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Silver lining

Thursday, November 13th, 2014 Leave a comment

My development computer wouldn’t boot the other day, and after some poking around I found that the boot drive was dead as a doorknob.  A boat anchor (for a small boat).  Data is on another drive so is fine, but I hate to put more $ into this ancient computer, first built in 2006 for nearly $5k, upgraded in 2008 for nearly $2k.  And everything runs fine on my new Lenovo laptop (i7, 4700HQ, 8Gb SSD, 1TB HDD, 16Gb RAM), but it lacks the large area of my desktop monitors, and the comfort of working at a desk.

So I found this 256Gb SSD (not the fastest of drives, but it’ll do, Donkey) for $110 with free shipping, should arrive next week and teach that old dog new tricks.  Bad news is that I need to reinstall Vista on it.  Ew.

Categories: Technical

Suspicious MS Support Site

Tuesday, November 11th, 2014 1 comment

A site at http://nwaha.org/ has attempted to post comments on my blog.  It looks like a Windows support site, but it’s very suspicious, encouraging the user to download “fixes” to Windows problems, which are actually executables.  Whois reports the owner as a proxy, so whoever runs it is hiding.  There is no contact info on the site.   Beware!

Here’s what the site does apparently: scroll down to the post by Jim Young. 

 

Categories: Technical

An old scam still floats about

Sunday, October 5th, 2014 3 comments

Looking for interesting twitter feeds to follow I found dozens of “flight simulator” feeds that all led to “Pro Flight Simulator.”  This apparently is a classic case of “buyer beware” and surfaced around 2010.  This site describes an interesting product for $49 with additional options that can total $140.  But according to source #1, source #2, source #3 it is simply an old version of the free open source Flight Gear program repackaged with no change in functionality. So you can choose to pay $49 for outdated technology or $0 for something better.

A more recent spin on the scam is called VirtualPilot3D.

Many say it’s not illegal, but it’s certainly slimy.  Certainly the VirtualPilot3D website is said to show copyrighted screenshots from other programs, and that is illegal.

So like anything else, do your research before you buy to make sure you’re getting value.

Categories: Business, Flightsim, Technical

New toy

Sunday, September 14th, 2014 Leave a comment

I finally replaced my dying laptop, and decided in one swoop to also move flight simulator testing to a newer laptop.  I chose the Lenovo Y50 from Newegg, which I’m quite happy with.  Specs:

  • Windows 8.1 – a joke of a user interface, which I’ve bypassed by using Classic Shell.  No wonder Mac visitors to my website have gone from 5% to 15%!
  • 2.40 gigahertz Intel Core i7-4700HQ
  • WDC WD10S21X-24R1BT0-SSHD-8GB [Hard drive] (1000.20 GB)
  • 16GB PC3-12800 DDR3L SDRAM 1600 MHz
  • NVIDIA® GTX-860M 2GB (Maxwell)
  • 15.6″ FHD (1920 x 1080) display

So I can run P3D at last (although I don’t like the washed out colours much and I can’t adjust sat/gamma/contrast on the NVidia card to correct this), but it’s good for testing so I am content.  At least I was once I convinced P3D not to use the lousy integrated graphics using the NVidia control panel.

One of my big issues for testing was FSX load time which is now down to  11 seconds to get to the sandbox, and 86 seconds to load a complicated area like VictoriaPlus.  These were both several minutes on my old rig.

I’m still slowly migrating applications.

HDTV: Shaw vs. Telus

Friday, July 27th, 2012 3 comments

I’ve been using Shaw for internet and cable TV for years.  And I’ve been leery of the quality of the Telus Internet Protocol TV (IPTV), especially when the last bit of the feed into my condo is over twisted pair wires originally intended for voice-only telephone.  But I noted the picture quality at my son’s (detached) house was quite good with Telus.  Further the Telus internet upload rate was claimed to be double that of Shaw’s for the same price.

But my main incentive to explore Telus was my desire to see all the games of the Montreal Canadiens, which would require the French sports network, RDS, which Shaw only offers in Standard Definition (SD).  Telus offers the HD feed.

So to make a long story a little shorter, I switched to Telus, despite the dire warnings from Shaw that I wouldn’t get the internet speeds promised, I found that I did get the promised 1Mb/s upload, and 14.5Mb/s download consistently.  And I found the following:

  • Music channel audio quality (which I use a lot) is much better with Telus, although they do not show the title of the current song playing like Shaw.
  • The Telus user interface is more responsive and much easier to use, for example I can filter the program guide to only the channels I am subscribed to, or further to just my favourite channels
  • Telus can record 3 HD programs simultaneously as opposed to 2 for Shaw.  (Telus does not promise you can get 3 HD, but the software tests the line quality and if it’s good enough, allows this.  Otherwise it degrades the capability to SD signals, only promising one or two HD recordings, the balancing being SD).
  • The Telus HD PVR hard drive was much quieter.
  • It was cool (but useless) to have the caller ID display on my TV screen when the phone rang.
  • The Telus PVR doesn’t auto-prompt to extend time on live recordings like Shaw, but does allow a max of 3 hours extra as opposed to 2.
  • The Telus PVR storage is vastly larger: 200 HD hours vs. 20 on my four-year-old Shaw PVR.  Not an issue for me as I don’t watch much TV.
  • Telus offered a free Samsung Galaxy Tablet on a 3-year contract.
  • …and finally the picture quality: Telus was much more pixelated and blurry than Shaw on movement in HD scenes (terrible for sports) and the SD quality was appallingly bad, even on static images.

So the Telus technician came back and worked hard on improving the quality, to no avail.

So it’s back to Shaw for TV, but I’ll stick with Telus internet.  And hope that Shaw offers RDS HD before the hockey season starts.  Bad news is that the quote I got for the package I wanted from Shaw was incorrect, it’s actually $3/month more.  Good news is that Shaw is giving me a six-month discount for switching back.

EDIT: So I just had Optik TV disconnected, and I have to say that the Telus customer experience was much better than that with Shaw:

  • Telus gave discounts, both on my initial order (took $5/month off on the long-term bundled rate) and even after I cancelled the TV they kept the discount for my remaining Internet service, which I had ordered at the same time and kept. They considered that I had my home phone with them for years as well, and had met my end of the bargain in trying to use all three services, so I got the full bundled pricing. They also let me keep the Samsung tablet.
  • Shaw stuck to listed prices and had no wiggle room. One Shaw rep misquoted me and the next rep did not honour that pricing and so I’m paying more for the TV.
  • Telus reps were friendlier, more understanding.
  • The Telus tech worked his butt off to try and make it work, including giving me his mobile number, and talking to me on his day off

So I’d definitely recommend Telus over Shaw from this point of view. Dang twisted pair!

Microsoft announces “Next generation flight experience”

Sunday, April 1st, 2012 4 comments

Only a few weeks after releasing Microsoft Flight, the company announced today that it is developing the next generation of flight software.  Here’s an excerpt from marketing VP Bög Uslãmé’s description of the new product.

“Microsoft has shown a keen understanding of the user experience when it comes to flying airplanes and stuff like that on computers.  There’s a certain magic which we have learned to capture, interrogate, channel and evaporate.  After developing progressively more intricate software for this market through many versions culminating in Microsoft Flight Simulator X, Microsoft Flight showed that we could simplify the paradigm, reduce the functional and geographic scope, convince ourselves we were broadening our appeal, minimize the UI, and still generate a significant return on investment.  All while ensuring that the user thinks they are having fun.  So now we’ll take this passionate approach one step further with the realization of a focused vision in our new product, Mi Fli. The name says it all: shorter, ambiguous and stimulating.  We anticipate that arguments over pronunciation of the name will provoke flame wars at AVSIM, raising consumer awareness with optimal marketing involvement, ie none.  And we’re honored that this will be first product of many from Microsoft using the new ‘Mi’ brand identity.

“The new user-centric feature scope and accessible two-key UI will allow us to minimize customer feedback and the need for infrastructure and support, maximizing the long-term viability of the product.  This also eliminates the potential for distracting third-party development enhancements.

“Of course we’ll make optimal use of user attention bandwidth, with a five-minute splash screen and subsequent contorted Windows Live Games sort-of-XBox-but-not-really online validation and ad-push process.  At every opportunity our valued customers will be presented with a slideshow to encourage purchase of expansion packs they already have, and others they don’t want.  If they do attempt a purchase, lucky users will randomly trigger a hidden gem: ‘Can’t retrieve information from LIVE. Please try again later.  Error code 8007271D.’  All part of our playful engagement with our valued customers, further augmented by our proactive Google … I mean, Bing-ranking of searches for that code with irrelevant and misleading KB articles on Zune.

“As always, we won’t specify availability date or features until well after the product is released, but we will publish periodic screenshots and low-res stuttery teasers without explanation that will encourage rampant and inaccurate speculation.  But, off the record, based on a reduction in the development team to one half-time employee and the one paragraph feature list, it’s likely the product will be released no later than Thursday.  Meanwhile, we’ll give customers attempting to harvest meaningful information from our website the opportunity to ingest content-free team member interviews.

“You might expect the usual discussion, ‘Is it a game?  Or is it a simulator?’ to be bypassed through our innovative approach of offering the features of neither.  But we know our true die-hard Microsoft … I mean, Mi … fans will still endlessly debate this question.

“From a personal marketing point of view, I’ve found it refreshing to work with half of a malleable gender-free ethnic-neutral location-nonspecific engineering team member who can design to specification without the need for dialog, discussion or any kind of human interaction.

“We’re excited about this cutting-edge next-generation user experience enhancement package.  I look forward to Mi Fli being open for business.  The future is bright.  Join us on our journey.”

Proponents of X-Plane immediately decried the new product, stating, “X-Plane has a much more realistic flight model.  And it almost has believable scenery.”

The surprising math of cities and corporations

Tuesday, July 26th, 2011 Leave a comment
Categories: Business, Learning, Technical
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