Friday, November 30, 2007

Hey, Apple! I could've told you that!

Hmmm. Seems that Apple is reporting issues with some MacBook hard drives.

I found a story on PC World about it. The story was also on MacWorld, of course, but that's somehow harder to navigate for me.

They seem to be not overly concerned, Why?

... it doesn't appear to be a widespread problem, Apple said it has "received a few reports that some MacBook consumer notebooks may have hard drive issues, and we're looking into it."

Not "widespread?"

Okay, I'll believe that. They seem to be keeping the problem focused on a few select individuals.

Like me.

My MacBook went down in early October, then again this week.

The October issue was definitely the hard drive. I haven't received confirmation that the current problem is the hard drive, but I strongly suspect it is.

Booting in verbose mode, I see the word "mount" appear a lot on the two lines that seem to display over and over. And, when I boot from the OS disk, the hard drive isn't visible.

So, yeah, I'm thinking it's a hard drive. But, I gotta remember, I'm PC Guy. Have been for over a quarter of a century. So, I can't say I know as much about these Apple thingies as I do those PC thingies.

But I know when it doesn't work.

Still, I can't say that the problem I'm having is related to the issue reported by Retrodata. Because I can't check the firmware. Because the Mac is broken.

But my packing slip does show it is a SATA drive, so that much matches.

If you have a MacBook, you might want to look into your configuration and see if you're in danger of losing all your stuff.

Like I did.

Others report on the same issue: Information Week, Apple Insider.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

More calls for a college football playoff

Yahoo! sports columnist Dan Wetzel called for a college football playoff this week. And his plan is closest to the plan I've been promoting for a couple of years.

Wetzel calls for a 16-team tournament. The 11 conference champions, plus 5 at-large teams. He'd seed them in BCS standings order (or some similar formula).

I've been suggesting almost the same thing. The 11 conference champs, plus 5 at-large teams. Only, I'd follow the NFL pattern of the conference champs taking the top spots, and the at-large teams taking the bottom slots.

In the NFL, the division champs take the top sports, in a seeding order based on record. They fill in with "wild card" teams, the best teams that didn't win the division.

Mine is similar. The college "at-large" teams would be the equivalent of the "wild card" teams. That's the reason I say put them at the bottom of the seedings.

Wetzel removes the playoff teams from the bowls. I don't. My plan allows teams bumped in the first round ... or even the first two rounds ... to remain bowl-bound.

For instance, most would expect the MAC, Sun Belt, or C-USA champs to be bumped in the first or second round. They'd still get a bowl invite. I mean, the GMAC Bowl or the Las Vegas bowl wouldn't mind having a playoff team playing, would they?

Wetzel says lots of folks have supported his plan. I'm not in that group. Not 100%, that is.

His plan is better than the current BCS screwed up situation. But I think mine's better. But Wetzel's plan is close. Awfully close.

Again with the hard drive?

The MacBook is down. Again.

That's twice. Since I got it in early August.

No, I'm not a happy camper.

Shut the MacBook down yesterday prior to heading to work. Brought it with me, so that, at lunch, I could get online and check some stuff.

At lunch, I turned the MacBook on, and ... nothing.

Okay, not nothing.

Got the white/gray screen with the Apple logo, and the little "busy wheel" or whatever that thing's called.

And nothing more.

Initial diagnosis was an operating system problem. According to the Apple-authorized technician I spoke with, some Leopard upgrades (and mine game with Tiger -- OS X 10.4 -- and was upgraded to Leopard -- OSX 10.5) had similar issues.

So, since I didn't have my Leopard disks with me, he gave me instructions that I could use when I got home.

And, following those instructions (an Archive and Reinstall, which is essentially a re-installation of the operating system, keeping current settings), I discovered there was no hard drive being recognized.

A couple of months ago, the hard drive went out. Lost everything.

Now, it seems there may be another hard drive issue.

I got all my disks with me to take when I go by the Apple repair place at lunch.

You know, I really do like my MacBook.

When it works.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007


One of the things about changing the way you eat ... or drink ... is that it can have a long-lasting effect.

For instance, when in the Army, I found a change to the way I ate certain things.

Grits, for instance.

I always ate grits with butter and salt.

Oh, I wouldn't always add salt to my grits. If cooked properly ... in water salted just right ... the grits have enough salt to give them that ... certain something ... that makes them the wonderful Southern dish we all know and love.

Okay, you might not love grits. Or even know grits; that is, you may not have ever eaten properly prepared grits.

But, I always added butter to my grits.

However, if you ever find yourself in, say, some desert in some Muslim country, you might not find grits readily available.

Unless they are instant grits.

Never was a fan of instant grits. But instant grits are better than no grits at all.

So, in the Army, in the desert, I'd have to eat instant grits.

And, sometimes, there'd be salt or butter. And sometimes not.

So, I learned to eat grits without salt and butter.

Oh, I'll still eat salt and butter with my grits. If they're fixed that way. Like at IHOP or some other place that serves grits.

But I won't put salt and butter on my grits. I can eat them plain. And I'm not sure that's a good thing.

In fact, I'm pretty sure it's not.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Breakfast at McDonald's

Sometimes, the Wife and I will stop for breakfast at McDonald's. I like the Sausage McMuffins, and the Sausage, Egg & Cheese Biscuits.

Oh, and the Big Breakfast (scrambled eggs, sausage, hash browns, biscuit). And the Deluxe Breakfast (Big Breakfast, plus hotcakes). Or the Sausage Gravy & Biscuits.

We'll sometimes hit the drive-through. That's when I get the biscuit sandwiches. Or the McMuffin thingy.

But, sometimes, if we have time -- which means if we leave for work early enough -- we'll go in, sit down, and eat.

That's when I get the Big Breakfast or the Deluxe Breakfast.

The thing about McDonald's is that you know what you're going to get. And get the same quality food every time.

Now, sure, it's not great food. I mean, unless you're a pre-teen, it's not a big deal to go eat at McDonald's.

Still, the food's actually pretty good. Not necessarily good for you, but I don't care. It's as good as any food at any other place to eat. Unless you eat at one of those hippie joints where the lack of good food makes your brain go soft so that you vote for Democrats.

Eating at McDonald's is fine. And it's a great place to take the kids. Or the grandkids. And the breakfast is pretty good, too.

Okay, to tell the truth, I like Hardee's breakfast better, but McDonald's is on the way, and it's still pretty good.

And like I said, you can take the kids.

Most of the time.

Sometimes, you run into things you usually only see at a Wal-Mart at 2:00 AM.

McJammiesLike folks walking around in their pajamas.

Yes, that happens sometimes. Like the other day.

The Wife and I left for work early, and decided to eat breakfast on the way. And we stopped at McDonald's.

We went in, ordered the food, then sat down to eat.

I went back to get a refill on my drink, and ran into the Pajama Woman.

I don't know if she shows up at McDonald's in her pajamas a lot. I just ran into her the one time.

So, I'll still stop on occasion at McDonald's to eat breakfast.

I'm not looking forward to running into her again.

I guess I should be thankful that it was cold weather, and she had her long pajamas on. I don't want to know what she sleeps in come summertime.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

How to be a dumbass III

I have been known to do stupid things.

Sometimes, it's because I thought something was funny, but it was just stupid.

Other times, it's because I just made a bone-headed decision.

And then, sometimes, it's because I wasn't thinking. Or thinking about something other than what I was doing.

That happened recently. Again.

I mentioned how busy I've been at work. Well, it's one of those things where, if things go right, I'm very busy. If things go wrong, I'm even busier.

Well, some things went wrong, and I had to go in early to resolve an issue. And by early, I mean earlier than the normal "get to work by 8:30" kind of early. Like, the phone ringing at 4-something, notifying me of a problem.

A quick troubleshooting process over the phone determined that the issue was an issue I needed to handle. And that meant coming in to work early. Like, right then.

So, a quick shower and I'm off to work.

I had my iPod with me, because it's nice to have some music to listen to while I'm working away by myself. And, I decided to listen to it on the ride into work. I have one of those things that allows it to play through the radio.

When I pulled into the parking garage, I found a spot near the door and backed into it. I like pulling forward out of the spaces, because some folks will run over you if you try to back out.

Anyway, after backing into the space, I put the earbuds into my ears, grabbed the iPod from the dock, put it into my pocket. Then I grabbed all my papers and stuff and got out of the car.

I had that nagging feeling that I had forgotten something.

Oh, well. I'd find out later.

Anyway, into work. And, after an hour, the issue was resolved to the point of things working like they were supposed to. Then, into the research into why things went wrong in the first place, so we could prevent it from happening again.

Around 6:30, I reached into my pocket and noticed my keys were missing.

Ah, so that's what I forgot.

I felt sure that I had locked the doors, so that would mean that I hadn't just left my keys in the car, I had locked the keys in the car.

Boy, what a dumbass, right?


So, what do do about it?

Well, the Wife would be leaving for work in about an hour. She was probably getting up about this time, and I figured I'd wait until she was ready and everything, then ask her to bring the spare keys. After I verified that I had indeed locked the keys in.

About that time, another person I worked with was there and we had to follow a troubleshooting path. It took a while.

Next thing I knew, it was a little after 9:00, and the Wife was already at work.

Oh, well. I'd call her at lunch and get her to run the keys down here.

As 11:30 approached -- early for lunch for us, except for me on this day, since my day began really early -- I called. No answer.

So, I headed out the door, figuring I'd walk down to where she worked, get the keys, and unlock the car.

As I passed the parking garage, I could see my car.

The headlights were on.

So, not only had I locked the keys in the car, I left the headlights on.

The good news was the lights were still on. That meant the battery wasn't dead. Yet.

I went into the parking garage instead, moving straight for the car.

I felt heat.

And heard a noise.

Yes, not only did I lock the keys in the car ... not only did I leave the headlights on ... I left the engine running.

For hours.

A look into the window showed that the car wasn't overheated. Yet. Temperature was up there, though.

Another call on the cell to the Wife. Still no answer.

So, I began walking that way.

Kept calling the whole time. Phone ringing. No answer.

Finally, after I entered the building and entering the elevator to head to her floor, she answered.

Got her to bring me the spare keys, then headed back out.

Waked back to work, to the parking garage, and finally go the keys out.

I've done some things before that show just how big a dumbass I can be.

This is way up there.

Friday, November 16, 2007


Got to thinking about stealth recently.

No, not because I've been hiding for a couple of weeks.

Okay, I haven't been hiding. I've been busy. With work.

I made the decision when I started this little blog to not blog about work. And that wasn't a problem.

Oh, occasionally, I'd mention the Evil Corporation where I work. Not that it's really evil. But it is a large corporation. And, to hear some folks talk, all large corporations are evil corporations. Therefore, when I' mentioned the place I work, I'd mention the Evil Corporation.

I like where I work. It's, well, I don't know if "fun" is the right word, but I enjoy what I do. And the folks I work with.

But, I'm not going to blog about work. I don't blog at work. And I don't blog about work. Blog and work are separate.

So, why do I spend all this time talking about what I'm not going to talk about.

Well, if I didn't blog about work, I wouldn't have a whole lot to blog about right now.

And that explains why I haven't blogged about much lately. I haven't been in stealth mode. Not on purpose, anyway.

Tonight, though, I ran across something else about stealth.

It's my MacBook.

Or, actually, it's the wireless router.

It began when I found about about Apple's update to Leopard.

Now, being a PC Guy since, well, a quarter of a century, I'm not used to operating systems known as things like "Tiger" or "Leopard."

MS-DOS 2.11.

Now, that's a name for an operating system.

It was the first PC operating system I had.

Oh, I had a Tandy Color Computer running OS 9 before that. But, when I moved onto a "mainstream" platform, it was DOS 2.11.

And Windows 2.03.

That was the first edition of Windows I used.

So, calling an operating system "Leopard" takes some getting used to.

If you're still PC Guy, it's Mac OS X 10.5.1

But they call it "Leopard."

Same thing.

Anyway, Apple released an update to OS X 10.5 on Wednesday. But I didn't know about it, until I got an email from ZD Net talking about it.

I have the MacBook set to check for updates weekly. So, it would have caught the update in the next 5 days ... or sooner.

But, I forced an update check today. And it got it.

After reboot, I checked out the main thing ZD Net was talking about -- the firewall.

I made sure it was in stealth mode, then did something I hadn't done in a while.

I went to Gibson Research and checked out Shields Up!

And was I ever shocked to find out I failed.

Was the firewall screwed up?

No, it turns out the firewall is fine. Or at least, I think it's fine.

But a couple weeks ago, I got a new router: The Apple AirPort Extreme.

Powerful little thing. Great signal all over the house. Like it.

But, as it turns out, it's not stealthy.

The old Motorola router that cost half what the AirPort cost was stealthy.

Used to be able to go to GRC, run Shields Up!, and get a "passed" report. That meant all ports were in stealth mode.

If you're not familiar with that, it might help to know that the Internet is a bunch of computers communicating with each other. But you knew that.

When it was put together, it assumed that all machines talking to all other machines was a good thing.

They forgot one little thing: people would be using those machines.

And some people are mean people. That's why we have to be on our guard against thieves, spammers, hackers, and Democrats.

Anyhow, because some people are like some people are, we don't want our computers to always respond positively to all other computers.

Because, if they did, bad people could put bad things on your computer. And we don't want that.

One way of stopping it is to not let computers respond to all requests.

And, there are a couple of ways to do that.

One is with a software firewall. Microsoft includes a simple software firewall with Windows. And other companies sell more powerful ones. And Apple includes a firewall with OS X. Including an update in OS X 10.5.1.

The other way is with a hardware firewall. And many routers, including my old Motorola router, as well as my older Netgear one, have built-in firewalls.

But Apple's AirPort Extreme router doesn't operating in stealth mode.

Tonight, researching it, I ran across a post at the Houston Chronicle from back in May talking about the previous version of the AirPort Extreme. And they take a classical "on the fence" position.

And, I admit, I see both sides of it.

But, they bring up the same thing that concerns me.

Which is, how big a deal is it if an address -- and your computer on the Internet does have an address -- rejects a request to a port, as opposed to not responding at all.

Here's one way to look at it.

A kidnapper walks up to a house and asks, "Can I come in?"

Now, the kidnapper doesn't want to visit. He wants to kidnap someone. He's a kidnapper. But he's acting all nice and polite and asking to come in.

Now, if he walks up to two houses. One blue and one green.

He asks each house, "Can I come in?"

From the blue house, he gets no response. From the green house, he hears a voice say, "No, you can't come in."

Now, tell me, which house is he more likely to keep trying to enter?

I think he'll keep trying the green house. He knows there is someone there.

And, to me, that's the difference in a firewall responding with a refusal or just not responding at all.

And the not responding? That's "stealth" mode.

That's what I'd prefer.

But, Apple says it's okay.

Me? I'm not so sure. I think I'd rather be stealthy on the Internet. And not by going two weeks between blog posts.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Driving back from Athens

I mentioned earlier about the ease of the drive to Athens this morning.

The drive back was not quite as easy.

Following the football game, the Little Princess took me out to supper at Weaver D's. If you've been to Athens and haven't eaten at Weaver D's, you've missed some good eatin'.

Anyway, I got in the car and started out around 6:00. Nearly 5 hours later, I sat down on the couch at the house.

Just over 3 hours to get there. Nearly 5 hours to get back.

No, the distance didn't change any. But the flow of traffic did.

Don't know if it was all the folks from Alabama -- the Bulldogs hosted Troy -- heading back all at one time. Or if that's what traffic is normally like following a game in Athens.

But it was rough.

10-15 MPH at spots.

Early day. Late drive back.

But a really nice visit in between.

Made the drive worthwhile.

Driving to Athens

My daughter called last night. The Little Princess was asking about the Wife and me driving over to Athens today. Seems there's a football game gong on. UGA is taking on Troy. Should be a blowout. But you never know.

Anyway, I could make the trip. But the Wife couldn't. Oldest granddaughter has her 8th birthday tomorrow, and the Wife is doing the cake. So, she needed to stay at home and get all that together.

So, I drove over alone.

I haven't been to a lot of Georgia football games. Was at the 1980 game where Lindsay Scott caught the touchdown pass to beat Florida. The Sugar Bowl in New Orleans that following January, where they won the national championship. Was also at the "1st and 99" Georgia-Florida game a couple of years later. And, I think, one other UGA game.

But that's it.

And never at a game in Athens.

So, this morning, I wasn't sure what I'd run into in way of traffic.

Turns out, it wasn't all that bad. Left the house just before 7:00 and got to Athens around 10:00. And, by 10:30, had parked at some coffee house, put money in the meter, hit the ATM, ordered a cinnamon roll and a Coke, pulled out the trusty MacBook, and was blogging just after 10:30.

So, traffic wasn't all that bad.

Except one small stretch of road.

After I got off I-85 and onto GA-316, I noticed the right lane was moving much faster than the left lane. And I was in the left lane.

Now, if you're not familiar with GA-316, it's a large highway. Divided by a median. Sort of like an interstate highway, but it does have the occasional traffic lights.

Right-hand lane sometimes has a turn lane. Left lane always does. So, it follows that there'd be less traffic issues in the left lane. But the left lane was moving slow.

Speed limit was 65, and we were moving between 50 and 55, depending on how close or stretched out traffic got.

But the right lane was moving right along.

Knowing it shouldn't be that way, I figured whatever it was would clear up and I'd be fine, so I might as well stay in the left lane.

Then, my patience ran out.

So, an opening was there ... a long stretch, actually ... and I moved into the right lane.

I sped up to 65 and was moving much faster than the left lane.

Then, I found out why.

Pick the one of these that you think it was:
  1. Road construction.
  2. A wreck.
  3. A blue-haired lady driving a Chrysler with a Bartow County tag in the left lane.
If you picked "C" then you're a winner.

Anyway, once I got past her, traffic was fine. Other than actually in downtown Athens.

I was surprised how well it went. Of course, the fact that almost everyone was going to the game ... or a game-related event ... in Athens may have worked in my favor.

One Auburn fan must have thought the traffic was really bad, and decided to get a one-week head start. Or they can't read a calendar. I'm not sure which.

Anyway, until downtown Athens, the traffic was pretty good. Encountered one intersection where some idiot pulled out and had all four paths of traffic blocked for a little bit.

But, the trip wasn't a bad trip after all. And the game's in a couple of hours. So, I got to go get ready for that.

It should be great.