Catching up on linkblogging.

Comic Strips

  • I found a printout of this User Friendly comic strip while cleaning out my old desk last month. Ah, tech support! Help, I can’t send e-mail!
  • XKCD on spambots vs. constructive comments (warning: language)
  • Two comic strips about book collections: Wondermark and Girl Genius. I stumbled on the Wondermark strip at Long Beach Comic-Con (write-up should be done today is online) and it really hit home, between the fact that I grew up loving books for exactly this reason, and the impending arrival of the next generation. As for Girl Genius, I think Castle Heterodyne’s library could give the Beast’s a run for its money.
  • Fake Science explains the difference between regular and decaf coffee. Insert obligatory “It was ground this morning” joke.
  • C-Section Comics shows the difference between iPhone, Android and Blackberry users. For the record: Android user, picked up the link from an iPhone user. Hmm…


Other Stuff

  • Someone wants to buy a cosmic treadmill from me: Umm…Not For Sale?
  • Wrapping up Cyber Security Awareness Month at the Internet Storm Center. If you use a computer, you should at least take the time to look through this.
  • Gotta love the MPAA’s priorities. A brief scene of therapeutic swearing earns the same rating as an entire film full of graphic, gruesome torture: The King’s Speech vs. Saw 3D.

I used to get annoyed when someone would send a complete screen shot along with their tech support request. I thought it was a waste of bandwidth when a simple text message would do just as well, and be faster to send, receive and display.

But the thing is, screenshots have their advantages. For one thing, they’re exact. There’s no risk of an error code being mistyped.

More importantly, a screenshot can tell you other information that the user hasn’t thought to mention. This is critical, because the reason people call tech support is because they don’t know how to solve a particular problem…and that often means they don’t know which information is relevant.

Like, say, the fact that they’re running another program which happens to conflict with the one that they’re calling about.

Still, I wish Windows would create a file instead of copying the screen to the clipboard. Users need to paste it into something, so they paste it into what they’re most familiar with: Microsoft Word — something even less suited for sending images by email than a .BMP file created by Paint.

  • Got a compliment on good tech support 🙂 … but it was intended for another company with a similar name. 🙁
  • I alternate between finding it amusing & annoying that I get spam for local businesses in Brazil. It’s a bit of a drive from SoCal.
  • It’s sad to get Christmas cards for someone who used to live at your address. We’ve gotten two this year, but none last year. Maybe last year’s were still forwarded, and the forwarding order expired.

After nearly 4 years of faithful service, our G4 PowerBook has crashed. This machine has been rock-solid through 2 OS upgrades, a RAM upgrade, and a battery recall. On Sunday, the hard disk finally gave out.

We only lost a few recent files. I had a chance to grab them on Saturday, but unfortunately I misread the signs and thought it was a software problem. Hey, you install a bunch of stuff including a system update, and the machine freezes, you figure it’s a software problem. Until it happens again, and this time it won’t come back up. 😡

After doing all the diagnostics & resets I could possibly come up with, I set up an appointment at the local Apple Store’s “Genius Bar” during my lunch break today. They confirmed it was the drive, and since it’s long out of warranty, they pointed me to a local repair shop. (They were willing to do the job, but can only order parts directly from Apple, so it would’ve been insanely expensive just for the drive.)

Fortunately, as far as laptop hardware failures go, a hardware drive is relatively easy to fix. If the case were simpler, I’d be willing to do it myself, but as the Apple tech joked, “It takes 36 screws just to get the case open.” At least, I think he was joking.

So instead of having to replace the entire computer, or send it in and wait several weeks, we’re looking at ~$200 and 3–5 days. And while I was at it, I sprang for double the capacity.

I can live with that.

Update: It turned out to be the RAM upgrade, not the disk, which makes it considerably simpler to resolve. Finally got it back the following Monday.