January 25th, 2014


Blizzard? Followed By Deep Freeze

The big wind and big snow wasn't due to start until Friday evening. But there was going to be a good wind during the day. Driving out in the farm country of Allegan County can get tricky on a day like today. The relatively dry, and therefore loose, snow blows off the fields and sifts across US-131. But it's also run over, so the ice skating rink begins to form.

I came up on a fancy Cadillac sports sedan which was (a) going about 40 mph and (b) every 20-30 seconds would start to squidgy and squirm on the road. My guess is those expensive high performance tires suck on snow and ice. (grin)

I left the office early, before 2pm, while it was still sunny. My mistake today was taking the regular winter coat and not the heavier blue parka with the hood. The wind was biting cold. And though the temperature got up to 21°F, the middle of next week is going to be all ±single digits, so the parka will get a good workout.

By the time I got home, there was some drifting on the roads and our driveway. I guess the back roads were closed in some areas tonight until plows can open them up. Our roof is nearly clear, but on the east side of the house was this amazing swirl of blowing snow driven by the gusts. After I pulled in the garage and shut down, I hit the button to close the garage door -- I am so tired of FEELING the cold with the blood thinners I'm still on -- and the closed door rattled and shrieked with the wind. Interesting, because on the other side of the wall, we hear none of that in the living room.

We'll stay in Saturday:

Big question is whether we can get out of the driveway Sunday or Monday. (double-trouble-grin) meanwhile, as the winds howl and tries to shake the house, we'll think about throwing some more hides over the yert...

Dr. Phil

Amazon Kindle Death Watch Day Five

Actually, For A Death Watch This One Sucks

Monday UPS showed up with Mrs. Dr. Phil's 3rd Kindle. Which replaced the bricked-after-three-hours Mrs. Dr. Phil's 2nd Kindle. Which replaced the no longer works correctly Mrs. Dr. Phil's Gen 1 Kindle Fire. The new unit is a Gen 3 Kindle Fire HDX 7". She got a folding cover with a magnetic closure, which turns out fits inside the zippered case for the original Kindle Fire. The folding cover has cutouts for the new larger power and volume buttons on the back, plus allows the Fire HDX to be inserted without unplugging the charger.

Bricks happen, but she was cautious setting up this one, rather than downloading all her old apps from the Cloud. After all, it's possible that a Gen 1 app messed up the Gen 3 unit. If I have one big complaint about the Kindle Fire, it's that Amazon doesn't want you to use the Android app store, but they do a crappy job of gatekeeping the Kindle app store from having you download or even pay for apps that clearly don't work on your model.

Each generation of Fires have different specs. Besides the evolution of single to dual to quad core processors:

Kindle Fire     - No camera, no microphone, no HDMI port.
Kindle Fire HD  - Camera, mono microphone, HDMI port.
Kindle Fire HDX - Camera, stereo microphone, no HDMI port.

The Gen 3 HDX doesn't have the HDMI cable, because you're supposed to have a Bluetooth TV or Blu-Ray player for the connection. Alas, we do not. But we can Skype video chat with each other from six feet away. (grin)

Chargers R Us

Over the three generations of Kindle Fires, Amazon has also changed their mind as to accessories to ship in the box.

Kindle Fire     - came with fixed cord charger.
Kindle Fire HD  - came with USB to micro-USB cable, deal on quick charger.
Kindle Fire HDX - came with USB to micro-USB cable and quick charger.

Interestingly enough, the directions for returning the bricked unit said explicitly NOT to return the USB cable or the charger. The replacement unit came in a full box. I suppose for Amazon, dealing with cables and chargers isn't worth it. And the extra cable and charger is like a Thank You reward for having had to put up with a defective unit.

So with two working tablets and four working chargers, we now have one each at home and office. Bonus.

I had really thought we'd have gone for an iPad or iPad Mini when we got tablets, but the Kindle Fire tablets have been really good for us. Lord knows I survived my hospital ordeal with my Fire HD. No doubt the Fire won't work for everyone, but since we aren't an Apple shop at home or work, we're both quite satisfied.

Amazon Is Winning

This afternoon Mrs. Dr. Phil got a notice that Flight, the Denzel Washington DC-9 crash movie was available for viewing for free via Amazon Prime. Hmmm... Amazon Video was listed on the menu for our Sony WiFi Blu-Ray player. It gives a code number, which you stick into My TV on Amazon and poof!, you're connected. Clearly there's duplication with Netflix, but we'll take both. Especially as we've already paid for the convenience of Amazon Prime.

Amazon may end up being an evil force in American commerce, like Wal-Mart or Microsoft, but I have to hand it to them, they sure make it convenient to use.

Dr. Phil

Oh How The Mighty Have Fallen


The Apple Macintosh debuted thirty years ago. I am sure, come Super Sunday, Apple's legendary shown-only-once 1984 Super Bowl ad will be replayed everywhere. If Apple is smart, they'll have a special New 1984+30 ad for this Super Bowl.

Thirty years is over half my life. The Mac and Apple have produced some outstanding products. Millions are hardened converts. I actually own a Mac SE, with System 6.0.8, but haven't booted it in years. When I get back down to the basement office and clear some of the crap on the desk, I'll probably fire up the SE and Word 5.1+ and do some writing. Probably have to open the chassis and change the battery again. (grin)

So good for Apple. Go Macintosh. Sure, that very first 128KB model was barely usable, but then the very, very first 64KB IBM Personal Computer running ROM BASIC and storing on a cassette tape recorder sucked, too.

Happy birthday.

The Title To This Entry Isn't Aimed At You, Apple

So PCMag had an article on the Macintosh anniversary, comparing the specs of the original Macintosh and latest iMac. The article eventually turned out to be pretty interesting, even though the kids these days mistakenly called a 3½" floppy drive an optical drive. But getting to the article was not half the fun.

-- pcmag.com recognizes I am on a tablet, so it immediately switches to the mobile version.
-- Without asking.
-- With the screen dominated by a huge picture of an original Macintosh.
-- And the page promptly crashes the Silk browser.
-- Restarting Silk and saying Yes, reopen all my tabs, I quickly scrolled through the still loading blank white webpage to the bottom and found the Desktop version button.
-- Immediately the whole page loaded. Silk was easily able to render the page. The picture of the Macintosh turns out to be tiny.
-- Somewhere in this process a small pop-up appeared asking me to subscribe, immediately blocked by a larger one. This one was an ad for something, and I had to scroll around to find the Skip this ad button.

This litany highlights, to me, everything that's wrong with modern websites. Look, I can understand why a Mobile version of the site might be useful to some -- especially if you're on a small phone screen. But they are also usually bastardized versions of the webpage. Incomplete, too many things to click through. With a perfectly good web browser, I can display the regular webpage -- even better, I don't have to learn a new (and usually unique and inconsistent) user interface.

Yes, PCMag is a business. I had a subscription to both Byte and PC Magazine for years until both went online only. Asking someone linking in to an article to subscribe or view an ad is fine, but interrupting you multiple times is annoying. And this business of having desktop versus mobile options at the bottom of the page? Everyone does it. Periodically I have to tell Gmail, Amazon, eBay and my work email to stop being so damned helpful and take me back to the desktop version -- always on the bottom of the page. Gmail particularly pisses me off, because if you just start scrolling down it just keeps adding more entries -- you have to select a message to find the bottom of a page, switch, then reload. Really? And everyone does it differently.

Very early mobile versions were pretty bad. Even when I owned tiny PDAs like the HP-548, I was better off using Pocket Internet Explorer under Windows CE than mobile versions. Clearly I am not normal -- Or else clearly smarter than the average bear.

Funny that on the anniversary of one of the great computers, I'm ranting about companies who keep trying to make my tablet into a phone, rather than a computer. You'd think that something from PC Magazine would know better.

Dr. Phil


13 Days...

To the Opening Ceremonies of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Socchi, Russia. Assuming the opportunists, the disgruntled and the terrorists don't piss off the rest of the world by pissing on the peaceful hopes and dreams of thousands of athletes from around the world.

Among the misunderstood and neglected winter sports is the elegant strategic battle chess known as curling. Despite attempts to liven up their reputation, like the Women of Curling calendar -- see LJ/DW icon above -- or the mind numbing outrageous pants of Team Norway -- curling is sometimes mocked because some of the players may be older or paunchy. And everyone laughs at the rule that winners buy the first round, even at the Olympics. Even though I seem to recall that's what everyone expects when they bowl, play softball or golf.

NPR To The Rescue

So it was some amusement that NPR's Morning Edition ran a piece on a Thursday trying to explain curling and included some animations on the web version of the story.

It's not a complete description of the game, focusing more on the mechanics, but it will change your perspective on what's going on.

I, for one, love curling and hope to watch a bunch on whatever of the NBC cable properties plans to showcase it.

Dr. Phil