Friday, December 31, 2004

If you use P2P networks - beware...

This is just lovely. Modified files, uploaded to Peer-to-Peer (P2P) networks that install spyware on your PC, the latest tactic of the RIAA and MPAA. And the ability to do this is brought to us by our lovely friends at Microsoft, thanks to a loophole in Windows Media DRM (Digital Rights Management)that allows companies to create bogus media files and link them to adware. Read the article here for more.

Christmas website scam

So this guy, Alex Komarnitsky, started a website two years ago purporting to let people turn his Christams lights on and off over the internet. But he really wanted to see if he could use computer tricks to make it look as if the thousands of Christmas lights adorning his house were blinking on command. This year he went even further - when a local news channel did a story about his site and had a news copter hovering over the house, he had is wife in the house turning the lights on and off manually. He has now come forward and admitted it's a hoax. And here is the link to the site itself - if you are interested. Sounds like a pretty shifty thing to do, if you ask me.

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

The great iPod debacle

That's what I've decided to call it. It's been all taken care of for over a week now, so I believe I have enough perspective on the whole situation to be diplomatic when I write this - so here goes...

It all started on December 8th. The iPod I've had since February started acting up a lot - it would skip a song, play the next and maybe one more, and then it would freeze. Totally locked up and it would just sit there till you reset it. Very annoying, and it got worse on Sunday the 12th. I was at the gym, and it did the same thing - skipped a song, played the next, froze up. It wouldn't reset, though. It just sat there, then turned itself off after a few minutes. But it wouldn't power back on. So, I made a trip out to the Apple Store at Easton Towne Center, and figured they could look at it for me. If you haven't been in an Apple Store, they have this thing called the "Genius Bar". If you are having problems with an Apple product you can take it there and get assistance. So I go to the Genius Bar and consult the "Genius". He was able to get it started, and says "Looks like the battery is dead - it'll need to be charged, but it works OK." I pointed out to him that the battery had just been recently charged, and was in fact half charged when it quit. He didn't seem to think anything of this, and said again "The battery is dead. Just give it a good charge."

So I took it home, recharged the battery fully and tried again. And it still did it, no different than before. So I took it back to the Apple Store again on Sunday the 19th. And when I talked to the next "Genius", he said it was probably software corruption, and suggested we return the iPod to factory default. So he offered to do that for me, and we did it. It also deleted all the songs off the iPod - but I could reload them from my PC. He got it to load a couple songs off the test Mac they use, and they played back OK. So he gives it back to me, "There you go. When you take it home, it'll need to reset again and reload the system software since you use a Windows PC." All well and good, I said - but I was still worried. And with good reason.

I get home, and later that night I try to reload my songs on the iPod. It detects that it's connected to a Windows PC, and wants to reformat again - good so far. After it's done, it loads the system software. So far it's doing exactly what it's supposed to do. The firmware update works fine, and it seems to be OK - so I try to upload songs to it. It starts OK, tells me it's loaded 900 songs - then it freezes. Locks up totally - and locks up my computer too. I disconnect the USB cable to the computer, and the computer is OK again. I had to restart the iPod though. But it did restart, and I tried again. It didn't work - again. I tried several times, and even tried the iPod restore and firmware download again. Nothing worked, and I was getting rather pissed off at it. It seemed to always stop on a certain song - so I deleted it. And then it would stop on other songs, so I deleted them too. I got rid of about 200 songs and it still wouldn't download correctly. Now I was really mad.

So I make ANOTHER trip to the Apple Store on December 21st, and went directly to the front desk and asked for the manager. Suffice to say, that was absolutely no help, as she didn't even express concern over the problem and just directed me to go to the Genius Bar. Lovely customer service skills. I went to the Genius bar, and met the ONLY person who actually cared enough to help. And he quickly diagnosed the problem - a faulty hard drive in my iPod. You know what he did? He LISTENED to it - because it made an odd noise when he started it up and tried to look at the system settings. No one else had even though of this, but I guess I should not have been surprised. He went to the stockroom, and returned with another iPod to give me in exchange for the faulty one. I left the store and went home, tried the whole procedure again - and it worked. Flawlessly. Because this time, it WAS FIXED.

So, I've written letters to the manager of the Apple Store, the Senior Vice President in charge of Retail for Apple, the Senior Vice President in charge of the iPod Division, and to Steve Jobs himself. I've expressed my concerns to them, and hopefully something will happen. We'll see, I suppose. I'll keep you informed if anything comes of it.

Sunday, December 26, 2004

Merry day after Christmas

It's been a very interesting last few days. Wednesday afternoon a huge snowstorm started and it covered the area with quite a lot of snow by the time it finished the next day. Around Delaware (where I live) we had at least a foot of snow. And since part of the storm included freezing rain, the snow had a nice ice coating over it. We couldn't get out of our driveway Thursday or Friday, so I didn't go to work either day. In fact, I spent a large portion of time both days shoveling snow with my wife - loads of fun. The city finally got out our way Friday evening and plowed our streets. It was a good thing too, because we needed to be able to get out of the house for Christmas - we'd already committed ourselves to be at my mother's house Christmas morning and at my wife's parents house for Christmas evening. We made it out to my mother's house OK, got there about 7am (my 3 nieces get up VERY early even when it's not Christmas), and had a great time opening presents and having breakfast all together. We left around noon, went back home to get the things we needed to take down to Cincinnati (where my wife's parents live) and get the dog ready to go. We loaded up the car and got on the road, had a decent drive into Cincinnati and had a second present opening extravaganza - no kids this time, but 3 dogs. Because we have Lucas (our golden retriever), her parents have Molly (a chocolate Lab), and her sister has Tanner (a beagle). Having 3 dogs also makes for an interesting Christmas time. The dogs get presents, of course - but also seem to monopolize picture taking in the same way children do. Although, with the scenes straight out of Sodom and Gomorrah our dogs got into, these pictures aren't quite as family friendly. Molly is female, Tanner and Lucas are male, and even though Tanner and Lucas are fixed, they were all trying to go at it. It was actually pretty funny! Anyway, just wanted to post a bit about what's been going on recently. I really need to post an entry about the huge problem I had recently with my iPod - but I'll need to compose my thoughts and come up with a way to write about it without just typing expletives constantly. Hope you all had a Merry Christmas (or whichever celebration you subscribe too)!!