September 3, 2013

Climate Change (human caused)

I get in arguments about climate change from time to time. I’m no expert, of course, but I do as questions and really try to have an answer to climate change skeptics. Lately I’ve been getting two links that say climate change is false.

  1. Forbes
  2. Wall Street Journal

Climate science is complicated. With the increases of CO2 in the air it turns out that plants grow faster. Is that something that was figured into climate models? No idea. But we KNOW how that CO2 is getting into the air (a million barrels of oil getting burned every month). What’s funny is that when you talk about CO2 you’ll get the people saying that COWS put more CO2 in the air than humans do. That, of course, is FALSE by a factor of over 100x. But still, those cows wouldn’t exist if it were not for humans so even if cows are contributing it’s still ultimately a human caused problem.

Both of those articles are in the op-ed section of each paper. It’s not like they are reporting news. And I read both and neither are very specific and mostly rely on generalizations. And it’s pretty easy to find something that IS scientific that refutes the claims made by each author. Here is one:

http://www.skepticalscience.com/don-easterbrook-heartland-distortion-of-reality.html

That one is about Don Easterbrook and how what he is saying is way off. He’s using ONE of several models to prove a point that he wants to believe. And even in that one model he’s exaggerating the data.

The second link you sent was about Ivar Giaever who doesn’t even try to use science to refute the claims about climate change. He’s just saying that “it’s become a religion” and that he is skeptical of it. It’s great to question things (i.e., be a skeptic) but in order to change MY mind he needs to have some science to back up his claim and he has NOTHING and isn’t even trying. He’s saying that he is right in the same way that Mormons say they are right about what happens after you die.

Another thing to note is that we’ve been experiencing much higher temperatures right here in Phoenix. The irony is that it’s not the HIGH temperatures that are increasing but the LOW temps. The nighttime low temp has been getting higher and higher over the past 50 years. To be fair, the reason isn’t because of global warming . . . it’s mostly attributed to the “Urban Heat Island” effect that is observed in every big city with lots of concrete and asphalt (both of which hold the heat from the sun longer than the natural landscape and therefore, the temp never gets a change to go down before the sun is back up).

Oh, and I love this gif. Found it here: http://www.skepticalscience.com/big-picture.html

SkepticsvRealistsv3

Sheldon

March 3, 2010

Getting on Google

I’m a web developer.  I take ideas and use the tool I know best (the web) to make those ideas into a product. Sometimes that means I write a custom app in C# using ASP.NET MVC to help manage a business process and sometimes that means I set up WordPress and customize a template.

Everyone wants a website . . . from the CEO of a big advertising company to the soccer mom who wants to share a story and some pictures.  Some want a site as a forum to express something they NEED to say.  That kind of site has no goal of attracting readers or revenue from adwords.  Other sites are set up with a specific goal: marketing tool.

Inevitably the “marketing tool” sites are going to ask about Google, specifically, “How do I get on the google?”.  Here is my advice (in terms everyone can understand).

Google (and by “Google” I mean every search engine) looks at every site it can and and tries to figure out the ones that users will find interesting.  How it does and the order sites show up is magic and no one knows the how and why.  Google is always changing the rules to thwart those who think they figured it out.  If you want your site to show up when people search for something you need to have valuable content.  If you are a bike repair shop, create articles about DIY repair. Sure, some users are going to see your site and do their own repair but the vast majority are going to bring their bike in to you because they found you with Google.

So here it is . . . Sheldon’s Rule: To show up on Google add content to your site that reveals how you do what you do.  Tell all your secrets. Over time all those articles will add up to valuable content people want.  The more you reveal about how you do what you do the higher in Google’s ranking you’ll be.

Sheldon

November 6, 2009

Installing Windows 7 Upgrade on a fresh hard drive

Okay, so I decided to install Windows 7. Even if it’s all marketing it can’t be as bad as Vista and 9 years is long enough for XP.

I went to the MS store in Scottsdale and bought a retail upgrade copy of Family Pack Home Premium. The install failed in 4 ways on computer #1 because there were no drivers for the SATA controller. On computer #2 the 64-bit version installed flawlessly. I did a fresh install to the same hard drive that had and existing install of 32-bit Windows XP. It was really cool that in the “Windows.OLD” folder had the original Windows folder as well as Documents and Settings and Program Files. It was nice that those were out of the way but not gone.

After trying a few things out #2 for a few days I decided to go ahead and install on my main computer. On this one I decide I’ll install to a separate hard drive. I figured during the setup I could point to the other hard drive to tell it where Windows was installed or maybe the installer would ask for the disk (which I have).

I struggled for an hour when the installer asked for the Product Key and told me simply “The product key is not valid”. After typing and retyping and waiting for my wife to check it to make sure I wasn’t going crazy I finally realized it was because it wasn’t an upgrade. I read online that you can skip the Product Key and finish the install so I blank out the key and finish the install.

Of course, I couldn’t activate and this time the error message tells me it’s because I got the upgrade version and it’s not supported for new installs. So, I could just reinstall and override my copy of XP but that made me nervous since someday I could see myself having to go though this in the future. So I decided to give Microsoft a call . . . .

Took a while to find a number online and then that was the wrong number (Activation) so I got a new number for technical support (1-800-936-5700 in case you are wondering). I had to convince the support guy that what I was doing was reasonable (I mean, what if my hard drive died . . . would I need to install XP on the old drive and then upgrade again? … what if I had an OEM machine and I didn’t have the disk and couldn’t get it from the manufacturer anymore?). After talking to that guy for about 30 minutes it seemed like I was going to have to install XP and upgrade from there. I held steady and kept talking and wouldn’t let him off the phone. Finally he created a technical support case and transferred me. I explained the situation to the new guy and he understood and said that install to a fresh hard drive is not allowed with an upgrade copy but the good news is there is a workaround! Awesome!

So here is the workaround and the reason I wrote this in the first place. Luckily no one reads this blog so I’m not worried about getting in trouble.

Steps:

  1. Go to the registry to this key: HKLMSOFTWAREMicrosoftWindowsCurrentVersionSetupOOBE
  2. Change: MediaBootInstall value to 0
  3. Run this command from the command prompt (as administrator and in the system32 directory): cscript.exe slmgr.vbs -rearm

If you need more help that that you should probably just call Microsoft yourself!

Other notes:

  • The technician on the phone was very careful about wanting to control my machine and asked over and over if it was okay.  He was careful to explain what was going to happen before he did anything.  I had to install “Microsoft Easy Assist” so he could control the computer and after the session ended Easy Assist asked if I wanted to uninstall . . . very thoughtful!  A nice touch indeed.
  • I tired it on some older hardware (computer #1) and there were no drivers for the SATA controller and according to the Intel website, Intel has no plans to release drivers.  There WAS Vista drivers and those would probably work. Why not just let me try those out? I downloaded but it was an installer and it was just to replace drivers that came with Windows. So annoying! Nothing worked! I blame Intel for this problem, not Microsoft.
  • If there was a family pack for Professional I would have gladly paid a little more. On one of the computers I plan on doing the “Anytime Upgrade” to the Pro version (so I can do XP mode) and I’ll write about that later.
  • I later when to install iTunes and wanted to copy over the iTunes Library.XML file and it wasn’t anywhere in the Windows.OLD folder.  Had to go to my backup. Strange.

Sheldon

August 21, 2009

I accept!

Not sure if this came after www.stackoverflow.com but it’s horrible!

http://www.justanswer.com/

No mention that you have to pay to get an answer. And, just out of curiosity I decided to go ahead and offer $9 for an answer to my question (it was about my garage door and how it won’t close at around 5pm because the sunlight hits the censor at just the right angle) and the answer was useless (“How about shading the sensor”). Below is the dialog box for my reply. If I press accept then my $9 “deposit” is used up and I accepted the answer. Whack! I can’t wait for stackoverflow for home improvement!

Reply screen from the JustAnswer.com website

Reply screen from the JustAnswer.com website

August 20, 2009

Great Phone . . . or Greatest Phone

Some background first . . . .

I got my wife the iPhone 3G the day it came out.  Waited in a line for a few hours and everything.  She had been using a Razr for about 3 years and it was time.  And we were already on the AT&T network so it was easy.  I would have gotten one for myself but a month before the 3G was announced I got myself a Blackberry Pearl so I wasn’t eligible for the $199 new customer price.

At the time the biggest problem with an iPhone was the $30 mandatory data plan.  It’s the only phone on any network that requires you have a data plan.  I like the idea that even though I’m locked in for 2 years I can get the $40/month voice plan to lower my bills just in case. And a year ago the iPhone was a 10 and there was nothing even close from what I could see.

Anyway, a few months ago I went to Google I/O and got one of the G2 HTC phones (it’s called a Magic or myTouch or something like that on T-Mobile).  It was a dream come true . . . a chance to use “the other cool phone” without paying for it.  And the best part is that I got AT&T to give me a data plan for $15 a month!!  Please don’t call AT&T and ask for that plan and ruin it for me.  No, seriously . . I’m glad that no one will be reading this.  And it sucks that I only get “Edge” speeds because apparently 3G isn’t a standard and AT&T and T-Mobile do 3G data in different ways so if I want 3G on AT&T’s network I have to wait until an Android phone comes out for AT&T.

Okay, so that’s the background info out of the way . . . I’ve never had an iPhone personally but being the techie of the house I do get how the iPhone works and use it occasionally and I always know about cool apps for it before my wife does.  And I’ve used a Blackberry for over a year.  And now I’ve had the Android phone since May.  Here are the results:

If you are a non-tech person, the iPhone is a 10.0 and sets the bar incredibly high.  If you can afford that phone, ignore all the stuff about how crappy AT&T is and just get that phone.

If you are a tech person it’s a much harder call because although the iPhone is great . . . it’s locked down!  So, a phone like the G2 or any other Android phone (once they come out!!) has an incredible appeal since they are so hackable.  It’s an 8.2 to the 9.0 of a iPhone (not a perfect 10 because it’s missing concurrent apps and no Google Voice app but those things don’t matter to a casual user).  The old blackberry I had would be a 5.0 at best . . . I mean, you can use maps and check gmail with those apps but getting the apps in the first place sucks because you have to get them directly from the vendor (although this is different now from what I understand) AND it’s still a locked down OS that no one want’s to develop for.

The apps and the speed of the iPhone is why it has any chance against an Android phone . . . and both of those problems will fix themselves if someone releases some decent hardware.  It needs to be powerful and WITH a headphone jack (even though bluetooth noice canceling headphones have got to be in the pipeline somewhere at Bose, right?).

I’ll do a pro/cons list about my Android phone some other time, maybe.

Sheldon

August 19, 2009

Tourist Craps

This article that I found with Consumerist inspired me to make my own list that’s small now but will grow as I remember the places that underwhelmed me.

Meteor Crater (someplace in AZ)

I won’t even bother trying to find this on the map because I’m sure it’s a Google Search away . . . and with an areal view on a computer you would get more out of it that paying $15 to see what’s essentially a big hole in the ground.  Sure, they try to spice it up by putting a “spaceman” down in the middle of the crater so you have something to spot when you use the binoculars at the top of the crater.  But the longer you walk around looking for SOMETHING of value the more you start to feel like someone just stole your wallet . . . . especially if you have a family.

Honolulu (yeah, the city in the island of Oahu)

Okay, there is Pearl Harbor and that’s something you need to see while you are there but I’m not sure that really counts as the city of Honolulu.  Anyway, Honolulu is just like any other city on a beach that has lots of tall hotels around.  It’s about the same and anywhere in Florida or on the coast of California.  Drive around the island and get away from Honolulu and if you can . . . fly to another island!  And stay away from the beach there . . . worst sand ever!

August 12, 2009

Buca di Beppo buyout has ruined everything

My wife really likes Italian food (or whatever you want to call shaped pasta and some tomato or creme based sauce combined in a variety of ways that all taste about the same but have different names) and she wanted to go out for her birthday.   There happens to be a Buca di Beppo right down the street from our house that we pass on the way home everyday.

I have never been a big fan of the place because it seems overpriced and the “Buca Large” dishes are almost always smaller than what I think they should be to feed 3-4 people.  Plus, I noticed about a year ago (around the time of the buyout by Planet Hollywood I think) that the “stuffed chicken” (I don’t remember what they call it) is $18 and some change for “Buca Small” which is  2 pieces of chicken and $28 for “Buca Large” which is 3 pieces of chicken.  That third piece of chicken costs more than the first two!  I’ve pointed this out to people at Buca at least 3 times and they don’t even bother to lie and say that the “Buca Small” chicken pieces are smaller.  Needless to say we always get the “Buca Small”.

Anyway . . . this time we go in and the food is good (well, the chicken was a little burnt but I didn’t bring that up as no one else complained at the table) but then it was time for dessert.  We wanted to get a “Celebration Cake” for Sarah’s birthday as we had it about 5 months ago (the last time we were there) for our anniversary and it was good cake and it was enough for *at least* 4 big servings.

The waitress comes by to pick up some dinner plates and asks if we want any dessert beside the birthday cupcake.  We ask about the “Celebration Cake” and she said that they don’t give out the celebration cake anymore for birthdays.  We are disappointed but understand and asked for the celebration cake and that we don’t really want the cupcake because the regular cake will be enough.  A few minutes later she shows up with the cupcake and the NEW Celebration Cake and it’s a cake that was half the size of the old cake and it’s not red velvet cake anymore and it’s colored white with three layers to match the colors of Italy’s flag.  HALF the size, same price! I ask what happened to the real “Celebration Cake” and the waitress just says that it’s been a long time since they had that other cake and that this is the new cake.  Okay, what can I do?  So we split up the cake except that now it has coconut so my wife can’t eat it.  Thank goodness for the cupcake.

And . . . the cake was dry . . . it wasn’t impressive at all and worse than what I could have made at home with a 99 cent box of Betty Crocker and some food coloring.

After that I make up my mind that we aren’t going back to Buca for a long time.  But then the waitress comes back with these “prizes” where you bring the envelope back within a few months and open them later with a waitress or whatever and you can win all these fabulous prizes!  I want to tell her to shove those award cards up her you know what but I decide to keep that to myself as I don’t want to embarrass my wife.

But then the “manager guy” had to come over and ask how everything was.  Everyone at the table gave the “great” but I gave a muffled “okay”.  He stuck around so he could tell us about the prizes we could win if we come back before October 5th.  I can’t take it anymore and tell him about the cake and about the the wacky pricing.  Here is about how the conversation went but it was much longer (because of repetition) and more embarrassing that you can imagine for everyone else at the table:

BM (Buca Manager):  If you come back before . . .

Me: Yeah, we won’t be coming back but thanks.

BM: Why?

Me: We got the Celebration Cake and it’s half what it was and it’s not that good anymore.

BM: Well, we change things on the menu to try to better server our customers.

Me: By making it half the size and the same price and still calling it the “Celebration Cake”?

BM: Well it used to be two cakes stacked on top of each other and now it’s just one cake and it’s not red velvet anymore.

Me: Okay, great, I understand that but you came here and asked how it was and I’m telling you it sucked.  You telling me the opposite isn’t making it better.

BM: Well, we want you to come back in and we have a great promotion and . . .

Me:  You don’t want me to come back!

BM: We want all of our customers to come back.

Me: Well, by the looks of this place it seems that people aren’t comming back . . . back in the day this place was always packed.

BM: It’s the first day of school and it’s the middle of the week.

Me: Well, okay great, this isn’t going to get any better but thanks, we’ve paid the bill, we’re good thanks.

BM: We have this great promotion . . . .

Finally he went away but only after my wife was giving me that “shut the hell up” look and saying “okay, that’s enough” as nicely as she could.

I had already paid the bill and was going to leave it at that but after talking to manager guy I decided I would tear up those stupid promotion cards and put them in with the bill.  Maybe that was childish but I think they got the point after that and no one came back to bother us.

Really, this is all Olive Garden’s fault for not building a location closer to our house!

Sheldon

May 29, 2009

San Francisco scams

Okay, so I really like Frisco (I don’t care what it means that I say “Frisco” instead of “San Franshutthefup” . . . Frisco is shorter) and have visited a few times and it’s always been fun.  But on this short trip (for Google I/O, more about that later) my time is the city sucked.

I don’t know if it’s the economy or what but for every block that you walk you’ll have *at least* two people ask you for money.  That’s annoying in itself but usually I usually feel kind of bad for them in that they have to ask.  But it’s no exaggeration that on the 5 block walk from my hotel to the conference center there must have been 10 people asking for money . . . each way!  After a while it’s just plain annoying and I don’t feel bad for anyone and I just want them to go away and I start thinking about ways the city should try to fix this problem.

But it gets worse!  I’m at the BART station trying to get a ticket to get on the train.  I have my wallet out pulling out a $5 to put in the machine and a guy walks up and has a BART ticket and a few dollars in his hand all spread out perfectly and says something like “I only need 75 cents so I can get home” and I look up and say “okay” and hand him a dollar.  Before I can even finish getting my $5 in the machine another person walks up to the people next to me and says the same thing.  I look over and at that point I didn’t know what was going on and the people there didn’t give him anything.  Then I finish my transaction and turn around and the same guy that asked me for 75 cents is consulting with the new guy and is looking at me as if to say “No, you get the money from that chump over there”.  I just look at the guy blankly in disbelief and he says “Seriously, thank you”.

It gets worse.

The BART incident happened on my way home . . . the night before I’m walking up California street . . . a street that’s not at all crowded like Market Street but isn’t exactly deserted . . . and I’m stopped by a frazzled (but not homeless looking) woman who looked like she was lost:

Frazzled: Are you from the city?

Me: You mean from here? No, I’m just visiting.

Frazzled: Oh okay, well, can I ask you a question anyway?

Me: Sure, maybe I can look it up on my phone.

Frazzled: Oh, um well, I ran out of gas and my car is over there I can pay you back just give me your information . . .

Me: How much do you need?

Frazzled: Twenty dollars but I already have five.

Me: <pulls out wallet and hands her a $20>

Frazzled: Thank you so much!

In hindsight, I think that transaction was a scam.  I’m not sure I like Frisco as much anymore.

March 3, 2009

HDTV and Cox

What is HD worth?  If you are a Cox customer in Phoenix it depends on what services you already get though Cox.  If you go to the Cox website you see that “With Cox, HD is free”.

But then you find out the “free” part is just the stations that you could get for free anyway if you set up an antenna.  To get the other stations (Discovery, TNT, ESPN, etc, not to mention HBO and the “pay channels”) you have to have a “minimum service level” of Cox Digital (the most expensive plan) *AND* you have to rent a Cox HD cable box . . . it’s easy to figure out . . . just read all about it on the “Cable Packages” page at http://www.cox.com/arizona/cable_tiers.asp.

So, if you just have regular cable . . . the basics . . . no cable box, just enough so you don’t have to use bunny ears the costs to get HD adds up fast.   For me I have to pay $12/month to rent an HD cable box so I can get all the HD channels.  I already have a regular cable box I could trade in so that’s *only* $6/month.   But it’s too much . . . and it’s certainly not FREE!

I happen to have the most expensive “Cable Package” (Digital Cable – see the link above) just to have HBO.  Most of what we watch is from network TV and HBO along with some throw away home improvement shows from HGTV and the like.  If I didn’t love HBO I would have the “Expanded Cable” plan at best.  Sure, the cost to get “Digital Cable” over “Expanded Cable” is only $5/month but it’s for channels I don’t want.  So, that means to get HBO I have to pay for HBO ($14/month) AND I have to pay $5/month for “Digital Cable” (which on your bill is the “Digital Gateway Service”).

Anyway, the point here is the prices don’t seem fair.  When will we get a la carte pricing?  When will there be true competition in this marketplace (Dish and DirectTV are not competition!)?

Sheldon

September 18, 2008

XP Activation sucks (and is triggered by simply upgrading RAM)

This has happened a few times but I could never pinpoint exactly what I upgraded to cause activation to get triggered because usually I upgrade the video card AND RAM or some combination of things.  Anyway, went from 1GB of RAM to 2 GB of RAM and that triggered activation.  Luckily it worked out and I didn’t have to call in but still, it’s annoying.

Sheldon