You want your money? You're going to have to pay for it

10/21/08 | by Adam | Categories: Silly

A few months ago I decided to get a new credit card due to, well, greed really. Anyway, I kept the old one for emergencies such as when I left the new one at a Houston restaurant like Pappadeaux (most excellent crab cakes by the way) shortly before flying home.

A bit after I moved to the new card, I cancelled an online order due to the vendor being unable to deliver. Since I'd paid using the original credit card, that was the one it was credited back to. As I wasn't using the card, this credit has sat on it, unused, for months. Eventually I figured I'd just use the online banking to transfer the balance to the new card. Well, you can't do that; y'know, not allowed to use one credit card to pay off another. It makes sense when it's credit (i.e. money you owe being used to pay off other money you owe) but a bit less when it's money owed to you. Still, rules are rules so I transferred the balance back to a savings account.

Today I found the $2.50 cash advance fee on the credit card. Yup. Bringing my balance on that card to $0 counts as a cash advance, and that they charge for.

All I can say is that I am stunned the financial industry can lose billions because they clearly have billing their loyal customers down pat.

 

Interesting requirements for selling used CDs

10/19/08 | by Adam | Categories: Copyright

Link: http://www.thelegality.com/archives/93

This is not a law you want to see coming north of the border:

In Florida, for example, anyone attempting to sell used CDs to a retailer must present identification and be fingerprinted, and any retailer looking to sell those same CDs must apply for a permit and submit a $10,000 bond with the Department of Agriculture and Human Services.

While the article states that online and personal sales aren't included in that rather interesting piece of legislation, it's a pretty good wedge when it comes to restricting resale of audio material.

(Via BoingBoing)

 

Wired on telecommuting

10/18/08 | by Adam | Categories: Technology

Link: http://www.wired.com/culture/culturereviews/magazine/16-10/st_essay

Wired has an interesting article on the advantages of telecommuting rather than centralized offices.

I partially agree: there are many excellent reasons to work from home. However, the article has clearly been written for a US audience and there are certain assumptions built into the article like 2500 square foot houses and $1200 commuting bills which simply aren't true up here in Calgary; well, not unless you work in a senior role for an oil company. On top of that, personal experience has been that I'm still more productive in the office than at home due to much easier access to those I work with: think outsourcing to India but just make the roundtrip a bit shorter. Beyond issues like that, you run into problems with non-centralized network infrastructure (e.g. reliance on residential internet connection and personal computers, servers still need a co-location facility with the additional difficulty of access and maintenance), a number of costs are pushed onto the worker (extra electricity consumption due higher heating during the day and usage of work machines, telephone bills that need to be reclaimed from the employer),and the somewhat significant fact that this concept still only works for white collar employees.

I do like working at home, but I prefer working at the office where I can leave my work concerns quite separate from my life when I go home in the evening. That lack of separation is something that's rarely raised in pro-telecommuting articles and it does significantly add stress levels to one's home life if it becomes the norm, rather than the periodic.

 

Yeah, that's slow

10/14/08 | by Adam | Categories: Technology

Recently I had a need to access a remote machine over the internet to pull down some files. Alas, that machine was an Windows box running under Parallels on a 1.83 GHz MacBook access via VNC from a gateway machine itself accessed via Remote Desktop.

If that sounds slow, just try using it.

 

Background updating tasks

10/13/08 | by Adam | Categories: Technology

Link: http://reviews.zdnet.co.uk/software/0,1000001048,39419834,00.htm

ZDNet has a brief article on how a good idea can become an excessively annoying one. In this case, it's applications that run in the background in order to check to see that the version of software one has is the most recent one. On your average computer, it doesn't take long until boot time is doubled and memory is consumed by large numbers of applications that do nothing but increase the footprint. Disable them as you will, you just know they'll be back next time there's an update.

To me the answer seems simple but neither Apple nor Microsoft have done it: create a central registry program that does this. The program -- just the one -- checks through a list of programs and associated URLs looking for updated. When it finds one, the user is prompted, much as the Apple software update works right now. New installs can be added to the list and old ones removed. Make it a standard API and you're done.

So, industry standard operating system providers, why not?

 

The incompetent hand of the marketplace

10/10/08 | by Adam | Categories: Politics

Link: http://www.cbc.ca/money/story/2008/10/10/loonie.html

Truly I don't understand what drives financial markets and currency fluctuations:

Canada's dollar broke southward through 85 cents US in morning trading, slipping to 84.87 cents, down 2.41 cents from Thursday's close of 87.28.
[...]
Other currencies have been hammered as well as investors buy American dollars despite the weak economic indicators coming out of the United States.

Why would people seek refuge in the US dollar given that it's the US economy causing the financial instability in the first place? Shouldn't they be looking at the Euro instead?

It's not as if the Canadian economy is collapsing: employment is good, the banks are stable, there are no dramatic changes to the business world other than those directly caused by the financial shenannigans in the US in the first place.

 

Maybe IT security blowhards have a point

10/03/08 | by Adam | Categories: Technology

Recently at work we found that one of our workstations had been compromised and was acting as a spam server. The primary user of that machine swore blind that he hadn't done anything wrong like visiting iffy websites and installing dicey software. As no other machines in the office -- that we've located at least -- have had a similar problem I'm rather not inclined to believe him.

For a long time, I've held it as a fundamental requirement that users (at least in a development environment) should be able to administer their machines in order to be as productive and capable as possible. I'm now beginning to change my mind on that, at least in this specific case...

 

Cardboard duvet

09/28/08 | by Adam | Categories: Silly

Link: http://www.snurkbeddengoed.nl/

There's something strangely appealing about this duvet and pillow set silkscreened to look like cardboard boxes.

(Via BoingBoing)

 

"Hamlet" through the prism that is Facebook

09/26/08 | by Adam | Categories: Silly

Link: http://www.mcsweeneys.net/2008/7/30schmelling.html

Another fine McSweeney's outing. Oh, here's the New Facebook graphical representation of the same.

(Via Ezra Klein)

 

Redecorating a basement with a Sharpie

09/25/08 | by Adam | Categories: Silly

Link: http://www.kentucky.com/181/story/532854.html

This has to be the ultimate in graffiti.

(Via ihb)

 

Escape from reality

09/24/08 | by Adam | Categories: Games

Link: http://www.motivatedphotos.com/?id=431&d=1

World Of Warcraft:

Nothing eases the tension after a long day of putting up with other people's bullshit while running around completing repetitive tasks like logging on to Warcraft to put up with other people's bullshit while running around completing repetitive tasks!"

Yet somehow it does...

 

Somehow, it's still going...

09/23/08 | by Adam | Categories: Technology

Link: http://arstechnica.com/articles/culture/amigaos41-ars.ars

Link is to a nice review on the latest iteration of the Amiga operating system. It sounds as if the developers have put a lot of work into making it current and useful but I doubt that I'll ever move back to it.

 

OSX's "Safety Net"

09/20/08 | by Adam | Categories: Macintosh

Link: http://arstechnica.com/journals/apple.ars/2008/09/17/mac-virtualization-software-sales-skyrocket

For a lot of people, changing operating systems is a significant step. You lose all of your applications, most of your data and a large amount of proficiency (and time!) while you relearn the basics. It's mostly true even within generations of the same operating system (like Windows 3.1 to '95 to '98 to ME to XP to Vista.)

When I moved to the Mac, it was due to a few issues. First, I was frustrated with Microsoft's licensing for Windows. I run multiple machines and buying non-transferrable $200 OEM licenses for each one was getting quite pricey. Secondly, I'd had a chance to play with OSX on a 12" Titanium Powerbook and had liked both parts. Third, BootCamp. Fourth, my current desktop was futzing out and needed to be replaced, preferably with a decently specced and priced laptop.

The third item was really the clincher as far as the choice of laptop was concerned. I didn't want to abandon all the Windows apps I'd paid for and liked so the ability to continue to use them was a big selling point. While I did like OSX based on my brief use, that was with it not being my primary operating system and I wasn't certain the good feeling would last; I had liked BeOS when that was current but it never managed to displace the host Windows system. BootCamp was in essence going to become my default way of using the Mac with OSX being booted into as a diversion and as a way of learning how to support family members who used Macintoshes already. The important thing to note was that OSX was going to be the backup OS on the laptop, not the primary. I wasn't worried about trying OSX on for size as the Windows support acted as my safety net for when it didn't work out.

It didn't really turn out that way. I liked OSX and soon after I bought the computer, the massive discounted software bundles like MacUpdate, MacZOT and MacHeist began, leading me to develop a decent collection of useful applications native to OSX. Those, plus the excellent integration of the native Apple software and the presence of cross-platform programs like SplashWallet and the Palm Desktop, meant I stuck to OSX and really didn't use Windows much any more at home.

If Apple hadn't released BootCamp, I probably wouldn't have migrated; the comfort level just wouldn't have been there. This brings me back to the Ars Technica report linked above:

That's an interesting thought, but perhaps it's not so much wanting to experiment with Windows as an insurance policy for Mac OS X—Windows as a last resort, if you will.

I think they have it exactly right. The Windows support is perceived as essential, even if it's never used. Apple got that with BootCamp. Hosted virtual machines like Parallels and Fusion simply make it an even easier sell.

(MacSurfer link)

 

60's oilfield technology

09/19/08 | by Adam | Categories: Technology, Silly

Link: http://blog.modernmechanix.com/2008/09/16/bow-turns-flame-thrower-for-oilmen/

In the 1960's, the cutting edge of technology in Alberta's gas and oil sector included bows and flaming arrows. Seriously.

(Via BoingBoing)

 

Application focus under OSX

09/18/08 | by Adam | Categories: Whining, Macintosh

For the most part I've been very happy with OSX compared to its competition. This isn't a long standing Mac fanatic thing: I couldn't stand OS9 and the prior System releases; the Mac only became an acceptable option to me after the "classic" MacOS was retired with Darwin's arrival.

That is as it may be, but why does it like giving popups instant focus? There I am, happily typing away, and suddenly a requestor appears, grabs focus, nicks my input, goes off and does something, and I'm left wondering what the heck happened. The behaviour should be to bring the requestor to the front where it can be acknowledged but for the sake of the turtlenecked-sweater-clad-one, don't steal my frickin' focus.

Grr.

 

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