Freecorder 8 - you suck.

(Posted 6/14/13)

I don't know, perhaps I'm being too picky about getting -free- software, but hey, when I'm installing it and I tell it 'no, do not install AOL toolbar' and other crapware, I expect them NOT to install it.

More background. My cousin Craig is a Professional DJ and as such he occasionally needs an odd song which is by special request. Sometimes he may have them, sometimes he may not. YouTube to that end is a pretty wonderful resource, and there are programs out there that will rip the audio out automatically. FreeCorder is one of those. I know you can argue ethics about download/ripping, but there's nothing to say he couldn't play the video, record the audio output on a CD burner, then rip to MP3. This just eliminates the intermediate steps.

I digress. Anyhow, his hard drive had previously crashed, which I replaced, and he needed to reinstall the software. Version 5 is what he had, now they're on version 8. Lo and behold, he called me asking how to get rid of all the crap-ware which had installed. He was getting pop ups, browser toolbars, all that garbage. So I fired up a virtual XP installation clone (for testing), downloaded, and proceeded to install version 8 of FreeCorder.

Now, I am an extremely experienced computer user. I know you must read and uncheck things to prevent installing bloatware. After deselecting all the 'install me too' options, I went through the installation..... and...... IT INSTALLED THE BLOATWARE ANYHOW. So it OVERRODE my instructions NOT to install all that crap, in EXPLICIT VIOLATION of what I had allowed.

Shame on you Applian Technology. SHAME ON YOU. If a user does NOT want to install bloatware, then don't install it. If that means they can't use your software and the install cancels, so be it. Don't muck with my settings on my computer without my permission. PERIOD. So - if you're installing FreeCorder by Applian Tech, user beware.

Not Happy with you Ford. Yes, You.

(Posted 5/4/13)

Wow, it has been a while since I posted anything here, but something came up that I felt the need to express my disappointment on (aka: rage) and it has of course to do with my favorite vehicle (Ford Mustang) and a vehicle manufacturer that I had a healthy amount of respect for (Ford). For those who don't know it, my car:

That's my car, a nice car, quiet car (except when hitting the gas), good mileage, and looks great. Haven't had a single problem with it (until THIS month) and it's got 120k miles on it which has been pretty trouble-free. Except for now.

Problem (and issue!) number one came up when the car started making some god-awful shuddering and shaking when I entered the freeway after I switched back to the summer tires. It was horrific - to the point where I was seriously concerned with my safety. I jacked up the car, checked the suspension, found some play, so I took it to the local Belle Tire (ok, the one right in front of where I work) where the damages came out to be $900.00. Apparently the ball joints were bad (slop == play == shuddering == potential crash) and the fix is to replace the entire control arm, both sides. Parts? $300.00 per arm + installation + alignment. Fair enough. I know the roads suck in Michigan (don't even get me going down THAT road, figuratively or literally), and wear and tear is to be expected. I'll join this together in a moment.

Problem number two came up this last week. Weather in Michigan is getting nice now, so I decided to put the top down on the car. Sun-enjoyment followed, all day. When I went to go put the top back up though, tragedy ensued. The top was not functioning properly, wouldn't go up right, was sticking, binding, etc, etc, etc. Looking at the bracets, I find the culprit, a broken linkage. Some pulling and prying got the top back up and in place, fortunately, where I promptly googled what was going on: TSB 05-24-6. Yes, there was a dreaded TSB on the convertible top. GREAT.

More digging revealed some intereting things about it. The potential fixes were (as suggested by Ford):

  • Replace the side rails - $760.00 each (there are two).
  • Replace the entire top - $2500.00 for the top.
  • Replace the entire top by Ford - $4500.00 or so.
  • None of the options were exactly appealing - paying for low to mid four figure repair bills is not really in my nature if I can avoid it, so some looking around found some potential solutions. Namely, removing the broken link(s), welding washers on them, straightening, then reinstalling. Should work. Digging into it made it pretty clear that the problem is in the strength of the linkage and the design, and considering how beefy all these other brackets are in the convertible top indicates that this part is notoriously weak, almost as if it were designed to fail. Hmmm...

    So, removing the link itself involved a bolt/nut, and one rivet. Remove the outer fabric panel, drill out two small rivets, access to the main rivet, remove some panels, access o the bolt, drill baby drill, and the linkage is free. A few bucks in washers and a bit of welding (yes I can weld quite well), and it's repaired. Looking around finds Dorman help kit 38490 for GM cars (Door Hinge kit), shaped quite close to what I need, little bit of grinding, some re-bolting together, and it's fixed. Goes up and down just fine. Total cost: $25.00 for parts. Anyone who can't weld would be in for a six-pack for their buddy as well. Total time, 1 hour.

    Now, this brings up some interesting points. Ford knows of enough people having this issue that they've issued a TSB. It doesn't come around until after the car is out of warranty, and their fix is limited to replacement. With the ease though that I managed to create a fix and my limited resources, I would think that Ford could create a kit to repair the top (assuming no damage to the fabric top itself of course) by replacing the broken linkage. It's only a bent steel tube after all, maybe $20 bucks? And some bolts, another $10 bucks? So Ford -could- fix the problem or offer an inexpensive fix, but there isn't one. It's all very high cost, high effort, and ultimately HIGH PROFIT fixes for the top.

    Ford does also NOT offer an inexpensive option for fixing the ball joints - the only option is to replace the ENTIRE control arm. Another high wear/tear item, and no -easy- low cost solution (you used to be able to replace ball joints after all!). Now it's an entire assembly, another high cost, high effort, HIGH PROFIT fix.

    Why is it going to this? Why the all the expensive repairs? I fully understand the desire to make a profit - it is a company, they are entitled to make one, but to appear to be aiming to improve your profit margins by only offering high-cost repairs for when SOMETHING GOES WRONG WITH THE CAR crosses the line. To require a $4,000.00 fix for a small, easily replaceable linkage is highly unethical. Requiring a $300.00 replacement arm for a $30.00 ball joint is highly unethical. This is quite simply a case of screwing the customer, and I find it a rather short-sighted viewpoint. To sum it up:

  • Ford, I am not happy with some of your design decisions. They are short sighted, and focus on extracting money from the customer after the sale, and only when there is the proverbial gun to the head of the owners. Either they pay for the fix, or have a pile of unfixable vehicle that is now unusable unless they pay.
  • For those of you with a problem with their broken balance link referenced by Ford TSB 05-24-6 in their convertible top, email me (bill.rookard@gmail.com) and I'll email you detailed instructions on how to fix it. Or just Click the link for a txt file on how to do it.

    TSA Patdowns - security theater - proven

    (Posted 7/16/12)

    Alright - it's a known fact that the TSA pat-downs are hated by just about everyone: TSA screeners, the people getting screened, and of course the airlines too because it affects business (unhappy travellers travel less - imagine that?). The TSA has always said that the random pat-downs are criticial - 'The random (check) then adds an element of unknown to the process, which makes it more difficult to defeat ... It's an essential part of the process' - Billie Vincent - former FAA security director.

    So - recently 43 TSA supervisors and screeners were fired and/or suspended for 'failing to perform the secondary random security pat-downs'. The official announcement was given by David Castelveter: "It's the random secondary that did not happen. At no time was a traveler's safety at risk and there was no impact on flight operations."

    Hmmm... well guys, which is it? You've just given us two directly contradictory statements here. If the random secondary is an essential part (as said by Vincent), then the fact it wasn't done means our safety was at risk. But - Castelveter said our safety was never at risk, in spite of the fact that an essential part of the process wasn't done. It's rather cirucular set of statements.

    How about we just look at the results: Apparently despite of the fact the essential part of the screening part wasn't done, nobody died. No flight was hijacked. No terrorists were found. Not a single bad thing happened. Instead, several hundred (or thousand) people got on the plane without getting junk-fondled. I would call that a purely positive thing.

    So, my questions to the TSA (not that they'll probably ever respond) is this: How can you resolve these two statements unless the pat-downs are exactly what people and other experts say - pure Security Theater with no basis in fact as to whether they're effective or not. I invite any responses (bill.rookard@gmail.com).

    Windows 8 - not very much foresight over there in MS Central

    (posted 6/3/12)

    The other day, Microsoft made the announcement that they were going to go ahead and release Win 8 (release preview) early. That's not a bad thing, as it allows people to take the OS out for a spin, and send their comments back into MS for evaluation. Well, I have a comment for them, and I'm not really a happy camper as to how they would allow this to go out in this fashion.

    Now, you may or may not know that I have quite a media server set up (10TB FreeNAS system) and it has a ton of stuff. One of the things that I had found intriguing about Win 8 and it's Metro environment was that it would be much more useful than a bog standard desktop system for navigating through media on my HTPC (AMD Athlon II x 4 OC'd to 3.6ghz, 4gb memory, twin 1.8" SSDs in raid 0 - very quick machine!). And for the most part, I've been right. Only using it for a day or two so far, but moving around inside it is rather nice, giving it a much more 'appliance like look'. And of course it works with any Xvid codecs right out of the box. But heres the kicker, and it's kind of an important one as it's a stupid technical detail which they NEVER should have released without.

    Technically, it's Win 8's inability (deliberate no less!) to 'index a mapped network location'. Why is that important? It means that no matter what you do, you CANNOT get any shared NAS files to show up in 'my videos' system folder. Now, these days almost everyone is connected to a network, and NAS appliances (even simple two disk retail systems) are becoming ever more popular for home users. Even external USB drives fall under that category. The point is: I don't care if 'searching will be slow in non-indexed locations' - which is why they disabled it. But: why did they leave the option completely off the table? I have thousands of movies and TV shows, yes, but searching through 1000 files on a gigabit wired network into a fairly high powered custom NAS device (AMD Phenom II x 2 BE w/ 4gb memory, gb network, sata II drives) wouldn't be hardly any worse than searching a local drive. So why not at least give us power users the OPTION of indexing network mapped drives?

    As NAS system proliferate, as more people get multi-TB collections, guess what? They're going to want to be able to access them on their Win 8 machines. Their Win 8 tablets. Their Win 8 desktops. They're NOT going to want to store them on their laptop (2+TB videos on a 128GB SSD Zenbook such as what I have? Not. Bloody. Possible.). So - MS engineers, if you happen to read this lowly blog, this is going to be a problem for you coming up soon - I suggest you get on that. I hate seeing how 'My Videos' is complaining that 'its Lonely here'.

    Politics and money (aka soak the rich)

    (posted 4/25/12)

    I was skimming around on the internet earlier today and I found an interesting clip by Jon Lovitz who was in turn being on an interview of sorts with Kevin Smith. In it, he was really kind of pissed off about how President Obama was calling for the rich to 'step up' and pay their fair share of taxes. He also called him out on this so-called 'Warren Buffet law' (where billionaires should be paying more than secretaries.

    In the interview, he brought up a very good point. He (Lovitz) started out with virtually nothing, he had to work his way to where he is now (quite well off). For working hard, doing what he needed to do in this land of opportunity, and making a success of himself, he is now taxed at about a 50% tax rate. That means he makes $2.00, he has to hand half of that to the government.

    And President Obama says (essentially) - Fu*k you, pay more. At that point he is working -more- for the government than he is for himself. At what point then does the tax code become blatantly unconstitutional? Is there a point where people need to take a look at it and say: Enough is enough?

    Because Lovitz brings up a very good point: All those deductions that people think the rich enjoy - guess what? Anybody can get them. They're available for anyone.

    For anyone who wants to see the video:



    Blinded by the Light

    (posted 4/8/12)

    I was heading out to work the other day, and it was a beautiful, bright sunny day. Ahhh. This is the life. Then I turned the corner and was instantly blinded by a glaring light emmanating from one of my neighbors driveway.

    This was because the sun was relatively low in the sky. Holding my hand over my eyes, I carefully drove past the retina burning blaze of glory and saw the vehicle above. Click on it for a larger image.

    Yup, its an Escort. And yes, it looks like it was painstakingly covered in... chrome duct tape. Now look folks, I somewhat understand the whole 'bling' thing. You want to look 'cool', have something 'original', but the sheer stupidity of this guy trumps any potential coolness or 'wow' factor for several reasons:

  • It is an ESCORT. Ford Escort, MSRP new right around 10 grand, probably the third most popular car in the world for high school kids, and that's not including the 15 years of depreciation. Blinging out an Escort is like putting lipstick on a pig and calling it a prom date. You still have a pig in the end.
  • It is... well... duct tape. Chrome duct tape. If the body were flawless, and this was a full chrome paint job (MSRP about 5 large just for the paint) the coolness would be up there, but you can see the lines, the bubbles, the waves... *sigh*
  • I dunno. Maybe he was using it to cover the rust holes, maybe hold the bumpers on, maybe... well who the hell knows what he was thinkingwhen he did this? I surely have no clue. None whatsoever.