Strange, strange place…

For the last 6-7 months, I wake up every day and it's a weird feeling of complete unreality. So what do I do? Throw myself into work. Find distractions. Try to remember to walk & exercise. And most of all, when things get bad, step away from the keyboard and get out into the world.

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Nope, not posting much…

Just sayin'. Been too busy with work to have much to say here. I do not do Facebook. My activity on Twitter comes and goes, depending on what's going on…I have at times gone for many months without saying anything there either.

Had a pretty major personal loss just a couple days ago, but I don't like talking about things too close to home in any case.

Mostly these days just hoping the spousal unit and I can move ourselves to someplace more amenable. Like maybe British Columbia.

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An open letter to Microsoft re: Windows 10 Anniversary Update disaster

Microsoft: You had one job to do. Since you were forcing updates on people with Win 10, your ONE JOB was to NEVER BREAK THE OPERATING SYSTEM. Absent that, if you broke it, there should always be a way to EASILY revert to a working previous version and a clear option not to attempt the patch and upgrade until after you folks had figured out the problem.

Even better would be if a system could not update properly to defer the update indefinitely.

On two different machines in my home business, I was reduced to on-line searches to figure out why they would boot to the login screen, accept a password, and then drop to a blank black screen with a mouse cursor. No way to recover. No way even to attempt a clean software shut-down. Power-switch/reset-switch shut-downs are never a good thing.

Finally I figured out how to recover the first machine that led me to this otherwise intractable problem, which helped me with the second. However, I am an extremely knowledgeable PC user, having built and used them since the early 1980s. The average PC user, however, isn't going to have any idea to:

  1. Not log in from the login screen, just click on it to open the password access screen
  2. Press Shift and the Shutdown button that does show in the lower right corner, in order to access the hidden system recovery menus
  3. Go into Advanced Recovery and choose "Revert to previous build."
  4. You should NOT attempt to re-do the upgrade at some later date without an assurance of some kind that this black-screen/cursor problem will happen again. If we're talking a driver incompatibity or something like that, then have Windows 10 automatically launch in Safe Mode with the offending driver disabled and a prompt to the user telling them to install an updated, working version!

Better still, Microsoft, why the hell do you not do compatibility checks BEFORE you start your damned forced upgrade?! Even as I write this ranty post, I still do not know precisely what went wrong with the updates. So I've done several registry hacks and service shutdowns to prevent a new attempt, but jeez. If I was an amateur at this, I'd be screwed…as apparently were many of your customers.

Black screen with cursor and no error messages or other controls should NEVER HAPPEN. Reboot loops, as some have reported, should NEVER HAPPEN. Repeated update/fail/update/fail/update… loops should NEVER HAPPEN. And an OS that gets stuck for any reason whatsoever should automatically go into Safe Mode with helpful diagnostic messages and instructions.

I will grant you some kudos for being able to access the recovery menu at the shutdown phase. But seriously, you need to put access to that menu into the system BEFORE operating system load, like you used to have but unwisely chose to remove. And I'm not kidding, you really, really need to add a compatibility check before the upgrades/updates.

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Random observation of the day

When I look at Amazon's daily deals, frequently they include "certified refurbished" items, often fairly expensive items such as Dyson fans and vacuum cleaners.

And I invariably muse, "Why would it make sense for me to buy something someone else hated enough to send back?"

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Bring Back Mystery Science Theater 3000


It's the right thing to do.

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Star Citizen

For a couple years now, I've been a pledger for the upcoming Cloud Imperium Games space-based MMORPG called "Star Citizen." I know the game has its detractors out there, but the plain fact is that for a mere $45 (US) pledge, you can get access to everything as it is released.

Fair notice: The game is currently in very early pre-alpha at this point.

Playable 'modules' currently include the Hangar, a small social module, and an actual game-game called 'Arena Commander,' which includes both combat and racing scenarios.

Upcoming features will include a FPS module called Star Marine, multi-player ship operations, a huge solo-player story game called Squadron 42 (it's like Wing Commander or Freelancer, only much, much bigger), and what will eventually be a huge persistent universe.

In time, that rather low-cost minimum pledge will probably go up in price. There are also other, more expensive pledge packages, plus standalone ships one can pledge for. Some are available to fly right now in Arena Commander, others will only be available later on.

Anyway, I'm putting up this post here so that anybody who stumbles across it and happens to be interested in Star Citizen, if you use my referral number, you can get an extra 5000 UEE credits in game just by using the number when you sign up and buy a pledge package. No strings attached. The credits can be used in-game for weapons, ship components, or decorations for your hangar.

Here's the referral code: STAR-4T5H-RHXK

And the site again for Star Citizen, known as 'Roberts Space Industries' is here.

Posted in Just stuff, Technology | Comments Off on Star Citizen

New digs…

Not for me directly or anything like that, but after a problem I was having with my last web hosting provider failed to be resolved, I decided to hell with it, I'll move on. So anyway, the 'new digs' refers simply to the fact it's the same blog here, and the same parent-level website above the blog, but it's on a new and different set of hardware through a different service.

Here's hoping this'll work out better. If nothing else, it's a hell of a lot cheaper than where I was.

For what it's worth though, I'm still waaaaay too busy for regular blogging.

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Looks like I was correct. Over the weekend, John Aravosis announced that he was indeed leaving blogging. As I said in my previous post, this isn't surprising.

Ten years ago, it was possible to really make a splash in what was then this newfangled mode of online advocacy called 'blogging.' It was a major deal, the ability to share with readers all kinds of information, hence there's been a blog for just about everything you can think of, from the mainstream to the sublime to the bizarre.

Right around the time of the 2007 economic crash though and in the year or so following, the revenue streams just dried up. I think in large part due to market saturation. I also believe that web advertising entered a negative feedback loop, whereby irritating and intrusive advertising is driving people away from websites. I've tried not to use my ad blocking add-ons on websites I wish to support, but when something is flashing, animated, has audio, or otherwise is has all the charm of a hyper-glycemic toddler demanding attention be paid, I'll turn on the filters.

So what do websites do in response? Some do as I would recommend and offer paid subscription options (provided they're reasonably priced). Others just jam more ads on the page…which causes more readers to leave and/or to turn on advertising filters. Leading to lower revenues, etc.

Anyway, John's landed a job at the U.N., where I'm sure he'll do wonderfully. I wish him all the best of good fortune. As for whether I'll stick around at AmericaBlog as a commenter, perhaps. I'll give the youngsters a chance.

(Still leaving comments off for now…)

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Back again

Well, it was fun writing for a while for a 'real' blog over there at AmericaBlog for a little over a year, but life got in the way. One was I ended up with WAY too much work in 2014 and so couldn't keep up a regular posting pace. I'm still pretty busy with the business — but it's good. I have some terrific clients. And paying the bills is always a good thing.

The other reason is it seems clear the original owner and proprietor, John Aravosis, hasn't been able to keep the place humming, despite tremendous effort on his part. As he pointed out on numerous occasions over there, there was a golden time of sustainable blog advertising revenue, such that he didn't need to do anything but concentrate on the blog. But with the economic crash in 2009, after that, he says ad revenues never recovered. (Judging from the proliferation of increasingly intrusive ads on the blog, compensating that way isn't helping enough either. I will confess to using Ad Block on some of the worst offenders. Website owners/publishers: The surest way to make me turn on ad-blocking is to use animated ads, especially ones that ought to be labeled with epilepsy warnings.)

Whatever the full background (which I don't have), traffic there is slowly dying off, as is posting frequency. As I write this, other than a single post from John back on 24 February, he hasn't made any other appearances in over a month. (Used to be he posted daily, at minimum, often lots more). Based on my own experiences, this sort of drop-off usually presages a significant and imminent change in direction.

There are a few new faces, usually one-off posts from guests, but going through the recent history, there's just one blogger posting almost daily there…and although he's a quite bright young man and a college senior studying politics, I have to say his style just isn't to my tastes. (More often than not, I find myself disagreeing with his points. Also his perspective is as a 'millennial' whereas I can remember seeing LBJ on TV when I was a kid.) Thus even the idea of continuing to hang out in the comments on AmericaBlog has lost its luster.

The upside is a few of my bigger marquis posts did generate some notariety, and I was told I'd even attracted some positive notice at a certain Pennsylvania Avenue residence. (Ego-strokes = good.) It was fun while I could do it, but all good things, etc. It was clear enough to me though that by last summer, AmericaBlog itself was fading and traffic was falling off. It's sad, but it's really hard to make blogging into a job, especially if you want a website that is far more than a simple free template on an inexpensive hosting service, like my own personal blog here.

Online, there's this thing called the "Good Bye Cruel World" (GBCW — no, it's not nearly as dire as that sounds) post, where someone will ostentatiously make a huge deal about their departure from a particular online locale. I'm not going to do that on AmericaBlog. Personally, I figure I'll do the same thing I did when I stopped writing formal posts: Just stop going there, stop spending time in the comments arguing the same points with the same people over and over. Only in this case, I'm not going to fool myself into thinking, "Oh, I'll go back to it as soon as the work eases up." I might, I might not, but I'd rather not commit to one or the other. (Leaning strongly 'not' right now though, an affinity which has been increasing even as John's posts all but stopped.)

One of the real problems I'd had is that writing for a professional blog is way different than this personal stuff. I had to research my posts. Back up every point. I took pride in my research and linked sources, but this takes time and effort, which when my paying work kicked up, I just didn't have the hours to spend doing. Moreover, due to weirdness in AmericaBlog's advertising code, I couldn't edit a published post to correct any mistake I may have made. I made a few doozies, too… including one not long ago when I wrote a hasty and off-hand comment (not a post, just a Disqus comment) about my disdain for reality TV shows, how most of them are either scripted or phony, said some unresearched misconceptions about one particular guy who does his own show, "Survivorman", and inadvertently pissed off someone I actually have a great deal of respect for, Les Stroud. I apologized profusely to Mr. Stroud for my errors in both fact and judgment, but I remain very unhappy that I wasn't asked if I wanted to edit my comment or research what I'd said before it was turned into a post on AmericaBlog. The consequence of this was any remaining desire I might've had to write impromptu quick opinion posts pretty much burned out completely.

I'm human; I say stupid shit sometimes. But I'd rather my hot-headed foolishness at least have the relative anonymity of obscurity.

What I am going to do is come back here to my own old stomping grounds. Maybe put a little time into fixing things up. This is a very old blog template, for example, although at least the 'back of the house' code remains up-to-date thanks to WordPress. Maybe post a little more often. I do know that some friends and family members keep track of me through this here li'l blog — mainly because I do NOT do Facebook or Google+ — so I thought I'd just post this quick status. I'm going to leave comments turned off for this post though until I'm sure whether or not I'm going to be here regularly. I don't want to have to deal with spam, which is all that started showing up after a while when I stopped posting here.

If you do happen to want to contact me, feel free to use the Contact form. If I start posting regularly again, I'll re-open comments on those posts and leave them open for about a month or so from original publication date on the post.

As for AmericaBlog, it was fun. Definitely had some good ego boosts. But sometimes the party is over before all the guests realize it, and I'd rather come back here.

Still another nice thing about being back home? I can just finish up this post, hit the Publish button, and not think twice about it. I was also able to pull up Edit and add lots more thoughts and make a few corrections. Including mentioning I have this novel that, given how self-publishing works these days, I might just make a go of putting out there.

No doubt the manuscript needs a good edit, but I think it's a decent story…

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Since I'm posting here but very rarely and spending most of my online time either blogging over at AmericaBlog or working or whatever, the recommendation for reaching me is to use the contact form on this site, or else email me directly if you happen to know my address. (Ain't gonna post it here though, because I don't want the 'bots to harvest it.)

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