From the Mind of a Mad Man

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Alright, that’s not entirely true. It seems to be becoming more and more true however, as I find myself attempting to use my TiVo services over time. That’s right folks – TiVo. Remember them?

TiVo is (mostly) alive. In 2012 TiVo had approximately 2.3 million US subscribers, down from 4.36 million at their peak in January 2006. That was over 10 years ago of course, it’s quite likely they have less subscribers in the US at this time. Especially if one of their customers spent any length of time with their software; the consistent faults in which are beginning to take their toll on my patience and mind.

If you’ve ever had a TiVo you probably know their customer support is a bit shit, to say the least. I would rather call Comcast than call TiVo. I’m unsure of the company to whom TiVo, Inc has outsourced calls, however there are people working the register at McDonalds who are more competent. Since Rovi finalized the acquisition of TiVo and their IP, it seems support has become worse, actually.

My frustrations with corporate mergers and overpaid under-challenged TiVo call center trainers aside, TiVo has always had a few good spots, such as the UI on the TiVo, big graphical buttons, and a comfortable “peanut” remote. They’ve also had a few bad spots as well. For me:

  1. customer service & technical support
  2. online streaming via online.tivo.com
  3. nonsensical requirements for connecting your TiVo directly to the router

A room of cats riding a Roomba, wearing a shark costume while wearing a headset and clinking away at a computer keyboard, whilst speaking to customers would provide better, more comprehensive, and professional support to their customers than what they have now.

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September 16, 2016

Apple announces iOS 10. A storm brews as my excitement for new features is destroyed by poorly crafted UI changes to the Messages app. My “loyalty” to the last remaining Apple product I would ever purchase fades into the night. Of course, I wouldn’t replace it with a Windows Phone; been there, done that, and to use a cliché – I have the t-shirt. My only choice was a dumb phone or an Android phone.

I’m no fan of Samsung or HTC, and was left with few options.

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For years I’ve advocated the user of numerous tools and/or services individuals and households can use to bolster their online privacy, but I’ve never written about them. I’ve heard a lot of people saying “We live in a post-Snowden era”, which is true. But what does that mean and how do we regain even the tiniest bit of privacy?  Earth’s reaction to the Snowden revelation varied. Many individuals already believed this type of state sponsored surveillance had been in place for many years, and this only confirmed their suspicions. Some were truly shocked. Others still live in a state of denial. One of the many things to come from the leaked information was an increase in the number of services designed to block ads, encrypt your connections to websites or services, and not log where you’ve been.

Let’s go over a few of them!

Note: Under no circumstances am I an expert in cryptography, network security, nor am I advocating the use of any security/privacy service mentioned in this post, this blog, or anywhere else on the internet to conceal your illegal activities on the internet.

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Wow, it’s been a while since I’ve written a post. Incredible how time flies when you’re having fun… or rather, trying to while making one’s way through the labyrinthine maze of no-support support created by one of the worlds largest software companies – Microsoft. Most of you know me as a bit of a Microsoft fanboy, but never have I been shy to criticize Microsoft when they’ve dropped the ball.

In the past within the past few weeks, I’ve been screwed out of a Windows 10 Pro license, been the bearer of a broken OneDrive for iOS application, and through inaction by Microsoft Developers, been forced to use a broken Groove app. In trying to obtain support for the various issues, I’ve experienced product team compartmentalization the likes of which hasn’t been seen since Area 51 was in it’s heyday. A great deal of my time has been spent trying to work with Microsoft on these issues, but short of flying out to their Redmond campus, an option not off the table, I can say Comcast and Time Warner have better customer service than Microsoft.  

Are ya ready kids? 

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This post has been rewritten since original publishing. Blog mea regulae meae!

With regard to the acquisition of computers, I have a rule – buy business or enterprise class hardware. Yes, they are more expensive, but more often than not, the hardware and technical support you receive are better than consumer grade hardware. Business class products are typically engineered to last longer as companies tend to buy large quantities of computers and don’t rotate them out for several years at a time.

Recently, I broke that rule and through my own doing, paid the price.

Several weeks ago I decided I wanted to sell my beloved Fujitsu Lifebook U904. It’s somewhat of a collectible, in my opinion, given they didn’t sell them for very long, making it a limited edition of sorts. I created an eBay account just to sell this item, and after a few scam attempts, sold the computer to a good home. I was undecided in which computer the Lifebook would be replaced with. Another Fujitsu perhaps? The previous one never gave me an ounce of trouble, despite it’s awful trackpad and “shallower than a kiddie pool” keyboard.  Unfortunately, as of this writing, Fujitsu doesn’t seem to sell a ultrabook or ultrabook-esque notebook with a QHD+ resolution, or higher, like my U904.

In a market where the PC is allegedly dying as more and more people use tablets or convertibles, I was somewhat limited in choice. Then I noticed many blogs were covering the newly refreshed Dell XPS 15″ with the Skylake processor from Intel. It was pure happenstance I found one in the Dell Outlet with the configuration I wanted:

  • Intel “Skylake” i7 quad core processor
  • 16 GB RAM, user accessible and upgradable
  • 512 GB SSD, also user accessible and upgradable
  • 4K Infinity Edge Display
  • among other core features…

The laptop was priced well for a refurbished model, and surprisingly came with a 1 year warranty, instead of 90 days or similar, as several other manufacturers do. Little did I know my experience with Dell would end in frustration.

“Frodo, Throw it in the fire!” I heard in the distance as I unboxed the notebook for the first time. I should have listened.

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Stardate, 69527.6. The Mad Man attends the symphony. Tonight’s special?

st_ultimate_voyage

If ever there were a video montage designed to testify to what it is to be human, this would be the one. The show, produced by some immensely talented individuals and expertly performed by members of the Czech Republic National Symphony Orchestra, is an amazing look at 50 years of Star Trek. Beware, your emotions will be brought out for some playtime before being put back on the shelf with your Star Trek collectibles.

When we bought tickets, we ordered a VIP package which netted us a free poster signed by the maestro, an invitation to Sound Check, followed by a Q&A session with the maestro. We had an idea of what the show was about going in, but we were wrong. I (incorrectly) believed they would project scenes, often pivotal, engaging, popular, or of battles on a huge screen above the orchestra and playback the music from said scene. Instead, they have cut, pasted, recomposed, and done everything to create a movie, just about 2 hours long, telling the story of Star Trek, through 50 years, 710 episodes and now, 14 feature length films, while capturing every moment that captures us to this day. The film and accompanying orchestral production are amazing, to say the least.

Below, some video from the sound check.

Now, on to vacation!

Since I was deprived of a vacation last year, due to almost falling down a mountain to my doom while visiting the terrible country of St. Thomas, we are making up for it this year with another trip to Vegas. I love Vegas, the history, the glamour, the food – oh, the food. Though I don’t drink or gamble, I still have a great time. The only problem? Getting there. Ent’re Delta Airlines.

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Caveat: by no means is the Backup Solutions application/service a product designed for consumers. The software is best designed for use in the business/enterprise sector. Sure, a SOHO user could use the service, Backup Solutions won’t turn you away. Just don’t expect to store terabytes of data without difficulty.

After my dip into the waters of poor customer service that is BackBlaze I found myself needing a new online backup provider. Over the years, I’ve rolled my own backup server, used Amazon’s own AWS, Microsoft Azure, and various other services. Unfortunately, I don’t have time to code scripts, create a working GUI, or putz around at a command line to upload files and folders. Sure, there are clients that do this out of the box, CloudBerry Lab makes some fantastic applications for those DIYer’s!

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As some of you may recall, a few years ago I began having a lot of dental work. I needed a lot of work and decided to get some implants in the lower right of my jaw. One thing I didn’t tell many is my Oral Surgeon had located what looked like a tumor in my left sinus and recommended a ENT Doctor evaluate it further. I later found out it was a mucous retention cyst. A lot of people have these and have no idea, for the most part, they aren’t harmful.

However, in the same ENT appointment, I confirmed a suspicion I have had for a while – I have a deviated septum. It was the only explanation for my inability to breathe all these years, and possibly for me being such a loud snorer. On an unrelated note, I had just had a MRI of my brain and the imagery revealed my turbinates are also enlarged, contributing the problem of nasal aspiration.

Without getting too ‘medical-termy’, turbinates help warm the air as you breathe in, keep your nose moist, among other things. Your nose cycles every 6 hours (roughly), as this happens the turbinates swell with blood. In most people, the nasal passages shrink a little, but you can still breathe through both passages. In mine, they couldn’t get the smallest endoscope up my nose. My nasal aspiration was very restricted. Finally, I opted for surgery to fix the deviated septum (septoplasty), reduce the size of the turbinates (turbinoplasty), and endoscopic nasal/sinus surgery (to remove the tumor in my left sinus cavity).

If you’re in a situation like mine and have considered surgery but aren’t sure, I hope this well help.

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If you’re an avid reader of my blog, you’re probably familiar with the ongoing saga that is Me vs. the Apple Store in Jacksonville, FL. If you’re new here, here’s a brief recap:

  • Incident 1: Several years ago I spilled some sort of liquid on my MacBook. The logic board was toast. I visited the Apple Store in Jacksonville to recycle the machine. I made the unfortunate mistake of not removing my hard drive prior to the visit, and upon asking them if either they could remove it, or while I stand at the genius bar, let me use the teeny-tiny screwdriver they use, I could remove it. Their answer was a flat no with the added “You could use it as a weapon”. Tensions escalated, and I removed the battery (back when you could!) and in front of the store, beat the hell out of the hard drive, shattering the platters beyond recovery. Handing the MacBook to the Apple guy, they refused to accept it, stating “it’s too beat up”. Why that matters when it’s going to be melted down or whatever they do, is beyond me. Needless to say, after some choice words, they kept that laptop.
  • Incident 2: Just last year, my Airport Extreme went tits up, and needed a hardware replacement. After a pleasant conversation with AppleCare, they phoned the Jacksonville store and setup the hardware swap (as it was faster, and I needed my router). On arriving to the store – I provided the “Apple Concierge” with the information given to me by AppleCare only to be asked “Do you have an appointment?”. The encounter didn’t end well for this gentleman, after some phone calls and dealing with one of their Managers, I got my hardware swap.
    In between, I have had a consistently poor customer service experience in the store, year after year, visit after visit. Many, of their staff have a ‘holier than thou’ attitude, and it really reminds me of the brief romance Verizon Wireless and I had, where after cancelling and returning my device, the manager chased me out of the store, shaking his finger, while shouting “You’ll be back! Verizon is the best!”. Staff in this Apple store are rude, and often hard to locate. To be blunt, I receive better customer service from the IRS than the local Apple Store and much prefer the store in Orlando.
  • The above said, I still have a few Apple products in personal use. While we have replaced our home router with gear from Ubiquiti, I do have an iPhone 6 and an Apple Music subscription.

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