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Blog Archives for March 2007

Draining my Patience

Friday, March 30th, 2007 - Comments (5) in Life

I have a pretty serious drainage problem at our current house. Basically the storm sewer is blocked somewhere so the water in the sump pump crock has nowhere to go. The crock fills up, the pump kicks on and pumps the water out the storm sewer pipe. As the water is pumped out, the pressure in that pipe builds up and it just blows back into the crock rather noisily.

After a couple days of this I tell Jackie at work who calls Rotorooter. This guy shows up a couple hours later and starts poking around. He checks out the sump pump and starts loosening the straps connecting the pump to the sewer. He sees how much pressure is built up and water starts spewing out and he tightens it back down saying he needs to call in an appraiser. He then hands me a bill for $130 (which I promptly handed to the business office at work).

The appraiser calls on Monday morning saying we should wait to do anything until the next non-rainy day. I call him the next day and say lets do it. He basically calls Rotorooter to come back and fix the problem without actually coming out here to see the problem himself.

Rotorooter guy #2 shows up and picks up where #1 left off. He takes the pump connection off and cables the pipe. By "cable" I mean he uses that big motorized snake with the nasty cutting blade on the end of it to get through clogs and roots. So he cables the pipe as far as it'll go and puts it all back together. That didn't fix the problem. Then he goes outside to cable one of the down spouts (gutter drains) near the garage. He gets about 50 feet in and his cabling machine breaks. The cable bow-ties in the machine and won't go in or out. He calls for someone else to come out and leaves.

#3 shows up an hour or so later, goes back in the basement and re-cables the storm sewer. He starts seeing mud and sand and concludes that the pipe must be broken which is why it isn't draining and why mud is backing up. He tells me to call the town of Brighton since that would be their problem.

So I call the sewer dispatcher for Brighton and their foreman shows up an hour later. He pokes around for a while and finds the trap in the yard for storm sewer. He says I need to get a plumber to cable from the trap in the yard to the street to find out where the problem is. See if the problem is between the street and two feet from the sidewalk, it's Brighton's problem and they'll fix it on their dime; while if the problem is anywhere else it's the home owner's (Harley's) problem. He also asks me to call him when I get someone out there so he can work with him.

Plumber #4 shows up the next day and cables from the trap. He pulls out all sorts of crazy roots, some of which were as big around as my little finger! He gets all the way under the street (about 70 feet), but still doesn't fix my problem. This guy did put a check-valve in the sump pump pipe so that what water it does pump out won't come flooding back in right away. That at least slowed the process down a little; with the valve in place the pump doesn't need to run so often.

After 4 plumbers and 1 Brighton Sewer Foreman over the course of a week so far, not much has been fixed. I think the best course of action is to have them dig up and replace the old p-trap in the yard with a straight pipe right into the basement. That'll probably be pretty pricey, but it's most likely necessary and since I don't own the house, I don't really care what it takes to fix it.

Sony Fails Again...

Saturday, March 24th, 2007 - Comments (1) in Home Theater PC, Life, Movies, Rants

So it's a Saturday night, we go out to dinner (we had a coupon!) and plan on watching a movie. When we get home I go and find the latest Netflix movie and throw it in the DVD player. After 30 seconds of "Loading..." flashing on the player's display, nothing happens. I didn't get the "Disc Error" message like when you have a bad burn, nothing at all happens. It was as if there is no disc in the player. So I eject the disc and rub it on my jeans to get any schmeg on the bottom of the disc off and I see the "Sony Pictures Home Entertainment Inc." logo on the disc. I try the disc in my laptop, doesn't work; then in my desktop upstairs, no dice; then in my work laptop, it works. Then I try it in my home theater pc and surprisingly it works fine. So we are able to watch the movie that way, but this is still really irritating.

I have a sneaking suspicion that a new version of Sony's anti-piracy BS is preventing my DVD player from recognizing the disc. Searching around online I find a few people having trouble with this particular title and other new Sony discs too.

It's one thing to try to prevent people from copying your DVDs, it's another when that prevents honest people from watching the DVDs.

Educational Software

Friday, March 16th, 2007 - Comments (0) in Computers, Life, Rants, Work

Educational software is the worst! I'm not talking about its content, the little kids at Harley learn a lot from it, I'm talking about its development. It seems like all these companies wrote their software back in the late 80s and early 90s when computers were showing up in classrooms and never got around to updating it. By update I mean design it to work well on a contemporary operating system; something a littler more recent than Windows 3.1. It seems to me that these companies just apply some dirty hack to get the program to function (if it doesn't already) on newer operating systems like XP.

My favorite behavior by some of the ed software Harley has is to have extremely outdated multimedia requirements, like Quicktime version 2. The current (as of this writing) version of QT is 7. So if I'm trying to install some POS educational software it will ignore the fact that QT 7 is installed on the computer and insist that it installs the bundled QT 2 on the CD. Some of them you can trick, some you can't.

Then there is the way they store data. Many of these software titles have the ability to track multiple users (think class) and track their progress, etc. That was great for the classroom with a single computer that everyone used individually. What about when 15 kids go into a computer lab and all use the software at the same time? And then the next day they each sit down at different computers and try to pick up where they left? That's what a network is for, but this software is so old it won't let you use the "\\servername\datafolder\kidsfiles" notation of specifying a remote location to work from. Even some of the "Network Versions" still require you to map a drive letter to work from. This is better than nothing, but completely useless when you have a bunch of titles that each requires their own mapped drive, it becomes a maintenance nightmare.

This week I found something else out about some of our educational software. One title in particular which worked decently before started turning the screen upside down! Apparently it messes with the video drivers or something that causes the screen to rotate 180°. Sometimes it's when you start the program and sometimes it's when you quit the program. Since it started doing acting stupid this week, I can only assume it was a Windows Update that screwed everything up. Go figure.

Daylight Sucking Time

Sunday, March 11th, 2007 - Comments (8) in Computers, Email, Life, Work

Daylight savings this year has been a major pain in my ass. Not just because the dates changed from April 1 to March 11 but because Microsoft really didn't handle the change very well. I've known about the change for a pretty long time and I assumed that Microsoft would release patches via windows update way in advance since they did know about it back in 2005. Not only did they not release updates way in advance, they only released them for the current versions of windows (XP and Server 2003). What about windows 2000 you ask? Well you can purchase an update from MS for $4000 (!!) or follow an MS knowledge base article that tells you how to create a couple scripts to patch your system. So if they released an article that tells you exactly how to fix it (which didn't work exactly), why couldn't they just create an update for it? Because they didn't consider this a "critical update."

The workstation updates weren't that bad, but some of the server updates were kind of a pain. We use Exchange server at work for our groupware, and it was a bit more complicated to patch. There was an update for the Server OS, there was an update for Exchange itself, and there was a tool to fix everyone's calendar items that fall in the change period (between the old and new DST times). Then we also have Blackberries to add to the mix. So each Blackberry device needed an update, the Blackberry Enterprise Server (which I'm running on 2000 Server) needed as OS update, a patch for the send-as permissions, the exchange update and probably something else I'm forgetting about. Confused yet? I didn't mention that all this stuff has to happen in a certain order and that order is different depending on who you're asking. MS had one order and Research In Motion (the Blackberry company) had a different order and some steps had prerequisites such as having to run from some third computer (a workstation) with only Office 2003 or 2007 installed (we use Office 2002 of course).

I read as much as I could about this and waited as long as I could to see what problems people had, but since the time changed this morning I guess I've either done it or not. We'll see how many people complain Monday morning if anything is screwed up.