feren: I AM THE MAN (Zhivagod - Feren_silly)
Dear Linux, you can blow me.

You clearly hate your users and the developers of big-name apps you're so desperately trying to woo. I mean let's talk about rudimentary functions for a minute here. It's been what, 15 years or so now, right? And yet you still can't make sound work decently enough to let a professional developer port his game to your platform? Seriously, give that link a read. Be sure not to skip the comments. When the Free Software Apologist Brigade comes in and starts belittling a professional developer in his blog comments because he's (unsurprisingly) found that Linux is a complete steaming pile to work with? It ends badly, let me tell you, with the developer being attacked from all angles and finally throwing up his hands and stating what nobody there seems to want to hear. And they wonder why they can't attract professional programs and the people who develop them to the platform. With a platform and tools that can't meet your needs... paired with support that sports an attitude like that... it's not really a mystery to me. The outcome here and the profound amount of "la la la I can't hear you you SUCK for being unsatisfied with our buffett of crappy and half-cooked API choices" coming from the community in response to this guy's concerns and problems is no different than every other "Hey, this doesn't work, can you guys give me a hand?" situation I've seen in the Open Source Software world.

Conclusion: The only thing holding Linux back from seeing wider adoption is the core essence of Linux, meaning not just the environment/tools but the very people who make it and taut its open nature. Don't criticize the environment, whatever you do! The problem isn't that what we've created is an obscure, twisted maze of shit. The problem is you. You aren't committed enough, aren't knowledgeable enough (I so laughed at that one... this developer has been with Linux since the 0.91 kernel) or are unwilling to change how you do things (Read: you won't adapt to our model's limitations). I think I even saw that famous standby of if you don't like it, fix it yourself! Yep, that's all indicative of open and flexible alright. Especially that last one, because users who find bugs are now being told it's their responsibility to fix somebody else's fucked-up code. It's like a really shitty, elitist version of that grade-school grind of "He who smelt it, dealt it." Which is fine if you're a programmer, but nothing short of infuriating if you can't even slap a Hello World program together in C++. I'm sorry, I don't want to learn your AJAX program so I can fix your retarded bug. I just want it to work, or for you to fix it when I tell you it doesn't work. Pushing the responsibility off onto the userbase is moronic.

I think [livejournal.com profile] roho summed it up for me when he said "[I have] run a number of distros for the last...12 years, I guess, and it's amazing that that attitude still there. 1: Come to Linux, everything works better 2: If it doesn't work, it's probably your fault 3: If it's your fault, and you try to fix it, and fail, you are probably a Linux Saboteur/M$ lackey in disguise."

So in conclusion, dear Linux, it is no wonder I avoid you as much as possible and stay in the big kid's sandbox with my *elitist sniff* commercial UNIX and desktop operating systems...
feren: I AM THE MAN (ashryn-gruntle)
Last week I bought a new headlight & fog light switch for my Expedition. I installed factory fog lights on the truck two years ago but the headlight switch that was in the truck didn't support fog lights, it was missing a necessary connection to the wiring harness. On a whim I checked eBay last week and found somebody selling the exact part I needed. I bid on and won the auction: $22, including shipping. Very fair price for something I would have paid $20 or so for at a pick-n-pull junkyard.

The seller sent me a USPS tracking number. Since Thursday the only thing it said was "Electronic Shipping Info Received June 11, 2008." That is until today, when magically two more lines were added: "Processed, June 15, 2008 8:48 PM, ELK GROVE VILLAGE, IL" and "Arrival at Unit, June 16, 2008 5:05 AM, BOLINGBROOK IL."

I know from e-mail communication with the seller that this switch was shipped from the seller's home in Charlotte, North Carolina. So how badly does your tracking system have to suck when an item with a tracking number sits at "information received" for 4 days and then suddenly has the first entry be "Processed ELK GROVE VILLAGE, ILLINOIS." How exactly did the item get from North Carolina to Illinois without you scanning that tracking number at least once on its way?

Lame.
feren: I AM THE MAN (Technology makes me punchy)
Dear IE,

You may now officially blow me. I have your homepage set to about:blank, yet whenever I hit CTRL-N to open a new window you piss me off. How? By immediately taking that new window and loading the URL of the old window in it. Thanks for that.

This gruntle brought to you by <i>.
feren: I AM THE MAN (Technology makes me punchy)
I bought my black MacBook back on June 19th, 2006 along with my black 60GB iPod. For the record, my iPod continues to treat me well. I love it. I'm sad to see it surpassed by the Classic 160GB and the Touch, but it's still a good little unit. Unfortunately, my other purchase has not been nearly so reliable. For the last eight months or so I've been putting up with a flickering back light on my little BlackBook's screen. I've tolerated it because nobody knows what causes it or how to fix it -- some of the suggestions seem to actively make the issue worse.

Tonight I found that my MacBook refuses to acknowledge that it has a battery installed -- or the battery is completely boned. Either way, the net result is the same: without the AC adapter plugged in, this little laptop doesn't go.

This laptop is only one year and five months old, it ran out of warranty faster than I could blink and it has two major technical problems (one of which is unexplainable and apparently unfixable). Meanwhile, my Dell laptop is just over three years old and, while a bit heavy and outdated on the processor side of the shop, is still ticking along nicely... and Dell actually gave it a warranty extension as I mentioned previously. My MacBook has always been babied. My Dell has seen long, hard use at conventions and on the road, even going to Florida with me a few years ago in place of my work-issued laptop. In my mind there is absolutely no excuse for this level of Suck and Fail. I'm hearing a lot of "That's what you get for buying first generation hardware," but in the laptop business when isn't it first generation? The model name stayed the same but in going from the Core Duo to the Core Duo 2 the MacBook inherited a new chipset. To me that sets the clock back to "first generation." And regardless of this so-called "second generation," the reports of problems keep flooding in. Clearly, adopting a "Wait and see" attitude with this product doesn't save you from the suffering.

Apple, I want to love you. I really do. Your designs are elegant and OS X is pretty much everything I could want in an operating system. But it's clear you've not learned anything from your PC-manufacturing cousins about build quality or how to treat a customer. Just look at AppleDefects.com for a laundry list of your unsolved issues. In the 1988 episode of Red Dwarf titled "Balance of Power," the Rimmer character told Lister, "You always become the thing you hate the most." I think that's true, Apple. You've taken on qualities from Microsoft and $INSERT_PC_BRAND_HERE that you love poking fun at in your commercials. Maybe you haven't figured it out yet, but you've got the worst of both worlds going for you right now -- you make software and hardware. You have an OS that seems laden with glitches (Leopard is apparently to OS X what ME was to Windows) and buggy hardware. I only know about the former via second-hand experience, I admit. But I'm not going to find out any time soon because I'm sticking with 10.4 on my laptop: I don't need the additional shit this upgrade seems to bring to the table. But I certainly am experiencing your legendary hardware. And I hope your legendary hardware is enjoying its experience of screwing me over and over again.

Until you get your shit together I'm going to put my plans of buying a MacPro workstation aside and just keep building WinTel boxes for my gaming and photo work. Yeah, I find building and burning in my own systems to be absolutely fucking maddening... but at least the cost of the frustration comes in at about half the dollar amount you want to charge me and when a portion of the hardware bones itself? I can actually go to any number of retailers and buy a replacement part.

Volunteering for your firing line
feren: I AM THE MAN (ashryn-WTF)
Some of you out there may remember that around a month and a half ago I wrote a disgruntled entry about how the USPS can blow me. That was because, as best as could be determined at the time, the USPS had managed to lose the original artwork to a commission I had with Blotch. The delivery confirmation said it had been dropped off weeks before somewhere in Peotone, IL -- which is most certainly not where I live.

You'll never believe what I found in my mailbox today -- although the whole fact that this entry is being made sort of gives away the answer. You guessed correctly: the envelope that I had utterly given up hope on somehow arrived today in my mailbox. No note from the postal office is attached, the envelope has never been opened, no explanation is provided for where this envelope has been the last 8 weeks. But you can bet that it has some stories to tell.

I have no answer for this, either...

Everything will be alright
feren: I AM THE MAN (pissy)
Or, to paraphrase the illustrious [livejournal.com profile] jwz, Wake me up when we're in the future and have a postal system that can differentiate BOLINGBROOK, IL 60490 from PEOTONE, IL 60468.

So here's the back story on that: the United States Postal Service somehow managed to misroute an envelope from Blotch that contained the original artwork from a commission. Said envelope had the address for my postal box in Bolingbrook clearly displayed but it never got to me. Luckily Blotch had put a delivery confirmation request on it. That delivery confirmation number, when run through the USPS website, faithfully shows the package departing on the 19th and being delivered on the 22nd. I was a bit vexed by this, because I checked my postal box on the 29th and there was no envelope waiting for me and no marker stick that it was waiting for me behind the counter, either. That's when I noticed that the delivery confirmation printout had one piece of information I had overlooked previously: that the delivery was made in Peotone.

There is no address similar to mine in Peotone, IL. In fact there's no road with the same name in Peotone at all!

Sadly it wasn't a Signature delivery confirmation, so all I know is that some mail carrier scanned the envelope and dropped it on somebody's stoop somewhere in a farm town 49 miles to the Southeast of me. I wish there was at least a name so I knew whose door I'd could try to go knocking on.

Because you don't treat me the right way
feren: I AM THE MAN (ashryn-gruntle)
Dear Expedition,

I would be thrilled if you trusted me when I tell you that yes, you do in fact have a 5.4L V8 engine. Despite evidence to the contrary, there is no such thing as a 4.725L V7 engine. Even if there were, nobody would want to buy it.

With rapidly dwindling patience,
Your devoted owner


These stupid coil packs can blow me. With a P0304 code reported by the on-board annoyance computer, it is a sure bet that my problem lies with a part that I can buy down the street for about $54 after tax. Of course, I don't have the time tonight to do the work or buy the replacement coil. Even if I had the part in my hand I couldn't start at this late hour -- for one thing, the engine is still far too hot from the drive home. More importantly, though, is that I can't risk leaving the repair unfinished. Tomorrow I need to be at the office early tomorrow for $EMPLOYER's "rah rah rah here is state of the company" presentation. The downside of driving to work and back tomorrow with a misfire is that I am dumping ridiculous amount of unburned fuel into my exhaust system -- something that can wreck the catalytic converter. That's a risk I'm going to have to take.

I expect my Saturday will be full of skinned knuckles and cursing because, naturally enough, the suspect coil pack is on cylinder number four. Cylinder four is the rearmost cylinder on the passenger side of the engine -- nicely obscured by everything! I know from unfortunate experience that changing spark plugs and related components on this vehicle takes upwards of 4 straight hours because of how Ford shoe-horned the engine into the compartment and how much junk (fuel rails, electrical distribution block, etc) they've heaped over the area you need to get at for the work .

No rest for the wicked, right?

The weekends why?
feren: I AM THE MAN (ashryn-gruntle)
My summons for today's court appearance over the little matter of a missing piece of fascia was very clear in its instructions: it specified that my appearance was scheduled for 1330 hours today and that I should appear no less than 15 minutes early for check-in and documentation. Never one to risk infuriating the people who can leverage vast fines against me or -- thanks to that hum-dinger of a SCOTUS ruling on Kelo -v- New London -- actually take my home... I showed up earlier than they asked. I got to the court lobby at 1305 today... and at 1320 I was still standing in line with everyone else. Why? Because nobody from the village was around to unlock the doors for those who showed up to court! We milled about in the lobby, wondering exactly when or if the "fifteen minute rule" could be applied to civil affairs. At 1328 somebody emerged from the court room and proceeded to unlock the doors, allowing us to file in and begin processing our documentation with the clerk. Weak excuses were made that the "usual clerk" was on vacation today, but that was little consolation to my aching left ankle.

So remember, kids: when working with government offices or individuals, you are expected to be early... but they are under zero obligation to extend you the courtesy of being timely themselves. I'm fairly certain there have been civil wars over this. Yes, I know I shouldn't be surprised by this foolishness and yes, I have been to the DMV before. Still, this was ridiculous. For my friends in civil service (looking at you, [livejournal.com profile] hakeber), I understand the public is a mob of slobbering idiots and that you can hardly be held accountable for delays you didn't cause, but this was case of the village dropping a steamer on its constituents because all parties involved are untouchable and you're entirely at their mercy. Calling the judge to task on it is just going to land you a charge of contempt, so you suck it down and they get to smirk at you with full knowledge what they've gotten away with. This might not have been quite so frustrating to me had I not had to stand on my bum foot for over twenty minutes. If the judge/clerk/et all weren't ready they still could have allowed us inside the courtroom to sit down while they got their ducks in the row.

Regardless of the delays everything else went more or less as I expected. I was the fourth or fifth person called and when I approached the bench I entered a plea of no contest (I can hardly deny the fascia is missing on that 10ft stretch of my roof). I think this rather surprised the judge, since up until I got there people were entering pleas of "not guilty" for their citations about yard grass being too long or parking too far away from the curb. So the fine against me was upheld, I agreed to pay the fee today and then the judge bickered with the Code Enforcement officer assigned to my case. The officer seemed to think that I should get this fixed tomorrow now that I've admitted fault on public record, but the judge seemed to understand my argument that the work to be done is so piddly that I can't get anybody to fix the bloody problem without buying new windows or a new roof! Eventually they settled between themselves and issued me 12/1/06 as the "Date of expected compliance," after which I get another $120 "financial incentive" to resolve the matter. We shall see if I can somehow work a miracle and do in under 3 months what I've been trying to get done for well over a year. I won't even go into the fiasco that ensued afterward, when the city tried to send me on my way with no documented proof of my appearance, the payment or the new date after I paid the fine.

In other news tangentially related to government: After my time at the city hall was done I took the Expedition down to Joliet for emissions testing. It would appear that cleaning my MAF was indeed the fix, because in the 350+ miles since I did that work I haven't had the "Check Engine" light come on. I got my ticket, pulled in for testing and held my breath. Hooray, the Expy breezed through the testing station with flying colors. That's one less thing for me to worry about. Now all that's left is... everything else.

In Birmingham they love the governor
feren: I AM THE MAN (pissy)
Dear Village Official:

In response to your letter dated December 5th?

You can choke on it. Choke and die crying.

Yours,
J. F. Olsen
Taxpaying resident and whipping boy for your petty, contrived retribution
feren: I AM THE MAN (Technology makes me punchy)
The wildly popular anti-spam system dspam went into production on panther about 4 days ago. The tipping point came after I restored proper routing from "role accounts" (think webmaster, postmaster, etc) to the inbox of a Real Human (read: mine). It's astounding just how much junkmail these role accounts were getting. Since I was frustrated by getting something on the average of 30 spam letters every two hours via the role accounts, and since I'd had a few other users on the system complaining that their mail boxes were out of control too, I decided to take action. I took a cue from [livejournal.com profile] roho and tossed dspam onto the box, thinking "Hey... a bunch of people use this, it's trainable, and I'm not submitting to the horror that is the DNS RBL system (where collateral damage due to crazy people at the helm is a way of life and is somehow viewed as completely acceptable)."

I chose... poorly. Or I'm stupid. )

Cause the thing that's in effect
feren: I AM THE MAN (ashryn-WTF)
I just got a neat little missive in the mail today from the fine folks at CitiBank. It came in one of those envelopes where you tear off the tab on the side, grab the enclosed letter and pull it out. I wasn't sure why I'd gotten one from CitiBank (for some reason I always think of the letter that Korben Dallas (played by Bruce Willis) gets via the pneumatic tube in The Fifth Element, it was similarly enclosed). Any time I see something like this I just know I'm going to regret opening it. There's always something unpleasant inside, like new privacy terms or a change on the APR. Yet they've got you by the cajones, you know? You have to open the missive because ignorance is not an acceptable defense in court. For me, it's also hard to resist curiousity when IMPORTANT PERSONAL INFORMATION is stamped on the outside of something. So despite knowing better I caved and opened it.

Congratulations, burbled the paper in a cheerful font. If you don't think paper can burble, you've never seen this font. Because you're such a good consumer whore and have never missed a payment with us, because we're worried that you're not spending any money with us and because we're greedy bastards who want you to carry a balance so we can suck your wallet dry through finance charges, we've raised the credit limit on your Diamond Preferred Mastercard! They've raised my bloody limit again? Well hooray for that. It was bad enough I could buy a brand new car and finance it entirely on one credit card. Now, with that aforementioend card, I can buy a new car, a new snowmobile and a trailer for hauling the sled without even approaching the limit. That'll make it so much easier to add on all the extras, like a seat warmer in the car and handlebar heaters on the snowmobile.

What the hell am I supposed to do with a credit limit of $23,100? I never want to owe that much in revolving debt and that's just one of my cards! I've got ... lesse here... four other ones with limits ranging between $6,000 to over $18,000. My credit score must be phenomenal these days.

It's more than just a dream
feren: I AM THE MAN (ashryn-gruntle)
This is a belated entry. It was intentionally delayed to try and maintain an advantage in a game of cat-and-mouse I was playing. Since the Super Happy Mega Fun Round is over now and I've returned to the usal day-in day-out dance, I can post this.

Sometime earlier this week, my personal server was compromised. For those who haven't been playing along at home, I have been doing hosting type things for a few years and can briefly recap how it all got started. )

On Wednesday morning I was sitting down at work, sipping on my coffee and preparing for a long day of listening to people building shit with their mouths instead of with their hands. As usual routine I logged into the server and started skimming the mail that had collected since I'd gone to bed. The subject of one in particular grabbed my attention: ** URGENT *** it said. Phishing attack on your server. I read on. The message warned that an attacker was using my server to harvest Amazon accounts and passwords. The informant included the phishing URL and so I was able to check things out and confirm -- sure enough, there was a very nasty set of web pages nestled into one of the subdirectories of a site I'd recently taken on hosting responsibilities for. I know the owner of the site and knew she hadn't done it -- especially since I hadn't yet given her access to the system to maintain her pages. I started getting a sense of low-grade concern, so I backed up the files for evidence and then wiped out the offending directory. Low-grade concern would later give way to frustration and outright dismay.

Okay, I've been compromised, I thought. And I don't know how bad the attack was. Did they r00t it? Are other bad things going on? I better go find out. Thus began a 6 hour journey through the box. I found a couple of things right away that made my stomach sink: programs like top suddenly refused to run, citing dynamic links that had NEVER existed on the server. I kept digging and I eventually got my confirmation: an IRC "bouncer" program had been installed on the machine, listening on an unauthorized TCP port, disguised to look like my production MySQL daemon. Several key binaries like /bin/su and /bin/login had been replaced with trojans. One tool reported a number of cloaked processes running and loadable kernel modules installed, along with evidence of signatures for two prevalent "root kits."

The first law of running a system is that when you've been compromised, you do not try to recover the system as it stands -- you can't be certain that you caught every little dastardly thing the attacker has done. The appropriate procedure is to back everything up for evidence if you can, back up your data files (so you can use them as incrementals to the weekly backups that you're doing... you are doing weekly backups, right?) and then burn the whole damn system to the ground so you can do an install from scratch with clean, trusted media. The problem with this is that the machine in the hosting facility doesn't have a tape drive, and I'm not physically there so I can't swap media in and do an install myself. This momentarily stumped me until I started just making tarballs of everything important (all 24 websites that I host, all the mail files for my users, all the home directories of my users, etc etc) and pulling them off the system to a temporary storage facility. I didn't want to give my attacker any indication that I'd noticed him so, aside from removing the page to prevent further phish from being hooked, I left most everything in place until I was ready to have the system nuked. Wednesday night I was up late, making tarballs and FTPing them down to my PC (hooray for 6Mbps DSL lines and FileZilla!). I stayed home from work on Thursday because I still felt relatively crappy and worn down (small wonder, right?). Time was passed copying more files around between machines and trying to make sure I'd covered all my bases by backing up every last configuration file that I might need again. At around 2:30 PM or so, while talking with [livejournal.com profile] shaddragon, I called it good and sent a service ticket to my hosting provider. In the letter I explained what had happened and gave their techs permission to burn the box down and do a complete reinstall. Shortly after the system suddenly went unreachable, which told me they'd yanked the machine from their network at the very least as a security precaution. All I could do was wait. Later that evening came a follow-up e-mail from the hosting provider -- my request to have Fedora Core 4 installed (since they won't do FreeBSD) would cost me $150/hr since they don't provision Core 4 at this time, just Core 3. I talked with [livejournal.com profile] points for a bit and he pointed me to an FC3->FC4 migration path that could be done remotely, which was perfect. I gave the representitive my blessing to do Core 3 and waited. And waited. And waited. Eventually I went to bed. Total cost of the day's effort? 19 some hours of my time, a bottle of vanilla Smirnoff vodka and three 2L bottles of Diet Sunkist. Oh yeah, and more hair from my head.

When I got up Friday morning I still wasn't feeling great, so I opted to stay home from work again. Good thing I did, because at around 10:30 in the morning I was contacted by the tech team to verify my request (I'd forgotten to give my authorization code) for the rebuild. Once they had the proper documentation they went to work, promising it would be done in "2 hours or so." I didn't get the system back until about 2:30 PM yesterday. I ran the migration and got the system up on an FC4 userland with an FC3 kernel. Since I wasn't about to go through all this suffering and NOT have the latest and greatest versions, I spent the following two hours and change wrestling with getting "yum" to work in a way that made sense to me. In the middle of the final bulk upgrade the system was suddenly halted by root, which severely pissed me off. Either I'd gotten hacked in the three hours since installation (mostly unlikely) or the hosting company had shut down my machine -- in the middle of a huge upgrade -- for no discernable reason. More waiting. Eventually the system came back and I went back to work. First I brought over the websites, then I had to screw around with the pre-installed Apache in order to make it run the way I wanted while supporting the features I needed. That was an adventure. As several of the websites I host depend on the DB back-end to make them go, I had to get the MySQL database system up and running next. This was a relatively painless install for me... but after all the work, I found Apache's PHP wouldn't talk with it. [livejournal.com profile] twanfox was able to lend a bit of insight into that and I got things straightened out. With PHP and MySQL talking I could finally do an upgrade on the phpBB system that FrostFire uses (just to make sure I was current... again, with this much pain I deserve the newest and best). With the websites in place I turned my attention to getting the first of the hosted MUSHes back online, just to make sure I could get predictable behavior on this new OS. I had one small issue and then FrostFire was up and rolling again, so I started working on e-mail. That was at around 8pm last night. I worked on e-mail until 4:23 this morning, at which point I gave up and went to bed.

My desire to do database-backed virtual mail accounts seems to have been a touch... optomistic. I'm in the process of giving it one last college try, then I'm going to fail back to the tried and true old way of just having a shell account for everyone who has e-mail on my system. Not my ideal way of handling it, but I can't have the mail system down much longer.

I've done things I know you'll never understand
feren: I AM THE MAN (ashryn-angst)
I went over to Circuit City today and talked to the sales rep in the TV department for a bit. I explained my current annoyance at Comcast and asked three simple questions about DirecTV. First, how much will this cost me per month when all the features I want are turned on (meaning the package has the channels I want, HD service is enabled and the HD DVR subscription is turned on)? Second, do they supply my local NBC/ABC/FOX/PBS/etc affiliates in HD over the dish, or do I have to go to an off-air antenna? Third, what does DirecTV get me that Comcast doesn't (in other words: mister salesman, earn your keep and "sell" me on this product)? The answers surprised and pleased me:
  • With all the features I want, the cost per month of DirecTV is considerably less than my current Comcast bill. This was surprising given the calculations I was working under yesterday, but serves to illustrate my point about DirecTV failing the test of putting their pricing up front. With DirecTV, DVR service is about $5.99 per month. I already knew their HD service is $10.99 per month. The basic service package is $41.99. Apparently, tax is already handled by the service costs. Total monthly invoice: $58.97. That's about $16 per month less than Comcast is charging me (although it wouldn't include any "premium" channels). I can add a premium channel with DirecTV for something like $12.99 per month, which would still put DirecTV under Comcast for price by a margin of about $4.
  • Despite what I'd read on the various sites, I can indeed get my local network affiliates in HD via the dish, which eliminates the need for an off-air antenna. At this point it is evident that for my requirements, DirecTV is equal to Comcast and comes in at a lower pricepoint -- something that is always attractive to potential customers.
  • DirecTV offers a number of benefits over cable. A big benefit: DirecTV programming is inherently digital across the board. Comcast has a number of "analog" channels still, almost one hundred of them. Simply put, analog stations look like crap on the big screen because you can see the overcompression that Comcast is using. While DirecTV also does compression, all their material is digital so it is handled better. A second advantage over Comcast is that because DirecTV is all digital, almost all the stations support 5.1 surround sound. Hooray, my theater system will no longer go to waste when I'm watching regular television! For the money I spent on the Onkyo and the speakers, everything I watch should be in 5.1 DTS. Third, the DirectTV DVR is based on Tivo and Tivo doesn't suck. While I want to root for Motorola, the simple fact of the matter is that the Comcast DVR solution is still immature, has a lousy GUI, lacks sufficient storage and is prone to a lot of glitches. The DirecTV HD Tivo has a 250 GB HD, so it can store 30 hours of HD content and over 200 hours of standard definition content. This is a vast improvement over my current situation because the Comcast DVR can only hold 30 hours of standard definition content and something like 4 hours of HD.

Faced with a better product for less money per month I bowed to economic pressure and played the part of consumer whore. I plopped out the $599 at Circuit City and came home with the DirecTV HD tuner/Tivo device ($499 after the mail-in rebate). I got a bit of a runaround on the phone but finally reached the right department to schedule the installation of the remaining tuner and the dish. So, in one week hence, I will be up and running on DirecTV and can cut Comcast loose. I'll have to stay home for it because there's a 4 hour window when the installer will arrive. Of course, nobody will tell me when that four-hour window might be, so I consider the entire day a loss. In that respect DirecTV (or maybe the installer is from Circuit City, I dunno exactly in this case... things get all confused when you buy DirecTV service from Circuit City) is no different than Comcast or the phone company. But hey, small price to pay, right?

So, in summation: For me, Comcast blows more than DirecTV and thus is being dropped.

This is my show
feren: I AM THE MAN (ashryn-gruntle)
My local Comcast branch office recently shuffled the Sci-Fi channel from channel 44 to channel 160. This is both bad and good. The good news is that it was all-digital from that point on, which allowed them to include happy digital surround sound. The bad news is that you have to have their minimal digital cable package ("Digital Classic," I believe they call it) in order to receive it. Fortunately, this wasn't supposed to be an issue for me because I already had the "Digital Starter" package along with Starz. I pay somewhere around $62.99 per month for that, along with another $9.99 per month for the dual-channel HDTV tuner/DVR box. Grand total is around $75 a month after taxes.

Today I discovered I can't get the Sci-Fi channel. What the... that's not supposed to be! Every time I open the channel on the box I get "Not Authorized." So I call up Comcast and after 20 minutes of listening to hold music as they fought with their system (hell of a time for an upgrade) I got an answer: the "Digital Starter" package has been discontinued and it doesn't qualify as the basic package (that makes it... sub-basic?) in the digital lineup. So I asked what could be done about it. "Oh, we could move you to the Digital Classic package... then you'll get the SciFi channel. Of course, you'll be paying more.... and you won't get the Starz channel anymore... was this a promotion?" Yes, it was a promotion, I ordered it back in January of 2004. "Well, I'm sorry, but we can't honor that. You'll have to upgrade if you want the SciFi channel." Well, by my reckoning, that's not an upgrade... that's a downgrade because I'll be paying more and losing my premium channel in order to get something that, as near as I can tell, I'm supposed to have already by the simple virtue of having a digital package. I politely declined this "offer."

While I was on the phone I also asked about this five-dollar-a-month charge they have for their "High Def" package. The rep begins to list all the channels that are included with it... several of which I can access just fine already. Why would I need to add $5 more to my monthly fees just to get something I'm already receiving (apparently my ability to tune the Discovery HD channel was a technical fluke this weekend, what a pisser of a deal that is). Again I declined and I thought to myself, Comcast can blow me. After thanking the rep for their help, I hung up and pulled up DirecTV's site to start comparing prices.

DirecTV is just as expensive and actually charges more to turn on HD content. Additionally, it appears that I will have to get an HDTV antenna if I want to receive the HD broadcasts of the local network affiliates (NBC/ABC/CBS/FOX/PBS). I'd be trading up to a Tivo for a DVR, which would be good... but then I'd have to mount not one but two antennas outside, which is not an attractive option in the least. As near as I can figure from their web page, it's $10.99 per month for HD content and I have to get the package that starts at $41.99, so there alone I'm at $53 before tax. I'll have to pay even more money than that (or at least I think it will be more money because they won't let me see how much it costs a month) to have the HD Tivo service. Ugh! If they won't put your pricing up front where I can find it after 30 minutes of prodding at your site then you fail at marketing. So let's run the math here: $53 + unknown cost for the DVR + unknown taxes = ??? Yeah, sign me up for that deal! Thus, DirecTV can also blow me.

Guh. When did television become such a wonderful world of suck?

Construction on what I have lovingly dubbed the "Great Wall" continues apace behind my property line. As autumn looms over our valiant construction crew for the new NTB, the foreman has apparently realized that their delayed start is threatening the completion date of the project. Because of that they're now working 12 straight hours a day. That's right, they start at about 7 AM and finish at around 7 PM now. I get to wake up to the sound of grinders, skidloaders and hammers and then I get to come home to it as well. Congratulations, NTB, you've annoyed the living hell out of me after stepping all over my toes to get into that lot to begin with. NTB can achieve a trifecta with Comcast and DirecTV when they blow me as well.

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