Wednesday, September 29, 2010

I bought a medium cup of meatballs from WaWa and what did I get? Two thirds of a cup of meatballs.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Important Information About Your Account

When a corporation sends mail to a person, it's almost always because they want money from the person. Sometimes the person has contracted with the company, and the topic is billing, collections, or account maintenance. (Or even, heaven forbid, a product.) These usually come in plain #9 or #10 envelopes. Because of privacy laws, they usually don't have a lot written on the outside.

More often these days, the company sending mail is just trying to drum up additional business from the person. Anybody who's opened a lot of junk mail has learned how to tell when something is a solicitation. Happy colors, large boldface print, non-standard sized envelopes, and numbers (i.e. a price or interest rate) on the outside are all good indicators.

Every once in a while, a company tries to "get one through the spam filters" by putting a solicitation inside a plain envelope. Verizon Online, I'm talking about you. I do have an account with Verizon, so when I see a plain envelope saying "IMPORTANT INFORMATION ABOUT YOUR ACCOUNT" on the outside, I kinda have to open it. It might actually be what it says. But of course, it's the same solicitation for DSL that they've been sending me twice a month since I cancelled. I'm sorry for all of the actual Verizon DSL customers that have to pay for this. It comes always in full color, often on glossy oversized paper with printing bleeds. They must cost a dollar a piece to send, and believe it or not, I'm not interested in a slow internet hookup that drops carrier every time there is a thunderstorm in the Western Hemisphere.

It's wasteful for a second reason as well: sending me a solicitation in an envelope claiming to contain account information just pisses me off. I guess the purpose is to make me want to become a Verizon customer in another way, but it has the exact opposite effect. I have this image of Verizon Online (Verizon DSL?) as a poorly-managed, money-wasting marketing machine. If it was the only megabit+ internet service available, I might consider it, but as long as there is even one alternative, forget it. Until then, believe me, I know DSL is an option. Verizon, you don't have to keep wasting your customers' money on reminding me about it. How about giving them better customer service instead.

Monday, August 03, 2009

PA State Budget Crisis

Having a government with no budget is nuts. The state and state agencies have made promises and contracts with people and organizations and now they're not holding their end of the bargain. If an employee of a company fails this miserably at their job, they get canned and the company has to face lawsuits. I propose the following solutions:
  1. If there is no passed budget for even a single day, the state government should be dissolved. Parliamentary democracies deal with this occasionally when they can't agree on important issues, and it forces them to compromise. Special elections should then be held ASAP to replace the government.
  2. If it's illegal for the state to spend money, it should be illegal for them to collect taxes. Days with no budget should be sales-tax and income-tax free.
  3. The state and the decision makers should not be immune from lawsuits for failure to properly run the government. I'm not talking about cash-grabbing: no huge punitive damages. I'm thinking of replacing lost wages of people who still need to eat and pay their rent but can't get paid because Pennsylvania isn't allowed to pay them.
  4. They could avoid all of this by saying the budget stays the same, with inflation increases, unless otherwise ammended. This could be in the state Constitution. Then they can argue all year long about adding or removing individual items from the budget, just like they do for our body of laws. If they want a balanced budget, then base this year's spending on last year's revenue.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Vizio TV Remote

I've been distracted by Facebook for a while, but this seems longer than is appropriate for a wall post. We got a Vizio VW42LFHDTV this spring, and for the most part, it's been a nice TV. My biggest initial complaint was the lack of a button on the remote control to change the aspect ratio. I play PlayStation2 games in Widescreen, but our TiVo recordings should be viewed in a 4:3 aspect ratio. In addition, some shows are letterboxed and pillarboxed, so they should be zoomed. The only way Vizio provided me to switch modes is to fish through the menus, requiring a minimum of 10 button presses with thinking in between.

As it turns out, their remote control standard has a single button to do the same thing, and the TV knows about it. They just chose not to put that button on the remote they provided. Finally, after months of dealing with this issue, I found a relative with a different Vizio TV. Their remote does have an aspect ratio button (labeled "Wide"). We took our universal learning remote over to their house, and now we have an aspect ratio button.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Adventures in Windows

We just got a new emachines E19T6W 19" flat panel LCD monitor, and getting it to work with my Toshiba Satellite A105 laptop was a royal PITA. Technically, it worked right away, but it looked terrible because the laptop wasn't driving the monitor at the native resolution of 1440x900. It's not that the Intel 945GM graphics accelerator can't output that resolution, it's just that the EDID data didn't get through, so the graphics card fell back on its standard modes.

Toshiba, in their infinite wisdom, realized that nobody who has a widescreen laptop would ever use a widescreen external monitor, so the default video modes are all standards (like 1024x768 and 1280x1024). Note that 1440 by 900 pixels has a different aspect ratio, so it's not in the list. A Toshiba BIOS update got me more available modes, but not the one I need. Even if I take this monitor back, another 19" widescreen monitor would almost certainly still use the same native resolution, so I had to get it working. Plus this one was dirt cheap.

Maybe if I describe the solution here, someone will find it and not have to search around quite as much as I did. The most helpful information I found was from the Intel Software Network, specifically the from user archibael. The basic idea is to tell the graphics driver about the video mode in question so it shows up in the default list for monitors that don't have EDID data available. This procedure may work analogously for other Intel Graphics Accelerators, but YMMV.
  1. Get the ZIP version of the newest 945GM graphics driver. To find this, search for 945GM, and click on the result that says Overview.
  2. Expand the ZIP archive into a folder somewhere.
  3. Find the file igxp32.inf and open it in your favorite text editor. (It's possible this procedure may work by editing this file inside the C:\WINDOWS\system32 heirarchy and rebooting, but I didn't try that.)
  4. Search for TotalDTDCount, and change the value from 0 to 1. It should be in a section called [NonEDIDMode_AddSwSettings].
  5. Below that, comment out the line for DTD_1, and replace it with this line, which I found in this post:
    HKR,, DTD_1,%REG_BINARY%, 97,29,A0,D0,51,84,20,30,50,98,3,
    00,00,00,00,00,00,1C,27,00 ; 1440x900@60...Progressive
    I don't think spacing matters much, but for reference it was all one line, with two tabs before the comment at the end. This line should be the info for 1440x900 60 Hz non-interlaced VESA.
  6. Save the file and install the new driver. It will probably be flagged as being unsigned, but use it anyway.
Now, that mode is available when I plug in the external widescreen monitor, and all is happy. Hopefully I've peppered the post with enough keywords that it's findable by those who need it.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Bail-out loophole?

The "Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008" contains what looks like a huge loophole. In Sec 101 (e), entitled "Preventing Unjust Enrichment," the current text says the Secretary should prevent unjust enrichment by "preventing the sale of a troubled asset to the Secretary at
a higher price than what the seller paid to purchase the asset." Besides a few huge exceptions spelled out in the text, it looks like a troubled mortgage or security can be sold for profit then re-sold to the Treasury for another profit.