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Comments

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Dell's New Alienware Case Goes to Extremes To Prevent Overheating

tompaulco Re:So why dont cases breathe out the top? (143 comments)

I have a cooler master haf-x. It breathes out the top. Works great, and I can put it right up against a wall, because the intlet fan is on the other side, unless I am an idiot and put the fan side against the wall. Even then there are two other fans, one in front and one in back to try to limit the damage if I am an idiot.
I can't speak enough praise about this case. From the access points, to cable grommets, to incredible airflow, to built in sdata and usb frontside.
I priced an alienware to a homebuilt with this case, and went homebuilt. I'll never look back. Alienware was probably 50-75% more and with them you don't get to pick the top of the line brand new components, if that is your choosing.
This is not a slashvertisement, as I don't have any ad links for you to click, just my opinion and I hope you are able to use it to some benefit.

2 days ago
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Dell's New Alienware Case Goes to Extremes To Prevent Overheating

tompaulco Re:"Against a wall" (143 comments)

So I call BS on the "regular PCs heat up because of walls and thus we introduced this case design".

Regular PCs don't heat up because regular PCs don't produce a great deal of heat. Enthusiast PCs do, but Enthusiast PC owners know better, and if they don't then they are the perfect target market for a replacement PC.

2 days ago
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This 'SimCity 4' Region With 107 Million People Took Eight Months of Planning

tompaulco Re:simcity 4 is best simcity (102 comments)

Ok, have to give SOME credit to SC5 for this. You don't have to micromanage getting utilities to everyone. The distribution system appears random and thus can be sucky if your building is out of water or power and is off on a long branch with a bunch of buildings in between. It will take forever to get the utility watering or powering them again.
Upgradable buildings is another plus, though I have hosed myself several times by not leaving space to upgrade around the building itself. Come on people, build UP!
Most of the rest of SC5 is suck, suck and more suck.

Wish I could get myself to stop playing it.

3 days ago
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This 'SimCity 4' Region With 107 Million People Took Eight Months of Planning

tompaulco Re:simcity 4 is best simcity (102 comments)

SC4 was the best graphically and simulation wise to date. The awful part of SC$ was the stupid side missions which must be accomplished to unlock this or that thing, most of which involved trying to control a vehicle on a diagonal roadway with a keyboard. Total setup for the BS which is Simcity5 Online Version.

3 days ago
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This 'SimCity 4' Region With 107 Million People Took Eight Months of Planning

tompaulco Re:I'm recreating Detroit in my SimCity (102 comments)

I never used disasters in my cities if I could turn it off. Fires and whatnot are disaster enough. I never had any urge to destroy what I had made. I especially hate the unrealistic disasters. Come on, giant monster? Alien attack?

3 days ago
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This 'SimCity 4' Region With 107 Million People Took Eight Months of Planning

tompaulco Re:Grid city (102 comments)

In SC5, the traffic algorithm is so broken that a grid layout will leave you awash in traffic jams. The most efficient layout in SC5 is a snake pattern with one end being the (single) connection to the region.

3 days ago
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This 'SimCity 4' Region With 107 Million People Took Eight Months of Planning

tompaulco Re:Proof SimCity 5 was crap (102 comments)

I've heard tell of some people who managed to get 600k or so in SC5, but yes, it is crap. Highly visual and oooh shiny crap, but crap.
For those unaware, they finally came out with the offline version back in March, but I was so disgusted with the initial online only launch that I didn't even know this until a few weeks ago. I bought it, and am highly, highly disappointed. A HUGE step backward from Simcity4 in almost every area.
The city sizes are tiny. Basically, you can get a perhaps 10 by 10 city blocks in the city. This is probably about 5% of the size in a large city in SC4. It is unrealistic that a city of 10 by 10 blocks would sprout populations of huge skyscrapers and boast populations of over 200k. Unless it were a city within a sprawling metropolis, but that is not what SC5 is. You have huge empty regions with absolutely nothing between anywhere from 3 to 8 or so cities that are limited in size and have incredibly dense population.
Maxis says that the reason for this is that they thought peoples computers wouldn't be able to handle larger sized cities. Well, tough titty if they have to upgrade their computer once a decade. My three year old computer handles SC5 without a hiccup even with cities over 200k in size. Perhaps if people are having framerate issues, they should (gasp!) back off the sliders? Frankly, I think the Maxis response is a lie to cover the fact that online probably can't handle the large city sizes, and they are too proud to admit that online is a complete and utter fail and waste for a game like Simcity.

3 days ago
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Coffee Naps Better For Alertness Than Coffee Or Naps Alone

tompaulco Never happen (130 comments)

Power naps, caffeine naps, 8 hour versus 10+ hour days, etc have been studied for years and it has been scientifically proven that they improve productivity. But here is the problem: Employers are not interested in increasing productivity. They are interested in the appearance of productivity. And that means, people awake and working, with butts in chairs.

3 days ago
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Coffee Naps Better For Alertness Than Coffee Or Naps Alone

tompaulco Re:Employers don't want employees who LOOK lazy. (130 comments)

My upper management wants to see project deadlines hit. They don't care what or how we get it done.

Same here, they don't care if you do it during the day or at night as long as it gets done... Oh, and as long as you are here from 8:30 to 5:30 because it looks bad to the other departments if you are not here. You can go ahead and work nights at your discretion, but your butt does need to be in the chair from 8:30 until 5:30.
A few months ago, I got a call at 6:00 in the morning about an issue. I worked on it until 9, took a shower and went to work. On the way to work, and issue came up, and I asked if someone else could look at it because I was on the way to work. It got escalated to the CEO who demanded to know why I was not at work at that hour. I explained that I was called early in the morning and was working on an issue at home. he replied that occasional early morning calls are a fact of life and not an excuse for not getting to work on time.
So in order to perform my job to the expectations of management, I have to be able to foretell the future, so that I know whether I have to get up at 5:30 and go to the office and wait for the support call that I already foretold, or whether I can get up at 7:30 and go to the office because there will be no support call that day or I might get one, but I can complete it before I need to head to the office.

3 days ago
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Drought Inspires a Boom In Pseudoscience, From Rain Machines To 'Water Witches'

tompaulco Re: A fool and their money (Witching Sticks) (259 comments)

it is possible to scientifically test dowsing, it would just be expensive and scientists have already decided that dowsing is BS and don't want to do the research to prove it.
All you have to do is have a dowser go out and do his/her thing. Where they indicate there is water, dig. Also, dig 10 or 20 other random holes and figure out if there is water within about the same depth. Repeat about 100 times at different geologically separated and diversified areas. Shouldn't cost more than 10 or 20 million to put this to bed one way or another.

3 days ago
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Drought Inspires a Boom In Pseudoscience, From Rain Machines To 'Water Witches'

tompaulco Re: A fool and their money (259 comments)

Apparently on slashdot, the plural of anecdote is the exception that proves the rule. So five or 10 people have seen witching work. Therefore it doesn't work.

3 days ago
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Drought Inspires a Boom In Pseudoscience, From Rain Machines To 'Water Witches'

tompaulco Re: A fool and their money (Witching Sticks) (259 comments)

Gas lines, water lines, sewer lines, coaxial lines, electric lines can all be found with a minimum of effort without witching sticks. All you have to do is go to a random spot, any old spot, it doesn't even have to be within 1000 miles of a human settlement, and dig. If you do not hit one of the above, you will at the very least cut the only fiber connection to an entire continent.

3 days ago
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The American Workday, By Profession

tompaulco Re:Seems good to me. (146 comments)

I think unions were great at busting up some frankly inhumane hiring practices. These days, it seems like you need a union against the union as the percentage they take from you is probably about equal to the percentage cut you would have to take if you didn't have the union backing you.

3 days ago
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The American Workday, By Profession

tompaulco Re:Seems good to me. (146 comments)

If you're only open the hours I'm at work, I'm not going to shop at your store.

This is my problem, too. The problem is that companies not only expect you to to work late into the evening "when necessary", meaning on days that end in "y", but they also expect that the fact that you worked a 20 hour shift on Monday does not mean you can come in late on Tuesday, and you certainly cannot expect to be allowed to take a half hour to go run some errands during the day, unless you are willing to give up your lunch hour to run those errands instead of maintaining your health so that you can be a more productive employee.

4 days ago
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The American Workday, By Profession

tompaulco Re:9 to 5 is a myth (146 comments)

In the vast majority of places I have worked, they have claimed that I am an exempt employee and thus cannot be paid overtime, although that is not true by the letter of the law in most cases. Also, in most of those places, they do allow you an hour for lunch and you are not actually "on the clock", however, they also expect you to work 8:30 to 5:30, not 9 to 5. So you still work at least a full 8 hours.
Recently I was told by my boss that I need to bring my laptop to lunch in case there is a problem at work. That means, as far as I can tell, that I am not actually on a lunch break at all. Also, it means that I am limited to eating places that have free public wifi, because they won't pay for tethering and I'm sure not going to pay for it just for their use, and also that wherever I go has electric outlets within reach of the table because the battery on my 4 year old laptop only lasts about 10-15 minutes.

4 days ago
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Ask Slashdot: What Are the Best Games To Have In Your Collection?

tompaulco Re:Subjective (377 comments)

Green Eggs and Ham FTW!

4 days ago
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Should police have cameras recording their work at all times?

tompaulco Re:silly poll for latest news (368 comments)

"Oops, the off button was malfunctioning during the time of the incident."

One of my favorite things to do during a conference call is to wait for somebody to start some tirade after hitting mute and then to say "By the way, IT says they will have the mute button fixed by Friday."

4 days ago
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Should police have cameras recording their work at all times?

tompaulco Re: ...like dash cams. (368 comments)

I've been thinking about getting a dashcam. I commute less than 40 miles round trip each day and yet almost every day I witness at least one bonehead move that could have killed someone. If I could record these, at least it could be put up on a wall of shame somewhere and maybe it ought to be admissible as evidence for attempted vehicular manslaughter. At the very least, if one of these maneuvers does eventually cause an accident, i will be able to present video evidence.
Some of the illegal maneuvers are done by cops, as well. I saw one yesterday that i wanted to call in for a possible drunk driver. Weaving around, getting at least a tires width into neighboring lanes at times, etc. But he was probably just surfing the internet on his police computer. Oh, and speeding. About 75 in the 60 zone. Then sometimes I see officers throwing lit cigarettes or other trash out of the car. Excessively speeding without using their lights, etc.

4 days ago
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Should police have cameras recording their work at all times?

tompaulco Re:About things "accidentally breaking" (368 comments)

If it "accidentally breaks" 50% of the time, it still means that half the time it's working, which is higher than the 0% we have now.

The problem with accidental breakage is that it it always occurs when it would have corroborated the defendants story. The problem with this ubiquitous recording is that it never seems to be able to be used for your benefit. My friend had his debit card used at a local branch ATM. it had never left his possession, so he was curious as to who had used it. He requested the tapes from the bank. Of course, the camera had not been working that day. Undoubtedly they would have been working that day if someone had tried to steal the money out of the ATM though. Perhaps if he had gotten a subpoena, the bank may have changed their story. Or perhaps not. How can an outsider prove whether the camera system was working or not? If the bank wants the cameras to have been broken, then they were broken.

4 days ago
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UK Police Warn Sharing James Foley Killing Video Is a Crime

tompaulco Re:The power of images... (391 comments)

I'm surprised they are actually allowed to call terrorists terrorists.In the U.S., it is not PC to call terrorists terrorists. However, you can call people who hate government oppression in response to terrorist acts terrorists.

about two weeks ago

Submissions

tompaulco hasn't submitted any stories.

Journals

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Windows 8 is unusable

tompaulco tompaulco writes  |  about 3 months ago

I knew the metro interface was going to suck on Windows 8 machines, but I hadn't realized that you can't effectively turn it off and use the computer as though it were not a cell phone or table.
Today I got a new laptop for a contracting project and the laptop is Windows 8. I have discovered that it is absolutely unusable. While trying to navigate to something on the desktop, other applications will just randomly come up and take over the screen. There is some stupid widget that comes up and says "slide to switch apps", which will not go away and hides items behind it. If you try to reboot the computer, it just says "Getting Windows ready Don't turn off your computer" and doesn't actually restart for about 20 minutes.
It is pretty obvious to me that this OS is completely unusable except as a tablet or phone OS and probably not even then.

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!@#&^$&*!@^$ ObamaCARE!!!

tompaulco tompaulco writes  |  about 5 months ago

Holy mother of GOD!! Why did my insurance premium go up by a multiple of 3.5 in only one month? I have private major medical insurance and it has already jumped up by over 300% in the previous two years, but now it has gone up another 450% for a total change of over 800%. That's right, my premium is 9 times what it was just 3 years ago. I have had no major claims. And, of course, it being major medical, they didn't pay a dime out of pocket. I paid it all. I didn't get anywhere near the deductible. Yet my premium has skyrocketed. Coincidentally, this is right after Obamacare is enacted. i wonder if there is any correlation? What do all of those Pro Obama people think now? I hope they can afford to pay for me to go to the emergency room on their dime because I am dropping insurance and paying the fine. I can't afford to pay the Obamacare Premium.
My premiums alone on this plan are 1.5 times the maximum outlay for premiums and deductible that Obama says we would ever possibly have to say. If I include the deductible, it will be over 300% of the maximum out-of-pocket that Obama says I would ever have to pay.

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Took the bait again

tompaulco tompaulco writes  |  about a year ago

Once again, I have shown myself for a sucker when it comes to online paying of bills. Every time I think I will learn my lesson, but I don't. Everybody says how much more convenient it is to do online bills, and how writing checks is a thing of the past. But every time I go to do a bill online it takes far longer than it would have to just write a check and drop it in the mailbox.
I fell for the trick again today. I noticed that my utility company said I could pay the water bill online. So I went to the web site, navigated around for a minute or two until I found the right place and then clicked "Pay Bill". Oh, well first I have to set up an online account. OK, so spend a few minutes doing that. Now, let's pay the bill. Oh no, I have to wait for my e-mail with the link I have to click on in order to open the account. OK, so wait a few minutes for that. Click the link, log in. Oh, wait, they don't have my utility bill account associated with my online account. I have to associate them myself. Oh, and what is this? They need my last paid amount. OK, spend a few minutes hunting that down. Now, finally, we are ready to pay the bill. Hmm, the only option is by credit card, no checking account debits. All right, let's use American Express. Oh, wait, they don't take American Express. Okay, I guess I will use my Checking Account Debit card. Spend a few minutes filling out that information, and click "Pay Bill". Okay, another payment summary screen pops up. I have to click "Pay Bill" again. Oh, crap, but wait, I didn't linger long enough to see that they are charging me $1.50 paying online fee! Crap, can't back out now. They've already done the transaction.
So, after you have spent half an hour navigating their website, setting up accounts, linking accounts, figuring out your last paid amount, entering info for a card you don't want to use, THEN is when they are going to tell you that there is an extra fee for using this service which is cheaper for them to maintain then somebody handling the mail?
Well, they can look forward to my check next month. It'll be in the mail.

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Getting tired of misdirected mail

tompaulco tompaulco writes  |  1 year,15 days

My postal carrier is incredibly lazy. We are the last house on the route, and whatever he has left over gets put in our mailbox, whether it is addressed to us or not. Today, he put one in that was for one block further south. I guess he didn't want to turn around and go back. Earlier this week we got one for a different house number AND a different street, several blocks over.
This is on top of the fact that whenever we get a package, he sticks a "sorry we missed you" card in the mailbox which directs us to a delivery center 7 miles away. It doesn't matter if we are home, he doesn't come to the door to check, just puts the note in the mailbox.
I have a real hard time justifying their constantly increasing stamp prices for the downward spiraling service that they are providing.

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Cable modem bandwidth caps?

tompaulco tompaulco writes  |  about a year ago

Today I got an e-mail from Cox communication saying that I had exceeded my bandwidth cap of 250 GB on my internet plan. Well, this is a complete shock to me. I am not aware of any bandwidth limit on my internet plan. It's not like it's a phone where bandwidth is expensive (and unlimited on my plan).
So, I am only about halfway through the billing period, which I guess means that I have used 250 GB in about 11 days. That is pretty heavy, I must admit. Especially since I am only a casual user of internet at home. We don't do hulu, or netflicks or anything like that. My girls are home from school for the summer, and they play minecraft and watch youtube and play flash games, but I would think it would be hard to use that much bandwidth on those.
So cox directed me to a site where I could monitor the bandwidth usage. I went there and it asked for my login. I don't have a login to my knowledge, so I tried to register. It told me I already had a login, so I asked it to look up my login. After verifying all of my information, it asked me to call customer service. Well, screw that. It sounds like they have assigned me a userID and didn't tell me what it was, so I am not going to waste my time waiting on hold for them.

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Sony losing points

tompaulco tompaulco writes  |  about 3 years ago

Well, after all my defending Sony throughout the Playstation Network debacle, they are now trying to make an enemy of me. They offered me two free games from a list of about 10 as recompense for the inconvenience. However, when I go to try to collect on the offer, they say it is no longer a valid offer.

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Uh oh, its April Fools Day

tompaulco tompaulco writes  |  more than 4 years ago

... Guess I can't read slashdot today, if I get the free time to do so.

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Why are used cars so expensive?

tompaulco tompaulco writes  |  about 6 years ago I am in the unenviable position of having to find a suitable car for my 16 year old stepson. Naturally, new cars are out of the question, because there aren't any in the price range that a new driver ought to be driving (approximately $1500 to $2000 in my opinion). So I started looking at used cars. However, there also aren't any used cars in that price range that actually run and aren't falling apart. My first car, 20 years ago, cost about $1200 and it ran and it was only falling apart a little. Also, that car was really only worth about $700. I figure if inflation has doubled in the last 20 years, and it hasn't, then I should be able to get a comparable car for about twice what that one was worth, or about $1400. However, it seems that an eight year old car with 100,000 miles on it these days still costs about 5,000. A lady at work was thinking of selling her 2002 Honda Civic with 72000 miles on it. I figured she might get $5,000 retail for it and I might be able to get it for $3,000. But no, according to Kelly Blue book, this car retails for almost $10,000, and trade-in is almost $6,000. This is a car that was probably released in 2001 and is therefore 8 years old, and has close to 100,000 miles on it. another 28,000 miles and you wouldn't be able to get a loan on it, but the dealers want $10,000 for it. It was only $13,000 brand new. How is it that a car can loose half it's value when it drives off the showroom floor, and then 8 years later still cost 80% of it's original value?
Where does one go to find reliable transportation at prices befitting the fact that the person driving it is almost certainly going to wreck it within the next two years?

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Employer wants to invade my privacy

tompaulco tompaulco writes  |  about 6 years ago Let's preface this with the fact that I am not so happy about my job anyway. But I have been doing it, and doing it well, and trying not to whine too much about it. However, a couple of days ago they sent out a form that everyone is required to sign indicating that they agree to their information being put into a "treasury folder". This folder will contain Criminal History results, Consumer Credit results, Copy of Birth Certificate, Copy of state issued ID, Fingerprints, and other miscellaneous items.
It is probably not illegal for an employer to ask for any of these items, however, I feel that they hired me several years back without the stipulation that I give them this right to invade my privacy, so what need do they have to invade my privacy now? The thing is, they are being hypocritical. We deal with healthcare information, which I am happy to keep private in compliance with HIPAA, however, they want to keep our customers' data private while meanwhile digging through mine and sharing it with their customers. I don't agree to this.
So I am left in a quandary. I can't sign the agreement saying that I agree with it, because that would be committing perjury. However, if I don't sign it, they probably will fire me. This is an at-will state, so they can do that. I don't think it should be legal for an employer to demand your private, non-company related information and fire you if you choose not to comply.
Unfortunately, at this stage in my life, I do need the job. I have kids, and my other income sources do not generate enough to keep me above water without this job. However, every year I get a little more independent, and a little more likely to tell them to bite me when they come up with stuff like this.
The good news is I have an interview in about 1 minute with another company. Hopefully it will go well, and I can tell my company I do not wish to sign their paper and see how it goes.
More good news is that I talked with some other people who were wary about it, but were going to sign it because they thought they were the only one with concerns. Now I have about 5 people who aren't going to turn it in, so maybe our "union" can bring about some change.

Update 2008-09-08
Late last week I was brought in for "The Talk". Basically, I guess I am one of the last people who hasn't signed the paperwork allowing the company to investigate into areas of my life that they have no business investigating or keeping records on. I was told by the company lawyer that I would be terminated if I did not allow them to probe into my finances, credit history, and other personal information. I found some information in their documentation which said that after they fingerprinted me, this information would be turned over to the state law authorities as well. I told them that I absolutely disagreed with this procedure. Unfortunately, it was either sign the documents or be terminated. They also had language in there that said that if we refused to sign this stuff and were terminated then we would be considered to have "quit" and would not be eligible for unemployment. So they were pretty much strong arming me. So I ended up signing the documents because I have no other job to jump to at the moment, but I did verbally indicate to them that I was signing the documents indicating that I agreed, but that I did not agree and was only signing under duress. Also, I am writing this missive as further proof of my disagreement to their terms.

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USPS trying to lose customers

tompaulco tompaulco writes  |  more than 6 years ago Long lines at the Post Office have long been a problem, but today I was reminded of the issue once again, and it got me to thinking. The USPS keeps raising rates to cover costs on the one hand, but on the other hand they are trying as hard as they can to lose customers and thus the economies of scale. Today I went in to the local Post Office and there were 8 people in line and 1 clerk. I just turned around and left because I don't have 45 minutes to wait around. Another person in the line also left while I was standing there. The problem is, what is the alternative? If you have packages, you can go to FedEx, UPS etc., but the USPS has a government enforced monopoly on first class mail. I think it is time to break that monopoly and make the USPS compete.

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I got to do something interesting...

tompaulco tompaulco writes  |  more than 6 years ago It is not very often that I actually get to do something interesting at work. Once upon a time I used to do interesting and challenging work all the time. That was back when I worked on database administration and data warehousing. I used to have to come up with software solutions for business challenges. But for the last five years I have spent all my time coming up with solutions for software challenges. All of the software that I have had to use in previous years has been poorly designed, buggy, and basically not ready for release to the real world. So I spend all of my time coding around bugs that the vendor's won't fix, creating functionality via APIs that ought to be in the base product, and of course, spending huge amounts of time in meetings fighting with the vendors about their crappy products. I spend less than 5% of my time actually using the software to meet our business challenges.
I did finally do something interesting yesterday, although it was still an end run around a roadblock put up by our vendor. Basically we have been fighting with them for about 6 years on the fact that they don't provide us sufficient information on who is keying the batches in their product. Their "keying information" consists of the start and stop time and the keyer name of the last session spent on a batch of work. If one keyer does not finish the batch and another keyer picks it up, the start time gets overwritten and the keyer name gets overwritten, instead of another audit record being written. For six years, the vendor refused to fix this. So yesterday, I sat down and started writing code to write database entries every time the keyers changed any of the data. It was only a few hours work to create a solution that will give us all the information we need, and I still need to put together some queries to wrap this up into a report, but this is by far the most interesting thing I have done at work recently (pretty sad, I guess).
This just reinforces my recent thinking that my real calling in professional life is databases and datawarehousing. It is the only type of work I have ever done that gave me a sense of fulfillment. It was also something that I was very, very good at, as any number of former supervisors will attest. I wish I could find a job doing that sort of work again.

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Mixed feelings on Redbox

tompaulco tompaulco writes  |  more than 6 years ago Redbox is an interesting new idea in video rentals where you pay $1 plus tax each night. After 25 nights (and 25 dollars), you can keep the movie. You can rent the video from any kiosk that has it and return it to any kiosk you want. They don't have a store, so costs are low, but they have limited space, so selections are basically new releases only. The thing I like is that you can view selections online and determine what is available at different kiosks. This comes in handy for those of us who would rather sit in air conditioned comfort and browse movies from multiple locations rather than stand out in the heat and browse that particular kiosks selections. In fact, it is really pretty stupid if you are looking for a particular movie to take your chances that it is actually at the kiosk you happen to go to. However, lots of people are pretty stupid, particularly the ones that rent at the McDonald's locations.
One big drawback of the Redbox system is that each Kiosk only has one monitor and so even if you have efficiently made your selection online, or even if you simply want to return a movie, you could end up sitting in line behind someone desperately seeking a movie that is not in the machine through the somewhat slow movie selection screens. This seems to happen without fail at the McDonald's locations and has never happened to me in a supermarket location.
For this reason, I highly recommend that anyone looking to rent from Redbox choose their selections online, and then, even if they have to go out of the way, choose to pick them up from a location in a supermarket rather than one at a McDonalds. I also recommend to drop your movies off at any location other than a McDonald's, so you similarly don't have to stand in line.
A particularly bad example of this happened yesterday. I arranged my rental online as usual. Because there were no other locations that had the movie I wanted to see, I had to pick up at a McDonald's location. When I arrived, there was on lady at the machine already as I pulled in the lot. There were no spots near the redbox except for a handicapped spot, so I had to park about 30 feet away. While, in the process of pulling in to the spot and walking back to the machine, a lady parked in the handicapped spot (she did not have a sticker) and got in line behind the lady who was already there. After about five minutes the first lady was done, and the second lady started her transaction. She rented 6 movies. She looked at me coyly and said "movie night". I found myself unable to share her smile. Partly because it was 95 degrees and she had cut in front of me by parking in an illegal manner, and was delaying my 20 second transaction with her 15 minutes of browsing which any intelligent person would have done online.
All in all, though, Redbox has stopped me from using Blockbuster, where a one night rental is still $6. Maybe they will try the kiosk idea too. They actually have enough locations where they could just make an automated station and probably cut down on full time personnel.
Redbox's system is not flawless, however. Once I returned two movies, and they charged me a full $25 for each of the two movies that I had returned. I called their customer support and they were unable to find the tracking numbers for the movie and would not issue a refund. I found this very frustrating. After all, I may have even been interested in buying the particular movies, but probably wouldn't have paid $25 for them, maybe $15, definitely $10. But I had paid $25 and they said I owned them, but I didn't have them. Major suckitude. Luckily that is the only time that has happened so far, and I have mostly been able to enjoy first run movies for an average price of probably about $2.50 each, and the average falls each time I get to watch one for $1 and they don't try to charge me full price.

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My review of the PT Cruiser

tompaulco tompaulco writes  |  more than 6 years ago These days, I guess the car rental companies are trying new things to try to attract customers. One of the things they are trying is offering non-traditional cars for rent. A few weeks back I was assigned a Chevy HHR, and one of my coworkers got a VW New Beetle (which he hated). This week I got a PT Cruiser. It was bad enough that I felt I had to comment on it. The first thing I noticed upon getting the car was that there was no way to open the rear trunk in order to get your bags in. There was no button inside to pop the trunk, and no button on the keychain either. There was not keyhole on the trunk that I could see. I gave up and put my bags in the back seat. I noted that getting on the highway was a chore for this vehicle, as it had very little pep even with the hammer down. As I drove to the hotel, I noticed that the information on the trip meter and the outside air temperature were in metric units. I was unable to locate any apparatus for changing this to standard units.
The next day I had to park in a parking garage. As I went to roll down the window, I discovered that there were no switches on the door for rolling down the window and no manual crank either. The controls were also not on the center console as they are on some cars. After a few seconds, I gave up and opened the door to retrieve my ticket. Later that day I discovered the window controls were up on the center of the dashboard, a very inconvenient and out of the ordinary place. As I went to park, I noted that the turning radius was terrible on this car and I had to make two attempts to get the car to turn into the spot. Also, the shaped of the front hood makes it impossible to tell where the edges of the car are in close quarters, which makes parking difficult. On the way home that night, I noted that the ride was terrible. After going over a bump, the car continued jittering for several seconds. Then when I went over some railroad tracks that were on a shallow corner, the car hopped sideways, which could have caused a loss of control, as it was totally unexpected.
Once, while fiddling with the trunk, I got it to open, and I looked at some articles on the internet, and discovered that you are supposed to pull up on the Chrysler logo. I tried this several times, but it was hit and miss. I found that even if I hit the unlock button twice in succession, it was about 50/50 whether pulling up on the Chrysler logo would open the trunk. The logo was kind of flimsy and I was afraid to pull on it very hard because it felt like it would break or fall off. Once I got the trunk open, I found that there was very little trunk space. There was also no privacy flap, which is a must in a wagon or SUV type of car where you can see the trunk contents through the back glass. I had to leave my bag in the trunk visible to the world in the parking garage after checking out of my hotel.
The keyfob has a panic button on it which is very easy to hit. I hit it once during the five days I had the car. It is located in a place where you are likely to hit it while removing the key from the ignition.
The gas mileage was surprisingly bad for a car that has so little pep.
There is really not much positive to say about the car. The styling is retro and harkens of a time before I was born, therefore it is not much interest to me. It may appeal to people who were born in the '50s. I think they were going for novel ideas on the convenience features which may work well for somebody who owns the car, as they would be used to the location of the features and it could be a subject of conversation with passengers. However, as a rental car, it just doesn't work. When you rent a car, you need the switches, trunk releases, buttons and other features to have expected locations and behavior, otherwise it is frustrating and possibly even dangerous. A rental car with no way to hide your bags is just asinine.

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When is a raise not a raise?

tompaulco tompaulco writes  |  more than 6 years ago When it's less than or equal to the increase in the cost of living. If you, as a manager, value your employee exactly the same this year as you did last year, assume that he has learned nothing in the interim, and that he doesn't add any more to the productivity this year than he did last year, than he deserves a Cost of Living Adjustment. If you give him now cost of living adjustment, then that means that you feel that the employee contributes LESS to the company now than he did last year, that he has lost some of his ability to do his job and has forgotten how to do parts of his job.
An employee who has worked hard, learned and applied new skills and taken on new responsibility should feel slighted if he receives only a Cost of Living Adjustment and should feel slapped in the face if he is offered no increase in compensation whatsoever.
This year, I received a modest pay increase, only it wasn't a raise, as I have not received a pay increase in the last three years. During that time, the cost of living increased by about 8.6%. By contrast, my increase in salary was only 6.25%. So I am worth about 2.4% less now than I was 3 years ago.
What is truly insulting in my case is that this current increase is only half of the amount that I was promised to get 3 years ago, which I was supposed to get two weeks after my start date. I was told they could not give me the salary that I requested, but in two weeks they would increase it to what I was asking. A year later, when I inquired about the status of my year old raise, I was told that raises were coming soon. A year after that, I inquired again, and provided updated figures of what other people with my job description were getting and pointed out that I had been lied to several times by management, and also quoted a new figure which I thought I should receive, which was about 20% under what other people in my position are getting. Well, I received my increase in salary, and it raised me up about 25% of the way to the salary that I felt I could accept. As I pointed out, it is even less than the cost of living has gone up. However, I know that management likes to give out small increases like this, because then they can feel that their employees are greedy if they request another raise before another couple of years has gone by.
Yes, I know that some people received no increase in pay this year, others received reductions in pay, and some have no job. I don't ask them to feel sorry for me. I ask them to be even more outraged at what their employer or lack thereof is doing to them.
Time to read the classifieds.

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The Golden Compass

tompaulco tompaulco writes  |  more than 6 years ago Well, I had to see what all the fuss was about. I work with and, of course, go to Church with quite a few Christians, and most of them are pretty conservative. So I had heard all the buzz about how this movie was a horrible anti-Christian movie where they kill God at the end. Well, the Bible tells me that I am always supposed to study and prove out what other people say to see if it is true. So I watched The Golden Compass, and much to the probable horror of many Christians, I watched it with my family. I was prepared to shut the movie off at the part where they killed God, if it came to that. However, I had my suspicion that they wouldn't kill God, because no one really knows what God looks like, and you can't kill the author of life, because He doesn't have a physical existence in the Universe that He created. To think that someone on Earth could kill God is like thinking a character in a painting could kill the painter.
Anyway, the movie was good enough as movies go. It was pretty similar to the Narnia movies. This is where I think some Christians get up in arms. Before I knew that C.S. Lewis was a Christian, I was always amazed that Christians didn't get up in arms about his portrayal of Aslan as a Christ figure. Other than the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, most of the other books did not have such a vocal religious message, so I didn't put two and two together that C.S. Lewis was a Christian. It was only later that he was and that he had written other Christian works. So it seems that Christians don't get upset when one of their own writes a book containing a blatant Christ figure who is not actually Jesus, but if another author who professes to be an atheist and an agnostic writes a book about fighting a false religion, than Christians get all up in arms. It's sad to me as a Christian myself. In particular the fact that so many have not seen this movie and yet pass judgment on it blindly by listening to what other people have said. I mean, this is why people bash religions, because people blindly listen and parrot back what other people tell them without so much as verifying what was said. Don't they read their Bibles? It plainly says that you should always read the scriptures to see if what the pastor says is true.
Another funny thing. The author of The Golden Compass claims to be an atheist and an agnostic. Those are two contradictory ideologies. An Agnostic does not claim to have the answer to whether there is a God or not. An Atheist claims that he knows for sure that there is no God.
I actually liked aspects of The Golden Compass. For instance, the religion they fought had people high up in the organization who KNEW that the religion was false and actively fought scientific study of "dust" which would prove the religion false. Of course, this is a strawman as there is no way to prove any of Earth's religions false scientifically. However, there have been efforts by some religions, including by Christians at times, to thwart scientific progress. In my opinion, this is because their faith is weak and they fear that science may discover something which proves their religion wrong. In truth, science can not prove a religion wrong if it is right. If God created everything, then science is the study of that Creation, and everything they discover will only ever server to reveal more about God. As a Christian, I believe I have nothing to fear from Science. I have read Darwin, his works did not turn me away from my beliefs. It turns out that I share the same beliefs as Darwin. He was a Christian. He also was a 'naturalist', one who studies nature. He came up with some theories about how species evolved. In many books he wondered at the grandeur of God's Creation. He never proved there was no God.
In short, this is a pretty good movie for those who, like me, don't like religion, and is not a threat to those who, like me, are Christians. The message is not anti-Christian, but anti-religion. I don't like religion either. Neither did Jesus. Religion is all about worshiping the practices of worshiping God, instead of just worshiping God. Religion says that by following certain rules and guidelines, you can obtain heaven. Religion is all about bondage to a set of rules. Jesus came to break those bonds and set us free. Not to enslave us to another set of rules.
By all means, see the movie. Don't listen to the people who haven't seen it.

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All the Cell Phone Companies are in with the scammers

tompaulco tompaulco writes  |  more than 7 years ago I want to make you aware of a huge problem with all of the major wireless providers. They all allow shady third party billers to claim charges against wireless customers, pass the charges through to the customer with no authorization and no research into whether the charge is legitimate, and then claim that they are unable to reverse the charges which THEY placed on the bill.

In my specific situation, my stepson had his phone stolen. When we received a replacement phone, he immediately started receiving text messages which we did not sign up for. Presumably the thief signed up for these programs. Even though Alltel is fully aware that our phone was stolen, and these charges mysteriously showed up on my bill on the very day that the new phone was activated (although I did not even give the phone to my son that day), they refused to reverse the charges and told me I had to call the original company which billed these charges. Why am I guilty until proven innocent? Why do I have to call a company with which I have never done business in order to receive a refund for charges which I never authorized? Nevertheless, I did as directed, and they said that it may be up to 12 weeks to receive my reimbursement, if their accounting department approves it. How come I have to pay my bill this month, but they have up to 12 weeks to reimburse me, if they choose to do so at all? Alltel says they will cut me off and charge me $200 per line cutoff fee if I do not pay these unauthorized charges. In my case, I know my stepson could not have signed up for these, because the phone was stolen and we had no phone with which to make these charges. In other cases, these companies apparently send unsolicited text messages, mostly to kids, because they know kids always respond to text messages, and if they receive a response, they automatically sign the phone up for charges ranging from $5.99 a week up to $9.99. Most of the time, the people with the phone are under 18, so are technically under no obligation to pay, but the phone companies and the shady companies who deceitfully send these text messages claim that the children act as their parents' representative, so the parent is responsible for the charge. This is not a case where a person can simply change service providers as EVERY SINGLE WIRELESS PROVIDER promotes this scam. They are all acting anti-competitively and in collusion to steal money from consumers. The wireless companies get to keep around 35% of these fraudulent charges, so they have no desire to help end the problem.

We need legislation to force Wireless providers to block these companies from billing their customers. These third party companies all provide a service which no one would legitimately sign up for for the price which they charge. People responding to their text messages have no opportunity to review pricing or know what they are signing up for simply by replying to a text message. Most of the people responding to the text message are not of a legal age to be able to be held to a contract.

I am completely fed up with the wireless companies all doing business with these third party deceivers and then claiming no responsibility, no ability to reverse charges, etc. I am writing my state representatives, the Better Business Bureau, the Attorney General, the Federal Trade Commission, my lawyer, the Corporation Commission, and anyone else I can think of, because these companies are stealing from people.

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Airport (in)security

tompaulco tompaulco writes  |  about 8 years ago It was my great displeasure to have to travel on the day after the foiled terrorist plot on August 10th, 2006. Security was, of course, heightened. It may seem odd to have heightened security when the plot was, in fact, foiled. But sure enough, they were not allowing liquids of any kind on the plane. They were allowing prescription medications, though. Obviously, a terrorist is not able to obtain a prescription for some medication, and then empty it out and fill it with some sort of explosive.
The most major annoyance was that no one was recommending to you at checkin that you should probably check your carry-on if it contains any shampoo, toothpaste, cologne, deodorant or anything like that. But really, who travels with that stuff anyway? Everybody just buys an entirely new toiletry set every time they travel right? Well, from now on they do. Once you get to security, you have to throw all that stuff away, even the $100 bottle of perfume. Just try to get out of line and go back and check your bag now. They'll shoot you where you stand. So you have no notice that they are going to make you throw away all of your toiletries until you are in the security line.
Then, the second annoyance. After they have forced you to throw away all of your liquids, they then ALSO refuse to allow you to take any liquids on the plane. So if you have a 6AM flight and decided to buy some toothpaste in the terminal to brush your teeth, you get to throw away the remainder of your toothpaste. If you buy some Orange Juice, you have to drink it before you get on the plane. This is AFTER security. Instead of forcing you to throw away everything you buy at the airport stores, why don't they just tell the airport stores not to sell explosives?
Finally, on the plane, I had to sit next to a guy who had his own aluminum coffee mug, with coffee inside it. Nice job, security. Give yourselves a pat on the back.

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Annoying thugs

tompaulco tompaulco writes  |  more than 8 years ago I've seen the movies where kids play "mailbox baseball"; driving down residential streets smashing up mailboxes with a baseball bat. I always thought that was a irresponsible, stupid thing to do. I mean, for one, it is a federal offense to interfere with the delivery of the mail. For another, it means that several people are going to have to get a new mailbox, even though they shouldn't have to, and even though they may not be able to afford to.
I thought that I would be immune to this, since I have a brick mailbox. But alas, I suffered from some derivative of mailbox baseball. During the night hours, what would almost certainly have to be several people, knocked over my brick mailbox. It would have been no easy feat, as it is about four feet tall, and 2.5 feet square. Someone would have had to both knock it loose from it's mortar, and then lift it up before pushing it back over. It obviously wasn't hit by a car, as the mailbox was knocked back toward my house, not along the street in either direction.
I can't understand the mentality that considers this "harmless pranking", as it quite obviously does harm to my budget, which is thin already, and also causes me unneeded stress with my family, and leaves me feeling violated and vulnerable.
Our whole society has a problem wherein the law abiding have to pay the cost for both upholding the law, and for the consequences if the law is not upheld. I feel it is unfair that I should have to pay for someone else's damage to my property. Why don't we just charge all the criminals that have been caught doing crimes like this, and pay for their damage out of that money?
We should make criminals pay for their own room and board in prison, pay for the legal system that brought them to justice, and recompense all the people that they hurt. Sure, it seems harsh, but of course, criminals always have the option of not committing crimes. It's not like anyone ever steals to survive anymore. The reason people steal these days is because they want stuff that they can't have unless they are willing to work for it.
I wish I could afford a camera system at my house. It seems like every couple of months, somebody vandalizes my house. If I could catch them on video, maybe I could get them thrown in prison. Seems harsh, but once again, nobody forced them to vandalize my house.

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Father Goose

tompaulco tompaulco writes  |  more than 8 years ago My father has been charged with "unlawful taking of a water fowl". He has confessed to accidentally killing a Canada Goose with a pellet gun.This is not the first time he has shot at the geese. He shoots at them when they chase his cats, chase his grandchildren, eat all the birdfood out of his birdfeeders, and congregate on his driveway, refusing to budge to allow him to go to work. This is the first time he has ever actually hit one, and unfortunately, it died. Naturally, for this first ever occurence, a treehugger (driving a big american pickup truck) was there to witness and to accost my father. My father was frightened by the man's behaviour, and it was a race to see who would call the police first. The police came, and my father confessed. Not having any idea what to charge him with, they eventually left. The next day, after constant badgering from the "good samaritan", they finally were able to come up with the charge of "unlawful taking of a water fowl". They asked my father if he would come down to the station and surrender his pellet gun, and $250 bond, or if they should send a squad car for him. My father said he would drive himself, to save the taxpayers some money on the squad car. And he did, and he surrendered his pellet gun, and paid $250. Now he has a court date at the end of March, and may face additional charges up to $5000, and up to a year in prison. This is an absurd punishment for a man who has spent his life bettering humanity and is now living on a fixed retirement income. My father was one of the brilliant engineers who helped Bell Laboratories to be a success. He dedicated 35 years of his life to the company, which under Lucent's horrible management, suffocated and was all but destroyed. My father has worked on premature baby respirators, cost effective home alarm systems, voice recognition technologies, and a host of other projects to benefit humanity, and now, at the behest of one environmentalist nutcake, society wants to throw him in prison. The self procalimed environmentalist admits that he wants the court to "nail his butt". he says he saw someone deliberately swerve to hit a canada goose once and he swore to himself that the next time he saw something like that, he would do something about it. Well, my father is not the one who swerved to hit a goose. Why should he be prosecuted at the whim of this nut job because of something someone else did? The nut job also admitted that he was a reformed hunter. Now it becomes clear that the man has issues with his own pat "sins" and rather than dealing with them, he is going to attempt to punish my father for his own sin. The man obviously has some emotional issues.
Ironically, my father was charged with a crime which he did not commit. He did not unlawfully take a waterfowl. The environmentalist did. The environmentalist took the bird and buried it. HE is the one guilty of unlawfully taking a waterfowl.
Anyone in the northern part of the United States is aware of the problem with Canada Geese. The geese cause airplane crashes, automobile crashes, bite children and pets, and leave their staining and corrosive poop all over pavement, roofs and anything left outdoor. It is legal in many states to destroy the eggs of Canada Geese. Why? Because it is the migratory geese which are considered endangered. Obviously if they are laying egges, they are not migratory, but resident. The law has seen the light of day and realized that non-migratory Canada Geese are a huge problem. Some states even have hunting seasons for Canada Geese. Was the one that my father shot a migratory bird? Evidently not, as it was in Illinois in the middle of winter. However, even though Illinois will allow you to destroy eggs, you may not actually kill one of the adults. The EPA has estimated that there are now more than 255,000 migratory Canada Geese, twice the number there were in 1972. However, there are literally millions of non-migratory nuisance geese. On the roads of Illinois, hundreds are killed every day. Yet none of those people are thrown in jail, or even charged with a crime.
I feel that my father is being unfairly targeted by a man with issues dealing with his own past, and unfortunately, the justice system is actually paying attention to the man.

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Time to reinstall windows

tompaulco tompaulco writes  |  more than 8 years ago It used to be an every 6 month chore to reinstall windows back in the old Windows NT 3.51 and Windows 95 days. But after working with Windows 4.0 and 2000 and XP for the last few years, I had thought reinstalling Windows was a thing of the past. But not so! The day before yesterday, while working happily on my computer, I noticed Windows Update wanted to install some things. So I let it. BIG mistake. HUGE. After rebooting and logging back in, Windows Explorer throws an error. Then Dr. Watson throws an error. Every icon I doubleclick or right click throws a Windows Explorer error and a Dr. Watson error. Then I have to kill both instances of Dr. Watson before I can even get focus back. After that, the cycle just repeats itself. And of course, Clicking the Start Menu does the same thing. I try several different user profiles to see if the problem is only with mine. It's not.
I boot into safe mode and the same problem happens, but luckily after the first error, I am able to click some of my other icons. I attempt to run adaware, but after 25 minutes of scanning, (and finding about 83 things), it throws an error and dies. I try rebooting several times. Annoyingly, I am unable to log off in safe mode, so I have to keep physically powering off.
At one point, after allowing my computer to send the results of an error to Microsoft, I get a message back from Microsoft saying that the error is caused by LAME MP3 codec. Well, I decide to go ahead and uninstall the program that uses that, just in case. Unfortunately, it will not uninstallin safe mode, and I can not get to the uninstall window in normal mode.
I run the windows file checker utility to make sure the original versions of all windows executables are in place. It exits without saying anything, which I don't know if that is normal or not. But it sure didn't fix anything, as the problem still persists.
I download and reinstall XP service Pack 2. It doesn't immediately solve my problem of not being able to shut down cleanly when in safe mode. But when booting back up in normal mode, the windows explorer problem appears to be fixed. The computer works fine all day.
Then this morning I wake up to find that Windows Update has downloaded some more files to my computer and automatically rebooted. Once again, I get the windows explorer and Dr. Watson errors on everything I touch. One more time, I will try reinstalling SP2. Plus I am disabling Windows update. The exploits from the script kiddies cause much less damage and stress than the Windows Update is causing me.
If SP2 doesn't work this time, I guess it is time to reinstall Windows.

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