Category: Personal

Hitchhiker’s Guide Jackpot

I’ve been undertaking a project this summer to replace the lost or stolen media which has left gaps in my library from the years before I started tracking loans using Delicious Library. As part of that I decided to tackle the two 120 minute cassettes I had made in Mexico City from the condensed record album versions of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and The Restaurant at the End of the Universe. They were my first exposure to the series, and remained my favorite incarnation of it—pressed in England,  borrowed from the library of my British school, dubbed on my dad’s stereo, and lovingly hand-labeled… Then loaned to someone while I was in graduate school in Madison, and that someone evidently moved away with them, and I forgot who it had been.

Of course, they are nowhere to be found in today’s media landscape. But I did find a BBC set of 14 CDs containing the full original radio plays from which the albums had been condensed. I’ve just started listening to them, and much to my delight, they are clearly the raw material for the “Reader’s Digest” version I had previously loved. I am having a blast listening to them. And obviously I will have to rip them into audio book format so they can move in to my iPhone.


Reunited at last, better than ever!

Reunited at last, better than ever!

Echoes of Joe

Over this past week I finally “moved into” the new bookshelf I picked up this spring, which involved sorting all our books to get everything in order. Now there are finally no crazy book piles all over the house, nor books stacked two thick or on top of each other on the shelves. It’s great, I can find everything easily.

And I found a bunch of neat old Joe stuff, including essays of his, things he had published, and letters he saved. Going through that section took a long time, and was bittersweet, although these days I am successfully focusing more on the sweet side.

I’ll be posting some of the items that I think people will find interesting, and sharing some of the more private stuff over email.

Here’s a letter he had published in the newsletter of the American Diabetes Association shortly before I met him. Since it’s a scanned image of an 8½×11 magazine page, I’m just linking to it rather than trying to cram it into the blog posting. I will include the head shot that was on the page, though:

Joe in print in 1990

Joe in print in 1990

There will be more to come…

You Spin Me Off…

…Like a Record, Baby? (Apologies to Dead or Alive!)

Facebook has become so cluttered with the latest site redesign that it’s pretty much useless for expressing anything other than vapid, passing thoughts. So maybe the silver lining is that it will motivate me to post more on Arcadia. Like this week’s really big news:

My team, the creators of communication-related network software, formerly an odd part of Berbee Information Networks, and lately an even more poorly-understood part of CDW Corporation, has spun off to create our own company, Singlewire Software. (Yes, the press releases went out on April 1, but no, it’s not a joke.)

Read more »

Dealing with the Curse

My Power Mac is dead and will stay that way. It would cost about $1,000 to get a new logic board installed, which is at the high end of what I could hope to sell the whole system for in perfect working condition today, never mind when I want to replace it in a month or two, when the new line of Mac Pros comes out. So I eventually picked it up from the hard-to-reach (on the phone) repair shop, and it’s sitting in my storage locker as a very heavy and attractive source of spare parts for Marc’s own tower should anything (other than the logic board) fail on him.

I found a way to limp along without it, though. I have temporarily repurposed the Mac Mini I had been using as a voice mail system in my comm closet. By adding a 500 GiB external hard drive (which I scored for $80 at Target, hurrah), partitioning that drive to boot Intel Macs, and installing Leopard on it, I was able to boot into the migration assistant, and pull over the environment from my Power Mac’s SATA boot drive. There was some hassle with software that I wasn’t able to deactivate on the old machine before it died (not knowing said death was imminent), so I had to contact support at Adobe and Mark/Space to get my registrations moved over, and jump through a few other hoops, but now I have access to my important media libraries and other such things while I wait for Apple’s exciting announcements next year.

The Mini actually does a surprisingly good job of filling in for the PowerMac and driving my Cinema Display, although it is way short on memory by comparison having just 1 GiB shared with an on-board video controller; the tower had 5 GiB and a screaming video card. I won’t be doing any video encoding projects for a while, and if I get sick of virtual memory paging lag, I may spend $30 and some effort prying open the case to double the RAM. But I can definitely get by for a few months and save the $1,000 repair cost towards buying a new screaming machine when the Nehalem Xeon models debut.

The TiVo is back to full capability, with a Seagate-mechanism 750 GiB eSATA external drive from WeaKnees working just great. I expect it to last much longer than the officially-supported Western Digital drive did, and even though this enclosure has fans (which is a good thing for longevity), you can’t hear them. The drive mechanism itself is more audible, but it’s not an unpleasant sound. The only thing I wasn’t crazy about was the very bright blue LEDs on the front of the enclosure, but a couple of pieces of electrical tape calmed them right down. I may find a more aesthetically sophisticated solution someday, but from normal viewing distance this looks fine for now. And the TiVo Series 3 did warn me it was uncertified, but was quite happy to go ahead and use it anyway, as expected.

Curse Update

Now that I am back from a great visit to friends and family in New York City and Connecticut, I finally had time to make some progress in diagnosing the TiVo. I called back to discuss my trouble ticket last night, and to report that things had degraded significantly, to the point where I could not watch or record anything. No programs had been recorded since Monday, November 24.

The friendly TiVo tech walked me through various troubleshooting steps, leading up to a “Kickstart 54” which performed hard drive diagnostics once we got it to launch successfully. Even doing that required letting the external drive power off for a while first.

It turned out that, as I suspected, the external drive was garbage. It had started to fail days after its warranty timer ran out, and was now unable to pass any of the tests other than the “initial state” which seems to just say “are you there?”

The silver lining is that the internal drive, which would be much more of a pain to replace, is just fine. So I ended up biting the bullet and severing the TiVo’s connection to the external drive. Of course that meant irrevocably losing almost a terabyte worth of the TV programs and movies I had saved, many of which I hoped to watch or burn to DVD. One advantage of the seasonally-imposed delays in getting to this point is that I had already mentally prepared myself for this outcome.

Now my TiVo is working fine again, with a quarter of the space it had before. It snagged an episode of The Venture Brothers last night, and let me watch some spooled Good Morning America while I got ready for work this morning.

I’ve ordered a replacement drive from WeaKnees. I am giving up on the “TiVo Certified” route, since they still only officially support Western Digital drives, and my experience with the last one lived down to my expectations. Happily my Series 3 will let me use an unsupported drive, and WeaKnees has a nice Seagate mechanism that is designed for DVR use, in a quiet enclosure. And I already know how to run the hard drive diagnostics if it ever comes to this again in the future, so good-bye to supported but low-quality hardware.

On the other major front, I am having less luck. It turns out that The MacXprts were not out of business, they were just having problems with their phone line (and still are). They can get calls from some places, but not my office in Fitchburg. If I call on my cell phone I can at least reach their voice mail. When I stopped in (without time to do so, really) on Wednesday, they told me that the original person who took my Mac had misspoken when he quoted two business days for me to hear a diagnosis and repair plan; the real figure was a much less satisfactory five business days.

Well, even that has more than elapsed now, and I have received no communication from them whatsoever. I left a message expressing concern and dissatisfaction yesterday, and they have not called me back. So, I have to report that their customer service, speed, and general business is leaving me highly unimpressed. I should not have tried to support a local business, it seems. At least not this one.

Now that it is clear I will be without my Mac for several weeks, I am being forced to find ways to cope without it. Last night I dealt with the most pressing issue, migrating Quicken, my data files, and the Treo syncing software over to my laptop. I needed to do this in order to record the past few weeks of transactions, adjust balances, and pay some bills that were very nearly coming due.

At some point I may well conclude I can limp along without the desktop machine until Apple’s new line next year. But there are some things I won’t have space to migrate over to the laptop, and some that will be hard to deal with. So I hope it doesn’t come to that.

If I don’t start hearing from the folks at The MacXperts soon, I am going to go and demand my hardware back and dispute their charge on my credit card. Very disappointing.

The Tech Curse gets even worse

It used to be Joe who suffered from incredible tech failures. I fear he has bequeathed that curse to me.

First my Treo’s antenna fell off somewhere during a workday. Luckily, I had his as a spare, and it did not take too long to migrate my software, data, and Bluetooth trust relationships to it. Then our TiVo started rebooting with increasing frequency. I have started jumping through their support hoops but won’t have time to get to the bottom of it until after this weekend. And the best-case scenario is that my external drive (barely out of warranty) is defective, and I will lose almost all my recordings in replacing it. I really didn’t like the fact that the only TiVo-approved drive was a Western Digital, and it has lived down to my expectations.

My car had a low tire last week, and the compressor I keep in my trunk for such situations is dead.

This kind of thing did not previously happen to me with such frequency. And there have been other minor annoyances… But the pièce de résistance is this: My dual G5 Power Mac, which has been out of extended warranty for a year and a half, which I want to replace early next year when the new powerhouse Intel chips make it into the Mac Pro line, died on Thursday. I hoped it was just an NVRAM battery or memory, but no such luck.

So I took it in for repair Saturday. The MacXprts had moved to a new location very conveniently close to my home, so I decided to support a local business rather than dealing with the zoo at the official Apple store. They seemed friendly, there was stuff on the shelves, they asked good questions and wrote up a repair order. I expected to hear back Monday or yesterday. But nothing yet, so I just called them back.

Their number “has been temporarily disconnected.”

At this point I don’t know if they are a victim of the credit crunch, just flaky and forgot to pay their phone bill, or running a scam. And I do not have time to deal with this. I have questions racing through my head like “will the police help me bust in and look for my Mac?” “Will my homeowner’s insurance cover this?” I know that’s premature, but this is very unsettling. I need to use some of the software on that machine soon, and won’t have time to even really pursue this until Monday. Augh!

Thank heavens that I at least had the foresight to remove the hard drives before dropping it off.

Where has James been?

You might think my hopes to start a habit of blogging failed miserably. Well, that’s not actually true; I did get into the practice, but all my activity over the past several months has been on a private blog for my family and close friends, as I dealt with the end stages of terminal cancer in my partner of almost seventeen years.

I’m through that now, and ready to move back to more public thoughts. But I will be busy or away much of the next month, between catching up at work and going on a cruise from London to Barcelona with a friend. So I apologize for the hiatus, and hope it can be understood.

I’ve set up a memorial page to commemorate Joe, and will be adding links and resources to it as they are shared with me (and as I have time).

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