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Fly New Whip

My old car (A 1994 BMW 318i hatchback) has, recently, developed some issues. Issues such as “The inside of the door fell off” and “Many electrical things don’t work” and “The brakes sometimes don’t work on the left hand side of the car” and the most recent niggling little issue, “Instead of starting up when you turn the key, the engine just makes a noise like “Brup” and then nothing happens.”

So, I decided to pull the trigger on a new car. Here it is:

flynewwhip

BEHOLD! The 2003 BMW 745i! An automotive classic! Not really! But it’s way nicer than my old car!

It’s a four door saloon, which means I can put Willow in the back without having to mess around with putting the front seats up and down. It’s also a 4.5 liter V8 which is… actually pretty excellent. It goes like stink. It’s spacious, comfy, and generally an upgrade to the old car in all things. It was also surprisingly inexpensive, though I may change my mind on that when I’m looking at the bill from BMW for brake pads made out of Selenium, Myrrh, and the Dreams of Righteous Men.

The one thing, so far, that irks me is the iDrive system. It’s old enough that it doesn’t understand what an iPhone is (or an iPod, for that matter) which is annoying enough, but the really terrible thing is how it looks. Which is: Like Ass. Car manufacturers should maybe just not be allowed to make software UIs. Ever. Because, apparently, even really big car manufacturers are terrible at it, and can’t be trusted to do it. I’d like to find whoever allowed the iDrive UI out of the door, and ask them some pointed questions.

Willow 100% approves of this car, especially since she found out that she can stand on the center console and stick her head and upper body out of the open sunroof. I think I might only allow her to do that while the car is standing still, it’s probably not the sort of thing approved of by child safety advocates.

100 Riffs (A Brief History of Rock N’ Roll)

Moved from Tumblr

Okay, fine, yes, I should blog more.

I’ve moved all these posts from tumblr to a self-hosted WordPress install. Let’s see how that goes.

 

The Greatest Name In The World

I just heard a song by a musician whose name turned out to be Maverick Sabre. And so naturally I was thinking “Oh MAN, he is LUCKY, he has THE COOLEST NAME!” except it turns out that he changed it from “Michael Stafford”.

Can you DO that? Is that even ALLOWED? How did he not cringe and stop at the last minute, his pen wavering over the form, before giving up and being Michael Stafford?! I’m a middle-class cracker, and as such I don’t think I could deal with the lack of authenticity inherent in the process. I doubt if I could even drink enough to go through with it. You’ll find out when I casually mention that I’m now Obsidian J. Talonstrike.

The “J” is short for Jesus.

Captains Log … Heh, I said “Log” … computer, erase that.

So, here’s a couple of conversations that happened while friends and I were messing around with Starship Artemis, a Star Trek style bridge crew simulator, where people each play the role of Helm, Engineering, Science, etc.

“Red Alert! RED ALERT! Everything’s Gone Red!”

“Oh shit, sorry, SORRY that was my fault, I pressed the Red Alert button, I didn’t mean to, sorry! Stand down! STAND DOWN RED ALERT! Back to Yellow or Green or something. That’s my bad. My bad!”

and

“Long Range Sensors indicate …. um …”

“What?”

“I don’t know. They’re just dots. Like .. white.. dots.”

“Are they spaceships or enemies or…”

“I have no idea, how would I know? They’re just dots. But there’s four of them, and they’re incoming. So … so watch out, is what I’m saying.”

If there were a Star Trek show that included clueless assholes muddling through bridge operations and tabbing out from, say, the Helm controls to check twitter .. I would watch the HELL out of that show.

Lies, Damned Lies, and Comparing NZ Broadband To Other Countries.

Disclaimer: I am a internet network engineer, by profession. I’ve worked for many ISPs over the years, but I’ve never worked for the big two (Telecom and TelstraClear) and I probably never will, due to horrible things I’ve said in public forums about them. I’d go to the interview, they’d google me, and that’d be that – game over. 

I seldom participate, these days, in arguments about how crap or not crap broadband is in New Zealand. With regards to that particular fight, I’ve done my bit for Queen and Country. Also, for those of us in the industry, there’s no real controversy. It’s crap. It’s getting better, but compared to the US or the UK, it’s utter balls and everyone knows it.

I thought I’d write this to point out one thing to interested parties – there’s a hilarious bit of goalpost-shifting that usually gets performed by the kinds of people who think (or at least, want you to think) that NZ has excellent internet connectivity, and it takes the form of separation of the concepts of network connection speed, data caps, and price. 

You see, actually using the internet for stuff, like web browsing and youtube and facebook and XBOX games and updates and torrenting the latest episode of Downton Abbey … doing so involves both your network speed AND your data cap AND paying for both of those things. These three elements come together to form your internet connection, and you shouldn’t exclude any of them when you think about it. Or when you write about it. Or when you lobby politicians about it.

What apologists for NZ domestic internet tend to do, is focus on one, or MAYBE two of these elements in comparison to other countries, and conveniently ignore the remaining third.

So you get arguments where people say that NZ DSL connections are “just as fast” or “just as cheap” as US or UK connections. Or you get arguments where they say something like “the typical NZ DSL conenction costs $30/month, which is around the same as in the US/UK” or they say “Data caps and throttling and overuse-charges are used for network control in many countries” without actually saying what size those data caps are, or how much a connection is throttled. 

However, if you’re actually familiar with the internet market in various countries, these statements are hilariously specious. 

Yes, US/UK people typically pay $30/month. But they get uncapped speed and data for that, or a data cap ten times the size of the NZ equivalent.

Yes, you can also buy flat-rate connections in New Zealand (I have one) if you shop around. But the NZ ones are VERY throttled, to a degree that makes P2P and various other operations quite unusable. This is NOT the case in the US or UK.

Yes, NZ DSL connections operate at around the same speeds as other countries, because DSL over copper tech is pretty much the same worldwide, but that hardly matters because that speed isn’t actually available to NZ users at a price comparable to what US/UK users pay.

Here’s an example of what I mean in that last comment. Let’s say you, as a typical NZ DSL user, have a 20Mbits/sec ADSL2 connection, for which you pay $30/month or so. For this sum, you are given a 10GB/month data cap. 

If you actually USE your connection at 20Mbits/sec, you’ll use up that 10GB monthly cap in just over two hours. At which point you will either be throttled down to modem-ish speeds (which breaks the speed comparison to other countries), or start accruing overage charges (which breaks the price comparison). 

Commenters and journalists and policy wonks CANNOT talk about broadband parity between NZ and other countries, unless they factor in speed, data caps, and price to their comparisons. Anyone who leaves out any of those elements either doesn’t understand how broadband works, or is deliberately trying to mislead. If it’s someone who works, or has worked in the ISP industry doing it, I suspect they know how broadband works. Which only leaves deliberate deception as a goal.

Don’t be fooled.

Sky TV

We had Sky TV installed recently, as they were offering free installation plus 12 months half-price on the basic package. They have some music video channels, and the Living Channel (which is, like, real estate and renovations and restorations and stuff. Basically, crack cocaine for white folks who own houses.)

Some thoughts:

– Bandwidth allocated to the Living Channel and music channels is shit compared to anything you might torrent. Any quick pans or rapid movement is very artifact-y. Looks like a realplayer file from back in the day. I guess the sports channels get all the love.

– Advertisements. What the fuck, Sky? Do you really need 5 ad breaks in one show, each of which runs pretty much the same ads for other shows that will be on the same channel? Pointless, and irksome.

– Willow loves the music channels, and the kids channels. LOVES THEM.

Poor Hufflepuff. You suck.

A transcript of a recent conversation:

John S Russell: Lance, Lord Laserfalcon of Gryffindor!

Megan Whelan:  I don’t think I’m a Gryffindor, am I?

John S Russell: Hufflepuff? Ravenclaw? You’re hardly Slytherin.

Megan Whelan: No, I was thinking more one for humble, bumbing, but loyal, losers.

John S Russell: Hufflepuff.

I once listed the houses at Hogwarts as “Brave Gryffindor, Nasty Slytherin, Clever Ravenclaw, and The Other One.” 

I stand by my statement.

A Dick Koan

A student entered the hall of dickishness at the top of the penis-shaped tower of cockitude, and asked the Dick Master who he was watching in the All-Seeing Orb of Testiculi.

“I am watching” said the Dick Master, “this man in New Zealand, in his anger and his rage. I have caused this thing to be.”

“How, master?” said the student.

The Dick Master replied “We recently published Iain M Banks new Culture novel, “Surface Detail”. And when this man heard that the novel was now published, he went to iBooks, and found it not.”

The student nodded.

“And then he went to his sneakily created US iBooks account, and he found that we had only released it in the UK. And his anger was great.”

The student smiled, and said “Master, that is quite a Dick move.”

The Dick Master raised one finger, and the student fell silent.

“I am not done. So he created a sneaky UK iTunes account, only to find that Surface Detail was, despite being published in the UK, not available in iBooks in the UK. And his anger grew.”

“Master” said the student, “That is superbly dickish!”

The Master raised his finger for the second time. “And then he found out that Surface detail WAS available from Kindle UK, but that you can’t create a Kindle UK account from an NZ IP address.”

The student bowed deeply before the Dick Master. “Master, that is a seriously Dick Move!”

The Dick Master nodded, but then told the student. “There is more.”

“More?” said the incredulous student. “More dickish than that?!”

The Dick Master told the student “This man then ranted and raved and wondered aloud why the publishing industry did not want to take his fucking dollars, goddam it. And then he got a friend of his who already had a working UK kindle account to buy the book, crack the DRM, and produce an epub version that he could read on his iPad.”

The student was puzzled. “But Dick Master! Now he has the book, and can read it. That’s doesn’t really seem like a very Dick Move on your part, does it?”

The Dick Master smiled gently, and said “We shall see if you still think that when I complain in the media about piracy costing us sales.”

And the student was enlightened.

Odd numbered pumps only. On mondays. Unless it’s winter.

Upon driving home, this fair afternoon, I found myself in the position of requiring petrol for my automobile. As is my wont, I pulled into the BP that’s the first station between work and my place, drove to an open pump, stuck the nozzle in the car, pushed “Fill” and waited while listening to Alice Cooper telling someone that her lips were venomous poison. And so, of course, I was thinking about other Batman villains that Alice could have written songs about when I looked up to see the attendant staring at me from inside the station, and moving his lips.

I pulled the headphones out, in time to hear him say “..is on prepay, sir.” with the air of someone who’d said this several times already.

I went into the station and said “I just want to fill up.” and he said “It’s on prepay.” to which I said “Okay. I still want to fill up.” and that led to this conversation:

“Fill up? You need to go to Pump 5.”

“What?”

“Pump 5.”

“… why?”

“Because you’re on Pump 1. It’s on prepay. They all are, except 5.”

“… why?”

“What?”

“Why are they all on prepay except one? Do you only have cameras on that one, in case of a drive-off without paying? I mean .. why not have them all on prepay, or none. Or the ability to override them, if someone wants to fill up.”

“There’s cameras on all of them.”

“So … okay, never mind. I’ll just pay you $80, and fill up, and you can refund me the balance.”

“Can’t do that.”

“Right”

At this point, I went back to my car and started it up. The attendant waved at me cheerfully, and pointed at pump five. I waved back equally cheerfully, and drove off to the Shell station down the road.

I pulled up to an open pump at the Shell, pressed “Fill” and filled my tank. Then I went inside to pay, and as I did so, I had the following conversation:

“Was that the only pump I could fill up at?”

“What?”

“Which pumps could I have filled up at?”

“…. All… of them?” he said, with the raised eyebrows and inflection that suggests that you seem to be suggesting a problem that only exists in the mind of a nutter.

And, of course, that’s exactly what I’d done.

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