Category Archives: Rant

Um, apple what’s up?

The wife has been on me to fix a problem on her computer for a while now.  She’s barraged by near constant prompts to enter a password for the dozens of processes that need access to the Local Items keychain.  Somehow, on her computer the password for that keychain got changed (it starts off the same as your login password, and you really have to go out of your way to change that) and we don’t know it.

Googling around I found some recipes for how to fix it.  Basically just resetting keychain stuff back to factory fresh.  The easy way, using the Reset My Default Keychain button in Keychain Access, did nothing except breaker her normal login.  Being paranoid, I added another admin account on her computer just for this occasion.  Glad I did.

The next recipe was more drastic.  Delete the borked keychain on the command line. The theory was that it’ll just give you a shiny new keychain at next login.  I just moved it out of the way.  My theory was that if things are worse after the reboot, I can always move it back into place from other admin account.

Another reboot later, and her login doesn’t work, again.  Not sure why, the login password probably not stored in the keychain (more like /etc/password, right?)  Went to log in with my other admin account to reset the password, and the login screen is broken?

Specifically, I pick my user icon and the text field where you enter your password is in focus for a microsecond then blurred.  Clicking the mouse in the field did nothing.  Fearing the wrath of wife for bricking her computer I moved over the my mac to google this new problem and suddenly my machine won’t connect to the internet.  I think its a non-related DNS problem, but why now? ugh.

While demonstrating the problem to wife, I randomly found the fix for the login problem. Just hit tab; while you can’t click in the password field, you can tab into it.  Thankfully my password still works and I was able to reset hers for the umpteenth time today.  After she was in, iCloud said it wanted  her to authenticated.  We did that and things seem to better now (as in not prompting her passwords constantly.)  But, if I moved the original keychain directory out of the way, home come all her original keychains and keys still show up in keychain access, wat?

Problem sort of fixed, not gonna mess with that any more today.  I’m pretty might next corrective action will be drop her machine down the stairs.

On to the bonus round for other things that annoy me routinely on my own mac:

  1. If mac is closed, asleep, and an external display is connected, I should be able to wake it with an external keyboard, right?  Nope.  It does wake up from the external trackpad reliably though.
  2. After eventually waking up with external display connected, about half the time the colors are borked.  Desktop background and some windows look like they’re running in a low color mode.  Some are fine.  Only way I’ve stumbled on to recover this is to open and shut the mac itself, which takes way 5 seconds to change to dual screen mode and another 5 seconds to change back to just external display.
  3. Was coding away this week and noticed that my screen was flashing whenever a bell fired in my terminal program.  Oh, that’s a feature in iTerm, let me go turn off.  Um, wait, its not turned on.  Hmm, wait, its not just my terminal program its happening OS wide (like when new iMessages arrive.)  Hmm, that seems to be an accessibility feature that I turned on my mistake.  Ah, yes, there is feature for that.  But, wait, its not turned on.  A restart (for a different problem) seemed to clear this up.

Apple, I wanna love you, but you’re making it real hard these days.  Getting pretty close to saying forget it, and going back to Linux.

Eff’n Insurance

So, its been on my list to switch over from the rental insurance that my apartment complex recommended (kickback, cough cough), to our preferred insurance provider. You know the one that rhymes with ‘fate harm’.

We took a pretty big hit when I canceled the homeowner’s policy. Turns out multi-line (house and auto) racks up the big discounts. So, after getting an estimate for a renter’s policy, I was happy to learn that I’d pay less for renters insurance than I was paying and I get back a decent discount on auto insurance too.

So, today, I got in touch with my agent to seal the deal (and so I can cancel my current policy that re-ups at the end of the month.) I sent him an email with the go ahead and asked if he needed anything more to get the new policy going.

I got a call back a few hours later saying that there was a snag setting up the new policy. Oh, what?

When we had the house, I put in a homeowners claim for a widespread mold problem in the attic crawlspace. They sent someone out, they took one look and said “sorry, nope, not covered.”

My agent out here said, “even though we didn’t payout anything out that still counts as a claim. Because you didn’t immediately start renter’s insurance when you ended coverage on the house, you triggered a rule that says you can’t start a new policy if you’ve had a claim in the last 3 years.”

Super! So, even though I’ve never actually cashed out anything against my homeowners policy, I can’t get a new renter’s policy (or homeowners for that matter) in the next 2 years (claim was a year ago).

Might be time to start shopping for another insurance company.

Ok, Walmart…

You really have to get Site-To-Store pick up figured out.

On Thursday, I bought a budget Android tablet on-line.  They happened to have it in stock at the location right down the street from me.  So, I pulled the trigger.   I got an email a few minutes later saying that it’ll take up to  4 hours for the item to be ready to pick up.

Annoying, but I understand that its always super busy in the electronics department there, so I said I’ll just wait until the next day to pick it up.  90 minutes after ordering, they sent the ready to pick up email.  I kept with the plan to go the next day, since I was pretty spent for the day.

After work, I stopped in to make the pick up.  Following the directions on the email I went to the Services desk.  Waiting for about 6 people in front of me, I finally make it to the counter where they tell me, I really want the desk around the corner for pickup.  Ah, ok.

This desk is labelled Walmart.com Services.  Seems to make sense.  Nice, there’s 10 people in front of me in this line.  And one person has been in line for an hour already.  Turns out that they also handle lay-aways at the same desk.  Everybody is making pickups and rejiggering their lists.  Nobody has their paperwork with them.  After 15 minutes without moving, I said this isn’t gonna work and left.

I gave it another shot this morning.  I went straight to the right desk.  This time there were only 3 people in-line.  One of them was a lady who was there yesterday, yikes!  She ended up spending 90 minutes there last night, and they still weren’t about to locate all her items.  After another 45 minutes today, they got the last of her items off a truck that had just rolled up.

Eventually, I made it up to the desk and handed them my pick up email.  The guy takes the email a fervently bangs away on the keyboard for 5 minutes (curious as to why, the email had a barcode in it.)  He then says, “Ok, let me go find your tablet.”  and then immediately asks his co-worker where ‘Bin 200’ is.  She said no clue and he returned to me and said he was gonna go ask someone.

After 10 minutes, I was pretty sure he wasn’t coming back.  Another associate slotted into his place and I started my claim process again.  He got all the way through the computer part and then again asked the other work where ‘Bin 200’ is.  He departed and looked around in the backroom and came back with a tablet in hand.  Cool! Oops, right brand, wrong model.  Doh!

He looked around the pick up room a bit and said, “let me check one more place.”  Turns out it was right under the counter, 2 feet from where I was standing.  More fervent banging away on the keyboard, an ID check, and a signature later, I was finally on my way.

Next time, I’m just gonna spend the few bucks to ship straight to my house and skip this nightmare entirely. Ugh.

I Done Broke It

Yeah, its humidifier season again.

Last night, I went to fill up the tank on one of our humidifiers last night. I tried to unscrew the filler cap and broke the handle off the bottom of the tank, sending the third full tank crashing into my foot. After a few choice words, I surveyed that while the handle was gone the rest of the tank was OK.

This morning, I was fetching a kid and noticed the tank level was pretty low after just 8 hours of use. And then, I noticed the puddle around the base of the unit. It wasn’t much, so I figured I just didn’t put the filler cap on all the way. So, I grabbed a towel to mop up the spillage.

The clean up was going great until I lifted off the tank and small torrent departed the tank. Upon closer inspection, the tank stress fractured over night, with vertical crack spanning the entire height of the tank.

Nothing I like more than cleaning up a mess at 5:30 in the morning. And into the recycling bin that humidifier went.

Car buying is annoying.

Recently, the lease on my trusty Passat ran out.  I tried hard to get another VW, but it didn’t pan out.  There’s no 2011 Passat (new for 2012), couldn’t get to the payment I wanted on a Jetta Sportwagen, and I wasn’t very excited by the new Jetta sedan (not up to snuff if you’re a previous VW owner.)   I was pretty surprised that they didn’t try to fight a little harder for a long time v-dub fan.   Oh well, too bad.

After agonizing and getting burned out on the whole shopping and buying process, I decided to check out a Mazda3.  After looking at my driving habits after having a kid, I realized that I hardly drive; basically just the 6 miles and back to work during the week.  We mostly take the Mrs’ wheels on the weekends.  So, I really didn’t need anything fancy.

So, the advertised deal was sign and drive, $199 for a Mazda 3i sport.  Before testing driving, I made the sales guy a work sheet that had the Mazda 3 sedan and wagon, and 2 different down payments and said that’s what I want.  He came back and the payments were quite a bit different than advertised.

I asked why so different and he said that the Mazda 3 in the add is very basic model and the quote was for a car costing more.  The only option that I asked for automatic transmission.  The best they could do was $1000 down, $229/ mo.  I said let me drive it and I’ll think about it.  It was pretty basic, didn’t even have cruise control.

While driving, I remembered that in the same ad, they were offering the Mazda6 for $239, sign and drive.   Wait a second, why I would I pay for that kinda money for a 3, when the 6 ends up costing less?  I asked the salesman, and in a heartbeat he agreed that the 6 made more sense.  Like he’d say anything different.

So, next he warned me that the offer in the paper was for a single car (there’s a VIN right in the ad) and that the car may already be gone (likely since it was the last day of the month) but he’d try to get me a similar deal on a different car.  So, we went through the lot and found one similar specs to the advertised model and a sticker price that was the same.

I drove it, and it was definitely a step up from the 3.  It wasn’t anything fancy, but comfortable enough.

Getting back to business, I was expecting that I’d be somewhere in the neighborhood of the advertised price, but again, not even close.  They wanted $1000 down to get to advertised monthly.  I probably should have just walked at that point.  But, being a glutton for punishment and pretty much sick of the car buying process I took it.

Now, on to the part that’s probably false advertising.  When I saw the Mazda ad that got in me, I wasn’t really watching the similar ads from the previous couple of weeks.  After getting my car, I looked a little more closely at the ads the 3 weeks after.  The ad and offer are pretty much the same (the layout changed a bit), and the same VIN number is listed for the Mazda6.  Yeah, the same VIN that probably sold months ago and doesn’t anyone any good now.

I was gonna call up my dealer and complain, but I doubt it’d do any good.  They’re excuse is that they had the car when they ordered the ad and because of print lead time there’s a lot of lag.  Oh, yeah?  You don’t tell people that you don’t have the car when they first come in, do ya?  Also, this practice seems to be pretty much industry standard.  Many of the other ads in the newspaper list a VIN number for similar reasons.

Ok, rant complete.  Making sure to add this to the file for next time, where I’ll walk out as soon as they say that can’t give me their advertised deal.

Cell Phone Hell

Helpful, hint of the day… don’t break your cell phone in the middle of your contract period if you don’t have insurance.  Last week, I left my Palm Centro on the kitchen counter, where I’ve been parking my phone pretty much forever.  A short while later, I heard a crash, and the characteristic scurrying sound of a cat running for cover.

The phone looked like it made it through the ordeal ok, but later I noticed a quirk when I plugged it in to charger later that evening.  Hmm, it didn’t make the familiar ding dong sound when I jacked in the power connector.  Strange, its not a quiet mode and the I didn’t turn down the ringer.

The phone and internet stuff seems to work ok.  So, I messed around some more and went to the media player on the phone and tried to play some tunes.  Uh oh, it plays fine, but no sound.  Oh fudge, the ringer speaker (which is also used for the music player and speaker), seems to be busted.

Guess its time to visit a Sprint Repair Center.  So, I went on over to their website and found where they are in the Syracuse area.  Of course, none on this side of town.  Cicero or Clay.  Well, the non-mall store in Cicero will probably be less busy.  So, I went there.  Started talking to the rep and barely got my store out before they said, this isn’t a repair center.  No reply to my comment to their website says it was.  They said I need to go to the Clay store.  Off I went.

Happy to see that it wasn’t too busy in the mall store, I wandered in.  One rep working with some customers and another chatting away on the phone.  Soon enough, the one on the phone asked if I needed some help (without finishing up the already in progress phone conversation.)  I gave her my sad story.  First question, of course, was do you have insurance on the phone.  Nope.  Got the standard, blah blah blah, if your phone is important to you should have gotten insurance.  I said, I’ve been a Sprint customer for 11 years, and this the first time I’ve ever had a broken phone.

The rep then went on to say that the tech guy for the story was out at the moment doing some training.  But, she said that he’s expected back in an hour.  I said that I had another phone that I’d like to swap in for the broken phone in the meanwhile, so the rep cut my line to that phone without much hassle.

I asked if I could just leave my phone and the tech could get to whenever.  She said that they can’t do anything like that because they can’t be held responsible for the phone when its in their hands.  What the?  So, ask the semi-obvious follow up question, if the tech guy can’t fix the phone in real time, won’t he need to hold on to it?  She said if he can’t fix it real time, I’m probably out of luck.  Hmm, don’t like where this is going.

I said, I’d wait out the hour and come back.  But, in the meanwhile, I had some account questions.  If I end up needing to get a new phone, can I use the $150 re-up credit from another line in my family plan.  No, of course not; to qualify for any mail-in rebate on a new phone, you have to have it activated on the line being re-upped (for at least 30 days.)  Ok, fair enough, I guess.  Well, I’m coming up on the 1 year contract anniversary on the line for the busted phone, so I have at least $75 in re-up credit.  So, that means, I can get a phone for new guy price (the low price they list for the phone that has all the fine print after it) +$75, right?  Well, it turns out the new guy price usually includes more incentives that the $150 2 year re-up credit.

So, a new Palm Centro (which has some enhancements on my older model) has a new guy price of $79.  But, if I wanna buy one with my $75 of re-up credit, it’ll cost me $224 ($399 – $75 re-up credit, -$100 mail in rebate.) Well, freaking crap, why is this so expensive and complicated?  Guess that I’ll be doing everything possible to fix my current phone.

So, I waited out the hour (which was pretty challenging actually, since Great Northern Mall is looking pretty beat these days.)  I talked with the same rep again.  She said she just talked with the tech and he said that he’s running late.  Didn’t seem that coming.  I said, can you tell me when they’ll be in again?  I didn’t have any patience left at that point.

Its been a busy week, so I haven’t had a chance to make it back yet.  Gonna try to make another trip sometime this weekend.  Keep you posted.

Question to the blogosphere:  are all cell phone companies this annoying?  I speculate that changing carriers doesn’t really help all that much and they’re all approximately the same level of annoyance in the big picture.  What’s your experience?  Feel free to share your horror stories in comments.

The Joys of Home Ownership

Part 1 – Garage Door Opener

Finally finished up the garage door opener project.   My buddy Cha graciously gave up a good chuck of his last Saturday morning rewriting the garage to add a new outlet to the ceiling.  This Saturday, the garage door guy showed up.  He quickly surveyed the situation and said everything was a go, but I’d need the extra $60 add on for some bracing for the flimsy aluminum door.

About an hour later, I checked up on them and they were just wrapping up and doing final adjustments.  Unsurprisingly, he said that the door was a pretty much on its last legs;  its bent in a few places and brackets for the rollers lack some key adjustments that would make the door work better o the tracks.  He went on to say, its probably got another year or so in it.  The tracks are also a train wreck; on the left, the tracks are too close to front wall of the garage; on the right, there’s no bracket within 3 feet of the floor.

After a year of putting the door up and down manually, I’m all about just hitting a button.  Sandy’s also ecstatic and about not having to clear off her car constantly as the snow begins to fly.

I thought this gonna be an inexpensive project, ha!  Here’s the breakout and grand total:

Opener: $149
Installation: $129
Extra Part Needed for Installation: $60
Electrical Stuff: $120
Lunch of Electrical Helper: $20
Total: $478

I’m not wasting money, I’m increasing equity.  Yeah, that’s it.

Part 2 – Brrr, doh.

So, Sandy and I were watching a nice movie on the mac in bed.  It was about 9:15 and we were both kinda spent and starting to get ready for bed.  Sandy said, “hmm, that’s strange, the heat light is on on the thermostat, but the furnace isn’t running.”  Well, that is curious.

I left it at that for a little while.  I thought I remembered previous occasions where the thermostat and the furnace lose sync with each other;  I’ve never had to do anything the past, they just eventually pick up where they left off.

15 minutes later, no dice.  Hmm, I remember the furnace guy telling me that if I ever have a problem with the furnace to check both the breaker at the circuit box and that there’s another inline circuit breaker or fuse right next to the furnace.  I figured if it was a fuse and it was shot, I’d have a chance to be able to score a replacement fuse at Home Depot and not be without heat all night.  Upon closer inspection, its not a fuse or a circuit breaker, its just a switch.

I crawled around to the business side of the furnace.  No flames shooting out or sparks, that’s a good sign.    Interesting, the controller has a status light and its blinking out a code.  Oh, how handy right next to the light is a legend for the code.  Hmm, its error #31.  Something about a bad inducer or inducer switch.

Not knowing where to go next, I called up my heating contractor.  Left a message on the service and they called me back in about 10 minutes.  Pretty impressive.  I told him the situation and he asked if I could read him the status code text.  He said that might just be some dirt fowling up a sensor.  He wanted me to start poking around in the there and jingling wires and the like.  I leveled with him and said that I was already far beyond my furnace servicing skill set.

He suggested rebooting the controller by toggling the power to the furnace.  Gave that a shot and no dice; status light reported all clear, than went back to the same error when the thermostat called for heat.  Sorry dude, I need you need you to send some one out.  Are you sure, its gonna be overtime rates?  I told him, I need the heat so it’ll be what it’ll be.  $130 for the first half hour, then $130/hour after that.  Well, crap, I’m in the wrong business, I guess.

About 45 minutes later, the guy showed up.  He was surprisingly courteous and friendly for the time of day (now after 11pm on a Saturday night.)  I showed him to the crawlspace, and got the equivalent of “oh goodie, another freaking crawlspace.”  He said something like, “at least this one has a light.”  He got right to work with DMM probing around.  I asked if he’d like me to call for heat from the thermometer, so I crawled out and dinked the temperature up a few degrees.

I was just crawling back into the crawlspace, when I heard an emphatic, “whoa, well that’s a problem, sparks!”  Hmm, unexpected sparks in vicinity of natural gas, that’s probably not good.  The tech said he took his flash light off the panel to write something on his clipboard and as the furnace kicked it was sparks galore.

Turns out it was a broken crimp connector on the wire to inducer.  He quickly cut off the failed connector and crimped on a new one.  He speculated that was the whole problem.  The inducer sits on the mechanical equivalent of a daughterboard that’s held to furnace chassis with some rubber bushings.  The bushings are getting old and kinda spongy, so the whole inducer mount moves about 1/8.”   This movement happens every time the furnace starts up, so I’m guessing the failed connector was everyday wire fatigue.  The tech checked a bunch of other specs and said everything else looks good.  Total elapsed time from him getting out of his truck to now?  6 minutes.

He said while he’s there, he’ll clean the flame sensor, as its another sensor that when fowled can cause similar no-fire problems.  I said sure, I’m paying for the whole first half hour, so fix anything you like in there.  He giggled politely.

Another 10 minutes later, he was done and everything was buttoned up again.  He wrote up the bill for $146.35.  He was sorry that it wasn’t really any real parts that were broken, and that I didn’t happen to stumble on that wire on my own (suspecting that I probably could have fixed myself.)

All in all, even though it was a bunch of money, I was very satisfied with the service.  Their timeliness and professionalism are much appreciated.  Hats off to Hills Brothers Heating and Air Conditioning.

Conclusion-

So, if you’re not a homeowner already, why not run out and get yourself a house so can enjoy all the fun!

Flying Cats?

Well, nearly.  Friday morning, I thought I heard a crash around 3:45 am.  Its a pretty common occurrence with our 2 kitties.  At 4:40 the alarm went off as usual and after shaking out some cobwebs, I heard the distinctive sound of cat having way too much with a toy.  I figured they’d snuck one of their toys out of the lower level and were gleefully smacking it around on the hardwood floor in the living room.

I race out of the bedroom and flipped on the hall light to try to catch the perpetrator in the act.  Sure enough, there’s Dexter putting distance between him and a little black tube.  What is that?  No wait, it can’t be.  Oh @#$% it is.  Its the top to a nail polish bottle.  Stay cool don’t lose it yet.

I made it into the kitchen and flipped the light on.  Ok, then I lost it.

Smashed across our nice ceramic tile floor was the remains of one nearly full fire engine red nail polish bottle.  Much cursing was then had.  I wheeled around the living room and began to look for a blood like trail.

Surprisingly, there was none to be found.  Damn, good thing too.  If there was, I probably would have thrown Dexter straight out the front door, slamming the door behind him soon after.

Surmising that is probably nearly impossible to effectively clean nail polish while its still wet, we flipped some rubber made containers on top of the puddles and duct taped them down to keep the cats from tracking it all over the house.  I knew the polish would come off the tiles themselves without too much hassle.  But, was guessing that the grout would just drink it up.  Prayed a bit that when everything was dry, we could just peel it up in one big sheet.

A day a later, razor blade in hand, I tried to lift a corner of one of the puddles.  At first, it seems plausible.  But, then I realized that the ceramic tile is just porous enough that razor blade skims across the surface and leaves a lot of polish stuck in all the pores.  Yuck, the grout will be even worse.  So, I scraped all I could and cleaned up the remnants with nail polish remover.

After getting most of the polish off the grout with the razor, I followed up with a wire brush.  I helped a little bit, but you can still see the red pretty easy.  Crud.    Maybe some nice fresh dirt ground into the grout will cover it up eventually.  For now, I guess we’re stuck with the painful reminders for now.

At this point, I’m guessing we won’t be leaving anything out on any horizontal surfaces that are kitty accessible.

IM Spam of the Day

Nothing I enjoy more than nonsense spam text.  Good see that its spread to the IM world.  Here’s today’s giggle inducer:

PersonalTrout: Listen, this is going to sound very weird, but how in the world does one remove an angry spider monkey from one’s…sensitive areas?

Probably time to turn off that protocol (Yahoo) in Pidgin.  Oh well…

Vonage account cancellation, ugh.

Finally pulled the plug on my Vonage line.  We’re getting by just fine with the cell phones these days.   The only folks that call the old number are telemarketers.  Man, the cancellation process was almost comical in the lengths that the account manager will go to get you keep the line.

I spent a good 30 minutes on between hold and listening to the non-native english speaker (reading a script) giving me all the reasons I should keep the line (as an emergency backup for my cell phone), transferring it to someone else (saving them an activation fee),  and the deals that they’ll give me to stay signed up (3 months free, an unadvertised plan of $9.99/mo for 100 min); all the time I was telling them over and over that I just wanted the line disconnected.

I know its their job to keep me as a customer, but this seemed a little rediculous.  Wish there was a “no really, I just want to cancel” option that short circuits all the bs.