Category Archives: Computing

Looking back on 2016, and looking forward to 2017

I keep hearing about how awful 2016 was and how 2017 should hopefully be better. There were a lot of celebrity deaths in 2016, and I was devastated by the presidential election. More personally, I was laid off from Toshiba in a huge reduction-in-force, and my roommate had to put our two dogs to sleep. Yeah, there were negatives. And yet I’ll be lucky if 2017 lives up to 2016.

I traveled to Europe and saw eight countries with three of my closest friends, gem, Antonio, and Anela, and visited two great friends, Jessica and Andrew, who had recently moved to Paris. I saw Denmark, the UK (including England and Northern Ireland), the Republic of Ireland, the Netherlands, Belgium, France, Italy, and Sweden. It was amazing, and I swear I’ll get to sorting photos and blogging eventually.

I saw Disneyland Paris and our hometown Disneyland’s Season of the Force. I attended Devin and Lorena’s 30th wedding anniversary party that included a face-painted bar crawl and a 1920s speakeasy party. I saw Kristine’s first exhibit that she curated in LA – Firsts, Seconds and Thirds: African American Leaders in Los Angeles During the 1960s & 70s.

I watched Anela dance a few times, including Shimmy Shakedown featuring her and Melissa. I saw the Wet Silk art exhibit, met Jon Klassen at the LA Times Festival of Books, and watched an LA KISS Arena football game.

The Holi Festival was a colorful blast of fun. Here I am with gem, Tory, Sean, and Nicole. I also went to the Huntington Beach Cherry Blossom Festival!

I went to a number of photoshoots with Anela, including this Fourth of July shoot that I really enjoyed, a fairy photoshoot, cherry blossoms, and the Walt Disney Concert Hall and train tracks in LA where I also got to shoot gem!

I took a bunch of friends to the Alpaca Hacienda for Anela’s birthday, and we got to see feed and pet alpacas and a llama!

I watched Sherlock Holmes and the Time Portal as well as Sweeney Todd, and gem surprised me with tickets to see Patton Oswalt. I’d been wanting to see his stand-up for a long time, and he didn’t disappoint. I had the three most amazing meals of my life – two at Frame in Paris and one for Edward’s birthday at Alexander’s Steakhouse in Pasadena.

I participated in a high-altitude sleep and cognitive ability sleep study at Barcroft Station, White Mountain Research Center where I witnessed some of the most beautiful views of nature I’ve ever seen. I saw the B-52s and Flight of the Conchords live as well as a number of local ska bands that I see regularly. I went to Allison’s awesome gaybut party and finally made it to one of Bryan’s parties where I participated in some of the most stimulating conversation I’ve had in a while.

I cosplayed Luke while gem cosplayed Professor Layton at San Diego Comic-Con. I also cosplayed Fix-It Felix Jr., and a Pokemon Go trainer. I got to dress as a zombie later in the year as well! I attended the Sonic the Hedgehog 25th anniversary party and saw some improv such as Spectacles, ImprovCity, and more.

Two great friends, Gracie and Jon, got married, and I got to watch.

I worked for three months doing server and other hardware installation for California DMVs. While I was traveling across the state, I got to visit my friends Matt, Katie, and Marc. I also had the chance to have lunch with Chuck Sommerville, a game designer whom I’ve admired for a very long time. He’s incredibly fascinating and has done many interesting things, and he was every bit as nice as I could have hoped.

And I even got to meet Alex and Darnell’s beautiful new daughter, Meredith.

Now I’m sure I’m missing many awesome things about 2016, but that just proves my point. If 2017 is half as good to me as 2016 was, I’ll be very grateful. Happy New Year.

DMV server installation job and Nor Cal trip

I recently finished a temporary, contract job as a field technician for Form 10 installing computer hardware in California DMVs. Each day, two technicians would arrive at a DMV at 2:30 PM. We’d install new a new uninterruptible power supply and rack server, remove the old UPS and server, remove the old camera workstation, install and configure a new one, install new fingerprint readers at every window, and remove the old fingerprint readers. We’d leave whenever we were finished (usually between 7 and 10 PM), and then one of us would come the next morning to watch from 7:30 AM until 10:00 AM. And then we’d drive to the next DMV. As the team lead, I also had a bit of paperwork.

It was nice experience installation the rack servers. The hardest part was the physical act of getting it racked. It was also interesting seeing the DMV from the other side. DMVs have a reputation for being slow and boring, but in reality they’re staffed by normal people who are for the most part trying to help customers. And some of those customers are pretty bad.

The real difficulty of the job was the hours. Every other day I didn’t work until 2:30, which sounds good. However, when you consider that I’m in a different hotel each night, waking up, eating breakfast, working out, checking out by 11, and then driving to the next DMV by 2:30, there wasn’t much time for anything. There were tiny pockets of time. Maybe I could work out quickly enough, check out early, drive to the next DMV as soon as possible, and get there by 12:30 or 1. That gave me maybe two hours, but those free hours were in an unfamiliar place without any physical space for me to use. It was tough, especially being in Northern California or the Central Valley for a few weeks without being home.

Surprisingly I ran into three emergencies. First, one of the security staff members at one of the DMVs was taken away on a gurney. I don’t know what happened to her, but she was able to walk to the gurney herself. At another DMV, I heard a bit of a commotion between the staff and found out that an ambulance came for a woman who fell in the parking lot. It was raining hard that day, and I heard she fell unconscious. I don’t know if she slipped in the rain, hit her head, and was knocked unconscious or if she suddenly lost consciousness, causing her to fall. What I do know is that I saw security coning off a part of the walkway the had a puddle of blood. Apparently she broke her nose. Lastly, my partner and I witnessed a woman pulling away from a man, yelling things like, “get away from me” and “don’t touch me!” I got security, and my partner brought her inside while the man followed. It seemed to be a domestic dispute. Maybe she was overreacting and he wasn’t doing anything wrong. Maybe he was doing something wrong. I don’t know. But I do know that at the end of the day, she was okay, and that’s what matters. The police came and talked to both me and my partner, and they reviewed the security footage right next to me as I installed the server. It was an interesting day.

There was some chance for fun as well. I had some down time one day and decided to visit the local university, Stanislaus State.

I had never even heard of it, but I enjoy universities, and this one was certainly beautiful.

I also saw some cool wildlife. Yes, this photo is terrible. But there are wild turkey in the center!

And here’s a terrible photograph a baby deer! It’s right under the bush in the center at the top.

While in Sacramento, I had the chance to visit the Capitol Building.

I had to take a photograph with the bear! Former-governor Schwarzenegger bought this and left it in the Capitol Building.

I met an interesting woman with whom I went out twice while in Sacramento too. She teaches fifth graders, including many who have hearing impairments. She uses ASL in the classroom. I found it particularly interesting to realize she has to watch for children signing during tests as a way of cheating. She also plays roller derby in Sacramento, which is pretty sweet!

Chuck Sommerville, creator of Chip’s Challenge, lives near Sacramento. I asked him if he’d like to join a fan for lunch, and he agreed. It was awesome. Chip’s Challenge is one of my favorite games; I have an autographed copy of the original Lynx version. The lunch was a pretty amazing experience. He’s a bit of a personal hero of mine and has done a lot of cool things. He always has fascinating projects and shares progress on Facebook. Over lunch he told me a lot about the development of Chip’s Challenge, Chip’s Challenge 2, and Chuck’s Challenge 3D. I also heard about some more of my Lynx favorites like Klax, Todd’s Adventures in Slime World, Gates of Zendocon, and California Games (Chuck designed the skateboarding game). He also told me about John Romero (designer of Doom) and how they were both huge fans of each other’s work.

Chuck now works with LEDs. One installation of which he was particularly proud was the “Sensing YOU” installation in San Jose, which I had a chance to check out. It interacts with the phone game, Ingress, and responds to the motion of pedestrians passing under it. He actually got me playing Ingress now too. It’s a location-based game made by Niantic, the same developer who later made Pokemon Go. Ingress and Pokemon Go use the same underlying data.

Here’s a video of the installation that I took! I was with Matt and Katie, who I stayed with one weekend. They were very gracious to let me stay in their home and are truly terrific people. I had a wonderful time with them!

I’d never put up Christmas lights and enjoyed the opportunity to help them.

They looked great!

Matt has an arcade cabinet at home that his brother gave him as a gift. Here’s Matt and Katie playing Bomberman together. This photo makes me really happy honestly! They’re wonderful together, and I might have a soft spot for arcade cabinets too.

Visiting them was really fun. I got to see my friend Marc a couple nights that weekend as well. It’s practically unbelievable to me that I originally met these great friends through World of Warcraft!

That’s my trip! I got to add rack server installations to my resume, see all sorts of the more rural parts of California in which I had never stopped, visit Sacramento, and even meet Chuck Sommerville. It was a pretty good gig!

Dynamic CSS based on weather

Raymond Camden wrote a great tutorial on loading style sheets dynamically based on the user’s current weather. He poked fun at himself and the idea a bit at the beginning of his post, but I think it’s honestly a terrifically fun idea. As it’s beginning to get a bit colder as we enter the holiday season, it would be very… cozy… to have a site recognize the weather and respond with some cool blues and whites!

Will I get around to implementing something like this? Probably not. But I find it pretty interesting anyways!

Windows 8

Windows 8 Partner Box

Happy Windows 8 launch day! It’s nice that it’s finally here, but I suspect that we’ll have a lot of customer questions despite our preparations. The Windows 8 launch was one of a few causes of stress this week. Hopefully next week will be calmer.

For lunch today we went to P.F. Chang’s before heading over to the Microsoft Store. We wanted to play with Surface ourselves. The first thing I noticed was how nice the Microsoft Store itself was. It was bright, colorful, and very welcoming.

The Surface was fun to use, and the keyboard was interesting. There are two type of keyboards. The first is the Touch Cover. It’s a cover with a touch sensitive keyboard and touchpad. The keys don’t actually depress, but you can feel individual keys. It felt a little odd but worked well. The second keyboard is the Type Cover. It’s similar to the Touch Cover but has keys that actually depress. It’s like a laptop keyboard.

The Surface itself felt solidly built. Even the integrated kickstand felt secure and useful. I just wish the Surface Pro (with Windows 8 Pro rather than Windows RT) was available now rather than in three months. There hasn’t even been an announcement of the price!

There were no surprises relating to software. Windows 8 is, no surprise, the same Windows 8 that we’ve been using for a while now. There’s also no Windows 8 family pack or bundle, which is unfortunate. Most people probably have more than one computer. I have at least three that need to be upgraded. Of course, Windows 8 Pro is only $39.99, so I can’t really complain.

I’m pretty excited about Windows 8. It’s hard to predict how receptive the general population will be, but I suspect that after the initial fear of the unknown calms down, people will be fine with Windows 8. While I don’t use the “new interface” at all really, I’m frustrated using Windows 7 computers. I’m anxious to see what other Windows 8 devices are released, especially by Toshiba. We’ve already announced an ultra-book with a slide-out screen, converting between a tablet and laptop. It uses full Windows 8, not Windows RT. Microsoft is almost entirely pretending that the Surface Pro exists, which might be a strategy to keep its OEM partners happy. After unexpectedly entering the tablet market, by only providing a Windows RT tablet, they’re allowing OEMs (whether intentionally or not) to fill the hole with Windows 8 devices.

By the way, Microsoft gave everyone in Toshiba’s Digital Product Division a box like the one in the photograph. It contained a Windows 8 t-shirt, a stress cube, some stickers, a bag, and a pen! Sadly it didn’t contain any hardware or even a copy of Windows 8!

The Verge Reports on Toshiba’s Windows 8 Devices

Toshiba shows off first Windows 8 prototypes: convertibles, sliders, and tablets | The Verge
The Verge offers a nice little article on Toshiba’s new Windows 8 devices. These include a tablet that connects to a keyboard similar to the Asus Transformer as well as a tablet that slides open to reveal a keyboard. It can also slide up to look like a standard laptop.
I hope I get to beta test these.

History of Hard Drives

Timeline: 50 Years of Hard Drives | PCWorld

Over the past five decades, hard drives have come a long way. Travel through time with us as we chronicle 50 milestones in hard-drive development–from product firsts to new technologies, and everything in between.

Fascinating read about hard drive advances from 1956 to 2006. It was brought to my attention by a forum member who worked for them back at the beginning!


Dear Internet,
Last night there was a power outage. When I started my computer today, my HDD was making bad clicking noises. I wanted to confirm that it was the HDD and not the DVD burner, so I hit eject on my drive. The DVD that was in there was covered in some kind of goop. It looked like honey but smelled like nothing. The computer itself doesn’t have anything on it. Still, it seems like something must have dripped into the drive, but I’m not sure how it made it into the drive without me noticing anything on the outside of the drive or on my case itself. Anyways, I removed my DVD drive for now, and then started the computer again.
Yep, the HDD is still making bad sounds.
Your friend,

Why I Hate Computers

(Last updated at on 10/5/09 at 10:51 PM. Jump to latest update.)
I just noticed that the “computing” category on WebPageless is just computer errors. This probably isn’t that interesting to anyone else, but I found that keeping track of PC errors and how I go about fixing them is helpful to me. Maybe someone Googling will find it useful too, or even better, maybe someone I know will be able to help me.
In a previous post I detailed how my computer was unable to play World of Warcraft. It would freeze while logging in after picking a character. Sadly, I never updated how I fixed it, and the problem is happening again.
More specifically, the problem never went away. Yeah, World of Warcraft would work, but when ever I rebooted, WoW would have the same problem. I could fix it by using System Restore to restore to a previous restore point. Not most recent restore point would not necessarily fix the problem. I would just keep restoring older and older restore points until the game worked. Unfortunately, none of the restore points I have fixed the problem after this last time.

Of course, this doesn’t really address the problem at all. What’s causing it? I don’t know. I do know, however, that a while ago I saw newer video drivers in Windows Update, but applying the update would cause this exact problem. How did I fix that? I used System Restore and never applied Windows Updates again. The strange thing is, despite disabling Automatic Windows Updates, I still see Windows Updates restore points in System Restore. Apparently, Windows Update is still running. I think what’s happening is that those video drivers, for what ever reason, are breaking World of Warcraft, and somehow they’re being applied every so often. Rebooting my computer allows them to finish installation. At least, this is my current theory.
Where do I stand now? I don’t really know. To be complete, let me talk about my computer here:

  • Windows Vista Business 64-bit, Service Pack 1, completely legal and verified
  • Intel Core 2 Duo E7200 @ 2.5 GHz
  • MSI P45 Neo-F mainboard
  • 4.00 GB of RAM
  • nVidia GeForce 8800 GT, drivers version 180.48 (7.15.0011.8048)
  • Rosewill 802.11b/g PCI

I bolded the most likely problem. After using the automatic scanning tool on nVidia’s site, they say my latest driver should be GeForce/ION Release 191, Version 191.07, from October 5, 2009. Hey, that’s today! I wonder if nVidia has got things together enough to make one that works now. I found an interesting article on engadget from March, 2008 saying that nearly 30% of Vista crashes were caused by nVidia in 2007, which makes it the most common cause. That is a rather old article as far as software is concerned, but assuming it’s accurate, does show that there have been problems with Vista and nVidia.
Update at 10/5/09, 2:48 PM
I played Team Fortress 2 for about 5 minutes, and there were no problems. I just made a restore point, so now I’ll update my nVidia drivers and see what happens.
Update at 10/5/09, 3:11 PM
I updated the nVidia drivers to 191.07. We’ll see how this goes!
Update at 10/5/09, 3:24 PM
World of Warcraft is working again! It looks like nVidia got some working drivers up finally!
Update at 10/5/09, 9:07 PM
After I found that World of Warcraft was working, I played for about an hour and then set a restore point in case anything went wrong in the future. A few hours later I rebooted, and now WoW has the same problem. I restored to that point that I had just made (that should have been working), and that didn’t fix it. I tried reinstalling the 191.07 drivers because it worked right after I installed those last time. Didn’t help. Now I’m going to restore the restore point I made this afternoon right before updating the drivers for the first time.
Update at 10/5/09, 10:51 PM
I restored that restore point, and WoW still crashed. I then installed the 191.07 drivers, and WoW still crashed. Now I’m going to try doing all the updates in Windows Update.
Last Update
Those updates fixed it! I’m still not rebooting after getting it working, because who knows how that’ll leave my computer. I’m glad Windows Update is finally fixing problems rather than causing problems.