Monthly Archives: October 2006

I Just Wanna Watch TV (part 25)

Yesterday, I called my local repair shop, United Radio, per my instructions from Best Buy. Of course, they hadn’t gotten anything from Best Buy on the matter yet. Nothing seems to surprise me any more. I thanked them for there time and said I’ll go haggle Best Buy some more.

On a whim, I gave them another try today. For some reason their phone system was on the fritz and it took 4 calls before I got anything more than endless rings. Anywho, I explained the situation and they said that they got the service request from Best Buy. Woo-hoo!

But…

They still haven’t gotten the pre-approval needed to proceed and schedule an appointment. Ok, whatever. Any progress is good at this point. Surprisingly, they said as soon as they hear anything, they’ll be back in touch. I had them change the number on file from my home number to cell, since I’m never home during business hours.

I’m keeping my fingers crossed that I’ll hear from soon…

Quickie: New Favicon!

You may have noticed that I’m finally getting around to tweaking the look and feel. I stumbled on some nice Super Mario Bros. themed icons in my Icon Buffet Free Delivery a while back. The idea is kinda neat, they give you starter sets of icons free to get the word out. You can then trade the sets between your friends. If you sign up and are looking for a particular set, I’ve been in the program a while and have a bunch.

I put a goomba in my header and as my favicon (that’s the icon before my url in the location bar; you’ll also see it next my site if you bookmark me.) Here’s a handy little png to ico converter that helped me get the transparency part right. Sweet!

Landmark Theater Ghost Hunt 2006

Last night, Sandy and I headed out to the Landmark Theater for the 2006 Ghost Hunt. Its basically just a spook themed fund raiser. The CNY Ghost Hunters crew was out in full force.

Not quite what I expected. I figured that there’d be a lot of sit down about Landmark history and its known ghost (Claire) and not much actual touring of the premises. But surprisingly, after a short intro, they turn you loose in the entire theater alone. The only rule was that you were welcome to explore any area with an open door. Any doors closed/locked were off limits.

Surprisingly, there’s really not a whole lot to see outside of the generally public areas. We wandered through the stage and back stage areas, which are quite cramped as the traveling shows always say. I enjoyed the massive antique electrical cabinet stage left that looked to be pretty original to the theater. From there we went up to the dressing rooms (where I noticed people always forget to turn off the lights as they’re visible from Clinton St). Hardly luxury accommodations by any means.

From there, we snaked our way behind the stage and back down under the stage area. The basement is pretty average for a building of its age. Dark, dank, and smelly. The green room was especially austere; just a few random tables and chairs under the stage. Don’t see performers spending much time down there.

Outside of that, the rest of the basement is pretty much storage (as you’d probably expect.) A lot of small dark rooms packed with assorted junk. A real flash light, might have been a good addition to the ghost hunting kit. While the some of the areas were kind of spooky I was more worried about tripping over some random junk in the dark. The LED light on my key chain, wasn’t quite up to the task.

Completing the underground circuit that goes from the stage up to the men’s lounge under the lobby, we came up to the theater level again and headed up to the balcony. No worries about seeing over the head of the person in front of you up here. The seats are on a really steep incline. Almost scary steep.

Unfortunately, there wasn’t a whole lot of stuff to see up there, other than some a gigantic flow spot and some peeling pant. I would have liked to have seen the projection room, but that was one of the few off limits areas, doh.

One of the perks of the ghost hunt was that you bring in what ever ghost hunting devices you wanted, including camera (both still and video). I figured this was pretty much a once in a life time chance to get some pictures. You can check ’em out as a slide show on flickr. I’ll pre-apologize for the camera (too slow for low light) and the operator (who can’t seem to take a straight shot or hold the camera steady to save his life) resulting in some pretty unexciting shots. There are a couple that came out pretty OK…

Purplewire crew: I made a half hearted attempt to find the room off our deck that we’re always wondering about. I suspected it might be accessible off the emergency exit corridor from the north side of the balcony, but didn’t see any doors that looked likely. I’m guessing now that its actually accessible from the projection room itself.

I Just Wanna Watch TV (part 24)

As you’ve probably guessed by now, nobody called me back after that last check in. So, I figured it was time to try to talk to someone in person. Last night, I checked in with my local Best Buy (the actual location where I purchased the TV.)

I explained the situation… His first reply was to just bring it in and we’ll take care of it. Bzzt, this is an in home plan, getting that very heavy tv repaired is your problem. He took my warranty documentation and disappeared for a while. A few minutes later he was dialing up someone and waving me over to the phone.

I didn’t see the number he dialed, but I’m guessing it was the same exact number that I was using. He said he was an employee and he was trying to help some get service. Amusingly, there’s not much of a security process to validate you’re an actual employee. The only non-public info he told them was the store number. Maybe I’ll pretend to be an employee next time and see if that gets me any further.

After obviously being placed on the hold (been there myself), he chats it up with a service tech and tries to explain the situation. After a few more minutes, he hands the phone over to me and says that the tech wants to talk to me. This can’t be good…

I chat with a tech named Eli for a bit. He confirms my details and then starts down the path of what’s the problem with your TV, blah blah blah. I’m severely irritated at this point because this is the kind of stuff that should be in my original service request. I said, forget that crap, my problem is that you guys should know all this stuff already and the real problem is that your local service center never calls me back as promised.

Eli says to hold on and he’ll do a conference call between us and the local service center. I said yeah, that sounds good, but can I call you back from home, its hard to hear you in the middle of this store. He gave me his extension and said to use that get back to him.

So, I flew home and dialed up my favorite number again. The first humanoid directing calls said that they can’t route to an extension, then assured me that someone in the service department could redirect me. Ok, whatever.

Another 10 minutes of Zamfir’s pan pipes and a service tech pickups. I tell him the situation and ask to be transfered to extension XXXXX. He says, OK, lemme try that… What a sec, extensions normally have 6 digits. Great, guess I won’t be talking to Eli again.

He starts down the whats your problem, blah blah blah route. He seems to understand the problem and puts me on hold while he looks up my account details. He says he’ll try calling the local service center directly and puts me on hold again.

He checks in a minute later and says that nobody is answering (which usually means I’m not really trying to call them, I’m just faking it) and to hold the line. He checks in again another minute later and asks if I have the number for the local service center. Ah, nope…

He then drops the bomb that I’ve been waiting all along. My local service center has nothing to do with Best Buy, its just a local electronics repair company (United Radio). I had this suspicion that there really never was a Best Buy repair team. He went on to say that he was forwarding them my details (which may take 24 hours to make it there) and that I should call them to make an appointment.

Part of my problem is I’m way too patient. I’m gonna give them until Monday before I call so I don’t get that sorry we didn’t get the paperwork excuse.

Next time, I’ll call UR first and tell them to bill the repair straight to Best Buy.

I Just Wanna Watch TV (part 23)

Last time I talked to Best Buy Service, they said some one will call me back in 5-7 business days. I wasn’t all that surprised that after 7 days elapsing, that I still didn’t hear anything from them.

So, I figured it was time to check in again. Dialed ’em up, waited five minutes for humanoid to direct my call. Another 2 minutes and I was talking to someone in the service department. They start down their spiel of confirming all my account details and I immediately put the brakes on.

“Yo, I’m not starting from scratch here, I’ve already done this step. You guys some one would call me and they haven’t.”

They say sorry and put me on hold while they ‘pull up my records.’ They come back after a minute or two.

“Sorry sir, my computer is really slow today.”

Yeah, what ever.

“Looking at your file, there are no service requests outstanding.”

WHAT?

“Ok, lemme recap the story for you. I called on 10/13, someone took my info, and said the local service center would be in touch in 2 business days. I let 2 business days elapse. Didn’t hear anything back. So, on 10/18, I called in again and that person the first person lied, it really takes 5-7 business days for the call back. So, as of 6 days ago, there was a service request in the queue. What happened to that?”

“I’m sorry sir, I can’t find that request.”

She went on to say that it should really on take only 2 business days to get a call back. At this point, I think they’re all full of crap and just trying to avoid doing any more work on the call themselves.

“I’m sorry sir for all this trouble…”

blah blah blah.

“I’m going to make your request gets in the queue tonight and you should get a call back very soon.”

Note there was no quantifiable time period in there.

“Ok, can you give me a reference number for this support case?”

So the next time I call back you can tell me there’s no such request.

“Let me put you on hold and so I can look it up.”

Argh… Expectedly…

“I’m sorry I don’t have a number to give you.”

At this point I’m so frustrated I don’t really care any more.

I’m gonna give them until Friday to get back to me. If don’t hear from them by then I’m gonna go down to my local Best Buy and raise me a ruckus. I doubt it will do much good, but maybe some other customers thinking about buying extended warranties might see the fine service that I’m getting.

If I get some time to mess around with it, maybe I’ll set up Skype on my pc and start taping these calls. After all, they say, “This call may be recorded for quality assurance and training purposes.” Doesn’t say by who…

FC5: A little progress

Quick update today. Got printing to work. After some googling around, I found lots of advice that the gnome printer config utility was pretty flaky, I blew away my existing CUPS config (generated by the gnome utility) and ran the CUPS config utility (localhost:631 in the browser) straight up. A minute later it spit out a test page. I tried printing from Firefox and that seemed to work fine to.

I gave printer sharing via samba a quick shot, but realized I have some other samba setup stuff to get working before I should worry about shared printing. But with the printer working locally, it shouldn’t be too big a deal.

Did mess around just a little more with Parallels. Phew, I was able to just restart Parallels and the Win XP virtual machine after the crash from the day before yesterday. Got through the first round of windows updates. Went to start the second round and kaboom crashed again. Nutz. Maybe I’ll try qemu.

I Just Wanna Watch TV (part 22)

This time its not Time Warner, I promise…

Recently my Sony TV (32″ HD) cashed itself in. When you hit the power button, all you get is a blinking red light. What does the manual say about this condition? If when you power on the TV, have no picture, and the status light blinks red… (wait for it…) your TV may need service. Nice to know Sony manuals are written by Captain Obvious.

Hmm, that TV is not that old. Against my normal policy, I did buy the extended warranty plan (only because the actual TV they gave was the floor model). So a few days of fervent searching for the service plan details, I dug them up. Phew! The TV is in year 3 of a 4 year plan.

So, I dialed up the Best Buy Service number. I was pleasantly surprised how well their phone tree was organized. I was on hold for about a minute when someone picked up. They were pretty helpful and seemed to ask all the right questions. At the end of the chat, they said the local service center would call me in 2 business days to arrange an appointment.

Hmm, 3 business days later, no dice. So, I called them back again. Hmm, their phone tree changed. This time, I talked to a humanoid who promptly directed my call. Another 10 minutes on hold and I was talking to someone in the service department. Explained the situation and she said, “I’m sorry but the call back time from the service center is usually 5-7 days. I’m sorry that the previous tech told you otherwise…”

Annoying. I really don’t care, but it would be nice to get the story right the first time, people.

Project FC5 Update: 0 for 2

Last night, I had two tasks for my FC5 project:

  1. Get a Parallels VM machine for Windows XP rolling.Seemed to kick off OK after having to remember how to use Parallels’ VM setup utility. A false start or two later, and the XP installed seemed to start fine. It did all the normal setup stuff, got right to the point where it starts up for the first time and blam Parallels craps out with a kernel panic.

    No biggie. Lemme just restart Parallels and that virtual machine. Doh, unfortunately, I didn’t save the VM profile before I started the XP install. Crap, gonna have to start over. I blew away the VM file and used the wizard to make the profile and was sure to save it before starting the XP install.

    The XP install went pretty uneventfully. After a some time, I was sitting at the XP desktop. Figured it was time to start patching things up with Windows Update. So I started Internet Explorer. Kaboom, Parallels goes down in flames.

    Was too tired to mess with that any more, so I left it alone. Hopefully, I can just fire up Parallels again and restart the VM and pickup where I left off. Not quite sure what I’ll do if Paralllels turns out not to be that reliable.

  2. Get Printing Working Locally.Normally, I usually have a windows box that’s my primary machine that has printing capability. This has been working pretty nice; I can share the printer and Sandy can print wirelessly from her laptop in the living room. I’d like to try to have the same arrangement from Linux land. So, step 1 is getting my hp lj1000 to print locally.

    Hmm. Good signs. I went to the printer queue setup applet and the wizard found the printer (connected via USB) and seemed to have drivers for it. Cool.

    So, I try to print a test page. Hmm, nothin’. The printer config gadget asked if the page printed. I said no and it gave a me a tail of the last few lines of the CUPS error log. Something about foomatic-rip terminating abnormally.

    I googled around a bit and found a bunch of folks with similar problems, but none of the solutions they found seemed to help. Gonna take some more messing around to get this figured out I guess.

    One theory is I may have a conflict between Parallels and USB. Parallels has an AutoConnect option for USB which I assume means that when you plug in a device and Parallels is running it forks it over to the VM (rather than the host OS). I had that turned when I was trying to install XP and was goofing around with the printer stuff in the meanwhile. A long shot, but its something to check.

More Fun with FC5

I’d love to ditch XP completely, but I still have a few things that I need windows for. My master plan is to run FC5 as the primary OS and use XP in a Parallels virtual machine. I’ve messed around with Parallels before on ancient history PC hardware (400MHz PIII, 384Mb) and found it pretty impressive. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that it will be pretty snappy on my newer (but not brand new…) 2.8Ghz 1Gb machine.

FC5 doesn’t happen to be on the Parallels supported host OS list. But, I’ve conquered that problem before. All it took on my last attempt was using yum to grab kernel source (and update QT, I think) and using rpm with some arguments to skip some spurious dependencies.

I tried the same recipe again on this new FC5 install and ran into some problems. First, I couldn’t remember the exact yum command line to grab the kernel source. I thought I had a bookmark for some details along these lines, but I couldn’t track it down either. After some fervent Googling, and messing around, I figured out that the yum already grabbed the kernel source I wanted, but it was the latest version and not the stuff for the older kernel I was actually running (I can probably elaborate on the versions, if any one actually cares).

So, I yum updated the kernel. That was pretty straight forward. I restarted and picked the new kernel option. Nuts, it appears to go down in flames about 10 lines in to the boot process. Something about ata1 not responding. My guess is that some other kernel related dependencies are now out of whack. So, I reboot back into the old kernel and do the mother update ‘yum update’. Yikes, 929Mb of stuff to download. Gonna let that one go over night.

I checked in this morning and the update completed successfully; that’s pretty impressive in it self. I can’t recall ever updating that much at one time and not having something minor blow up along the way. So, I restarted again and picked the new kernel option.

Grr. Same ata1 not responding message. I walked away from the computer for a few minutes and was pleasantly surprised to see the Fedora login page when I returned. Guess it was a recoverable time out issue, despite all the scary messages.

As my last action in this session, I ran the parallels config script again. This time, it find the kernel source no problem and went on about its merry way compiling.

This evening, I’ll finish setting it and try to get XP installed. I’m sure that it’ll be another 4 hour affair. But, as soon as I get it up to date, I’m gonna burn its associated virtual machine file to dvd. So, in the future, I don’t need to reinstall from scratch. That’ll be heaven if I work out all the details…

Harddrive Replacement

Monday, I took a day off to concentrate on some chores that never seem to make it off my to do list. On of which was replacing the OS harddrive in my primary PC at home before its impending failure.
Starting with a brand new 120Gb ide drive, I figured it would be best to do a dual boot between XP and Fedora Core 5. So, I started by installing XP and allocating it 30Gb. 4 hours and later (suffering throught sp2 + all updates since) and 10 (no kidding!) reboots later, it was ready to roll.

So, next I put in the FC5 dvd. after little headscratching, I figured out the custom partition tool (100Mb boot, 2Gb swap, 30Gb root, 50Gb data.) 20 minutes later (oh yeah, dvd install is the way to go) and 1 reboot later, I thought I was ready to go. Doh, Fedora wasn’t on the GRUB boot menu? It kicked over to XP after a few seconds. Oh well, at least I didn’t break the XP install.

That was Monday night… Yesterday morning I was going to check my mail and noticed that my machine rebooted (more XP updates). I’ve got a quirk that I get I BIOS error message every time I boot about a drive being missing because my BIOS backup battery is dead. So, I hit the F1 to continue and noticed that FC5 grub entry wasn’t missing, you just don’t see the OS selection list unless you hit escape to kill the default boot timer. Sweet.

Some final FC5 config questions and another reboot and things are looking good.