been fired, but fortunately that is not the case.

Microsoft simply lost all of my data. This shouldn't surprise me because as I contractor I had to reconstruct all of the MSN internal InfoPath help desk forms from screen shots because they somehow managed to lose that data.

The lesson learned here is to keep a seperate copy of all your IM contacts on your local PC. You will need that list if Microsoft loses your IM data, as Microsoft obviously has lost for me.

Best HD TVs as of October 2007

The Panasonic 42” Plasma HDTV (Model number is TH-42PX75U) is currently the best 720p on the market.

The best 1080p HDTV out there is the Westinghouse LVM-42w2. This is a true 1080p that has beaten out Sony and JVC in testing.

HP Pavilion a6152n

Currently the best priced desktop with a Quad Core processor. Amazon, Fry's, Circuit City and many other retailers sell this PC for $800-$1000. It uses an ASUS IPIBL-LA motherboard. Comes with 3GB of RAM (2 1GB and 2 512MB. 32 bit OS like Windows XP and Vista don't recognize RAM beyond 3 GB so this is optimal unless you "upgrade" to a 64 bit version of Windows, and if you do that, all I can say is good luck finding device drivers!)
I got one awhile back, and while the LightScribe/Roxio software won't burn a LightScribe label, everything else works fine and it's good PC. I did stick an EVGA DX10 compatible PCI-E board and a wireless-n board in it as well.
It also has an HP Pocket Media Drive bay, but as I already carry around a pocket USB drive, I haven't used that feature yet. No need to buy another drive at this time point anyway.

Vista Ultimate versus Vista Business versus Vista Home Premium

OK, go for the weirdest situation created by Microsoft to date.

Vista Business (installed on one of my notebooks) works fairly normal. I installed it for the scanning and fax capability that comes with Vista Business. The Microsoft scanning software won't work with my older scanner, but that's OK, as the old scanner software will allow me to scan documents onto my notebook. The only good news here is that the Microsoft Fax software does function. God only knows what scanners will work with the Microsoft Scan software.

I recently bought an HP (made by Asus!) Pavilion with a Quad Core processor. The PC came with Vista Home Premium installed. This version of Vista worked pretty well. I had also recently "upgraded" my daughter's PC from Vista Home Basic to Vista Home Premium. Basically Home Premium seems to work much better than Home Basic.

Now I recently had to "upgrade" my new PC to Vista Ultimate in order to run Virtual PC 2007 for my work. Talk about a step backwards! As opposed to Vista Home Premium, Vista Ultimate takes several minutes after booting up the PC to connect to the Internet. Very annoying. In addition, Ultimate forced me to create a static IP address for this PC as it couldn't seem to handle accepting or working with an automatic IP address from the router. Oddly enough, Vista Home Premium had no problem connecting to the Internet instantly and receiving an automatic IP address.

As one wag put it, "Windows Vista users are the largest beta testing group in the world."

Windows Live OneCare is the spawn of Satan!

One has to wonder if the people behind Windows Live OneCare even have any computer programming experience!

Amongst the many stupid things committed by Windows Live OneCare are:

1. Automatically downloading Internet Explorer 7 onto a notebook that already had IE 7 on it, thus corrupting the registry and knocking the browser back to IE 6! This cannot be undone, believe me!

2. Randomly shutting down Windows Vista to install updates without any warning.

3. After practically any update, Windows Mobile Center is knocked out, thus requiring that one totally reinstall the Windows Mobile Center configuration with the Windows Firewall.

Well, there's more but those are just the high points of this crappy program.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix movie

Absolutely the worst Harry Potter film to date!

Yes it is as true to the book as filming time could allow
(Running time is 2 hours and 15 minutes)
but it is Very S-L-O-W and BORING!

Wait for it to come out on DVD.


Michael Moore's new film, Sicko is his best work to date.

It is an incredible film and every American should see it.

Now I want to move to France, Canada or the UK! (You'll understand after you see the film.)

Vista reboots without warning

At least once a month on my PC, Vista will reboot without warning!

No dialog box, no warning box, just all of a sudden everything begins to shut down and then Vista reboots. A search on Google and Microsoft's site has turned up nothing that discusses or addresses this behavior.

I could attribute this behavior to Windows Update which as a rule updates on Tuesdays, but today is Saturday, it is 8 in the morning and once again Vista did an auto reboot.

Even stranger is that I had been working on the PC for at least 30 minutes.

Well once again this just serves as an example of the lack of thoughtful design and professional programming practices that should have been in Vista, especially after 7 years of development.

BlogHer 2007

$205.93 for two days of networking with other women bloggers, etc.

End of the Navy Pier, Chicago.

I may be attending, difficult to predict at this point.

Window Vista and Bluetooth

Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha!

As of this writing, there are NO (as in ZERO) Windows Vista certified Bluetooth products on the market.

I recently spent the day with a new USB Bluetooth adapter vainly attempting to get it to work with Vista. Hours later after much research it appears that Vista isn't very well behaved with Bluetooth.

I plugged the same USB Bluetooth adapter into an XP PC. Wham! Worked flawlessly!

So what else is broken in this shoddy OS? Did Microsoft outsource the entire Windows Vista project to a bunch of losers from India or what?

Windows Vista - Wireless Issues

My daughter's Vista PC has a new Linksys adapter in it.

Recently her PC stopped connecting to the Internet!

It shows her as connected, but in reality (as opposed to the fantasy world of Windows Vista) she isn't connected.

We removed and reinstalled the drivers.
Ran a diagnostic on the network card.
Dropped the firewall and anti-virus on the off chance they impeded connectivity.

All the other PCs in the household connect without problem including the other PC that runs Vista.

The daughter wants me to remove Vista and install XP as she needs to be on the Internet.

Seems like a reasonable request to me as it becomes more and more obvious that Vista is the worst OS ever released by Microsoft.

Hotel Internet issues

Man, it seems like every hotel in the US seems to be too cheap to upgrade their routers beyond the "b" standard to supporting "g" or even the "n" specification.

I recently stayed at a Microtel in Tampa which as usual had "b" and amazingly had a T1 line! This is a very small hotel with even fewer guests using the Internet. I gave the hotel manager who was quite interested a mini-speech on the advantage of upgrading to at least "g" and preferably "n". Come on, at least for small hotels, routers are cheap!

The nice thing at the Microtel was that you had wireless in your room, which unfortunately doesn't seem to work well in other hotels.

Currently I am in Chicago and while my hotel offers free wireless internet in the lobby, it is $10 a night in the room and to top it off it's wired in the room, not wireless. No biggie, as I always carry a network wire just for those odd occasions, but I can see if you weren't traveling alone where there could be an issue, as there is only the single Internet port in the room. Maybe people traveling as a couple might be wise to pack along a router just in case.

I sure wish more hotels would upgrade to at least "g" if not "n"!

Windows Vista - Microphone

I foolishly attempted to try to use my microphone under Vista for the first time.

My microphone worked fine in the past with Windows XP.

No such luck with Vista. Checking the Creative site to see if there were new drivers for my SoundBlaster Live! sound card brought me the news that Creative would not be writing any Vista drivers for this older card.

So, I did a bit of research and bought a Creative Xtremegamer sound card.

The sound is much improved, but attempting to use the microphone (which took a lot of research and fooling around with to enable) is still a no go. At least I can see some movement on the audio bar while attempting to "train" the microphone, but it still isn't usable for gaming, Windows Speech Recognition, navigation or any other function.

Looks like my new research project is to find a decent microphone with some kind of a volume boost.

As usual there is NO HELP on the Microsoft site. Vista still sucks and it is not a product that Microsoft should be proud of.

Smug Microsoft Interviewers

As a computer consultant since the 70's, I have done more interviewing than God.

OK, maybe not that many but average a minimum of 2 a week for 30 years and it comes out to roughly 3000 interviews or so.

I'm pretty good at it and those skills come in handy for public speaking or starting a conversation in a bar.

Anyway in the last six months I have had interviews with at least four different groups at Microsoft. They usually call me every six months or so.

The disturbing trend is that now I get interviewers whose main interest seems to be in letting me know how smart they are.

What got me going on this is that I had yet another one of those interviews with a smug interviewer who started off by asking me what the difference is between BizTalk 2002 and BizTalk 2004. Seeing how I only use the current version which 2006, my unspoken mental reaction was "Who gives a s--t?"

Anyway this interview went on endlessly forcing me to re-evaluate my occupation and wonder exactly how much money one could make driving an ice cream truck.

The Dip by Seth Godin

I'm not a follower or regular reader of Seth Godin, but I saw his new book, The Dip for $12.95 at Borders or for $5 on CD (with Seth himself actually reading which answered my question of how he pronounces his last name).

Seth has a good speaking voice, the material was fairly well organized and for $5, I think I got my money's worth.

It's an interesting piece on knowing when to quit or when to stick with it.

Sicko by Michael Moore

Michael Moore's new film, Sicko, about the health insurance industry opens June 29th.

Go see it!

Windows Vista - May 2007

I have spoken with dozens of people who either upgraded to Windows Vista or got it pre-installed on a new PC, since its launch on Jaunuary 29th of this year.

So far everyone I have talked with HATES Windows Vista.

Sirius Radio

My favorite channel is 33, played LOUD.
Good stuff at least 80% of the time.

MSN stiffed me for $10,000

Yeah I got a contract to recreate three InfoPath forms for MSN. Seems that MSN blew off their SharePoint servers and had no backups for their InfoPath forms. Considering that these forms are used on a world wide basis as a trouble ticket system, this probably was embarrassing. So rather than admit to anyone within Microsoft as to what had happened, MSN contracted me through a third party to recreate these forms.

Well I finished reconstructing and unit testing the forms yesterday and then received an email from the third party company that I was no longer on the project.

Part of the issue was that MSN would have to let me install the forms on their network (due to a variety of complex issues) and they hadn't figured that into their scope of work.

So, MSN still owes me $10,000 for the forms.

P.S. If anyone out there would like a nice InfoPath-based trouble ticket system, I can develop one for you for a pretty inexpensive amount!

P.P.S. Got $2500 out of them. Better than nothing and cheaper than a lawsuit.

America is Humpty Dumpty

America is falling down.
I'm writing this post not from a state of depression, but from a point of observation. This is just a knee-jerk rant/reaction to the overwhelming glut of "news" and information. Our borders are no more secure today than they were before 9/11. We have 12 million illegal immigrants who think they should be rewarded with citizenship and all the other privileges of our society because they snuck into our country like a thief in the night. Bill Gates (and other CEOs) wants the H1B visa program to have no limits because "there aren't enough qualified Americans willing to work for $100,000 at year at Microsoft". Faceless corporate America is now the enemy of the people. Pharmaceutical companies want to have vitamins and other supplements removed from over the counter sales to be only available via presciption. The federal government under pressure from companies like Wal-Mart has now bastardized the term "organic" to be practically meaningless relative to the source of food. Monsanto wants the milk labels banned to refer to milk coming from cows that haven't been ingesting Monsanto-modified grains. We have wasted thousands of lives and billions of dollars in Iraq for no meaningful purpose. The country appears to be headed into a third world structure of rich and poor with no middle class. A country of extemes: haves versus have-nots.
Yes, like Humpty Dumpty, America is falling down and all the King's horsemen cannot put it back together again.
It makes one wonder what we can all do together in the present to salvage the future of our lives.

eMachines (Gateway) rebate programs SUCK!

My daughter bought a new eMachines PC at the start of February. Before the end of February we mailed in her rebate to eMachines. Even though the rebate envelope weighed less than an ounce the dimwits at the U. S. Post Office returned it two weeks later with a sticker on it that read "requires special handling".

So without even opening the envelope so that the retards that handle the eMachines rebates could see the postmark, we put it in a larger envelope along with a letter explaining the rebate was mailed on time but that the Post Office had returned it.

Today almost a month later, we receive an notice from eMachines that the rebate will not be honored since it "wasn't mailed in time". This, despite the fact that they can clearly see that it was mailed "on time".

Our advice? Given a choice between eMachines/Gateway or another manufacturer, go with the other manufacturer.

It is quite obvious that eMachines/Gateway doesn't give a ding dong damn about their customers.

JetBlue JFK February 14 2007

Yes, I got caught in the JetBlue fiasco at JFK on 2/14/07. JetBlue kept everyone on the hook by continuing to show flights as delayed and rescheduled, until midnight when they announced that all flights were cancelled. They then proceeded to dump all the luggage from all of their aircraft into the luggage area, causing one to search an area the size of a football field through literally thousands of bags to locate their personal luggage.

Here are three photos I took with my phone camera of the mess. The time stamps in the corner of the pictures show military time, so I indeed was looking for my bag at 3:15 in the morning!
JetBlue only offered to let people be on standby (with hundreds of other people) for their already sold out flights, or get a refund or buy a ticket to fly out MONDAY (keep in mind this was on Wednesday night/early Thursday morning). Needless to say, I bought a ticket on Northwest, flew to Minneapolis, then flew Continental to Houston, laid over there a few hours and finally flew Continental to Sacramento arriving in the wee hours on Friday morning.
Then I fell ill and had to be rushed to the emergency room on Saturday, but that's another story.

Windows Vista - Video and missing RAM

Ok, anyone with half a brain knows by now that Windows Vista irregardless of version needs 2 Gigs of RAM to perform at an acceptable level.

I have 2 Gigs in my PC. My daughter bought a new PC with Vista Home Basic pre-installed on it the Sunday after Windows Vista was launched.

Of course it came with only 512M of RAM and the hard disk drive thrashed constantly.

Being Dad, I ordered 2 Gigs of RAM and installed it. Performance was now fine, but unlike my PC with Vista Ultimate which shows that I have 2 Gigs, hers only showed 187.5 Gigs.

Weird? Where did that 128m of RAM go? Ah, I have a video board with 512M of VRAM and her low end PC has an ATI 200 in it which shares system RAM.

Guess what? The video minimum for the Aero look and feel under Windows Vista requires 128m of VRAM. So, even though Windows Vista Home Basic DOES NOT SUPPORT AERO, Vista grabs 128m of system RAM anyway!

Too bad Microsoft can't manage to explain this to consumers.

Or hire some decent programmers.

Windows Vista - Performance Issues

The phone rings at Drips Central, a branch of the Goliath Corporation.

Me (answering the phone): Hello? If you're calling to tell me my weekly beer delivery is gonna be late, I am gonna be pissed.

Victim (an actual famous editor of a computer publication: Hello Mike. (Sniff!) I fell off the wagon!

Me: You started drinking again?

Victim: No, I installed Windows Vista.

Me: Man, you would have been a lot better off if you had started drinking again, or even become a drug addict. Of course once Windows Vista hits the street, 12 step Windows Vista programs will probably spring up all over the world.

Victim: It's too late for that! (Sob!) I've already installed it on my home and office PCs (Wail!).

Me: Didn't I already warn you about this? Vista is the spawn of Satan.

Victim: I know, I know, I should have listened!

Me: Well what do you me to do?

Victim: Just tell me the secret to Windows Vista performance. Please! I'm desperate! My entire computing world has turned into total slow motion! I feel like I am swimming in a pool of honey!

Me: Well Windows Vista won't install if your CPU is too slow, so, um, how much RAM do you have in your system?

Victim: (Choke!) One gig.

Me: Man, no wonder Windows Vista is kicking sand in the face of your PC! That's only enough RAM to boot up, not to actually do anything with Vista!

Victim: Well, uh how much more RAM do I need?

Me: For you to get acceptable performance out of Windows Vista, you have to have a minimum of 2 gigs of RAM.

Victim: But, but, that's not what Microsoft says!

Me: If you have to choose between believing what Microsoft says and smoking crack, then smoke crack. At least you will experience a lot more pleasure.

Victim: Well, thanks for the info. Now can I talk to you about Aero?

Me: Nah, it's too early in the day for me to start that gimpy piece of crap. It'll just force me to start drinking immediately. Call back later.

Windows Vista - No Sound

Yes, after installing Windows Vista Ultimate, you might notice how quiet it is.

That's because if you (like myself) own a Creative Labs SoundBlaster card, you have to go the Internet (see my posting below on that) and go to Windows Update for your SoundBlaster card to be "discovered" by Windows. Windows Update will then install the driver and you will once again have sound.

I asked one of my Microsoft pals why they didn't just fire the idiot that made the decision to leave those drivers off of the Windows Vista installation DVD, and I got the usual moronic apology:

"Microsoft did that to distance themselves from the hardware manufacturers."

Huh? Distance themselves? Microsoft is the biggest $2 whore in the world! They will hop into bed with anybody!

Hell, even at the Windows Vista/Office 2007 launch lunch with Steve Ballmer that I will be attending on Monday, guess who else will be speaking at that lunch?


Windows Vista - No Internet

Yeah, I am running the actual retail version of Windows Ultimate on my main PC. It makes me wonder if I am just a masochistic computer consultant or what.

Anyway! Yes, I managed to install Windows Vista Ultimate in only one hour on my PC which is a Windows record compared to installing XP, 2000, Millenium, 98, 95 and Windows for Warehouses, er, Workgroups.

Of course it then took TWO HOURS for Windows Vista Ultimate to recognize my LinkSys wireless card, my wireless network and finally connect to the Internet.

Microsoft LifeCam NX-6000

Well I had some extra money which is a rare event for me, and decided to foolishly squander it on this new Microsoft web cam. I'd been looking at newer generation web cams for months, and was interested in this one even though Microsoft took a while to actually sell the darned thing.

Immediate caveat: This camera has a non-adjustable clip on the back of it that BARELY fits onto the top of a Dell notebook. There is no way to affix it to the top of an LCD or analog monitor without using Velcro or some other method to jury rig it. Also it has a short USB cable if you want to use it on your desktop. It's like 5' or so.

The good news is that the picture is awesome! The built-in microphone works great and it actually worked extremely well at the JetBlue hotspot at JFK, which is darned noisy.

It does work with the latest version of Microsoft Live Messenger. It claims to work with Yahoo's IM, but I have had zero success with it trying to interact with Yahoo IM users.

It also works fine with Comcast's video mail system.

House of Leaves

I am still struggling to read my way through this large experimental tome.

I was lead to the book by a WoW poster using this quote from it in their signature:

"this great blue world of ours
seems a house of leaves

moments before the wind"